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The Biddle Effect

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Nexus
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Posted 07/19/10 - 7:59 AM:
Subject: The Biddle Effect
     Biddle Effect.


You might have heard about Earnest Biddle. 'The Face' is what he is called on the Net. If you use the latter regularly you will have probably encountered The Face in some zone, after repeatedly coming across this synonym or an image of the inimitable visage itself I doubt you will have been able to stop yourself seeking out further information. I, however, know all, and now I have to confess my part in Biddle's rise to notoriety; only to you, however, my friend, only to you. Yet how long will you - although we know each other well and you have sworn your pact of secrecy - be able to stay quiet?

I was watching my television on a weekend morning when Biddle and I first became acquainted. A news reporter was stood in front of a group campaigning for something or other, awaiting news of a case the result of which was expected to issue from the high court behind some time soon. As he rambled on and my mind wandered over the faces of the campaigners, my attention was arrested by one of them. I had seen the face before and I knew it had been in tv land but, for the life of me, I couldn't work out where. Then it came to me. He was one of those individuals who stands in front of a tv camera they believe to be broadcasting live for the sole purpose of being seen. Now, you only catch such people, usually, once; for one of them to haunt locations regularly, in a serial fashion, in order to get their Warhol moment would suggest a degree of commitment to their banal hobby. Soon we were whisked back to the studio and my least favourite BBC newsreader, the one who looks like he relies upon the autocue to inform him of his next emotion. Already I had forgotten about the face, the attempt to burrow its image into my helpless mind.

I'd found something to do with my day yet the evening lay open and aimless; I felt the weary compulsion for a news update and almost as soon as I entered the treadmill of twenty-four hour coverage there he was again. The reporter was doing an evening update from the high court but now the campaigners were absent. Previously he had pretended to be among them, he'd worn a smile and his lips seemed to be moving in speech though I doubted he was really talking to the lady standing next to him who didn't seem to be aware of his existence. Now he stood alone just on the edge of shot, I again was forced to examine his unimpressive features. The face didn't fit right. I mean by this that it just plain didn't fit, anywhere. It seemed an amalgamation of faces. A group of people had been given the opportunity to take off the worst pieces of theirs to be replaced by better ones and Biddle had been the recipient of a selection of those worst bits. Somebody had tried their best to find those bits that provided some semblance of order yet the end product was not even ready to leave the workshop. He stared, and that face couldn't even keep a stable countenance, it shifted and moved about as if it were struggling to stay on the skull against the forces of gravity. He seemed to stare into the distance somewhere, as if he really should be elsewhere, as if his interest lay in some other matter yet he had been glued to the spot by a cruel prankster. The strange thing was I felt like I now knew him, he had become a feature in my life and claimed my attention; the morbid signals he was sending out to the universe were being taken up by my brain.

I imagined him alone that morning, rising early in order to be at the court house early to find, what I assumed to be, his normal spot. He might have gorged on a fry-up at his local cafe - I think his build is more down to fat genes than his poor diet. What was occuring in his mind at this time I will try to picture. I believe tv land is a sacred realm for him, those who work within its spaces practitioners in a pseudo religion that has vital significance in people's lives. Biddel is, or was, almost always alone. If he isn't unemployed he occupies some lowly position in government service. He questions nothing and knows little. The warm glow of the tv screen charms and calms him; the box is a trusted adult to his regressive awareness. Finishing off his sausages, eggs and beans and seeing to the mess he discovers on his chin he wonders who'll be outside the high court today but not why they will be there. It is only on the off chance he makes this early sortie; he goes on a pilgrimage when the urge comes, as if an order has been transmitted from his screen subliminally and he must obey. There are spots around the city he knows the cameras may be and he might even spend the day passing between each via the tube. Seeing the camera as he saunters towards the foreboding stone artifice he becomes excited and might even start nursing the beginnings of an erection. It's going to be a fine summer's day, the shadows hang low on the pavements, a few tv people are gathered around the device discussing matters from the sacred realm. He gets close enough to try and overhear what they say, he feels that he is in some sense aligned to their collective task, a part of the production that is about to be breathed into life. Campaigners begin to arrive with their flags and banners which he even takes time to read.

