March 29, 2004
What happens to landmarks when every store is a chain? When we live life at 70 miles an hour we hand our navigation skills over to the government and place our trust in freeway signage. But what about when slow down to 35, stop and go, through the infinite "strip" feeds Americans and their cars?
The preferred navigation is landmark. Follow the river, keep the mountain on your left, turn right at the large oak, veer left at the rabbit rock. Walk towards the walls, through the iron gates, left at inn, right at the bank. Towards the capital, left at the Starbucks, right at the Jamba Juice, you'll see it right before the B of A... All of a sudden our landmarks are multiplying. And make no mistake plenty of effort goes into making sure those marks are memorable. But anyone who turns at a Starbucks is going nowhere but in circles... Drive around any populated space, USA and you navigate not by landmark but by pattern. Radio Shack doesn't define the location, but a Radio Shack, Baja Fresh, Noah's Bagels sequence just might.
To an extent we need to shut down the landmarks to navigate. "Look over there, to the right, a, Albertson's supermarket" This is not an expression of location, it represents instead a dislocation. For a moment we could be at any number of supermarkets. We need to establish pattern, step back, reorient to a larger world. Is there a Sally's Beauty Supply next door? An In N Out Burger behind us? The patterns of spacial DNA decode, our location revealed, or perhaps transposed.
One wonders how much meaning the patterns carry. Do our emotions rise as Dunkin' Donuts to Starbucks to Peet's signal the motion into wealthier neighborhoods. Or do our windows and locks tighten as the fried chicken downgrades, Popeye's to Kennedy Fried. Does the tinker's heart beat quicken as a Circuit City, Pep Boy's, Mienke sequence signals the shift into a preferential space.
Is there perhaps a shift back into history, away from the landmarked space of agriculture and into the woods of a hunter gatherer. A sequence of footsteps leads towards a limping deer. A pattern of droppings leading towards the blueberry bushes. A spectrum of greens encircling a rush of fresh water. As information multiplies around us like kudzu and giant crabs, are we pulled back towards the forests, into the jungle of complexity? A space that can be navigated by a slow gather or rapid hunt, but not by rational reduction of the stimuli?
If anyone is wondering if there is any connection between the two 'pattern' post surrounding this one, the answer is yes and no.
Yes in that as I drove around Austin contemplating 'pattern navigation' I held back on writing because I wondered if 'Pattern Recognition' addressed the issue. And no, it doesn't really, although it perhaps dusts upon the outside of it once or twice. So no, no connection other then the lack of one...
March 28, 2004
Pattern Recognition, Mediapunk
Somewhere, some space, I've seen the term 'nowpunk' tossed around William Gibson's latest Pattern Recognition. More apropos perhaps would be 'mediapunk'. Provided of course were willing to live with the fact that there is nothing even vaguely punk rock about this genre...
As for a review, you'll have to go elsewhere, the book is enjoyable enough for the few hours it take to complete. For what its worth perhaps Gibson's best. While Neuromancer is clearly a far more influential work, the dirty secret is that, beyond its impressionistic near future cityscapes and new terminology, nothing in the book actually makes any sense. Gibson the author is never quite going to live up to Gibson the sound bite. Mediapunk.
March 26, 2004
Hello New York
12 hours and I'll be back, just in time for spring I hope...
March 25, 2004
The Best of Austin, TX
So I'm a couple days out of Austin, perhaps blessed with perspective, but probably not... The conclusion so far? Its a fabulous place to spend a winter month or two. Culturally its far liver then SF is for real. The live music capital marketing is no joke. This is a place where you can stubble upon punk rockers rocking Irish jigs then flipping into Greek syrtos with a near virtuoso drop of the dime. On a Monday night at 1am no less.
Austin may be the freak show of Texas, but its also in Texas and that means meat. And in Austin two places reign supreme. Sam's Barbeque kills it with brisket, not to be missed. Back in the heart of town though is Casino el Camino, close to the only good bar on Austin's notorious 6th Street. A street that's basically a Disneyland of binge drinking... Austinite's will deny ever gracing this street, but someone is filling the bars. Casino though is the one to hit. Start with a burger order, they take ages to complete, but are worth it all. Top ten nationwide, perhaps, really. Vegetarian's order a 'blackjack' and relax. Then go upstairs and play pool while waiting, or just soak up flawless atmosphere, it's hard to finger, but this place is just plain comfortable with itself. Broken in like a cowboy's leather, lovely.
