hockey

Hockey! It’s A Sport!

So I was hanging around at the Metafilter, as I do, and I was posting the occasional comment, as I do, and drinking beer, as I do, because it was a Friday night, and that’s what I tend to do on a Friday night.

Another guy, this Canadian guy, this guy who’d lived in Japan for a few years and eventually gone back to Canada, someone I’d identified with even though I don’t rightly know if I ever will actually go back to Canada, had said

At least it’s not hockey. What a stupid sport.

(Although these are my true feelings, to say this publicly in Canada is close to something like sacrilege, and I’m not exaggerating.)

So I got my shit all up in a righteous internet uproar and said (and reproduce here because I’d like to remember I said it, self-indulgent and shouty as it is):

I spent a decade or two of my post-pubescent life, times when I was actually in Canada at least part-time and it seemed to matter, telling people how much I fucking didn’t care about hockey, because, you know, that’s what a certain kind of guy does. But I’d sit and watch the goddamn game and drink a hell of a lot of booze and take whatever drugs were to hand and make inappropriate and often successful sexual advances at the desperately bored women who were hanging around unwilling having their own fun while the idiot rinktard puckheads got their stick on.

But I’ll tell you this: I fucking love hockey now, in retrospect, but only in the abstract because I love the idea of stupid toothless meatpuppets beating the living shit out of each other on the ice for the amusement of the Home Audience. I used to poo-poo all the Sport, oh dear, Maynard my Special Friend it’s so commmmon and tedious, I in latter days used to and still do wave a dismissive hand-back at the reality TV and the unreality TV and the fake pretending to be real pretending to be fake winking at the real, I did, I do, but you know what? these days I love it all. I love it all in equal measure to how much I despise it because I am absolutely sure that things, where ‘things’ is meant to be Our Collective Cultural Heritage A-squander, where ‘things’ is meant to be the inexorable ramscoop of the idiocracy screaming V2ey nose-down into the fake peatbog made of plastic turf and celebrity poop, it’s OK that it’s all turning to Entertainment and Distraction at a rate of (k)nots, and I get a Roma-rsonist frisson from tossing my cigarette butts and lighting support blazes out on the periphery hoping ring-a-rosy all burn down without me having to make a stand.

So, yeah. Hockey is stupid, duh, but you know what: the problem with hockey is that it’s not nearly as goddamn stupid as it used to be or should be, when the gladiators dropped glove and knocked pearly white teeths out onto the ice in a spray of blood. It’s gotten smarter since then, instrumentally more reasonable, disappointingly less savage, and that’s a cheat and a con and it’s more modern and marketed and less satisfying.

Fucking weedy reedy thinskinned worthless goddamn civilization we’ve built.

red-hot-chili-peppers-californication

LOLifornication

[Update: I’d just like to say that after watching the first season that that Californication I mention below show is pandery crap, with only sporadic flashes of not-suck. I won’t be going back. I’ve got to guess it’s either written by committee or by dartboard, because it veers from pretty good to laughably bad, seemingly at random. Too bad.]

I’ve been downloading and cycloptically watching the new series Californication because a) David Duchovny amuses me b) he plays a hard-drinking writer c) the pilot episode was so blatantly and manipulatively packed with prettily wobbling female flesh that, well, yeah and d) the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Shut up, I like the old stuff, OK.

Since then, sadly, the per-episode count of nipples’n’bottoms has dropped precipitously, perhaps because Australian grannies spit the proverbial dummy (but then Austrlian grannies aren’t really the target audience, here). Or, more likely, the sexy sexoring was just a cynical out-of-the-gate attention-grab ploy. So it goes. The series hasn’t lived up to the promise of the pilot, but it’s something to play up in the corner of my monitor while I’m metafiltering or fiddling with design stuff. Lets me vicariously be that guy that I’d already tired of actually being by the time I was 30, but who I still miss, sometimes, a bit.

Anyway, all that’s preliminary to a plot thread from a couple of episodes ago that left me scratching my head a little, wondering if either I was out of touch with what’s actually happening to the language in America, or if the writers are.

See, Duchovny, playing boozehound and improbably-lucky-with-the-ladies author Hank Moody, is impelled into spasms of disgust and despair at the decline of Culture (the backstory being that he is blocked, thus drunk, and whoring himself out to a corporate blog for cash) when one of his recent conquests actually says ‘LOL’ out loud. In, if I recall correctly, barefaced unironic response to some bon mot he comes out with in the sack.

Do people actually say LOL now? Out loud? (And by people, I mean, you know, adults.) Do kids even do it? Am I that old?

See, the thing is, I’m almost willing to believe it, because listening to the quite entertaining Totally Rad Show podcast the other day, Alex, whose giddy wordplay I usually enjoy, came out with ‘[Name of somebody] FTW!’
FTW means ‘for the win’, for those of you even crustier and more clued-out than I.

But he didn’t actually say ‘for the win!’, he said ‘FTW!’ ‘For the win’ has three syllables, even after a dozen beers. ‘FTW’ has five. The combination of vowels and consonants are bumpier and harder to say. It just doesn’t make any goddamn sense.

WHAT DID YOU SAY MY CATS ARE NOT FREEBALLING GET OUT OF MY KITCHEN YOU KIDS WHO TOOK MY MEDICINE OH MY ACHING BUNIONS

I don’t know. I guess I’ll just go and have a nice glass of Metamucil or something.

Freedom In Peril (and pass the ammo)

OK, it’s Christmas, and although we are taught that at Christmas our thoughts should turn to peace, love and brotherhood among men (and presumably sisterhood among women, and siblinghood amongst those of differing genders), mine tend to turn pretty quickly from all that lovely and uplifting feel-good window-dressing to righteous anger, antagonism towards hypocrisy, and a big boat of greasy schadenfreude gravy.
Traditionally, it has always been America that has given me the greatest educational opportunities to compare and contrast, seasonal or otherwise. These days Korea can be nearly as amusing, but it’s still the good ol’ US of A that always comes through; it never disappoints in the mindboggling bullshit department.
So in that spirit of angry Xmas wonderchickens past, present and future, I offer you this uplifting publication (pdf, 4Mb) from The National Rifle Association, which I just found today courtesy of a Site That Cannot Be Named. Freedom, they say, is in Peril.
I agree, if not for the reasons these people suggest.

