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Tuesday, April 30, 2002

NY Times Book Review on Blogging

The back page of the NY Times Book Review for May 5 is an article by Judith Shulevitz on blogging. I haven't read it. All I know is that it makes a passing reference to Small Pieces as a "smart book," so I am confident that it is the finest analysis of blogging ever published.
4/30/2002 11:06:19 AM | PermaLink

Making Fun of POMO

Chris Chanson writes:

Chip Morningstar wrote a great piece about literary criticism in the early 1990s called "How to Deconstruct Almost Anything" after his experience at the Second International Conference on Cyberspace in 1991.

It's at http://www.fudco.com/chip/deconstr.html...

This is an amusing personal sociology of Post-Modern criticism.

Ah, let's deconstruct that sentence! "Amusing" is a gutless word, commitment-free. That's because I have mixed feelings about the article. First, it is genuinely amusing in the sense of being humorous and interesting. But it focuses its fury on the excesses of POMOism, an easy target. And yet, Chip also genuinely struggles with it, trying to find what's of value and where it goes off the rails. His explanation of why academics have developed a remarkably hermetic vocabulary strikes me as right. And he writes:

The Pseudo Politically Correct term that I would use to describe the mind set of postmodernism is "epistemologically challenged": a constitutional inability to adopt a reasonable way to tell the good stuff from the bad stuff.

This is exactly right, but it — I hesitate to say it — needs to be deconstructed. POMO at its best challenges the comfortable notion of "reasonable." Buried in that term is an appeal to a privileged standpoint that is usually deeply conservative: facts, rationality or common sense.

Believe me, I am deeply sympathetic to Chip's reaction to POMO. His description of what it's like to swim among these fish mirrors my own experiences. But an appeal to the "reasonable" ignores what's most important about POMO analysis. POMO tells us that all understanding is interpretive, that other interpretations are possible, and that our interpretation seems right not because it is right but because it's our interpretation.

It seems like we have two choices: we fall into an indecisive relativism that says that all views are equally valid or we sprain our brains trying to see how there could be a way to tell the good stuff from the bad stuff. To say that there's a "reasonable way" to do so seems to me to miss the point because it assumes the very thing that we should be stubbing our toes trying to think through.

On the other foot (er, hand), I personally think it's a mistake to assume that we have to choose among fundamental interpretations. We don't get to fly above all interpretations, including our own, picking and choosing among them. We are our stance in the world, a stance given to us by history, culture, language and accident. So, the lesson I take from POMO is that absolutism is a mistake, that humility is warranted, and that we always have to decide among uncertain choices that are themselves delivered by the accident of history.

So, how do we decide whether the post-feminist-meta-Marx-pre-Freudian interpretation of the Book of Job is worth our time? I don't think POMO actually helps us. It's better at freeing up creative interpretations that challenge the status quo than at enabling us to choose among those interpretations. My guess is that such decisions actually come after the fact: we're inspired/energized/heartened by the critique we just read and only afterwards do we try to "justify" why that critique is worthy of belief. Belief is the last in the series. And it's the least interesting. More important: Does it excite you? Does it reveal the world in a way that matters? Does it set the hairs on your neck on edge? Does it give you a chill?

Could any lesson of the Web be clearer? Belief is nice, but it's not why 500 million of us are here dishing the dirt.
4/30/2002 11:01:10 AM | PermaLink

Welcome New Blogs

Steve Yost, creator of QuickTopic and one of the Web's Good Guys, has started blogging.

So has the always-inventive Stowe Boyd. The fact that he posted a glowing, thoughtful review of Small Pieces doesn't influence my recommendation, although the fact that he's an old pal certainly does...as is only proper.
4/30/2002 10:08:58 AM | PermaLink


Monday, April 29, 2002

Gillmor in China

Still catching up on the blogworld. I just read Dan Gillmor's entries about his trip to China. (We almost met up in Beijing.) The bit about demo-ing live weblogging at a journalism conference is another "Aha!" moment from Dan.
4/29/2002 05:07:48 PM | PermaLink

What type of blogger are you?

That's the question Jacob Shwirtz light-heartedly poses with his brief and witty self-test.

It turns out, that I am a David Weinberger-ish blogger.
4/29/2002 04:58:46 PM | PermaLink

Return to Normalcy

We're back.

We arrived Friday night, literally one minute before the sabbath deadline. Ann was there with open arms as well as hot soup and a loaf of Cheryl-Ann's best-in-the-world challah.

