inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #26 of 82: Fuzzy Logic (phred) Wed 2 Jan 02 18:49
    
Slashdot has a large accumulation of experience on reputation ranking now.
Much more sophisticated in its own way than artificial worlds like Advogato
with its ludicrous cross of Mutual Admiration Society and Apprenticeship
Ladder.  Anyway, both sites are surviving, albeit with some bruises.

But I digress.  Bruce, the question on the minds of the faithful flock:
is the Viridian Green movement dead or is the Pope-Emperor just on
sabbatical?  We definitely need something to help the enviro movement 
save itself from its tendencies toward humorlessness and a lack of design
sense that is rivaled only by its corporate antagonists.
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #27 of 82: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 2 Jan 02 19:41
    
The Viridian notes are still coming, the last was December 30. Check out 
http://www.viridiandesign.org.
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #28 of 82: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 2 Jan 02 19:51
    
... and here's the link to the latest Viridian note:
http://www.viridiandesign.org/notes/251-300/00289_the_world_is_becoming_uninsu
rable_revisited.html

Check out entries for the Enron Logo Contest, which seems to've hit a 
nerve.

Good question, though: what's up with the Viridian Design Movement? Are 
you seeing cases (other than the contests) where designers show clear 
Viridian influence? Has anybody put together a Viridian exhibit?
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #29 of 82: Steve Cassidy (cassidy) Thu 3 Jan 02 06:04
    
The thing about Afghan civilian casualties is whirlwind-reaping for
terrorists: once your armies don't wear uniforms, the civilians who
surround them are at risk. Bulk drops of the latest $4,000 Sony email
capable camcorder into the Hindu Kush won't change that - and I find it
kinda ironic that this discussion has another thread about being
green, while simultaneously describing the least green, least
important, most impractical, most wasteful method of not fixing the
problem of people dying right now!

A civilian filmed dying on a webcam is still, after all, dead.

As for that Bin Laden snippet: even allowing for the overly pompous
structure of public speech in Arabic (as translated: maybe the
translators are pompous...) - if I was a streetwise arab looking at
those words, I'd be thinking "he didn't use 7 grams to kill specific
men in America" and "most of the people who died in Africa were not
American and not Crusaders".

Arabs can spot dangerous lunatics just as well as the rest of us, if
not better: the flip-side the the 'civilian identification' problem in
Afghanistan can be seen from the uncontrolled, military-approved
footage showing former Tali-Tubbies shaving like crazy the minute the
climate went against them: the entire 'arab problem' is that Arabs seem
not to form large, persistent, treaty-holding societies. This may mean
that they are 'freer' than Americans, from some points of view...
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #30 of 82: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 3 Jan 02 12:02
    

Afghans are not Arabs, but the fluidity of alliances there, at least, is
an interesting point. Do you say this from observation and interaction
with Arab people, or from media & interpretation alone?
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #31 of 82: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 3 Jan 02 13:40
    

I dote on Viridian stuff, but it's only my hobby.  I have to earn
a living just like  the other pampered Yankee kulturkrats,
and at the moment that seems to involve a whole shitload
of military stuff.  I'm even expecting the imminent
arrival of some *security clearance documents.*  It'll
be kinda interesting to know if cyberpunk sci-fi writers
can even *get* a federal security clearance.

I bet Gibson can't get one.  He's Canadian.  Heh heh heh.

Viridian is three years old now, and it mutters along
at about the same pace as my other online crusade,
Dead Media Project, once did.  I'm not gonna be hurried
into the point of burnout.  I'm just going to contribute
what I can, as I can, until the happy day comes when I declare
victory and find something else to obsess about.

If I get a lot of money and some spare time, I'll pick
up the pace some.  But really, Viridian is a small
public-outreach deal compared to writing novels;
the number of people on that list is miniscule compared
to the number who will go out and buy a Bruce Sterling
book.
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #32 of 82: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Thu 3 Jan 02 14:59
    
But perhaps the Viridian websites get more traffic?  Since your
dispatches are all on the web, why join the list?
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #33 of 82: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 3 Jan 02 17:52
    
Possibly because it takes the Viridian gremlin a day or two to add the 
latest note to the site? If you want it NOW, join the list!

Bruce, what's the Viridian website traffic like? The site was 
slashdotted lately; did a bunch of new people join the list at that 
point? Or was there a sustained increase in the number of people viewing 
new Viridian notes?
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #34 of 82: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 3 Jan 02 21:10
    

   Well, a lot of people on Slashdot extracted a speech
of particular interest to Slashdotters, and we did
a flood of join-ups, but tht's not a heavily trafficked
site.  It's no Robot Wisdom.