NRA1.jpg

Peace, friends. Sleep well.
Update: This is all over the place today, which is yesterday my time, or something like that. That’s what I get for trying to be timely. Also, one year ago on Metafilter.

Bullshit, Dugg

Well, it only took 7 months, but my Web 2.0 Bullshit Generator™ toy from January got dugg (3300 times or so), and seemed to inspire much jocularity.
It’s been interesting, because the page has been one of the most-linked bits of the site for the last 6 months, almost exclusively amongst weblogs in Europe and Asia, for some reason. Then, a few days ago, (near as I can trace it), after I dropped it into a comments thread at Metafilter, it was picked up by milov.nl, then automatically showed up on Hot Links, then Daring Fireball (kablooie went the visits), then Reddit and Digg almost simultaneously.

Happily, the server shows absolutely no signs of melting down (er, so far). Like I said recently, Dreamhost has treated me well.
Share and enjoy.
Update: Whoops, now Techcrunch and de.licio.us and Blue’s News and Dvorak and O’Reilly Radar, too. Memetastic! Now it just needs posting on the front page of Metafilter, and the circle of life will be complete.
[Note: should not be posted to the front page of Metafilter]

Wonderchicken Industries Presents

OK, it took about a month longer than I thought it would, what with my back going kablooie and the summer doldrums setting in and me just generally not working all that hard on it, but OutsideInKorea is finally open for business.
The dust is still settling, and I’ve dropped my tools and cracked a beer to celebrate, but most of the stuff I wanted to do is in place. There are lots of features and content yet to come, but I think it’s ready to pull back the curtain and hope that people like what I’ve done. Some things are probably broken, or look weird, but I’ve tested in Firefox and IE and Opera on Windows, and it looks pretty good to me. If you have problems, it’ll help me if you drop a comment here or there and tell me what’s busted.
The only content other than the welcome message is repurposed essays about Korea from this very site, but I promise that I will be writing regularly and frequently. I’ve done a lot of work on the design (and I’m no designer, and it probably shows), and now it’s time to start filling the bucket with words, Roxanne, words. If you’re interested in Korea, I hope you’ll bookmark the site, and pass the URL on to friends and neighbours, ex-lovers and therapists, your mom and the guy who sells you your drugs.
I’ve decided to put ads on the site — though there will never be ads here on the ‘bottle — and in my Welcome! post over there, I talk about why. It may seem hypocritical of me given my stance about advertising in the past, and I’m willing to accept that criticism. If I can make some money from the site, though, I’ll be well-pleased. It’s not my only reason for building it, but it’ll certainly help me to keep up my enthusiasm, if it happens.
So. Go, and I hope you like. Help me out, my scattered blog tribe, and spread the word.
This site won’t die, I promise, but I’ll be writing about Korea over there from now on.

The Price Of Oil, Redux

I remember when the shit was clearly going to impact directly on the fan, at least to anyone with a couple of f–king braincells to rub together, as the last particles of dust from the World Trade Centre settled onto the homeless folks and the masters of the universe there in New York.
I remember that. And I remember how I thought ‘Oh, that Billy Bragg, much as I’ve loved him and his ethical stances and musico-politicking all these years, he’s gonna bounce off the marshmallow mindset with this’ when he released his song “The Price of Oil“.
It came up on my random-ass playlist tonight, and I misted up as I sang along. Remembering the fury I felt as the news outlets told us idiot fables about ‘shock and awe’, and realizing how I’ve tamped down my outrage into a little impotent packet of irony these days. I thought about the past couple of years, and all the people whose people died.
Here, you: download it. Or just listen right here.

Voices on the radio
tell us that we’re going to war
those brave men and women in uniform
they want to know what they’re fighting for.
The generals want to hear the end game
the allies won’t approve the plan
but the oil men in the white house
they just don’t give a damn.
‘Cause it’s all about the price of oil
it’s all about the price of oil
don’t give me no shit
about blood, sweat, tears and toil
it’s all about the price of oil.
Now I ain’t no fan of Saddam Hussein
oh, please don’t get me wrong
if it’s freeing the Iraqi people you’re after
then why have we waited so long.
Why didn’t we sort this out last time
was he less evil than he is now
the stock market holds the answer
to why him, why here, why now.
‘Cause it’s all about the price of oil
it’s all about the price of oil
don’t give me no shit
about blood, sweat, tears and toil
it’s all about the price of oil.
Saddam killed his own people
just like general Pinochet
and once upon a time both these evil men
were supported by the U.S.A.
And whisper it, even Bin Laden
once drank from America’s cup
just like that election down in Florida
this shit doesn’t all add up.
‘Cause it’s all about the price of oil
it’s all about the price of oil
don’t give me no shit
about blood, sweat, tears and toil
it’s all about the price of oil.

Download it, if you haven’t before.
I am no better than them because there are people I would be happier to see dead. There is no honor in this.

The Solution To A Midlife Crisis

Greg Knauss, who is one of my favorite writers-on-the-web, has started up again. Years ago I remember being pointed to his site, which was closed at the time, and ending up reading reading through most of the archives in one sitting. If you haven’t read his stuff before, well, you’d damn well better start now.
Here’s a taste:

What do I want to do with my life?
That’s easy — or, rather, it’s easy to answer. I want to create something, build something, make something, with my hands and my brain and whatever tiny bit of passion I can muster. It doesn’t even matter what, really: cool things; fun things; interesting things; silly or stupid things. Things that make other people happy, or amused, or enraged, or some goddamned way other than what they were when they came in. Things that get a reaction, that have some sort of meaning, to me and to others. I want to exercise my creativity in ways that corporate and familial responsibilties don’t offer. I love my family and like my company, but they both need me to be solid and predictable and reliable. I want to be that, of course, but more, too. I want to do something.