Then the coffee culture. 24 hours coffee shops, finally. I guess it takes cheap rent plus a massive university to make the economics work, cause really every city should have one. Free wifi at each one too. And space. Only in Texas is it economical to have people sitting all day nursing caffeine while sipping free internet. Spiderhouse is the personal pick, but there are plenty others.
The trump card of Austin though is rollerderby, Texas Rollergirls, the ultimate in punk rock feminism. Tatoos on women on rollerskates, moving really fast. Its a sport too, I shit you not. A good one even. With Texas sized women. Root for the Honky Tonk Heartbreakers ya hear?!?
March 24, 2004
The al-Zawahiri Fiasco
"It featured all the trappings of a glorified video game. Thousands of Pakistani army and paramilitary troops played the hammer. Hundreds of US troops and Special Forces, plus the elite commando 121, were ready to play the anvil across the border in Afghanistan. What was supposed to be smashed in between was "high-value target" Ayman al-Zawahiri, as Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf enthusiastically bragged - with no hard evidence - to an eager CNN last Thursday. But what happened to this gigantic piece of psy-ops? Nothing. And for a very simple reason: al-Qaeda's brain and Osama bin Laden's deputy was never there in the first place"
Like oliver craner I am somewhat in awe of reporter Pepe Escobar. Here is some more:
"As in most latitudes in the tribal areas, most people carry a tribal-made Kalashnikov and have been raised in madrassas maintained by the JUI. Musharraf may now call them terrorists, but the fact remains that every mujahideen is and will be respectfully regarded by the locals as a soldier of Islam. Moreover, al-Qaeda jihadis who settled in Waziristan have managed to seduce tribals young and old alike with an irresistible deluge of Pakistani rupees, weapons and Toyota Land Cruisers.
"The Pakistani army is regarded as an occupation army. No wonder: it entered Waziristan for the first time in history, in the summer of 2002. These Pakistani soldiers are mostly Punjabi. They don't speak Pashto and don't know anything about the complex Pashtun tribal code. In light of all this, the presence of the Pakistani army in these tribal areas in the name of the "war on terror" cannot but be regarded as an American intervention. These tribes have never been subdued. They may even spell Musharraf's doom."
Out on the left people are convinced Bush will capture bin Laden in an October "surprise". And there is no question Bush and co would love to do just that. The question is are they competent enough? No way would I ever bet on these uncertainties, but if forced to I think I'd go for the "surprise" coming from the opposite side of this "war".
March 23, 2004
In San Francisco
In SF for a couple days, holler at me if you're around. The air is crisp clean and fresh. None of Austin's warm humid embrace. This is another hippie tech town, I flew up on the legendary 'nerd bird' Austin-San Jose flight, yet the atmosphere is so different. There are perhaps political implications, Reagan styles vs. Bush styles. Real updates to the site sometime soon...
March 21, 2004
SxSW Music 3 of 3?
SxSW is nearly done and out of the café speakers booms the Hollertronix CD. And god damn its sounds timely then it has. Guess I need to finish that massive post on them I started ages ago...
I'm not sure I found any greatness at work in this festival. Not sure because I finally caught TV on the Radio live and to my years they hit that greatness. But they are friends, so like Scalia I am not fit to judge. I will recuse myself from the case, and let ya'll make the choice. But my hollywood sum up = 70's Stones meets My Bloody Valentine.
The hype, aka the Unicorns finally made it into the country and errrr, does anyone ever live up the hype? Well I can see why the indie rockers are infatuated, they mix in a couple degrees of fresh new irony with some really spiffy graphic design. But they still sing like a 13 year old devastated that they are only going to Breckenridge to ski, instead of Davos... I'll pass.
Best surprise was Japan's the Emeralds, but as I mentioned before, lots of good, not great. Trans Am surprised too, but only because they were last show I saw before taking half a decade off rock n roll, not sure I wanted to see them at all the first time.