It's Monday and in some ways the jetlag has gotten worse. Last night, Nathan woke up at 2AM and read in bed until 3:30 when I woke up. We came downstairs, read some Hornblower, watched a little TV, and at 5:20 went to the Pig and Whistle diner in Brighton, a tradition from other jetlagged mornings. He went off to school and I went back to sleep until a 9:30 appointment.

How odd time is, transforming presence into memory and experience into stories. We will remember this trip very fondly, I'm sure. Forgetting for the moment the Lessons We Learned, it was just plain fun. For all of the sleep-deprived difficulties, it was a series of good days. And, frankly, much of the joy of the trip for me came simply from getting to be with Nathan non-stop for 12 days. I've worked at home for almost all of Nathan's life, so it's not like I never get to see him and need to get "reacquainted." He's just fun to be with: sunny, funny, deeply sympathetic, and wicked smart. Good combo. We're lucky parents.

As far as getting to see China (well, the bits we saw) through the eyes of an 11-year-old, what I saw mainly was that the similarities run neck-and-neck with the differences. Granting that we were only in cities, so much of life seems the same if only because its landscape is identical: roads, cars, buildings, bridges, sidewalks. It is only within this world of similarity that the differences appear.

Not to scant the differences. But they often cannot be read from the experience itself: you might not notice that parents are rarely seen with more than one child and you would never be able to see directly that their children work harder at school than ours do. The world can seem less foreign than it is.

But that's my job as an adult, helping Nathan to see what isn't on the surface of experience. It's also what makes adults so damn annoying.

We're back amongst the familiar now. Not everything has to be interesting any more. Although, learning how to be interested in everything — how everything is interesting — is our real work, isn't it?

Can I go to sleep now?
4/29/2002 10:52:47 AM | PermaLink


Thursday, April 25, 2002

Trust and Lies

Kevin Marks points us to a lecture by Onora O'Neil on whether the openness and transparency of the Web is increasing or decreasing trust.

(We leave Hong Kong in a couple of hours for our long ride home. It's been an amazing trip.)
4/25/2002 08:03:55 PM | PermaLink


Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Hugh McKellar: The Finest Person Ever Created

Hugh McKellar, editor of KMWorld, has reviewed Small Pieces, saying, "It�s the best thing ever written about the Web." He also uses the adjective "side-splitting" in a positive sense.

(BTW, my return to blogging in my own blog is directly related to the fact that for the 18 hours we're in this hotel in Guangzhou, we have broadband access within our room, rather than having to make a daily trip to an Internet cafe.)
4/24/2002 06:11:22 PM | PermaLink

Winding Down

We're in Guangzhou (nee Canton) for the day. It was hard on us leaving Beijing. I can't really describe why the city touches me so much. It's drab, dreary, poor, regimented, and characterized by bureaucratic, over-size architecture. Yet it's so full of life and a sense of its own future, its own becoming. New York City, Lor' bless it, is a great city but it already is what it is. Beijing isn't. Beijing is becoming. And it's doing so from a past that reaches back immeasurably and to times so radically different than its present that it took a revolution to get here.

Then there's the people. There's every reason not to trust my tourist's perceptions of them. I don't speak the language. I met a very limited swath of them. They recognize me as a Western tourist from a mile away. But I nevertheless do trust that something that I've seen in them is in fact there: elan, openness, friendliness, confidence. Sure, this type of generalization is ridiculous. And yet...

We come back to the US on Friday.
4/24/2002 09:54:42 AM | PermaLink


Saturday, April 20, 2002

Confessions of an American

I did it. I ate in a Mr. Donut in Shanghai. And I may well go to Starbuck's here in Beijing. This has me so upset that I've already blogged about it over at the Boston Globe travelblogue (Steve Yost's term, I think) but I haven't expiated the sin yet. (AKMA undoubtedly will explain to me all the ways that sins aren't/can't be expiated. And sorry to be missing out on the POMO blogthread - it's just too hard to focus on it while so far away. No that makes no sense and yet it is The Truth.) I will undoubtedly blog about it again.

But beyond the brand name globalism, what do we do about the fact that all large cities share the same international semantics: sidewalks, streets, traffic lights, tall buildings, smog, noise while you're trying to sleep, crowds, lines, corner kiosks, hydrants, cars cars cars cars cars? You want your globalism? I gotcha globalism right here...
4/20/2002 07:36:10 AM | PermaLink


Tuesday, April 16, 2002

PostModern Jetlag

I'm too jetlagged to respond to AKMA and Tom Matrullo's latest entries in the Post-Modern AKMA blogthread. In fact, I'm too tired to copy and paste the links; they're both in my blogrolodex to the left. Both are excellent.

