Google-herd

November 2, 2009

City Sense?

Should Google-herd be a new word in our lexicon?

Citysense is an innovative mobile application for real-time nightlife discovery and social navigation, answering the question, “Where is everybody going right now?”

…and why should we follow them..?

File this under the expanding portfolio of hi-tech computer applications intended to capture your money.  GIS cum position (al) technology, like GPS, is now a growing element in marketing.  Companies like this collect historical and current data on where people have gone, process it according to the latest market segmentation categories, and try to sell the service to other companies and us, the individual consumers.  Making it easier for us to spend our money, find those things we really want, find the people who are just like us!

Is this bad?  No.  Is it evil?  No.  It’s just business, and it’s pretty dumb. What gets me is the breathless tone of the selling that makes it sound like it’s something more than new technology being used to make a standard selling tool sexy. Gads, I hate hearing marketing stuff described as sexy. What does that say about our culture?

Yep, just file this under, International Work Machine, crank, gripe, and complain.

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Free and open elections

July 26, 2009

Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin – He was the author of the great anti-utopian novel, We.  Orwell admired it, and he thought Huxley had been influenced by (copied?) it.  He died in exile, after his letter to Stalin gained him permission to emigrate rather than remain in the USSR without the permission to write.  Considering the contents of his 1923 essay, On Literature, Revolution, Entropy, and Other Matters,  it’s a wonder he wasn’t just taken out and shot.

Heretics are the only (bitter) remedy against the entropy of human thought.

Where the flaming, seething sphere (in science, religion, social life, art) cools, the fiery magma becomes coated with dogma- a rigid, ossified, motionless crust. Dogmatisation in science, religion, social life, or art is the entropy of thought. What has become dogma no longer burns: it only gives off warmth- it is tepid, it is cool.

The novel, We, is a memoir written by a prominent engineer in the glorious future One State in which human life is totally regulated.  Mathematics has trumped all poetry.  Individuals rejoice in their state as ciphers.  Sex is proscribed to limited “private hours” regulated by the Book of Hours, and access to sex partners is free, and regulated with a system of recorded pink chits.  The book is a little heavy with literary experimentation as it seeks to evoke the mentality of the future man who revels in his routine and lack of spontaneity, but it is prescient of so many things, in culture, in politics, and especially in the entire future of science fiction, that it amazes.  It also has a very sharp and dark humor.

They say that the Ancients conducted elections in some kind of  secrecy, hiding like thieves … Why would all this mystery be necessary?  Even today it is not understood conclusively; the likeliest explanation is that elections were connected to some sort of mystical, superstitious, maybe  even criminal rites.  For us, there is nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of:  we celebrate election day in the daytime, openly and honestly.  I see everyone vote for the Benefactor; everyone sees me vote for the Benefactor – and it couldn’t be any different, since “I” and “everyone” are the unified “WE” …And if you even suggest the impossible, that is, that there could be some dissonance in the usual homophony, then the invisible Guardians are here, among our ranks:  at any momen, they can stop ciphers who are falling into error and save them from their next false step – and save the One State from them.

Need I add that the “hero” is undone by love, by sex, by a femme fatale ?  At their trysts outside the glass wall of the city, in the museum of the Ancient House, she wears a yellow silk dress.  Her teeth are like daggers.  She scorns the One State, respects nothing.  She is irrestible to him, the engineer of the great spaceship Integral, the vessel that will bring the happiness of tyranny to other planets.  She drives him crazy…makes him…human?


Why did you resign? Who is No. 1?

June 7, 2008

I have posted on The Prisoner before, but the show continues to occupy a prominent place in my pop-cult consciousness, and it keeps coming up in odd places. The opening sequence is tremendous, combining as it does adventure, mystery, and the awful weight of obsessive nightmare, the endless replaying of the “resignation scene.” There he is – cool, angry, totally self-confident – swinging open the doors to the evil sanctum to set himself free, or so he believes.

“Why did you resign?” That one little question distills the essence of the totalitarian program. Just tell us that (and then you will tell us whatever we want to know.) And The Prisoner, now known as No. 6, replies with the obvious rejoinder, “Who is No.1?” He never breaks, and they never give up – the game goes on for about 17 episodes. We never see No. 1, not really, until the end. We never find out why The Prisoner is No. 6 – where are No.s 3, 4, and 5? .  No. 2 runs the village…

I remember when I first heard of this show – I was in elementary school, and a friend who watched a lot more TV at later hours than was permitted me told me of a very “weird show,” in which a “big blob” patrolled an island, and attacked anyone who tried to escape. When I finally saw it, I was hooked for life. This doesn’t necessarily put me in good company. I don’t believe that this show is a piece of deeply complex philosophy – I don’t think it warrants exegesis on a par with what scholars give the works of Dante, and I don’t even think most of the episodes are all that good, but the idea of it, and Patrick McGoohan, are great.

The show is cast in the mold of a standard adventure series, but it has a very large dollop of satire and sly wit thrown in, along with some sci-fi aspects, many of them pretty hokey. The quality of the episodes varies wildly from awful (The General) to absolutely exquisitely developed (A, B, & C). These two, my least and most favorite, have the odd circumstance of using the same actor to play No.2. Usually a different actor takes the role each show, indicative of the displeasure of No. 1 at their inability to break No. 6. The form of the shows varies as well – some are straightforward adventure, but often with a very clever twist (The Chimes of Big Ben), some are more satirical (Free for All, the episode in which No. 6 runs for the office of No. 2: “So, No. 6, will you run?” “Like hell, first chance I get.” Always joking…) , some are like fantasy-fables (The Girl Who Was Death)

My favorite, A, B, & C is the story of an attempt to break No. 6 by drugging him and manipulating his dreams. The three letters refer to three individuals whom No. 2 is convinced may hold the key to why No. 6 resigned. In a series of dreams, which they have the technology to project onto a large screen and into which they can inject themselves, No. 2 and his assistant try to prod No. 6 into giving something away. They fail of course – or is there nothing to give away? Did he just resign because he was sick of his job? Was he really just going on vacation?

In desparation, No. 2 gives a super dose to The Prisoner, and the dream takes on the giddy, crazy aspect of a classic 60’s hallucinatory experience, complete with a posh party a la 007, and corny pop music. It culminates in a confrontation in a dark plaza that is as great a surrealist set piece as anything Bunuel ever did, and the denoument is devilishly clever, as No. 2 watches the dream, and then watches No. 6 walk out of the dream, past him, and back to the village. Then…cut to the endless replay of the doors swinging open in that dark room in London…