1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-700 million

This post brought to you by the number:


What's going on today? Let's look through Adam's shared RSS feed!

"Normally, this is a process that would take months — years."

Instead, the law is being worked out, live on television, over the course of a few days.

NPR, quoting the chief lobbyist for the Financial Services Roundtable, Scott Talbott

And here are some other delicious quotes about the wisdom of this bullshit bailout. I can't believe this shit. And once again the democrats are lining up. These truly are incredible times; I know, because I find myself agreeing with the republicans on the matter. Wall Street? Can it! They want the free market, now they got it. Of course, it hasn't been truly free for a long time now.

Seriously though, any elected official who votes for this bailout, any official who in any way sends any further money to these jokers, is on my list. As I paraphrase from an economist, (whose name and literal words I am unable to find at the moment) 'this is not a plan to help the financial organizations, this is a plan to help the poorly run financial organizations.' Credit is our new great commodity, and it is the tool by which Americans are oppressed daily. If those who invented such commodity derivatives were unable to see when they pushed their vectors too far, then that is their problem.

I promise, that any elected official who votes to support this bailout will never receive my vote again. Not for school board, not for dog catcher. This is the Iraq War all over again. People who knew warned that it was a bad idea; and then it was voted into existence anyway. Then later, when it fails, it's, "oh, we were misled! We had false information! The people who would benefit by what we did lied to us!" Bullshit. You are responsible. I guess I can take heart in the fact that this $ 700 Billion isn't could to be used to explicitly murder people, but the money is gone. Meanwhile, the nations highways and dams are falling apart. But for god's sake, let's preserve our financial (i.e. fake, derivative, oppressive) infrastructure! And don't give me that crap that without credit, nothing would get built. You give me $700 billion, I'll build you a road. You give it to failing banks, we'll still have potholes.

Anyway, on the lighter side of things, here is a very nice MA thesis about what sort of cosmic singularities you can expect on December 21, 2012, in the views of people who have experimented with heavy doses of psychedelic drugs.

I've found the subject fascinating for awhile from many perspectives: the history of astrology and calendar systems, the millennial and apocalyptic theories, and the multitude of different, yet very similar "prophetic" visions that people experience while under heavy doses of plant matter that occur naturally on the earth. The article sums up the theories in one, mostly unbiased article that seeks to inform rather than proselytize. A bit long for someone who doesn't have any interest in the subject perhaps, but hey, at least its not about credit markets!

And lastly, the number twelve. As in the number of months in the year, the number of eggs in a dozen, and as in the high score of the most educational pinball game around. In the course of my job I often end up counting the same number over and over again. Counting into stacks of tens, or twenty-fives, etc. I've gotten pretty good at it--so good, in fact, that I can sing the 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12 song in my head while still counting correctly to another number entirely. I love that Seasame Street bit; what a truly brilliant show. I consider that bit no small part of how I was able to adapt so easily to base-12 math in Europe, (where the times-table goes up to 12 x 12, rather than 10 x 10 like in the States). And the best part is, twelve is a number that is not 700 billion.

Scroll back up to the top and watch it again, it all its seizure and psychedelic-apocalypse inducing glory.


The Publishers are Dead; Long Live Literature

- More about technology and the future of literature -

Two different articles caught my eye today, in the increasingly verbose re-hashing of the paranoia about the End of the Book. The first was a detailed analysis of the current status of the publishing industry in New York Magazine, and the second was yet another article in the form of a question (so, so, gratuitously annoying a form) about whether literature will survive "the digital age", in the UK's The Independent. For background, both of these articles are continuing the thread, which was perhaps not started but summed from the collective Luddite-leanings of modern society by Nicholas Carr in the Atlantic Monthly article, Is Google Making us Stupid?" Note again, an article in the form of a question.

My answer: no. I already voiced my opinion that literature will live on the digital age; an opinion voiced, perhaps in a not very literary fashion, but yet totally digitally. (At least my title question was more of a weak pun than an actual rhetorical act.)