Comparing and contrasting with this recent post from Dave Winer, which I marked ‘Keep New’ in Bloglines because it annoyed the piss out of me for some reason, and I wanted to keep poking repeatedly myself in the eye with that stick until something useful came out of it, may help you to see where I’m coming from, here.

When bloggers get together, the topic of every session drifts into “How do we make money doing this” no matter what the original topic was. It’s the same way with artists. It’s so funny, because bloggers don’t do it for money, and no matter how you try, the discussion never actually uncovers any ways to make money, it’s just about how we need to discuss how to make money.

Share and enjoy.

chp_semantics1

Freedom’s Just Another Word

I have Adam Greenfield (whose recent book I still haven’t read, in part because I’ve re-immersed myself waist-deep a couple of decades since last time in Gene Wolfe’s richly rewarding Book of the New Sun) and coffee to thank for kickstarting me into thinking about some of the ideas I threatened to write about here. For some more background, Anne Galloway has a working bib(?)liography here, if you’re interested in the subject. I haven’t read any of that stuff, I’m just pointing to it in case, unlike me, you like to be informed before you gas up and start running your mouth down to the riverbank.
In his speech at Etech, Bruce Sterling militated against the idea that trying to settle on a name for a node and nexus of emerging ideas — theory objects, which he describes as ‘idea[s] which [are] not just a mental idea or a word, but a cloud of associated commentary and data, that can be passed around from mouse to mouse, and linked-to […] a concept that’s accreting attention, and generating visible, searchable, rankable, trackable trails of attention’ — is necessarily a good thing.
After admiring Adam’s (and I merely assume without force of authority or any research at all that it’s actually his coinage) euphonious term ‘everyware’, he goes on to say

Adam Greenfield is trying to speak and think very clearly, and to avoid internecine definitional struggles. As a literary guy, though, I think these definitional struggles are a positive force for good. It’s a sign of creative health to be bogged down in internecine definitional struggles. It means we have escaped a previous definitional box. For a technologist, the bog is a rather bad place, because it makes it harder to sell the product. In literature, the bog of definitional struggle is the most fertile area. That is what literature IS, in some sense: it’s taming reality with words. Literature means that we are trying to use words to figure out what things mean, and how we should feel about that.
So don’t destroy the verbal wetlands just because you really like optimized superhighways. New Orleans lost a lot of its mud and wetlands. Eventually, the storm-water rushed in, found no nice mud to bog down in, and came straight up over the levees.
There is no permanent victory condition in language. You can’t make a word that is like a steel gear.

Adam pushes back, saying “But the naming of things is a matter of primary importance […] …people have always understood the power of names, and of naming – that naming things is a way to shape reality. This is one big reason why an Internet of Things is a problematic notion to me.”
There’s all sorts of rich veins to be (data-)mined here. Let me give it a wonderchicken once-over.
Bruce is right to say with qualification that in some sense, literature is taming reality with words. Hell, everything that everyone could possibly say about art is true, because ‘art’ itself has become a term so diffuse that we can defensibly apply it to any human activity. We’ve both gained and lost something through that, and depending on how your daddy treated you (that is to say, whether your mind is of a ‘conservative’ cast or not), the process has been one of either evolution or erosion. Both can be equally true, simultaneously, and are, I think.
But I think the sense in which Bruce is right is a very limited one — the reality that is ‘tamed’ by the writer is not the objective one that is some approximation of what Is and what we acknowledge to exist through spoken or unspoken consensus, it’s the writer’s own reality. To what extent that subjective reality overlaps with or can be superimposed on that of the reader, and to what extent the work then has meaning to the reader, is a function of the writer’s skill, perhaps.
When the theory object is named, variously and haphazardly, through both the work of someone mining the literary vein, and through “the contentiousness and the definitional struggles [….] associated with those viewpoints, institutions, funding sources, and dominant personalities” reality is not being tamed, though. Taming is not naming, and neither, as we’ll see Adam Greenfield suggest, I think, is naming taming.
Bruce says “the words are the signifiers for a clash of sensibilities that really need to clash,” and that, I can agree with. Without conflict, the story goes nowhere, and bores the tits off of all of us.
Now that’s all probably old ground in literary theory or something, except maybe for the tits part. I’ve never studied it, and this is just my butt talking, as usual. Anyway, onwards!
Bruce then makes a leap that I can’t follow from “There is no permanent victory condition in language. You can’t make a word that is like a steel gear” to

What’s the victory condition? It’s the reaction of the public. It starts like this: “I’ve got no idea what he’s talking about.” Then it goes straight and smoothly through to “Good Lord, not that again, that’s the most boring, everyday thing in the world.” That’s the victory. To make completely new words and concepts that become obvious, everyday and boring.

He gets there by way of acknowledging that his neologism ‘spime’

is a verbal framing device. It’s an attention pointer. I call them “spimes,” not because I necessarily expect that coinage to stick, but because I need a single-syllable noun to call attention to the shocking prospect of things that are plannable, trackable, findable, recyclable, uniquely identified and that generate histories.
I also wanted the word to be Google-able. If you Google the word “spime,” you find a small company called Spime, and a song by a rock star, but most of the online commentary about spimes necessarily centers around this new idea, because it’s a new word and also a new tag.

