Paulina Borsook (loris) Sun 2 Jul 00 12:04
no no no gonzo does not equal careless or thoughtless. it means that the style of tdb is well, not like michael harrington's other america nor susan faludi's backlash. it is more like tom wolfe writing 'the painted word' or hunter thompson writing about the hell's angels. tdb is a rant, but one backed up with reporting and facts. a funny treatment of a serious subject. a closely-argued minutely-factual policy treatise it is not. in a wiered way susan sontag's illness as metaphor was a model --- becuase it was a booklength essay, back up by facts, but still, more exploration of ideas/her take on a subject than journalism per se. although obviously she + i have very different styles...
RUSirius (rusirius) Sun 2 Jul 00 12:32
i think i'm the one who equated gonzo with carelessness in the sense that i'm not going to worry if hunter thompson is being a bit loose with the details if he's clearly pushing the edges of reality and sanity with his writing.. i don't think paulina was doing that, so the errors are less easily forgiven, particularly from someone who approves of onions... but what the heck. i've moved on...
Paulina Borsook (loris) Sun 2 Jul 00 19:04
these discussions of genre and tone rather remind me of the cliche of blind persons attmepting to describe an elephant. i suggest people concerned about the quality of tdb head over to wnyc.org, the website for new york city's public radio station where my publisher has place in the chat/forum a chapter from tdb...
Owen Thomas (dither) Sun 2 Jul 00 19:10
There are also ample excerpts available at cyberselfish.com. Which brings me to a question I've had for a while: Paulina, you've resisted having a homepage (self-maintained, self- promoting) for so long. Why did you give in?
Paulina Borsook (loris) Sun 2 Jul 00 20:41
hmm, owen, as you know, the good brian <zisk> set up that unofficial home fan web page yrs ago --- as a result of an argument he + I were having about web-publishing/personal web-pages. this was back in 95/96; i felt (and still somewhat feel) than that personal web pages were a mixture of vanity press and bilboard, and since i didnt want to be participating in the creation of either, i wanted nothing to do with it. but it -has- turned out to be infinitely useful for me as a -writer- to have one repository for my writings, stuff people have written about me, etc etc. and i enjoy the snotty asides the zisk braintrust makes about my doings... as for the the official cyberselfish.com site, i knew i needed one central place to refer media types as tdb got going. and since i have been online and on the web for so long, i had a clear sense of what i wanted the site to be: helpful, informative, amusing if possible, complete. in the media and marketing saturated age, it is naive and narcissitic and princessy to pretend you dont have to be a slavering slobbering marketing toad; and particularly, if you are a little-known writer who has written a book on a topic that doesnt lend itself to an elevator pitch, you have to work harder. i hope the site comes across more as a backgrounder/white paper, than a press release, so to speak. also, since tdb is about cyberculture, shouldnt i have a -good- website? so it was just facing reality, that lead me to do it; and i tried to do it in such a way that i wouldnt become icked out in the process. and it has already proved useful thus far, both for people interested in tdb and internally, as it were, for my publisher and publicists... certain things still go to the zisk site (frinstance, the link to my rebuttal to mr raymond, because that was really not about tdb, per se) and things which are more narrowly aboyt tdb (reviews, etc) go to the cyberselfish site...
Owen Thomas (dither) Sun 2 Jul 00 21:33
(To help out anyone who, like me, couldn't find the link to Paulina's response to Raymond on Salon, it's here.) http://www.salon.com/tech/log/2000/06/30/borsook_raymond/
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 2 Jul 00 23:39
Also has a link to Brad Weiners' review, which is at http://www.salon.com./tech/books/2000/05/04/cyberselfish/index.html Brad makes tdb sound like a time capsule...
Paulina Borsook (loris) Mon 3 Jul 00 00:14
which is sorta is, and sorta isnt. i am doing something for mark dery's 'artbyte' for the sept/oct issue which addresses the ah continuing currency of the rhetoric/ideology tdb seeks to ah, squint at...
Owen Thomas (dither) Mon 3 Jul 00 09:42
That's a very interesting issue to address, Paulina: the currency of Cyberselfish. In the go-go years (well, year) of 1999, a lot of VCs got frothy about setting up "nonprofit incubators" and "charity VC funds" and other such nonsense. I suspect that a lot of those plans have been abandoned now that the VCs have to worry about keeping their startup portfolios alive and kicking. What say you? Was last year's wave of VC charity just a fad, or am I being too harsh on Silicon Valley's moneybags?
The salon stopped responding (rocket) Mon 3 Jul 00 11:03
Thanks for the thoughtful responses, <loris>. Subsequent posts have hinted at the dissatisfaction with the WIRED coverage which are real, and I'm surprised you haven't heard about. I thought your responses most met the objections pretty well.
Paulina Borsook (loris) Mon 3 Jul 00 11:16
thanx rocket. and as to yr question, owen, hmm, the currency of tdb and the philanthropy issue arent issues i would normally conjoin. the high-tech philanthropy apologists have been telling me for yrs that i's all gonna be ok, just you wait, it's gonna get so grand everything i say will be totally obsolete. well maybe, and from their mouths to god's ears. but i kinda doubt it. i keep on having amusing validations for the currency of tdb. mainstream radio hosts who interview me phrase their questions about high-tech in exactly the libertarian way. email i got in response to my rebuttal to eric raymond was exactly that of the anguished freedom fighter too long oppressed by the likes of the brutal State, of which i am a running dog lackey. etc etc. so owen, i hadnt really thought about the change in venture philanthropy, what with the low-grade panic in the valley and the thudding to earth brought about the reality of time/space/supply/demand/profit/loss. but does anyone believe for a -second- that since things are getting tighter in high-tech that frills like donating a small percentage of pre-ipo stock to a foundation wont get cut? does anyone know how much of the new money of the last few yrs was actually monetized? this may be part of the answer to the question...
Owen Thomas (dither) Mon 3 Jul 00 17:07
From all external market indicators, a good deal of it was sunk into big, expensive cars and small, expensive houses.
Martin Minow (minow) Mon 3 Jul 00 19:51
I often wonder whether the "libertarian" wing of the Internet (particularly the cypherpunk community) are so visible because they just plain won't shut up. After hearing them rant for a while, the only sane response is to smile politely and move on to something more interesting.
Paulina Borsook (loris) Mon 3 Jul 00 20:34
as so amusingly depicted in the movie 'get shorty', just as not everyone can or should be a writer, in spite of the common cultural idea that anyone can do it, so it is with web design and maintenace. what's more, i do like to give credit where credit is due: - the tdb website was designed by tori orr, IA virtuoso who works at marchfirst. tori and i worked on it iteratively and intermittently for a year; her talent and my stubborness made it what it is. tori has had a secret desire to be a book designer, so this was her chance to do something ah bookish - the tdb website is maintained by the valiant and overworked peter huemer of user-friendly computing in santa cruz. he's been my computer guy for five yrs, and was profiled as part of an article katie hafner did in ny times circuits on people tethered to their jobs by high-tech. while i understand coding in principle (a psycholinguistics degree where you are forced to deal with linguistic transformations and symbolic grammars is awfully good background for all this], i simply dont have that pointilist attention to detail. i cant type, dont enjoy doing puzzles, and no, it's not, as one of my libertarian attackers suggested, that i couldnt do calculus. i studied it fine when i was 14; i just was -irked- by it, found it irritating. and mr minow, i know what you mean about vocal libertarian (minority) cypherpunks, and the desire to tune out. very much. otoh, i cant begin to enumerate the number of times i've gotten into a conversation with a sweet smart thoughtful geek who will utter some variant of the line 'i'm not a libertarian like that [crazy][cypherpunk] wacko over there, but i do believe that the market is the best measure of what works/that the government interferes too much in our lives/of course i'm a philanthropist, i give angel money/mumble mumble economy mumble ecosystem'.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 3 Jul 00 22:46
I just got into your discussion of CFP, and I think you way overstate cypherpunk influence on the conference. As you know, I've clocked quite a few CFP hours... and cypherpunks have been only a small part of the mix. You may be confusing the ongoing discussions of crypto with some kind of cypherpunk influence, but I don't see it. I also don't think the cypherpunks fit neatly into the (techno)libertarian camp. I'd like to say more about the last CFP I attended, in DC, but we partied like rock stars and missed a bunch of the panels. *8-)
Paulina Borsook (loris) Tue 4 Jul 00 09:56
jon dearest, i am going to have to draw some fine distinctions here. i've been to 3 cfps --- 95, 97, and 2000. and i think i make it very clear in tdb that cfps are about all kinds of things, attracting all different kinds of people. that being said, to -me-, the cpunk influence was the ah most distinctive and identifiable unique flavor at the mid 90s cfps; it was the extreme cultural influence that most had to be grappled with/acknowledged. i never said the cpunk aspect of cfp was all of it. but impressionaistically, it was the most striking/distinctive aspect of former cfps. both in the good senses, cpunks as radical pro-privacy activisits, and in the more scary sense, of 'hmm, what is the worldview they are espousing'. and as i say -repeatedly- in tdb, cpunks have been the most radical/outlyer/extremist of a culture; and as i also said repeatedly in tdb, the cpunks are rather like sds/weatherpeople, as compared to rest of the 60s lefties --- and are worth examining as such. of course cfp 2000 was quite quite different: it was in canada (a civil and much more socialist place than the usa); the crypto wars have largely been won by Us; there arent too many canadian cpunks; and besides they've gone to startups/may be less interested in the knotty, complex, how-do-we-work-it- out issues now facing cfp attendees: stuff like -corporate- privacy issues (oh dear, cant interfere with the genius of free-market capitalism!) and where can/do governments fit into this and... but, as they say, ymmv, and you are entitled to yr opinion...
Andrew Brown (andrewb) Tue 4 Jul 00 11:10
I was at cfp 95, and was astonished by the technolibertarian presence there.
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 4 Jul 00 11:22
Hi, Paulina. I'm trying to think why I agree with your historic take on it, but strongly enjoy CFP and feel the 2000 was not an anomaly. My sense of CFP is that the tradition of a braided conversation, with intentional counterpoint, is the best feature. I do think there are a lot of regulars (or intermitent regulars like ourselves) who have come to internalize the most interesting arguments of our hypothetical foes. But talk to newcomers who are not aware of the political threads over the years, and you still see people abuzz with interesting philosophical contradictions. I don't think it is a monoculture. Certainly there is a group of regular microphone jumpers we probably know and possibly like very much who take a consistant libertrian stab at most panelists. But they are only one strand in the dialog, and all of us are changing over time. The Canadian influence was refreshing and eye-opening in a lot of ways at 2000. It's a relief to see international issues discussed by experts who are not U.S. of Americans.
Paulina Borsook (loris) Tue 4 Jul 00 13:28
yeah i've never said cfp was a monoculture --- and the portion of the chapter on the crypto wars, where i talk about cfp, is not meant to be the definitive history/discussion of cfp. i was talking about cfp in its cpunk context --- not the other way around...
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 4 Jul 00 14:43
Okay, I'm lookin' back at what you said... "...the changing quality of the annual Computers, Freedom, and Privacy (CFP) conference is in part attributable to the spread of cypherpunk ideology...." So you did say "in part," though to my mind, why bother? There've been so many threads, mundane to weird, running through CFP. Perhaps you're reacting to the fact that the crypto discussions can be so BORING. I also don't think CPSR has had much of a presence in recent years, and I notice that you mention Jim Warren as founder, working with CPSR, but Gary Chapman's name is missing, though Gary sez he and Jim were both stirring the CFP1 broth (Gary was director of CPSR at the time, I think). While I'm at it, I'm not sure I get what you meant with "...cypherpunkery can be understood as a cure for the urban dislocation and anomie first catalogued by Emile Durkheim." How so? Incidentally, I think you defined gonzo on p. 117 where you talked about the early days of Rolling Stone (where gonzo had its Hunter Thompson-inspired genesis) and its influence on Wired, where you had (and this is the def, I'd say) "permission to write without checking at the door all the rest of my experience, reading, and thinking." I think that's what gonzo's about, the reporter's an acknowledged part of the story.
Paulina Borsook (loris) Tue 4 Jul 00 15:10
agreed that cpsr hasnt had a lot of formal presence at cfps, tho a lot of the people who have been active in cpsr have showed up. forgive the omission of gary chapman from the origin myth of cfp the relationship between cpunks and cfp in tdb has been discussed above as for the gonzo thing, whatever...
Paulina Borsook (loris) Tue 4 Jul 00 15:15
re: the durkheim quote, it's part of my general 'warrior dreams' riff i.e. the appeal of the outlaw warrior stance, makes one feel so much more special, connected, and annointed than just having to deal with the mundane, what does it all mean, grind of every day life...
Owen Thomas (dither) Wed 5 Jul 00 01:03
Actually, Paulina, I'm interested in exploring the whole gonzo notion a bit more. There are two schools of thought on this, as far as I can see. One is the Susan Faludi/Backlash approach, where a powerful feminist critique is argued with supposedly "masculine" -- that is, white male power structure-oriented -- journalistic means. The other is the Audre Lorde maxim that one cannot dismantle the master's house with the master's tools. Where does "Cyberselfish"'s critical loyalties lie?
Owen Thomas (dither) Wed 5 Jul 00 01:04
(Make that "Where do" ...)
Paulina Borsook (loris) Wed 5 Jul 00 09:29
owen, darling, i am familiar with the faludi/loudre masculinist/feminist arguments. but that's not directly what's going on here. there's a species- ist issue, actually [g]. i.e. i am a 1st and foremost a 2nd-rate published poet/essayist (remember, i studied with kenneth rexroth, poetry was the 1st stuff i ever published, and i do have that goshdurned mfa from columbia) and journalism was at best my day job, not something i aspired to. i wrote tdb as it wanted to be written; since i personally find essayistic/anecdotal writing much more palatable, and since i often learn more through fiction than fact (that is, a well-done historical novel, such as gore vidal's 'lincoln', or michael shaara's about gettysburg, evokes the truth in a deeper way for me than a journalistic account would. with some exceptions made for such masters as bruce mcconnell, who wrote 'the path between the seas', the history of the building of the panama canal...), i wrote tdb in a literary way, in the genre of belles-lettres. also, i felt what i had to offer in tdb were my impressions, personal experiences, my take on things, aside from whatever my (copious) reporting might turn up (i have three final cabinet drawers of stuff....) there wasnt an obvious narrative thread; tdb isnt a series of profiles nor was there a single shooting incident around which to frame tdb. after thinking long and hard (about 6 months) about how to do the framing, i realized 'gonzo tourguide' was the way to go. i also realized it just couldnt be possible for me to write a book and fight my native way of writing the whole way. one very smart interviewer i had in the canadian media asked me why tdb partly read like an atlantic monthly article and partly like poetical hunter thompson. and i replied that there was tension between the two genres; i had to have enough facts and concrete details to back up what i wanted to say, but there was also, What I Wanted to Say. this i know has created a confusion of genres in some reviewers' minds: they seem to expect journalistic closely argued policy position-paper; instead they got tdb, which is fundamentally a book-length rant, although one based on a -lot- of reporting. that martian style of mine has been around since i have written records; poems i wrote before i hit puberty sound like my writing style now. funny, i got one of those blast-from-the-past emails from a guy i went out with briefly in high-school (who it turns out went to highschool with salon's david talbot. it's a small internet, there are only 10 people in the world and the rest is done with mirrors, etc) because he heard me being interviewed on an l.a. npr station --- and we got into a pleasant email chat and he said 'you know, you havent changed a bit, you are as delightfully caustic as you were when you were 14.' which is really eerie, because that echoes one of the blurbs on the back of tdb... so to sum up, there are obviously truths i think can be better evoked with the gonzo and the suggestive than what appears in the new york times.
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