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Thursday, January 27, 2011


My eyes and technical expertise are inadequate to determine if Google Earth's resolution across the planet is impartial.  Not so long ago, my hometown of Dover, Ohio seemed to have a much lower level of detail than did, say, cities like Venice, Chicago, and Sydney; and it makes sense: it's like pharmaceutical research.  Why would a company invest money to interest a mere twelve thousand people when they could put the exact same money to use and satisfy twelve million.  Apparently time has done what beta money could not, and my former fellow citizens have finally received the leviathan's attention.  As far as I can tell, Venice and Dover have--at least almost--equal resolution (though I doubt anything like a 3D tour will ever be available for anything labeled "small-town Midwest").

Dover, Ohio
Regardless of the catholicity of Google's eye--and regardless of how fair it now and finally is--it is not perfect.  There is not a place on the entire planet where a viewer can zoom in so close as to inspect the wear and tear of a child's swing set or count fish--or rats, for that matter--in the Grand Canal.  This isn't to say it's not possible; it just isn't the case currently as commercially available by Google.  I do expect, however, that it's only a matter of time before comparable giant like Home Depot manages to gain sufficient access to satellite imaging to target customers for roof replacement and foundation repair.  But no matter how fine the possible detail available through Google Earth or whatever else, never (dangerous word) will it be perfect ("perfect" used here as "complete").  Never will it examine the souls (or even the soles (haha! -- sorry)) of those who traverse these or any other locale.  Look too closely--zoom in too much (and why does the software even permit such closeups if there's nothing to be gained by them?), and all you see are increasingly large (or decreasingly small) squares of color.  Look too closely for information and detail is lost and interpretation is no more than feeble guess work.

Venice, Italy
So it is with literature.  I am Google Earth.  The text is the planet and its places.  My problem is one of self-awareness and an ever loosening grip on reality: I often forget that when I look too closely all I see is a blur of pixels--that I've gotten too close, and that this close, there's just nothing left to see.

So goes the old saying, which I believe has been used here before, at least in comment: "Can't see the forest for the trees," and this is my biggest difficulty--or fault--in my attempts to interpret James Joyce and his Dubliners.

The picture is so often so much prettier from a distance.


  1. I love this analogy. I often wonder, though, what is the perfect view in "Dubliners"? Obviously each story stands alone, but does Joyce want us to look at it that way, or is there some larger theme that runs throughout the stories that is more important--other than of course him making his old hometown appear horrible.

  2. I can't imagine that someone like Joyce would assemble a collection of stories, each so bent on the minutiae without also building at least a set of meta-themes or -symbols. I expect he won't forget that proverbial forest for its trees, or even his "planet's" entire herbaceous populous.


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