Biggest disappointment by far was the Swisha House. No Slim Thug, no Mike Jones, and Chamillionaire did a solo set before I hit the stage. It was a bit like going to a Wu-Tang show and getting Master Killa, U-God and Inspecta Deck. B team all the way. Never quite realized how much Mike Jones carries the Swisha records before, look for him to turn star soon.
Back the hype thing. Dizzee Rascal. So the beats sound good in the club. The tricky bit is that amorphous thing called flow. Unlike the rest of the brits his is actually good, but only when you can't understand the words. Its great when it sounds like an audio waterfall on top of a booming soundsystem. But as soon as the words become distinct? Good god he sucks. Bedtime.
Meanwhile one member of Ozomatli are still in jail, while the media now reports "madness" (lost the link) and "near-riot". Sorry try again, this time I suggest "police brutality" if you're conservative "overreaction"... There is video here.
Also up on Ozo's site is the first hand story of the side of things that struck me hardest. A story completely missing in all news coverage no less. This kid got maced started running and wound up with 6 or 8 cops throwing him on the ground. Looked like it was about to go Rodney King for a second, and if it weren't for the thousands plus potential witness on the street it may well have... And yeah kid claims to weight 150, but he looked more like a buck ten from where I stood. Big time threat you know...
March 19, 2004
SxSW Music 2 of ?
After cracking down on Ozomatli, Austin PD apparently continued on with the rest of their devious plans, turning SxSW into a festival for Strokes cover bands. Like the Strokes but from Mexico! Like the Strokes but with a girl keyboardist! Like the Strokes but from LA! Like the Strokes but not born rich! Like the Strokes but from NY!
The MO for last night seemed to be everyone is good, nobody is great. Haven't seen a bad band yet. But great? Only Ozo, and I've seen them dozens of times. VietNam is the only other one worth remembering the name. Like Bob Dylan, backed by the Stokes.... No that's not fair, the band is better then that. But not great.
Also encountered the first Texas sized line, 2 hours long. Then the Unicorns cancelled (customs) and that took care of that.
Today we seek that greatness, got to be here someplace...
Austin PD vs. Ozomatli and Fans
The Austin American Statesman reports on the Ozomatli police confrontation. (may require really invasive registration) Some photos are here.
I was there with front row seats to it all, and needless to say the police statements are far from accurate. Ozo walked out into the street and the vibe was all love.
Any and all provocation came from the police who charged the crowd. And their actions where way over the top. As in half a dozen cops violently slamming a man, who can't have weighed more then a buck ten, onto the hard concrete. Any violence and tension in the crowd came straight from the police and the Mace. And now percussionist Jiro Yamaguchi is facing 10 years in the pen for absolutely nothing. Damn.
Anyone else who was there should contact Ozo's lawyer to identify themselves as a witness. His office can be reached at (512) 476-7373. Their recommendation to me was to write everything down exactly as remembered and send it as a letter to:
Bobby Earle Smith
Austin, TX 78701
March 18, 2004
SxSW Music 1 of ?
So the real value of the SxSW wristband or badge is not that it gets you into shows. Its that you have zero compulsion to stay at any show. Ex to the next, ce la vie, see ya round.
And yeah Josh tells the macing story so that I don't need to.
March 17, 2004
Al Qaeda Endorses Bush
The statement said it supported President Bush in his reelection campaign, and would prefer him to win in November rather than the Democratic candidate John Kerry, as it was not possible to find a leader "more foolish than you (Bush), who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom."
In comments addressed to Bush, the group said:
"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization."
"Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected."
SxSW Interactive Summary
The shift in people between SxSW Interactive and Film to the much larger Music festival is fascinating. The film makers rock a casual bland stylishness and the tech geeks keep a post hippie dishevel with occasional burning man color highlights. Then in glides the music industry en masse. Simultaneously slicker and dirtier, more suits and more shreds. The ego level probably is the same at all the conferences, but suddenly far more visible, worn perhaps around the neck like a dangling medallion.
The Interactive Conference was perhaps an echo chamber personified. I've got a more complex post waiting on that subject, but lets just say I take the threat more seriously now then I did last Friday.
