Here is an entire chapter from my most recent book, Hidden Experience. This is a collection of my memories and blog posts about my friend Mac. This was terribly emotional to write. I am adding it here ten years to the day after his death.
Remembering Mac Tonnies
Last night I dreamed I was an android. Someone told me, very casually. I wasn’t particularly surprised, but the revelation left me with a vague sense of existential unease. Speaking of dreams: that’s one very good reason for creating a blog that I hadn’t thought of moments before, when it just seemed like a Cool Thing To Do. A dynamic medium like this welcomes dreams... in 30 years, we’ll be carrying around personal dream recorders and thrusting them into the faces of friends saying, “Watch this!” But everyone will be too engaged in their own half-forgotten Technicolor reveries to pay much attention.
January 26, 2003 (the first week of his blog)
Mac Tonnies, dead at 34
Friday, October 23, 2009
Mac Tonnies, my friend, is now dead. He was found in his apartment on Thursday, October 22.
Mac was one of a kind. He was a brilliant thinker, very funny and a beautiful speaker. I’m crying in a coffee shop in Moab as I write this.
You need to understand something—I needed Mac to reassure me that I wasn’t delusional or insane. He got some desperate late night calls from me, during my moments of darkness. He was enormously supportive of me, and my confusing issues.
A little over a week ago, he’d called me out of the blue. We would occasionally have ridiculously long talks about UFOs and the paranormal, and this was the first time he’d ever called me. We spoke for about three hours, and that was normal. I shared some deeply personal stuff, and he was understanding and humorous.
Mac and I never met in person, but I considered him a close friend.
Text added Dec. 2018:
The post above was written at a coffee shop in Moab, Utah. I added it to the blog within minutes of hearing the awful news.
Mac was a remarkable young writer, whose thoughtful voice could have changed the way we think about UFOs. He was a blogger, and his site Posthuman Blueswas perceptive, creative, wry, shrewd, smart and funny. It debuted in 2003, the dawn of the internet era, and he played with ideas about the future, humanity and UFOs. He lead the quintessential bohemian life, working as a barista in a Starbucks in Kansas City, Missouri while producing a remarkable outpouring of creative work.
He was an author, playwright and essayist. He hosted an episode of Supernatural Investigator, a Canadian television show about the research and implications of extraterrestrial life—and watching that now is heartbreaking.
His death hit me hard, and it took me nearly five months before I could collect my thoughts enough to write about him.
My Pal Mac Tonnies
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Just a few days ago, I wrote an email to a friend about Mac Tonnies’ final book. I typed out the word posthumous, and was struck by how much it looks like the title PosthumanBlues, the name of Mac’s blog. My mind can get trapped in an unhealthy obsessive spiral, and I see every little coincidence as a sign of something deeper.
This is a long post, a rambling self-examination on the loss of a friend. I’d been dealing with a jumble of spinning memories, and needed to get them out of my head and written down. I may remove it from the blog at some point, but it feels honest.
~ ~ ~
In late October of last year, I drove back from a small UFO conference in California (Whitley Strieber’s Dreamland event in Joshua Tree). This was a decidedly heady time, and a lot of intense stuff had invaded my life.
I stopped in Moab, Utah to visit a friend, and camped in the desert at the edge of town. The next morning I had a smoothie at a small breakfast shop, and for some reason I’d requested bee pollen as an extra. I’d never had it before, and figured I’d give it a try. Within minutes of finishing the drink, my face turned red, my lips puffed up, and I was itchy all over. I left the restaurant, walked around the corner and threw up on grass next to the sidewalk.
I was having an allergic reaction. At no point did I feel my airway closing up, but believe me—I was one step away from driving to the emergency room. I took a Benadryl, and waited for it to pass.
While in the throes of this anaphylaxis event, I went to visit a UFO researcher named Elaine Douglass. We had met once before, and had spoken on the phone many times.
