My Thoughts Exactly

Speechless

A few years ago Wetmechanic Gary Gray and I interviewed my pal Cory Doctorow, the peripatetic author, hep cat, technogeek, futurephiliac, etc, etc, in the lobby of a hotel in Boston. We podcast the interview (in 3 parts) here on Wetmachine. (I’m too lazy to look for the links now, but you know how to use that search tool.) Anyway, Cory’s a good guy to interview because he has lots and lots of interesting things to say and he’s friendly & good natured. But conversations with Cory are half-duplex. (A term that any ancient geeks reading this post will remember. But for you young’uns I’ll explain: in full duplex communications, both ends of a link can send and receive messages. In half-duplex, one party sends and the other party receives. What I’m saying is that Cory is smart and nice and funny and interesting, but he doesn’t listen to a fucking word you say. (Or, in any event, he doesn’t listen to a fucking word *I* say.))

My favorite part of our conversation is where we’re talking about the costs and benefits of societal change, especially change brought about by technological advances. We’re talking about the possible end of the art form known as “the movie” as we know it today. What if digital duplication and peer-to-peer technologies make it economically infeasible for a studio to invest the sums necessary for a “real” movie like those we’ve become accustomed to for three quarters of a century or so (think: Lord of the Rings)? Cory makes the observation that with the Protestant Reformation came the end of the era of great cathedrals: because of the Reformation, no more grand cathedrals will ever be built. Cathedral-making is an art form that died because it had to die. But in exchange for that lost art, Cory says (I’m paraphrasing from memory), we got the Reformation. And then he asks “Was it worth it?”

If you listen closely, you can hear me responding, “that’s an interesting question.” (I know you’re not going to go find and listen to the podcast, but just pretend, OK?) Indeed, I thought it was a very interesting question. I was actually thinking about the costs, in blood and war and terror and murder and rape and rapine and starvation and hatred and blind tribal ignorance, that came with religious wars that accompanied the Reformation. And I was thinking about the mysterious awe-inspiring beauty of the (admittedly somewhat perverse) art form of the cathedral. And I was wondering, for the first time, what might have happened to the art form of the cathedral if the Reformation had never happened. I’m a technophobic & nostalgic guy, after all. I was thinking, “what if ever more and more beautiful cathedrals had been built?”

For Cory, of course, it was a rhetorical question, not a real question, and the answer was “yes”. Yes, losing the art form of the cathedral was an OK price to pay in exchange for the Reformation. Cory didn’t even hear, much less respond to, to my ambivalent response. He just steamrollered right over it. Of course the trade-off was worth it. Of course the new art forms that arise when old art forms are killed are “worth it”. The emergent art forms will offer new and unanticipated beauty and splendid insights into our human condition. So, he said (paraphrasing again), the old art must die so that that new and even more profound art can emerge.

As my 4 long-time readers might guess, I was skeptical about this. For I am given to worrying all the time about the wanton destruction of culture in the name of a bogus and ephemeral “progress”. I’m very skeptical about “progress.”

But then I saw the video embedded below, which I found on Spocko’s website — (and Spocko, in fact, actually discovered it on Cory’s own site Boing Boing). And now I’m starting to think, “Cory was right.” Not because this video is more beautiful and satisfying than (name your favorite movie (or cathedral)). But because this is a new art form. It’s shocking. It’s breathtaking. But it’s not shocking in the elitist “Épater la bourgeoisie” sense. It’s shocking because it’s so entrancing and fun, while at the same time implicitly raising a thousand deep questions (and I don’t even speak Korean). It’s just so unexpected, so friendly, so welcoming and so beautiful that I really can’t find words to respond to it. Sure, it’s just a little music video, and Lord knows a music video is not a new thing. But for now, tonight, this one feels to me like someting really really big. As big as the Iranian revolution on Twitter; or, more precisely, it’s an artistic exploration of the possibilities implicit in that revolution. And a big part of the reason for that is that it’s so human, so un-Godlike, so small.