Also taken more seriously now is Deleuze's distaste in the conversation as an intellectual form. As a rough rule the solo presentations shined where the panels stumbled. There were exceptions of course, but for the most part the panels where either too technical (in areas I'm not hugely interested in) or too amateur. You'd think a panelist would at least be aware of the pertinent literature in the subjects they cover, but no that is not the case in this town.
The exception on the solo talks was Friendster's Jonathan Abrams. For a brief moment he had me second guessing my idiot savant take on his success, as he appropriated nearly every idea he was rejecting six months ago into his business plan. But in a truly repulsive panel afterwards, and several brief personal interchanges with him it became far clearer: Whatever his success may be attributed it sure isn't an excess of any intelligence.
The other monologist fared far better. While I agree with Adam that Brenda Laurel is coming from a perspective tinted very 1994, I didn't much find that a problem. Rather it felt more like an emergence. Donna Haraway, Seybold and Mondo 2000 fused into a cohesiveness of sorts. While I may not myself proscribe to this gelling California techno-humanist school of thinking, I can envision producing interesting results along the (on)line.
Perhaps the there is more hope for California thought in the Whole Earth tradition though. Howard Rheingold might be the last believable voice of Bay Area techno-utopianism, far more balanced and pragmatic then popped bubbles past, yet still positively flirting with the future. His call for a new cross disciplinary intellectual construction is much welcomed in these parts.
And yeah, Neal Pollack is damn funny.
He's also scared shitless of me, but that's a story for another year.
March 15, 2004
The Edge of Real
That's a photo from the far edge of Real de Catorce. Its about a 15 minute walk to the far side of town where you enter through a 3km long mining tunnel, one lane wide. The road continues out on the other side of town, but I never saw a single car on it.
SxSW continues to have me thinking about blogs and profit. Its inevitable of course, there is just to large of an audience for it not happen. But when and how are the big questions.
Well the when, it is now. DailyKos and Talking Points Memo seem to be pulling $6-12k a month. Which is real money that you can live off of. But its almost all ads for political races, will the money still be there post November?
So the political blog business model is half proven, but the sustainability is as shaky as Bush's poll numbers. And the rest of the blogsphere? Still trying everything to get those dollars. Something will work, what is it.
Jason Calacanis is clearly putting way more thought and effort into monetizing blogs then just about anyone else. In his talk today he broke down the Weblogsinc strategy (and Nick Denton) and I'd say he's pretty much on point.
The core of what Weblogsinc is trying to do is consolidate enough blogs so that its economical to pay a sales force. And thank god someone is thinking like that. I'm not convinced its essential to do hands on ad sales to make money of blogs, and the political blogs are proving it. But the very fact that there will be ad sales people for blogs is going to be essential for the expansion of the market. These are going to be people convincing advertisers blogs are a winning proposition, and they are going to be the people driving ad rates up. And hell, its going to be way nicer to have an ad salesperson then not.
So how do you get a salesperson. You could join Weblogsinc of course, although they haven't actually hired a salesperson... Alternatively though 50 or a 100 bloggers could just network together and hire their own. An act that perhaps is best done in reverse, a salesperson could just start a blog sales practice... Again the question I can's answer is when. When does an act like that pay off? Now? Next year? Never?
Perhaps a better approach is not to become a freelance blog salesperson, but a freelance sales editor. I know for one that I would love one. Someone to correct the typos and find where I left out those crucial words... As blogging evolves I imagine a couple people could make good livings like that. So if your an underemployeed editor who likes hanging out online all day, give me a shout will you?
March 14, 2004
Non-standard Domain Names
Anyone out there have an opinion on all the weird non standard "dots" you can get a domain in?
I've got a new project idea and the desired domain is of course taken. Well ".com", ".org" and ".net" are gone. Which puts me into the realm of ".info" and ".us". Can I get away with that in this day and age? I'm leaning towards ".cc" but I could just get another name...
March 13, 2004
Seeds of Blog Media Consolidation
What happens when blogs start making money? A lot of people still want to know if they will make money of course, but I have little doubts. If there is an audience then there will be ways to make money. And the big political blogs already are. And as the blog space matures all the big blogs will reap major profits for the owners in one way or another.
But what next? After peeping the SxSW panel on "Small Media to the Rescue" I tossed the thought around. Is this media as free and open as we like to think?
