« In Which I Am Reduced To Blind Sputtering Fury | Main | How To Help »

January 19, 2008

Comments

Lee Seigel would be wise to remember that some of us are stuck in places where face-to-face communication with Americans from differing cultural and political enclaves may be difficult, like Iraq. Long live the blogosphere!

"....NYT review of Lee Seigel's new book...."

"For that, and for the friendships in which Lee Seigel ...."

Er, that's "Siegel."

"I know this because whenever I go out searching for links, I always find that Gary has been there first, leaving tactful comments about the correct spelling of Andy's name."

As Hilzoy knows, writing "Olmsted. Not 'Olmstead,'," on many blogs earned me one person's response of "Asshole. You're an asshole."

While one might take offense, after an initial period of puzzlement, I actually took a degree of comfort from it, taking it as evidence that there's no phrasing of something that someone won't take offense at, and as reason for inexplicable hostility, and that it is not, in fact, always my fault.

It should be said that Maslin's review is horrifyingly bad. She almost completely buy's into Siegel's "insights." ("The price of such diversions is, in Mr. Siegel’s succinct appraisal, devastating.")

Devastatingly stupid, both Siegel, and Maslin's adoption of his premises.

(What does the following even mean? "Better the old press than the new tyranny of bloggers. Their self-interest, he says, makes them more mainstream than any standard news source could possibly be." Anyone?)

Gary: eep! Fixed.

Most of the people around him were probably reading or studying the notes they'd taken on a laptop. Minus the internet, it's unlikely they'd be doing anything more 'social'.

I'm sure there are people who use the internet to clam up and retreat into their own self-contained world, but there are awfully few of them, and I really doubt they bother to go out to Starbucks. Internet socialization is mostly complimentary or supplemental to "real" interaction, something a lot of the web-phobic fail to notice...

"As Hilzoy knows, writing 'Olmsted. Not 'Olmstead,',' on many blogs earned me one person's response of 'Asshole. You're an asshole.'"

Correction: checking my e-mail files, I see that the exact quote is: "You're an asshole. Asshole."

We regret the error. The writer responsible has been sacked, as has the fact-checker and the head of the fact-checking department.

My entire comment was: "Olmsted. Not 'Olmstead.'"

It occurs to me that there's no reason I should politely decline to mention who I'm talking about, so I'll note that it was someone who signs their email as "C. B.," with the email handle of "rightwingprof@[service].com," at this post of this blog.

My correction didn't make it through the moderation, if that's the appropriate term.

Probably because I hate America and don't support the troops. But I really couldn't say.

"An armed society is a polite society."

Robert Heinlein's argument, made across several novels, was that people are always polite when there are lots of guns around. The full quote is: "An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life."

The corollary of Heinlein's argument, which Heinlein never examined, is that if manners are only good when a person knows he may be killed for being impolite, there is no reason to be polite to someone who cannot (or will not) kill you for being rude.

Siegel reminds me of a guy who had a career as a telegraph operator, trying to come to grips with this new invention called a “telephone”.

Oh, and Mr. Siegel? I don’t do Starbucks. I like Maxwell House just fine and it costs about .10 a cup.

Siegel reminds me of a older guy who was standing in line for Windows when they did the big launch, and a reporter asked him what kind of computer he had, and the guy said 'you need a computer?'

I am started by what a strong reaction this inspires in me.

For me one of the striking aspects of Internet as a communication medium has always been the omnipresent urge people have to create communities and as rich a conversation as the technology permits.

I play on-line games (sorry) in which the membership is overwhelmingly male and teen-aged. Even in the restricted communication available when your avatar is helping others to defeat the ogre etc I have actually made friends and experienced kindness and common ground.

If someone made a technology that allowed you to change the colour of your hat by flexing your eyebrows then a significant part of the population would be using it to exchange greetings and some people would never put one on.

I have no experience of Mr Siegel (being on a different continent and all) but I have sat in a bar full of people with laptops. I was reading a book and my beloved wife was sitting next to me reading too. We did not say a word, but we were most decidedly glad of each other's presence. We were together. Did we have more or less connection than the people chatting and mailing around us? I do not presume to judge. But we were happy to be together.

I actually courted her originally, after a first encounter by using the MSG command on a mainframe we both accessed and copious emails.

