Some generally dark and humorless notes about the decline of Internet
hype, the obsolescence of, the impeachment mess, the
devolution of operating systems, the benefits of sociology, and the
last word in bad movies, plus a few URL's.

As a periodic reminder, either of the Web-based archives of past RRE
messages going back five-plus years can be searched by keyword.  Details
on the RRE web page:
That page will also remind you, if you're curious, how to unsubscribe.

First a few comments about the list itself and about the larger themes
of Internet culture that it reflects.

People keep asking me if I sleep, and the answer is that I sleep fine.
Although many people evidently perceive this list as the result of
superhuman effort, it's really not so.  I cringe at attempts, however
well-meaning, to inflate my contribution, because my point here is not
my own self but rather the medium and its possibilities for promoting
positive values in the world.  The Internet is my force multiplier,
and I can broadcast so much useful data because I've been exploring
simple ways to cultivate and amplify the gift economy.  Where do I
get all of my dozens of useful URL's?  People send them to me!  How
about the long lists of books?  They emerge from a simple technology
consisting of bookstore shelves, bibliographies, 3-by-5 cards, online
catalogs, the copy-and-paste function of the Macintosh, and of course
Emacs keyboard macros.  A few minutes a day suffice.

In general, my strategy is to do whatever I feel like doing.  The
people of California in their considerable wisdom have determined
that society benefits if space is carved out for a limited number of
people who have passed through several extremely competitive hurdles
to be cut that kind of slack.  If I felt like doing drugs or having
an ambitious social life then I wouldn't have gotten where I am now.
So I do what I feel like doing, and I do as little else as I can, and
over time the things I feel like doing have coalesced into comfortable
daily routines that make some kind of positive contribution to the
world.  The world is full of virtuous plans that I'll never be able
to execute without dragging myself around like a bag of rocks.  So I
just forget those plans, confident that by scratching in my notebook
for a while I'll come up with equally an virtuous plan that I can't
help executing, and that if truly virtuous will become integrated
over time with all of my existing routines.  I also feel like evolving
the routines, so I keep reflecting on them and fiddling with them,
so that by now they've become pretty powerful without being especially
laborious.  But they don't work because I'm special, but because I've
got the slack and the tools to plug into the real power, which is the
cooperative efforts of people of good will online.

Some people, so they say, subscribe to this list primarily for my
opinions.  Other people hate my opinions and subscribe for the stuff
that I forward from other people.  But even for these latter people,
who in some sense would prefer that I just shut up, my voice still
seems to make a difference.  If I did shut up, the list would become
impersonal.  Someone actually said this after Paul Duguid took over
the list for a while.  Paul was so busy fighting unforeseen technical
fires that he didn't have time amid his busy life to put his personal
stamp on the list, and this other subscriber said that it was like a
machine was sending stuff that everyone received in an alienated way
without any human relationship involved.  I don't blame Paul for this.
He did a great job, and his voice was certainly present in the stuff
he chose to send out, just as the list expresses my own voice whether
I interject my own comments or not.  Yet somehow that other voice, the
voice of selection and timing, is not so audible without the commentary.

This is one intuition behind the frivolous aspects of the list, like
my reviews of cheap pens.  It's fun to review these pens, and to have
people send me pens, and to imagine that someone out there is thinking
about the list every time they list their groceries, and such reasons
would probably be reason enough to keep me typing my reviews.  But
the pen reviews and other small rituals also serve a bigger purpose of
helping to confer a personality on the list, so that everyone can feel
as though the individual messages all hang together, in a sense, as
one big message.

I keep wanting to initiate an RRE feature called something like "Ask
the Red Rock Eater", or "Ask Phil".  People would send me questions,
and if I like the questions I would dash off a page, or five pages,
expounding my own opinion about them.  I never actually do it because
it seems too self-centered.  This isn't supposed to be about me.
But then another part of me sees that a charlatan like Camille Paglia
gets her own "Ask Camille" department of a serious magazine (Salon,
as it happens), and gets mad.  After all, I'm not exactly disguising
my opinions here.  I want to have a public voice, which seems like
a socially useful thing to want, without aspiring or pretending to be
a celebrity, which very idea makes my flesh crawl.  It's an impasse.

