Friday, October 28, 2005

Be Careful What You Search For, You Just Might Catch It

"Although users are constantly being told not to open attachments from unknown sources, some are likely to ignore these warnings because of their interest in the epidemic and potential threat to their own lives."
- from "Bird flue brings on PC virus," by John Blau.

The H5N1, avian flu, virus is no longer just an organic threat. Computer virus hackers coded e-mails with a new Trojan Horse virus with a subject line about the bird flu sweeping Asia and Eastern Europe.

Some pundits consider the media is responsible for starting a global panic. Maybe that panic has caused this new internet virus. Maybe people just like playing God to tear down our false plasma idols.

No amount of Homeland Security color spending can prevent natural disasters and pandemics. Preparation for before and after, can be and has been a stitch in this administration's side since Katrina hit nearly two months ago, followed by Rita and Wilma. We can't blaim the administration for this new computer virus outbreak, it's as good a time as any to start blaming the media again.

Alt+Tab Personality

I talk to myself. I like the sound of my voice from between my own ears. It's articulate and, unlike, actual speech, I can stop mid-sentence because I haven't through through the ending. Instead of tucking my tongue between my jaws and silencing my raspy voice, I can re-start and edit as I go an infinite number of times so long as I don't trip over a sidewalk or my perfectionist OCD - a mental hurdle that projects itself every time I try to sit down and write. Just because no one reads these is no reason for the hurdles to shorten.

Typing my thoughts on-screen is different from talking myself through LOST end-game scenarios: these are complete sentences. At least, most are. I do like to mix grammatical rules in with my morning hot oatmeal.

I focus on each word, most I leave alone because I just want to finish, and each sound around me. The clacking of the keys louder, even, than the Internet radio I always have playing like a soundtrack. This writing life is not unlike a 2-hour drama. Only, I'm no hero and must hear music rather than wait for an afterlife screening with music mixed in.

I'm typing these teeth out of my head in my FeedDemon screen. I have the links I want to include on the left, the blogger post screen taking up two-thirds of the screen on the right and numerous windows open in the background where only my attention can lose itself...a window for my Outlook Express, my Internet radio station, and my MySpace backdoor just in case I need to step outside after dark when all the world sleeps. An unemployed, college graduate in Journalism and English, Blogspot is where I work; MySpace is where I hang-out when I'm not working. (If I were collecting unemployment, I wouldn't say this, but since I'm not, I admit I lounge-around more than I work.)

I do blog on my MySpace profile. Usually, I blog there more often that I do here. The atmospheric difference is writing in a small-town coffee shop and writing behind a cubicle in a skyscraper. My "friends" are a click away and I'm not buried so deep in responsibility that I hunch to not be seen reading my e-mail. No, I am not getting paid for any of this.

Blogging is not my life just as an Internet RPG is not the life of a gamer. But, it is a lifestyle. It is a subculture of blending work and entertainment ideals. The Internet with its blogging and social "communities" is very much 1984's "Big Brother." We're still a few years away from innocents monitoring innocents and "Thought Police," but where mysterious disappearences still lie within Sci-Fi paperback covers, little is secret any longer. Just, now, we're leaving ourelves open, assuming our own life stories aren't being read and comfortable naievity opens us up further.

Why then, am I concerned with complete sentences and poetic grammar? Some secrets are best left unwritten; some are best re-written thousands of times and never published, I guess.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

My iTunes Dependency

What I read is the stove and the dial-turning fingers. Music is not my fire; it is the stew in which I simmer. Lately, I've been a masochistic assortment of how we are all fucked - damaged goods, dog-eared and smoke-stained pages. To some these little defects are stories we tell our mirror personalities while we stand drunk, holding onto the bathroom counter waiting for our body to expunge itself of our liquid depressions. The prom date crying in the bathroom 20 years later.

The books remind me of this universal human suffering. Mixed with alcohol and iTunes, I type night after night chasing my own demons further into a forrest I cannot say for sure ever ends. From a rock atop a mountain, forrests are wonders best left unexplored - I, unfortunately, happen to like wallowing in the noon-time shadows.

It's depression, the chemical imbalance most Americans "suffer" according to CBS Cares. But, for a third-generation depressant, it's a weakness only if I shy away from it like human interraction. If I turn the music off, I still hear it. So, I update my iTunes regularly and turn it up. When I need to hear a certain apartment building of songs, I expect them to be at the address of this digital filing cabinet. When they are not here, I revert to hard-copy and put a secretarial personality in charge of updating the system.

This constant maintenance and upgrade is how I balace the chemicals. They say playing music for plants helps them grow - I say playing music for a depression keeps it controlled...Shawshank Redemption style.

Monday, October 03, 2005

What About Recreational Restroom Usage?