Which brings me back to the issue, in light of these two readings that I have happened across, in order to make an important point:

Literature is written words.
Written words collected together in series are books. (At least until recently.)
Therefore, all literature (until the bright, blinding dawn of the digital age) has been in the form of books.

By the same token, all books are literature.

Yes, strike that false syllogism out! Unfortunately, those whose interests are taken with literature often are given to the inductive logic that "books" represent literature itself. Not true. Books represent many different kinds of word collections, some of which are quite awful indeed. To tell the truth, I would stand and watch my most major publishing houses flaming hulks disappear in a sizzling downdraft beneath the waves of our current cultural crisis. Can you imagine? Celebrity tell-all stories, political hack collections, and pet-themed cookbooks are not successful enough to keep paying their authors millions of dollars in advances, no matter how many of them have a giant "O" of an anus stenciled on the cover! Hosanna! The free-market has finally done something right, and the snake is finally eating itself.

For anyone actually looking, literature is doing is just fine. There are hundreds of working literary journals in the country, and where one falls over, three spring up. If perhaps you wished that you could walk into any bookstore in the country and find the same ten authors that made up some "list", and that you knew well, just like your favorite Starbucks beverage, then you may be out of luck. But there are still many people writing, editing, publishing, and reading literature in print form. Though they might not be making much money at it. And regardless, I'm sure someone will still be publishing Steven King twice a year, no matter what happens.

Literature is written words, and written words have never been more in style.

The idea that literature has to "evolve" in this crazy electronic world is pretty stupid, I think. Literature is not a corporation that has to cater to its stockholders. We should let literature evolve itself. The woman who claims, in the Independent article, that internet forms like Second Life, Twitter, and whatever else are going to give literature a new, digital life are idiots.

First, as to the technology: ink on paper will still be around no matter what. Sure, its use will decline. But it will always be there for a simple fact: a sheet of paper doesn't do anything but lie on the table. It doesn't run out of batteries, it doesn't get erased by magnetic fields, it can't interfere with the navigational equipment on an airplane, and it won't become anymore obsolete than it already is. It is the simplest denominator of the written word, and as such will always have a place in our culture, just as words will have a place upon it.

Second as to the literary quality: the words that are used in cyberspace are most often decidedly un-literary. Literature, as my little syllogism was meant to show, is not simply given via the ability to hold content, regardless of how novel the container may be. Literature is an art that evolves within its own semiotic structure: part of, but not reducible to its technological vial.

Can I say it more plainly? Yes: THERE WILL NEVER BE A TWITTER NOVEL.

Of course, I invite efforts to prove me wrong. I read a poem in McSweeney's that was written in the form of either text messages, emails or blog posts, I forget which. Needless to say: abysmal. Stick to stanzas, not SMS. The former was developed to push the literary content, the latter to push commication. The two are not the same. Making a book into a movie or video game makes the book no longer a book, plain and simple. Literature is still only the written word, whether in ink, in binary, or in LCD pixel. A book's character in Second Life is an advertisement or a simulation, not literature in anyway.

Eventually, no doubt, there will evolve literature that finds its rightful place in the womb of our new digital culture. However, this will not change the fact that the last 1000 years of literature found its placenta made from good old ink and paper. (And before that, speech was the hip technology, and speech is just as likely to fade from common use as paper, in my opinion. True, the oratory has seen better days, but there are still artisans and audiences of the form.)

And furthermore, this strike through of the concept, "words + sphincter = literature" shows why it is idiotic to look forward to an "iPod moment" for literature, when some messianical technological sex-toy descends from the sky to "get everyone reading again". There is no such thing as an iPod moment; we are getting dangerously close the "big-man of history" theory here, a decidedly reactionary conception of anything. (Then again, most literary critics, even the so-called "materialist" ones, seem to conspiculously avoid seizing the means of their production). The only thing the iPod did (even though actually, it was the mp3 that made it all possible) was to give music its "indoor plumbing moment". How amazing a breakthrough is it, really, that now we don't need to rely on record companies and ticket agencies to hear and share good quality music? Raw sewage is no longer flowing in the streets? How delightfully modern!

