BookPage Interview February 2000: Peter Matthiessen

BookPage Interview February 2000: Peter Matthiessen

To the suggestion that such attention to detail is part of his appeal, Matthiessen replies, “I think in any writing you’re paying attention to detail. E. M. Forster made that wonderful observation that good writing is administering a series of tiny astonishments. The astonishments aren’t things you never knew. What they are is sort of the first articulation of something you knew but you’d never seen set down in print. And you say, Ah, yes! How true.”

I have been listening to a tape: The Zen of the Writers life – Loving it – a lot of the good stuff is also in this interview.

Aldous Huxley – Chrome yellow

More from Crome Yellow by Huxley

How gay and delightful life would be if one could get rid of all the human contacts! Perhaps, in the future, when machines have attained to a state of perfection–for I confess that I am, like Godwin and Shelley, a believer in perfectibility, the perfectibility of machinery–then, perhaps, it will be possible for those who, like myself, desire it, to live in a dignified seclusion, surrounded by the delicate attentions of silent and graceful machines, and entirely secure from any human intrusion. It is a beautiful thought.””Beautiful,” Denis agreed. “But what about the desirable human contacts, like love and friendship?”

The black silhouette against the darkness shook its head. “The pleasures even of these contacts are much exaggerated,” said the polite level voice. “It seems to me doubtful whether they are equal to the pleasures of private reading and contemplation. Human contacts have been so highly valued in the past only because reading was not a common accomplishment and because books were scarce and difficult to reproduce.

What is Huxley up to here? Prophetic, sarcastic or maximising his own point of view? Whatever, this passage stands out as comment on our current machines.


Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High Technology Capitalism

Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High Technology Capitalism (1999) provides an analysis of information-age capitalism and the movements currently dissolving it. The text version is available from University of Illinois Press, and can be purchased from the UWO Bookstore or on-line book stores.

The book is online, each chapter in one pdf file. The opening is intriguing. Nick Dyer-Witheford (the author) refers to the sf book The Difference Engine by Gibson and Stirling. Babbage’s mechanical computer in this alternate history works – and is steam driven. Here is a quote from Chapter 1:

For in the world of The Difference Engine, Karl Marx is
alive and well. His employment by the New York Daily Tribune (for whom the actual
Marx worked during the 1850s as a foreign correspondent in the biggest `information
industry’ of his day) has clearly resulted in migration to the United States–a visit yielding momentous consequence. For, in a North America wracked by regional separatism and
civil war, revolutionaries have seized the “means of information and production” of the
largest city of the New World.2 And the Manhattan Communards now provide a nucleus for
an international ferment of dissidence which, combining re-emerged Luddites, renegade
clackers, anarcho-feminists, Blakean-situationist artists and immiserated proletarians,
boils beneath the surface of the bourgeois universe, waiting for the next calamity to burst
into revolt.

In what follows, I propose a Marxism for the Marx of The Difference Engine. That
is to say, I analyse how the information age, far from transcending the historic conflict
between capital and its labouring subjects, constitutes the latest battleground in their
encounter; how the new high technologies–computers, telecommunications, and genetic
engineering–are shaped and deployed as instruments of an unprecedented, world wide
order of general commodification; and how, paradoxically, arising out of this process
appear forces which could produce a different future based on the common sharing of
wealth–a twenty-first century communism.

Ontology of Cyberspace

koepsell (link dead Tuesday, February 22, 2011 but rescued from the archives now here.). (and in Google Drive 

David R. Koepsell, The Ontology of Cyberspace: Philosophy, Law, and the Future of Intellectual Property. Chicago and La Salle, Illinois: Open Court, 2000.
Reviewed by Arthur L. Morin

Law is a system of categorization. At the ideal level, one purpose of this system is to help the social system achieve justice. Though not stated so straightforwardly, this is David R. Koepsell’s position in his book The Ontology of Cyberspace: Philosophy, Law, and the Future of Intellectual Property.1 There is, of course, a dynamic interrelation between the legal system of categorization and the socio-cultural system(s) of categorization of which it is a part. Koepsell realizes this, or else he would not have been able to detect the disjunction between what software is and how it has been treated in the legal system. But what he does not seem to fully appreciate is that ontology does not necessarily beget justice. This is the First Problem — the distinction between ontology (what something is) and justice — and I will return to it later.

