Before the internet — and its help in building a global economy — discontinuing a cheap plastic toy in an entire country would’ve likely been its death knell. Interest would wane, hobbyists would have a harder time finding people to connect with, and the momentum behind a nostalgia-laced fad would slowly dissipate. But today, with the help of online international marketplaces like eBay and a stream of content catering to ’90s nostalgia, discontinuations are a minor hurdle for dedicated collectors. Alongside TamaTalk, communities on Facebook, Instagram, Discord, and Tumblr have formed an unofficial support system for what appears to be a dying product in the U.S., writing detailed user guides, tracking product announcements abroad, lobbying moderators of the brand’s social media channels to release new products, selling homemade accessories for their pets, and even writing code to translate more recent versions of Japanese Tamagotchi to English. These fans have managed to establish their own folksy Tama-economy, filling in the gaps where the product’s parent company, Bandai, is absent.
Just like the online bodies that worship Beyoncé or obsess over a specific game in the Zelda franchise, the Tamagotchi collectors’ community has its own way of organizing and functioning. To better understand what drives people, from Australia to Minnesota, to convene at one web address in the name of pixilated amorphous monsters, however, it’s helpful to know the Tamagotchi origin story.
When I type in my mother’s village, Balrampur, it gives me two suggestions in India, one in West Bengal. After I click on that option, I ask my mother if that’s the one, and she shakes her head no. Then we type Balarampur instead, and we’re given another result in West Bengal. I click, and the platform zooms in. There are shades of greige that dissolve into each other, as if someone had just poured a bucketful of water onto a finished painting. There are no discernible landmarks. When I zoom in, the picture gets even hazier. I don’t know where I am. My mother, who lived there for over two decades, doesn’t recognize it, either.
The difficulties we encountered in these searches mirror the hindrances Brierley describes facing in his memoir, A Long Way Home. He detailed how protracted the process was, and the despair it inspired within him as he couldn’t get the technology to comply with his demands. He is guided by a monomaniacal desire to find home, and it morphs into something like a sickness. David Kushner’s 2012 Vanity Fair piece also hinted at difficulties Brierley encountered in a search full of false starts. Though Brierley was crippled significantly by his fading memories of home, the platform itself had many failings too: It hadn’t mapped out a lot of India beyond its major cities, and the Anglicization of certain village names differed from Brierley’s phonetic memory.
Of all the arts, writers most envy music, for being both abstract and immediate, and also in no need of translation. But painting might come a close second, for the way that the expression and the means of expression are coterminous—whereas novelists are stuck with the one-damn-thing-after-another need for word and sentence and paragraph and background and psychological buildup in order to heftily construct that climactic scene. On the other hand, it is much easier for writers (and composers, for that matter) to work in subtle, or not-so-subtle, homages to other art forms than it is for painters. Thus Zola gives a friendly nod to Manet in his novel Thérèse Raquin, where a murdered girl in the morgue is described as resembling a “languishing courtesan” offering up her breasts to us, while the black line around her neck (evidence of strangulation) recalls the black ribbon around the neck of Olympia; just to confirm the homage, Zola also includes that rather sinister black cat from the painting.
I’ve never understood clean people or the need to celebrate the coming of Spring by moving everything around. People who care about cleanliness already dominate the airwaves with their advice about having to be insanely clean at all times. Like if you drop a sock somewhere it must be put in a Tupperware container labeled “Dropped Socks.” And then filed somewhere under “Found Socks: Not My Socks.” With some kind of triplicate paperwork to be filled out.
There are whole rooms of my apartment I don’t go in because I’m afraid raccoons may be in them. We used to have a cat that would warn us when things were awry in our living conditions. Now we think the cat is on their side. It’s all very mysterious.
I rise blissfully at 4:30 am, thanks to my Tibetan singing bowl alarm clock. After 20 minutes of alternate nostril breathing, I start my day with a three-minute cold shower. This I follow with twenty minutes of stream-of-consciousness journaling, then another twenty minutes of gratitude journaling.
For breakfast, I always enjoy a half liter of organic, fair-trade, bulletproof coffee (I use a ghee, coconut oil, and yak butter blend instead of MCT oil), which keeps me in ketosis until I break my intermittent fast. By the way, if you haven’t tried it, nothing does the trick like intermittent fasting for maintaining less than 17% body fat. (For my full fasting protocol, see my e-book.)