   A lot of people read email who rarely websurf.
They are two different media really, and email is
the more topical.  People respond to a request I
send over email, while a request on a website
is scarcely noticed and if people do respond.
they respond months late.

    With close to 2,000 people, Viridian is the
biggest list I've ever run.  It used to be
a lot more intimate than it is, and I miss
that quality. Email lists don't scale very
gracefully.
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #35 of 82: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 3 Jan 02 22:19
    
At the beginning of this topic, there's a quote from your interview with 
Ashley Crawford:

"We're entering a different conception of history, in which Armageddons
and Utopias are seen as simple-minded. Because they're the same thing: a
bogus method to stop thinking about the passage of time. In a Utopia,
history ends because everything's perfect; in an Apocalypse, history
ends because everyone's dead. The problem here is not that we need pie
in the sky or death-threats in order to feel awake. The problem is that
the clock doesn't stop ticking just because we might find that
intellectually convenient."

... and in post 19, I mentioned Pat Buchanan's shaggy apocalypse story, 
_The Death of the West_, which is more about the postmodern evaporation 
of Christian dogma... but it's kind of apocalyptic. 

I was thinking it would be cool to create a top-ten list of apocalyptic
characters and scenes from recent history... one might be Jim Jones and
the whacky mass suicide at Guyana, another might be Koresh et al at
Waco. Osama bin Laden should be in there, and Tim McVeigh. Heaven's 
Gate. Bhopal. Chernobyl. Ray Milland in "Panic in Year Zero..." 

What am I leaving out?
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #36 of 82: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 4 Jan 02 06:17
    
...and here's something completely different: Cory Doctorow has written 
a *crucial* short piece on the state of the Internet, which is posted at 
<http://www.oreillynet.com/lpt/a//network/2001/12/21/2002.html>.

Here's an excerpt, actually the last three summary paragraphs:

"Providing circuit-grade reliability over a public-switched network is
too expensive to make a go of it. Providing stand-alone-PC-grade
reliability in a Web-services world of uncoordinated actors is too
expensive to make a go of it. Providing DSL-grade connectivity over
802.11 is too expensive to make a go of it.

"The next generation of Internet entrepreneurs will be people who
understand this. They'll be working to provide unreliable services that
work in concert with other unreliable services to provide a service that
works on average, but not predictably at any given moment. They'll
challenge the received wisdom that customers are hothouse flowers,
expensive to acquire and prone to wilting at the first sign of trouble.  
These entrepreneurs will build services that are so compelling that
they'll be indispensable, worth using even if the service flakes out
when you want it the most.

"The close-enough-for-rock-n-roll revolution is a-comin' -- to the
streets, comrades!"

The name of the piece is "2002: The Carpetbaggers Go Home." 
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #37 of 82: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 4 Jan 02 10:36
    

  Yeah, after the Revolution, things will be different.
Not *better* -- just different.

     The key to guys like Koresh and Jones, and probably
bin Laden, is that suicide offers a final solution to a
melodrama that is showing its age.  It's like:
we liberated Afghanistan, we created a holy Umma,
we wrapped the local crank in the cape of the Prophet,
yet everybody's starving.  How long is this supposed to go
on? The clock's ticking, we're losing our grip here and
the mesmeric romance is fading.

Why not blow up New York?  At least the flames will
camouflage the squalor of our own dysfunction.

Guys in law enforcement like to refer to this as
"suicide by cop."
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #38 of 82: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 4 Jan 02 10:49
    
But are they really starving? I hear that, but I see televised images 
that seem to show healthy kids and adults, and I hear that, when it was 
raining food packages, they were picking only the stuff they especially 
liked and leaving the rest to the wind. Starving people usually aren't 
so picky.

All the world's a stage, and the people on it merely players hoping for 
the next sound byte...
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #39 of 82: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 4 Jan 02 10:49
    

Guys who are big Internet activists have a problem
with the Internet showing its age.  They are really
emotionally invested in it, and have a hard time
envisioning it as corny, or past-it, or showing
its inherent limits.  Or as a dead medium someday,
like the telegraph.

A lot of heavy people came out of the subculture
of telegraphy.  Thomas Edison was a telegrapher.
Even Gene Autry the cowboy star was a telegrapher.
There are decades of plays and movies where
a uniformed guy busting in with a telegram is
a key dramatic moment.  The telegraph was
very important and  had a very good
run for a technology, but it wasn't a permanent
revolution.  The sense of wonder has a short
shelf-life.

