There is a Clock ringing deep inside a mountain. It is a huge Clock, hundreds of feet tall, designed to tick for 10,000 years. Every once in a while the bells of this buried Clock play a melody. Each time the chimes ring, it’s a melody the Clock has never played before. The Clock’s chimes have been programmed to not repeat themselves for 10,000 years.
Bruce Sterling’s very very meaty essay on ways of thinking about nature and technology, introducing the idea of ‘Next Nature’. Lots of good stuff in there, worth chewing over slowly and coming back to later.
We’re especially guarded about our most pious, sentimentalized notions of Nature. Nature as a nurturing entity that is harmonious, calm, peaceful, inherently rightful and all-around “good-for-you.”
This vaguely politicized attitude about Nature never came from Nature. It was culturally generated. Nature didn’t get her all-natural identity-branding until the Industrial Revolution broke out.
The most profound idea in the essay (to me, at least) is how our attitudes about what is of Nature and what isn’t is causing us to ill-treat technology:
We also stigmatize technology by denying its “natural” aspects: its mortality, fragility, complex interactivity, and its utter dependence on sometimes fitful flows of energy and material sustenance. We rarely allow ourselves any tender, reverential, nurturing attitude toward technology. The mass extinctions of entire classes of objects and services go almost unnoticed.
Tim Carmody’s magnificent rambling and interconnected piece he wrote for the new made-in-48-hours magazine, Longshot. Just look at this first paragraph:
Punk rock and comparative philology were both invented in Germany about 150 years apart. This story is about how you go from one to the other in two moves, by way of Istanbul and the Mississippi Delta. First, though, you need to know something about the prehistorical Greece of Homer’s Odyssey.
This is ridiculously cool. William Gibson on Google:
Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon prison design is a perennial metaphor in discussions of digital surveillance and data mining, but it doesn’t really suit an entity like Google. Bentham’s all-seeing eye looks down from a central viewpoint, the gaze of a Victorian warder. In Google, we are at once the surveilled and the individual retinal cells of the surveillant, however many millions of us, constantly if unconsciously participatory. We are part of a post-geographical, post-national super-state, one that handily says no to China. Or yes, depending on profit considerations and strategy. But we do not participate in Google on that level. We’re citizens, but without rights.
Also: I’ve gotta remember to use ‘novelistic Kafka glands’ in conversation.
I do dimly perceive that whilst everything around me is ever changing, ever dying there is underlying all that change a living power that is changeless, that holds all together, that creates, dissolves and recreates.
Promises: “Instant Impersonal Assessment of Photo Aesthetics”. Also: “At the moment, Acquine cannot understand the great complexity of our human society and should not be used for assessing photos with a lot of cultural meanings.”
A very Mark Twain satirical piece by Hofstadter, masterful and deft.
Most of the clamor,as you certainly know by now, revolves around the age-old usage of the noun “white” and words built from it, such as chairwhite, mailwhite, repairwhite, clergywhite, middlewhite, Frenchwhite, forewhite, whitepower, whiteslaughter, oneupuwhiteship, straw white, whitehandle, and so on. The negrists claim that using the word “white,” either on its own or as a component, to talk about all the members of the human species is somehow degrading to blacks and reinforces racism. Therefore the libbers propose that we substitute “person” everywhere where “white” now occurs. Sensitive speakers of our secretary tongue of course find this preposterous.
They’ve identified a protein that tells bacteria in a colony to halt their forward march when antibiotics are present, waiting until the coast is clear before resuming the infection. The finding shows how bacteria outmaneuver antibiotics in the body to continue infecting an organ even after treatment, but it also pinpoints a vulnerability that researchers may be able to exploit to make antibiotics more effective.
A good reminder on how much proteins and DNA are like software.
Poignant meditation on understanding racism, but this is what stuck with me:
When I proposed marriage to Chaz, it was because of the best possible reason: I wanted to be married to this woman. Howard Stern asked me on the radio one day if I thought of Chaz as being black every time I looked at her. I didn’t resent the question. Howard Stern’s gift is the nerve to ask personal questions. I told him, honestly, that when I looked at her I saw Chaz. Chaz. A fact. A person of enormous importance to me. Chaz. A history. Memories. Love. Passion. Laughter. Her Chaz-ness filled my field of vision.
So who would want to be a journalist? It has always been work for the strong-hearted, the bull-headed and the hopelessly romantic. People do this work because they love it. They love telling stories, however grim, seamy, or heartbreaking. In fact, the more heartbreaking the better.
But here’s a story that every working journalist, or would-be journalist, should hold in mind. Years ago, when a dear friend was in college, he also worked at the city newspaper. Aware he was fortunate, he gave the job everything, to the point that he sometimes just fell asleep in the newsroom. One morning an editor walked in to find him, bleary eyed, just waking. Shaking her head, the editor told him, Son, you can love this business with everything you’ve got. Just don’t forget that it is never, ever, going to love you back. True words. Good advice.
True story, Word of Honor: Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer now dead, and I were at a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island. I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel to know that our host only yesterday may have made more money than your novel ‘Catch-22′ has earned in its entire history?” And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.” And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?” And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.” Not bad! Rest in peace!