The Null Device
The Orange, a short and perfectly-formed magic-realist story by one Benjamin Rosenbaum: (brought to my attention by bOING bOING)
An orange ruled the world.
It was an unexpected thing, the temporary abdication of Heavenly Providence, entrusting the whole matter to a simple orange.
The orange, in a grove in Florida, humbly accepted the honor. The other oranges, the birds, and the men in their tractors wept with joy; the tractors' motors rumbled hymns of praise.
I can see this story as a short film, done in the style of Jeunet & Caro (think the rhythmic motion sequences in Delicatessen or somesuch).
One missive of unknown content from a "Latoya Cottonmouth", and another one from someone else, whose subject line urges me to "sacrifice a little incandescent rutlidge". Poor little incandescent rutlidges!
Databases of genetic research data, it has emerged, have been irreversibly corrupted by Microsoft Excel's autocorrection feature. Excel, in its infinite wisdom, assumed that some gene identifiers (such as SEPT2) were really dates (i.e., 2-Sep), and corrected the "mistake"; meanwhile, Excel's floating-point conversions wreaked their own havoc elsewhere. (via bOING bOING)
A funny thing has happened on social-network site Orkut: by some quirk of social network dynamics, Brazilian Portuguese speakers now outnumber English speakers 2 to 1, and the Anglophones are getting a sudden taste of what it's like to be in a marginalised linguistic minority:
"Orkut maps one's social prestige, and Brazilians are by nature gregarious," said Beth Saad, a professor at the University of Sao Paulo's School of Communications and Arts.
Tammy Soldaat, a Canadian, got a sample of Brazilian wrath recently when she posted a message asking whether her community site on body piercing should be exclusive to people who speak English. Brazilian Orkut users quickly labeled her a "nazi" and "xenophobe."
"Since we can invite anyone we want at Orkut, and my friends are Brazilians, it doesn't make sense talking to them in English," Reis said in Portuguese. "I use the language I know." His compatriot Pablo Miyazawa has a more moderate view. "Brazilians have the right to create anything they want in any language they want," Miyazawa said. "The problem is to invade forums with specific languages and write in Portuguese. Brazilians are still learning how to behave in the Net."
This posits a dilemma: if English is no longer the language of the majority on Orkut, what reasonable rationale could there be for asking Brazilian users to use English in non-Brazilian-specific forums, rather than asking English-speakers to learn Portuguese (the new majority language)? Not so much on one web site (where the management could, in theory, dictate the site's language) but on the internet at large. I wonder how long it will be until (American) English is displaced as the global language and Americans/Australians/Britons have to learn another language (be it Portuguese, Chinese or something else) to engage in the intellectual mainstream of internet discourse, or else become increasingly marginalised and ghettoised?