…what was there was Michigan Avenue, which had been there in the first place, and which I had seen hundreds and hundreds of times, only I had not seen it like I was seeing it now. The sky was blue, as it often was, only this time it was not only blue, but it was thick. It had a texture. If I could have reached up and taken a piece of sky between my thumb and finger, I could have felt it. The buildings were stone, and brown, and bluish gray, and tall like always, only I felt they were somehow curving, huddling together, and arching out over the street. And the cars! The cars were all these amazing colors, moving along like big beetles, metallic and rounded, and shiny. I could see the air too. It was all amazing. Something had happened to my eyes, or my brain, while I was away inside the painting. By the time I had gotten back inside myself, all my seeing settings had been changed…
Facebook is a living computer nightmare. Just as viruses took the advantages of sharing information on floppies and modems and revealed a devastating undercarriage to the whole process, making every computer transaction suspect… and just as spyware/malware took advantage of beautiful advances in computer strength and horsepower to turn your beloved machine of expression into a gatling gun of misery and assholery… Facebook now stands as taking over a decade and a half of the dream of the World Wide Web and turning it into a miserable IT cube farm of pseudo human interaction, a bastardized form of e-mail, of mailing lists, of photo albums, of friendship. While I can’t really imply that it was going to be any other way, I can not sit by and act like this whole turn of events hasn’t resulted in an epidemic of ruin that will have consequences far-reaching from anything related to archiving…
Now me, I don’t have any truck with the Facebook, but I haven’t tried to articulate why it squinks me out. Perhaps I no longer need to try?
I’m re-reading John McPhee’s 1987 Atchafalaya article in the New Yorker (as are many other people, just now) and encountered this technological easter egg:
The sun, just above the horizon, was large and ruddy in the mist, rising slowly, like a hot-air baboon.
So you see there IS hope.
that I should make more space and time for reading Dorothy Parker: Doc Searls’ questions about the provenance of a couple of quotes (which she may not have written, but who cares? Still a brilliantly sharp-tongued person, and perhaps it would be interesting to look into how she’s been misquoted).
I confess a hazy understanding of genomics (well, it’s probably even more vaporous than ‘hazy’), but this from the author of Accelerando‘s recent list of things to feel good about makes me think I should try again to wrap the mind around the subject:
There’s been enormous progress in genomics; we’re now on the threshold of truly understanding how little we understand. While the anticipated firehose of genome-based treatments hasn’t materialized, we now know why it hasn’t materialized, and it’s possible to start filling in the gaps in the map. Turns out that sequencing the human genome was merely the start. (It’s not a blueprint; it’s not even an algorithm for generating a human being. Rather, it’s like a snapshot of the static data structures embedded in an executing process. Debug that.) My bet is that we’re going to have to wait another decade. Then things are going to start to get very strange in medicine.
Nice one over at Language Log: “Rice positivists” vs. “contextualized popular epistemologies”, commenting on the latest teapot tempest among anthropologists of different stripes. It’s nicely written (Mark Liberman’s postings always are), and this bit makes me especially glad to NOT be in the game any longer:
What does remain troublesome is the normative quality of the positivistic ethos that dominates the major agencies funding anthropological inquiry. Since researchers need funding, they are driven to adopt the rhetoric and mindset of the dispensers. (In missionary discourse, they become “rice positivists.”) “Applicants” (supplicants) are confronted with schedules whose headings conjure a fictive future of positivistic research: background (theories), problem, hypotheses, methods, measurements, data analysis, conclusions—in sum, the ideological rhetoric of natural science research within the positivistic mode. For natural scientists, the rhetoric is a convenient game its veterans can work retrospectively, offering to study the problems they have already resolved. But for anthropological fieldworkers, the application schedule can become an exercise in fantasy and falsification.
(Murray Wax 1997)
…which reminds me of one of my stable of quotations:
Oh, how he hated grant proposals. The hollow promises; the vaunting celebration of past success; the self-advertising emphasis on importance and significance; the absence of understatement; the omnipresence of exaggeration; the servile allegiance to tradition, formula, and established procedure; the utter predictability of every other sentence; the implicit greed of the genre…
(David Carkeet Double Negative, pg. 31)
I’ve taken extravagant pleasure in reading Phillip Lopate’s piece on Emerson in the Harper’s that arrived today. Three quotes that I just can’t bear not to rediffuse:
It is curious that Thoreau goes to a house to say with little preface what he has just read or observed, delivers it in a lump, is quite inattentive to any comment or thought which any of the company offer on the matter, is merely interrupted by it, &, when he has finished his report, departs with precipitation.
‘Tis strange, that it is not in vogue to commit hara-kiri as the Japanese do at 60. Nature is so insulting in her hints & notices, does not pull you by the sleeve, but pulls out your teeth, tears off your hair in patches, steals your eyesight, twists your face into an ugly mask, in short, puts all contumelies upon you, without in the least abating your zeal to make a good appearance, and all this at the same time that she is moulding the new figures around you into wonderful beauty which, of course, is only making your plight worse.
But the prize goes to this bit of insight:
A man of 45 does not want to open new accounts of friendship. He has said Kitty kitty long enough.
I’m enjoying Mark Twain’s Autobiography via iPad and Kindle, so page numbers aren’t an option for this lovely bit: William Dean Howells to Mark Twain, on autobiographical truth-telling:
The black truth, which we all know of ourselves in our hearts, or only the whity-brown truth of the pericardium, or the nice, whitened truth of the shirtfront? (note 52)
This certainly rings true to my jaundiced ear:
It’s really too late for both parties. They’re unreformable. They’ve squandered their legitimacy just as the US enters the fat heart of the long emergency. Neither of them have a plan, or even a single idea that isn’t a dodge or a grift. Both parties tout a “recovery” that is just a cover story for accounting chicanery and statistical lies aimed at concealing the criminally-engineered national bankruptcy that they presided over in split shifts. Both parties are overwhelmingly made up of bagmen for the companies that looted America.
Doc Searls, bless him, does a considerable service in his recent post after seeing The Social Network, suggesting to me that I ignore the phenomenon (of Facebook, and its broader significance) at my peril. Putting aside for a moment my squirmier feelings about Facebook itself, I focus on his comments on business, and specifically on a sentence he quotes from James Surowiecki’s New Yorker piece (“The Business-Movie Business“):
The film represents a rare attempt to take business seriously, and to interrogate the blend of insight, ruthlessness, creativity, and hubris required to start a successful company.
Yup, right there on a silken pillow is all my discomfort with ‘business’: ruthlessness and hubris I deplore, insight and creativity I applaud. Perhaps this is my problem… Anyway, thanks to Doc’s take, I’m much more likely to see the Facebook movie, to try to think more creatively about the Facebook phenomenon, and maybe even to think more insightfully about my long-term bugaboo take on ‘business’.