In the back of my head sat a couple facts. One is the story of early radio. The early days were filled with an indy media vibe, and anyone with access the the technology could broadcast. But regulation soon followed and the amateur radio stations where shot to the short wave dial. The main broadcasting channels became commercially focused and the consolodation rolls on to this day, bursting periodically along with the regulation.
Apparently a month back Joe Trippi made a speech were he talked about how early broadcast media was filled with ideals of a better democracy and then failed. I wasn't there, but from what he then continued on to hype the internet as a way toward a better the democracy, without ever addressing whether it could get waylaid. Waylaid the same way the early broadcast ideals got subverted.
Now obviously the sequences that lead to the regulation of radio aren't about to get repeated. But both technology and culture have plenty of capacity to surprise and twist in new directions. Just like political consultants after they lead failed campaigns.
So what happens when blogs start to make money? When blogs become commercial enterprises?
We can see the sprouts of one path, the clustering. Weblogsinc, the Daily Kos diaries, Calpundit getting hired by the Washington Monthly to run a blog. Blogs clustering around an attractor. The formation of shapes in a previously fluid space. So far these actions are benign, positive even. Calpundit gets paid, Kos diarists get an instant audience and easy publishing system and Weblogsinc provides both a tech back end and an ad sales team.
But as cliche's go, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" is currently under-circulated. Blogs aren't going to hell, but they are going somewhere, and its probably not exactly where the boosters are intending. For all the aggression towards "big media" in the blog space, it appears like blogs themselves are beginning to cluster into their own little media networks. And what happens next? I'll only predict that its not predictable yet...
Back in Reality, Next Up SxSW
Returned to reality, from Real de Catorce. A place where electricity is optional and information is so free it doesn't actually exist. Makes a great undisclosed location, I could have sworn Dick Cheney was eating dinner next to me on Wednesday. But the place is so blissfully disconnected from politics I didn't even bother to...
More when I catch up on things, which may be a while as I'm doing my catch up while attending SxSW. The interactive starts to day, if you're here give me a shout. I'll be staying for the band madness too.
March 12, 2004
Real & Reality
As I cleared my room in Real de Catorce I notice the power was out. The sun streamed in though and finished packing thinking nothing of it. A few hours later I discovered the power was out in the whole town and neither I nor anyone else seemed to have noticed. mmmm it's like that.
The further away I get (I've been frozen at the border for hours now) the more likely my return seems...
March 08, 2004
final en route to Real de Catorce. I expect phone and internet contact will be beautifuly impossible, although who knows these days. I should be back in Austin Texas by weeks end.
all my love,
Pop That Crunk
Should be in the mountains of Mexico by days end, better clear that American pop out the system first.
Petey Pablo "Freek a Leek" (aka How You Like it Daddy) - There's something oddly gentlemanly to his crunk. And Lil Jon refines his dirty nasty formula on the beats just right. Towards the end of the song Petey interrupts, resumes the DJ voice of the intro and says "I've got to give a shout out to Seagram's Gin, cause I drink it and they paying me for it." Shit, at least he's honest!
Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris "Yeah" - I should like this really, Usher can sing like a mofo and you can't step on the crunk. Or at least you couldn't in the old year. And there was only so long Lil Jon could refine that same damn beat ad nauseam before hitting the pop diamond mine. The crunk never sounded so clean. Nothing fresh bout it though. He might get knighted pop royalty off this, but it's the Petey Pablo record that rocks the aristocratic crunk flair. Lil Jon's just warming up that "Yeah!" for some Pepsi commercials, no?
And god damn, I know Usher loves Michael Jackson as much as Sir Justin Timberlake. But I could swear he's actually imitating Timberlake imitating Michael on this here track. In theory perhaps its pop perfection, pop the new sound, simulate last years hit lyrics mix in the payola and roll. But something's missing, and I think they knew it, why else did they dilute their royalties by running the random Ludacris lyrics algorithm over the ass end of the track? Its close enough for Clear Channel, but is it real enough for memory?
