The Null Device
Guatemalan writer, Augusto Monterroso, has died at age 81. Monterroso, winner of Spain's Prince of Asturias literary prize, is credited with writing one of the world's shortest stories. El Dinosaurio (The Dinosaur) reads in its entirety: "Upon waking, the dinosaur was still there."
Meet one of the people we're soon going to be bombing into dust in the name of God, Liberty and the right to cheap gasoline: Where is Raed?, a blog run by a young Iraqi. A combination of the usual blog trivia and joking, dispatches from Baghdad, astute and somewhat cynical observations, and an underlying anxiety about the small everyday details likely to be annihilated in the upcoming carpet-bombing. The author of the blog comes across as urbane, cultured and very much like us. In fact, you could imagine much of it having been written in East Berlin in 1988 (though, obviously, not as a blog). Interestingly enough, there is an open disrespect for the official lines of the Ba'athist dictatorship; perhaps a sign that Saddam's police state isn't what it used to be? Mind you, the Americans' intentions don't get off lightly. And then there are his most astute observations of anti-war activists:
Those foreigners are all over the place, I think I know what it should be called: War Tourism. betcha they will be out of here faster than you can say 'Iraqi-peace-team' when things get a bit too hot. It must have been a slow day for news people because the Mutanabi Street was full of them, or Iraqis selling second hand books have become important news items. At least three news teams were filming in that crowded street with their Iraqi minders shooing people away from the cameras. Later on I walked thru Al-Rasheed and Al-Sadoon and they were all over. Not news teams this time but the War Tourists, some of them even carrying backpacks which have [Iraq peace team] written on them in gold marker. And I guess we will be getting more tourists soon. Come on, have a couple of days on us. They will be accommodating you in Al-Rasheed Hotel for free and you get the official sight seeing tour, a couple of lunches with people you can tell your kids you met, when they are shown on CNN and you get to be on TV singing "give peace a chance" in front of the UN building in Abu Nawas (don't miss the excellent grilled fish - masgoof - while you are there, the restaurants have a good view of one of the oldest presidential palaces). I know they all mean well, but I really don't think coming here and getting photographed with Iraqi officials is helping their "cause". Do thy really want to stand up and risk their lives for this regime. If you are so in love with the situation here, be my guest let's trade places because if it is a "cause" for you, for me it's my life and the way I have to go thru it.
(Best of luck, Salam. Do try and stay out of danger, and keep blogging.) (via 1.0)
I wonder if there's a market for models with freakishly large hands to pose for promotional materials for high-tech gadgets (MP3 players/digital cameras/&c), thus making the items look even more attractively compact.
Two books by Charles Fort (after whom the term "Fortean phenomena" was coined), Book of the Damned and New Lands, are now online, in HTML format. (Btw, anybody know whether there's a way to convert HTML to PalmReader documents with formatting?) (via New World Disorder)
Remember the rumours a while ago about Microsoft's algorithmic-music-composition research programme developing a software package to allow ordinary users to create shiny Top 40-grade pop? Well, here's a screenshot of "Microsoft Hit Wizard - R&B Edition". (via MeFi)
Social phenomena seen through American high school archetypes: A WSJ writer claims that public criticism of SUVs (that's American for big-arse personal monster trucks) is geeks against jocks, the bookish dweebs who got beaten up in high school dressing up their rage at their former persecutors' wealth and soulless materialism in the garb of moral outrage, out of sheer impotent spite.
This anti-SUV fervor strikes me as a classic geek assault on jock culture. Here are the geeks: thoughtful, socially and environmentally conscious. They understand that only spiritually shallow people could possibly get pleasure from a motor vehicle. Then there are those jocks. They cruise through life infuriatingly unaware of how morally inferior they are to the geeks. They make money, become popular, play golf and have homes that are too large. And they're happy! For all the wrong reasons! And so every few years the geeks pick on some feature of jock life (McMansions, corporations, fraternities, country clubs) and get all worked up about it. And you know what? The jocks don't care! They just keep being happy. The geeks write, protest and fume. The jocks go to St. Croix.
By the same token one could dismiss any progressive concern is the whining of sore losers (or, indeed, "Jealousy masquerading as Class Consciousness"). Though, even if there is some truth in it (pertaining to the psychological motivations of some progressive activist types), that doesn't invalidate the argument. (via Plastic)
As Interflora/Hallmark Relationship Tax Payment Day approaches, an interesting article about how good sex is neurochemically indistinguishable from being in love. The thing that does the magic is a neurochemical called oxytocin, which is released during orgasm and triggers the bonding behaviours in the human brain. So the more sex you have, the more oxytocin you have in your brain, and the more "in-love" you feel. Which can be somewhat problematic if you're not suited to each other outside of the bedroom.
(Yes, it's that time of year. Remind me to keep up the tradition and post some links about how (1) being "in love" is biologically indistinguishable from (a) shooting up heroin, or (b) obsessive-compulsive disorder, (2) the sexual marketplace is not the positive, life-affirming thing it's represented as but rather a brutal, atavistic and ugly form of capitalism-red-in-tooth-and-claw, and (3) it's all a con to take your money and prop up florists, trinket-manufacturing sweatshops and the DeBeers diamond monopoly, and so on.)