Sunday, November 30, 2008


Is, for all its ikky colonial heritage, one of my favorite holidays. I think this is because it is the most DIY holiday. Who would ever buy a pre-made thanksgiving dinner? It simply isn't done. While Christmas focuses on the commodity baubles available from consumer capitalism, on Thanksgiving the focus is firmly on the meal, prepared by the same community that will later consume it. (Issues of gender segregation in labor here can be solved at the local level. Get off yer butts and cook dudes!)

I've had several thanksgiving celebrations this year, my Girlfriend's family, my mother's house, my father's. I'm at my father's place now, where the celebration has moved on to the musical phase the gatherings of his friends tend to inevitably enter. Another DIY celebration, as semi-pro and amateur musicians gather to play some old standbys and folk songs - simple and beautiful.

I, of course, am no musician, so I will contribute by writing this blog post - sending out a burst transmission of my appreciation of their performance into the electronic post-human noosphere that is my home...

Happy Thanksgiving, hackers of the world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What the hell was this supposed to teach us

I love good ol Sesame Street, but seriously, where's the educational take away there? No wonder I grew up to be a slacker and a ne're-do-well.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

This Video

Reminds me both of a Romanian friend of mine's disappointment with American Anhedonia and my own:

One of these days I'll throw a proper New Year's Eve party again - then we'll have a good time.

The Last Campaign

The 2008 cycle is not over in Georgia. You learn more about Saxby Chambliss the GOP incumbent senator. In addition, if you link to Saxby Chambliss on your own blog or web page you can help move this important information on Saxby Chambliss up in rank in Google results.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

To Sum Up

Since this political season has ended in a modicum of victory for the forces of good, I feel free once more to set aside my sense of larger social responsibility and return to the calling I really love. That is, to advocate for the meaningless, the wasted, the useless, the trivial, the mundane, the unproductive, the nonsensical, the ridiculous, the pointless, and the absurd.

It is these ruptures, these tiny flights from meaning's vast and busy machinations that save us from the automaton's oblivion. They seemed decadent when the war of meaning was pitched and immediate, but now they seem to me precious once more.

Possible Reactions

To the recent story in the NY Times, revealing that a couple guys with a website faked an entire Policy institute and created a phony adviser to John McCain - and managed to get their phony adviser quoted in the mainstream media a few times.

Mainstream Press: The Internet is full of Nonsense! Of course it is! It is a dangerous sewer of half-truth and innuendo! Any media form without the August presence of our professional standards is doomed to be such. Beware good people, Internet Nonsense threatens to undermine our entire society!

Internet Boosters: Now wait, Nonsense levels on the net are normal and well within historical precedent. We've always had Nonsense! Nothing has changed! Nonsense has always existed! Many eyes are on our valiant new media day and night, rooting out Nonsense and advocating the light of reason!

Me: The Internet is full of Nonsense! I love Nonsense!

All these moments will pass

Rutger Hauer's tremendous soliloquy from the close of Blade Runner:

One of my favorite moments from one of my favorite movies. I think Roy Batty's observation here sums up the problem of mortality (what I still basically believe to be the essential problem of all of human existence, despite the various reasons I know not to) in an elegant and memorable way.

I drop this here because I was thinking of this scene today, and when I found the clip embedded in a BoingBoing story this evening I decided the random nature of the universe had dictated I say something about it.

I had been having a bit of a moment of my own, but unlike the ones Batty wants to reflect on, this moment was totally ordinary. I had gone to Staples to make some photocopies for my job applications, and realized I had forgotten some papers I needed to Xerox in my office. I had to drive back to campus to get them. It was, strictly speaking, a waste of time - but I found (as I so often find) a great deal of pleasure in this moment. The sky was low and slate colored, a perfect November overcast. The air was still warm enough to leave the window rolled open but had begun to taste of Winter. A DJ at the college radio station was playing hip-hop, small label but hardly underground. Driving slowly back to campus, I was stuck behind one of the University's buses. The distinct note of school-bus diesel exhaust and the low, gray light called to mind all the falls of my childhood, the hope and energy of each beginning school year. The anticipation of holidays. Best of all, my mistake had made for me the perfect alibi for my reverie. I could do nothing else but spend my time in this moment. I had not choice but to make this drive. The papers were in my office. Nothing could be done until I retrieved them.

These moments pass perhaps even faster than those remarkable moments that Batty eulogizes in his speech. It seems ludicrous to even try to record them. Who wants to know about my joyful encounter with overcast and bus exhaust? But, for me, these useless and mundane moments are a tremendous source of life's joy and even its meaning.

Which of course, makes me think critically, and perhaps a bit apprehensively, about the project I am involved in as a New Media scholar. In a conversation the other day, a colleague paraphrased Clay Shirky's hope for the possibility of the Internet connected masses. If we contribute to Wikipedia or Free Software, he said, we are no longer wasting time like we would watching television. Instead, our idle moments can be harnessed, can be made "socially useful." All these moments will be used - like processor cycles in the SETI@home cluster.

I am being a bit unfair to this argument here - TV time is not usually a source of reverie and joy, more often a source of consumer-zombie stupor. I've been an advocate for FOSS and Wiki for years now, I'm not condemning them. Still, I wonder. Do we leave the door to the Social Factory, to the Taylorization of Everything open if we implement our Participatory Culture in the wrong way? Does there need to be a voice to defend the idle, the useless, and the wasted moments - in a culture that seems ever more interested in making every moment count, every moment produce, every moment matter?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A fitting quote

Alongside the modern evils, a whole series of inherited evils oppress us, arising from the passive survival of antiquated modes of production, with their inevitable train of social and political anachronisms. We suffer not only from the living, but from the dead.


Maybe, just maybe, last Tuesday night we finally made some progress in putting down a few of our inherited evils. Maybe a few of the specters that have haunted us have been dissipated in the light of day.

Let us steel ourselves then, to do battle with the living.