Twista featuring Kanye West and Jamie Foxx "Slow Jams" - Any song with the lyrics "I'ma play this Vandross, you gonna take ya pants off" is obviously a classic. Where "Yeah" takes the incongruous style mix and plows straight up the middle with it, "Slow Jams" dips and dabs like a Mike Tyson jab. You're never quite sure where its going, but damn, that's a hit.
still to come, time permitting, Juvenile's "Numb Numb" and Swisha House's Mike Jones and Slim Thug...
Striations Occur, Plans Arise
Occasionally the realities of events, and airplane ticket prices force this nomad to actually plan a touch in advance. With luck tomorrow will send me en route toSXSW and the madness it ensues. Give a shout if you are coming around.
Tuesday the 23rd brings the nerd bird, a direct flight from Austin to Silicon Valley. Thanks to the secret passages of tech executives its actually significantly cheaper to fly from Austin to the Bay to NY then Austin-NY direct. So I'll have a few days in San Francisco and save money for the effort, not bad. Expect to be back in NY before the month is out though. Then?
this women rides her kawasaki through Chernobyl, takes photos and writes about it in broken English. Yes the future indeed, unevenly distributed...
[via collision detection]
update: the link has been changed.
March 07, 2004
Rumors & Artifacts
In 1830 one Reverend George Bush apparently wrote The Life of Mohammed, relationship to more prominent namesakes is apparently nil, but there is not much info out there...
One John F Kerry aka JFK was definitely in a garage rock band circa 1961, the Electras. Kerry was tall and played bass. They recorded an album of which only 500 copies where released... Ebay of course had one for sale, no takers. No MP3s available yet. If you got em let me know. I am willing to host them, bandwidth permitting. [via catchdubs]
Finally on the recorded music tip, one prominent label with plenty of recent hits is apparently on the verge of disintegration, more soon I suspect.
March 05, 2004
Abstract Hosting Sprouts Again
Some seeds take longer to sprout, but that doesn't make the fruit any less sweeter.
In other words time to point your attention towards a couple more sites we are hosting, now suitable for public enjoyment.
Vestacrest is the site of good friend Neil Seideman. He's promising "NY/San Francisco Migration, Crowd and Network Theory, The White Guy's Dozens" and more. I'm expecting equal parts insight an hilarity, so get your ass on over.
Crunkster's been flowering for a bit now, but I don't think I've ever formally linked it up. Its the online home of hip hop writer extraordinaire Joseph Patel aka Jazzbo, get reading or go get a late pass, step.
In case you are wondering, yes we are still open to hosting more sites, but ya best move quick cause the requirements are tightening. At the moment I'll hook you up if you: write about things I'm interested in (more design bloggers especially), have proven you are willing to write frequently, and plan on posting mainly text, my account can't hang with too much more bandwidth drain.
Speaking of which, now is a flawless time to donate toward my hosting bills. Click that link and it goes straight to my hosting company, I don't even get to smell the cash... You know you want to do it.
Finally, why all of you should be giving more money to Mr. JFK to help him defeat Mr. Bush. And if you donate via this link, Abstract Dynamics gets credit, which helps turn us into our very own special interest group! Which of serves no one but us, but if you are nice I'll make it serve you too ;)
March 04, 2004
A Detail of a Self Portrait, February 2004
I just made the first political contribution of my life. To JFK of course.
all my love,
March 03, 2004
A Minimalist Word Processor?
I'm looking for a new word processor, text editor, space to enter text into my computer. My Windows XP computer to be precise.
The main criteria is that it's minimal, simple, quick, and elegant. Nothing getting in the way of the words you know? Something a lot like OSX's TextEdit.
The only problem is there are couple features I want, all of them basic, but all of them necessary. Inline spell check, large numbers of undos, and autosave. That's it. Everything else is optional as long as its tucked out of the way.
Can't find it. Anyone have any tips?
March 02, 2004
You Can Start Calling Him JFK Now
Baring a wild shock to the system, it looks like John Kerry is definitely the Democratic nominee for president. Its 2004 and that means I'm supporting whoever the Democrats nominate against Bush. So it John Kerry for me. No scratch that. John Forbes Kerry, known in this space from here till eternity (or maybe December 2004) as JFK.
Why? Cause who the hell is going to vote against JFK? Mr Kerry had some luck with his initials and I'm going to milk them for whatever propaganda value they are worth. I hope you can join me please, because the last thing we need is more Dubya.