When I arrived at her home, she saw something was wrong with me. I tried to explain, but was worried I would be sick again. I ended up lying on her bathroom floor for the next half hour. Eventually the symptoms began to subside, and we drank tea together at her kitchen table.
We talked about her research, and I told her about my ongoing weirdness. I felt progressively better, and after about an hour I seemed fine. I thought our visit would be short, but we ended up talking for hours. It was late in the afternoon when I finally said goodbye.
At that point I had a long drive in front of me, from southern Utah to my home in Idaho. I went into a little cafe on the main street to fill up on coffee. I pulled out my laptop, checked my email and found out that Mac had died. I sat alone in the back corner of the cafe and cried.
I had talked with Mac just a week or so earlier; it was a typical conversation for us—deep, wide ranging and lots of laughs. It spiraled on late into the night.
I’d assumed that one day I would sit in a coffee shop with Mac, we’d drink espresso and talk, just like we always had. And now he’s gone.
I wrote a short notice and posted it on my blog.
Mac had a reverence for espresso—he wrote about it lovingly, and often. I went up to the counter, ordered a double latte short, and savored every beautiful drop.
At that point nobody really knew how he had died, but from what I’d found online, it was assumed to be a heart issue. Earlier in the year, Mac had told me of an experience where he had gone to the hospital to get some sort of heart exam. This was after he’d fainted at work. He was calm and dismissive about the whole thing, treating it as a nuisance.
I got in my car and started driving north. The emotional numbness was oppressive and scary. I chose to travel on the two-lane desert highways, avoiding the inhumanity of I-15 and Salt Lake City.
The drive was astounding beautiful. I had a series of podcast interviews with Mac all loaded up on my iPod, and I listened to them as the sun set in a glorious display of red and orange. The route was empty and desolate, and I drove for as long as an hour without seeing another car.
One of the downloads was a four hour long Coast to Coast interview from just twenty days earlier. This was particularly beautiful and bittersweet. You could hear the delight in George Noory’s voice, it was obvious he was perfectly charmed and engaged talking with Mac. As silly as this sounds, you could sense his mind expanding trying to keep up with Mac’s big ideas.
During this time alone in my car listening to Mac’s calm and wise voice, my chest began to ache. There were sharp pains right behind my ribs, and I knew something was wrong. I have a minimal amount of first aid training, and the symptoms of cardiac arrest are severe “crushing” pain. That wasn’t what I was feeling, it was presenting as something less intense, but something was wrong.
The pain in my chest seemed related to the allergic reaction from that morning, but at the same time, it wasn’t lost on me that it could be some sort of sympathetic reaction to Mac’s death. I pulled into a gas station, bought a single aspirin in a little foil packet. I swallowed it and hoped this wasn’t the big one.
I got back in my car and drove off into the lonely night.
When I finished all of Mac’s interviews, I started over and listened again.
click "Read more >>" thingy below to read the rest
~ ~ ~
In the weeks that followed, there was a lot of talk about the status of his final book. A story came out that there was a printed copy of the manuscript found on his desk in a three-ring binder, with final edits in Mac’s handwriting in the margins.
During my correspondence with Mac throughout 2009, I made it clear that I was eager to do a few illustrations for his book, and Mac was delighted by my offer. I’ll add that he’d been super supportive of my artwork since I’d begun posting some of my drawings online. He would consistently comment on the cartoons, and I deeply appreciated his observant compliments.
I contacted Mac’s publisher to ask about the illustrations, and he told me that Mac had mentioned me and my offer to do drawings for the book. He felt it was a good idea, and I set about creating some initial sketches. Having a small role in Mac’s book was a profound honor, and I took the responsibility seriously.
~ ~ ~
On December 1, 2009, I received the text of Mac’s book as a word document. I took it to the local copy shop and had it printed. I punched holes in the paper and put it in a three-ring binder. At first I was intimidated to read it—there was something sacred, or maybe daunting about it, and it sat unopened on my desk.