So, if I’ve got this right, he’s saying that there is a ‘victory condition’ in language, which is that a neologism or new phrase to describe some emergent theory object becomes ‘obvious, everyday, and boring’, but that there is no permanent ‘victory condition’ — “you can’t make a word that is like a steel gear.”
Juxtaposing these two quotes would appear to me to reduce what he’s saying to the idea that language is constantly changing, which is, it must be said, trivially true. And it smells a little like an excuse for coming up with a crappy word like ‘spime’, which reminds me of SpumCo, a felicitious mental href, but probably not the one intended. In this case, the Author’s done a piss-poor job of taming his reality with words and handing it off, to me, at least. But I’m more than willing to cut him some slack, because he does kick a fair degree of ideational ass.
I’m not going to be able to go all the way down the path to the riverbank with Adam either, though, because, while Bruce seems to be proposing (on this admittedly minor point) the trivial conclusion that language mutates constantly but First Logos Movers Get Mindshare (or second movers, pace Winer), Adam seems to place inordinate importance on the ‘rightness’ of names for things, although his focus is outwards. He looks at the spectre (or boon) of a bit-chirping silent cacophany of embedded-arphid objects interpenetrating our daily lives and rightly suggests that calling it an ‘internet of things’ leaves out the whole reason that it might be called into existence – us.
Well, again, I think he’s right and wrong. There is no such thing as the right word or phrase, or the Best One. That would not even be true if there were only one language our species shared. There is the one that wins, and it is true — and I think both Adam and Bruce would agree with this — that whatever word or phrase achieves that temporary victory condition will shape both our thinking and attitudes about the element of our loosely-joined consensus reality to which that word or phrase points. Now and in future. This can be a bad thing, or a good one, or both. Bruce talks in his speech about the cerebral fallout from out adoption of the word ‘computer’, and he’s bang on in his discussion of it, as is Adam when he says “people have always understood the power of names, and of naming – that naming things is a way to shape reality.” Even though they’re paddling their canoes in slightly different directions.
Words are poor things, but they have power. But there is no best, just as there is no ‘best writer’, for reasons I talked about up there a ways.
Right then. This leads me out of the vale of words to the Thing Itself, and I thank Adam for helping to crystallize the ideas that fill me with some fear and not a little loathing for an ‘internet of things’ (or whatever the hell you want to call it).
That, again, is this: an ‘internet of things’ leaves out the whole reason that it might be called into existence – us.
Adam describes it this way: “Things may well have autonomous meaning in and of themselves, but my primary allegiance has to be to the meaning that things derive as a consequence of their use by human beings.”
This is right and true, and reaches far deeper than language to touch the core of how we experience and shape our experiences of whatever external reality may actually be. A rock becomes a ‘chair’ when we use it as such. A plant becomes a ‘drug’ or a ‘food’ when we use it in certain ways. A child makes a concave object out of clay in his art class, but his father may not know it’s an ‘ashtray’ until he is told that is the intended function. I date myself with that example. Ah well.
You can guess that I actually go further than Adam, maybe, if you’ve managed to follow along this far. I am inclined to believe that the idea that ‘things may well have autonomous meaning in and of themselves’ to be contradictory to the meaning of the word ‘meaning’.
Which is all a little too much, no doubt, and the coffee is wearing off, so I’d better get to the bridge.
Here’s the meat, finally: an ‘internet of things’ can serve us — individuals — about as much as it references us, which is ‘not at all’, or perhaps at best ‘not much at all’. Yeah, sure, I’ll be able to find some useless crap that went missing in my 800 square foot apartment (whose front door sends a ping and a doorshot jpeg to the local police each time it’s opened and closed), shit that I probably lost because I didn’t need it in the first place, but was brainfellated into buying by some stealth guerilla-marketing asshole in a miniskirt at the bar the night before. Sure, my fridge’ll be able to talk to the food packages, or note their absence, and talk to the grocery store to order more, and the packages’ll be able to talk to the stove so my cooking gets better, and my doctor’ll be able to subscribe to my fridge’s RSS feed and know that I’ve been eating too many goddamn eggs again and text-message instructions to my microwave oven, or whatever gleaming Jetsons future you can spin out of the coming welter of ubiquitous data. There might be some benefits for those of us who like the idea of being part of the hive.
But what small good I might see in our daily lives I see dwarfed by the massive benefits that would accrue to the Usual Suspects in that future world — governments and corporations, our employers and our creditors, our health-care providers and law-enforcement agencies.
Here’s today: if you live in London, you get photographed an average of 300 times a day going about your daily business. If you live in America, you can be wiretapped without warrant on the thinnest of pretenses. Data about where you spend your money and who you talk to is available for a price, and a mighty low one. If you live in Korea, the government can get records of text messages you’ve sent on your mobile phone, just because the want it, and then send you a text message to tell you you’ve been indicted. Search engines hand over their records when asked. ISPs rollover for the RIAA and MPAA as a matter of course. Use a credit card and leave a snailtrail of your cashfree life in the databases, and you can’t do much without picture ID, including travel domestically. Total Information Awareness didn’t go away, it was just rebranded.
The forces that created this kind of culture are the same ones pushing this technology out, because they have the most to gain. You know, the invisible hand of the market and all that. These are the same forces that made barcodes ubiquitous, and Bruce, at least, is of the opinion that RFID-tagged objects will achieve the same universal penetration of our daily lives in a few decades, profligately pouring out their data all the while. The volume of human data now is a stream of bat’s piss compared to the dataAmazon™ our internet-of-things ubiquitous arphids will push out. And then? Our ability to get lost — not just our things, but our selves — disappears in a wireless byteburst. When we live immersed in a thunderous and silent torrent of raw data generated by everything we touch, so ready for mining, will there be anything we do that is not recorded in some way? There’s no sacrifice involved for the companies and the governments; pretty clearly there’s opportunity for a massive payoff in their abilities to sell to us, to monitor us, to datamine ever cleverer ways to give us what we want, and to keep us in line. Edward Bernays would be pitching a pants-tent over this stuff. Are we prepared to sacrifice what little remains of our ability to be free autonomous actors for the minor gains we might see as individuals? Me, I say ‘f–k, no’.
That’s all a little orwellian-apocalyptic, I know. But the future we’re talking about looks like a corporatist dictatorship-by-the-advertariat stealth-totalitarian wet dream. And it’s the kind of dystopia writers in Bruce Sterling’s tradition have warned us about, over and over again. I’m a little confused at his apparent enthusiasm for it.
We could go blackhat and hack it, those of us with the skills and the will, of course, like Paul Ford suggested a long time back, about something related-but-different

The cultural future of the Semantic Web is a tricky one. Privacy is a huge concern, but too much privacy is unnerving. Remember those taxonomies? Well, a group of people out of the Cayman Islands came up with a “ghost taxonomy” – a thesaurus that seemed to be a listing of interconnected yacht parts for a specific brand of yacht, but in truth the yacht-building company never existed except on paper – it was a front for a money-laundering organization with ties to arms and drug smuggling. When someone said “rigging” they meant high powered automatic rifles. Sailcloth was cocaine. And an engine was weapons-grade plutonium.

but that would take too much damn energy.
I’m willing to be schooled to the contrary, but I don’t see much light at the end of this particular tunnel.

