Monday, January 15, 2001--dan wakefield
A woman left her abusive husband in the middle of the night and, taking their 3-year-old son with her, drove through the dark from Ohio to Boston, reaching across the boy to hold the broken handle on the passenger door to make sure he didn't fall out. The scene stuck with me, like many others I heard in workshops I began leading in writing autobiography a decade or so ago. It seemed to me that these true stories, personal slices of American life, conveyed the feel and taste and sense of this society more faithfully and compellingly than the novels I used to count on for such understanding… Perhaps it's that quality of direct experience, without the artifice of fiction, that makes the memoir so popular now and has earned it a respected place in our literature.
There is a curious word in the Hebrew Bible, tevah. It occurs only twice: the first time it is the word commonly translated as "ark" describing the rudderless boat that Noah launches to survive the Flood. The second time it is used to mean the wicker basket, which also cannot be steered, into which Moses' mother places him in order to float him down the Nile to save him from Pharoah's decree to kill all first-born Hebrew sons. But the word tevah, as the Baal Shem Tov noted in his writings, also means"word."
HB: Marshall McLuhan saw narrative as collapsing under the impact of electronic immediacy, the synesthetic all-at-once-ness of electronic culture. Your approach is in some ways more measured: meta-forms/filters evolve to protect us from the info-flood, to help keep us sane.
SJ: Well, I do think that McLuhan -- and perhaps even more so, Sven Birkerts -- have it right about the decline of depth experience, and of the novel's duration, under the spell of electronic immediacy. Because of my (now-delayed) flirtation with an English Ph.D., I've spent more than a few months during which time I did nothing but read triple-decker novels from the nineteenth century. Each time I've immersed myself like that the experience is absolutely startling. It's as if the force of gravity around me has intensified, while the rest of the world hurtles on at its normal insane pace. I feel weighted, anchored, in a way that is almost impossible to describe to my friends still living on TV-time. And there's no question in my mind that this slower, intensified consciousness is wasting away, becoming less and less relevant. That, more than anything, may be the most insidious legacy of TV and film -- the sense that a successful story is one that you can consume in a single sitting.
--steven johnson, interviewed by the atlantic
Sunday, January 14, 2001
lost diary of an SF druggie (via memepool)
27 March 2000
i bought this notebook with a tiny part of the $100 i got from a
lady named Danielle who hit me with her car on Market St... right place
at the right time i guess, huh? if i'd gotten hurt bad i'd still think
myself pretty fortunate -- ironic thing being that i was going to get
on a 71 to Safeway to steal a bottle of liquor to get more dope cuz i
could only get one bag earlier!!
Saturday, January 13, 2001
floating above the earth, observing, not acting
been thinking about the "dream sequence" in the last act of wim wender's until the end of the world. found this site with a nice discussion of the themes in the movie.
out of place
erik davis' radio in his rented car talks to him in skokie. nice :) i guess kinda like the interactive"parlor"TV in truffaut's fahrenheit 451... whoa, nicolas roeg was the cinematographer. i didn't know that. btw, listening to WNUR the realaudio distortion is awesome (if you can get it--open up a lot of windows) like the dot or whatever on the player needs to be blinking red.
statement of matt rossell and a "p.s." from a friend
Friday, January 12, 2001
great article on productivity from the atlantic. oil of course is bad, but the story is fascinating.
here's sort of a (very dry :) overview of the economics behind "exogenous technology improvements." um, i wrote it with the internet in mind way back when, but you could just as easily replace "internet" with any "productivity raising technique" or as rastafarians like to call it, "takeawayknowledgey" :)
increasing returns to scale implies relative decline in average costs. markets that exhibit declining average costs tend to support what is known in the literature as natural monopolies. they are natural monopolies in the sense that people are most efficiently served by one company because competition in such a case introduces unnecessary costs. in that companies could not differentiate their products from the competition in homogenous markets such as in utilities industries, government had in the past allowed monopolistic control with strict regulatory oversight so that the public interest was served.
deregulation of utilities over the past several years, however, was due to recognition by the government that it was not electricity or water per se which was the product at issue. transition to a service economy has made it clear that even in commodity markets with declining average cost structures companies can still compete operationally. increasing speed, quality, customization and convenience all while lowering costs (the application of "knowledge capital") is the hallmark of service at the heart of the new economy. value-added often takes precedence over the product itself and, indeed, in many cases is the product.
what is important to recognize is that the process renders the intrinsic value of final goods trivial in comparison with the value-added experience. as amorphous as it sounds, marketing has been validated time and again in retail commodity markets such as beverages, pantyhose and razor blades and is arguably even more important in consumer durable and luxury markets. under these circumstances, companies able to raise the value of their customers' experience can simultaneously lower their relative costs, provided that the cost of an additional customer gained through better service is lower than the price of the marginal product sold to that customer.