The iPod for literature is the book. Anyone can write the text, and anyone with an hour, some glue and some paper can bind one. Then you can give it to a friend, sell it to a shop, or burn it if you wish. You can carry it anywhere and it doesn't need electricity. It will even work in zero gravity.

To sum it up: literature, as a field of artistic creation, will probably stay about the same regardless off of what surface or substance it is read. The big book corporations and the music corporations will both, hopefully, go their appointed ways. I'm not worried about literature in the slightest. In fact, I bet literature will only get better. As I've said before, it's only recently that the literacy rate is so high; it should not be surprising that the literature rate has stayed about the same. Oh, and beware those who try to sell you on the quantity-quality conversion (AMAZON). It was just those sorts of quantativists that caused the failure of the publishing houses to begin with (on the stockholder side AND on the rich author side).


Interdome Notes, Vol. 1

Although most of my posts are long-winded, pseudo-philosophical, personal exhibitionism exercises, I'm going to try and and insert more short segments and brief thoughts, with possibly even no theoretical relevance whatsoever. (We'll see how I do with that.)

Though I've provided ample exegesis on my fondness and support for Google's many projects (even while I feel a bit like Heidegger's 'Rectory Address' every time I declare my metaphysical love for a corporation with a market cap. of $140 Billion; that's right, not like Heidegger but the address itself) I think Google Reader is my favorite. This is actually an affinity for the concept of RSS scripts more than Google; RSS is a little cousin of html and xml script that let's you create your own synchronized newspaper with an appropriate client.

In Reader there is a delightful "share" function, which creates your own RSS feed, similar to a mini-blog, with RSS entries that one finds compelling, with one's appropriate commentary. So, since I have no Reader buddies, I will be sharing these little internet tidbits via my blog; hopefully this will increase my post frequency and also spread the RSS love a bit, since I know that I have at least a few regular readers here.

So, here is
Interdome Notes Vol. 1(general link to my shared material enclosed)

Boing Boing brings us this little tidbit, about McSweeney's apparent plagerism of heavy metal website Encyclopaedia Metallum. The website, and the book, are nothing more than a list of all known metal bands (also the title of the McSweeney's publication). If you didn't already have a reason to dislike McSweeney's, here is another (heh heh). I'm all for open-use and circulation of materials on the internet, but republishing for profit, when it's not in the public domain? That's a no-no. Especially if it is still currently in "print", which the website most certainly is. What's next? Are they going to print Wikipedia too?

Anyway, more of these little items as I find them. I would also mention the current stock market turmoil, which I am watching with interest--but there is no need to enclose a link to that, because you can find that as soon as opening the internet.



Grappling with Google

I am an avid Google user, I'll say that right away. My main personal email account a Gmail account and I clearly use Blogger for "Welcome to the Interdome" and my other less-regular blog projects. But additionally, I use many other Google 'products', as they call have nicely named them. Because Google's growing hegemony is always news in this Interdome world, particularly so of late with the release of Chrome and the search engine's tenth anniversary, I thought I might share some of my theories and reflections about the modern phenomenon known as Google, both as a user, and as one with a penchant for waxing philosophical about semiotics, the Internet, the future, and any and all correlations between them all.

Firstly, let me say that this will not be a review of Chrome, and furthermore, I have not yet had the (by almost all accounts) pleasure of trying Google's new web browser. However, I am a user of many other web applications by the big G, on levels ranging from newbie experimenter to heavy user. I use:

Gmail - email
Reader - RSS compiler
iGoogle - widget customized home page
Blogger - blog publisher
Finance - stock portfolio and other market tools
Docs - web based document editing
Sites - wiki-like sites
Notebook - web and hyperlink notes
Bookmarks - bookmarks
Page Creator - a very canned web page creator
Apps - Group Intranet
Checkout - I think this is what is called, it stores billing info for use win appoved online vendors
Search - in various guises
Talk/Chat - IM
iPhone App - a native app portal for various searching services on the iPhone
Maps/Earth - different incarnations of map searching
GoogleSMS - search via SMS message

I think that's it. A lot eh? And while you have no doubt heard of many, I'm guessing that there is almost no one (who isn't a Google developer) who has used them all. I didn't even know I was using them all at first. That's right: I was Googling beyond my wildest dreams.

