Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Wed 13 Jan 10 22:06
Searching on: "disneyla" doctorow Results in: Cory Doctorow: Close Enough for Rock 'n' Roll http://www.locusmag.com/Perspectives/2010/01/cory-doctorow-close-enough-for-ro ck-n.html
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Thu 14 Jan 10 02:23
great column by Doctorow!
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 14 Jan 10 08:30
*Still no snow up here in the mountain retreat. Eerie white fogs. One has to wonder what the people downhill will do for water, this spring.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 14 Jan 10 08:34
You have to wonder, re those Edge.org guys, why so many apparently bright and foresightful people would want to climb a faith-based mountain where you can't see the top. I mean: suppose you go up there, and you get snowed in, and there's nothing to eat and you become the Donner Party? You could eat each other with some of that-there "mandatory potlatch" action. *It's always hip to quote Jaron Lanier, no matter what he says: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/science/12tier.html Its as if culture froze just before it became digitally open, and all we can do now is mine the past like salvagers picking over a garbage dump, Mr. Lanier writes. Or, to use another of his grim metaphors: Creative people the new peasants come to resemble animals converging on shrinking oases of old media in a depleted desert.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 14 Jan 10 09:40
Does "free" mean that we no longer value creativity? It's commoditized? What sorts of things will people pay for?
Harmless drudge (ckridge) Thu 14 Jan 10 10:27
>In theory, public officials could deter piracy by stiffening the penalties, but theyre aware of another crucial distinction between online piracy and house burglary: There are a lot more homeowners than burglars, but there are a lot more consumers of digital content than producers of it. The result is a problem a bit like trying to stop a mob of looters. When the majority of people feel entitled to someones property, whos going to stand in their way?< That is just nonsense. There is nothing our culture does better or more ruthlessly than protecting the property of minorities from majorities. Evidently no one cares about protecting musicians', writers', or filmmakers' property, is all.
Harmless drudge (ckridge) Thu 14 Jan 10 10:55
If I read right, four things are said to be changing consumerism beyond recognition: 1. internet buying, which displaces purchasing from geographical, some temporal, and some social limitations 2. a growing taste for inexpensive, good-enough possessions 3. displacement of work like cooking and do-it-yourself repairs from the home, resulting in less need for equipment 4. transient modes of life, so that people select possessions that are disposable, portable, interchangeable, and ambiguous as to status I think that an end to consumerism as currently practiced would be a good thing for people who like to get beautiful things, arrange them into beautiful rooms, and play host in their beautiful rooms. It would clear the ground. All the people who play at surrounding themselves with nice things, would go play at something else, probably at having the latest multi-functional electronic box in their pockets. The ones who were left, who were serious about it, would be more able to find one another.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 15 Jan 10 06:19
I've been thinking more about the resource limits here on spaceship earth. I had a discussion yesterday with Donna Kidwell, who's in the technology commercialization program at the IC Squared (IC2) Institute at the University of Texas at Austin - it's an entrepreneurial think tank. JaeSung Ro, an Austin entrepreneur originally from Korea, was with us. We were talking about the future of entrepreneurs, the failure of traditional incubation models to be effective in the digital era where physical infrastructure support is a less compelling need, and the impact of globalization. I found myself seeing resource and economic distribution issues in terms of fairness and accessibility. U.S. economic prominence, and the production of wealth here, has depended on exploitation of human and natural resources here and elsewhere, and as we move toward a more "fair share" distribution and more countries come online with the means to acquire what you might consider a more fair distribution of income and resources, it's harder for the U.S. to dominate, possibly harder for any one country to dominate. Given economic acceleration and market sophistication in countries like India and China, it's inevitable that we'll see a "decline" in the U.S., which in this context I was taking to mean that we would have less concentration of wealth here, and a more fair distribution of wealth globally. So much of history has been a limited number of wealthy people taking money and power and using various mechanisms, from overt brute force to propaganda, to sustain their positions. That's all still there, but it's more global, you have the same pockets of power in other countries... I'm seeing that as more widespread competition, more complexity, and probably more balance (not necessarily as an intended consequence). People think they can take individual political positions that will somehow be relevant to all this, but it's like thinking you can take a position that affects the weather. Or they might think that they elect a Barack Obama and, by the force of his intellect and personality, he somehow addresses and channels massive complex forces at play. When the weather's severe and intense, or when you have a massive shifting of the earth as we just had in Haiti, the best you can do is the best you can do. Adapt. Try to be useful. Help and protect the people you care about. Hope that a few buildings and people will be left standing, and that neighbors will care enough to lend a hand.
