A private little world for me… a private little world for you. The unofficial online musings and journals of singer/songwriter recording artist author and activist Ed Hale. The Transcendence Diaries have been posting regularly since 2001. Comments are always welcomed. And so are YOU.
Over the years, the staff here at The Transcendence Diaries has received numerous queries about the true nature and origin of The Diaries, how they came to be and who is responsible for their content. With this latest version upgrade, we are going to try to answer some of those questions for the first time here. [We are also including the very first and original origin story for longtime readers. This segment, as always, is what begins the piece.]
Not much is known about The Transcendence Diaries other than they first started to appear online in 2001 claiming to “come from the future” and were written between the years roughly spanning 1980 to 2062. Initially a mysterious stack of several boxes stuffed to the brim with hundreds of notebooks, binders and hardbound journals had been found in the basement of the now-infamous but defunct South Beach rock club called Washington Square when the club was going through renovations to be converted into a dance club — as all once infamous but now defunct rock clubs in Miami’s South Beach. The boxes traded hands several times for a few years before they ended up in the literature department at Colombia University in New York, where they collected dust and intrigue for another few years.
At some point a project was initiated to begin transcribing and editing the thousands of handwritten pages into digital format for eventual publication. Dr. Edward Mendelson, Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Lionel Trilling Professor in the Humanities, was the first to take interest in the project. He assembled a small team of undergrads and grad students to come together three times per week to attempt to flesh out the best plan of action in order to organize the mysterious manuscripts and journals, first by date, then by subject, then by level of completion, with the goal being to eventually begin transcribing and editing. But first they needed to review the entirety of the boxes’ contents and see what exactly they would be working with.
In the winter of 2001, award-winning Venezuelan graphic designer and web-guru, Eduardo Silva (G2), who was in America on a student visa, heard about the project and signed on to help build the database that would store the copious volumes of manuscripts that the small team had assembled and were busy transcribing and editing. Later that year he proposed that “The Diaries”, as they were beginning to be called, be posted online in small batches in real time, as they were being transcribed, as a sort of online diary. A literary experiment that tapped into a then burgeoning new underground trend called web-logging, or blogging for short. At the time web-logging was only being used in small circles of academics around the world for just such purposes. Silva’s proposal was approved and he and a small team began working on an online architecture and user interface to publish the “book that never ends” live on the internet.
In reality what they were creating was indeed a blog, though at the time formal blogs had not gone mainstream yet. It was a relatively new phenomenon; no formal blogging software yet existed. It was on the cutting edge of the outer edges of what most people considered important or interesting. So the site had to be built from scratch. During this phase, The Diaries were all being posted on one very long HTML page that seemed to run down the screen forever in a reverse order from newest entry to oldest. It was only when they reached a new year that they programmed new pages to be added to the site. Because the entries were being posted according to a first come first serve method, one year might contain two-hundred entries and the following year might only contain three. Many years in between didn’t have any entries at all posted. But that was the extent of the site at that time. Six months in, they discovered that there were several years that were almost completely full; at least one entry for every calendar day of the year. Because these years contained upwards of one thousand pages each, it made page-loading an excruciatingly long process for the reader. But the readership continued to slowly increase as the project slowly progressed.
The first test site went up in the summer of 2001 and the first official post went online in July; though many of the entries spanned as far back as the early 1980s and as far forward as 2062. This was as confusing as it was intriguing. And this dating issue complicated matters immensely in regards to sorting the entries for readability. The Transcendence Diaries, as they were eventually titled due to one particular entry dealing with the author’s infatuation with and modern analysis of the Transcendentalists of the 1800s, went through a variety of programming revisions through the years to address the dating/readability issue, changing form, structure and format multiple times. (The current format being version 9.0.3). All the while new batches of entries have been consistently uploaded on a regular basis — except for “the missing years” from 2007 to 2009 when they suddenly stopped posting entirely except on rare occasions. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves — more on that later.
The Transcendence Diaries gathered a loyal following from the outset, first with fellow academics and intellectuals curious as to what this new project Dr. Mendelson and company had been cloistered away for years working on; and then with students who appreciated the voyeuristic rush of reading a stranger’s innermost thoughts, feelings and day to day to activities, all from the privacy afforded by a computer and an internet connection. Especially since no one knew who the author of The Diaries was. The readership started with hundreds, then thousands and eventually tens of thousands of users logging in first thing every morning to read what this mysterious character named “Fishy” was going to do or say next. The unexpected popularity of the project caused several server crashes early on; the expense of dedicated servers — which was the next inevitable step if The Diaries were to stay online — almost threatened the viability of the project due to Columbia principles who questioned the relevance and profitability of such an endeavor if it were to remain online only and never be turned into a hardcopy book that could be published and sold. A few months after the server problems were announced, an anonymous donor appeared and gifted the school with enough money to install dedicated servers to host the Diaries on AND build out a system as complex as Dr. Mendelson and Silva felt they needed to really do the project justice.