by accident or design, the internet provides a compelling mechanism for raising service levels to add customers at reduced cost. in essence, the internet allows companies not evidently facing declining average cost markets to bootstrap themselves into a natural monopoly position through expedient use of its protocols. it is this idea that is formally behind conventional wisdom that all companies become internet companies or face extinction.
the major fallacy in market perceptions of this dynamic (until recently) was that once a monopoly position is achieved through improved operational efficiency and enhanced customer service, it would be defendable such that resulting profit margins are maintained per each dollar of revenue an additional customer would spend. this is manifestly not the case.
in the transition period where the internet was still in its infancy, customer service along these lines could have been considered and effective barrier to entry. however, with the present rate of capital being spent to bring the internet to ubiquity, there has been an almost total decoupling of costs associated with creating and building value-added services into an organization.
the internet, in effect, behaves like a public good, providing non-excludable access whose use ostensibly does not interfere with anyone else's (national defense and fireworks displays are the classic examples of public goods). raising customer service through the internet, under these circumstances, no longer becomes the competitive advantage once thought. to be sure, businesses still cannot afford to preclude adoption of the internet, however, the fruits of participation are more likely to be survivability rather than a monopoly or monopsony position.
this situation is what in economics is known as monopolistic competition. companies are able to differentiate themselves slightly from the competition through various service offerings, but are unable to completely exclude another company because of this differentiation. it must be said that prior to the internet most industries behaved in monopolistic competition. the inception of the internet as a disruptive technology has temporarily altered the field. however, over time new balance should be reached and monopolistic competition revived, albeit at a higher pace of innovation and productivity.
Thursday, January 11, 2001
read about this prison rape
The first time I went to jail I was 18 years old. I had gone AWOL from the navy, was living with 3 prostitutes, and befriended an older Marine. The Marine and I decided to pull an armed robbery of a small convenience store. A policeman happened to be in the area, and after a long chase we were arrested and went to jail. We ended up in different tanks in the Sonoma County Jail in California. I was 6'1" and weighed about 180 pounds. I wasn't a small guy and figured I could pretty well take care of myself. I was in for a big surprise.
Wednesday, January 10, 2001
after six days of their withering approval, i curled up tightly in a ball, the stock between my knees and the double barrel under my chin like a fetus set to abort. the snoring didn't help much either :( good thing i got an aerobed! where i could retreat into the playgrounds of my head. i dreamt about weblogging, just to underscore how lame i am.
we went to gaithersburg, MD over the weekend to visit an old friend of my dad's. he works for the NIST. like they try to figure out how long a "meter" is. listened to his mom talk at length about the cultural revolution. of course, i didn't understand anything she was saying cuz i don't know chinese, but the lowdown from my dad was that she and her family were severely "mistreated." so unsatisfying without the details. something about a double sui-infanticide, rat poison. but they didn't do it.
Friday, January 5, 2001
booyah, it's the mark & mike show! (via laddie0)
the best scene in jackie brown, btw, is robert forster's reaction"money"shot.
wanting truth is death to capitalism from jeff dorchen's moment of truth
(for tony :)
my parents are in town so this'll be IT for a bit.
Thursday, January 4, 2001
hey, found out in the BAM that steven johnson and chuck colson are alums.
how two druggies came together and gave the gift of themselves.
Shai Hulud - This Wake I Myself Have Stirred.mp3
Kobayashi - Music is my Anonymous Reality.mp3 (via rapeface)
Wednesday, January 3, 2001
russians are dying and building a tunnel under the bering strait. what's the connection? (via drudge)
nice review from notebooks on permutation city by greg egan. a short story by him, worthless. (via dev null)
Tuesday, January 2, 2001
The thalamus -- the brain's hub -- receives information via the senses which is then passed to the correct regions of the brain for processing.
change your mind
``We know that an animal exposed to stress and neglect early in life develops a brain that is wired to experience fear, anxiety and stress,'' Teicher said. ``We think the same is true of people.''
Monday, January 1, 2001
welcome all to the 21st century, refreshingly so!
i'm drunk! just kidding. although it is kinda one of my goals (not a resolution or naything) to someday become a hardened drinker.
cool article via slashdot on this guy's, bernie krisher's, initiatives to build schools in cambodia (kampuchea?), taking a uniquely 21st century approach. digital jesuits of the information age, cyber-ninja orphans, microphilanthropy and such. ian wright was just in cambodia.
kinda reminds me of the MIT media lab's 2B1 program and geekcorps, which the nubbin mentioned awhile ago. there was also this article on nettime about a conversion in NE brazil.