This is the characteristic of Google that I think is most relevant, and the most likely to cause the Google campus to be stormed by hordes of torch-throwing Luddites. No, not that you are forced to use the word "Google" more times than the mind can take in a simple essay, but... oh wait, yeah, that's it.

So far, I have used "Google" as both a noun, a verb, and an adjective. I can see adverb and preposition as possible too, though I'm not sure about article. The point is: Google has invaded grammar from every angle. At first, when Google was a verb synonymous with "search", it was just a brilliant piece of marketing and a kick-ass testament to domination of a certain market of which most tech firm officers probably have naughty dreams. Now it has even spread further in meaning, if not in common usage. When I talk about Googling myself now, I can't but help think of the way that my internet-self has become incarnate within Google's server farms.

For instance: my blog is hosted on Google's computer; my financial interests in the market (though only "interests" in the most casual sense, the holding values being a stock-market-game) are analyzed through their flash charts; much of my data is off somewhere in their server cloud; even my credit card and billing information are held in trust since I purchased a URL through their services. Somebody call Sandra Bullock; the net (I mean Google) has me.

This is the essence of the cloud. Cloud, for those of you who don't geek out on semiotic/tech/future stuff, is the new term for computing resources that are not on your computer. They are hosted "in the cloud", so that you can access them from anywhere with a connection to the internet, and so that you don't have to have them filling your own personal terminal. Webmail was the first mainstream cloud application I suppose, though conceptually, the point of the entire internet is that it is in the cloud. Equally accessible, always on, as long as you have the hardware to "log on" (and as long as net neutrality wins the day).

This futuristic concept of interconnectedness really troubles some people. They are paranoid, not only of one's microwave talking to one's car radio via invisible wires, but also of having fundamental aspects of their life and personality not found anywhere in space. Ropes are safe, because you can see them. Magnets are black magic, because electromagnetic energy is invisible. Thinking or speaking is natural, but writing is the devil's work because it perpetuates beyond the moment and can carry ideas outside of the soul, etc. This is the history of time, and the human technological legacy. The minute something with "substance" exists in a new dimension, especially one that is non-visible or non-spatial, gets some wood and some rope because we're going to burn these damn witches out of our town.

I actually like that I have a non-corporeal existence. (Okay, I wasn't too thrilled with having my credit card info tied to my address and email, so I took care of that.) But the entire reason that I have spread myself through the Google-verse is that because I like having an identity in the cloud. It's actually very convenient to have messages, addresses, and other personal, oft-referenced information stored in a dimension that is ever-present, and more and more, accessible from nearly anywhere. Google likes it too, because this is one of the goals of their business. If they drive computer usage into the cloud, they will win, because in the cloud is where their applications are often the best. And more importantly, there they can tax the usage through advertising and other, hardly noticeable means.

You may not believe me, who often rails against the dominance and hegemony of any particular system (especially those for-profit) that I am glad that all of my cloud essence is via Google. The key here is interoperability. Back when I was first getting into cloud living, I had a blog, a private-community message board, three email accounts, a thousand bookmarks in my browser, a MySpace, a Facebook, and some other crap too. Trying to sync all of these listings was just too time consuming. In addition, having it all unified under the Google system means that there is a certain guarantee of quality--I am not going to be inundated with pop-ups or emails stemming from my Google account. In fact, their spam-blockers in email are some of the best I've encountered. Of course, it could be argued that their motivation is to let you focus on their own advertisements. But, even here, Google corporate face maintains some stability. They clearly understand that when you blast a person with advertisements, the advertising becomes ineffective. Notice when you enter the Google-verse through a mobile system, you see a lot viewer ads. If one-fifth of my screen was an ad bar, using my Gmail on a mobile phone would be useless. If I can't use Gmail mobile, why would I use it at all? Hence, but presenting ad-free content, they maintain my usership, and can present me with minimally-invasive, targeted ads when the time is right. This is worlds better than the adporn on MySpace, or the bouncing, distracting Flash on many sites, or even better that the radio ads that tempt me into buying a car by shouting at me. If only all the ads in the world were Google Ads!