The technological sublime is a long-term social
phenomenon, but it manifests itself in glossy hardware
that ages  as quickly as a supermodel.
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #40 of 82: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 4 Jan 02 10:51
    

  I don't doubt that people in Afghanistan are starving.
It's a nation of subistence agriculture with
a three year drought and a ruined shipping infrastructure.
It makes sense.
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #41 of 82: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 4 Jan 02 10:55
    

With the added attraction that if you could create the conditions for heroic
cultural martydom, people might be inspired by you for years or centuries.
The man who started the true jihad.  

Aside from what you really believe heaven will have in store for your
devotion.  On more tee-shirts than Che, no need to prove that an Islamic
government makes things better for more than the elite of the Talaban,
and paradise for you personally in the afterlife. A souped-up version of 
suicide-by-cop and one hell of a motive to lob the biggest explosion you 
can muster at Goliath, while maintaining the stance of the simple 
hero with the slingshot, standing with the innocent and the faithful,
just asking for furious overreation in response.   Babies named after you
for decades if you pull it off...          
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #42 of 82: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 4 Jan 02 11:02
    
(That was posted in response to <37> while three other posts slipped 
in ahead of mine, messing up the context.)
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #43 of 82: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 4 Jan 02 13:03
    
There's a relevant piece in today's New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/04/international/asia/04AID.html

Evidently relief agencies have averted famine so far, but local warlords 
are beginning to steal much of the food once it gets there... business 
as usual now that the Taliban's been uprooted.

Back to the interview... you have a new book due sometime this year, 
_Tomorrow Now_.  Speculative nonfiction, I take it. Can you tell us 
something about it?
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #44 of 82: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 5 Jan 02 10:49
    

   *Well, it's more like TOMORROW ELEVEN MONTHS FROM NOW,
but I still have chances to tinker with it, and I plan
to do so.

   It's about seven aspects of the early 21st century
and how they make this century distinctive from other
cultural epochs.  I figured it was about time for
me to write a straight0out futurist pundit book.
I'll pbobably be a lot wiser ten years from now,
but I doubt I'll have the energy to go through a
work so sprawling and rambunctious.

   Tomorrow Now's Chapter Four, the military chapter,
is looking especially prescient at the moment,
but I think the high point of the book is probably
Chapter Three on postindustrial design.  I'd much
rather hang out with designers than soldiers.
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #45 of 82: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 5 Jan 02 10:53
    
What are you learning from your forays into the design world?
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #46 of 82: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 5 Jan 02 15:25
    

  Mostly that it's a whole hell of a lot harder
to actually make products than it is to sit
around thinking them up.

   I'm reminded of my early forays into the literary
world.  It's harder to write sell and publish a novel
than it is to come up with great ideas for books.
Hell, I've got *thousands* of great ideas for books.
Quite commonly I'll stuff ten or twelve of them
into *one* book.
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #47 of 82: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 5 Jan 02 19:49
    
Do you get into the business side at all (selling and publishing)? Or do 
you do the creative stuff and leave the rest to your agent and 
publisher?
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #48 of 82: Pierce Presley (jonl) Sun 6 Jan 02 06:28
    
Email from Pierce Presley:

I think many of the problems with mainstream media's coverage of the
Afghan campaign (if this is a war on terrorism, there will more) stem
more from their cheerleader attitude than their acquiescence to the
administration's gatekeeping. Every time I turn on the networks, its the
same news from the same places, and a moment's study of a good map lets
you know the reporters are talking about events miles from them;  
dissident opinions (and they do exist) either are dismissed or
disrespected; experts talk and talk and talk without answering basic
questions about civilian casualties, infrastructure damage and long-term
plans. The homogenization of American media (one newspaper per town,
maybe four local news station connected to a network, two viable radio
news networks, a dearth of relevant Internet sites) means that those who
might take a different view have no reason to do so. Publicly traded
media (those at the mercy of stockholders used to ridiculous profit
margins) won't do anything to antagonize their advertisers, since that
will lower profits. Look at the layoffs, buyouts and other reductions at
media companies in the midst of the top story since the fall of
communism.