A few days later, I realized I needed to sit down and start reading.
I went through a sort of formal process. I made a cup of tea, got my reading glasses, turned the on lamp and sat on the couch. The binder was in front of me on the coffee table, I opened it and read the words “The Crypoterrestrials by Mac Tonnies.” Then, I heard a loud click, right next to me. I looked over at my CD player, it had spontaneously ejected a cassette—all by itself.
That CD player is well over a decade old, and in all those years this has never happened. It seemed extremely odd, and I’m not kidding—it happened at the EXACT second I read the very first words of Mac’s book.
~ ~ ~
When I finally sat down at the desk to start the drawings, I was suddenly hit with that same dull but very real chest pain I’d felt while driving alone in Utah. It was centered behind my ribs and impossible to ignore. It wasn’t the acute pain described by cardiac arrest patients, but was real nonetheless. I managed to dismiss it for over a week, hoping it would go away, but it never did, it stayed exactly the same. The only way I can describe it is to say it felt creepy.
I’d never had chest pain before and now it had happened twice, both times directly linked with Mac. One morning I woke up and the fingertips in my left hand were numb, and I had a very distressing sensation in my left armpit.
I went to my doctor that day. My pulse and blood pressure were perfect, and I tried to describe the symptoms to the doctor. He listened carefully and was genuinely perplexed.
I also told him it might be psychosomatic, because the timing coincided with the death of a young friend from heart issues. He heard me out, then said, “Let’s have a listen.”
I got up on the exam table, and he pressed his stethoscope to my chest. I watched as he listened, and after a moment I could see his face make a sort of Ah-Haexpression. He heard a very specific rubbing noise that indicated pericarditis, this is a swelling of the pericardium, the sac that surrounds the heart.
He explained the treatment for pericarditis is a daily regime of anti-inflammatory medication and if I responded well, there was nothing to worry about. I started taking Aleve, and within 24 hours the pain was gone. The numbness in the fingertips of my left hand continued, and they are numb now, as I type this. Presently it’s very minor, and neither I or my doctor is concerned.
The process of doing the drawings was emotional. It was, in some way, a form of grieving. I simply had to immerse myself into the creative process in a way I’d usually avoid. I got swallowed up in the minute details, and ended up adding too many tiny lines in the drawings. I cared about the illustrations in a way that felt important.
During our last phone call, Mac told me about R.Crumb’s latest book. It was a literal interpretation of The Book of Genesis, the first chapter of the Bible. I hadn’t heard about it, and Mac delighted in describing the funny details. He reveled in the lurid begatting and the violent smiting.
On Thursday, October 22, I found the book in a store on the main street of Moab. I bought it immediately, and sent my last email to Mac using the wifi in the bookstore. I later realized this was the day they’d found Mac’s body in his apartment in Kansas City.
Mac and I were both huge fans of R.Crumb, and I made sure to embrace that inky scratchy look as I worked on his illustrations.
It was shortly after we met over the phone that I created a blog as a way to archive some of my cartoon work. Here’s how Mac introduced my new site on Posthuman Blues: “Blog of the day—Little Boing Marksby friend and ufological co-conspirator Mike Clelland. Mike’s drawings are delightful: R.Crumb meets Dr. Seuss.”
The inspiration for the style and format of the illustrations for Mac’s book was lifted directly from an R.Crumb illustrated edition of The Monkey Wrench Gang, by Edward Abbey. Curiously, I bought this hard to find book a decade earlier, on that same main street in Moab.
~ ~ ~
I suffer from clinical depression, something that’s all too common with creative types. Throughout my life, I’ve gone through cycles where I’ve walked away from the desk and ignored my skills as an illustrator. 2009 was probably the emptiest time of my life. I deliberately rejected drawing. I felt terribly barren, and uninspired.
Mac’s book forced me to break through that stuck feeling—the job of sitting at my desk with pens and ink felt wonderful. I enjoyed the act of putting little black lines on clean white paper. Something I thought I’d lost, had returned.