Rip Van Winkle (keta) Fri 15 Jan 10 18:32
Luisah Teish says it the best I've ever heard: "Do what you can. Use what you have. Begin where you are."
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 16 Jan 10 03:24
Very faint sprinkling of snow in the mountain village. The frozen fog clung onto some of the vegetation, forming odd layered spray-paints of ice.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 16 Jan 10 03:31
Very silent up here. Getting rather a lot of fiction done. Reading more fiction than usual, too. Not that I'm buying it -- I'm just reading it. Purchasing this stuff wouldn't help the authors much, as they've all been dead a hundred years. Except, that is, for Cory Doctorow. Lugged Cory Doctorow's paper novel MAKERS up here, now that I have a chance to get mano-a-mano with it. That is just one king-hell of a science fiction novel. Nobody in the world but him could have fabricated this amazing thing. It reads like it was written in 800-word Van Vogt bursts in between yoga sessions, but man, this is the stuff. It makes 20th century science fiction read like antique collection.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 16 Jan 10 04:50
There would appear to be giant oceans of liquid diamond inside Uranus. It's gonna be hard to top that one as a closer for a State of the World in 2010, folks. http://news.discovery.com/space/diamond-oceans-jupiter-uranus.html
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 16 Jan 10 06:13
I, too, have a copy of _Makers_ sitting here on the left as I type this. As you write in your book blurb, Cory's a cyberspace native. He's seen the monsters of the noosphere's id. We do have a few more days before we end on the 20th, and the news of Earth 2010 has been dominated by the disastrous earthquake in Haiti - triage, rescue and aid. They're still digging out survivors as well as dead bodies, which are piling up in the streets. From the New York Times: "Looting of houses and shops increased Friday, and anger boiled over in unpredictable ways: residents near the citys overfilled main cemetery stoned a group of ambulance workers seeking to drop off more bodies. "Some people were bracing for the worst. Harold Marzouka, a Haitian-American businessman who was hustling his family onto a private jet to Miami, said he could feel the tension rising and feared that hunger and desperation might prompt an explosion of violence." I found myself imagining a future where much of the world is struggling for stability after one disaster or another, and a few smart technicians are trying to hold it together. Earlier in the same article: "The United States, in fact, took firmer control of the emergency operation on Friday. After three days of chaos and congestion at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haitis government ceded control of it to American technicians, to speed the flow of relief supplies and personnel. "The Federal Aviation Administration, which began managing air traffic into Haitian airspace, issued a stern warning to allow aid to flow in a more orderly way: no planes from the United States, military or civilian, would be allowed to land without express permission from the agency."
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 16 Jan 10 06:18
On a more positive note, you've got Jean Russell building a global army of thrivability (vs mere sustainability) advocates: "Thrivability is our path out of unsustainable practices toward a world where all people have a high quality of life, a voice, and a nurturing earth supporting them. Using whole systems approach, we evolve our way of being together, of collaborating, so that our collective wisdom and action bring forth a flourishing world and thriving life. R. Buckminster Fuller, we believe, was right in stating: 'You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.' "We move from the defensive position taken by sustainability into the offensive - claiming the world we want to live in and co-creating it. "A thrivable world is a world we can live into, where dynamic tension of needs and resources supports the existence and evolution of life and consciousness." http://thrivable.wagn.org/wagn/About_Us
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 17 Jan 10 04:59
Much more freezing fog last night. Looks nothing like snow, nor like ice or frost. Never seen the like. Local trees, weeds, cables, fences are deeply coated with a strange growth of gray-white, weak, powdery fur, built up micro-droplet by microdroplet and radiating in all directions, like a mineral deposit. It's not alarming or dangerous, it's quite peaceful and pretty, but boy is it weird.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 17 Jan 10 05:17