I'm in Shanghai with my 11-year-old son. We slept about 4 hours on the plane and about 4 hours last night, which is not nearly enough. We spent the morning walking to the Yu Yuan Gardens on the other side of the river. I can't tell the real Chinese from the preserved Chinese to the re-created Chinese. (I'm talking about the buildings, not the people, you wise-acres.) One part of town struck me like a Chinese Chinatown, that is, an attempt to build a place that would meet the expectation of tourists. But, lacking language, I can't tell.

Anyway, Shanghai at first glance is complex, vital and amazing. So far, Hong Kong seems like the place most like it. But it's amazing how empowering lack of sleep and knowledge are when it comes to making sweeping generalizations.

Must sleeeep....
4/16/2002 12:06:56 AM | PermaLink


Saturday, April 13, 2002

Accidental Communities

Joe Mahoney writes in response to my comment that "a community is a group of people who know one another and care about one another," which was in response to Clay Shirky's article on whether communities scale:

Richard Ford once said that he liked community a lot better in theory than in practice. That's my experience as well. It's also that of many people I know. It's a peculiar word, in that I think of it as conveying something which in real life is rarely delivered: i.e., people knowing and caring about each other. In its most common usage, the reality it signifies seems to be people who are tossed together because of affinities that are less deep than those strong attractors that get people communicating without physical proximity on the web: E.g. my neighborhood community vs. the people I share poetry with on the net. Certainly the former are people with whom I have concerns in common: property tax, trash collection, noisy parties. But if it goes deeper, that's likely to be accidental. The latter are people I interact with because the affinity comes first and proximity doesn't matter. I'm thinking the web stands a much better chance of making community live up to its semantic implications than the non-web. It's a community I embrace in practice as well as in theory.

4/13/2002 03:06:10 PM | PermaLink

Small Pieces Nicely Reviewed

There's a cool review of Small Pieces (my book) by John Moran in The Hartford Courant.
4/13/2002 12:41:12 PM | PermaLink


Friday, April 12, 2002


We drop letters into a box
Wring the gray water from a sweater
Clap too long at our daughter's class play
Scrape pink gum from our black soles
Jostle the flour jar and pour more in

And spring happens.
4/12/2002 05:56:07 PM | PermaLink

Hallmark for a Realist

If you can dream it, then it can be
Except of course in reality
Which wouldn't be a problem except
That's where the banks and girls are kept.

["Women" just didn't scan. Neither did "potential love interests." And the equating of women with banks and money is offensive. In fact, I withdraw the whole thing.]
4/12/2002 05:51:54 PM | PermaLink

Post-Modernism Post

Steve Himmer at OnePotMeal responds to my question for AKMA. Steve writes (forgive the long quote):

Yes, we need to recognize that using the POMO toolkit we can dismantle anything down to its core and beyond, and the beyond includes dismantling the theory itself ... But if we decide that deconstruction does offer something worth pursuing, than we have no choice (as I see it) than to determine our arbitrary starting point and deal with that shortcoming in our theory and work by acknowledging the deconstructable method by which we arrived. It's not an ideal solution, but it is a real one, one which offers an escape (albeit tenuous and temporary) from the quagmire of spiraling questions upon questions.

In effect, then, what we are saying is, 'I am choosing to start my questioning here, and these are the results of that beginning� these may not, however, be the results I would get if I started my questioning there, which is just as valid a launch-point as here. That, I think, is the value of treating all interpretations as fictive...

To which I respond: Well done! My only quibble is with the word "choose" since our starting point is not a matter of choice. I am an American, 20-21st Century, English-speaking Jewish man, and I can never escape that starting point. Even if I rebel, I do so as an American, 20-21st Century yada yada. And while it's possible to transcend and transform one's situation to some degree as Newton and Picasso did, it still occurs within the situation: Socrates' pal Alcibiades couldn't have been Newton or Picasso. So, not all starting points are equal because only one of them is mine. (And, of course, I am that starting point's more than it is mine.)

Tom has also replied to my question for AKMA. He wonders whether I'm too focused on "hermeneutics," i.e., the study of the act of interpretation:

...much of what is original in lit-crit and lit-theory in the past 25 years or so has more to do with an openness to the act of reading in a broader sense than "just" interpreting the "meaning" of a text. Genial insights into the subtle arsenals of poetics and rhetoric suggest that the encounter with a text is less than adequate to the extent it focuses exclusively on what can be said "in other words." That is, the effort of rigorous translation leaves out something essential to the experience of reading, and to the generation of audiences.

