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There used to be a healthy tree just outside of my apartment, forty feet tall and easily twice that in years of living. Sitting on the front balcony you could see into it, past twigs and leaves, over a robin's nest and through thick branches all the way to the trunk. From the bedroom there was nothing but one hundred leaves smashed against the glass, filtering sunlight to be green green green, with branches tapping like soft raindrops when the wind blew.

That tree, my favorite neighbor, was the first to go. One promise of sharper image and 500 channels (one dealer offering 500 milligrams of his purest shit), and the city jumped to digital cable. Hundreds of thousands of dollars later, two crews came by my building on the same day, the first to run wood through a mobile chipper, and the second to string black wire from a fiberglass cup suspended in the air. Some time during that day my tree was replaced with a smooth, round doppelganger, its even branches sprouting only guy-wires and ceramic. The pile of woodchips was left on the ground for half a year -- if corporations were better known for their spirituality, I would guess it to have been some kind of cairn.

Now that their many miles of wonderful, powerful copper cable are in place, maintenance has become the big concern: no downtime during storms or snow, no possibility of unexpected interference with the product. Once a year the long beige chipper-shredder comes by with its cadre of operators or servants; once a year the investment is protected. Whether by removing more trees entirely or chopping off half their branches leaving unprotected stumps to rot, the net effect is the same. Ever-so-slowly all the old networks of organic life are replaced with new networks of data; perhaps the best we can hope for is that some day it too can be made alive....

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