Some people said that the Eric Paulos' "I-Bomb" message about the
spark-gap generator that creates Technology-Free Zones seemed bogus.
It helps if you know that Eric is a member of Survival Research
Laboratories.  These are the artists who build giant robotic dinosaurs
that engage in apocalyptic battles in parking lots.  The "I-Bomb"
message is patterned on SRL's nihilistic mock manifestos.  Besides,
what's so hard about building a big spark gap?

Sometime in the fourth quarter of 1998, it seems, cyber hype went
out of fashion.  Nicholas Negroponte wound up his column at Wired,
for example, declaring that the digital revolution was over and that
the whole subject had become boring.  Now, therefore, we can start
the hard process of looking back over the cultural typhoon of the
last five years and asking ourselves, "what in the heck was that?".
It was, for one thing, as I've said here before, the great sucking
sound of a standard-issue millennialism being pulled into the
imaginative vacuum created by a new technology.  Maybe it was fun
while it lasted, but in historical terms it was the same old stuff.

It was also, for another thing, ideology pure and simple.  Prophets
informed us that the new technology would inevitably, and solely on
its own power, put an end to monopolies and institute a decentralized
society.  We as citizens didn't have to do anything about it, and we
definitely didn't have to go mixing any democracy into it.  Now that
the Internet industry has consolidated into a handful of monopolies
run by obnoxious moguls, and now that competition in this industry has
been reduced to border wars and the leveraging of standards and rents,
the ideologists can now declare victory and go home.  Some of them
still write to me to explain why Microsoft isn't really a monopoly,
but most of them don't even bother.  They're off doing something more

Who collaborated in the storm of hype?  Blame, it seems to me, should
not be evenly distributed.  On average, and I realize that this is
not a common view, I think that most reporters had serious intentions.
Newspapers generally did a good job.  The New York Times would top the
list for the sheer magnitude of its coverage, and in fact it has had
easily two dozen serious people writing on the subject.  Some of them
have deservedly become semi-celebrities, but I want particularly to
pick out Edmund Andrews, who has mostly moved on to other topics but
has not received full credit for his reporting on telecommunications

Academia, however, has a lot to answer for.  Lots of people in the
arts and humanities, and some sociologists, swallowed the virtual
reality and cyberspace shticks whole.  The best ones transcended the
limitations of the ideology and found more critical, less intuitive,
more difficult things to say.  I think everyone knows who they are.
Many professors of computer science spread technological determinism
throughout the world as a routinized language of fund-raising, but
some of them, especially in user interface design, stepped honorably
out of line and took a stand for socially responsible computing.

The important thing is to move forward.  I will advocate amnesty, of
course, since everyone has a right to promote whatever nonsense they
like.  But first I would like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
to finish its work of documenting the many destructive effects of the
cyberspace ideology.  And that work has hardly begun.

What happens now?  Things change gear.  The Internet was able to
explode because of (1) the government, which was foresighted enough
to coordinate the design of open and parsimonious standards, (2)
one monopoly, AT&T, which was competent enough to build a robust
PSTN and shortsighted enough not to embrace and extend the Internet
when it had the chance, and (3) another monopoly, IBM, which was
shortsighted enough not to see the personal computer coming until
it was too late to institute a proprietary architecture, and powerful
enough to establish a dominant open architecture once it woke up.
Together these concentrations of democratically regulated power made
a nice comfortable niche within which the Internet could take off --
a niche so comfortable, in fact, that the firms who benefitted from
the explosion could delude themselves into thinking that they were
doing it all themselves.

