Near Earth Archive

A backup of Near Earth Object by Paul Fidalgo

Month: April, 2012

Formed by Boredom

This worries me a little (by Toby Litt in Granta):

A couple of years ago, I spent three months playing World of Warcraft – partly as research for a short story I was writing, mostly because I became addicted to it. This convinced me of one thing: If the computer games which exist now had existed back in 1979 I would not have read any books, I think; I would not have seen writing as an adequate entertainment; I would not have seen going outdoors as sufficiently interesting to bother with.

Similarly, I find it difficult to understand why any eleven-year-old of today would be sufficiently bored to turn inward for entertainment.

This raises the question as to how future writers will come about, without ‘silence, exile and cunning’ – without the need for these things?

I was formed, as a writer, by the boredom of the place in which I lived.

Now, I did have video games when I was eleven (not anything of the scale or complexity of WoW, but I had the NES and the Segal Genesis), and I think they are a big reason (second only to cable TV) as to why I almost never read books at that age, despite being “bookish” in all other respects. With rare exceptions, I allowed the television screen to use up almost every single waking minute of my life. I can’t tell you how much I regret that.

Eventually, I got bored. In my boredom, I learned to play — just barely — some guitar, and wrote songs. Or wrote in my journal. As a young adult, particularly when I was a working actor without television available to me, I got really bored, and dove head first into my songwriting, and other reading and writing as well, for a good stretch of about five years.

But in the thick of the social web today, along with the rigor of parenthood, I am once again rarely bored. I loathe television now, even to the point where even high-quality programming makes me impatient and anxious for the time I lose to viewing it. But my iPad and Mac and iPhone ensure that I never need be without distraction once the kid is asleep.

A happy difference now from my days of TV-cured boredom is that I spend a huge amount of time on my devices reading, far more than I did as a child or teenager. I am not delving into genuine books as much as I would like (and not nearly as much as I did when I was essentially bereft of television and Internet access), but my iPad serves primarily as a reader for long- and medium-form written content. I almost never visit YouTube, I play almost no games, etc.

But that’s me, a nerd who never fully embraced his nerddom in his teens, and is now trying to intellectually and culturally catch up. To today’s eleven-year-olds, will such an endeavor even occur to them? I’d like to think so. I’d like to think, at least, that they’ll do better than me. On a hopeful note, my two-year-old son Toby, who, although he does love his episodes of Dinosaur Train, absolutely loves books and being read to. I will do all I can to keep him loving books. He’ll be a better man for it.

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End the Tweaking

Advice I could stand to take, from Rob Beschizza, editor of BoingBoing:

Getting snared by technology-tweaking, especially design, is the fastest and easiest way to waste time to no good end as an indie blogger type. There’s only one thing that brings in readers, and marketing people call it “content”. Writing. Artwork. Games. Whatever it is that you do that other people care about.

The confusion between the technology of blogging and the art of it is natural, because we’re still close to the dawn of the medium.

This has definitely been one of my weak points, to which my three or four longtime readers can attest. I’ve hopped platforms and gnashed my teeth over silly design conundra more times than is defensible. I’m only recently waking up to the idea that I’ve got to stop worrying about the packaging, particularly considering the relatively tiny audience I have. A nifty logo, while nifty, will not draw an audience.

Toby Sez

Larry Page is, I Think, Interviewed about, Kind of, Google

There’s been a lot of to-do in the tech press over a Businessweek interview with Google’s Larry Page, in which Page dishes a bit on Steve Jobs and his war against Android. But I found something else about the piece far more revealing. Read as Page responds to a simple question about what the hell it is that Google, once specifically a search company, actually does:

I think you have—I mean, what does it really mean to be a search company? I mean, even at that time, I think at that time and now, basically our soul is the same. I think what we’re about is we’re about using large-scale kind of technology: technology advancements to help people, to make people’s lives better, to make community better. Obviously, our mission was organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful, and I think we probably missed more of the people part of that than we should have.

It sounds to me like Page has no idea what Google’s purpose is anymore, other than to be be very big in the general context of the Internet. It doesn’t matter what that is specifically.

Truly, the entire interview is off-putting in how often Page litters his speech with rhetorical cushioning, lots of “reallys” and “I thinks” to avoid being definitive, and generally dances around a lot of frankly softball questions. (His lack of enthusiasm for any Android tablet on the market is palpable.)

Indeed, the only time he becomes succinct is when he’s complaining about how unfair Facebook is about contact exports. So a least we know how he feels about that!

This doesn’t strike me as the way the CEO of a globally-dominant supercorporation talks to a reporter. Can you imagine Steve Jobs or Bill Gates getting this mush-mouthed? If I were someone whose livelihood depended on the further ascent of Google, this small magazine interview would worry me.

Priorities

On the day that the Supreme Court decides that a person can be strip-searched by police for any reason whatsoever, Politico knows what’s really important. Their front page right now:

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“Sometimes he comes off stiff.”

Yes, I am twelve.

Original story here, about the “Mitt-Stabilizer.”

Immovable Type

Anil Dash tries to calm the Instapaper-vs.Readability animosity and makes a startling point about the reality of Web-based journaling:

. . . when I would spend my time flinging zingers at Matt Mullenweg about the merits of Movable Type vs. WordPress, you know who was winning? Mark Fucking Zuckerberg. Facebook won the blogging wars. The web became a more closed place than if either Movable Type or WordPress had evolved into the tool that powered social networking.

Oh my god he’s right. God damn it, he’s right.

I often wonder if this blog, or my sometimes-toying with Tumblr-type blogging, is essentially made redundant or irrelevant by Facebook and Twitter–heck, almost all the traffic to this blog comes from Facebook, meaning that just about everyone who reads it are people I in some way already know. Why bother maintaining a stand-alone website if it’s just an inconvenient detour from Facebook for all its readers? I’m curious what you think.