The world needed his amazing mind, and his eagerness to look deep into the unknown. I feel truly blessed to have known Mac.
Illustrations for Mac Tonnies
Thursday, February 4, 2010
I was enormously fortunate to play a small role in my friend’s final book, an extremely important work by one of the world’s great thinkers. This was powerful and bittersweet experience, forcing me to reflect on what it means to be human. I did a series of eleven illustrations, simple black and white chapter openers. As indulgent as it sounds, I am convinced that Mac was in the room with me during my time at the desk with my pens.
There’s more to this story, and much of it is emotional and challenging. It was a very confusing way to grieve the loss of a friend. I will write more soon, when I can better articulate my mixed up sentiments.
Text added in Dec. 2018:
It’s been almost nine years since Mac’s passing, and I realize there was never a follow up on this post. Here’s the rest of the story. I’d finished all the chapter headers, yet my job wasn’t done. I needed to do one more drawing. I’d done a rough sketch of Mac standing at an open door with a bright light streaming into a dark room. I tried to create final art, my term for a completed illustration, but the image reeked of death and I couldn’t finish it.
Still, I felt a need to keep at it, but couldn’t quite capture the pose at the door—I needed some sort of reference.
Following Mac’s passing, his mother had shipped out some of his belongings to his friends. She sent me his black leather jacket, the one that Mac wore in countless online photos. Many were moody self-portraits, before the term “selfie”. His mom sent me a note saying, “Mac loved this jacket.”
Her gift was poignant and beautiful. The jacket fits me perfectly.
I put it on, and had my neighbor shoot some pictures of me in front of a door facing the sunshine. I used these images to get the shadows and reflections on the jacket. I drew Mac, but used myself as reference.
I got the drawing to a point of completion, but it somehow felt hollow. The bright light was effective, but its source was empty. Without thinking, I added a lone gray alien with a big head back lit in a sparse white setting. I worried the image might come across as heavy handed or unnecessarily dramatic, but it felt right. The drawings were done.
Email from Mac Tonnies
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I searched thru my old email files and I found hundreds of messages from Mac Tonnies. He was a master of the quick note and insightful reply.
Below is an email exchange with Mac from a little over two years ago, it took place the morning after one of our late night phone conversations. I’d just returned from New York City, where I’d met with Budd Hopkins and David Jacobs as part of the documentary project. This was the “whirlwind trip” mentioned in the text.
Mac was an amazing guy, and he kept me balanced as I struggled to make sense of my own story. He helped me enormously.
Mike: Good chat session last night, I needed that. Thanks.
Mac: It’s always uniquely therapeutic to talk UFOs with someone who knows what he’s talking about. Sounds like a whirlwind trip!
Mike: There seems to be a desire (from the film crew folks) for me to stand up and declare: “Hello, my name is Mike, and I am a UFO abductee.” But, I can’t quite get there.
Mac: I kind of sensed that. Great drama, but not your bag – and rightfully not. You certainly appear to share experiences with some “abductees,” but the label is so stifling that it’s undeserving of your balanced skepticism, in my opinion.
Mike: Is that like an alcoholic saying that he doesn’t have a drinking problem? Am I in denial?
Mac: I don’t think so. You’re simply suspending judgment (and in so doing transcending what, ultimately, is a fairly limiting label).
Mac Tonnies, a psychic, and owls
Monday, August 15, 2011
On September 28, 2009, Mac Tonnies was the featured guest on Coast to Coast AM with George Noory. He was a breath of fresh air on a mainstream radio show that seldom strays from predictable topics. As always, he spoke with remarkable clarity.
Less than a month later, he was found dead in his apartment in Kansas City.
His performance on Coast to Coast was a triumph, he was delightfully engaging on the most popular show of its kind. It felt like he was just about to jump to a new level of success, something he truly deserved. I am forever left with the sad thoughts of what might have been.