That niche is now full.  The Internet will now grow, not by filling a
cleanly defined space, but by integrating itself with the technologies
and institutions at the edges of that space.  That's a process with
completely different dynamics -- different speeds, different players,
and an entirely different kind of politics.  More explosive network
businesses like Ebay will probably happen, but they will not be the
norm.  In fact they're not the norm now.  Those who have worn out a
generation of slides extrapolating current penetration rates into the
foreseeable future will probably need to get some new slides.  The
number of IP hosts will probably continue its exponential climb, but
the drivers of this climb will change and multiply.  The ISOC slogan,
"IP on everything, everything on IP", is actually probably correct,
and this should provide plenty of information with which to predict
the future of many areas of life.  But as some of the early failures
in the "information appliance" market space demonstrate, predicting
the future will also require more sophisticated models for picking and
defining the niches within which the growth of IP-based technologies
will occur, and in what order, and at what rate.  The Internet really
will play a big part in transforming the economy, but in a thousand
diverse ways that will resist generalization, and not in one big way.
The only experts will be the ones on the ground, where the stuff is
happening.  Everyone else, the erstwhile thought leaders of a simpler
world, will find another line of work.

I don't understand how is viable.  Barnes and Noble has
it in a strategic hammerlock.  Barnes and Noble can use the profits
fromits physical bookstores to subsidize its online operation, and it
owns more of the distribution chain. simply doesn't have
the scale to compete on distribution, and indeed it is struggling to
escape from a dangerous dependence on Barnes and Noble for its books.
It is true that's Web site is more highly evolved, and if
only for that reason it would be a real shame if Barnes and Noble won
out.  It is also true that Barnes and Noble's physical stores are not
well run, and that some of them are unable to compete with those few
independent booksellers who have stopped crying about the chains long
enough to get some real software for tracking their inventories and
targeting their stock to their local markets.  Still, Barnes and Noble
has higher gross margins than, and's claims that
its own losses are simply due to brand-building advertising expenses
are disingenuous.  Barnes and Noble can undercut through
straightforward price competition so long as the current structural
situation continues.

Surely has always planned on being bought out; the obvious
buyer would be Borders.  But Borders seems uninterested in the online
market, preferring the more dangerous strategy of expanding overseas.
This may explain's recent expansion into other areas of
online retail.  These other markets (CD's for example) promise even
lower margins than books, since the barriers to entry are lower.  But
facing its structural impasse, has to enter these areas
anyway, just maintain the image of momentum that keeps its stock price
-- the only supply of capital that can pay for its losses -- propped
up.  The only way that can get out of its current fix is
to change the structural situation.  And that won't be easy.  It can't
go on double-handling books that come through someone else's warehouse,
since that's no way to compete with Barnes and Noble.  And it can't
operate its own distribution system because it doesn't have the scale. can therefore only survive by cutting out the warehouse
altogether and routing orders directly to publishers, who then ship
the books directly to customers.  This scheme may cause some relative
inefficiency in shipping, since books from multiple publishers would
no longer be bundled into single packages.  But this inefficiency
would probably be more than compensated by reduced handling elsewhere
along the line.  The real structural problem is at the publishers,
whose operations are notoriously backward.  Publishers, after all,
compete primarily on the content of their books, not their speed of
delivery.  Working for the operational side of a publisher has never
been a brilliant career move.  Publishers could probably lower their
prices by outsourcing their printing, distribution, fulfillment, and
other paper- and money-handling activities, but they have only weak
incentives to do this.  Until the publishers modernize, nothing can
change.  And the publishers are cornered by Barnes and Noble as well,
since in many cases it is their largest customer.  So the picture is

I recite this rather conventional analysis because it heightens the
mystery of the current bubble in stock prices for Internet companies.
Nobody really knows what is causing this bubble, but a good candidate
is the cyberspace ideology.  If you believe that cyberspace is a
separate sphere of life, and that Internet companies live in wholly
different categories from non-Internet companies, then you can believe
that is the wave of the future.  If you believe that
information technology is the magic powder that revolutionizes the
industrial system, effectively replacing the existing system with some
other system on new principles, then you can believe that any company
that positions itself as all-digital will inherit the revolutionary
future.  But if you believe, to the contrary, that the Web is simply a
new face on an industrial system that evolves by its own rules besides
those of bits, then you'll want to go find out what the rules are.