He'll wait patiently absorbed in it all. It looks as if there's going to be action at last, the reporter has positioned himself in front of the lively group and Biddle edges toward them; they seem to be unaware he isn't one of them, he is so unremarkable he is almost invisible. The reporter is talking and Biddle knows his face is now being beamed out to the rest of the universe and at this moment feels at one with it and less alone. He can almost feel himself inside the living spaces of however many thousands are plugged into the morning feed, including me. He knows at that moment you have little choice, you cannot ignore him, his presence will have some kind of significance in a large number of people's lives. He examines your furniture and the details that make your living space unique - the family photos or even bits of original art. Biddle would love to come and sniff at you, examine the texture of your skin up close, run his hands through your hair and observe the pattern of your hair follicles. He has now become sublime and slightly omniscient. He is there for no purpose yet gazes in at you and therefore gains a curious power. If the camera stays unavoidably on his face any longer those that haven't noticed him, haven't grown curious over his remarkable ugliness and wondered why the fuck he is hanging around in shot, soon will. Then he has you and can commence his sniffing, his root around in your stuff, his morning walk through your mind.

Thy've gone back to studio. Just as you were starting to follow his wandering gaze and feel the strange blankness that seems to emanate from his very core he was switched off for you and you no longer think on him. I, however, perhaps the only one, got a dose of Biddle in the evening too. It is possible, however, that if updates from the court house were being transmitted all day he had a number of other bemused followers. Biddle had been flashing in and out of their attentions all day, surfing their minds, he wanted their love too.

By the time my evening dose of Biddle was nearly over I was smitten. The camera refused to leave the scene and finally I gave in. I did what I knew he wanted me to do - I recorded the moment. Whether I was caught by the strange impulse that sends Biddle around the city in search of his weird disembodied communion with the Other I do not know but I found my finger depressing the record button and knew I had his image safely stored. I had my own bit of Biddle. I went to work with what I had. Anonymously I posted his face around all the websites I knew and those I didn't. I made Biddle my avatar where ever I left text in the electronic collective consciousness, where I could I embedded the short piece I had recorded of Biddle at the court house for people to view. YouTube of course got its tasty morsel but I didn't stop there; I created links galore, a vast web within the Web that forged a meaningless focus on the stranger who had walked from nowhere into my life.

My work done I went to bed wondering what the night's web activity would have in store for my new creation. His face may have been in my dreams, I don't quite recall - he may have even tried to fuck me. The next day I went straight to the Web without cleaning or eating and surfed. As I had hoped the trace I had left had been eagerly taken up and on an international scale. Those outside Britain referred to their own Biddle phenomenons, yet most seemed to agree there was something about his face that - despite its lack of beauty - caught the attention. A lively chatter was afoot; the Brits were now awaiting his next appearance, there was talk of a website being set up with him as the sole subject. I realised I too, as his creator, would have to join in on the vigil, it would not be possible for me to attend work that day as I had a far more important project on my hands. As a joke, I suppose, I printed up his picture and put it in a photo frame and placed it above my television. I also put a candle next to it to be lit - should the urge take me - at night.

It was a matter of flicking between the twenty four hour new channels. I considered contacting a web associate in order to assign them a channel - others had also committed to taking the day off work. In the end I decided to go it alone; sharing my vigil seemed to be cheating and I had the competitive urge to see the bastard first. Our international arm had also gone into action; people were staying up all night or staying at home all day depending on time zone and watching whatever British television news feeds they could access on the Net. I, from within my anonymous web presence, had stated that I had inside information and was quite sure our man would appear sometime within the next twenty four hours and might even present some kind of cryptic message. In hindsight I realise this was a foolish move on my part; soon there was talk about Biddle being some kind of potential spiritual leader. Once the ball had started rolling, of course, there was little I could do. I was now but one more miniscule contributing factor in the overall malaise.

The question that hung in the air was 'does The Face regularly access the Net?' If he did then he would already be wound up in the mythological system erected around him - still nobody even knew his name. There didn't appear to be any news from outside the court house that day. I knew the first time I had seen him was outside BBC Television Centre when there had been a demonstration against the presence of the leader of the BNP on a tv debate show. He had roamed around the scene looking somehow loftily above it all - I now believe - yet perhaps it had just been his deep vacancy that had given that impression. Or maybe that very seeming vacancy is what is attracting people to the notion he is something more than he seems. Others claimed to have seen him and stated their impression was anything but an abiding stupidity. Rather, they said, they believed he was trying to reach out for a specific reason; his appearances were carefully chosen, he knew what would eventually happen.