Being with people is a subtle thing. They can stand next to you, laughing at your jokes and still be utter strangers and you can read something written a hundred years ago, or last week and have a brief, luminous intimacy with someone you have never actually met.

It is what you make of it, what you put in that defines the communication. Not the medium. To use my absolute favourite concise American phrase: what goes around, comes around.

I'm going to second the comment about wishing my sputtering fury would come out with such eloquence. I've been a nearly every day visitor for a a several years but since there is almost always some commenter who makes the point I would make, but with far better coherence and style, I seldom post. About the only time I post is when I react so strongly to a post or comment that I feel the need to say something NOW. Which leads to errors due to my sad excuse for a memory and not taking time for proper fact checking. Which in turns leads to gentle, or not so gentle chiding from Gary.

Be that as it may, I'm here, lurking in your intertubes, and enjoying this community very much.

At Perkin's all the guys were reading newspapers. I guess that is more social. Didnt read the book so maybe you could post for us a list of places he goes to eat or get coffee where everyone walks in engages in meaningful social interaction with everyone else.

Steve

Jes - nice to see you back. Undoubtedly the model for politeness would be the tea-table society of Afghanistan.

I have to pretend someone besides Siegel is making his point in order to take it seriously, as he's a truly atrocious individual--grandly, comically so--but okay, let's talk about this retreat inwards.

Before the net exploded it was the cell phone that threatened to rend our society asunder. Before that, the Walkman. Now, I like a technology-free stroll around the block as much as anyone (and I hate being forced to overhear half of a conversation between vapid 20somethings more than most), but I just can't abide these people who complain about others' self-isolation. They honestly think that ear buds are the only thing standing in the way of some great coming-together of the populace, as though we'd be striking up conversations with strangers on lines and in transit but for the advent of the podcast. As though we'd want to. As though said strangers would welcome this development.

Being social animals doesn't require constant socializing. And back to Siegel--why is it that those who lament the loss of community are always the people you'd least like to commune with?

I don't know how Siegel de3fines "community". I know that I belong to several different communities. My church is a community, as is my workplace, as is my neighborhood, as is the internet. In fact, I would have to say that I belong to or have belionged to several communities on the internet.

Each of those communities serves a different purpose for me and others. In some, the purpose is positive reinforcement of my beliefs and opinions. In others, it is sharing my talents with people of similar talents and skills. In some, it is a form of personal interaction, frequently superficial.

ObWi is a form of community which provides me with the opportunity to share and learn. Although many have called this a left-leaning blog, it is nonetheless, one of the few that welcomes (for the most part) a wide variety of opinions.

There are many here who I feel that, if I was in their neighborhood, or any of them were in mine, we not only could, but would enjoy the opportunity to sit down, have a drink, and talk about things that go beyond the normal talk here.

In a world in which many people had already started "isolating" themselves long before the internet came on the scene, the internet has actually provided many with a way out of that isolation.

BTW, I thought the answer to the question posed at the beginning of the post was Karl Rove.

IN the Netherlands they did a study about the social skills of the members of hyves and found that people who have active on-line presence usually have a better and more expanded "real" social life too. It adds, it doesn't take away. I have many friends I met via the intertubes, and regularly do social things with them too.

Danah Boyd has an interesting blog about social networks and their place in society, and also compiled a list of studies.

What siegel saw was a crowd *interacting* instead of reading the newspaper. But because he obviously doesn't understand the activity well enough he misinterprets.

“that social space has been contracted into isolated points of wanting, all locked into separate phases of inwardness.”

It's precisely this sort of asinine, trivially facile pseudo-intellectual mental wankery that makes me shudder whenever I hear the phrase "cultural critic".

it was someone who signs their email as "C. B.," with the email handle of "rightwingprof@[service].com,"

Given that his blog proudly trumpets, "An armed society is a polite society," I suppose you should have shot him . . .

You will note that he is still proudly misspelling the name as "Olmstead." In other words, he'd rather be wrong than politely corrected.

