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July 1, 2005

'God's Little Toys: Confessions of a Cut & Paste Artist' — by William Gibson


Above, the title of a superb piece appearing in the new (July) issue of Wired magazine.

William Gibson is up there with the two Steves — Jobs and Wozniak — in my personal pantheon.


I thought his most recent book, "Pattern Recognition" (pictured above and below in some of its many translations) was just great.

And the DVD account of a road trip across the U.S. entitled "No Maps For These Territories" (below),


with Gibson kind of free–associating about this and that, interspersed with lots of great photos and stuff from the/his past, is a can't miss for any Gibson admirer.

Re: the Wired article, long story short: we're all mash–up artists.

Our lives are nothing but pastiche, disguised thinly or not as our reality.

Get over it.


Here's Gibson's take on why there's nothing original under the sun — never has been and never will be.

    God's Little Toys

    Confessions of a cut & paste artist

    When I was 13, in 1961, I surreptitiously purchased an anthology of Beat writing - sensing, correctly, that my mother wouldn't approve.

    Immediately, and to my very great excitement, I discovered Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and one William S. Burroughs - author of something called Naked Lunch, excerpted there in all its coruscating brilliance.

    Burroughs was then as radical a literary man as the world had to offer, and in my opinion, he still holds the title.

    Nothing, in all my experience of literature since, has ever been quite as remarkable for me, and nothing has ever had as strong an effect on my sense of the sheer possibilities of writing.


    Later, attempting to understand this impact, I discovered that Burroughs had incorporated snippets of other writers' texts into his work, an action I knew my teachers would have called plagiarism.

    Some of these borrowings had been lifted from American science fiction of the '40s and '50s, adding a secondary shock of recognition for me.

    By then I knew that this "cut-up method," as Burroughs called it, was central to whatever it was he thought he was doing, and that he quite literally believed it to be akin to magic.

    When he wrote about his process, the hairs on my neck stood up, so palpable was the excitement.

    Experiments with audiotape inspired him in a similar vein: "God's little toy," his friend Brion Gysin called their reel-to-reel machine.


    Burroughs was interrogating the universe with scissors and a paste pot, and the least imitative of authors was no plagiarist at all.

    Some 20 years later, when our paths finally crossed, I asked Burroughs whether he was writing on a computer yet.


    "What would I want a computer for?" he asked, with evident distaste.

    "I have a typewriter."

    But I already knew that word processing was another of God's little toys, and that the scissors and paste pot were always there for me, on the desktop of my Apple IIc.

    Burroughs' methods, which had also worked for Picasso, Duchamp, and Godard, were built into the technology through which I now composed my own narratives.

    Everything I wrote, I believed instinctively, was to some extent collage.

    Meaning, ultimately, seemed a matter of adjacent data.

    Thereafter, exploring possibilities of (so-called) cyberspace, I littered my narratives with references to one sort or another of collage: the AI in Count Zero that emulates Joseph Cornell, the assemblage environment constructed on the Bay Bridge in Virtual Light.

    Meanwhile, in the early '70s in Jamaica, King Tubby and Lee "Scratch" Perry, great visionaries, were deconstructing recorded music.

    Using astonishingly primitive predigital hardware, they created what they called versions.


    The recombinant nature of their means of production quickly spread to DJs in New York and London.

    Our culture no longer bothers to use words like appropriation or borrowing to describe those very activities.

    Today's audience isn't listening at all - it's participating.

    Indeed, audience is as antique a term as record, the one archaically passive, the other archaically physical.

    The record, not the remix, is the anomaly today.

    The remix is the very nature of the digital.

    Today, an endless, recombinant, and fundamentally social process generates countless hours of creative product (another antique term?).

    To say that this poses a threat to the record industry is simply comic.

    The record industry, though it may not know it yet, has gone the way of the record.


    Instead, the recombinant (the bootleg, the remix, the mash-up) has become the characteristic pivot at the turn of our two centuries.

