Must we all be “ists?” I mean, is a historian a “pastist?” I’m into making the future better than the present by understanding everything I can. Most of what I can understand is located in the past, but I’ve only lived through Continue reading "What everything isn’t"
- War and Peace by Leo Tolstloy. I’ve read and re-read it many times, though not in the last two decades. I got turned onto it by this broadcast on WBAI in New York, back in 1970.
- Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman. I sound my barbaric yawp across the roofs of the world. More here.
- Annals of the Former World, by John McPhee, who gets my vote for the best nonfiction writer of all time. I’ve read and love all of McPhee’s books, but his geology series — Basin and Range, In Suspect Terrain, Rising From the Plains and Assembling California — turned me on in a huge way to geology, the Earth and the long view of time. All are collected, with one more added, in Annals, which won a Pulitzer in 1999. The best of the series, by the way, is Rising From the Plains, just for the stories of its lead characters, geologist David Love and his parents, living the pioneer life in central Wyoming early in the last century. Great stuff.
- Rabbit Run and the rest of the Rabbit series, by John Updike. While many of Updike’s subjects bore or annoy me (and his frequent descriptions of sex, all as clinically detailed as a Wyeth paintings, fail as porn), the quality of his writing is without equal, imho.
- The Bible. I was raised on it and read lots of it, back in my early decades. So I can’t deny its influence. The King James is my fave, having a beauty that others lack.
- Personal Knowledge: Toward a Post-Critical Philosophy, by Michael Polanyi. Less famous than his brother Karl, and nearly quote-proof. (The one exception: “We know more than we can tell.”) But deep. Studied the crap out of him in college, thanks to the obsessions of one philosophy professor.
- Metaphors We Live By, by George Lakoff. All of George’s books changed me. My vote for his best is Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. Explains convincingly a shitload about politics and much else.
- The Book of Knowledge and Grollier encyclopedias. We had those in our house when I was a kid, and I read them constantly.
- Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville. Call me hooked. Typee rocks too.
- Nature and other essays (notably Self-reliance) by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Hit me between the eyes in my college years. Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events… Without Emerson, there would have been no Linux for me. Also no ProjectVRM, and probably no Cluetrain either. Also from that century, Hawthorne and Poe.
- Websters New Collegiate Dictionary. Meaning the one my parents gave me when I went away to high school at age 15 in 1962. It’s one of the most worn and marked up books I have.
- Huckleberry Finn, and many other works of Mark Twain. Read most of them in my teens.
- Our Dumb World, by The Onion. The funniest book ever written. Please update it, Onion folks.
- Dave Berry Slept Here: a Sort of History of the United States, by Dave Barry. His funniest book.
- Mr. Sammler’s Planet, by Saul Bellow. My vote for Bellow’s best. Conquered people tend to be witty.
- Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison. Blew my mind.
- How Buildings Learn, by Stewart Brand. Explains so much I never saw or knew before, especially about infrastructure and code.
- Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin. I also saw him speak when I was in college. Very moving.
- Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin.
- Dune, by Frank Herbert. I like the original better than any of the later sequels and prequels.
- The Foundation Series, by Isaac Azimov. I only like the original trilogy, which blew my mind when I read it, many years ago. Likewise…
- The entire James Bond series, by Ian Flemming. Knocked them off in a college summer session. Pure escapism, but it helped my writing. Flemming was good. Bonus link: Alligator, a parody of Bond novels by Christopher Cerf and Michael Frith of the Harvard Lampoon. In it MI5′s front is a car dealership. If any actual customers show up, they are taken to the back and then “politely, but firmly, shot.”
- The Cluetrain Manifesto. Co-writing it changed my life. Simple as that.