Yahoo tip-toes around the copyright laws Google belly-flopped into earlier this year, and digital music revenues triple those of 2004 (tell me again how P2P piracy is hurting the music industry). When newspapers stop clogging up the bathroom feux-recliner, it appears, it won't be long before CDs, books, and other hard-copy, physical forms of entertainment find their way lost in city sewers.

Okay, the CD part may be an exaggeration. I can see how rise in the digital music trend has spawned such physical devices as the iPod and other not-so-famous MP3 music boxes, but who listens to music in the bathroom anyway? I know some who focus only on the task-at-hand (eww) while they are in the bathroom, but it's a competitive world, and that daily, 5-minute missed opportunity is going to leave them trailing like the renegade toilet paper spy, hiding out, insconspicuously, on the bottom of their right loafer.

I was never one to take the Sports Pages into the bathroom; the pages are too large and make too much noise, not to mention the physical distraction of keeping the page straight-vertical rather than flopping down like an inverted toco shell. But, since I remember, listening to the voices in my head plan the rest of my day - those tend to echo in enclosed spaces and make for unwanted stall-to-stall conversation - was wasted time that could be better spent reading a magazine article or book chapter that I knew I'd never get around to reading so long as there was a working television, cell phone, or computer at my disposal. So, I set a book or a magazine out somewhere in my bedroom so it was easily located and grabbed when Nature, so unpolitely, called.

(Sometimes, I actually fool myself into believing I need the sit-down break just so I can simultaneously finish a book and cure a bad case of needing to write something but not really in the mood to.)

Maybe this information from Yahoo was intentionally released just after Banned-Book Week as a sort of "don't worry kids, all the books your teachers and parents say you shouldn't be reading will soon be available online, no library card required" supported back-slap. As ideal and revolutionary as that is, what happened to stealing a copy of A Wrinkle in Time from that one teacher that seemed to keep Wal-Mart-like stock of all the books the school library wouldn't carry? You stole the book, then, because it was cool to steal stuff from teachers, but, in truth, she wanted you to steal it becasue she wanted you to read it. Why else do you think the book always magically re-appeared in the following weeks.?

When Yahoo makes the digital library successful, it will be proof, yet again, that the internet might be making things too easy for us. But, it's no fun anymore. There's no risk, so there's no return feeling of accomplishment. When things cease to be fun, you see trends like the tripling of MP3 revenues and have to assume people are either too scared or too lazy to push the envelope on their freedoms. Music piracy is wrong, which is why so many people did it. But, with all the pay-for-music-you-want sites lowering rates, the risk isn't worth possible consequence, and big-business wins again. What about the book industry? It's more meaningful to give your personal dog-eared, marked-up copy of A Wrinkle in Time to someone than to give them a web address where they can scroll through it in black and white themselves. Besides, the battery on my laptop cannot withstand my bathroom adventures.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Katrina Bloggers Dividing the Union?

monday, 8/29 - unctuous: marked by a false or smug earnestness or agreeableness.
tuesday, 8/30 - evanescent: fleeting.
wednesday, 8/31 - venial: capable of being forgiven; excusable.
thursday, 9/1 - capacious: able to contain much.

I'm not having sex, but if I were, surely, I'd be yelling out "ah shit." "Oh God!" "Katrinaaaaaaaaa-hh!!!." At which point I'd roll over onto my side of the bed and ask for a cigarette before having to explain why I felt the urge to scream out the name "Katrina" when, obviously, that wasn't my lover's name.

"Oh... that bitch."

On Monday morning, after Katrina skirted by New Orleans, there was an unctuous feeling that the city would survive. Or, at least long enough to let the storm flow out of harm's way, anyway. The levees appeared strong enough to hold back the initial storm surges and the bulk of the remaining New Orleaneans escapted the storm in sanctioned buildings.

Evanescent hope still hovered above the Superdome crowd, on Tuesday. Surely, help would soon arrive to carry them away like maidens in distress. They would be whisked away to some happy neverland of unending sunsets and then the world's problems could, once again, be limited to 3rd-world countries and the Middle East.

On Wednesday, the venial no longer was. The relief delay turned stranded against themsevles. By Thursday, the news had focussed every lead to cater the public angst and disappointment in the government's unwillingness to help the helpless. The city of New Orleans and the world learned just how capacious the city's levee system wasn't and started to question a venal government. The flood waters rose every day with the sun and hope drowned on Bourbon Street.

Now, as I've used but all but one of my words of the week, I question even the objectivity of the "random" daily words. I look at them now, and, in hindsight, can see a bitter sense of irony at how they seem to encompass this entire week.

Friday, 9/2 - trammel: something that impedes activity, progress, or freedom; also, to hamper.