    We live at a peculiar juncture, one in which the record (an object) and the recombinant (a process) still, however briefly, coexist.

    But there seems little doubt as to the direction things are going.

    The recombinant is manifest in forms as diverse as Alan Moore's graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, machinima generated with game engines (Quake, Doom, Halo), the whole metastasized library of Dean Scream remixes, genre-warping fan fiction from the universes of Star Trek or Buffy or (more satisfying by far) both at once, the JarJar-less Phantom Edit (sound of an audience voting with its fingers), brand-hybrid athletic shoes, gleefully transgressive logo jumping, and products like Kubrick figures, those Japanese collectibles that slyly masquerade as soulless corporate units yet are rescued from anonymity by the application of a thoughtfully aggressive "custom" paint job.

    We seldom legislate new technologies into being.

    They emerge, and we plunge with them into whatever vortices of change they generate.


    We legislate after the fact, in a perpetual game of catch-up, as best we can, while our new technologies redefine us - as surely and perhaps as terribly as we've been redefined by broadcast television.

    "Who owns the words?" asked a disembodied but very persistent voice throughout much of Burroughs' work.

    Who does own them now?

    Who owns the music and the rest of our culture?

    We do.

    All of us.


    Though not all of us know it - yet.

July 1, 2005 at 06:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Scarecrow Motion–Activated Sprinkler


Very cool — and wet.


Here's how it works:

1) Connect the battery–operated device (top) to your hose

2) Stick it in the ground

3) Wait


When the built–in heat and motion detector senses movement —up to 35 feet in front and 45 feet to the sides throughout its 100° detection zone (below) —


it shoots a 3–second, 2–cup water burst at the trespasser.

It then resets in 7 seconds, "ready for the next intruder."

"The effect is both startling and immediate!"

No doubt.

You get up to 5,000 bursts from a single 9-V battery.

The device is 24" tall and covers a 1,000–square–foot area.

Effective day and night.


So much fun you'll want to invite all your unwitting friends over (sequentially would probably be best) so you can enjoy their startled screams and bad words.

Mollify them by offering a fluffy towel and the chance to watch the next hapless victim get hers.

Karen Schindelhauer, marketing manager of Scarecrow maker Contech Electronics, told Sarah Bailey, in today's USA Today, "I get cards from people saying they haven't had roses for years because of cats and now they finally have something in their garden."

Bailey's story continued, "And then there are the unconventional uses. One customer put The Scarecrow outside her son's window to prevent him from sneaking out at night. 'Her son was soaking wet and couldn't lie about it,' Schindelhauer says."

How nice.


The device retails for $89, said the USA Today story; I found it for for $56.95 here. (9-V battery and rose seeds not included.)

July 1, 2005 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: FDA to get tough on raw sprouts


Back in 1999 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an advisory regarding eating raw sprouts.

The advisory stated that "Children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems are at high risk of developing serious illness due to foodborne disease. People in high risk categories should not eat raw sprouts."

Last year the FDA issued an updated set of guidelines regarding sprouts.

OK, that was then; what about now?

In April of this year the FDA decided that developing stricter safety standards for sprouts was a top priority.

For your interest, sprouts include mung, alfalfa, clover, broccoli and radish seedlings.

Saran Schaefer Muñoz, in a June 14 article in the Wall Street Journal, noted that since 1996 an estimated 1,636 cases of illness — 40% of all food–borne illness associated with produce — have been attributed to raw or slightly cooked sprouts.

The number has dropped substantially since the 1999 advisory noted above.

Sprouts are a roughly $530 million U.S. industry.

The FDA currently considers them a health risk equal to undercooked beef or eggs.

In both the 2000 and 2005 FDA guidelines, sprouts were the only fruit or vegetable singled out.

Muñoz wrote, "Food researchers say a contaminated sprout, whose bacteria originate from its seed, can contain millions of bacteria. A tainted chicken carcass, in contrast, usually contains around 100."