- Many books by Thomas C. Hinkle, which I read as a child hiding away from the bitter and humiliating experiences of failing to compete in academics, sports and everything else at school. The books weren’t great literature, but they were great escapes. All were adventures involving heroic animals on the prairie, where both Hinkle and my mother grew up. (He was from Kansas and she was from Napoleon, North Dakota, about which it was said “It’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from there.”) When I got older my interest in prairie settings transferred to…
- Crazy Horse: The Strange Man of the Oglalas and Cheyenne Autumn, by Mari Sandoz, who wrote in the anglicized idioms of Sioux and Cheyenne. Amazing stuff. Honorable mentions in this same vein: Black Elk Speaks, by John Niehardt and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown. Not sure why, but there has always been a warmth in our family toward native Americans. And maybe that’s why I also like…
- The Tales of Alvin Maker, by Orson Scott Card. The natives in this one have a heroic transcendence (as do others). Got turned on to these by our youngest son, who has read at least ten times the number of books in his short life than I’ve read in my long one.
- The Poltergeist, by William G. Roll. I worked for Bill at the Psychical Research Foundation, which hung off the side of Duke in the late ’70s. His work opened my mind in many ways. Great times there too.
- Other authors that run in the credits of my life: Camus, Sartre, Malraux, Conrad, Yates, Kipling, Tennyson, Woolf, Aldous Huxley, Rilke, Thomas Mann, Kafka, Solzhenitsyn, Hesse, Wallace Stevens, Jeffers, Steinbeck, Delmore Schwartz, Card, e.e. cummings, Cheever, Flannery O’Connor, E.L. Doctorow, Stanley Elkin, William F. Buckley, James Baldwin, Truman Capote, Salinger, Mailer, Barth. (Thanks to Interleaves and Robert Teeter for listing Harold Bloom‘s Western Canon, which helped with the list above.)
As of August 10, 2014, Fotopedia.com will close and our iOS applications will cease to function. Our community of passionate photographers, curators and storytellers has made this a wonderful journey, and we’d like to thank you for your hard work and your contributions. We truly believe in the concept of storytelling but don’t think there is a suitable business in it yet.I’m also afraid Flickr will die, and wrote about that in What if Flickr fails? back in 2011. I believe Flickr is more durable now that it was then, and I like what they’ve been doing under new leadership there. But, with more than 50,000 photos up there now, on five different accounts (four are others to which I contribute), I’ve got a lot of exposure to the inevitable, which is that Flickr will die. As will everything, of course, but stuff on the Web has an especially low threshold of death. In the early days it didn’t look that way. Making the Web was an exercise in long-term property development then, or so it seemed. There were sites we put up, built or constructed at locations in domains, so others could visit them, and search and browse through them, as if they were libraries. Which they were in a way, since we used publishing lingo to talk about what we put there: writing, authoring, editing, posting, syndicating and so on. But that was what we might call the Static Web, a term I picked up from my son Allen in 2003, when he shared an amazing prophesy that has since proven correct: a new Live Web was starting to branch off the static one. I’ve written about that a number of times since then. (Here, here and here, for example.) Back then, live was what we had with blogs, and RSS. You wrote something, posted it, and a Live Web search engine, such as Technorati or PubSub would have it indexed within a few minutes. (Amazing: Google Blog Search, which kinda killed the others, still exists.) Today the Live Web is Twitter and Facebook. Here are two important differences between the Live Web of 2003 and the Twitter/Facebook one today:
- Even if blogs were with services such as Radio Userland, Live Journal, Blogger or TypePad, they expressed, as Dave Winer puts it, the unedited voice of a person. With Twitter and Facebook, your voice echoes inside a big commercial castle.
- Blogs were journals. By that I mean they were self-archiving. Their URLs were always yourblog/year/month/day/permalink, or the equivalent. On Twitter and Facebook, they tend to sink away. Same with Tumblr, Pinterest and other services that employ the modern endless-scroll website style. The old stuff seems to sink down out of sight, with little sense that any one thing has its own location on the Web, or that the location belongs fully to the author.