Swap meets, perfect for the eternal quest for music I have never heard before.
This one was difficult, the homies manning the table where convince they had finally found the man to unload their lonely Linkin Park cd upon. 15 minutes of laughs and miscommunication later I finally walked of with a disc labeled "Huacharacas vol. 1".
Huacharacas? Google spits out a blank, but the music appears to be cumbia from Monterrey, Mexico. Cumbia is music and rhythm of black Columbia, and with unknown history it has taken root in Mexico's northern industrial capital. In 60's Monterrey the rebajada evolved, slowing down the beat via tape machine, a ghostly foreshadowing of the screwed and chopped aesthetic of contemporary Houston hip hop. The full story? Best told in "Cumbia Sobre El Rio".
The music as it hits my ears today? Bass, beautiful bass while the beats shuffle behind. I want to hear it on a sound system, the nervous system would skip a beat with the first swooshing bass kick. But a hour's worth? My ears are not quite ready, I hear only one beat, the variations hidden in a tongue I don't speak.
Those who know though, please reveal...
March 01, 2004
The New Phone System
Clay Shirky is usually a sharply on point analyst, but he seems to have slightly missed the point in hisVoIP - Plan A vs Plan B piece. Shirky's concern is technology that allows you to place phone calls through your computer (VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol), and the threat it places on the old phone system. "Plan A is 'Replace the phone system slowly and from within," Plan B is far more radical: 'Replace the phone system. Period.'" But what Shirky ignores is that Plan C is already long in effect, and successful. The dominant phone system has already been replaced, not by VoIP, but by mobile phones.
I've been using my cell phone as my sole phone number for close to 3 years now without a problem. More importantly, every single person of my generation or younger I know who has moved in the past couple years has made the same choice. The cellular phone has rendered the old phone company into a vestigial organ, albeit a large slowly dying one. In countries that never had great wired phone infrastructures in the first place the process is even more dramatic, large chunks of the globe are going straight to cell phones leaving the old phone monopolies in the dust.
Mobile phone versus landline? Its not really a choice. A landline might be slightly more reliable, maybe. And it maybe slightly cheaper during peak hours, maybe. But really, why bother when you already have a phone you carry with you everywhere, and turn on and off at whim? One with a phone number you've had for years and doesn't get any phone solicitations. A phone you can answer while sending IMs and seemlessly continue the conversation out the door and onward to your next destination. Would you rather give up your home phone or cell? The choice is pretty clear for most people. The most important service the local phone companies offer nowadays is access to the internet.
Now the old phone companies won't just disappear, like Western Union, where you can still send telegrams, they will evolve while continuing to offer old services to a shrinking pool of customers. VoIP is a legitimate business too, although I highly suspect it will never get anywhere near the size of either the old phone monopolies or the new mobile phone oligarchies.
And there we have the new problems. While most places in the world no longer are stuck with one phone provider, few (if any) have more then a half dozen mobile providers. A decade and change ago VoIP might have represented an important challenge to the communications power structure. But now its a footnote and the power structure has shifted to wireless, potentially generating a whole new set of issues.
Haiti 3: Did Aristide Resign Freely or Was He Kidnapped at Gunpoint?
update: AP now reports that Aristide has told them he was abducted. If true, it directly contradicts statements by both Colin Powell and White House spokesman Scott McClellan. Its hella messy in Haiti, and it might just get messy in Washington DC... Stay tuned.
More on Haiti:
Haiti: Five facts and One Appeal - leftist bias, written pre coup d'etat
The Jamaica Observer has the most detailed english language coverage I've found yet. Check their editorial for a sense of their spin. Basically pro-democracy, pro Carribean independence. John Maxwell is a columnist of theirs who seems to be following things closely.
EconoTrix is a blog of a Danish amateur economist living in Panama. He appears to be indulging heavily in combination of libertarian Kool-Aid and Panama Red. Also has an odd anti-philanthropy bias (!?!). Still there are insights and links to be gleaned from his two posts on Haiti.
Finally some random background on the politics of Haiti.
The biggest question remains, just how involved where the US, France and Canada in this coup d'etat?
Most disturbing however are the reports that US troops actually showed up at his house to force his removal.