...Well, to throw my ten cents into the tip jar, this sounds like a pretty standard attack on the way things are, juxtaposed with a fantasy about how pre-internet, coffee-shops were places of instant communication and great friendship with strangers, where Plato's Symposium and Aristotle'a Politics get a three hour revival together. I have to admit that I don't remember them that way, anymore than I would expect the same phenomenon in a bar on Saturday night.
...On the subject of how the modern age is always worse than yesterday or the century before, I once read a (translated) Babylonian tablet which lamented how everything had gone to the dogs and everything had been better in the good old days. That was what, the better part of four millenia ago? Was the scribe lamenting the discovery of the chariot and sorrowing over the fact that people no longer walked places - and so missed out on those great conversations one has while crippling along the highway with sore feet and the start of a cold? (Disclaimer: the above remark is a joke, so please, no learned explanation of the fact that the chariot was invented in Punksutawny a thousand years before my poor Babylonian took writing-stick in hand, please, I beseech you!)
...This sort of complaint strikes me as being typical of a certain type of conservative mindset that is so taken by tradition that it never bothers to examine how good the modern day can actually be, resulting in a missed opportunity and a gratuitous lament.
...I've done my share of work in the Classics departments of our day, and there is always someone who wants to go back to Rome or Greece and live there. Aside from the fact that we have great medicine and warmer houses, my personal, shallow reason for happily living now is that I can see many of the world's great art works, very accurately and well-produced, in fairly inexpensive books. Had I lived in say the 14th century, my chances of knowing anything about them would have been exceptionally low. Of course, it helps not to freeze to death while dying of consumption.

I'm thinking of what it might have been like, had Norman Podhoretz been in one of those Starbucks Siegel went to, and had Siegel struck up a conversation with Pod, instead of just languishing dumbly at his table.

Uhmmm. Opportunity missed.

borehole: "They honestly think that ear buds are the only thing standing in the way of some great coming-together of the populace, as though we'd be striking up conversations with strangers on lines and in transit but for the advent of the podcast. As though we'd want to. As though said strangers would welcome this development."

I think this leads to an important point that I cleverly didn't think of when writing my post, namely:

I used to travel a lot, before the internet, and whenever I was in a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern country, I would marvel at the ease with which people struck up conversations on busses, street corners, wherever. I thought: this is a wonderful thing; I wish it happened more in the US.

But, of course, it doesn't, not nearly as much, and it seemed to me to be one of those self-reinforcing things. If I start chatting with someone at a bus stop in Crete, it's normal. If I do the same thing in Boston, I will probably strike my interlocutor as at the very least socially deprived, and possibly insane -- just because so few people do that normally.

Random conversations happen much less here than they do in some other countries I've been to: you need to be part of some group -- where group' is pretty loosely defined; it includes, say, regulars at a bar -- where people can watch you a bit and figure out how to take what you say, or at the very least determine that you are not, in fact, crazy.

The internet provides precisely that sort of space, I think; and it gives people a lot of freedom to be as anonymous as they want until they feel comfortable.

Baskaborr: ... there is almost always some commenter who makes the point I would make, but with far better coherence and style ...

Now there is a sentiment I share utterly.

I seem to recall a quote from somewhere, but I can't easily find it on the Intertubes, about how the invention of the bow and arrow would cause the collapse of civilization. I imagine this was also said of other inventions as well. [Just to prove the point, nickzi has already expressed this idea better than I.]

Even if we evolve much faster than previously thought possible, it's a little too soon for the Internet to have had much effect on our genome. So, whatever one may think of how society has changed due to this invention, it can only be due to a previously existing facet of human nature. Of course, Lysenkoists and other believers may disagree.

I couldn't actually read Siegal's piece all the way through, the smell of manure was so overwhelming.

that social space has been contracted into isolated points of wanting, all locked into separate phases of inwardness.

I can't read him carefully enough to figure out if he's just so blithe and ignorant that he truly doesn't realize that all those people, far from being isolated, were actually busy *communicating* -- possibly in 8 IM windows at once, which is why they can't take a break to look around at the coffee.

Does he not know? Or is the real problem that they're paying attention to someone besides Lee Siegel?

Barnabas expresses it beautifully: "you can read something written a hundred years ago, or last week and have a brief, luminous intimacy with someone you have never actually met." The Internet is a continuation of my lifelong reading experience.

The Internet has transformed my life. I met my English husband on a Jane Austen mailing list 12 years ago; we married 6 years after our initial email. An incredibly supportive online community guided us through all the idiotic obstacles of US Immigration and Naturalization from the first fiance visa application in 2001 to US citizenship in 2007. These communities have replaced immigration lawyers for many of us.

