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June 30, 2000


Down with the Boy Scouts. I am embarrassed to say that I was a Cub Scout when I was a kid. My mom was a "den mother." I participated in Pinewood Derbys. The whole thing makes me want to throw up now. I would never allow my children (if and when I have children) anywhere near this wacko right-wing crypto-fascist organization. Let us not forget that Hitler originally revived the German military through Boy Scout style organizations, and he also sent gays to the death camps. I hope this organization dies a well-deserved and nasty death.


June 29, 2000

Heather F. asked me to contribute some writing to her Cybering site, which is about meta-online issues; "ezine of online sociology" as she calls it. I started by posting a comment about the computer generation gap. She's looking for more contributors; if you have something to suggest, or there is an entry in your blog that you think would be good for Cybering, please contact Heather F. From my entry:

I was talking with a friend of mine, who is 36, about her experience with computers. She said that until a couple of years ago, she had never really seriously considered even buying a computer. She's now learning HTML and web design but remarks upon the fact that younger people all seem to know a huge amount about all this stuff, they seem to have gotten it with their Cheerios every morning when they were growing up.

I am only two years younger than she, 34, but I've been playing with computers since I was in elementary school. Although I can't say all my peers are completely computer literate, a large number are, and many of my friends my age are in the industry. I have noticed this sort of sharp dividing line that seems to hit right around my age... Many kids I knew had computers; Apple IIs or Commodore 64s or a bit earlier, Commodore PETs and TRS-80s. When I was a freshman in college, the first Macintosh came out. By the time I was a senior many if not most people wrote their papers on word processors; and after I graduated, a lot of them got computer jobs...

I heard of a computer department whose entire curriculum was steeped in COBOL just the year before I went to college, but they switched to PCs and minicomputers just as I was entering school. The COBOL people are out of luck today, but those trained in my generation seem to be managing fine. When Douglas Coupland wrote Generation X he was talking about the group born starting around 1960, but these days the term seems to be used more for people born in 1965 and later --- exactly the year I was born and now the origin of the time-shifted "GenX" moniker. But this also seems to roughly correspond with the digital generation; the first set of kids to grow up with computers, to take them for granted, to be easily conversant with them and fluent in their use.

June 27, 2000

Heather Anne found an interesting paper on affordances in software design but the author, Byron Lee, took it down (by coincidence) just as she put up the link; thankfully after I emailed him he expressed surprise at the interest and put the paper back up for all of us to enjoy. Via Byron's paper, a link to an amusing site filled with examples of bad design complete with pictures and explanations:

I'm really enjoying Paul's recent contributions to Alamut (June 26, 2000 entry) regarding near-death experiences and egolessness. A fascinating quote from Ann Faraday from Challenging the need to develop a self:

All my thoughts, hopes and fears about the future have changed radically since I fell asleep one night in October 1985 and woke next morning without a self. I don't know what happened to it, but it never returned.

This should have been an occasion for some regret, since I quite liked myself - a self born long ago when I first discovered that other people didn't automatically share my private inner space and couldn't intrude upon it without my permission...

...And far from being a matter of regret, this loss of self came as a distinct relief. In fact when bits and pieces of my old identity - hopes, fears, goals, memories, spiritual aspirations and all the rest - began to recollect as I awoke, I tried to fight them off, in much the same way, perhaps, as the reluctant survivors of Near-Death Experiences resist the return to life's little boxes. But unlike those survivors, I brought back no blissful sense of divine presence or of a mission to accomplish, nor even intimations of immortality - just a total inner and outer Empty-ness which has remained ever since.

This may not sound like a happy state of affairs to a psychotherapist, who would probably see in it evidence of a mid-life crisis or incipient psychosis. But it is far more interesting than that. I experience this Empty-ness as a boundless arena in which life continually manifests and plays, rising and falling, constantly changing, always changing and therefore ever new. Sometimes I feel I could sit forever, knowing myself as not only a fluid manifestation of life within the arena, but also as the Empty-ness which holds it. If this is psychosis, everyone should have one, and the world would be a far more serene place for it.

This reminds me a great deal of the descriptions of enlightenment by various Buddhist and other masters over the centuries; as well as paralleling my own explorations in this direction.