Books of the Month: August 2001

Books of the Month — Index August 2001

Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media. MIT Press, 2001. Reviewed by Katie Mondloch.

Scott McCloud, Zot!: Hearts and Minds. Published Online. Reviewed by Matt Wolf-Meyer.

Review Essay: William J. Mitchell, City of Bits: Space, Place and the Infobahn (MIT Press, 1996) and William J. Mitchell, e-topia: “Urban Life, Jim — But Not As We Know It” (MIT Press, 1999). Reviewed by Michael Gurstein.

Stanislaw Lem

Scriptorium – Stanislaw Lem By Nathan M. Powers

"If [Stanislaw Lem] isn't considered for a Nobel Prize by the end of the century, it will be because someone told the judges that he writes science fiction," predicted a Philadelphia Inquirer critic in 1983. Lem is arguably the greatest living science fiction writer, and even one of the most important European authors of his generation; yet he commands little critical attention, and has failed to reach discerning American science fiction readers who ought, one would think, to be most interested in him. The reasons for this may be sought, paradoxically, in the high demands he makes of his own work: Lem is a true original, but at the price of being marginal."

I want to read this man's books.


Books of the Month: December 2002

Books of the Month — Index

December 2000

Janet Abbate, Inventing the Internet. MIT Press, 1999. Reviewed by Linda Baughman.

Peter Lunenfeld, Snap to Grid: A User’s Guide to Digital Arts, Media, and Cultures. MIT Press, 2000. Reviewed by Bryan Alexander.

Review Essay: Anthony Wilhelm, Democracy in a Digital Age: Challenges to Political Life in Cyberspace (Routledge, 2000); Elaine Kamarck and Joseph Nye, Governance in a Networked World (Hollis Publishing, 1999); and Richard Davis, The Web of Politics: The Internet’s Impact on the American Political System (Oxford University Press, 1999). Reviewed by Philip Howard.

Three reviews, as regular as clockwork. Well maintained site. I get notified every time – see the spyonit link on the left.

Tibor Kalman

tibor kalman :: june 1998

Find the cracks in the wall

Later: Saturday, 10 May, 2008

That link is dead

But here is Wikepedia so I can recall what the hell that was about.

tibor kalman

Salon Obituary

Kalman combined his desire to break new ground visually with a passionate commitment to social causes. From his days as an undergraduate at New York University, where he was a member of Students for a Democratic Society (he left school to support the Communists in Cuba for a period), Kalman’s radical politics and his radical designs were inextricably linked. “I use contrary-ism in every part of my life. In design … I’m always trying to turn things upside down and see if they look any better,” he told Charlie Rose in a December 1998 interview.

Even in the last stages of his illness, Kalman continued to push his artist-as-agent-of-change agenda. Pearlman recalled visiting Kalman in the hospital and being subjected to a heartfelt tirade about how the American Institute of Graphic Artists should require members to do charitable work. “He had a huge sense of purpose with everything he did: It kept him alive and it’s also what drove people crazy about him,” Pearlman said.

This item looks good

Tibor Kalman: Provocateur

In the mid-1980s two names changed graphic design: Macintosh and Tibor. The former needs no introduction. Nor, with various books and articles by and about him, does the latter. Tibor Kalman, who died on May 2, 1999, after a long, courageous battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, was one of the few graphic designers whose accomplishments were legend within the field and widely known outside as well. Tibor may not be as influential on the daily practice of graphic design as the Mac, but his sway over how designers think — indeed, how they define their roles in culture and society — is indisputable. For a decade he was the design profession’s moral compass and its most fervent provocateur.

What if