Blogjects and Thinglinks and Spimes, Oh My!

Writer of some excellence Bruce Sterling gave a talk at Emerging Technology 2006, and the transcript of it is here. I think he’s coyote-into-the-brick-wall wrong about many of the things he has to say, and he sucks pretty badly at inventing neologisms, but it’s fascinating to watch the arc and spatter of the fountain of ideas he throws off, and there’s light there, aplenty. About his ideas, more, later, maybe, when my brain has time to percolate for a while. Perhaps it’s just that the future he describes isn’t one in which I have a whole hell of a lot of desire to live.
Then again the present is not one I’m all that thrilled with, either.
Anyway, one of the reasons I found it interesting, beyond the thoughtprovoking superball boing! of his ideas, is that if you squint and tilt your head the right way, he’s exploring the opposite end of the teeter-totter from the one I perched on here, recently. That I mentioned Neal Stephenson and William Gibson in that post, and that Bruce completes with them a neat authorial trio in my mind, is just a pleasant serendipity.
Not only that, but he mentions my net.friend Adam Greenfield, and Adam’s new book ‘Everyware’, which I am pleased to recommend highly even though I haven’t actually read it yet (but will, by god, soon).

Same As It Ever Was

Nigeria: Christians massacre Muslims

ONITSHA, Nigeria – Christian youths burned the corpses of Muslims on Thursday on the streets of Onitsha in southeastern Nigeria, the city worst hit by religious riots that have killed at least 146 people across the country in five days.Christian mobs, seeking revenge for the killings of Christians in the north, attacked Muslims with machetes, set fire to them, destroyed their houses and torched mosques in two days of violence in Onitsha, where 93 people died.”We are very happy that this thing is happening so that the north will learn their lesson,” said Anthony Umai, a motorcycle taxi rider, standing close to where Christian youths had piled up the corpses of 10 Muslims and were burning them.

Iraq: Muslims massacre Muslims

BAGHDAD At least 138 Iraqis, most of them Sunni Arabs, including a number of clerics, were killed in central Iraq on Wednesday and Thursday in the maelstrom of sectarian violence that followed the bombing of one of the country’s most sacred Shiite shrines, Iraqi officials said

Online: Koreans massacre Chinese

SEOUL (login:doofus/doofus) Chinese-Korean relations have their ups and downs, but it’s been a long time since they resorted to violence to settle scores. However, in cyberspace South Korean gamers are ganging up to obliterate the Chinese, whom they view as greedy and rude. “If we don’t kill the Chinese they will grow up to harm Korean players,” wrote Fifth Finger, a Lineage player, on the game’s message board. “They’re just logging on to Korean servers to make money.”

So it goes.

The Stavrossian Accord

Whiskey, cocaine and hookers! Announcing the Stavrossian Accord™, an alternative to the SFcompact. The SFcompact made a small but measurable ripple in the text torrent recently. Compacters vow to eschew purchasing anything new other than food, health products and underwear for a year. Secondhand, though, that’s OK. Poor folks are going to suffer for their ideals, aren’t they?
Accordians, on the other hand, are expected not only to stop wearing underwear entirely, but to spend money on nothing other than whiskey, cocaine and hookers for a year. New or used, it’s all good. And to do it, wherever possible, with stolen money.
It may seem a bit mean to make fun of a group of people whose hearts are, when it comes down to it, in the right place. Making an ‘accord’ and announcing it to the world, though, seems a little ripe for mockery. Particularly when some of the participants are marketers themselves.

Sarah Pelmas, a dean at University High School in San Francisco and one of the original Compacters, said she’s amazed at the extreme responses the Compact has provoked. “People seem very threatened by it,” she said. “But people all over the world live this way all the time. It’s not like it’s some revolutionary, or even consistent, thing we’re doing. But I have been furiously questioned by some people about it — one person said, ‘I bet you still buy gas.’ ”
That sort of response is exactly why the Compact is needed, Perry said.
“If it’s national news when a small group of professionals decide not to buy anything new, and it bothers people so much, it really speaks to how deep we are into consumerism in this country,” he said.

Penetrating insight. I’d venture that people aren’t bothered (or, god knows, threatened) by a cadre of self-absorbed assclowns forming a support-group tribe because they’re watery-bowelled at the daunting prospect of not actually buying all that unnecessary crap (or *shudder* buying it secondhand), so much as they’re amused. It doesn’t ‘speak to how deep [Americans] are into consumerism’, it tells us that there are at least some folks left who know shit from shinola.
Me, I haven’t bought any underwear for 5 years.
Join the Stavrossian Accord™. It might not save the world, but not buying a new iPod every six months wasn’t going to do that anyway.

fox-news-logo

Completely Idiotic

I said the other day that the daily news is my number one source of the Big Laughs. The Big Laughs are the therapeutic ones, the ones that blow out the cobwebs and release those endorphins, that make you fart uncontrollably, which in turn starts you (well, me) laughing even harder. For this reason alone, I enjoy watching and reading the news these days.
To expand my endorphin and flatulence release program, I have invented a new game. My wife believes me to be moderately deranged as a result, but that’s not really anything new. You can play along at home, too, dear reader, and I guarantee it’ll be even better for your mental health and general well-being than constricting your anus 100 times a day. Malarkey? Or effective way? You get to decide.
It’s simple, really, and in its simplicity resides its demonic cleverness. Merely add the phrase ‘…which is, of course, completely idiotic’ to all news items, preferably political, that hove into your view. Fun for the whole family!
Here are some examples that I’ve prepared earlier in the clean and well-lit kitchens of wonderchicken Industries™:

  • Mr. Gonzales claimed that the warrantless surveillance program is consistent with protection of civil liberties, which is, of course, completely idiotic.
  • Iran’s best-selling newspaper has launched a competition to find the best cartoon about the Holocaust in retaliation for the publication in many European countries of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad, which is, of course, completely idiotic.
  • President Bush explained that the new budget, which cuts funding to health care, environmental protection and education while increasing defense and homeland security spending, will help to protect the American people, which is, of course, completely idiotic.
  • Telecom companies, “including AT&T, MCI and Sprint,” are allowing the NSA to spy on calls, “on the basis of oral requests from senior government officials” which is, of course, completely idiotic.
  • ‘Merkel likens Iranian president to Hitler’ and ‘Chavez says Bush worse than Hitler,’ after ‘Rumsfeld compares Venezuela’s Chavez to Hitler’ and ‘Likens bin Laden to Hitler’ which is, of course, completely idiotic.
  • Most state and local health departments reportedly “expect to be unprepared” for a bird flu epidemic “for at least a year,” during which time, says one expert, social distancing “is likely to be all we’re going to have as a strategy” which is, of course, completely idiotic.
  • The president reportedly “didn’t mean it literally,” when he vowed to cut Middle East oil imports by 75 percent: “This was purely an example,” explained Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, formerly known as ‘One of Texas’ Top Five Worst Polluterswhich is, of course, completely idiotic.
  • The Big Bang is “not proven fact; it is opinion,” Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, “It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator” which is, of course, completely idiotic.

(some items lifted from Cursor.org, because I’m exhausted from all the farting)
Share and enjoy.

chinawall

The Goo

Weblog people love to jerk off into the Google Kleenex™ (still in beta), rub the resultant mess all over their faces, then post about it on their sites. They’re putting the Goo into Google at thousands of litres per second. They’d pile on and collectively hump it into a smoking hole in the ground if they could find enough holes to plug with their techno-weiners (or grind its G-pelvis to dust, if they’re she-geeks, I suppose).
Investors love the Goo as well. If they got in on the ground floor, they’ve made enough money that they just don’t give a shit what’s going on in the dungeons beneath the Googleplex. “Hell, the cafeteria lunches are legendary, and the corporate motto is “Don’t be evil”, right? Look at that stock price! We’re too busy running around naked with bouquets of rolled-up dollar bills sticking out of our asses to worry about details!”
Advertisers, the whoring undead scum that take everything they touch and convert it to shit, they’re nuts-deep in the Goo. After all, Google is an advertising company first and foremost, now. If it’s not the world’s biggest trader of weapons of shit conversion, it’s certainly the most exciting. “The eyeballs! The delicious sweet tangy eyeballs, filled with goo! Let a thousand text-ads bloom!”
Hell, I use its services a hundred times a day, literally. There’s wonderchicken goo in the bucket, too.
We live in a world where the country that calls itself the Champion of Freedom and Democracy tortures prisoners in an archipelago of secret prisons. Where the evil dimwit homunculus known inexplicably as the Leader of The Free World unapologetically claims the right to spy on the communications of his own citizens. A squinting faux-cowboy weasel who launches his hobbyhorse war in Iraq on lies, grudges, and incompetence one day, sells it as crusade for Freedom, then turns around, drops and mouths the potent rhinohorn-stiffened economic cock of the Chinese the next. Don’t get the wrong idea, though. It’s manly, Texas-style dong-wrangling. It’s realpolitik.
And it’s enough to make your head spin. Rather than green vomit, though, words fountain out, splash and drip down the walls.
But hang on: the plot — convoluted and far-fetched as it already is — thickens. The Freedom Through Torture (Liberty Through Surveillance Department) gang wants Google to disclose information about its users. Google says “No way, we’re like totally not evil!” Almost the very next day, as they used to say in the fairy tales, Google then turns around and says “Hey, we’re totally going to censor search results in China, though! It’s not all that evil, right?” Are you seeing a pattern here, too?
Google is full of shit. The fact that they’re not the only ones does not excuse them.
And though there are a few weblog people out there saying “My little revenue-goo stream is not worth throwing in with this kind of thing,” the river of Goo shows little sign of drying up. Same thing goes for the investors, not surprisingly, and the marketing shit-alchemists know there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
So Andrew McLaughlin, who is Google’s Senior Policy Counsel, whatever that means, says:

“While removing search results is inconsistent with Google’s mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission.”

Noted Large and Smart weblogger David Weinberger, who is indeed Smart, and Large in the sense that he is one of the brighter sources of light in our in our texty netherworld, and casts a long shadow in the cashosphere that has attached itself limpetlike to us over the past couple of years, well, he gives Google a bit of a pass, though he admits to ‘being torn’ in face of McLaughlin’s justification. Well, OK. It’s true that nothing is black and white. Grey is the new black.
In classic wonderchicken style, I’m entirely untorn, though.
Andrew McLaughlin is also full of shit. That’s no surprise — he’s a lawyer, right? But his artless waffle tastes a lot like Bush’s pet lawyer, Alberto Gonzales, helping to justify torture. But you know, only some torture. “Waterboarding, sleep deprivation, ‘stress positions’, psychological cruelty? Evil? Well, less evil than thumbscrews, castration, disemboweling, stuff like that, right? We’re totally all about the freedom and the democracy!”
Again:

“While removing search results is inconsistent with Google’s mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission.”