A splendid post, and with comments to match.

I must say, though, that you are altogether too casual about the threat of those female grade school teachers. Especially the one with the education degree from Swarthmore, which, as has been amply pointed out, doesn't give them. She must be a supernatural being from a parallel unverse (an unpleasant one, I'd say) or else a fraud. Either, but especially the latter, would be real danger to one's children's education.

In a comment thread at Edrsoso's
http://alicublog.blogspot.com/2008_01_13_archive.html#2775831403349911859
John Emerson has given us a grimly realistic view of what we're in for:

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a daycare worker giving a toddler a sugarless bran muffin -- forever.


that social space has been contracted into isolated points of wanting, all locked into separate phases of inwardness.

Where has he been? It's been going that since the rise of the suburbs and the classic 1950s nuclear family. THe drive for suburban living and the impulse for 48-hour work week minimum has done far more to do this than anything the internet has done; if anything, the social impulses on the internet has combated this to a very great extent.

Edroso, dammit!

While we're up: Nickzi does a good job on the Good Old Days when "...pre-internet, coffee-shops were places of instant communication and great friendship with strangers, where Plato's Symposium and Aristotle'a Politics get a three hour revival together." No, I don't remember them either.

But without them we'd never have had "Sure Thing", the playlet from David Ives's "All in the Timing" in which each misstep in a pick-up conversation sounds an alarm and backspaces the tape to where the problem can be recovered.

"Where was college?" "I went to Oral Roberts University." DING. "Where was college?" "I was lying. I never really went to college. I just like to party." DING. "Where was college?" DING. "Harvard."

How do you do that on laptops?

It occurs to me that at this moment in two remote Starbuckses, two souls are IM'ing, and when things start to get off course, one types DING and the conversation picks up from a little way back.

No, I guess not.

One question, though, if Nickzi hangs out with classicists, or anyone else here does: I have seen a fine rant about how these modern youths are dullards, and rudely don't stand when their elders come into the room, and so on; and it was attributed to Socrates. Does anyone have the citation for that? One needs it so often.

Yes....the Singularity is near.

How dare you put Lee Siegel down like that! Lee Siegel is a brilliant man, and _Against the Machine_ is a brilliant book!

"One question, though, if Nickzi hangs out with classicists, or anyone else here does: I have seen a fine rant about how these modern youths are dullards, and rudely don't stand when their elders come into the room, and so on; and it was attributed to Socrates. Does anyone have the citation for that? One needs it so often."

You're going to fail your Memorization Of Gary's blog's sidebar quotes test, at this rate. That's worth 10% of your final grade.

Note also the Gibbon quote on "the present times."

Okay, attributed to Socrates is:

"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority. They show disrespect for elders and they love to chatter instead of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize their teachers."
Some versions add that children now cross their legs.

But seriously...

CulturalCritics = Sociologists - Evidence;

Hilzoy, I wasn't thinking about it in those terms, but you're right, although it might not be the entire continental US that works that way. I've got rustic roots and I remember things being a lot like you describe them overseas. This is out in the sticks, mind you; I've found the suburbs are even more dome-of-silencey than the city.

Maybe that's why I got the hell out of there as soon as I could, that darned sense of community. I'm probably coming off like a misanthrope, but I'm not--I'm just someone whose interactions benefit enormously from a lack of spontaneity.

Oh, and I'd like to second, third, fourth, and fifth Xeynon's 10:03 comment. They don't necessarily have something to say, but they have to say something.

...The quote attributed to Socrates is almost certainly a half-reminiscence of a passage in Aristophanes' Clouds, paraphrased for a suitable occasion, although it may also have some basis in Plato, Republic IV. Anyone claiming that Socrates "wrote" this passage (as is occasionally the case) is ignorant of the fact that Socrates famously left NO writings. Anything "Socratic" generally derives from either Plato or Xenophon, with miscellaneous quotes and claims from the fragmentary remains of other philosophers.
...The quote has apparently been drifting around the English-speaking world for about 30-40 years, I believe, and is as badly sourced as the famous "Chinese curse" "May you live in interesting times". The latter phrase has been a mild obsession of mine for around ten years, but no Chinese person I have asked has ever heard anything similar in Chinese. I would suggest that our Socratic friend can also be safely regarded as another urban legend, and is originally from the failing memory banks of a disgruntled conservative of some sort.