Great point. I need to think about it more. My initial reaction is to clarify what I mean by "interpretation." I don't mean in the way in which a translator interprets. Rather, I take it as "taking something one way and not another." The "taking" absolutely doesn't have to be intellectual or linguistic. That's why hermeneutics (in my understanding) applies not only to texts but also to things — I take the twig as a way to scratch my back although tomorrow I might take it as kindling. (The Deconstructors have proposed — haven't they? — that the entire world is a text; I'd lean the other way.) But Tom's comment is deeper than that and this is a hook I don't want to squirm off of.

Tom also questions whether I'm dismissing the folks worth reading (Walter Benjamin and Derrida are Tom's examples) by equating them with the nattering "neener neener"s. And this is one hook I think I can clear safely: I wrote my 1,600 question to AKMA precisely because I don't dismiss those others. Sorry if I implied otherwise...
4/12/2002 02:53:09 PM | PermaLink

Post-Modern AKMA

I was going to write a review of AKMA's book, What Is Post-Modern Biblical Criticism?, but he's blogged a review of my book, so running a review of his book would look a little too hand-washy. Instead, I'll just say that this is the clearest introduction to post-modernism and deconstructionism that I've read. Yes, it happens to use biblical interpretation as its topical area, but it applies far more widely. AKMA is a clear, entertaining and generous writer, but you knew that already because you're reading his blog, aren't you?

So, allow me to expose the depths of my inability to understand post-modernism ("POMO"). Perhaps AKMA can be enticed to help pull me out of my hole...

4/12/2002 08:26:29 AM | PermaLink

Note to Self: Screw Yahoo

Don't forget to turn off the permission-to-spam Yahoo has granted itself. Click "off" all 15 topics Yahoo's new privacy policy says you want to be spammed about, and then tell Jerry and Dave that we will not will not be spammed by mail, even mail delivered by snail, and we will not will not be spammed by phone, we must not be spammed, now leave us alone!
4/12/2002 08:24:37 AM | PermaLink


Thursday, April 11, 2002

New Security Problems with IIS

Internet Security Systems Security Alert April 10, 2002

Multiple Remote Vulnerabilities in Microsoft IIS


ISS X-Force has learned that Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) is affected by ten new remote vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities vary in severity from mild to critical. A remote attacker may exploit one or more of these vulnerabilities to cause a target Web server to crash, execute arbitrary commands on the server, or gain complete control of a target IIS server.

1. Heap Buffer overflow in ASP chunked encoding routines (CAN-2002-0079)


Other security problems with IIS that have been recently discovered:

Flattery gets you root access.

It can be bribed with hockey tickets.

Say "I'm going to tell on you!" and it will run away and leave all its passwords on the ground.
4/11/2002 05:31:18 PM | PermaLink


Even as I type this, I'm chatting with Brent Ashley and Tim Aiello. Chatting in the Internet sense. They've developed a very cool chat capability you can stick right on your blog page. Open source, of course. If you're interested in trying it out or finding out how you can participate in the beta, go to Brent's site.

Gotta get back to chatting...
4/11/2002 04:19:49 PM | PermaLink

Shirky, AKMA and Scaling Care

I was going to respond to Clay Shirky's welcome article on communities and audiences. He's one of my favorite thinker guys. But another of my favorite thinker guys, AKMA, beat me to it. And AKMA's piece is just superb.

I've long been suspicious of the term "community" when applied to the Internet, for in the real world, a community is a group of people who know one another and care about one another (not, as Clay says, "groups whose members actively communicate with one another" — there's not enough juice in that phrase). The Internet is letting us form groups of members who know one another in some sense and care about one another in some sense, but we don't yet know which senses. The fact that "lurking" has a positive sense on the Net is new. Even the intermittency of Net groups is new. So, the tokens by which a RW community constitutes itself — the howdies on the street, the pot roast dinners supplied when a member is in mourning — aren't the same as on the Web. Thus, the limits to scaling aren't yet known. Online groups whose members care about one another are neither communities nor audiences. We don't yet know what they are. We thus don't yet know how they'll scale. And, the single most exciting aspect of the Web is, for me, that it's letting us find out what human caring is possible of when the constraints of space, time and — most important — remembering people's names are removed.
4/11/2002 08:55:07 AM | PermaLink

Who's an anti-semite?

Several people have taken exception to parts of my list of beliefs that do not make you an anti-semite. For example, Chip writes:

I do have to take some exception to the third: "thinks that Jews aren't going to heaven because they don't accept Jesus as their savior"

My reasoning is that someone who is so presumptious to think that another's particular variety of the Supreme presupposes their ultimate eternal disposition is at the core a religious elitist. What if the Supreme's definitive criteria for the successful transition into the next life is based on this one (novel concept: experience begets experience), that is, on our ability to love one another and get along?...