    Here's her article:

    FDA Looks at Sprouts For Food-Borne Illness

    After long attacking health concerns arising from undercooked meat and raw eggs, the government is now zeroing in on another culprit in the war against food-borne illness: sprouts.

    To reduce sickness from E.coli and salmonella, the Food and Drug Administration says that developing stricter safety standards for sprouts -- which include mung, alfalfa, clover, broccoli and radish seedlings -- is a top priority.

    Last month, the FDA began asking for public comment on a plan for tougher restrictions on growing these popular additions to sandwiches and salads.

    Since 1996, raw or slightly cooked sprouts have caused an estimated 1,636 cases of illness, or 40% of all food-borne illness associated with produce, according to the FDA.

    Though the number of cases has dropped substantially since 1999 due to stepped-up decontamination attempts by the industry, federal regulators say the current push is necessary because sprouts -- a favorite among health-food enthusiasts -- still pose a measure of risk to consumers.

    Mostly grown by individuals or small farming operations, sprouts are a roughly $530 million U.S. industry.

    Often served in Asian dishes or used raw to add crunch to other foods, the antioxidant-rich produce has also been heralded for its cancer-fighting properties.

    Despite being high in fiber and free of fat, fresh sprouts were flagged in the government's two latest dietary guidelines as a health risk tantamount to undercooked beef or eggs.

    In both years, 2000 and 2005, they were the only fruit or vegetable to be singled out in the guidelines.

    Food researchers say a contaminated sprout, whose bacteria originate from its seed, can contain millions of bacteria.

    A tainted chicken carcass, in contrast, usually contains around 100.

    But ensuring sprout safety has proved elusive for food regulators and the industry itself.

    That's because sprouts, compared with other foods, pose some particularly thorny issues.

    Eggs and beef, for instance, can be properly refrigerated and cooked to avoid many safety concerns.

    Melons and most other produce can be thoroughly washed.

    But there's no surefire method of making sprouts germ-free once the seed is contaminated.

    Seeds can become contaminated during production and storage if they are exposed to animals or unclean conditions.

    Bacteria can grow inside the sprout so they can't be washed off.

    "Sprouts are somewhat unique," says researcher Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia. "We really don't know of any control measure."

    In 1999, after the number of illnesses linked to sprouts spiked, the FDA issued guidelines for the sprout industry that urged producers to chlorinate seeds before they sprout.

    Still widely used, chlorination has proved irritating to the skins and respiratory tracts of sprout producers, many of whom run small operations with limited facilities and equipment, says Bob Sanderson, a sprout grower and president of Jonathan's Sprouts Inc., in Rochester, Mass.

    Mr. Sanderson also heads the International Sprout Growers Association.

    While sprouts may pose a bacterial risk, fans of the food are quick to point out their health benefits.

    Sprouts are packed with vitamin C, vitamin A and some types, like radish sprouts, are high in calcium.

    Several years ago, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found that compounds in broccoli sprouts enhance the body's natural cancer-fighting abilities.

    Sprout growers and researchers say they have tried a variety of methods to reduce the bacterial risk at the source: sprout seeds.

    They have attempted to irradiate seeds, but the resulting sprout looks withered and unappetizing.

    Other methods include soaking seeds in hot water, using ultrasound to "shake" the bacteria off seeds and chlorination.

    So far, none are fully reliable, though outbreaks have fallen substantially since the industry implemented voluntary guidelines in 1999.

    Yet after five outbreaks in 2003, health officials began considering whether regulations might be needed to ensure sprout safety.

    As part of a 2004 plan to make all produce safer, the agency is asking for comments from the public on how to further diminish threats from sprouts.

    "Outbreaks have continued and more needs to be done," says Michelle Smith, a scientist in the FDA's office of Plant and Dairy Foods.