What’s inconsistent with Google’s corporate motto — remember, it’s “Don’t be evil!” — is being evil, you asshole. Remember #6, from the ‘ten things': “You can make money without doing evil.” This isn’t rocket science, and David Weinberger notwithstanding, it’s not complicated.
Google is a company, and more significantly an advertising company, and that means that the truth is that nothing can come in the way of whoring itself out for a sleazy but necessary buck or two. You have to keep your investors happy. It’s evil to get down on your knees in the filth and suck that cock in the back alley, then stab the guy and steal his wallet. It’s less evil to just drain the goo and let him stagger away. Yay! Everyone’s a winner, and you can rest easy, at least after you’ve scored some smack to keep the demon at bay. You have to keep your dealer happy. Not to mention your pimp.
Google doesn’t need to be in China. There are other search engines, domestic and international. The absence of Google is not going to suddenly deprive those poor Chinese citizens — the ones looking over their shoulder to see if the government is watching — of the ability to find information about washing machines and condoms. The only reason Google ‘needs’ to be there is the money. The sweet, filthy, repressive, execution-happy, police state money. Google wants growth, because that’s what investors want. Growth. Not the metastatic cancer cauliflower kind of growth either — they want those graphs pointing skyward, proud and erectile. They want to get in to China, build a foothold. And they’ll do evil to get that market share.
But there’s no actual need. No need to get down in the filthy alley in front of the Chinese government. Let Baidu have the money. Let someone else do it. You can make money without doing evil.
“Removing search results is inconsistent with Google’s mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission.”
Let there be no confusion. Google’s mission is to make money. And holy crap, those Chinese have got some money these days.
Words have meanings. We’ve never been at war with Oceania. f–k you, Google.
[Update, long long after the fact (June 07 2006)] : ‘We were evil, Google founder admits.’ The ‘it’s only business’ apologists can commence to sucking my balls….. now.

Web Two, Wonderchicken Zero

The Web 2.0 horse is pretty much dead already from all the flogging it’s been taking, I know, and it’s probably just cruel to take another swing at the poor bugger.
Nonetheless, I had an irresistable brainfart and an urge to play, so I put together the Web 2.0 Bullshit Generator, a ripoff of homage to the legendary dack.com Web Economy Bullshit Generator.
Share and enjoy, tag and remix, monetarize and sell out to Yahoo†!
† selling out to Yahoo! is not compulsory.

Consumer Mindset

This is a nice idea, actually. Whack a slider up there at the top of the search results, help you to filter out the omnipresent webshill crud. Shopping versus research, the infotainment revenue-generation cage-match of our times.
One of the things that annoys me greatly, every time I search for some information on an author or a book, is the way that Amazon (and the dense cloud of parasite associate gnats it trails behind it, all buzzing and jostling for a sip of the great beast’s blood) pops to the top, without fail.
Sometimes I even sigh quietly to myself, give in, and click through, hating myself for letting the shopping mall win.
So this Yahoo thing seemed like it might be right up my alley. Until, of course, I noticed that even with the bar slid hard a-starboard, pedal to the research-metal, the first (paid, placed-ad) result, helpfully highlighted, was for E-bay.
Ahhh, go screw yourself, Yahoo.
The irony of using a Yahoo-owned service to host the image I’m showing you is delicious, though. So there’s that.

1974

I’ll have more to say when I sober up, but for now, a blast from the past.
You f–kers.

For now, we should make every effort to look at the bright side of the Nixon Administration. It has been a failure of such monumental proportions that political apathy is no longer considered fashionable, or even safe, among millions of people who only two years ago thought that anybody who disagreed openly with “the Government” was either paranoid or subversive. Political candidates in 1974, at least, are going to have to deal with an angry, disillusioned electorate that is not likely to settle for flag-waving and pompous bullsh-t. The Watergate spectacle was a shock, but the fact of a millionaire President paying less income tax than most construction workers while gasoline costs a dollar in Brooklyn and the threat of mass unemployment by spring tends to personalize Mr. Nixon’s failures in a very visceral way.
[…]
When the cold eye of history looks back on Richard Nixon’s five years of unrestrained power in the White House, it will show that he had the same effect on conservative/Republican politics as Charles Manson and the Hells Angels had on hippies and flower power. . . and the ultimate damage, on both fronts, will prove out to be just about equal.
Or maybe not — at least not on the scale of sheer numbers of people affected. In retrospect, the grisly violence of the Manson/Angels trips affected very few people directly, while the greedy, fascistic incompetence of Richard Nixon’s Presidency will leave scars on the minds and lives of a whole generation — his supporters and political allies no less than his opponents.
Maybe that’s why the end of this incredible, frantic year feels so hollow. Looking back on the sixties, and even back to the fifties, the fact of President Nixon and everything that has happened to him — and to us — seem so queerly fated and inevitable that it is hard to reflect on those years and see them unfolding in any other way.
One of the strangest things about these five downhill years of the Nixon Presidency is that despite all the savage excesses committed by the people he chose to run the country, no real opposition or realistic alternative to Richard Nixon’s cheap and mean-hearted view of the American Dream has ever developed. It is almost as if that sour 1968 election rang down the curtain on career politicians.
This is the horror of American politics today — not that Richard Nixon and his fixers have been crippled, convicted, indicted, disgraced and even jailed — but that the only available alternatives are not much better; the same dim collection of burned-out hacks who have been fouling our air with their gibberish for the last twenty years.
How long, oh Lord, how long? And how much longer will we have to wait before some high-powered shark with a fistful of answers will finally bring us face-to-face with the ugly question that is already so close to the surface in this country, that sooner or later even politicians will have to cope with it?
Is the democracy worth all the risks and problems that necessarily go with it? Or, would we all be happier by admitting that the whole thing was a lark from the start and now that it hasn’t worked out, to hell with it.
– Hunter S Thompson, The New York Times, January 1, 1974

Image stolen from the SA Forums, and hosted by ImageShack.us

The Truth? You Can't Handle The Truth!

I said this over there.
Hindsight will show how much this (and all the other American campaign related program activities on the internets) have made an impact on the vote for World Leader #1 this year, but I have no doubt that whatever happens next week (and probably in the weeks following, if it’s anything like 2000), that if the elections aren’t cancelled in 2008, the power of freed-up culture, rumours on the internets, the resurgence of an engaged wired citizenry and the decline of old media and yes, even the self-obsessed wankery of the blogotroposphere are going to kick some political ass.
Gives me hope.
For the moment, though, spread the word, link the link, and take those bastards in the White House down.
Update : When asked for his opinion about these rumours on the internets, Mr Bush had this response for the American people.