June 24, 2000

I've noticed that childhood seems to be getting longer and longer. Looking at movies and television shows from twenty, thirty, forty years ago, it's pretty clear that a 30-year-old was supposed to be a solidly (stolidly?) mature adult. Characters described as "20 years old" sometimes looked and acted like 30-year-olds do today; "30 year olds" often looked and acted 40 or 45 (by today's standards). Youth now seems to extend all the way through one's twenties and beyond. Humans already have the longest childhood of any species; and it only seems to be getting longer and longer. Perhaps someday what we call "adulthood" will disappear entirely! At evolutionary timescales this phenomenon actually occurs: it is called heterochrony, where "adults" of later species sometimes look like the children of their ancestors. The children shall inherit the Earth?

June 22, 2000

Holding my breath didn't seem to do anything, but Heather Anne has reappeared anyway... Lemonyellow is back, at least for two entries. I will keep breathing this time, but breathing with a sense of hope...

Can the placeholder become itself a complete thing? When it is connected with the rest of the universe, it is complete in its own way. Though I also love to make big things as well, little universes. There is a place for both the fragmentary and the monumental in the post-postmodern era.

June 21, 2000

The classic PBS science fiction film adaptation of Ursula K. LeGuin's novel, The Lathe of Heaven, is being re-shown on PBS and will be released on VHS and DVD this fall. It was first shown in 1980 to wide acclaim, but it was not seen again due to licensing and royalty issues. I vividly recall seeing this on PBS when it first aired. This quote, originally written by the Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu, has stayed with me for a very long time:

Those whom heaven helps we call the sons of heaven. They do not learn this by learning. They do not work it by working. They do not reason it by using reason. To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven.
As the years have passed I've been more and more impressed with this passage. Getting off of the track, we struggle with the flow of the universe and we can be struck down, sort of filed away, not by an angry or retributive force, but simply by the ordinary workings of the cosmos. Nothing personal; no more than if you got in the way of an erupting volcano.

June 19, 2000

What I've always wanted to do is create work (artwork, architecture, systems, "interactive" pieces, patterns, etc) that people can live in. Or participate in, or breathe in and out, with a permeable boundary so to speak, so that the boundary between the work/system/pattern and the user/viewer/participant/etc. is breached. Ideally this would mean that the person interacting with the -fill-in-the-blank-sort-of-system-artwork-whatever- would not only respond in their own way, but also be part of the whole process, help to shape and evolve the whole system, and the work would respond in a dynamic and ultimately unpredictable way itself. "It" would not be something apart, but actually in some fundamental sense interpenetrating with the "audience"; so "audience" isn't even the right word to use. A push here and there comes a push back somewhere else in a mysterious way but no more mysterious than, say, ecology or something.

The prisons we live in are mostly prisons of our own construction .... I want to look where I haven't looked before.

Who are you?

June 18, 2000

I decided to set up Miranda with Blogger so she can write updates herself, and so she is doing so (not quite at blog frequency of posts, though who am I to talk). From her most recent entry:

Yesterday a woman in the dressing room at the gym was also wearing a shirt in this style, as she blowdried her hair. She was older and asian, stocky with a cellulite-rumpled, long butt. It looked kind of cute and interesting but I forced myself to look away. So many things I am not allowed to look at, encouraged to look at the same old things. It might be a good idea to spend our whole lives trying to see what is actually here on earth. The vision-control systems are only effective if I forget that I am free to look at whatever I want. My eye follows the same path everyday, who knows what bastardries are taking place in the spot below the Diet Magic sign.
Which reminds me of the role of deconditioning: unlearning. Breaking out of patterns, moving beyond one's habits. We accumulate all the time but fail to realize that sometimes we need to decrease, anti-learn, backtrack, de-construct... relax, and open up to the actual world right in front of our faces. Unfortunately we can never see what is actually in front of our nose (because it is too close), but we can at least remember that we can't really see it... so at least try to see better.

June 17, 2000

Just came back from a performance of the nationally known dance group Bodyvox, founded by the same folks who started the excellent ISO (I'm So Optimistic) troupe, and who were earlier involved with Momix. When I saw ISO in L.A. I hadn't known one of their founders was from Portland; they've moved here now and have started Bodyvox. Their work is athletic, free, unpretentious, and funny, and they don't stick to the wordlessness typical of most dance troupes; their pieces sometimes include lyrics, voiceovers, and even dialogue. They also use multimedia touches such as slides and video intermixed with dance. It's really pretty shocking how much high-quality stuff there is here in Portland, for a city this size it's quite amazing.