    Bob Rust, president of International Specialty Supply LLC in Cookeville, Tenn., a seed-supply company, says his company tests a sample from every bag of seeds before it is shipped, and believes all suppliers should do the same.

    Whole Foods Market Inc., which usually carries about 10 different types of sprouts, has had a program in place since 2003 to tests sprouts for bacterial contamination, says spokeswoman Ashley Hawkins.

    The high-end chain doesn't plan to limit its sprout offerings as a result of the FDA scrutiny.

    Mr. Sanderson hopes that the FDA will define a standard for sprouts and leave it up and the sprouting industry to use its own methods to meet the standard.

    What he doesn't want to see are mandated warning labels on packages, a measure proposed by some consumer groups.

    "That's just like an admission of failure," he says.

    Steve Meyerowitz, author of several books about the health benefits of sprouts and who sells supplies to the home-sprouting industry, says that sprouts are still a safe and healthy food.

    He says the industry overall makes an effort to keep growing conditions sanitary and to test the seed water for bacteria before sending the sprouts to market.

    "But some growers give the whole industry a bad name," he says.

July 1, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Playaway — The digital book is the player


No more downloading and fussing.

You buy a Playaway and you're good to go.

    From the website:

    • Simple — Just open the package and insert the included battery. Plug in the included earphones.

    • Preloaded — Every Playaway comes already loaded with your favorite content, from novels to biographies, languages to history lessons. No cassettes. No CDs. No downloads – just play.

    • Digital — Playaway delivers sound that's crisp and flawless. The ability to bookmark or speed read. And a simple keypad to control it all.

    • Portable — Compact enough to fit in your hand or pocket. Light enough to fit comfortably around your neck. Flexible enough to plug into your earphones, your car or your home speakers.

Too bad the company's website is an absolute nightmare.


Loaded with Flash so it's slow; and not just Flash, but bad, annoying, silly, irritating Flash.

How can such things happen?

Easy: they never bothered to ask me first.

Hey, it's not my money, what do I care?

But I do.

That's just the way I am.


Let me offer my take on Flash: it should be used sparingly, like CPR.

Never unless absolutely called for.

But I digress.

Oh, hey, right, one more thing about the Playaway: you can't buy one just yet.

Or anytime in the near future.

They hope to have them out this year.


Or as the more cynical among us like to say, "real soon now."

[via AW]

July 1, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

bookofjoe goes to the races


And not just to watch: sure, I'm as much a Chauncey Gardiner as anyone else; as Chauncey uttered with his blissful, idiot grin, "I like to watch," but I like to take part as well.

Hey, wait a minute, where's this going, anyhow?

Oh, yeah, the races.

Last night was the first in a series of three summer "all–comers" track meets put on by the Charlottesville Track Club at Lannigan Field, the University of Virginia's track.

The grand finale event of each is a long distance run; last night was a 5K.

Yours truly, in yet another giant step for himself, even it was rather infinitesimal as regards all mankind, blew through the event in a — for me so far this year — scorching time of 26:49.

That's 8:38/mile for 3.1 miles, significantly faster than the year's previous fastest 5K, which was 28:05 ((9:03/mile) on May 14.

My splits last night: mile 1 in 8:31, mile 2 in 8:51, the final 1.1 miles in 8:35/mile.

I'm lovin' it.

I felt good, not at all destroyed, throughout the race.

I came through the first 400 meters in 1:55, way too fast since I was planning on 9-minute miles which = 2:15 quarters.

I slowed it down but when I came through the first mile comfortably at 8:31 I said hey, maybe I can sustain this for the duration.

And I did.

Next goal: break 26 minutes.

Monday, July 4 is the Forest Lakes 5K and then on July 9 we go to the Fairview Country Club for the Fairview 5K so I've got two upcoming cracks at it.

A sub–26–minute 5K = 8:23/mile, in case you were/are interested.

To what do I attribute this newfound smokin' pace?