We Are All

A few times in my life, I’ve felt the Fear. When terror — long drawn-out exhausting fear — works itself to such a pitch inside you that you end up punching right through it, and a calm resignation takes over. You understand at a time like that that there’s absolutely nothing you can think of doing that might change the flow, to alter events in any way, and you become an observer. Whether it’s the cornered herbivore going limp as the predator’s teeth close around its throat or a detached zen calm is a matter of debate. Either way, it’s an instructive place to sit, in the eye of the storm, wrapped in a mental silence, utterly still.
I feel that way at the moment with regard to the American election. As anyone who’s ever subjected themselves to the Comedy Ranting of the wonderchicken is amply aware, I’ve made clear my feelings about the criminal scum who’ve left their snail tracks of glistening goo all over the remnants of a once-great nation. Although I’ve been accused of trying to sway people with my screeds and polemics, that has never been the case, at least not consciously. I was just playing. Writing for me is a ludic thing. I don’t want to change your mind, I just enjoy speaking mine, and playing with words while I do it. Maybe even having a conversation.
The rage, of course, was always genuine. It still is. But the fire’s banked at the moment. Not a flame to be seen, even if the carbon-black belly of the stove is glowing fiercely. It’s not about me, though.
It’s about you, my American friends. Much as I’ve castigated you as collectively stupid, hopelessly parochial, misguided and misled, lazy, fat and terrifyingly unaware of the great evils wrought in your name all around the world, well, I still love you. In the particular, if not the abstract. I was just poking fun. Serious jokes. You always hurt the ones you love, right?
Just like Jon Stewart, I want it both ways, you see. I want to be the funny monkey, and I want to tell hard truths. Serious jokes. I do believe it’s possible to have it both ways, and dangerously simpleminded to expect otherwise.
But this time, I’m going to speak plainly, from this terrified pocket of calm, not because it will make a difference to what’s going to happen, but because I would be betraying myself if I remained silent. We’re begging you, our American friends, our American enemies, our American taskmasters and landlords, our American occupiers and our American pimps, our American sisters and brothers, to do the right thing next week. We’re depending on you, all of us out here in the Outlands. We know you don’t give a flying f–k about us, really, all us furriners. We know you want what’s best for your country, your people, your families. You don’t want to hear our opinions about your politics. We understand that.
But do you remember when the whole world wept along with you and averred ‘We are all Americans‘ after that terrible day 3 years ago? It was true, then. It is hard, my friends, to find many who feel that way today.
Many of us believe that what’s best for America need not also be what’s worst for the rest of the world.
So please. Please. Vote next week. Think, read, put aside your tribal affiliations, and vote. I don’t even care who you vote for, because, much as I’ve abused you all in fun, I trust that most of you are good people, and that if more than the customary 40% 55% [thanks, Dan] or so of you do your duty as citizens and go to the polls, nothing can result but a landslide for the Other Guy.
I’m begging you. We’re all begging you. Do the right thing.

Comedy Gold

Man, I love them Americans. They feel so strongly about entertaining the rest of us with their comedic stylings, and we are all in their debt for keeping us laughing. The chutzpah, the testicular fortitude that they collectively show, out there on the world stage, walking the tightrope between hilarious self-parody and a collapse into a light-gobbling singularity whose gravitational gradient is so steep that even irony cannot escape. Bravo, I say!
The tension they so skillfully build in all the rest of us who hang on every faux-drunken swerve and stumble of their political machine is breathtaking. Those rapscallions. Teetering up there on the democracy highwire, introducing ramshackle, insecure electronic voting systems built on Microsoft™ Access© while they so nobly and selflessly impose American freedom and democracy on the Afghanis and Iraqis? Oh, eek, I can’t watch! Putting their dear leader up there on stage to praise the 10 million voters registered in Afghanistan, when only 9 million are eligible? The showmanship is breathtaking, and The Funny is debilitating.
Trotting out a frothing villain like Zell Miller to inflame the stupid, while retaining the option of distancing yourself (‘He’s not a Republican!’) should the spin from the assembled stenographers of the press turn ugly? Pure comedy gold! Did you see the look on that old bastard’s face when he felt the carpet being pulled out from under him? Classic, backslappin’ American pie hijinks!
Oh, you wacky yank bastards, how I love that you’d totter so close to the abyss to entertain us all. I wake up each morning frothing in my urgency to fire up my old PC and find out what new japery you might have unleashed.
The subtleties of the ways your leaders use words, my friends, while merely appearing to wield them like a simpleton’s club, claiming that they ‘don’t do nuance‘… simply magnificent. The way that you can collectively turn on an ironic dime, and allow a man whose family connections excused him from serving his country to shine the character assassination jocularity spotlight on a man who actually did. And the way that that fellow and his supporters let their foes just do it. Oh, it’s belly-laughin’ time, right there!
You Americans kill me. No really, you do. Not as dead as the 10,000 (30,000?) Iraqis, or the 3000 Afghanis, or the 1000 Americans, or the 100 ‘coalition of the willing’ (oh, dear, that’s a nugget of comedy pyrite there, too) members. (And never mind those 50,000 Komedy Korpses in the Darfur. They’re not dead from the hilarity apoplexy!)
A pretend cowboy President whose horses are rented? A constitutional amendment to protect the sanctity of marriage in a nation where half of all marriages end in divorce? An inner powerbroker circle of oil company gassholes and oil prices at all-time highs? A leader who claims to receive instructions from his god (or from ‘beyond the stars’, whatever that means), making offhand remarks about crusades? Invading a country that posed no threat, while the Norks built more nukes and threaten to turn Seoul into a lake of fire? Talking about corporate responsibility and pumping a few billion into your vice-president’s old company? Contracting out your warfare needs to the lowest (or best-connected) bidder? Running a gulag in Cuba, of all places? Torturing children in Iraq while proudly (if spuriously) proclaiming ‘no child left behind’ back home? Reducing the taxes of the richest, then making populist proclamations like ‘there’s no point taxing the rich because they just dodge their tax bill anyway‘? Osama bin who?
Your A-material kills, my friends. You rock.
You gotta take your show on the road.