Many people, Langdon Winner for example, have noticed the strange new
linguistic mutation whereby "technology" means "high technology", and
"high technology" means "information technology", and "information
technology" means "Internet", and "Internet" means "Web-based consumer
commerce".  This focus on surfaces at the expense of contextualizing
substance is partly the fault of the press skewing toward stories
that directly affect the lives of their audience.  Web-based consumer
commerce is an important story, but the much more important story is
business-to-business electronic commerce, that is to say, the role of
information technology in mediating interactions of all sorts between

One way to understand business-to-business electronic commerce is
that digital networking, and in practice this is ever-more-clearly
coming to mean the Internet, is being used to mediate transactions
on higher and higher ontological levels.  Telephone and fax operate
at low ontological levels -- they transmit only very unstructured
data, and high levels of human intervention are required at each end
to make use of it.  Advanced supply chain integration, by contrast,
connects computers that share overlapping data models.  As a result,
much greater quantities of information can be usefully exchanged.

This may not sound like a difficult accomplishment, but in practice
when it works it is something of a miracle.  The hard question, and
the one that the stock faddists do not seem sufficiently attuned to,
is what structural effects flow from the pervasive Internet-enabled
integration of supply chains throughout the industrial system?  Those
effects probably cannot be generalized about; in the short and medium
terms they will depend on the relative rates at which the arduous
work of integration proceeds in different firms and industries, and
in the long term its structural outcomes may well be path-dependent.
Precisely because every publisher has a monopoly over its own titles,
publishing is just about the last industry where one should expect to
see energetic effort or massive structural changes along these lines.

Radical Republicans have been piercing the liberal media blackout over
the last few days to assert that the Senate can convict an impeached
President without necessarily turning him out of office.  The strategy
here is clear enough, an attempted repeat of the dumbing-down of the
standard for impeachment that was successfully executed in the House.
The problem, of course, is that their new assertions straightforwardly
conflict with the Constitution.

Now that the Republican assault on the rule of law has reached its
nadir, it's time for normal Americans to figure out what's going on.
One clue can be found in the suggestion by the theocratic intellectual
Richard John Neuhaus, that turning Bill Clinton out of office would
serve as an emetic for the country.  It was interesting to watch the
different media outlets' treatment of this word.  Some assumed that
their readers knew what it meant, others defined it without making
any special deal out of it, and others made a point of sending readers
to their dictionaries.  It's a Greek word, and it means "an agent
that induces vomiting".  You're not imagining it, in other words: they
really are trying to make you throw up.

But why?  I have a theory.  Not that you'd know it from listening
to sermons, but Jesus, in the New Testament, spends much if not most
of his time casting out demons from afflicted souls.  Furthermore,
scriptural evidence makes it clear that Jesus gave authority to
His believers to cast out demons as well.  And that's what I think
the Radical Republicans believe they're doing -- casting out Satan
from America's soul.  In their minds, the House managers -- a man
who compares himself to Jesus, together with his twelve followers --
are engaged in an apocalyptic battle against the ultimate liar.  They
didn't make this idea up themselves.  The idea that America has become
possessed by Satan is central to their whole worldview.  And in recent
years a subculture has grown of evangelical Christians who are trying
to cast out demons according to Biblical instructions -- see, for
example, Neil T. Anderson, The Bondage Breakers, Harvest House, 1990.

The basic method for casting out a demon is to confront the demon and
order it, in God's name, to go away.  This will work, the Bible says,
so long as everyone involved, including both the afflicted individual
and the people doing the casting, maintain an absolute faith in God.
Absolute faith being difficult to achieve, however, the demons can be
expected to resist, and this resistance typically takes the form of
attempts to induce doubt, whether through fear or lies or sophistry.
You have to assume that the demon, being essentially a manifestation
of Satan, has greater physical strength than you do, and greater
powers of reason.  And so the demon wins as soon as you attempt to
defeat it by violence or argument.  You defeat the demon solely by
invoking the truths of Christian religion, and most particularly by
asserting that the universe is, at its most fundamental level, ruled
not by Satan or his followers but by a force of infinite goodness upon
whose side you yourself stand.