During the third hour of the show, he spoke about a friend of his who had been seeing owls. He said that this friend was self-aware enough to examine these sightings in the moment, making sure they weren’t some sort of screen memory—Mac was talking about me!
On October 1, Mac and I had this short email exchange.
I wrote: Mac—My owl stories made it to Coast to Coast?!?!?
Mac replied: Yep. But I didn’t have time to finish the story or even tell it properly.
When I read Mac’s reply I wasn’t sure what he meant—it was cryptic, and left me confused. What was it in the story that he couldn’t finish? Sadly, I would never have the chance to ask him.
Fast forward to the spring of 2011 and a phone call with Anya Briggs. The topic of Mac Tonnies came up, and I described how it felt like he was cajoling me from the other side to pursue a graphic novel. Anya is a powerful psychic, and suddenly blurted out, “He’s here!”
She starts frantically channeling what Mac was telling her, then she laughed and in her own voice said, “Oh I really like this guy!”
This has happened more than once during phone calls with Anya, and each time I end up intimidated by the intensity of the whole thing. But I suddenly remembered that unanswered question, and I asked Mac through Anya.
I said, “Mac, when you were on Coast to Coast, you told a little bit of one of my owl stories, but later you emailed me that you didn’t have time to finish the story. I never knew what you meant. What were you going to say?”
Without skipping a beat, Anya replied: “I was going to say that owls might be a kind of window into your world, and that some other force could be using those great big eyes as a tool to see into your reality. Their eyes are like video cameras, and they are being used as a direct link. Someone was watching you!”
That bit of dialog is paraphrased from memory, but it’s pretty close.
I knew instantly that Anya shared exactly what Mac would have said. This was something that Mac and I had talked about during one of our late night multi-hour phone sessions. This idea arose from a comment I’d received on one of my early blog posts from none other than Whitley Strieber.
I’d been wondering for over a year what Mac was hinting at when he said, “I didn’t have time to finish the owl story,” and when Anya communicated his answer to my question it made perfect sense. Maybe there was some sort of magical technology, and alien entities were watching me and Kristen through those great big eyes! True or not, this is exactly the kind of esoteric detail that absolutely delighted Mac.
Police sketch artist
Saturday, January 30, 2010
I got to play the role of police sketch artist for Anya Briggs. She had a memory of a very odd event that took place on 17th street in Manhattan, and her experience is part of short article by A.M. Murphy. Here’s a slightly edited excerpt:
The winter solstice (of 2007) brought what Anya believes is her first conscious contact. Standing at a crosswalk waiting for a light to change, Anya found herself face to face with (as she later wrote), “the strangest looking man sitting in the window of a Starbucks.
He wasn’t abnormal, for all intents and purposes he had a perfect body, like a professional swimmer’s, but way bigger... he also happened to have the longest arms and fingers on a person I’ve ever seen, and additionally, he was about 6’8” or 6’9“ and had the most perfect posture I’ve ever seen. He was sitting in the window and was also wearing—head to toe—cream-colored clothing. I mean it—his shoes, shirt, pants, sweater—all cream-colored.
Additionally, he was holding his mug of tea very awkwardly—his elbows were sticking straight out, exactly parallel to the floor.”
Text added Feb. 6, 2010:
Here is an excerpt from a comment I received last night:
Until I read the text below the drawing, I initially thought this was a picture of a tall, beefed-up Mac Tonnies, given the Starbucks and coffee context. A kind of spooky “deja vu all over again.”
When I read this, I felt myself shudder. It seemed so weird. Mac worked as a barista at a series of Starbucks in Kansas City. He was a lover of coffee, and his blog is loaded with deep reverence for espresso. The bald man (despite his uber size) looks more than a little bit like Mac. What does it mean? I have no idea, except I simply know that Anya would have been totally captivated by Mac—as everybody was, myself included.