The Transcendence Diaries, though popular, faced numerous technical challenges. As photos, videos and music began to be discovered the team wanted to upload them along side of the text of some of the diary entries. At the time, hosting servers weren’t accustomed to handling that much data on one page, and the average user’s bandwidth couldn’t handle downloading them. A new team called Mouse Media, led by a college friend of Silva’s nicknamed Infinito (Ricardo Mazzi), created a third iteration of the site that attempted to address this issue. Blogging had begun to officially take hold as a viable online medium, though they were slow and clunky and didn’t offer the functionality needed to host that many thousands of pages of text coupled with the enormous storage capacity needed to add music, videos and songs. Wordpress was still nearly a decade away. The team decided to try uploading the entire database of several thousand pages to numerous blogging sites that were popular at the time, most notably Blogger. It became apparent quickly that the task was not going to be possible. Transferring that large of a database to any pre-existing blog was not feasible.
So once again the team set about to building yet another website from scratch using the latest programming available. This time in a new technology called Flash. Needless to say, this version of the Diaries stayed up for less than a year before the site was being rebuilt yet again. This time by an Argentinian ex-pat named Paula Kobrinksky who just happened to be one hell of a brilliant coder.
Less technical — though no less daunting — problems were being created by the fact that for years the author of the work itself was still unknown. Written under the nom de plume “Fishy”, it appeared within the first few years of the project that the manuscripts were either an elaborate autobiography — which prompted numerous conjectures as to whose — or a multi-part fictional novel series with the intended title of The Adventures of Fishy, — this WAS clearly one of the books the author was working on in the innumerable notebooks that were discovered — though several other novels of fiction, including screenplays and short stories, also appeared scattered throughout the notebooks as well. But always in pieces. It would take many more years for the team to get through all the notebooks in all the boxes and piece them all together. But for whatever reason, this didn’t seem to matter. More and more readers continued to log in to the site to read the latest entries uploaded. Transcribing, editing and uploading the latest discoveries became a 24 hour a day 7 day a week project with team members taking shifts during all hours of the day or night in order to keep up with the increasing demand.
One could not help but feel an intimate connection with the main character, though it was difficult to believe that such a person, with such a strange name and no historical record or digital footprint to confirm he ever lived, actually existed. This was one of many facets of The Diaries that rendered it a challenge to distinguish what was true from what might be fictional in the copious entries that were being transcribed and posted almost daily by this time. One wondered if more than a dash of creative writing wasn’t at play. It had also been proposed that the 4000+ pages that had been posted were actually a collaborative work by several different authors hiding behind one pseudonym.
In late 2006 an article in an NYU school newspaper about multi-lingual globe-trotting singer-songwriter and recording artist Ed Hale referenced the Transcendence Diaries through a quote at the top of the page taken directly from one of the Diaries’ posts: “Still finding myself obsessed with a quiet secret subtle and almost constant gnawing at my insides about the unbearable sadness of how impermanent everything is. Our lifetimes are short here. I remind myself that it is up to me to find meaning while I am here. I try to live my life to its fullest and even then I cannot shake the deep underlying knowing that they are all just moments lived and then soon forgotten. Where is the meaning in that?” Many immediately pointed out that this clearly portended that Hale was the author of the mysterious Transcendence Diaries — or at least had more to do with The Diaries than he was letting on, though at the time the idea seemed far fetched.
Ed Hale, affectionately known to friends and fans as The Ambassador, is the voice behind the Brit-pop/rock super-group Ed Hale and The Transcendence and numerous Billboard Top40 hits such as “New Orleans Dreams” and “Scene in San Francisco”. The story expressed in The Transcendence Diaries spans more than a lifetime, from a nearly fatal birth to an untimely death and beyond — suggesting the work is indeed fictional. Ed Hale on the other hand is quite real and still very much alive. [See www.edhale.com for more.]
Some dismissed the connection in the article between Hale and the quote, noting that the journalist who penned the article may have simply had a passing knowledge of what by this point had turned into a popular blog and that she was just quoting from it. Others argued that there was no reason to quote from The Transcendence Diaries specifically unless they were somehow intimately tied to Hale. After all, The Transcendence Diaries were not a mainstream household name, not mainstream in any way. Why go there in an article about the singer unless there was some connection? It made sense considering that Hale was in a rock band called Transcendence; though it didn’t prove anything. Further speculation cropped up when as soon as this controversy came to the public’s attention Hale vehemently denied having anything to do with it, quickly followed by a near two year lag in any new posts being uploaded to the site.