Casting out demons can be dangerous.  Done badly, it can cause immense
destruction by stirring up all kinds of unconscious junk.  The demons
are mobile, and can easily lodge themselves in anybody who lets them
in, including the people who confront them.  Or they can deepen their
existing grip by exacerbating the existing doubt and despair.  It is
a particularly bad idea to attempt to cast out demons from somebody
who does not want them cast out, say for example because they do not
believe that they are afflicted with demons.  And that, it seems to
me, is what's happening in the present case.  The Radical Republicans
are, right now, subjecting the country to an involuntary exorcism.
They are taking an enormous risk, and have been for several years.
If you listen to them, they keep saying that if they just go one step
further, one step further, one step further, then Americans will wake
up and realize that they are afflicted with spiritual malaise, and
that they will rise up in disgust and cast off the liar and his lying
ways.  And yet at each step this fails to happen.

So now we have come to a perilous situation.  We are in the middle
of a very powerful, very dangerous ritual that is going badly astray.
The people do not believe that they are afflicted by a demon, and they
do not want any exorcisms to be performed on them.  But an exorcism
is in fact under way, and the would-be exorcists are interpreting
everything they see and hear as if it were the writhings of Satan.
If it is pointed out that they are making charges for which they
have absolutely no evidence, they hear Satan's diabolical use of logic.
If it is pointed out that no ordinary citizen would ever be indicted,
much less convicted, on the facts they have brought forward, they hear
Satan's diabolical use of "legalism".  If it is pointed out that they
have been running roughshod over every civilized norm of due process,
they hear Satan's diabolical attempts to instill the doubting thought
that maybe they are the real evil ones.  Steadfast, however, they
carry on, weathering Satan's overwhelming displays of reason and law.
Surely, they say, surely, if we just press forward, if we just pursue
this process and keep on ordering the demon to flee, then eventually
our patient will see that, looked at in the right way, underneath the
surface of slick evasions, all of these seemingly innocent details can
be seen as manifestations of the Plot.

The problem here is not with God, or with faith in God.  The problem
is not with the idea of demons, or even with the idea of casting them
out.  The problem is with a group of arrogant and irresponsible men
-- men who are just wrong.  These men are not casting out any demons:
quite the contrary, they are inviting demons into themselves.  They
are learning, and teaching everyone who will listen to them, how to
reject logic, how to twist evidence, how to inflate the use of words
beyond any normal sense of proportion, how to accuse people of doing
the very things they are doing themselves, and how to undermine the
rule of law while claiming under the authority of God that they are
doing the opposite.  By systematically identifying reason and law as
the diabolical trickery of Satan, they are cultivating and instilling
habits of mind that are deeply irrational.  They are destroying the
country's political institutions.  They are destroying the country.

Operating systems have been getting steadily worse for forty years.
A whole generation has grown up without even being able to conceive
the concept, much less the benefits, of preemptive multitasking.
Being a dissident from personal computers, I do most of my computing
by telnetting from my Mac to a Unix machine, where I run the ascii
text editor Emacs, a freeware product of the Free Software Foundation.
Among its innumerable virtues, Emacs upholds a deceptively simple
principle which it calls the priority of input over output.  Emacs is
organized as a number of different processes, so that the process that
reads and executes your keyboard commands is unlinked from the process
that updates the screen.  If you're typing on the keyboard, then the
screen stops refreshing until your commands have been read and their
effects have been applied to an internal representation of your text.
Once that process is satisfied, then the screen refreshing process
resumes its work.  The point of this distinction is that you never
drop keystrokes -- no matter how fast you type, everything you type
gets reflected in your file and on your screen eventually.  If you
don't like the redisplay process falling behind, stop typing until it
catches up.