Was in L.A. and stopped in to visit with Heather F., who was in the city, and her L.A.-based friend Heather Woodbury, also a performance artist, who has her critically acclaimed piece online on her site. We talked about one of my favorite restaurants in L.A., La Serenata de Garibaldi, an exceptional "novelle Mexican" restaurant in the low-rent Boyle Heights neighborhood of East L.A. It's hard to find; but that's always been one of its charms. Before they remodelled and added valet parking, you had to drive up an obscure alley to get to the back and park. Driving past it you'd hardly guess what was inside; one of the best restaurants anywhere. I've seen artists and movie stars there. And the prices are affordable (around $10-$15 for dinner entrees).

Heather W. mentioned that that was so L.A. in that it is a hidden treasure. L.A. is so vast and sparse that the cool things don't find you; you have to search for them. But you can find them if you look hard enough. You have to be persistent.

David sends me this compelling article written by a rape victim who identified a man out of a lineup whom she had been absolutely convinced was her attacker. The man served 11 years in prison. But, finally, DNA tests proved that he was innocent; another man had been her rapist. She was horrified. She realizes now that eyewitness testimony can be terribly inaccurate --- even when she had seen her attacker for a long time. Though she had been absolutely sure, she was wrong. She asks the question: what if it had been a capital case?

June 14, 2000

Farai Chideya sends me a link to the newly revamped/revived version of her site, Pop and Politics. In her announcement email, she describes the idea behind the site this way: "Pop culture is not (always) vacuous. And you never know what youre going to find when you surf the net--like a report that THC--the active ingredient in pot--might cure brain cancer. Check it out... In the past couple weeks Ive been on a magazine assignment to interview Gore, Nader, and Go-Pat-Go Buchanan---expect tidbits from my time with them in the future, and perhaps GW Bush, too. Until then, keep checking in."

Courtney Love makes some interesting points in her Salon cover story on Napster and the record companies. Record companies structure their deals so they can make millions of dollars on recording artists while typically paying them literally nothing in royalties. For her, that's the real piracy. She proposes that artists circumvent the recording companies and go directly to the fans. She herself has cancelled her recording contract with a major label in favor of independent distribution.

I've thought about this sort of thing for a while. Of course, one problem (which she also points out in her article) is that despite all the talk about MP3's giving people access to unknown artists, MP3 swappers for the most part are primarily interested in mainstream record-company-promoted musicians. Which is to say that although we now have the technology to break the stranglehold of the record companies on popular culture, they still have control over the major media outlets, the radio stations, and other broadcast media.

But, as Douglas Adams points out in his amusing article about the Internet (referenced in my entry last month), "For most of mankinds history we have lived in very small communities in which we knew everybody and everybody knew us. But gradually there grew to be far too many of us, and our communities became too large and disparate for us to be able to feel a part of them, and our technologies were unequal to the task of drawing us together. But that is changing." Just as the weblog community is changing the way some of us explore the Internet, networks of critics who spend their time finding and reviewing music could create an alternative means for people to discover new music. Not only new music, of course, but culture in general. Perhaps those of us writing weblogs ought to spend some time randomly searching through the vast array of undiscovered artists on and elsewhere, looking for good stuff. Of course, the price is having to listen to a lot of crap.

June 10, 2000

Jouke has moved the action from the index page of NQPAOFU to his new experimental "portal,"

Via Peterme: a well-written new weblog,, with a focus on art and design.

According to Tolstoy's famous opening of Anna Karenina, "All happy families are alike, but an unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion." I like the novel but I've never agreed with that opening line. I think it is just the opposite: unhappiness tends to come in just a few stereotypical flavors, whereas happiness is incredibly delicate, requiring constant adaptation in novel ways to ever-changing circumstances. What works in one situation may well turn out to be the worst strategy in the next. Furthermore, there is the vast, never-ending exploration of possibility inherent in health, in the infinities opened up when one starts to operate in ways which burn up less energy via friction. I think happiness is not so much a state but rather more of a responsive openness to the world as it changes; for that very reason it has this quality of the new, the beginning, the unexpected. Shunryu Suzuki (that link from ArtSEENsoHo) was once asked if he could summarize his Zen teaching in one sentence, what would it be? Without hesitation, he answered: "Everything changes."

June 9, 2000

Lopati sends me the following interesting link originally from Kottke: Scott Snibbe's Dynamic Systems Series, a collection of interactive pieces using mouse input that model dynamic systems behavior. She particularly likes gravilux.

