S1E10 - Julia Sawbone
Hello, and welcome to Newton’s Dark Room Presents: Broadcast, monthly updates from the Newton’s Dark Room collective. Last week we released a two-part episode detailing a grand adventure out into the Mojave desert. When we got back to Calisland, an old friend was waiting there for us. Julia Sawbone.
Julia Sawbone grew up in a household filled with emerging technology. Her mother, Astrid Sawbone, was an anthropologist and professor at the first ever online college, ed4u.com. Astrid was an avid user of all things tech and in 1991, she left her house for the last time. Astrid claimed, on many occasions, that society was dying and the only way to thrive was to embrace shelter and technology.
It was a difficult transition, but Astrid managed to make it work. She would use her massive collection of now-old tech to hire random strangers to deliver groceries to her house. In order to continue her academic pursuits, she bribed the local pizza delivery guy to keep a camera on the top of his car. This let her see the neighborhood around her, record, and analyze this data all from the comfort of her desk chair.
Astrid’s first major paper, The Behaviors and Motions of Suburban Pizza Distribution, garnered a lot of attention from the anthropologist community. Some loved the paper, praising it’s insights and out-of-the-box data collection. Others called it a joke and unnecessary. She also got pushback from the Ethics board as she was Papa John, a company who had mailed her a coupon book several months prior. This conflict of interest caused a lot of controversy around an already polarizing paper, but it helped skyrocket her to be a well-known individual in her field.
Astrid Sawbone has since released many landmark papers such as The Common Interests of Internet Comments, The Effects of Email on the Post-It Note Industry, and Mouse to Mouse: How Computer Usage Increases Ownership of Pet Mice.
Many people are familiar with her work, but not many people are familiar with her home life and the raising of Julia Sawbone, member of Newton’s Dark Room.
Julia was always an adventures young lass, which was not a good fit for her mother. Astrid imposed her own rules of never leaving the house on the young girl. She claimed that in order to be the best possible us, we had to embrace the future. And the future was inside. In her paper The Future of Society Regarding The Internet, she claimed that by 2005, every human would be interacting with one another on a purely virtual level.
Obviously, she was wrong.
Little Julia never was one for the inside. Despite her mother’s direct wishes, she would sneak out in the middle of the day to play in the sun, carefully avoiding the delivery boy’s route.
This was when she began taking notes, her own anthropological studies. She would observe people as they interacted when they had no idea anyone was watching. It was very different than the curated and performative behaviors she found online. It was genuine and intimate.
Julia had an uncanny ability to pull stories from people. While she rode public busses and sat at train stops, she would talk to those around her, taking notes of whatever they decided to tell her. She was an attentive listener. She got very good at writing without looking so that she could always make eye contact with the speaker. When Julia got back into her room, she would stay up into the night reading what she recorded under her blanket with a flashlight.
One night, while she was reading her journal, Julia thought she heard something. A slight creak. She threw off her blanket and there, silhouetted in front of an open door, was her mother, Astrid.
Astrid saw that her daughter was reading a book, something that was old and antiquated and thus banned in the Sawbone household. She rushed over, took the book from Julia, and grounded her.
Now for people like you and me, grounding might mean you weren’t allowed to use your computer or watch TV. In this house, it meant quite the opposite. Astrid forced Julia to use the computer right next her for the entirety of weekend.
Julia was not a fan of this development. The sun was shining outside and she wanted to explore! Of course, her mother would have none of it, so Julia did the next best thing. She spent her time on the computer authoring her own academic paper. It was titled The Resilient Phenomenon of Interpersonal Interaction. She posted the entirety of her essay to an online forum. Soon, it was making the rounds. Eventually it got picked up by academic journal running out of Berkley and the next thing you knew, all of academia was discussing this paper.
After that weekend, Julia snuck out again. Her mother found out, again, and Julia wrote another paper, again. This cycle continued many times, with Julia’s papers becoming more and more respected with each round. There is even an anecdotal story of a colleague asking Astrid to ground her child just so they could get another essay.
After a few years, it was time to for Julia to attend college. She got accepted to many prestigious universities. Her mother wanted her to attend the online college she taught at, but Julia refused. She wanted to go out into the world and explore it first hand!
This time of life is an interesting one for many people. You are just on the edge of becoming a self-reliant adult but you aren’t quite there. Legally, you still need your parents to do quite a lot for you. Astrid leveraged this ability and told Julia that if she did not go to ed4u.com, she could not go to college.
That made Julia’s decision. She wouldn’t go to college.
That night she gathered her most essential belongings: Her notebook, several G2 pens, a portable tape recorder, $15, and her library card. She put all of this into a brief case which she tied to the end of a stick. With her academic bindle, she set out into the night to explore the world from within it.
She traveled for many years, hitching rides on freight cars, working odd jobs, and writing in her journal the whole time. She found many peculiar things that most people had overlooked. For example, in the streets of Chicago, she found a flower that had gray leaves. She theorized that this plant had evolved that way to disguise itself against the gray asphalt.
She found quite a lot of biological, societal, and anthropological oddities. She wrote them all in her journal and once it filled up, she began searching for a publisher.
As with most peculiar pieces, her journal struggled to find a backer. She looked for quite some time and eventually, she found it. Newton’s Dark Room.
Tur-Toise loved her work and thought it was important that it be introduced into the world. That first novel, A New American West, was very well received. Since then, Julia has traveled about the world conducting research, listening to stories, and publishing them.
It was another collection of stories that brought Julia Sawbone back to Calisland.
She had something different. During her travels, she began hearing similarities between stories, recurring characters, especially in regards to the histories of certain cities. She began looking for these characters, asking about them, and what she found was astonishing.
There is an entire mythology out there, a modern pantheon, that has gone completely unnoticed by scholars and mass media. There are legends of gods who shaped the world as we know it today, like Cale, Goddess of Streetlights; Abad, God of Skyscrapers, or Idola, Goddess of Cities. She collected all these stories, hunted them down, and brought them back to us.
Julia wanted to do something a little different. Instead of just publishing this as a dry paper, she wanted to reflect the way in which they were told. She wanted it spoken. She wanted it performed.
It is my great honor to announce Main Street Mythology, a new mini-series from Newton’s Dark Room. You’ll be able to find it right here on the Newton’s Dark Room Presents feed starting on May 2nd. Each episode will contain numerous legends about this strange new mythology we’ve found. This series contains performances by Eleiece Krawiec, Mike Emling, and Robert Ready as well as original music by La Troienne. We’ll also be releasing some of Julia’s original notes. You can see these notes on our social media feeds @newtonsdarkroom, or online at newtonsdarkroom.com/mainstreetmythology. New episodes will come out every Thursday in May so be sure to stick around to get that.