5.30.2001

GOT FILK?

Sing "William H. Gates 3" to the tune of Eleanor Rigby

   William H Gates 3
   Makes a few bucks on each PC that's made
   They call it free trade.
   There isn't a refund
   There isn't a choice, you must pay, you must pay
   It's the only way

   All those Windows users
   Where do they all come from?
   All those Windows users
   That's where they all come from.


From Kuro5hin.org - Techno-Filk IV - The Return of Insanity

5.29.2001

ROBOT SOCIALISM
A fair way of using tomorrow's robots

[via halfbakery.com]

   I'm sure you have all had the thought that someday your job may be replaced
   by a robot. Eventually there may be more robots than people. This is a problem. The solution
   I propose is this...


My robot is working on this problem as we speak...
ALAS!

From the American Literature Abuse Society (ALAS) via librarian.net

Causes of Problem Reading

   Excessive reading during pregnancy is the major cause of prenatal LA among the children of heavy readers. Known as Fetal
   Fiction Syndrome, it leaves its tiny victims prone to a lifetime of nearsightedness, daydreaming and emotional instability.

   Most abusers have at least one parent who abused literature, often beginning at an early age and progressing into adulthood.
   Siblings of abusers are also likely to become literature abusers. Spouses of an abuser may themselves become problem
   readers.

   Other predisposing factors: parents who are English teachers, professors, or heavy fiction readers; parents who do not
   encourage children to play games, participate in healthy sports, or watch television.


Book 'em, Dano...
SHOP CLASS

Via the amazing wood_s_lot

INVASION OF THE CLASSROOM: HOW CORPORATIONS BUY ACCESS TO CHILDREN
AN INTERVIEW WITH ALEX MOLNAR


   What we’re now seeing is the collapsing of the private and economic rationales for
   schools on the one hand with the public and civic rationales on the other, so that
   the market and democracy are now largely regarded as the same. Within this strange
   cultural environment, consumer choice has come to be seen as the same as democratic
   freedom. Going shopping is the same as democratic participation. Being a well-trained
   worker for a corporation is the same as being an effective citizen. And schools are
   very much caught up in this because schools as themselves don’t control their
   environment...

   I think that what we are birthing--because all of this advertising cannot but have
   an effect--is children who believe that life is defined and your value is understood
   in relation to what you possess, and that if you’re lonely it can be cured with a
   trip to the shopping mall. If you’re sad, it can be cured with a purchase...

   We are birthing children who have a mystical belief in the power of things, as opposed
   to some kind of a real and genuine understanding of how to develop and nurture the
   connections to other human beings that provide them with some kind of a satisfying
   life, that give them some hope of love, that give them some opportunity to contribute
   and be cared about, that affirm them and encourage their talents, and support them in
   a variety of ways when there’s nothing else there that can.


Giving Kids the Business: The Commercialization of America's Schools

5.28.2001

AD-BERWOCKY

Stumbled over in passing:

Jabberwacky, or Dreaming After Falling Asleep While Watching TV

   Twas Brillo and G.E. Stoves
   Did Proctor-Gamble in the Glade
   All Pillsbury were the Tasty Loaves
   And in a Minute Maid

   Beware the Station Break, my son,
   The voice that lulls, the ads that vex,
   Beware the Doctor's Claim and shun
   That horror called Brand-X!


Said to be from Mad Magazine, circa 1961

5.24.2001

NAMES TAKEN IN VAIN...

George Bush apparently quoted Dorothy Day in an commencement speech at Notre Dame.
Can you imagine him curling up with the Catholic Worker?

Nah!

Day's daughter and granddaughter respond in a letter to Salon.com:

   Dorothy was an ardent believer in social justice, the rights of workers and
   care of the disenfranchised. Her life's work was dedicated to picking up the
   pieces of human wreckage, the result of policies that continue to be
   perpetuated by the Bush administration. It is shameful to have her efforts
   associated with an administration that gives priority to corporate
   profiteering over human needs. Dorothy understood that a just system
   was as equally important as her ideal of personalism, where each takes
   individual responsibility for the well-being of all. The speechwriters
   for George Bush have distorted her message regarding the works of mercy by
   using her words in their arsenal of deceit.


Unspeakable.

5.21.2001

WIRED LOVE

Burning Questions, Final Answers...

Q: When was the novel Wired Love published and what was it about?

A: Wired Love, by Ella Cheever Thayer, was published in 1879 and
was about a long-distance romance between telegraph operators.

This and 67 other technology questions answered at Forbes.com.

Via Techdirt.com.

5.19.2001

TWO LIP MANIA

Annals of blinded-by-the-light journalism...