I'll admit that it's no fun to be regarded by someone — or by an entire denomination — as believing in an incomplete religion that dooms me to a life of eternal damnation. But "anti-Semite" is a strong word that has a political effect when uttered. The point of my piece was that we should reserve it for the real enemies of Jews. A Christian who believes I am damned may well still support my right to hold my false beliefs, support my right to equal consideration under the law, and may even personally like me. I need a way to differentiate that person from the one who thinks I'm responsible for AIDS, 9/11, world poverty and the early death of his Messiah.

I'm not trying let off the hook those who say that only believers in Jesus get into heaven. On the contrary, I want to engage people in dialogue about beliefs such as these. But once you call someone an anti-semite, you've poisoned the well and conversation becomes much much harder, if not impossible — and likewise for conversations about race, gender, sexual preference, etc. etc. etc.
4/11/2002 08:42:45 AM | PermaLink

Danish Commas

From a mailing list comes a link to an article in Newsday that rips the lid off a new European war that somehow has escaped mainstream notice. It seems that the Danes are feuding with themselves about the use and abuse of commas:

The Conservatives prefer a return to the system used from the 19th century until the Second World War, when Danish was written according to German rules of punctuation, which required frequent commas, even in places where there seemed to be no natural pause. A sentence would be punctuated as follows: The man, I love, is a dentist. The post-war atmosphere brought a distaste for all things German, and in the emancipated 1960s there arose an alternative method, with no rules, in which commas were inserted to indicate pauses of breath that occur in the natural rhythm of speech.

...In the general interest of progress, the Culture Ministry recommended the New Comma as a compromise, applying some grammatical rules to the essentially physiological system that recorded breaths. But in the years since, the comma debate has only grown fiercer. Anarchistic writers and teachers reject the New Comma as enslavement, radical intellectuals embrace it as progressive; politicians are on both sides; the Literary Academy stays audibly silent; few people master the rules, and everyone is confused.

That explains why, if you read them carefully, Danish translators' resumes, such as that of Sten Hedeg�rd Nielsen, say things such as: "...and I am one of the very few who master both Danish comma systems."

The Danes could certainly learn a little something from us Americans who have proudly replaced those messy commas, semicolons, colons, periods, parentheses and the occasional question mark with the always-correct em dash —
4/11/2002 08:23:28 AM | PermaLink


Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Small Discussions

Jens Winther expands on an unexpressed argument in my over-titled "Web as Utopia." I wrote: "I can't defend the following so I'll just state it: we humans are at our best when we are involved with others." Jens writes:

I agree. And I also believe that it is possible to defend this statement: Communication is the very core of what being social is all about. Take away communication in all conceivable variants and it becomes impossible to talk of sociality. The Web is built on the notion of connectivity and communication, and we mainly experience this as different bits, pieces and other shapes of hyperlinked text.

He continues by asking what's special and formative about this special place, and concludes by raising the question of reliability, which I think is actually a variation on the question of authenticity that has launched a whole bunch o' blogthreads.

The previous day's blog reflects on Michael O'Connor Clark's. Jens writes that he likes the pursuit of new Web metaphors:

I believe that there�s room (!) enough on the Web for all sorts of efforts to conceptualise what�s going on however confusing they might turn out to be. The more the merrier I�d say.

Me, too. And I'm merry to have run into Jens' blog.

Jacob Shwirz sent me an email to see if I was bothered by his comments on my book. He integrates some of the book's ideas into his own way of thinking. Bothered?? How could I be anything but delighted?

Just got a pretty good review in Wired, and a wonderful mention by James Fallows in The Atlantic online.

Daily Hebrew

Jacob Shwirz over at FuzzyBlogic is looking for someone to commit to translating his father's blog from Hebrew to English. His father is the main NY correspondent for Ha'Aretz, the Israeli newspaper. Sounds like it'd be a voice worth hearing. (Unfortunately, my Hebrew is limited to "Hag shameach" and "Lo ani.")
4/10/2002 12:01:01 AM | PermaLink


Tuesday, April 09, 2002

For Halley

The Eye-Mote

Blameless as daylight I stood looking
At a field of horses, necks bent, manes blown,
Tails streaming against the green
Backdrop of sycamores. Sun was striking
White chapel pinnacles over the roofs,
Holding the horses, the clouds, the leaves

Steadily rooted though they were all flowing
Away to the left like reeds in a sea
When the splinter flew in and stuck my eye,
Needling it dark. Then I was seeing
A melding of shapes in a hot rain:
Horses warped on the altering green,

Outlandish as double-humped camels or unicorns,
Grazing at the margins of a bad monochrome,
Beasts of oasis, a better time.
Abrading my lid, the small grain burns:
Red cinder around which I myself,
Horses, planets and spires revolve.