Cats, strings and laser pointers
Saturday, February 6, 2010
The very first posting on this blog (March 3, 2009) was a short little essay written a few years earlier titled Cat and String, a tidy metaphor that attempted to articulate some of the weirdness of the UFO mystery.
The first comment on the first post was from Mac, he wrote: “Have you read my essay about cats and laser pointers? We’re on the same page!”
The first time I heard of Mac Tonnies was in March 2007, when he was a guest on a three hour episode of Binnall of America, a podcast hosted by Tim Binnall. I was thunderstruck by Mac’s voice and ideas.
Without any hesitation, I searched him out. I looked up his name, found his phone number (he had a landline), and called him. At the time I was involved in a documentary, and thought he needed to be involved. The initial call was to ask for an interview, but deep down—I just wanted to talk with him.
Among all his other gifts, Mac Tonnies was a beautiful conversationalist. We got along splendidly, and from that first phone call till the time of his death, we spoke on the phone and emailed incessantly.
It was during our initial correspondence that I sent Mac an email with my ‘Cat and String’ essay. He replied (almost instantly, as was his nature) that he’d written something similar, but with a laser pointer instead of string. I no longer have a copy of that email, but it must have been over a year before starting my own blog. I searched his site and found Mac’s short essay. It’s included here:
Every few nights I get out my laser pointer and indulge my cats in a frenetic game of “chase.” Cats are natural hunters, and they’re effectively incapable of not looking at the quickly moving red dot that I project onto the carpet, walls, or any piece of furniture that happens to be in its path.
To my cats, the red dot possesses its own vitality. It exists as a distinct entity. While they may see me holding the pointer, they can’t (or won’t) be distracted by such things once the button is pressed and the living room is suddenly alive with luminous vermin. So they chase it. And chase it. And, if they get close enough, even take swipes at it – in which case I make the dot “flee” or disappear in what seems like a concession of defeat (which, of course, only further arouses the cats’ predatory curiosity).
All the while I’m controlling the red dot, I’m taking pains to make it behave like something intelligible. Just waving the pointer around the room wouldn’t be any fun. So I make it “climb,” “jump” and scuttle when cornered – even though the laser’s impervious to obstructions.
This sense of physicality seems to be the element that makes chasing the laser so engaging – both for the cats and for me.
I can’t help but be reminded of our continuing search for assumed extraterrestrial vehicles. UFO sightings demonstrate many of the same aspects of a typical feline laser hunt: mysterious disappearances, “impossible” maneuvers and a predilection for trickery – the apparent desire to be seen despite (or because of) a technology presumed to be far in advance of our own. More than one UFO researcher has noted that UFOs behave more like projections or holograms than nuts-and-bolts craft… an observation that begs the nature of the intelligence doing the projecting.
According to astrophysicist Jacques Vallee, UFOs are part of a psychosocial conditioning system by which perceived “rewards” are doled out to reconcile for the dearth of irrefutable physical evidence. The phenomenon – whatever its ultimate nature – obstinately denies itself, thus enabling the very game it’s intent on playing with us.
We see that sudden spark of red light; we pounce. This time we’ll catch it for sure.
This essay was posted on Mac’s blog Posthuman Blues without any headline. It was later titled Misdirection, in chapter two of his posthumous book from 2010, The Cryptoterrestrials.
Our two essays are eerily similar. I remember the morning I wrote it: I sat at my computer, drank a second cup of coffee, and it simply gushed out of me in a caffeine induced frenzy. I’m not kidding—it wrote itself. The text was short and tidy, and seemed to exactly express the mysterious puzzle that plagued me.
I’m certain I had not read Mac’s essay before writing mine.
The similarities are obvious. We expressed the very same metaphoric details. It’s funny that Mac, the self-proclaimed post-human technologist used a laser pointer, as opposed to me, the self-proclaimed thrifty minimalist with a piece of string.
Mac and I had some back and forth emails about our little essays, we were trying to figure out who wrote what and when.