Big Ted’s dead, he was a great old pigRadio’s goods decay at the speed of short-term memory. The best of it persists in long-term memory, but the rest is gone like snow on the water. That, to me, is part of radio’s charm. At its best, it’s pure performance, something you have to be there for, in a mode they call “live.” Sure, you can record it, but then it’s not the same. It’s like canned fruit. Performance is like that: a thing that happens in real time, in real place, between the performer(s) and the audience. Theater. Show biz. No second chances. I was in radio for awhile, long ago. My nickname, Doc, is a fossil remnant of Doctor Dave, a humorous persona on WDBS in Durham, North Carolina. I also wrote for the station’s “alternative” paper, called The Guide. That graphic on the right is how I looked to readers. It was drawn by the late, great Ray Simone. I look like that in reality today, only with less hair. Far as I know, the only remnants of Doctor Dave, on tape or in print, are buried in my garage in Santa Barbara. Some day, if I live long enough, and run out of more interesting things to, I’ll dig them up and put them online. Or maybe I’ll leave that up to other people who give more of a shit than I do. As of today, that’s nobody. After I’m dead as Ted, maybe some will show up. Who knows. According to iTunes, I’ve also accumulated 1300 podcasts — time-shifted radio — that I also haven’t listened to. I do like podcasts, and some day will get around to doing my own on a regular basis instead of the one time I’ve done it, so far. (Find it at http://podcast.searls.com.) If I did it on radio first, it would be easier. But what’s radio any more? Here’s what I said about it last November:
He’d eat most anything, never wore a wig
Now he’s gone like snow on the water, good-bye-eeee
…now radio is streamed audio. That was already the case when webcasting showed up in the ’90s, and even more so with the rise of Last.fm, SiriusXM, Pandora, rdio, Spotify and every other audio service delivered over the Net.All of these services can do what they do because they’ve cleared “performance rights” to play the music they play, and to pay the royalty rates required by copyright law. Never mind the rates for now. Instead, focus on the word performance. The Copyright Act of 1909 was the first to characterize a musical composition or recording as a performance. So, if you acquire a piece of music, you only acquire the right to perform it for yourself. So what I’m saying is that the Web is becoming more of a live performance venue, and less of a digital library where published works are shared and stored in easily found ways. Look at the advertising on websites today. None of it is constant in the least. Hit the refresh button and new ads will appear. Go away and come back and there will be new content, with new ads. This is nothing like the newspapers and magazines — the journals — of old. This is live performance, often just for you (at least on the advertising side). In How Facebook Sold You Krill Oil, in today’s New York Times, we learn that you, the Facebook user, are in an “audience” for the advertising there. Enough of the performance works to make the spending worthwhile for the advertiser. There’s an accounting of it somewhere, for business purposes. But nothing lasting, much less permanent, for the rest of us. It’s all just snow on the water. Watching that advertising — and even most “content” — scroll to oblivion is hardly tragic. But losing Fotopedia is tragic to this extreme: art matters. What you see and read today on Fotopedia are works of art. Some are better than others, but all qualify for the noun. Fortunately, the Internet Archive has indexed Fotopedia. But navigating it isn’t the same. Some internal links go somewhere, but most don’t. There are many regrets (and one persistent offer to help) in the comments under Fotopedia’s final blog post. Here’s hoping something can be done to save Fotopedia’s art the old Static Web way. And that, eight days from now, all that fine art won’t be gone like Big Ted.
The photos above, below, and linked to via the Read More button at the bottom of this entry, were taken during a late-day stroll in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Prospect Heights and a mid-day walk from Park Slope to Boerum Hill, a couple of miles to the west. On most grounds, economic and social, I oppose the rampant gentrification that has pushed out non-white, lower-income, and gray-haired New Yorkers from swaths of northern Brooklyn. However, when I see the revived and manicured beauty of such neighborhoods my opposition momentarily softens … that is, until I remember that, given the pace and expanse of gentrification, ordinary New Yorkers will soon be forced to live so far from the city’s lovely historic neighborhoods that they will rarely have the opportunity, time, or means to visit them.