Neither tears nor the easing flush
Of eyebaths can unseat the speck:
It sticks, and it has stuck a week.
I wear the present itch for flesh,
Blind to what will be and what was.
I dream that I am Oedipus.

What I want back is what I was
Before the bed, before the knife,
Before the brooch-pin and the salve
Fixed me in this parenthesis;
Horses fluent in the wind,
A place, a time gone out of mind.

Sylvia Plath
4/9/2002 03:12:03 PM | PermaLink

Stock Items

Gary Unblinking Stock reminds us that the new mnftiu is out. The last panel is as close to the truth as we're ever going to hear. This is the Oedipal complex that may end the world. (And beyond the Bushes' little Greek tragedy, there's the mythic Oedipal struggle among the world's three religions. Oy veh, don't get me started!)

Gary also sends us to a lightly amusing site that will transform your wimpy email messages and blog entries into rip-roarin', flame-breathing flames.
4/9/2002 02:52:54 PM | PermaLink

Who's Not an Anti-Semite

Here are some people who are not necessarily anti-Semites. Someone who...

... criticizes Israel

... thinks that Jews are especially smart

... thinks that Jews aren't going to heaven because they don't accept Jesus as their savior

... believes that the Jewish belief that we're the "chosen people" tends to make us smug and self-righteous

... thinks that Jews are good with money

... thinks that Jews are clannish

... is uncomfortable talking about religion with a Jew

... thinks orthodox Judaism is sexist

... thinks orthodox Jews in their black coats and funny hats are just plain weird

... thinks the Palestinians have been oppressed

... on Yom Kippur asks us how our seder was

... thinks that Paul Newman doesn't look Jewish

Some of those beliefs are wrong (IMO) and some are hurtful. So what? Jew haters are my enemies but lots of people who hold to some of those beliefs may be my strongest allies or my best friends. If we can't tell the difference, we're never going to get anywhere. Calling someone an anti-Semite (or a racist, or a sexist, etc.) poisons the well of conversation. We should — IMO — save it for our actual enemies.

That's how it seems to me, anyway.
4/9/2002 02:27:04 PM | PermaLink


Monday, April 08, 2002

We're with you, Halley

Top Ten Reasons To Witness Your Dad's Demise.

4/8/2002 10:11:58 AM | PermaLink

Too Many Small Pieces?

Chris Pirillo mentions my book right at the top of his massively circulated Lockergnome newsletter. Thanks, Chris.

By the way, I enjoyed Eric Norlin's spirited defense (I think that's what it's called) of Chris' deciding to offer collections of tips and so forth for electronic download for $5 per tome. Some creeps have been calling Chris names for this, including someone who posted a parody of Lockergnome. I'd give you the link but it's just not funny (unlike the insanely clever "Gluetrain" parody a couple of years ago). It also paints orthodox Jewish sideburns on Chris' caricature. Yeah, that's real funny.

CIO Insight has a positive, brief review of the book. It begins: "The foremost problem with books about technology is that they are deadly dull. Not this one..."

Programming guru Ed Yourdon "highly recommends" "Small Pieces." In return, Small Pieces issued a press release highly recommending Ed Yourdon. Because there's no permalink to Ed's writeup, I quote it here in full:

I'm in the midst of reading David Weinberger's new book, Small Pieces, Loosely Joined: a Unified Theory of the Web. Weinberger is the editor of a Webzine called JOHO, as well as a co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto. He's one of the most thoughtful, amusing, and literate writers on the techno/society scene, and I highly recommend his new book. When I finish reading Small Pieces and digest its subtle messages and recommendations, I'll write a more detailed review; in the meantime, I suggest that you hustle down to your nearest book store (either in "real" space or virtual space) and get yourself a copy.

If I were capable of shame and/or modesty, I'd be blushing right now.

Burning Bird, on the other hand, writes:

May I be the first to go online and say that I don't give a shit about David Weinberger's Small Pieces Loosely Joined?

Sorry, Burning, but the first person to go online not giving a shit about Small Pieces was a Ms. Madeline McMurray who has yet to mention it at all.