I seem to recall Jonathan Spence taking up "may you live in interesting times" in one of his books on modern Chinese history, but I don't find it in the index of any of his books on my shelf, so this could be hallucination. Whoever it was who wrote the discussion I'm thinking of made a circumstantial but well-grounded case that it was a late 19th century invention and in fact originally circulated as a Japanese saying, part of that era's fascination with Japanese art and all, and shifted over to China at around the turn of the century or a bit later.

But I'd love to have a citation to go with those assertions, and am not asking anyone to take it on faith. I too am lost in my inwardness. No, wait, that's the hallway, and the light's burned out. Better fix that before I sleep.

"...The quote has apparently been drifting around the English-speaking world for about 30-40 years, I believe, and is as badly sourced as the famous 'Chinese curse' 'May you live in interesting times'."

That's not badly sourced; it's well known to be fictional. There's Eric">http://hawk.fab2.albany.edu/sidebar/sidebar.htm">Eric Frank Russell. Russell may have picked it up from someone else, but he certainly was no China expert, and there's no reason at all to think the saying has any more connection to China than "myob" is an old Chinese saying.

As for Socrates, I didn't say "attributed to" by accident.

Gary, I was being polite, perhaps over-polite when I said "badly sourced" of the Chinese curse. There is a bit more background for the alleged Socrates quote, which does have a tenuous basis in Greek teexts. In either case, I am not impugning your acumen or knowledge.

"In either case, I am not impugning your acumen or knowledge."

I wasn't trying to imply that you were; I was merely trying to clarify.

One of the nicest things about communities like this, is that it can remind you of things you were interested in, but set aside because you were boring the piss out of everyone around you. I have been taken by the fake Chinese proverb thing as well, and going to the Wikipedia link for it, there is some interesting information, and a link to an actual Chinese proverb (with pinyin, yay!). What strikes me is the relationship between that proverb and what Achilles says to Odysseus when the latter goes to Hell.

Don't try to comfort me about my death,
glorious Odysseus. I'd rather live
working as a wage-labourer for hire
by some other man, one who had no land
and not much in the way of livelihood,
than lord it over all the wasted dead.

link

The notion of those damn kids, I remember a great quote by Eisenhower puncturing that notion, but I'm out the door for the Center Shiken, so apologies for not being able to dig it up right now.

Presuming that ranting is often an incoherent statement of a real (in the sense of emotionally real) concern. Surely what is going on with Mr Siegel is grieving for the vanishing of the large predictable social groupings and their replacement with smaller, more transient social constructs: the "bowling alone" meme

"Surely what is going on with Mr Siegel is grieving for the vanishing of the large predictable social groupings and their replacement with smaller, more transient social constructs: the 'bowling alone' meme"

I'm a fan of Ockham's, so until given reason to lean otherwise, I'll go with the simpler theory that it's still always what it's about with Lee Siegel: he's grieving for the fact that other people are getting attention, which means they're not giving it to him, him, him!

Gary: there's always the even simpler theory: Lee Siegel would not himself be paying attention to anyone else, or having genuine interaction, or being part of a community; it never crosses his mind that other people might be.

The working title for this post was: Projection: Not Just A River In Egypt. But I decided I wanted it to be less about what was wrong with LS, and more about what's right with everyone else.

I thought this http://www.xkcd.com/358/>xkcd comic might be appropriate. Who in the comic is enjoying a sense of community more?

Gary: there's always the even simpler theory: Lee Siegel would not himself be paying attention to anyone else, or having genuine interaction, or being part of a community; it never crosses his mind that other people might be.

I personally favor the theory that he's entering the cantankerous old curmudgeon phase of his career. This "coffee shops used to be COFFEE SHOPS" thing is the cultural criticism equivalent of an 80 year old sportswriter saying "in my day, ballplayers were BALLPLAYERS". Or an old school white male English classics professor (increasing an endangered species these days, but the President of my university while I was there was one) extolling the days of the Spartans, when men were MEN.