On July 29, 2009 I asked: “When did you write that Cat and Laser Pointer essay? Do you have the date? I’m curious.”
Mac replied: “I wrote the cat/laser piece a year or so ago – before your cat/string piece, in case you were wondering. I’m pretty sure I wrote mine in late ’06, but I’ll double-check. It would be weird if we wrote our essays at the same time!”
Mac said what I was thinking, that they might have been written at the same time. A few days later, Mac emailed me: “I found it, and it’s dated! I just searched my blog and found mine.”
I didn’t follow up on this until after he was gone. It took some digging, but I eventually found the original version of my document, and it was dated.
Mac’s cat and laser pointer essay was posted on
Post Human Blues:
September 29, 2006
My cat and string essay was written:
November 25, 2006
I can’t even begin to untangle what, if anything, this might mean. We wrote what’s essentially the same essay. It happened independently, less than two months apart. If nothing else, I have to agree with Mac—it’s weird.
Text added March 2019:
In early December 2009 I sat with the unpublished manuscript of The Crypoterrestrials, and the moment I read the title page my CD player loudly ejected a cassette. I described this earlier—it felt like Mac’s ghost was in the room.
A blog reader commented on that post, pointing out that the heart of a CD player is a laser beam. From where I was sitting on the couch, my CD player was close, just a bit beyond arms reach. The laser had connected us though our cat essays. Was Mac trying to get my attention?
Mac Tonnies’ book is on the shelves
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Mac Tonnies’ book, The Cryptoterrestrialsis now available. I just received a paper copy in the mail. I was privileged to read an advanced copy, and feel strongly saying that this is a very important addition to the UFO literature. The world is a lesser place without Mac’s brilliant mind, and gentle voice.
Dia Sobin did the cover art, and she’s keeping a lovely memorial blog dedicated to Mac called Post-Mac Blues.[ii]
Foreword by Nick Redfern, afterword by Greg Bishop, and interior illustrations by me. From Anomalist books.
Text added Dec. 2018:
This was posted on March 9, 2010, the same day I was sent a link to a series of still photos featuring a very unusual cluster of owls on a fence in Missouri. These two seemingly unrelated events were the opening salvo in an onslaught of overt weirdness that almost drove me into madness. That complex story is told in this book through a series of posts all titled: The Map.
Mac Tonnies featured in the New York Times
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
This upcoming Sunday, there will be an article in the New York Times Magazine titled: Cyberspace When You’re Dead, by Rob Walker. It features a long section on Mac Tonnies, and the impact of his passing as seen on the internet. Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times article:
The most remarkable set of connections to emerge from Tonnies’s digital afterlife isn’t among his online friends—it is between those friends and his parents, the previously computer-shunning Dana and Bob Tonnies. Dana, who told me that her husband now teases her about how much time she spends sending and answering e-mail (a good bit of it coming from her son’s online social circle), is presently going through Posthuman Blues, in order, from the beginning. “I still have a year to go,” she says. Reading it has been “amazing,” she continues—funny posts, personal posts, poetic posts, angry posts about the state of the world. I ask her if what she is reading seems like a different, or specifically narrow, version of her son. “Oh, no, it’s him,” she says. “I can hear him when I read it.”[iii]
Inspiration and the creative process
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Mac Tonnies spoke to me eleven day ago, on 1-11-11. This communication was straightforward and succinct, albeit indirect. I heard his strong clear voice telling me (very nicely) to get off my sorry ass and produce a graphic novel.
This creative prodding came through in a recent essay titledFinding Time. It’s a heartfelt piece about Mac Tonnies, synchronicity, the creative process and life. It was published in The Atlanticas a follow up to the recent piece in the New York Times. This superior article was written by a friend of Mac’s named Rita J. King, and she articulates the deep creative enthusiasm that defined our friend Mac.