From Washtech.com (The Washington Post online) via Techdirt.com

For the Press, Too, a Fall From the Hypes
By Howard Kurtz, Washington Post Staff Writer

   Almost everyone in the media universe got caught up in the frenzy. Panting
   after cyber-advertising, Time launched the spinoff magazines Time Digital
   and eCompany Now. The New York Times was publishing 70-page e-commerce
   sections; The Washington Post launched a weekday Washtech page; the Wall
   Street Journal grew to mammoth size. With glowing cover stories from Fortune
   ("Dot.com Fever") to Business Week ("The Internet Age") to a Newsweek special
   issue on the Net "transforming how Americans live, think, talk and love," the
   press whipped up enthusiasm for this brave new world.


Hmn. Maybe it did have something to do with the excitement in the advertising department...

5.10.2001

MARGINALIA...

Despite the stupifying cultural pollution and hyper-materialism that wafts over
the border from our fantasy-stack industries (primarily Hollywood), Canada
persists in producing many of this continent's most interesting writers. Here
is a commentary on one of the more provocative of these notables:

From At The Margin:

   ...John Ralston Saul's novels are not his most influential work. His
   nonfiction -- Voltaire's Bastards (1992), The Doubter's Companion (1994), and The Unconscious Civilization (1996) --
   constitute the most articulate and powerful indictment of modern global society ever published. Voltaire's Bastards is
   subtitled "The Dictatorship of Reason in the West," and it is over 600 pages (including footnotes) that document how it was
   possible for the promise of 18th century Enlightenment to culminate in a society so simultaneously undemocratic and
   ungovernable as ours. The thinkers of the Enlightenment, according to Saul, used reason as their principal weapon in the
   struggle against medieval darkness. Once the revolution was underway, however, instead of retiring reason to its normal
   place among the other human faculties (Saul lists common sense, creativity, ethics, intuition, and memory), we enshrined it
   as our governing principle. By elevating it over other human faculties, we have succeeded in converting it to unreason.
   Basing our society on reason, Saul argues, has resulted in corporatist politics, the cult of expertise, and our highly
   structured lives. And it has produced a number of interesting contradictions and anomalies. One of these is that the arms
   trade is the largest single industry in a world supposedly at peace. Another is that our so-called democratic societies are
   governed by entrenched elites. Still another is that we elect people to grapple with our public issues based on their
   personalities rather than their abilities.
   Saul points out that we call ourselves a democracy but we have built no time into our lives for citizen participation: "The
   only way a citizen can participate is voluntarily, which means giving up going to the bathroom, give up making love, give up
   sleep, give up eating dinner with your family. In other words, we have structured citizen participation out of our society."
   Note that I'm only giving you the highlights here. Saul takes 171 pages to position himself and lay out the argument, then
   follows that with over 400 pages describing what might be considered the everyday atrocities of modern "democratic"
   corporatist society. Saul believes that reason has become an ideology, and if there's anything Saul despises, it's ideology. In
   The Doubter's Companion, he defined ideologies as "tendentious arguments which advance a world view as absolute truth
   in order to win and hold political power... You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered
   reflection and their fear of debate." He also said, "Like fiction, they are dependent on the willing suspension of disbelief,
   because God only appears in private and before official spokespeople, class leaders themselves decide the content and
   pecking order of classes, experts choose their facts judiciously, blood-ties aren't pure and the passive acceptance of a
   determinist market means denying 2,500 years of Western civilization from Athens and Rome through the Renaissance to the
   creation of middle-class democracies." Whether you accept Saul's argument or not, Voltaire's Bastards is one of those
   life-changing books that don't come along very often. Here's a review: http://www.scottlondon.com/reviews/saul.html.
   Here's an interview between the same reviewer and John Ralston Saul:
   http://www.scottlondon.com/insight/scripts/saul.html. Here's a brief bio of Saul: http://www.gg.ca/saul_e.html. Here's a
   collection of remarks by Saul culled from pages of The Unconscious Civilization:
   http://infoweb.magi.com/~godfree/saulquot.html.

DOT.COM STRANGELOVE

Or how we learned to stop worrying and leave the dot-bombs...

From The Standard:

OPINION: SUSAN ORENSTEIN
No Surprise Endings in These Dot-Com Documentaries
'Startup.com,' 'E-dreams' and Nightline's 'Goldrush Dotcom' tell a very familiar
story, with a very familiar finish.

   ...Now, the digerati are making it to the big screen, although not with the happy
   ending they might have imagined. No fewer than three documentary projects have
   debuted in recent weeks to recount the dot-com mania and the subsequent free
   fall...


Makes you want some Faith popcorn, eh?

Link via Techdirt.com

5.09.2001

CYBORG, HONEY

From the Sunday Times (UK) via Follow Me Here

Professor set to 'control' wife by cyborg implant
by Roger Dobson

   SURGEONS are preparing to create the first
   husband and wife cyborgs: they intend to implant
   computer chips in a British professor and his wife to
   see if they can communicate sensation and
   movement by thought alone...