June 4, 2000

What is it about walking in natural surroundings that is so satisfying? Perhaps we simply evolved to appreciate the fractal geometry that we see in mountains, trees, canyons, even the landscape of a desert; but there seems to be something more than that, a certain sort of energy that seems to come from the environment itself. Or, perhaps it is simply the absence of the signs of our highly mediated existence: rectangular shapes, straight lines, neon colors. There is beauty in cities, and I love to live in mine, but still it is often worth returning to the environment which is closer to that which we evolved in for most of our existence.

Went to Bend this past weekend to experience the desert of Eastern Oregon. Most people probably think of Oregon as wet, verdant, forested, but that's only the western third of the state; in the east there are dry mountains and desert, feeling very much like the Southwest where we spent much of our childhoods. It was kind of eerie to come across a place so different in climate and ecology just a few hours' drive from Portland. Although I love the climate in Portland, there is something deeply satisfying about visiting a place that reminds you of your childhood. Susan likes the vast flatness of the desert (and the ocean), because you can see very far.

We climbed into a cave which was once a lava tube, we walked through a field of obsidian left over from an eruption from an ash cone that blasted thousands of acres, 6,000 years ago, we viewed the breathtaking northern Cascades from the top of Lava Butte, we walked for miles down the Deschutes River, we went to see the lakes at the top of the Newberry shield volcano, and we stumbled across the 500-year old ponderosa pine in La Pine State Park, the largest ponderosa pine in Oregon. For some reason I always find myself curiously in awe of giant old trees.

June 1, 2000

Cybering, Heather's zine about online sociology, has started to get pretty interesting of late. She's decided to format a lot of the writing like a weblog; most of the entries have been written by her, but she is looking for collaborators to add to the mix, either to submit articles or just brief blogstyle entries or thoughts in the subject of meta-online.

Stumbled across Esoteric while mining my referrer logs, a relatively new blog with some thoughtful (though sometimes broken) links and annotations.

Also found Lopati. She posted an excerpt from an email interview by some Harvard literary journal students with Dave Eggers. The following is from one of his responses:

When I got your questions, I was provoked. You expressed many of the feelings I used to have, when I was in high school and college, about some of the people I admired at the time, people who at some point disappointed me in some way, or made moves I could not understand. So I took a few passages from your questions--those pertaining to or hinting at "selling out"--and I used them as a launching pad for a rant I've wanted to write a while now, and more so than ever since my own book has become successful.....

You actually asked me the question: "Are you taking steps to keep shit real?" I want you to always look back on this time as being a time when those words came out of your mouth.

Now, there was a time when such a question--albeit probably without the colloquial spin--would have originated from my own brain. Since I was thirteen, sitting in my orange-carpeted bedroom in ostensibly cutting-edge Lake Forest, Illinois, subscribing to the Village Voice and reading the earliest issues of Spin, I thought I had my ear to the railroad tracks of avant garde America. (Laurie Anderson, for example, had grown up only miles away!) I was always monitoring, with the most sensitive and well-calibrated apparatus, the degree of selloutitude exemplified by any given artist--musical, visual, theatrical, whatever. I was vigilant and merciless and knew it was my job to be so.

......Do I care about the money? I do. Will I keep this money? Very little of it. Within the year I will have given away almost a million dollars to about 100 charities and individuals, benefiting everything from hospice care to an artist who makes sculptures from Burger King bags. And the rest will be going into publishing books through McSweeney's. Would I have been able to publish McSweeney's if I had not worked at Esquire? Probably not. Where is the $6000 from Forbes going? To a guy named Joe Polevy, who wants to write a book about the effects of radiator noise on children in New England.

Now, what if I were keeping all the money? What if I were buying property in St. Kitt's or blew it all on live-in prostitutes? What if, for example, I was, a few nights ago, sitting at a table in SoHo with a bunch of Hollywood slash celebrity acquaintances, one of whom I went to high school with, and one of whom was Puff Daddy? Would that make me a sellout? Would that mean I was a force of evil?

.....What matters is that you do good work. What matters is that you produce things that are true and will stand......Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them. It is a fuckload of work to be open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting, but Christ, that is what matters. What matters is saying yes.

I say yes, and Wayne Coyne says yes, and if that makes us the enemy, then good, good, good. We are evil people because we want to live and do things. We are on the wrong side because we should be home, calculating which move would be the least damaging to our downtown reputations. But I say yes because I am curious. I want to see things. I say yes when my high school friend tells me to come out because he's hanging with Puffy. A real story, that....

And if anyone wants to hurt me for that, or dismiss me for that, for saying yes, I say Oh do it, do it you motherfuckers, finally, finally, finally.