As a young person (albeit not one that spends a lot of time hanging out at Starbucks drinking lattes and IMing) I think he's out of touch. In my experience, new technologies haven't supplanted old realities, they've supplemented and enhanced them. The internet has enabled me to build literally a worldwide network of friendships, and many of these people, yes, I've actually gone on to meet in real life, and even, you know, talk to in old-fashioned coffee shops. Coffee shops in Tokyo. Coffee shops in Prague. Coffee shops in San Francisco and Beijing and Madrid. In other words, coffee shops I would have never known existed in the old days. Even for some of us young, desensitized techno-zombies, actual human contact does beat pecking away at a keyboard while bopping out to our iPods, at least sometimes. I'm sure when I get older, I'll be sitting around complaining about how these young whippersnappers these days don't have it as good as they think they do, what with their cranial implant smellovisions distancing them from the rest of humanity and all, but it won't be any more accurate a reflection of most peoples' experiences when I say it then than it is when Siegel does now.

As for Socrates, while he may not have said what's been attributed to him here, there's plenty of other historical quotations indicating that the old have always been prone to view the young as impudent, foolish, corrupt, ill-mannered, ungovernable, and disrespectful of their elders. I believe that there are Babylonian cuneiform tablets expressing such sentiments (i.e. they're as old as writing itself, at least). Certainly they abound in the classics, if not in the thought of Socrates. Just read King Lear to see that they were still going strong in Shakespeare's time.

I'll acknowledge that some criticisms of my generation I hear from my parents are correct - we can be a narcissistic and foolish lot. But that might just be because we haven't lived long enough to attain the wisdom not to be. And it certainly doesn't mean that new technology is what's to blame.

"I'll acknowledge that some criticisms of my generation I hear from my parents are correct - we can be a narcissistic and foolish lot."

But that's not true of any specific generation: it's a truth about every new generation.

(Some generations go through broad experiences that do a better job of knocking some of that out later than other generations get to go through -- the post-WWI generation in Europe, for instance -- arguably the generation that came of age during the Great Depression -- but that's proably the only significant difference between generations.)

Anyway, regardless of all the other factors that make Lee Siegel stupid about the interwebs, and its users, Hilzoy's 07:55 PM is 100% correct, I have no doubt.

Ooh, too hasty. "Some generations go through broad experiences that do a better job of knocking some of that out later than other generations get to go through...."

Let's try that again: "Some generations later go through broad experiences that do a better job of knocking some of that narcissism and foolishness out of them than other generations get to go through...."

Hilzoy, thank you, thank you, thank you for your passionate defense of the internet community. I've never posted enough anywhere to get involved in the "dialog" aspect (lurked, rather), but it is sweet to put something up and come back later to see something like "GR has some good points...." And the ability of email to allow me to keep in touch with friends scattered all over the globe has been just phenomenal.

(Hmm...I wonder if after Alexander Bell invented the telephone there was similar ranting about how this "new-fangled technology" was going to break down the family?)

"(Hmm...I wonder if after Alexander Bell invented the telephone there was similar ranting about how this
'new-fangled technology' was going to break down the family?)"

Absolutely. It was a vile intrusion into the home from the outside world of commerce and busybodies. It was leading to the decline and elimination of letter-writing, and literacy, and family bonds kept up by correspondence, with only grunts and hasty conversations, with neither side listening to the other a poor substitute.

And so on and so forth.

Here's Mark Twain on the telephone.

Lunch break for me.

I think the ur-source for the notion that before was better is Hesiod's Works and Days. Though I feel certain that a pre-historic man or three probably voiced a similar thought.

From a review of America Calling: A Social History of the Telephone to 1940:

The new technology is touted as a highway to the world and a vast web permitting hitherto-unimaginable interaction. Its proponents promise a revolution in human cooperation. Its detractors predict the breakdown of face-to-face relationships, and seek legislation to curtail the spread of abuse and filth over the medium.

This was the state of the telephone, 1880-1910.

[...]

AT&T tried at first to suppress "hello" as a vulgarity. It failed decisively, so much so that it later endorsed the nickname, hello-girls, for its operators.