This hits home in a literal way for me. My ancestors on the Searls side (half of which originated via German and Irish immigration) lived in New York for generations. And I am currently domiciled, at least part of the time, in a district of far-northern Manhattan that remains, as @ChrisAnnade, puts it, “Starbucks-free.” It is a high-character neighborhood of Orthodox Jews and Spanish-speaking immigrants, mostly from the Dominican Republic. It’s an inexpensive part of the city, where commercial establishments are mostly of the non-chain type and sky-bound rents are not yet the norm. But it’s nice enough that I suspect things will change as the neighborhood gets “discovered” by people with more money or fame than those who already live there.
…all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end…
— Alfred, Lord Tennyson: Ulysses
Here’s how dull that pause — that end we call the front page — has become:And yet every newspaper needs one. So it’s not going away. But to stay current — literally — papers need something else as well — something Net-native that bridges the static page and the live flow of actual news. Twitter isn’t it. Yes, these days it’s pro forma for news media to post notifications of stories and other editorial on Twitter, but Twitter is a closed and silo’d corporation, not an institutional convention on the order of the front page, the editorial page, the section, the insert. Most of all, Twitter is somebody else’s system. It’s not any paper’s own. But Twitter does normalize a model that Dave Winer called a river, long before Twitter existed. You might think of a river as a paper’s own Twitter. And also the reader’s. In the early days Twitter was called a “microblogging” platform. What made it micro was its 140-character limit on posts. What made it blogging was its format: latest stuff on top and a “permalink” to every post. (Alas, Twitter posts tend to be snow on the water, flowing to near-oblivion and lacking syndication through RSS —though there are hacks.) Dave created RSS — Really Simple Syndication — as we know it today, and got The New York Times and other publications (including many papers and nearly all Web publishers) to adopt it as well. Today a search for “RSS” on Google brings up over two billion results. Now Dave has convened a hackathon for creating a new river-based home page for newspapers, starting once again with The New York Times. On his blog he explains how a river of news aggregator works. And in a post at Nieman Journalism Lab he explains Why every news organization should have a river. There he unpacks a series of observations and recommendations:
- News organizations are shrinking, but readers’ demand for news is exploding.
- The tools of news are available to more people all the time.
- News organizations have to redefine themselves.
- Users have a special kind of insight that most news orgs don’t tap.
- Therefore, the challenge for news organizations has been, for the last couple of decades, to learn how to incorporate the experience of these users and their new publishing tools, into their product — the news.
- Like anything else related to technology, this will happen slowly and iteratively.
- The first thing you can do is show the readers what you’re reading.
- Having the river will also focus your mind.
- Then, once your river is up and running for a while, have a meeting with all your bloggers.
Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
- ‘The Internet’s Own Boy’ Is a Powerful Homage to Aaron Swartz mashable.com)
- The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz: Sundance Review (the hollywood reporter)
- Variety marks offerings at summer film series in Newport boston.com)
- Malik Bendjelloul: Death of a filmmaker who told an extraordinary South African tale | Daily Maverick sugarman.org)
- Searching for Sugar Man director Malik Bendjelloul dies aged 36 theguardian.com)
- Director hopes Aaron Swartz film will lead to internet reforms, May 6, 2014 information-machine.blogspot.com)
- Oscar-Winning Director Malik Bendjelloul Dead: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know | Heavy sugarman.org)
- Cannes To Mourn Malik Bendjelloul With Special ‘Sugarman’ Screening | Variety sugarman.org)
Spent some time this morning wondering whether the butts in the melting snow by the A Train station at Dyckman Street migrated there from elsewhere, or if the former snowbank served as an ashtray for smoking passengers. Either way, it’s an impressive collection.