My favorite comment in the discussion thread on Burning's site comes from Karl who writes "But as for the book...well the relentless hype has beaten me." Relentless hype? Karl, I sent review copies to the people on my blogroll and maybe five or six of them have written something. Someone quick reinforce Karl's Hype Annoyance Filter!
4/8/2002 09:39:11 AM | PermaLink


David Wasser points us to an interesting article on blogs in The Forward.

Gary Lawrence Murphy sends along some coverage of a new HBO reality show...

...called "Candidate 2012." The show promises to make an anonymous person, who must be between the ages of 24 and 29, a legitimate candidate for the President of the United States in the year 2012. The joke that "if Bush Jr. can become President, anyone can" is being taken seriously by a corporate machine that knows what the public wants and intends to deliver us our first "Real World" MTV rock star President.

4/8/2002 09:21:08 AM | PermaLink


Sunday, April 07, 2002

Sleep, Must Sleeeeeeeep....

Did I say I'd be back blogging on Sunday? I meant I'd be back on Saturday night and would spend almost all of Sunday sleeping.

By the way, adding to my distinction as the only person at the original Woodstock who couldn't find anyone willing to get him high, I am now the only tourist to Bangkok who couldn't find the red light district. Or, possibly I found it and am too naive to have recognized it. In any case, frankly, I'm just as glad...
4/7/2002 05:08:07 PM | PermaLink


Friday, April 05, 2002

Small Bangkoks Loosely joined

I'm a mess at the moment. I'm post-jetlagged the way post-modern is post modern. I am deconstructed, non-totalized and without grounding.

In the most quotidian terms: I'm in a combination laundry and internet cafe in Bangkok. I was going to be spending a "leisurely" 1.5 days seeing the city, but that got pared down to .5 when a family emergency cropped up. (Hint: Email from a relative entitled "Everyone is all right" means most definitely that at least one person is not all right.)

I got to this cafe by leaping out of a tricycle taxi at a red light after remembering that tourists shouldn't take up any offers to be transported somewhere. And there was this cafe: 5 machines, air conditioning enough to cool my sweat but not to stop it, and actually not any laundry in evidence. I'm 75% through a can of Singha beer which may be the best thing I have ever tasted. Also, I haven't eaten in many many hours. Got a little buzz on, actually. Whoops, 90% through.

100% through. Ok, Halley, yes, we love one another. The whole blogging linkified group of us. And I'm not saying that just because AKMA wrote positively about my book. although I certainly would have said so if it would have gotten him to write positively about my book. It's true. But let's just acknowledge it in a manly way and move on.

Speaking of manly moving on's, my next stop is Bangkok's red light district. You know me: an insatiable swinger. Oh yes. Then, Saturday night, I'll be home for a week before heading back to China for two weeks. So. no blogging until Sunday. Try to carry on without me...
4/5/2002 06:38:11 AM | PermaLink


Thursday, April 04, 2002

Driving from the Phuket Airport

Notice: Reading the following constitutes accepting the PEULA (Poetic End User License Agreement) that reads in its entirety: "We must forgive one another's bad poetry."

While driving from the Phuket airport in Thailand, having not slept in way too long.:

That the dirt is orange
That the hillside retains the shape
    of the shovels that cut into it
The the trees foliate only one branch deep
That the green covers the hills like tastebuds
That the clearings are ringed by trees
    like stayed dancers ready to step forward
That there is color where there oughtn't be.
Is any of this the difference
that brings the foreign so close?

I've seen so little of Thailand so far, but I love it already.

PS: Basically the same presentation at yesterday's in Beijing, but this time the audience laughed all the way through. Go figure. (No translators this time.)
4/4/2002 03:20:13 AM | PermaLink


Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Suppose they gave a speech...

...and no one laughed? I just spoke to 1,200 IT and business managers in Beijing at a bigtime IBM event here. I ranted, I chanted, I preached, I testified. No visible response. Of course, I did all this mediated by simultaneous translators. Afterwards my hosts assured me that the presentation was in fact well received. The evidence? No one left. Apparently Chinese audiences aren't shy about heading for the safety of the hallways when they don't like a speaker.

But of course, it isn't all about me. The important question is what sense this Chinese audience is making of the Net revolution. Hard to tell when you can't speak their language. But IBM certainly is stressing the effect e-ness will have on the way business is conducted. (The only English word used in their overview pump-up-the-crowd video was "linux," complete with animated penguin.) And, they apparently like Cluetrain enough to invite one of its authors here.

I have to run to catch a plane. Tomorrow it's another IBM conference, in Thailand.

