Monday, July 20, 2009

TBL's Quote of the Day for Moon Day 2009


Here's my short quote of the day for the 40th anniversary of Moon Day.
Whenever I see a picture of Buzz Aldrin or Neil Armstrong on their 1969 trip to Tranquillity Base, this is the upbeat ditty --from 1970's "Songs of Love and Hate" -- that always buzzes through my head:
Ah, they'll never, they'll never ever reach the moon,
at least not the one that we're after;
it's floating broken on the open sea, look out there, my friends,
and it carries no survivors.
--Leonard Cohen, Sing Another Song, Boys (this one has grown old and bitter)
Happy Moon Day to you all.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Two Departures

1) It seems that the death of free broadcast television was not exaggerated. On June 12 when my seven fuzzy analog signals ended and I turned on my digital converter, I did get ABC on channel 7.1, paid infomercials on 7.2, and a weather crawl on 7.3. I don't get any of them anymore, though a burst of colored pixels and the occasional sound will sometimes pop up in lieu of the "No Signal" screen for a few minutes on one of those channels. Tonight, instead of watching what Disney has cooked up for me, I'll watch one of the DVDs that I took from the Free Public Library this afternoon on my computer: It Happened One Night with Gable and Colbert (not that Colbert), Girl on the Bridge with Auteuil and Paradis, or Season Five of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Does anyone even need TV? Really, now that Walter Cronkite's dead, what's the point?
2) The domain name of WHIGGATE.org is dead too. It wasn't worth paying the annual fee to keep the name alive for the WHIGGATE UPDATE blog at whiggate.blogspot.com. If Americans didn't care about the lies that led us to invade Iraq while the liars were still in power, why should they care now? And President Obama's right; it's more important for us to look at our future challenges than our past crimes and errors. So let's just ignore the members of the White House Iraq Group and thank their mythical god that they will spend the rest of their lives believing in a universe where an eternity in hell is a possibility.

The Kindle Would Be Kindling if Its Components Weren't Toxic, or It's Final: E-"Books" are NOT Books.

The e-book is dead, and killed with the ultimate ironic twist. Click here to read the article about its death on today's electronic facsimile of the New York Times.

If George Orwell had been able to imagine the future a little more clearly in 1984, there would have been no paper and ink involved at all in the attempts of Big Brother's regime to control the written word. Ideally B.B. would have provided all his subjects with an ugly little device filled with billions of words that could be changed and controlled from one central computer. George Orwell could not have imagined such a fiendishly simple system to control history and literature, but the folks at Amazon.com have.

According to today's article in the Times, "Digital books bought for the Kindle are sent to it over a wireless network. Amazon can also use that network to synchronize electronic books between devices — and apparently to make them vanish."

As bad as it is that some customers have had their copies of 1984 and Animal Farm deleted from their pasty-white gizmos, at least they know the books are gone. It's the other option, the ability to "synchronize electronic books between devices" which has always been scarier to me. And it's also the mutability that makes an e-"book" something other than a book. The electronic text file may have advantages in searchability and bookmarking over the physical object that it's trying to replicate, but its ability to change its words and shape makes it something which deserves another name. Its ability to have its words and shape changed (or deleted) by someone other than you without your knowledge makes it something dangerous. Calling a mutable electronic text file a "book" is a perfect example of Newspeak, but maybe the best model book for this situation isn't 1984 at all, but Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. He better realized the real danger of losing the immutable printed word to the omnipresent mutable video screens. And the real power of the immutable printed word over tyrants who would control our futures and pasts. If you have Bradbury's chef d'oeuvre on your Kindle, make sure it doesn't disappear (or self-immolate).
[And, of course, don't ever trust blog entries either.
I could change this tomorrow to make myself
look smarter -- or to please Amazon's rapacious
lawyers -- and you would never know.
]
I don't know about you, but I'm taking a trip to the Library this afternoon.
~~~~~~~~~~~~
UPDATE 19 July 2009: Here's an example of Amazon revising a "book" file for Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on a customer's Kindle to "synchronize electronic books between devices."

This ability to change an e-"book" still strikes me as much more Orwellian than the ability to delete one. Amazon sent this customer an email to advise him about the upcoming change in his electronic text file, but there is nothing to stop a central computer from keeping all electronic "books" fully "correct" and "up-to-date" without any warning (Big Brother's wet dream). All of this points to the need for a new name for these electronic text files. The real books sitting on my shelves (see illustration above) will not be revising themselves anytime soon.

I did make a trip to the Library yesterday afternoon and the dead-tree book I took out was The Great Gatsby; I felt the need to reread it after hearing this show rebroadcast on Studio 360.

Friday, July 17, 2009

What a Rush! or, the soon to be ExAKGovSarahPalin will soon be twittering without fetters!

If you can't see the image of Governor Palin's tweet from very early this morning up above, the text from @AKGovSarahPalin reads "elected is replaceable;Ak WILL progress! + side benefit=10 dys til less politically correct twitters fly frm my fingertps outside State site" It sounds to me like she wants to provide some competition for Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter when she steps down in a few days. I can't wait to see what her new Twitter handle is after the "AKGov" is removed. I vote for "@ExAKGovSarahPalin" or "@THESarahPalin," if those names are not already taken.
She must love a format like Twitter that requires neither grammar nor correct spelling. And I love the way that there is no room for vowels in her tweet, but there is room for an exclamation mark!

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Quote of the Day about the "defectively imagined future" (and a primary difference between conservatives and liberals?)

"... Sooner or later Holytail [marijuana-growing area in Vineland County] was due for the full treatment [from the federal marijuana eradicators of CAMP], from which it would emerge, like most of the old Emerald Triangle, pacified territory -- reclaimed by the enemy for a timeless, defectively imagined future of zero-tolerance drug-free Americans all pulling their weight and all locked in to the official economy, inoffensive music, endless family specials on the Tube, church all week long, and, on special days, for extra-good behavior, maybe a cookie."
--Thomas Pynchon, Vineland, pp.221-222
The passage published in 1990 up above was one of the last I read on the train from work this evening. And while I wasn't going to write at all about Sarah Palin's July 3rd resignation (feeling that commenting on Palin, Sanford, Ensign, Bohner, Cheney, and all the other Republicans right now is like piling insults on the mentally challenged), I couldn't help thinking that this paragraph pointed out a key difference between liberals and conservatives. That picture of church-going Tube-watching Stepford families is a dystopic nightmare in Pynchon's universe, and in mine, but I can't help thinking that it's Sarah Palin's and Dick Cheney's dream, and even the dream of those like Sanford and Ensign who have recently slipped from their ideal straight and narrow and are now praying to regain their footing on that correct path with the promise, after confessing their "sins" to the world, of "maybe a cookie."

These are not views of the world that are ever going to be fundamentally reconciled by political compromises (or by any political means). Like it or not, there will always be people who feel they know the one correct way for all of us to behave (even when they don't behave that way themselves).