As for the Haiti quake, I haven't much to say about the catastrophe. It's a big catastrophe this year, and mankind suffers many. Haiti's of some unique interest to me because of voodoo. Voodoo is a thriving American folk religion. Modern voodoo didn't really start getting going until the 1930s, but it's on its legs now. I haven't done a house to house poll, but I imagine it's safe to say that voodoo has more social respectability and more devout adherents in more nations and ethnicities now than voodoo has ever had before. People take it plenty seriously, but, well, what good is it? One has to wonder if there was even one Haitian adept who foresaw this quake with his magic powers, and took any coherent steps. Like, why wouldn't he bundle up the dreadlocks and the Tonton Macoute mirrorshades, and just blow town for a while? Like maybe to Rio de Janeiro, where they've got voodoo galore and also an Olympics? Was there even one wizard who was stirring the blowfish poisons and getting ridden by his loa, and who got, like, a tip-off from Erzulie or Baron Samedi? Could he preserve himself, his followers, his wife, his kids, his Mom? Or did they just get crushed by the falling substandard concrete blocks pretty much like everybody else? You'd think there'd be a certain wry Voltairean skepticism about voodoo, like after the massive Lisbon Earthquake when Voltaire wrote "Candide." I don't expect one. On the contrary, I'd expect belief in voodoo and voodoo practices to intensify massively after this. "What can we do now?" asked the King of Portugal after the giant Lisbon earthquake. "Feed the living and bury the dead," said the bishop. Some time-tested ecumenical advice there.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 17 Jan 10 05:28
"Thrivability is our path out of unsustainable practices toward a world where all people have a high quality of life, a voice, and a nurturing earth supporting them. Using whole systems approach, we evolve our way of being together, of collaborating, so that our collective wisdom and action bring forth a flourishing world and thriving life. R. Buckminster Fuller, we believe, was right in stating: 'You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.'" *Y'know, I like Bucky Fuller rather more than the next guy, but that's not a 'global army of thriveability." That paragraph basically describes the Lions' Club or the Kiwanis, except with more New Age feminists. Armies are not Fulleresque imaginary social movements that adjust trimtabs by obsolescing paradigms. Armies are huge numbers of drafted kids led by "Unconditional Surrender" Grant who engage in some American economic reform by levelling Richmond and setting fire to Atlanta. I'm a little unclear as to what Bucky's visionary gifts might have given to a successful reform effort of that kind. I'd be guessing he'd be in the Union Observational Balloon Corps. "All people have a high quality of life, a voice, and a nurturing earth supporting them..." I don't wanna come across like the crackerbarrel cyberpunk cynic here, but I'm way too much of an Andre Breton fan to put up with smooth malarkey like that. As Andre once asked the French Communist Party, "What about the seven year old girl run over by a streetcar?" Where's her "voice" and her "nurturing earth"? She's a blameless kid run over by a street-car. She is the tragic dimension of life. It happens literally every day. People who try to elide this fact lack a street-smart awareness of the inherent wonder and horror of the human condition.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 17 Jan 10 05:47
http://www.welcometohr.com/wp-content/uploads/mosh1.jpg If Norman Rockwell had been a punk instead of painting giant glazed consumer turkeys.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 17 Jan 10 06:13
*Satan weighs in on that Haiti issue: http://www.startribune.com/opinion/letters/81595442.html
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 17 Jan 10 07:52
I would've thought the concept of "thriveability" would have appealed to you, as a design maven. Sustainable design seeks to "eliminate negative environmental impact completely through skillful, sensitive design" (via Wikipedia). How would that change, if we were designing to thrive, rather than merely sustain? Sure, thriveability is heady idealism, but that feels revolutionary given where we are. I find it more appealing (natch) than cynical despair. Jean Russell wrote a post called "Facing the Abyss" in September that addresses your point: "Lets imagine the arcs of the future streaming before us. To the left, let us see the future that stems from inaction failure to change course. It is riddled with crisis and vast human and living system suffering. Likely large scale migrations as one area becomes toxic (in actuality or in energy and access to resources). Disparities in wealth, aka access to the things we need, escalates into greater and greater Extremistan. To the right, let us be powerfully visionary and imagine the best possible future. Turn off the inner skeptic. Imagine future generations enjoying natural areas and clean air, imagine everyone having ready access to water and healthy foods, medical care, shelter, etc, where they are free from gross conflicts and free to pursue their passions. "The real future is somewhere in the middle, I suspect. But, for this thought experiment, lets assume that one can either be a pessimist (left) or an optimist (right). "If I live my day to day life believing that the only possible outcome is the future to the left, why should I take any action? Why should I even get up in the morning? My brief life might be full of some immediate pleasures, but it will end with no inspiring