She's been around more blocks than the newspaper delivery kid. She's on everyone's mind and tongues: Newspapers, radio, television, and the Internet. In the last week, Katrina has cybered with every internet media pundit. And, like the prostitute promising her heart's love to every jealous john, she has turned us all against one another.

And, I don't know where it all started. There are white-collar Democrats gleefully pointing-out the errors of the Republican administration, white-collar Republicans saying we're doing everything the hostile, stranded New Orleaneans will let us do, and the idealistic hopefuls, half the country away, cheerleading the Red Cross from their leather Barcaloungers. It's sad, but the media is probably the point of dissention.

Bloggers, Internet investigators during "Rather-gate," and citizen heroes during the Asian tsunami and 7/7 London bombings, are now turning personal agendas into nation-wide separation and are dictating the news coverage. Each network, fearful of the grassroots control these blogs have over "big media", has to comply.

Since the blogging generation flipped the real-time coin on its head, everyone has become extremely critical of everything. It's good to that most people are question the truth in everything said and printed. This overly-critical culture the internet has spawned a generation of sayers and typers and we're all losing sight of what's important.

No doubt, someone at the local or federal government level "dropped the ball." It's easy enough to say that from my comfy office chair. I-35 to Dallas and Austin is just blocks from my house and is completely passable. I-10 into New Orleans isn't. Helicopters can only re-locate so many individuals at a single time. Boats must stick to water-based tributaries to circumnavigate underwater streetlamps, trees, and buildings. And, the stranded are not all in a single group waiting at a bus stop; they scattered throughout the city, and how do you tell the dehydrated and starving that they have to wait because they're not as close to dying as others?

The bulk of those left behind are poverty-stricken, African Americans that could not afford to leave when the mandatory evacuation was ordered. There's shooting, and looting, and raping and killing going on in the streets. Honestly, what are these people going to do with a stolen large-screen television? They're trying to survive. Everything has to re-built. People have lost everything, but most importantly, they've lost themselves. Given the choice, the looters would happily trade-in stolen televisions for a bus-ride to Houston or Dallas or whereever shelter, AC, food, and a future is offered. Instead of figuring out a way to keep me from stealing a television from an abandoned Wal-Mart, figure out a way to get me the hell out of Dodge!

Yes, finger-pointing should be done and someone needs to take some responsibility for the New Orleans relief and rescue clusterfuck, but is now really the time? Instead of looking for and retriving survivors from the floodwaters, everyone is seeking out fall-guys.

This blogging generation has an idea or perspective that they think is completely original and that, alone, qualifies them to be journalists. The problem of a country full of journalists is everyone is too busy reporting to do anything physically tangible. Ever seen that episode of Seinfeld where they get thrown in jail because they were recording a mugging instead of helping the victim? - the good samaritan episode. Well, we're a Seinfeld society. Everyone's too busy patting themselves on the back for putting their "voice" of concern out over the internet that we've all forgotten that 'talk is cheap,' and it's easy to fake an orgasm.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Flatscreen candlelight, AC-powered Internet, and Hurricane Katrina

I didn't think anything of writing by the green bulb desklight above my laptop. But there I was, writing in the white/green light on Sunday, listening to the New Orleans, NBC affiliate WDSU-TV report the latest weather conditions and explain the phenomenon hitting the Gulf shore from the WAPT-TV news desk in Jackson, Miss.

My friend and I i sat around in my room eating Taco Bell listening/watching the outstretched arms of Katrina start grabbing hold of Louisiana's coastal regions. The light and the sounds reminded me of how my parents and their parents must have followed local weather and unfolding news events by radio.

The last time I followed such a story was 9/11, but that was different. I watched CNN, MSNBC, and FoxNews on that day. The last time I watched unfoloding news stories on local, network programming was Princess Diana's fatal car accident. I was still living at home and it struck me as odd that my parents found it interesting - they never seemed to give mind to English royalty - and I was still just beginning to understand America's royal addiction.

Taking in all this - not to mention a few beers - I may have been too hard on the local network news programs. During 9/11, the cable news networks all adopted human voices because they were based in New York - it was the event itself happening live and unexpected behind the sets of Good Morning American and the Today Show.

On Sunday, I turned to the internet sites of those major cable new outlets and all they could offer were updated stories and maybe some satellite footage of the hurricane as it started to hit land. If one could handle hitting the refresh button over and over infinitum, maybe that's a good thing, but being able to listen to a live broadcast to actually see the hurricane's minute-by-minute progression is not without its merit.