Well, I think it's ridiculous to say the new treadmill, which arrived on Thursday, June 23 and has been in use while I read and walk at Dr. James Levine's prescribed pace of 0.7 mph, has made this dramatic a difference this soon.

Full disclosure: I emailed Dr. Levine soon after his work was featured in the New York Times; he emailed me back and advised that the ideal "work–walk" speed is 0.7 mph.

I will tell you this: I feel much better overall throughout the day and have been sleeping wonderfully since I've been up on the treadmill for, on average, three hours a day.

My legs are tired in the evening since I began my morning indoor newspaper–reading constitutionals but that's alright.

I'm restricting treadmill time for the time being to reading; no movement yet toward building a computer workstation a la Dr. Levine.

The reason: I'm still getting used to being on the treadmill for hours at a time.

Another reason: I'm still figuring out the best way to build my work area.

Should I use an additional piece (or pieces) of freestanding equipment, as Dr. Levine has done, or clamp devices onto the treadmill frame itself, with the ability to swivel and swing them in or out of my work field as needed?

Stay tuned for more on that.

The pictures in this post are of my treadmill as currently configured.

I've placed it in my living room, toward the northeast corner of the house.

It features a Levenger reading stand from back in the day when the company was still tiny and up in the northeast.


The curly ribbons were placed there by a cool girl at my birthday party a year ago and I liked them so much I decided to leave 'em there until I crump.

July 1, 2005 at 01:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Baseball's Latest Fashion Accessory: The Titanium Necklace


Baseball players are probably among the most superstitious athletes on the planet.

So I'm not surprised to learn that around 200 major league ballplayers and 80% of Japanese players are now wearing necklaces embedded with titanium (above, on Mets reliever Heath Bell).

Lee Jenkins wrote about the new craze in the June 22 New York Times.

The $23 necklaces, sold by a Japanese company called Phiten, are made of nylon coated with a titanium solution and are said to improve circulation and reduce muscle stress.

Besides the necklaces, available in 12 different colors to match any team uniform, Phiten has started selling socks, boxers, soaps, shampoos and pillow cases, all incorporating similar technology.

Scott McDonald, a Seattle–based sales and marketing representative for Phiten and clearly a direct descendent of Nikola Tesla, told the Times' Jenkins, "Everybody has electricity running through their bodies. This product stablizes that flow of electricity if you're stressed or tired."

Makes perfectly good sense to me.

So much so that from this moment forward, all pixels composing bookofjoe will be Phiten–treated and titanium coated.

Don't you feel better already?

Stop by daily for your rejuvenation therapy: as always, one everyday low price.

But I digress.

Rick Peterson, the Mets' pitching coach, has started wearing Phiten tights in addition to his necklace.

Here's a link to Phiten's website so you can hop on board the titanium bandwagon.

And if you really want to take it to the next level here's a link to a website that sells zillions of products make of titanium.

    Here's the article:

    Is Your Bat Speed a Bit Off? Try a Titanium Necklace

    Considering that baseball players rub snake oil on their arms, smear mascara under their eyes and keep pine tar stored on their helmets, it should come as no surprise that they are starting to wear necklaces embedded with titanium.

    More common in major league clubhouses than 24-karat gold chains are $23 nylon necklaces, produced in Japan and distributed to athletes looking for the latest edge.

    If steroids are out, titanium is in.

    Representatives from Phiten, a company based in Japan that sells the necklaces, say the nylon is coated in a titanium solution that can help improve circulation and reduce muscle stress.

    Predictably, baseball players have been among the best customers.

    Phiten estimated that the necklaces were worn by 200 major leaguers and that 80 percent of Japanese players had used them.

    The Mets, as desperate as any team for a quick fix, are practically making the necklace part of their uniform and trying not to choke themselves with it.

    On a given day, Manager Willie Randolph, 20 of his players and half the coaching staff look as if they are wearing blue, black or orange Frisbees around their necks.