This scheme, which was already considered obvious twenty years ago,
is an absurd improvement on the behavior of the Macintosh and Windows,
neither of which assigns any particular priority to listening to what
the user has to say.  If these machines are busy then they're busy and
you can just wait.  If they're opening a connection to some overloaded
Web server in Prague or some overloaded mail server on another floor,
then you can just go get a nice cup of coffee since you won't even
be able to select a different window, much less click on any buttons
or select any menu items while your machine is waiting for the server
to respond.  Do you want to download a huge, complicated Web page onto
one window in the background while you do useful work with a quick
response time on some other window?  Well forget it.  Is this pathetic?
How does anybody get anything done?  We're all pretending that this
stuff works because we've been persuaded that it's the future.  In
fact it's the past, and getting more so.  This is the real reason why
swing is back: at our present rate of devolution, slide rules will be
back soon too.

Recommended: Harvey Sacks, Lectures on Conversation, edited by Gail
Jefferson, Blackwell, 1995.  Harvey Sacks was the founder of a strange
subfield of sociology called conversation analysis, which consists
of the microscopic study of ordinary conversations.  Sacks discovered
that even quite mundane conversations are extraordinarily complicated
in their inner workings, and this book gathers his lectures on the
subject from the mid-1970's, up until his accidental death in an
auto accident in 1974.  He discusses the elaborate protocols by which
people start and end conversations, announce and tell stories, refer
to things, and generally keep the conversational gears turning.  His
theories are always based on detailed analyses of particular examples
of conversation, which are presented using a notation invented by Gail
Jefferson.  Jefferson started out as Sacks' secretary; Sacks, at the
beginning of his studies, asked her to transcribe some conversations
without realizing the full complexity of the task, and the notation
that Jefferson developed to indicate the features of conversational
interaction that can have functional significance (pauses, overlaps,
emphases, and so on) was eventually adopted by the entire field that
Sacks began.  Jefferson also edited the lectures for publication.
They're lectures, not finished papers, and they're not particularly
polished lectures either.  You have to hang in there a little while
before you understand what he's doing, and how, and why.  You also
have to let go of preconceived ideas about sociological methodology,
especially if you were trained in quantitative methods.  Sacks' work
is totally qualitative, and his theories are intended to apply to
every single example of naturally occurring conversation in the world.
Sacks' methods also take getting used to if you've been trained in
the kind of structuralist linguistics that is identified with Chomsky.
Sacks was not interested in specifying a grammar of well-formed
conversations, from which real conversations may diverge.  Yet, on
the other hand, neither is he claiming to reconstruct the conscious
intentions of the speakers; rather, he claims to specify a set of
rules and preferences that suffice to reconstruct particular examples
of what people do in conversation, that is, what social actions they
are engaged in.  Although not discernably political in his language
or intent, Sacks was recognizably of his time.  By defamiliarizing
the ordinary world, he was engaged in the same sort of ontological
rebellion as many more flamboyant, less substantive countercultural
types.  He wanted to show that ordinary reality has depths, and
that it is stranger, more complicated, and more fragile than it seems.
Above all he wanted to demonstrate that ordinary reality, far from
being a fixed structure or an externally imposed force, is something
that we assent to -- indeed, that we actively and skillfully create
-- in our every waking moment.  Did he mean to imply that we should
turn around and recreate our ordinary reality in some different way?
He left no particular evidence one way or the other.  On the one
hand, a real understanding of Sacks' discoveries -- not just grasping
them theoretically, but actually being able to see the phenomena
happening in your own interactions with others -- should help deepen
the responsibility that you feel for your own actions, and for your
own contribution to whatever is good or bad in the social phenomena
that you participate in.  On the other hand, really seeing those
phenomena should also give you a heightened appreciation for the
complexity of social life as we know it, and the magnitude of the
hubris involved in the utopian scenarios that would replace it.
That's a healthy tension, I think, and one we should all cultivate.

Before we turn our attention fully to the new year, it is important
that we stomp the most overrated movies of 1998.  All of them, as it
happens, pertain to recurring themes of this list.