But, what I found most interesting was, like listening to severe weather updates on a radio by candlelight with my parents, those reporting have much at stake themselves. Had I had cable when Hurricane Katrina hit land, the television would either have been off or on mute; those news anchors had no vested, personal interest in what happened in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama that Monday morning. They would have been professionally consoling and factual, but I, the audience, couldn't feel anything for them. I'm in Central Texas, qutie a few hundred, if not thousands, of miles outside the focussed eye of that storm, but I have friends, friends of dear friends, and family in that area of the US, but more than that, to hear the local news anchors after evacuating New Orleans and to hear them talk of their own Louisiana homes, I felt as if they were extended family members.

Monday, August 15, 2005

eminent domain v. the multitude of internet domain names

I say, what's really going on? Kelo v New London, the eminent domain case affirmed by the USSC in late June, allows local governments to force private property owners to sell land and businesses if the government feels it to be in the best interest of the community. Property rights aside, what will happen to mystery and imagination when Wal-Mart replaces the abandoned, "haunted" house behind an elementary school?

It's a new day and, somewhere, a new culture is being conceived and offended. We are an anti-social people known to our friends as caller-id phone numbers, as e-mail addresses to our business associates and families, and screen names to our mistresses and beloveds. Everything, once held to be private, is now subject to national security and children with cell phones scare local communities because kids can now organize.

Gone are the days of working the gossip mills unless you're in the media or politics. The emergence of blogging communities has nothing to do with legislative re-zoning, but is everything like high school football stadium camping chairs embroidered with the motto of the "do-it-yourself" community. Everyone is simultaneously a single member in a larger, like-minded audience as well its voice.

The East, disciplined and controlled, is opening-up to our, American way of doing things - for the good of one. And while this freedom is still infantile and tops Christmas wishlists, Easterners will soon join our small internet, niche-communities. And the world flattens.

So, when every corner in America looks the same, and every person waiting for the bus across the street looks the same, remember that everything is just a vehicle to bring people, not bodies, together. So the governments have this new flexibility with our property rights, let the conspiracy theorists argue that one inside their bong smoke-filled living rooms. It's another freedom we have given up in the name of capitalism. We already have enough excuses as to why we never leave the house.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

It all started in an AOL chatroom

it began in a room lit during the day by sunlight through three windows, by the blue-white screen of my friend's first computer at night. he took the week off. we rotated on and off the AOL chatrooms in shifts - napping, working, and eating around the silent hum of his over-heating hard drive.

only the rooms have changed since then. now, i'm in a coffee shop sitting behind a laptop and a smoking cigarette, wired into the internet via a wireless network card and my headphones. surrounded by people, yet still in a different world - i can hear their them laugh and chat through the beats in my head, but i am not a part of it - i'm in the room, but unavailable...leave me a message and i'll get back with you. this is after the AOL chatroom craze.

i sat for an hour staring at this computer screen trying to think of a way to start this post, realizing typing out an introduction is as easy for me as initiating a conversation with a supermodel. at least on screen i can backspace my way out of hundreds failed conversation-starters. in the original AOL chatrooms, it was as easy as a simple "hi...". but, those rooms now employ electronic strippers with shaved wormholes waving porn-site hyperlinks in front of your face.

when i left my home behind five years ago, i took my AOL screenname with me and braved the chatrooms in the bedroom of my first apartment to "meet" any one. i'm a shy person. i don't meet new people...i just can't do it. the internet lets me hide behind a keyboard and allows me to see what i say before i actually say it. now, two weeks before i return to the home i left behind, i no longer have an AOL identity. i do, though, have a MySpace personality. that is not a link to it. that is a link to a story on Kuro5hin about the simplicities of MySpace and its users.

i'm sitting in a coffee shop on fry street in Denton, arguably the second-best college bar-strip in the state of Texas (second to 6th Street in Austin), writing this post on my Firefox browser - three tabs, my gmail inbox, this post screen, and my MySpace home page - and i feel completely at-home - it's not about interacting, these days, it's about being seen. you don't have to be "available," you just have to be accessible - cellphones, instant messengers, blogs, text messages - they are all forms of this media mentality.

within the scopes of these media, we are adopting anti-social personalities. not multiple personalities for an entire culture, but numerous personalities within each person. we interact differently through each media. we adopt different faces and expressions - emoticons - and different looks - avatars. we're taking our selves and putting them into text and computer graphics. i'd like to think all the walls we're putting up to distance ourselves from each other somehow makes it easier to be honest with each other.

my love for AOL in the beginning stemmed from this separation, though, i couldn't label it then. naively, i thought it was because it didn't matter what you looked like. appearances were only as different as the default fonts and colors AOL offered. you could say whatever you wanted. you could lie and no one would know. maybe profile pictures remove some of the mystery. or, maybe they replace it with intrigue. the truth remains, however, that we longer hide behind screennames.