One minute new entries were being posted everyday like clockwork and then without notice they just stopped. Regular readers checked in everyday for months and were disappointed to see that the same post that they had read months before was still the last entry in the Diaries. Rumors spread that the Transcendence Diaries project was no longer active and no longer a priority for the ragtag volunteer team at Colombia; or that perhaps the endowment originally created for its completion had run out, though no one would comment on it nor confirm or deny anything, especially not regarding who the author of the work was, Ed Hale or not.
The Transcendence Diaries remained in this form for more than two years. An occasional new entry would be posted every once in a while. But they alluded to nothing out of the ordinary. In 2008, new posts began to appear on the site, at first sporadically and then on a more regular basis. But something had changed. The personal and intimate tone that readers had come to expect from The Diaries had transformed overnight into a more objective commentary on popular culture, current events and various academic subjects. Less diary and more blog. The style was not entirely dissimilar from what it had always been, but the voice was far more removed, with a focus less on the character’s personal life. This change in tone helped only to resuscitate the theory once more that the Transcendence Diaries were indeed a compilation of posts by several different writers. The style continued to shift, with an occasional entry appearing with the same depth and personal details that readers had originally fallen in love with, and then the next one to appear would be detached and objective, reading more like a newspaper article, making the true nature of the work that much more confounding, though no less interesting.
On June 4th 2010, with no fanfare or formal announcement, a heartbreaking post entitled God Giveth God Taketh Away was uploaded to The Transcendence Diaries that seemed to finally dispense with the controversy surrounding the real authorship of The Diaries. The author, as in times past, was brutally honest and candid in the entry, heartbreakingly so, detailing an experience with a miscarriage and his new wife. It was a welcomed return to form for readers. Because Ed Hale had recently gotten married in a very public wedding ceremony, it was taken by most as a public admittance that Hale was indeed the author of The Transcendence Diaries. During the same period Hale had been speaking about this subject publicly and how they were coping with the tragedy. To many avid readers this was the final cat out of the bag that confirmed once and for all that Ed Hale was indeed the writer behind the Transcendence Diaries.
A year later in 2011, several articles appeared in music and culture magazines about the ten year anniversary of The Transcendence Diaries that seemed to solidly link them to recording artist Ed Hale, though to this day the author of the work has never officially confirmed it. In one of the articles about the ten year anniversary, when asked about them, Hale was quoted saying “Let’s say that I was the author… It’s hard to imagine the kind of limitations that kind of openness could have on your privacy. I mean, how do you navigate the real world when everything you do is going to be written down and posted publicly? It seems to me like it would put a real damper on one’s ability to live freely… that kind of scrutiny. Plus, how does someone deal with the backlash of people who get pissed off when their most intimate affairs or conversations appear online? I don’t see how I could be the author and everyone not know it. I don’t see how I would want to be.”
Eduardo Silva, one of the first leaders on the team who produced The Diaries project since its inception admits to knowing Hale (he designed the artwork on the first five Ed Hale and The Transcendence album covers), but will say no more, except that they are still working regularly on transcribing and uploading posts for the site and that at least another 5,000 pages have yet to be uploaded.
In 2013 Ricardo Mazzi (El Infinito) and his team at Mouse Media took over the programming end of the Diaries project to do a massive redesign of the site, which is what led to this latest version that you see here. Categories were created. Tags were added. Titles. Photos, music and videos were all slowly transferred over. Donation and subscription services was incorporated. It took over a year to complete. Interestingly, several other prominent characters who often appear in the Diaries over the years have also been involved in the mammoth redesign project. Ex Norwegian handled several design and graphic aspects. Bunny edited hundreds of posts. So too did Weather Girl. Princess Little Tree, who acted as the lead editor of the posts — a tedious and time consuming job that took hundreds of hours which entailed opening and editing, tagging and categorizing, and then saving the over 3,000 entries that have been posted thus far.
A bigger team has now been assembled to continue to scroll through the hundreds of notebooks and journals that still have not been transcribed, edited and published. More and more entries are being added every week. The project is now more popular than it’s ever been and is enjoying the largest readership it’s had since the first entry appeared twelve years ago. It was just recently announced that The Transcendence Diaries will be published in print media format in a five part series of books.
In the meantime, The Transcendence Diaries project is 100% funded through its readers from subscriptions and donations. From readers like you. And you. If you love stopping by and catching up, please consider heading to the Subscribe or Donate pages to help keep the Transcendence Diaries up and running for another ten years and more.
DISCLAIMER: The Transcendence Diaries is a work of fiction. Any similarity of any of the characters herein to real life persons is purely coincidental and not to be construed as being a reflection of anyone in the real world, alive or dead. ;->