And this is why Google released Chrome, a browser built for cloud apps, and they are working on a mobile OS, Android (which we should probably see sometime this year on an actual phone). They want to ensure interoperability, and compatibility, so their cloud interfaces can win in customers that will keep it all "in house". They are going for brand loyalty here, which I think is the smartest way to run a business. If Chrome maximizes the cloud experience, and if all of their apps work on all mobile phones, then they win. They don't have to own the software or the hardware, and hence, have been developing both Chrome and Android open-source. They can benefit from other's ingenuity, and keep it all in the family. The future is Google, and the future looks good.

Now, don't think I'm buying Google stock just yet. There are serious problems stemming from this domination, and I'm not referring to the Google mutant army being trained underground. Domination leads to hegemony, and hegemony leads to a lack of change. And change is just what has allowed Google to evolve and stay ahead. They can't forget this, otherwise it won't matter how many new apps are launched, or how long the Google product list becomes. After the "inter" that describes how the apps keep the user within the Google universe, "operability" is the other half of the world. It is one thing to create a branded app for every cloud function you can think of, and buy the ones that you can't create (e.g. Doubleclick, and YouTube). They have to work. Here Google has had a number of successes, but I also see some failures.

Email and search are the biggest successes to me, and naturally so, since I would bet this accounts for 70% of the functionality of most peoples' web experience. Across every app there are very good search functions built in, and these are getting better all the time. It doesn't matter if I'm search my email, the web, web images, my portfolio, or even my desktop; I can find what I want almost instantaeously. Their search capacities put the Google in Google, you might say. Gmail is less heralded brilliance, but groundbreaking nonetheless. Infinite archiving, search, and as I already said, some of the best spam blockers out there. What you want, when you want it, and none of the crap. The "conversation" format is also very good because it seems very natural, and many other text-communication services have come to style themselves on this model, though Google was probably not the first to do so.

The other easily generalizable feature of Google is also the beginning of its weakness. One word: function. Google seems to have a very good handle on the range of people that use the internet. There are people who have no interest in the internet other than email, view a few photos, and perhaps search for an address or an article from time to time. There are those, usually teens, who want video and flashy graphics. And then there are those with specialized interests, ranging from investors, to techies, to anything else you could imagine. Google spreads itself across all these areas, encompassing minimalism and detail.

But the problem is, that sometimes Google seems spread too thin. It seems that they try to cover areas in a temporary, "yeah, we've got that" sort of way, and don't invest the time necessary to really integrate the app into the overall system. For example, it was only recently that they were able to integrate my contacts from Gmail/Chat into my share list for Reader. This would seem like a nobrainer from the very start. In addition, I can insert RSS feeds into my Gmail, my homepage, and my Blog. But I already have a mammoth list of RSS subscriptions in Reader. How come the only one I can view my Reader list through is the homepage? Why isn't that carried to my blog if I want it, or at least my Gmail? It continues. I can absorb URLs and a text note into my Reader "shared" folder. I can do the same thing into one of my Notebooks. But I can't interchange the two. I can share Reader entries via my contact list, but only share Notebooks and Sites via email addresses. I can "Follow" blogs via Blogger, but this has no correlation to my RSS feeds already in Reader. I feel like I'm back in the old days, trying to update my "favorite books" list across three different social networking sites, or remembering my different screen names for different IM clients. I haven't even tried Orkut, Google's own social networking client. I'm afraid of what I might have to re-input there.