Early telephone men often fought their residential customers over social conversations, labeling such calls as frivolous and unnecessary. For example, a company announcement from 1881 complained, "The fact that subscribers have been free to use the wires as they pleased without incurring additional expense [i.e., by using flat rates] has led to the transmission of large numbers of communications of the most trivial character." . . . One tactic, noted in the earlier discussion of telephone etiquette, was to place time limits on calls. This was often an explicit effort to stop people who insisted on chatting when there was "business" to be conducted. Instructions on party-line etiquette in a 1900 Canadian directory read, "It is, of course, well understood that business conversations cannot be limited as to time, but `visiting' can beneficially be confined to a reasonably short duration of time."

Plenty of parallels.

"Though I feel certain that a pre-historic man or three probably voiced a similar thought."

Things were so much better before that monolith showed up, if you ask me.

Sure, there's plenty of meat now, but all the killing, and fighting other tribes turns my stomach. The kids these days are so bloodthirsty! It's all club this and club that. Clubs are their answer for everything!

And that fire! Do you know what happens when you put your hand in it? Have you tried that?

And people want to keep it around all night?!?

It's all madness, I tell you! Madness!

And I'm sure the Moon god doesn't approve. People are even changing the rituals! Blasphemy!

It makes me sorry to have lived to be four hands of suns old.

We never should have left the oceans.

No, I don't really believe that. But it's a good line.

I seem to recall a socilogical study of "the good old days" belief that concluded that TGOD was, throughout recorded commentary on the subject always approximately 25 years before the time of writing. I have no cite, perhaps someone better informed than me can find it. They suggested that TGOD is of course the comfortable, protected world of childhood and the relatievely anodyne/positive image of the world that is presented to children.

Of course, as an active member of the international conspiracy of lying to children about Father Christmas it seems plausible to me.

I think one of the last things I attempted to compose for OW was a sort of retrospective of computer technology as we know it, as remembered by YT.

But then I realized it was just another Grampa Simpson rant, and let it go. When I deleted my OW login, it went bye-bye. No great loss, I suppose.

Possibly the only drawback I see to computers being at their current state of awesomeness is that there's a temptation to do before thinking that's possibly more conveniently indulged. But I work in an industry where computer analysis used to be slow and expensive, and if you made a mistake it might eat up man-months of budget. It forced us to consider carefully, before doing.

A related drawback is that there's a temptation to value understanding of how a computer model will behave over understanding of the model, itself.

Other than these things, computers are all aces.

Parting Grampa Simpson comment: when I was a kid, "cut and paste" meant cut and paste.

My first computer was a TRS80...

My first computer was a 8080 expansion board that I programmed using a hex keypad. No display, no keyboard, no HD.

But that probably doesn't fit any general definition of "computer". I always had such easy access to better machines than I could possibly hope to own, that it took me another decade to actually buy one.

My first computer was a Mac Plus. The first computer I ever used, otoh, was at the Princeton Computer Center.

One thing I really miss, in all seriousness, about early computers: that wide green and white paper. I would print out drafts of my senior thesis, and work on them, and I could write whole new paragraphs in the margins, because the margins were about 8" wide.

I loved that.

Ah, for the good old days, when we used Script (360), ".pa" meant paragraph, and we had to wait for the TN train to be mounted to print upper/lower case.

Not.

My first computer was a BBC Micro.

In the case of Lee Siegel in particular, it's worth keeping in mind that he's harrumphing against the medium and network of communities that exposed his repeated efforts at fraud and deception. It's not just about the aging egoist, it's more like the safecracker complaining about cops with faster response times. Siegel is a cheater, and has never taken any real responsibility for it, and "why I should still be able to get away with it" is a subtext in everything he writes. (In this he's soulmates with Henry Kissinger, which is a thought for an editorial cartoon....)

For me, a computer has always been first and foremost a word processor in one way or another, and I remember the Fujitsu Oasys that I got after 3 years in Japan, and using it almost everyday. I sent it back to the states and started grad school, and took a 'been there, done that' attitude to Japan. And, when I was getting ready to go back, I found it in the box I had sent it back in, and had no problems remembering how to turn it on and navigate the menu, but when it displayed the document that I had last worked on, I realized I couldn't figure out what it said, even though I distinctly remembered writing it. How's that for a Grandpa Simpson moment?

Well, that was discombobulating. The regular $25/month subscription payment/donation to my blog from Andrew Olmsted just showed up in my PayPal account a little while ago.

(I figure this comes under "community.")

Disconcerting.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad