Daily News – Halloween Edition

Descartes’ Bones

descartesbones-bookcover.jpg I spent two hours with Russell Shorto yesterday thanks to the New School. Mr Shorto talked about the being a journalist turning to history. “History and journalism are very similar. A journalist interviews people, a historian interviews dead people. ” he said.

As he took questions he cringed expecting an assault on Cartesian thought for which he has become an unwitting lighting rod. “At Harvard” he said ” the first question they asked me was ‘Don’t you believe in free will?'”

Even thought Mr. Shorto told me “that none of the early reviewes of my book got it at all” I’ll add one anyway…

International Herald Tribune

Bones for the Media

Who needs Wall Street? New York media has a friend in Washington. David Carr in the New York Times wrote about the embarrassment of riches dumped on the media industry by the Obama campaign. Unprecedented spending from the best candidate money can buy is about to end. But the irony has been that even with a spending that would make Lee Atwater blanch, the trump as been small scale open platform video and blogs in web space. Too bad that an Obama presidency plans to use a revitalized fairness doctrine to shut down all that web 2.0 dissent and advocacy – right after they pulverize AM talk radio – a little payback to old print media for their coverage of his campaign.

New York Times

The Brand Called Obama

The Size of Blog Space

To hear talk about it, blog space is so big that bloggers outnumbered people three or four to one. Technorati runs an annual survey called “State of the Blogspace” and the numbers show something less than the hype.

There are two questions. How many blogs are there, and how many are active. Technorati crawls about 7.4 million blogs that were active in the last 120 days, 1.5 million active in the last week, and 900,000 active in the last day, much smaller than I thought given that these are global numbers. It seems that people are getting tired of their blog toy.

I bet we will start to see articles about the carnage of hobby blogs dying off as some realize that being a solo publisher is a lot of hard work. CSS code anyone?

Technorati State of The Blogsphere 2008

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Daily News

Spring Awakening Closing in January

After 859 performances and 29 previews, perhaps the best show on Broadway is expected to close after the holiday rush (lets hope there is one) Rocking with Duncan Sheik’s score and working with tough themes of adolescent awareness and self understanding, this show was a fantastic romp and a great vehicle for an electric cast. (Even if teen sex on stage made me squirm a bit.) The show even seemed to hold up after a change in cast a few months back. So far its total gross has been $52 million… Not bad for “a bitch of a living”.

Original production/cast review from New York Times

Variety: ‘Spring Awakening’ to close


It’s snowing in New York…and the weather’s bad

The weather that suspended game 5 last night in Philadelphia has moved up the coast and if you look real hard you can see some snow midst the rain (This according to WQXR). This kind of weather goes great with a monthly consumer confidence index which fell to 38 for October, down from a revised 61.4 in September. That’s the lowest since the board began tracking consumer sentiment in 1967. Do you think they know something about the results of the upcoming election that we don’t?

BBC NEWS | Business | US consumer confidence nosedives

But there must be global warming because things are heating up in Iceland. The Icelandic Crown opened for trading today after a week suspension and promptly lost 50% of its value. Chilling…

BBC NEWS | Business | Iceland’s interest rate up to 18%


This just in from 1885…

And some breaking news from 1885, French poet turned gun runner Arthur Rimbaud not only burned out his brain on “riotous living” but extended his fiction to his finances as well. As Bill Peschel writes “Graham Robb, points out that the former poet changed the amount of money he made, depending on who he was writing to. The man who complained of making a pitiful 6,000 francs from [gun running] managed to deposit 16,000 francs (about $90,000 today) in his bank after his African adventure.”Rimbaud had abandoned poetry,” Robb writes, “but not fiction.”

I bet I know who’s campaign he’d be working on. Rimbaud the Gunrunner (1885)

Like Rimbaud, we may all need some alternative income sources soon…oh wait the Dow is +200!

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Don’t jump to conclusions…

It’s human nature; we find the quickest way to apply a map to a single fact and extrapolate from it grand conclusions. From one thought, one idea, one expereince we feel we can answer all, now and forever. The biologists say it’s evolutionary. It’s hard wired in us, and it’s part of what makes us greater than the apes.

But that same capability can lead down dark paths to inaccurate points of view, to unsubstantiated conjectures and apparently conclusive but erroneous beliefs that we cling to as if they were universally true.

“We are in an ontological pickle” a friend told me recently, and she was right. We need and want to take our point of view, our existing infrastructural codes and apply them as quickly as possible against the fog of facts that surrounds us. If you are not big or strong or armored (or poisonous) being able to do that is what keeps you from being eaten on the savanna. But as useful as this instinct is against what’s hunting you, it’s not as functional in the modern world.

So I suggest a “Rule of Three”. It’s somewhat along the lines of the effective executive coaching trick that goes “If one person tells you you’re a horse tell them to get lost. If a second person tells you you’re a horse, take heed, but  tell them to get lost also. If a third person tells you you’re a horse, maybe it’s time to get a saddle…”

I suggest that one point, one opinion, one fact tells you little that should be generalized. From one point we know neither direction, vector, nor surface. Given two points, now we have a line and can dismiss from our thinking many options not along that way. But it is not till we have three points, three facts, three experiences that we can talk about location, direction, and using the language of geometry, with three points we have a plane.

I feel comfortable making a decision standing on a plane. It feels more secure, certainly more so than swaying on a line, and I feel much surer on a surface than on the wobbly head of a pin. Who knows where you might fall from that point. So for me at least, deciding with no less than three keeps me from getting into a pickle.

Posted in Best Of, The Annals of Protest | Tagged , , , | 4 Responses

Old media brands are the answer to the “cesspool”? Naw…

Over at The Written Word they wrote that “Earlier this week, Google CEO Eric Schmidt was quoted on several websites and news feeds as having called the internet a “Cesspool”. Cnet reported it as “ the Internet is a “cesspool” where false information thrives…Schmidt gave the magazine publishers hope for their future. Brands, he said, are the way to rise above the cesspool, and of course he is right.”

Really? Old media is the answer?

Looking to the mainstream media brands as a model of fair and accurate reporting is like looking for a pacifist at a prizefight. 

An accurate collection of facts is not truth when those facts are organized and interpreted in a way that distorts their original meaning. The hallowed journalistic principle of balance creates its own falsehoods of a higher order. 

Here’s an absurd example: The fact that the stove is hot needs to be balanced with a minority vew that fire can be transcended by thought (Don’t want to insult Tony Robins, or an indigenous fire walking tribe in the South Pacific, now do we?) hence a “highly reguarded, branded” news source must say that fire may or may not be hot, if it conforms to current journalistic ethics.

Silly, hun?

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Just like Joan Didion, my notebooks start with an entry prompted by real life. I jot down a few observations, a description of something that passed by, a taste, a smell, a pretty girl. Often it’s a note about an event, because I tend to be a describer and an image painter. But soon the entry turns into something else, something moving on its own, moving swiftly. A wind picks up and the words begin to flow and before long a few hours have gone by and in the settling dust some trail of pure fiction has been created. My biggest job is just to keep up before it passes, the original real life idea left far behind.

After reading: Joan Didion – On Keeping a Notebook

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Ogame and Web 2.0

For about a week now my Macbook has been at the doctor’s having its failed hard drive replaced. Since I do most of my writing in an OS X application (Journler), I’ve taken this little interruption as an excuse to play way too much Ogame.

Along the way, between launching space fleets and building colonies, I’ve been thinking about whether this simple but wildly popular game is a harbinger of the future of gaming environments or a remnant of the past, and what it tells us about the formation of the Web 2.0 organizations that will increasingly be in our lives. 

Oh, and I’ve certainly increased my level of Ogame addiction, because well, what else am I going to do? They don’t cal it O-crack for nothing….

A game that never sleeps

During this week I’ve used a back-up machine, my trusty old WCG gaming rig, to log on to my Ogame account and check on how things were going in my empire. I monitored the development of my factories and the status of my fleets. I checked to make sure that none of my bellicose next door neighbors were launching attacks against me, which of course they were, lots of them.

That’s because there are a lot of people out there playing. A few million people around the world play Ogame, many of them are online right now. Although the action ebbs and flows with the rising and setting of the sun on the real world continents, I’ve never been on when there weren’t thousands of players in my universe, and there are dozens and dozens of universes.The game is so popular that GameForge.de, Ogame’s developer, just opened up their 37th universe, and the game has been translated into 20 different languages. When I first heard these figures I was shocked.

How could this game be so popular? At first blush Ogame seems so simple it’s almost simplistic. It’s a spaceship game divided into universes. Each universe consists of 9 galaxies, with 499 systems, each with 14 planet slots, and players are allowed to colonize up to 9 worlds. To do this they use three resources, a few technologies and various ships to interact with their worlds and other players.

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