UPDATE Below the fold, a minor elaboration.
UPDATE 2 On Ultrasaurus, Sarah Allen blogs about this post. I like what she has to say, and am impressed that she went back and actually listened to the interview.

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Posted in Memology, My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged , , , | 5 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Telco Sock Puppet Picks Clinton As Best of Bad Field, Worries That Martin Has “Lost His Way.”

Occasionally, folks at industry trade conferences make the mistake of forgetting that press are there and say what they are actually thinking. In fairness, most of these guys probably figure that trade press isn’t really press and who the heck reads Communications Daily anyway? After all, it’s not available online.

Heh heh heh.

I cannot provide an internet link or copy the entire relevant section without violating copyright. Nor would I want to do so. The folks at Comm Daily do good reporting, and if they chose not to make this stuff available online, so be it. Happily, however, principles of fair use allow me to report here a rather interesting story from the Wednesday March 12, 2008 edition (pages 7-8). David McClure, President of the United States Internet Industry Association, addressed his fellow telecom industry buddies at a conference in Monterey Califonia, where he had some very interesting things to say (for me at least) about his personal pick for the White House in 2008 (hint: It’s not Obama) and his opinions about Kevin Martin — the supposedly wholly owned telco asset.

More below . . . .

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Posted in Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

How SBC Lost TX- And What It means More Broadly

Sorry to all, especially John, for being on an unintended hiatus. Got lots poppin’ at work and at home.

In a down to the wire fight, SBC suffered major defeat in Texas on two major legislative initiatives: one to prohibit municipal broadband, the other to remove local franchising requirements for their new fiber systems. In response, SBC Alum and wholly owned subsidiary Pete Sessions (R-TX), to introduce a new federal anti-muni bill, reconfirming my view that most major corporations behave astounding like 6 year old children.

How the Bell companies blew it represents a fascinating case study. Contrary to what a few folks have suggested, it was not an “accident”. In fact, it may, possibly, suggests some interesting things about how progressive politics (by which I do not mean “Democratic Party” I mean genuinely progressive regardless of party) may work for the next few years. My lengthy random musings below . . .

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Posted in Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Tales of the Sausage Factory: Gay Marraige? Mine is Pretty Cheerfull.

Yale Law Prof. Lea Brilmayer has some interesting things to say to Congress on whether we need a Constitutional Amendment to let the states decide on gay marraige. See testimony here. I’m not the expert Professor Brilmayer is on Constitutional theory, but as a result of _Goodridge_, real legal analysis doesn’t matter anymore. And therein lies the true evil of judicial activism. Will four arrogant but well meaning judges give Bush the 2004 election, trigger a Constitutional Amendment, trash civil rights for gays for the forseeable future, and undermine confidence in our judiciary to the detriment of our society as a whole? (cue Odd Couple theme)

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Posted in General, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged | 7 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Wetmachine so far

Half a year (or so) ago I decided to get serious about livening up my Wetmachine website. Wetmachine had been around since October 1999, but I had only updated it a few times. I wanted to transform it into a site that people would come back to. A blog of some kind was clearly in order.

Knowing that it would be a drag, not to mention probably impossible, to singlehandedly make Wetmachine sufficiently compelling to warrant return visits, I invited some friends to play along. About three months ago we made the switch to blog format. Read on for some brief musings on the experiment so far.

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Posted in General, My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged , | 4 Comments (Comments closed)

Wetware and Hard Science

Moebius hydrocarbon finally synthesized.

Okay, this is just cool.


Synthesis of a Möbius aromatic hydrocarbon

For your viewing pleasure, I traced the structure and made a .jpg so you can see for yourself.

I posted this on K5 without any further comment, but I’ve since looked up the paper, and there are a couple of interesting things to note.

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Posted in Wetware and Hard Science | Also tagged | 3 Comments (Comments closed)
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