I didn't have to leave the house; I knew I could go until mid week at least without even going to the shop and work would buy my claims of sickness. Taking a shit or preparing food were necessary actions fraught with peril. I had started this thing and I was going to be the first to see that fucker again. There was a strike that day among civil servants and already there had been glimpses of protesters outside the Houses Of Commons. Nothing. I scanned the crowd looking closely hoping, perhaps, he was just hidden behind a placard or banner. Many considered the possibility that he was just being coy, carefully timing his appearance. I thought that perhaps he did have some interest in the content of the broadcast and would only appear if his sympathy was, in fact, aroused. If he was aware of his growing web presence - well, the version of him that the web had conjured - then it could have affected him in any number of ways. It may have inflated his ego or deflated him terribly - it was possible he was cowering in terror over what had happened, what I had created.

It's hard to say how I felt when I next saw The Face again. It is hard to say because it was a new feeling, a sublimation. Back they had gone to the civil servants in the evening and the good looking broad stared out at us mouthing words she cared little for. I saw the side of him first, he was hiding slightly but in view enough to be identified; a banner partially obscured that face of his. Soon he flowered into full form as the gaze finally turned toward the camera and we were back in communion. We, of course, could be construed as he and I solely - I, afterall, was in a sense his creator. Yet, of course, now 'we' referred to many thousands of people potentially. I was recording and was just waiting for it to finish so I could transfer it piping hot to the Web. Then I noticed the sweat shirt. 'What a guy!' was my thought as I read the simple declaration 'I am Ernest Biddle' texted across his chest. I could have grabbed him and embraced his mishapen form.

I was extremely disappointed to discover that others hadn't even waited for the end of the footage until they'd grabbed what thry had and transferred it to the Web. By the time my full length version was ready to view others had left their offerings and were claiming they had been the first to see him again. The website devoted to him was up and running now, Biddle's face dominated the screen and could be manipulated by mouse. This moment should probably have been the point where I had felt content with released my hold on the thing; I could have stayed humble with my silent knowledge that I had been the man behind The Face. Yet something had been ignited in me and I had to follow it through. I washed and put some decent clothes on resolving to go to the Houses of Commons in order to get close to the man himself.

That the protesters appeared to be packing up when I arrived one hour later disappointed profoundly. Still, it was possible the camera crew were still hanging around. I searched but not even a BBC or SKY van was in sight. There seemed no chance that he would still be lingering; he had more sense than to be where the cameras were not. I spotted a few other people standing around who didn't appear to part of the organised protests. I already had my suspicions why they were there.

"Are you looking for him?"

"For who?"

"You know who.."

"Who?"

"Biddle. Ernest Biddle."

"I don't know what you're talking about. I'm just waiting for my girlfriend.."

I only tried one of them. There were at least a handful and they all stood apart, with similar expressions, anti-Biddle's not wanting to draw attention to themselves, waiting to feed of his strange glow. I then had an idea. There was a political figure currently being chased around following a recent scandal and I knew the press were camped outside his house and there was sure to be another report from there that day. I had glimpsed the street name, it wasn't far from the centre of the city and it was worth a shot.

Getting off the train and leaving the station I had the sense somebody was following me. I quickened may pace and even hid behind a hedge at one point to see if I could catch them at it but only innocent looking pedestrians passed. I was soon stood near the camped press, feeling Biddle-like in my cow like presence by their side. A car pulled in and the politician emerged and there were scuffles and commotion as he made his way to his house in a cloud of camera flash and assumed guilt. The reporters fired up, gabbling observations, feeding hungrily on the hype. Biddle was there. He'd gone over to Sky; leaning casually against a fence he wore his usual innocent expression, perhaps trying to assume his 'I live in the area and I am bemused by all this fuss' pose. Then I saw them. Perhaps twenty others, dotted around among the press scrum. All tried to look as if they were there for other purposes yet I could tell by the way their glances kept creeping toward his form that they were Biddle obsessives. The report seemed to be over yet the sexy reporter indicated to the cameraman to keep rolling. She seemed to be aware of what was behind her and soon others pricked up their ears like wolves scenting prey. She turned, I even sensed something of fear and awe in her movements. The microphone was held out toward the man leant against the fence looking off into the distance.

"Are you, by any chance, Ernest Biddle?"

There was a pause, he commanded the moment, he was immense, he was in charge. I knew, as if I were inside his head and in control of his mind what he was about to do next. He stared into that camera, oh how he stared. Then he walked away with the air of somebody who really had his finger on the jugular of the power imperative, who knew he was important and why. He walked away indifferent to all into the night.

Edited by Nexus on 07/19/10 - 8:05 AM
smokinpristiformis
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Posted 07/20/10 - 2:19 AM:

Brilliantly written.
libertygrl
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Posted 07/20/10 - 1:12 PM:

brilliant indeed clap

a thorougly compelling exploration in human psychology nexus, loved it. really i think it's the best you've written by far.
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