And here, is my overall worst compatibility experience. I was trying to set up a web page for my wife's artwork. Searching the web to see all the different hosting options, I saw that I could register a domain through Google Apps. How easy! I won't have to create a new password and user name, I can just extend the functionality through Google. In less that three minutes I had a domain, and I was ready to go. I had launched Google Apps, a quasi-intranet app that makes a sort of Google homepage for your users. Okay, cool. Megan can check her site email via Gmail, and I can administer through mine. This is good compatibility. But wait a minute: I need a new user name for this site, because Apps logs in by the domain name, not by Gmail. New user name? And so it begins...

Then I tried to design the page. Out opens Google Page Creator, a very, very basic site designer. I'm stuck with like three different styles, and a choice of one, two, or three columns. Okay, at least let me edit the colors. Nope. I go to the help page; I figure, I can alter the html of my Google Blog, I should be able to change the hex values of the color somewhere. The help page consists of four entires, and a notice saying that they have ceased support and signups for Page Creator, and that now they direct us to Google Sites, with "new features". Now I go over to Google Sites. By this time I have 6 different tabs open in my browser.

At Google Sites, I find I need to register again. I use my standard Gmail login this time, and now find that I'm not the proud owner of a website, but that I have started a group Wiki that is very similar to the Google Apps look, what with Google functionalities like Calendar and Video dropped into it, but even less customizing in terms of looks. Furthermore, there seems to be no way to link this Site functionality to the Apps or Page Creator. And still, no html editing.

For a different project I thought that perhaps this wiki setup could be useful. I could have a multiple user space for editing, with all the features included. Wrong again. Labels (like you see at the bottom of my blog posts) are used throughout Google and the rest of the internet to group disparate articles and entries, like blogs or wikis. But although there are tags in Blogger, there are none in Sites. And furthermore, there is no way to export a Site! When it's there, it has to stay there. In the Support Group I found a thread in which others ask about this very critical functionality. Mike, a "Google Sites Guide" instructs us to a tab in the "owner" mode, but then apologetically recants, saying that this was an experimental function that hasn't been released yet, and he wasn't sure when they would release it. That was back in March. I eventually went back to Notebook, where my shared users can add label tags, and export the Notebook either as html or as a Google Doc. (both very useful!) But unfortunately, there is only one level of hierarchy available in Notebook, and no linking between additions, like there could be in a wiki.

So at the end, I have all this functionality, but it is useless for what I want. It is designed piece-meal, so that for certain users there is only precisely what they want, although if anyone wants to dig deeper we're stuck, even if this sort of functionality exists elsewhere in the Google universe. I feel like I have the most awesome set of legos ever sitting in front of me, but I don't have any flat pieces. I can build a really long wall, or a giant tower with no roof, but the only sort of enclosed buildings I can make is a chunky-looking, completely solid pyramid.

So this is where Google has to really advance. This functionality has to be complete intergrated. It might even have to be rebuilt, starting from the bottom. What we need is a linguistic syntax; a way of connecting functionality (verbs) with data (nouns) that doesn't require ten languages, each only having a couple of tenses. I wish to write, have written, wrote, and be writing all in the same language. If I can, then I can use that language. If not, it will become a dead language, and that's all there is to it. It's a philosophical mission; to unite functionality through the interface in which it is used. Isn't this the basis of all good-thinking philosophy, whether in politics, economics, morality, or language? How can we describe the world, both qualitatively and functionally?

I know re-creating Google from the ground up is highly unlikely. But if they can really unify all these tools, then they will really succeed in their goal. Microsoft first dominated because they allowed for a full span of different levels of functionality all within the same operating system. If Google can do the same thing in the cloud, well, then we'll hardly need operating systems anymore. Everyone will use a simple computer loaded with Linux, Firefox (maybe Chrome eventually?) and a shit-load of RAM.