legacy and a terrible shame that thousands and thousands of years of human evolution collapsed in my day. Personally, choosing to believe that feels like suicide of the spirit to me. It is all for naught. Dont bother leaving a sign to mark the grave. "If I live my day to day life believing that the possibility (without being totally blind to the brutal facts before us) that there is some possibility to move from the stream on the left to the stream on the right in my lifetime it might not be 100% to the right, but maybe 70%? Where might it go? What might I do to move that path to the right toward possibilities of humans evolving in dynamic relationship to the systems around us toward thriving?" Re Haiti and voodoo, Pat Robertson says voodoo actually *caused* the earthquake, that Haitians were cursed because they've made a pact with the devil. http://budurl.com/whatajerk The Haitian consul general said pretty much the same thing: http://budurl.com/anotherjerk Of course, voodoo isn't devil-worship, but a complex religion built around belief in a supreme being, Bondye, who is distant and indifferent. So they have to work with the lwa (loa), which are lesser spirits. If Pat Robertson thought about (a stretch), he'd realize Bondye and the lwa could be his own God and tribe of angels. How many lwa can dance on the head of pin? Kind of a charmless fantasy, really, that earthquakes are manifestation of supernatural intentions and not manifestations of real instabilities in the structure of the earth - the Garden of Eden built on shaky ground. And I suppose this applies to hurricanes, too - surely God's wrath at the practice of voodoo in Louisiana brought Katrina down to clean the drains. Xenophobia in the 21st century. Monsters from the Id.
Ed Ward (captward) Sun 17 Jan 10 08:54
In re all of this utopianism whizzing around here, I came upon this in an article by Tony Judt that feels about right. The article is about fear of democratic socialism, but the quote's bigger than just that. "If we have learned anything from the twentieth century, we should at least have grasped that the more perfect the answer, the more terrifying its consequences. Imperfect improvements upon unsatisfactory circumstances are the best that we can hope for, and probably all that we should seek. Others have spent the last three decades methodically unraveling and destablilizing those same improvements: this should make us much angrier than we are. It ought also to worry us, if only on prudential grounds: Why have we been in such a hurry to tear down the dikes laboriously set in place by our predecessors? Are we so sure that there are no floods to come?"
Lisa Harris (lrph) Sun 17 Jan 10 10:30
More from offsite reader Stefan Jones: Haiti. Kee-ripes. A few years ago the place seemed to be top runner for being the poster child for compassion fatigue. But now we're seeing fundraising by text message breaking all sorts of records and George Clooney hosting a prime-time all-network telethon. I just hope it's enough. Haiti could really use something like the CCC. Hire young guys, haul them up into the hills and put them to work planting forests and flood control systems. Give them food, clothing, education and money to send back home to mom. It would cost a hell of a lot, and it would probably come out of my tax dollars, but I'd prefer that to paying the DEA or Coast Guard to deal with them. And then there's . . . how do I put this? If we can't regreen a tropical island that has non-toxic soil and lots of rain and sunlight, where do we get off thinking we can terraform Mars or put a working ecosystem in an orbiting can? That's not Worldsmithing 101, it's an AP course. Stefan
for dixie southern iraq (stet) Sun 17 Jan 10 10:33
Speaking of Voodoo, there's a perceptive note in the NY Times week in review from Madison Smartt Bell, who knows the country, about its pull & hold on a country that has so much death: Today is a good day to remember that in Haiti, nobody ever really dies. The many thousands who've had the breath crushed out of their bodies in the earthquake, and the thousands more who will not physically survive the aftermath, will undergo instead a translation of state, according to the precepts of Haitian Vodou, some form of which is practiced by much of the population. Spirits of the Haitian dead sa nou pa we yo, those we dont see do not depart as in other religions but remain extremely close to the living, invisible but tangible, inhabiting a parallel universe on the other side of any mirror, beneath the surface of all water, just behind the veil that divides us from our dreams. .... <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/17/weekinreview/17bell.html?ref=weekinreview>
Gary Greenberg (gberg) Sun 17 Jan 10 11:31
ANd speaking of Tony Judt, but off the immediate topic, he has a gorgeous, if profoundly upsetting, essay, "Night" about his descent into Lou Gehrig's disease. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/23531
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 17 Jan 10 13:21
#190: we get that often this time of year in Idaho's Treasure Valley, when we have inversions. It's really pretty.
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