Part of the problem with the proposed solution (independent, low-cost
media) is that, as Mr. Sterling has pointed out, it isn't everybody who
can produce competent media -- or, as I like to put it, strapping a
camcorder to a dog doesn't make him a videographer. One solution might
be to try and increase the number of media outlets built on the St.
Petersburg Times/Poynter Institute model: the newspaper/TV station/radio
station/Web site owned by a non-profit corporation. While this certainly
doesn't remove the profit motive from the business, it helps keep the
popularity contest under control. Now, at last, to my questions for Mr.
Sterling. How much does media feed the current war frenzy (I'm including
advertising, which can't sell hemorrhoid pads, seemingly, without using
the flag)? How will the reduction in media competition affect both
America and the world as we continue into the new millennium? Do you see
any hope for independent media outlets, especially outside urban
centers?
 
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #49 of 82: Steve Cassidy (cassidy) Sun 6 Jan 02 07:22
    
Umm, that bit about Afghanistan being a subsistence-agriculture
economy... you do know that now the peace has been restored and the
Taliban deposed, the farmers are going back to growing the two crops
that are their traditional mainstay?

Opium poppies, and Cannabis...

That is, they will in the spring, when all the people who normally get
out of the mountains and into Pakistan for the bad weather come back
and work in the fields for cash...
  
inkwell.vue.134 : Bruce Sterling 2002: The State of the Whirled
permalink #50 of 82: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 6 Jan 02 11:41
    


 Do you get into the business side at all (selling and publishing)? Or do
 you do the creative stuff and leave the rest to your agent and
 publisher?

*Well, one is pretty much obliged to get into promotional aspects,
the book tour, publicity photos and so on. But I've got next to
nothing to do with putting ink on paper.  At the moment, the
worst sore in the publishing industry is the collapse of its
distribution system.  I've never been anywhere near distribution.
I very much doubt I ever will be.  It's got about as much to
do with writing novels as casting polyvinyl resin has got to do with
playing an electric guitar.


"Now, at last, to my questions for Mr.
 Sterling. How much does media feed the current war frenzy (I'm including
 advertising, which can't sell hemorrhoid pads, seemingly, without using
 the flag)?"

*Al Qaeda really likes media.  A lot of people have commented on
bin Laden's apparent personal vanity; the shouldercam guy in constant tow,
the nice selection of hats, the obligatory Kalashnikov that's in every
shot, the symbiotic Al Jazeera thing....  Arab-Chechnyan rebel  Khottab
has also got a very calculated public image; he coined the phrase
"Jihad of the Media" and sports a cool beret and Che Guevara ringlets.

*Clearly the choice of attack targets was meant to compel overwhelming
media attention; they weren't killing 3,000 stockbrokers at random,
they chose very large symbolic targets in a city that is a world
capital of the global diaspora.   As for blowing up the Pentagon,
that guaranteed a US military response no matter what the media
said or did.

How will the reduction in media competition affect both
 America and the world as we continue into the new millennium?

*That probably depends on how many of these princes of media
get thrown off the edge of a boat a la Robert Maxwell.  One has to
wonder why the Sept 11 attacks didn't cut to the chase and attack
CNN HQ in Atlanta.  Presumably they still take Wall Street more
seriously as a global player than they do AOL-Time Warner.
One has to wonder why.

 Do you see
 any hope for independent media outlets, especially outside urban
 centers?

*I dunno what the "urban center" thing has to do with it.
A media outlet proclaims itself "independent" when it's independent
of the customary structures of mainstream finance, but
they're always dependent on *something* -- very few people
choose to wander around at random, spreading news, without
some motivating agenda.  And of course I see hope.  I've met
guys who were Charter 77 dissidents into Czech samizdat,
guys who could do years in a slammer for a Bible or an
underground comic.  The counterculture always shines
brighter as the mainstream becomes more stupefied
and predictable.

*During the Afghan dust-up, I've been paying a lot of attention
to Indian media.  The Indians are even less free of the institutional
interests of the RAW than US media is of those of the CIA,
but they have a large enough audience to budget some serious
research and to pay journalists of talent.

If the US media is in a blind rah-rah mode, well, read the media from
offshore. It's the high point of globalization -- you can import other
people's dissidence from the local shibboleths.

*I tried reading the Pakistani media, but they've reached
such a state of social and ideological collapse that
they make even Fox News look good.


" Umm, that bit about Afghanistan being a subsistence-agriculture
 economy... you do know that now the peace has been restored and the
 Taliban deposed, the farmers are going back to growing the two crops
 that are their traditional mainstay?  Opium poppies, and Cannabis..."

*Sure.  All lawless areas become narcotics producers nowadays.  You
can't eat opium and cannabis, though.  Nor are you likely to
pull down much cash from the warlords who retail the stuff.
And if there's a crop-killing drought, you're gonna starve right in the
middle of your poppy field.
  

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