Can I please sleep soon? Thank you.
4/3/2002 01:52:16 AM | PermaLink

More Small Pieces stuff

Jonathan Peterson says some nice things about the kids' version of Small Pieces.

And there's an interview with me at FrontWheelDrive that Tom was good enough to blog.

There's also a notice/review at TechDirections.
4/3/2002 01:47:10 AM | PermaLink


Tuesday, April 02, 2002

Small Reviews Loosely Joined

Small Pieces gets a thoughtful, positive, brief review at frontwheeldrive.com.

By the way, I've been hearing from a bunch of you that you like the (free) children's version of my book. thanks! Spread the word...
4/2/2002 08:36:06 AM | PermaLink

China Notes

I'll admit it. I was cranky last night. That 23-hour plane ride seems to have soured me just a tad. That and the fact that between my vegetarianism and half-hearted Passover observance, I basically couldn't eat anything except the mints. So, please forgive my lack of graciousness. The hotel is in fact fabulous. Sumptuous. The people are courteous and seemingly friendly. (I always assume hotel staffers are in fact highly resentful of their "guests.") Yes, it's faux Western, and hearing Chopin and Mozart in the lobby still does strike me as just plain weird, but most American hotels are faux luxurious, imitating a British version of upper class life as surely as Ralph Lauren clothing does.

This morning I got to walk around Beijing for a couple of hours. I can't tell you why I feel so at home here. Now I have to head in to a rehearsal of my speech tomorrow. I've already flagged about five slides that could be culturally obnoxious - a 9/11 reference, some mocking of kenmore.com, the casual use of a ying-yang symbol, etc. The real worries are the ones that you never thought might poke 'em in the eye. And for sure none of the jokes will work.

Gotta go.

Found Paste

I'm back in the Internet cafe again. By accident, I typed ^V and found the following bit of text pasted into my text:

Nothing much in mind, a question which part of Eu you are from, and preferation in the way you wrote, and yes, a question which course you majored in PHd. I only wrote, because I had these in my mind.a

By thy copies and pastes shall ye know them. Sort of.

4/2/2002 08:11:38 AM | PermaLink


Monday, April 01, 2002

From Beijing

After 23 hours on planes, I am in Beijing. Sort of. I'm in the ultra-swank, ultra-faux-Western China World Hotel. Actually, I'm in the itnernet cafe next door. Maybe tomorrow I'll see something other than bellboys in their 'Thirties bellboy caps and computer screens ("How a bellboy got into my computer screen I'll never know"). But probably not: tomorrow is rehearsal day in the ultra-modern conference hall. Off in the distance some red neon beckons. Sigh. (I've been here once before and I'm coming back in the middle of April for an actual tourist visit with my 11-year-old son. More later.)

So what can I tell you about Beijing? Clean internet cafe. It costs either 8 or 80 yuan per hour - roughly a buck or ten bucks. Good connection. Gator pops up every time you log in anywhere, offering to remember your password (yeah, right, in a public cafe) and sending reports on your demographically-crucial browsing activity back to the mothership...just in case no one at the cafe is tracking your browsing paths.

I don't expect to be blogging regularly over the next week. We'll see how it goes. But here's one from the plane:

Voice of Authority

"Private Forecast Rosy: State urge to clear barriers hindering sector"

This is the headline of The Business Weekly (which is confusingly subtitled: "China Daily"). I'm reading it on the plane ride from LA to Beijing, after having flown Boston to LA. While the flight attendants — all women, all young — have a basic command of English, I've been nodding vigorously and smiling like a baboon in response to every question. I've even given up on "tsieh tsieh" since rather than being a charmingly inept attempt to be polite in Chinese, it's apparently coming across as an American speaking gibberish.

Here's the lead of the article:

The private sector in China should have a bright future despite the barriers and hurdles bedeviling it, economists have claimed.

The article refers to a July 2001 speech by Jiang Zemin encouraging "eligible private entrepreneurs" to join the Party. It also says that all sectors due to be opened to foreign investment after China's admission to the World Trade Organization will first be opened to domestic private investors. And, it says, the private sector was 13% of China's GDP in 1999.

This is rhetoric I don't understand, a code I can't crack. I've gotten as far as it translating into: "Private sector good." Does the rest of it mean that it's good so long as it's part and parcel of the ruling party? Probably. Does the comment about opening sectors first to domestic investors indicate a throttling back or a racing forward? Or something else? I read it, grinning like a baboon.

What's most remarkable to me is how similar this totalitarian language is to the verbiage found in the typical quarterly report from any corporation.
4/1/2002 08:04:46 AM | PermaLink

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