Let us begin with "The Truman Show".  People keep acting as if this
movie makes some great statement about privacy, and since I've written
about privacy, people keep telling me that this movie must be deeply
relevant to my concerns.  I'm mystified.  What, exactly, is the point
of "The Truman Show"?  Is Truman supposed to be a symbol of our lives
today?  Or are the people who watch him supposed to symbolize us?
Is some statement being made about the media, and if so what exactly
is it?  In the old days, actors and directors proved that they were
serious by doing Shakespeare.  Nowadays, it seems, they have to make
these expensive movies for which a dark emotional tone substitutes
for any clearly defined message -- the dark tone is in itself, somehow,
the message.  I thought that "The Truman Show" was, like "Enemy of the
State" and many other Hollywood movies, perfectly entertaining if you
keep your brain turned off the whole time.  Having been prepared for
a Serious Message Movie, however, I misguidedly left my brain turned
on for part of it, and I was particularly annoyed by its analysis
of television.  Television is not moving toward extremely expensive
programs like the one in "The Truman Show".  Quite the contrary, as
channels proliferate, large audiences are no longer guaranteed by the
scarcity of programming.  As a result, only a very few programs can
assemble audiences large enough to pay for multi-million-dollar-per-
episode production budgets.  The trend, quite the contrary, with more
channels chasing the same audience, is toward programs like "World's
Scariest Car Chases" that can be produced cheaply in large numbers.

Next let us consider the mysteriously celebrated "Pi".  Even though
the critics apparently regarded it as wildly inventive, in fact,
except for the psychotic "Eraserhead" vibe, its whole boring tale
about a misanthrophic mathematical prodigy and a computer that prints
out a number that encodes the secret of God before exploding could
have been made word-for-word in 1956.  I'm particular sensitive to
this stuff from having gone to graduate school at the MIT AI Lab,
where I stewed in every last cliche about intelligent computers.  In
that context, "Pi" is hardly an innovation.  The guy who supervised
my master's thesis, for example, wanted nothing more than to have his
mind downloaded into a computer that was mounted on a large telescope
that could be launched into space.  He figured that if the clock on
the computer was turned down really slow then he could float around
and watch galaxies evolve.  This was not considered a strange thing
to want.

Finally, it is with a heavy heart that I must denounce the critics'
current favorite, Paul Schrader's "Affliction".  Nick Nolte will
indeed win a prize for the extraordinary effort that he obviously
put into his portrayal of a man collapsing under the weight of his
father's demons.  Unfortunately that prize will have to be "Best Actor
in an Otherwise Misguided Film".  Well, not quite -- a couple of the
supporting actors are pretty good, as is the cinematography.  The real
problem is Paul Schrader, who wanted so badly to make a film out of
Russell Banks' novel that he didn't consider that perhaps it cannot
be done.  Schrader's screenplay runs afoul of the most common problem
of screenplay adaptations of novels: a novel can engage in all kinds
of complicated exposition that, in a film, must be accomplished through
dialogue.  As a result, the characters in "Affliction" are constantly
engaged in artificial and cumbersome interactions whose purpose is
obviously to inform the audience of matters that real people would not
have needed to mention.  As a result, only intermittently did I get
involved in the movie, rather than being painfully aware that I was at
the movies, sitting in a chair, looking at a screen, lamenting a lousy
screenplay, composing my caustic review of it, and so on.  The effect
is frequently strange: here is Nick Nolte, delivering this superhuman
performance, except that there's no real movie there to contain it.
Other actors are present on the set, but it's like he's shadowboxing.
Oh well.  So forget about "Affliction".  Instead, go out to the video
store and rent a copy of Alan Rudolph's "Afterglow", where you'll
get not only Nick Nolte but an amazing performance by Julie Christie.

Some URL's.

Takedown: The Asymmetric Threat to the Nation

TIIAP outreach workshops

Techgnosis by Erik Davis

The Disappearance of Cyberspace and the Rise of Code