   ...The signals from Warwick will be converted to radio
   waves and transmitted to a computer which will re-
   transmit them to the chip in Irena. Warwick believes
   that when he moves his own fingers, his brain will
   also be able to move Irena's.


Let's call the whole thing off.

5.08.2001

ORWELLING

1984 has come and gone; and it's not Big Brother anymore, its Big Son; but still
Orwell remains important and here's a good review to tell us why.

From the Guardian Unlimited Books Page via NewPages Weblog

Orwell for our time

He was the most influential and prescient political writer of the 20th century,
argues Timothy Garton Ash. But does he have any relevance today?
Saturday May 5, 2001

   If I had to name a single quality that makes Orwell still essential reading in
   the 21st century, it would be his insight into the use and abuse of language.
   If you have time to read only one essay, read Politics and the English Language.
   This brilliantly sums up the central Orwellian argument that the corruption of
   language is an essential part of oppressive or exploitative politics. "The defence
   of the indefensible" is sustained by a battery of euphemisms, verbal false limbs,
   prefabricated phrases, and all the other paraphernalia of deceit that he pinpoints
   and parodies.


- From Timothy Garton Ash's introduction to Orwell & Politics, edited by Peter Davison.

5.07.2001

HOW GREEN WAS MY VOLLEY

From Fox News via Follow Me Here

Army Aims for Environmentally Friendly -- but People Unfriendly -- Ammo

Thursday, May 03, 2001

   WASHINGTON - The U.S. military is trying to go green, and not just with berets or fatigues. In a multimillion
   dollar project, the Army has come up with a new bullet said to be just as deadly as the old lead-based one but
   cleaner for the Earth.

   "We want to be good stewards of the environment," said Army spokeswoman Karen Baker.

5.02.2001

LUDD KID FILM

In theatres. Go see it on the big screen.

Spy Kids (Rodriguez, 2001) - One critic has called it "A postmodern Willie Wonka." It's a spy
film/technology spoof for adults and pretty good entertainment for kids. The luddish parts:
Q [the gadgetmaker] of the Bond films becomes a character named Uncle Macho, who operates his
spy supply business out of what appears to be a barrio storefront. The villain's evil assistant
is named Mr. Minion. His league of hench-robots (called "Thumb-Thumbs") point out the difficulty
of creating really useful humanoid robots: they are literally all thumbs, inept bumblers with a
giant thumbnail where their faces should be. The villian, Floop, is a children's gameshow host
creating a race of glow-eyed child-robots who are replicas of the daughters and sons of world leaders
(children of the damned, indeed). The goal? World domination. No one can stand in their way,
not even their parents (ha!). The scene in which their brains are installed on an assembly line
is priceless and should be used in future to illustrate news bits about what is wrong with the
American educational system. Great, small touches proliferate: in a fun poke at things-that-talk,
a talking toilet says, "Now flushing your poop." Floop is revealed to be just misunderstood,
Minion is punished, and family values triumph. The message? Don't fear the Floop, fear the
minions. [Moviemom.com review]

5.01.2001

HELLO, IS ANYBODY THERE?

The Turing Test Page
A LITTLE SOMETHING TO WATCH OUT FOR...

From Wood_s_lot:

Societal Implications of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
A report (in .pdf form) from the National Science Foundation

At the request of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), Subcommittee on Nanoscale Science,
Engineering, and Technology (NSET), the National Science Foundation organized a workshop on September 28-29,
2000. This report incorporates the views of leading experts from academia, private sector and government
expressed at the workshop.
REMEMBER JOHN HENRY

Today [May 1] is International Workers Day. Time to remember those who died so that
some others of us could work reasonable hours in a sometimes safe environment...

Time also to remember the many who died contending with machines of various kinds...
including the mythic hero John Henry:

      John Henry told his captain
      "A man ain't nothin' but a man
      But before I let your steam drill beat me down
      I'll die with a hammer in my hand, Lord, Lord!
      I'll die with a hammer in my hand."

DIGITAL DIVIDE, THE SEQUEL

From the free side of Salon.com: Take that, Silicon Valley!
A new documentary follows two young activists on a crusade to expose the tech
industry's labor woes. By Katharine Mieszkowski

   Poor new-economy man. He is already down for the count; he just can't understand where
   all those trillions in stock market wealth went. Now he's taking another swift kick in
   the groin: A new documentary portrays Silicon Valley as a place where corporations buy
   a shiny-happy, socially conscious image while treating their own workers like Third
   World day laborers...


And an interview with the filmmakers: Can my mommy have her paycheck?