The same day I read her piece, I sat at the desk and began drawing and writing. I’ve had a fictional story brewing in the recesses of my head for about a year, and as of now, the pen and paper have met. I’m posting this rough illustration as an overt way to publicly announcing my intention. I feel like I know my own work habits, and by declaring this stuff here, I’m a lot less likely to let this project slip away and never get done.
Thank you, Rita and Mac!
Here’s an excerpt from the Atlantic article:
Shortly before his death, Mac asked to see part of my novel. I braced myself for the fact that the excessive planning might have changed my prose and that Mac would no doubt point this out. Instead, he told me he loved it and that I should get serious about finishing it.
“I don’t have time,” I said.
“Find the time,” he replied.[iv]
Text added Dec. 2018:
It wasn’t long after that posting that I abandoned that graphic novel. The amount of work was monumental, and I just didn’t have it in me. I am happy to say, nearly eight years later, the book has come to life again as a short novella. It’s nowhere near done, but I’ve been motivated by Mac’s terse statement, “Find the time.”
Post Human Blues, is forever safe
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
This is Mac Tonnies’ Post Human Blues Blog as it was captured shortly after his death. We hope future historians, the curious and his friends will read these words and grok Mac in fullness.
After Mac died, everyone who knew him asked the same question: What is going to happen to his blog? Nobody knew his password, so the fate of his blog was unknown. Mark Platner was a regular commenter on Mac’s blog, and he’s been busy capturing the content in its entirety—yes, in its entirety. This is a beautiful act of dedication. Mac’s work now has a permanent and dedicated home, untouched by the hands of time.
There is now PosthumanBlues.com. The effort was monumental, and I’m forever indebted to Platner. Thank you, honestly and truly, thank you.
Posthuman Blues now available as a book
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Paul Kimball has just announced the publication of the first volume of a series of books. It’s a collection of Mac Tonnies’ writings from his blog. It’s 382 pages long, and there will be multiple volumes coming out in the near future. It’s titled: Posthuman Blues by Mac Tonnies—volume one 2003 - 2004, available through Red Star Books. These books are a beautiful tribute—thank you, Paul.
What sparks my imagination by Mac Tonnies
Saturday, February 6, 2016
I want to share a 3rd grade writing assignment composed by Mac Tonnies, he would have been eight years old at the time. This was sent to me by Mac’s mother as a photograph of a page. It took some squinting, but I transcribed it and shared it below. His teacher, quite correctly, wrote: “Great job!” in red pen the margin. Here’s his short essay:
What Sparks My Imagination
Space and dinosaurs are what I think about. When I wait in the dentist’s office, I think about monsters or space. Sometimes I even take along some paper and pencils and draw at the dentist’s. At home I like to draw all the time. Most every night I have a dream. One time I dreamed my toys came out of the closet and attacked me! Sometimes I can’t believe how stuff like that gets in my mind.
Text added March 6, 2019:
Suzanne Chancellor has been the editor of this project. We got into a working routine where she’d would review my essays at night, and send a text when she was done. I’d usually see the text the next morning and fold her suggestions into the document. We worked on this chapter over a three night period, and here’s what I read this morning when I turned on my computer.
She wrote: “Mac Tonnies done”
The next text read: “I shit you not—the very second I wrote that, a great horned owl began hooting outside my window!”
Her next text included audio she’d recorded in her yard, it was the low mournful call of an owl. She then wrote: “I just said hi to Mac, in confirmation.”
That message included a little emoji of a twinkling star.
[i]Anya is a Channelby A.M. Murphy, 1/15/2010, binnallofamerica.com/nas011510
[ii]Post-Mac Blues, https://araqinta.blogspot.com
[iii]NYTimes, Cyberspace When You’re Dead, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/magazine/09Immortality-t
[iv]Finding Time: A Response to Rob Walker on the Digital Afterlife, Rita J. King, Jan 10, 2011, https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/01/finding-time-a-response-to-rob-walker-on-the-digital-afterlife/69186/