    This is becoming baseball's answer to the Lance Armstrong bracelet.

    "It's so typical," Mets pitcher Tom Glavine said.

    "You tell a baseball player something will make him feel better, and he'll take it. I tried it when I pitched on Sunday and I lost, so needless to say, I'll never wear it again."

    Rick Down, the Mets' hitting coach, models two at a time.

    Relief pitcher Heath Bell has one for work and another for bed.

    Billy Wagner, the Phillies' closer, wears one, and so does his son.

    But even those who swear by the necklace seem stumped by the most critical question: Does it really work?

    "I guess I feel a little happier with it," Seattle infielder Jose Lopez said.

    Phillies outfielder Endy Chavez said, "I think I have a little more energy with it."

    Mets reliever Roberto Hernandez said: "I don't know if it does anything at all. But I'll still wear it."

    Bell said: "This is the way I look at the issue: If you think it works, it's going to work. If you don't think it works, it's not going to work. But I'm going to keep wearing it, because next year, there will be something new we'll all have to get."

    Randy Johnson, now with the Yankees, kicked off the titanium trend four years ago when he learned about Phiten on an all-star tour in Japan.

    The Red Sox made the necklaces part of their fashion statement during last year's World Series.

    "If it worked for them, I figured it might work for me," said Mets first baseman Brian Daubach, who began last season with the Red Sox.

    "Baseball players will copy anything that had success."

    When the Mets arrived in Seattle on Friday, they were greeted by Phiten representatives at their clubhouse door with enough products to weigh down the team plane.

    Besides the necklaces, which come in 12 different colors, matching any team jersey, Phiten has started selling socks, boxers, soaps, shampoos and pillow cases, all incorporating similar technology.

    "Everybody has electricity running through their bodies," said Scott McDonald, a Seattle-based sales and marketing representative for Phiten.

    "This product stabilizes that flow of electricity if you're stressed or tired. Pitchers are seeing that they aren't as sore. Injured players are seeing that they recover faster from workouts. People are always skeptical, but when they try it, they become believers."

    After Daubach was hit on the knee with a pitch last week, he put titanium-coated stickers around his bruise and said it reduced the pain.

    Rick Peterson, the Mets' pitching coach, has started wearing Phiten tights in addition to his necklace.

    First baseman Doug Mientkiewicz pairs the tape with the necklace - but not at all times.

    Even baseball players have their limits.

    "They want you to wear it to sleep, and I can't do that," Mientkiewicz said.

    "The necklace has already started to smell, and I don't think my wife likes it very much."

July 1, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Memory Maps


It's in beta at Flickr.com.

You take a trip via satellite down memory lane.

You see images of your old schools, houses, and other nostalgia that you can annotate with personal anecdotes.


I can't use it 'cause I don't understand how it works but that needn't stop you.

If you waited till I figured things out you'd need to be placed in suspended animation for the indefinite future.

Wait a minute... the future is by definition indefinite... isn't it?

[via Matthew Yeomans and Wired magazine]

July 1, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Removable Wallpaper


Stephen Treffinger, in his "Room To Improve" feature in the June 23 New York Times, featured this product in response to a question from a reader who rents and likes wallpaper.


Treffinger suggested two versions.


The first was removable wallpaper strips (above and below) from a company called Twenty2, headquartered in Brooklyn.

They offer a choice of five patterns each of which comes in a variety of colors.


The strips, which cost $56 each, come prepasted and are 13 inches wide by 15 feet long.


Treffinger wrote, "The material is strong enough and the glue sufficiently forgiving that you can just grab a corner and pull it off."

He noted that the company plans to introduce full–width removable wallpaper in the coming months.

The second is a collection of more traditional patterns from Sherwin–Williams called EasyChange.

This is full–size wallpaper that comes in rolls 20.5 inches wide by 30–33 feet long.

It costs between $50 and $75 a roll at sherwin-williams.com.

July 1, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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