Friday, July 14, 2017

On the Age of the 'Human Search Engines'

"Human Search Engine," by Douglas McDaniel

This one could have just as easily been called "The Aderall Diaries." It's based on my experience as senior editor for Access Internet Magazine 17 years ago. An experience ending with the breaking of the so-called "Dot-Com Bubble" in 2001. So there we were in a beehive of more than 100 employees in Needham, Massachusetts, in a cube farm e-mailing each other all day long, in addition to attempting to respond to incoming phone calls and e-mails for a tabloid style magazine with a circulation of more than 11 million as inserts in newspapers across the nation, much like Parade Magazine. And let me tell you this right now: Information disease is a real thang. 

Anyhow, Access spent about $27 million over maybe three years but then went bust in the second quarter of 2001. I left the position maybe three days after New Year's Day that year. I had been declared someone who "didn't get the vision." This was actually relayed to me on a printed piece of paper. Why? Because of several reasons. The first was I had done a story on something called Fuckedcompany.com, and that story got pulled, maybe because of the language but mostly due to the fact it was charting the number of internet start ups going out of business around the fall of 2000. Also, I had wanted to do a story on something called Echelon, the NSA surveillance program in those years, because I felt it related to the internet consumer, the purpose of the magazine, however, that story got spiked, too. That very week Steve Kroft, the brilliant and tough-minded reporter for "60 Minutes," did an expose on the NSA surveillance program. And yeah, maybe after that, I was getting a little wiffy on the "vision" at Access.

For example, I kept calling their internet side a "roach motel," since it wasn't really open-ended like Yahoo. In fact, I had proposed something called "The Interactive Advocate." Now that I look back on it, the whole idea, written out in great detail like Jerry McGuire's "mission statement," was a lot like Facebook now. Of course, like a lot of my ADHD ideas, I was told to go back to my desk and focus on doing things about new cooking and shopping sites. However, the beauty of having such a high-profile job was it allowed me to take all of this excess productivity and start writing for such internet offerings as Disinfo.com and G21.net, the latter of which was edited by the late, great Rod Amis (God bless you dude, barely a day goes by where I don't thank the little plastic baby Jesus for getting to know you in real space).

Moving forward, as I choke back the tears over this, I'd have to say one of the next-to-last things that ruined my "vision" at Access was pulling together a cover story on the top 100 shopping sites for the December 2000 issue. Now, based on what I was hearing from an editor at Disinfo, as well as the drift I was getting at Fuckedcompany.com and Dotcomdeathwatch.com, I was feeling very, very troubled about promoting so many shopping sites. I wanted to do something a little more visionary and call it "The Revenge of the Brick and Mortar Stores." I told my editors many of these businesses would be out of business shortly after the beginning of the year. It was shortly after that, the executive editor, who was an apparent fan of L. Ron Hubbard and now is still doing kick-ass stuff for other computer magazines, handed me the slip of paper over the "vision" thing. The very last thing I turned in for Access was a cover story on the potential for what we now call e-books. Which "Human Search Engine" now is.

However, that story got spiked, too, perhaps because I put a little too much in about it on William Blake, and on how he would walk upon this Earth trying to sell his illuminated books for shillings apiece. Fortunately, later on, I found the time to write another book that I think still holds up like "Human Search Engine," called "William Blake in Cyberspace." 

Without giving the plot away, let me just write this: That William Blake once wrote the following words, "That which is now proved was once only imagined."

 Again moving forward, in a fine Promethean romp, Access went out of business exactly six months after reaching its zenith as I was getting handed the note over the "vision" thing. In fact, I went to the office in Needham the very last day it was open in order to get copies of the magazine for job hunting purposes. The place was a ruin. No more cube farm. Just a lot of wires hanging from the ceiling and coffee stains on the carpet. But I got a ton of issues, and then went on to my merry day. Finally, this: As far as I can tell now, this book "Human Search Engine" is one of the few remaining relics left from that amazing publication, since there doesn't seem to be much online left about it.

In fact, copies of the magazine can go as collector's item for $50 buck apiece, which is far less than what I charge for either my e-book about the place, or, of course, the brick and mortar book about it. I recently told my former editor at Access about this. She told me to never contact her again. And so, I won't, at least not directly. All I'm going to say is, this one goes out to you, S.C., who's got the fucking "vision thing" now! Namaste.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Mythville: Poolside

Mythville: Poolside: Four pigeons by the whirlpool coodling up chlorine Flying life, safe as ginger in a cabinet, extrapolates lifespan The w...

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Warm and Personal Greeting to Kim Jong Un

In the year 2007 this shot was taken by Telluride Watch freelance writer Amy Levek. It shows an errant fireworks volley exploding in the crowd at Town Park, Telluride, Colorado, on July 4. The point is, Kim Jong Un, this is what Americans do to their own people. Imagine what they could do to you.
Regarding your gift to the "American Bastards," that is your firing of one ICBM,
 now no longer serviceable,
 that you dumped into the sea
 like a one-shot Roman candle
 on the Fourth of July.

Thank you for doing that.
Such a wonderful offering.
Such a gift.
It must have cost you trillions.
Your people are so generous.
They starved themselves for this.
Didn't they?
No?
Well then, let me tell you a little story.
When I was a lad I used to have a recurring dream.
Some kind of hideous creature would crawl from out from under my bed and scare me.
This being, who when I think about it looks a lot like you, would not go away.
Then when I got older I had an idea.
I decided the next time I saw this phantom in a dream I would beat the shit out of it.
And you know what?
I never had that dream again.
I wasn't scared anymore.
But let's get down to some verifiable details.
North Korea's spy agency, Unit 180, has been fucking with our shit for quite some time now. And I remember seeing all kinds of bad stuff about you during the old days of Cryptome.org in 2000, when I was senior editor at Access Internet Magazine. It's hard to find much about that deceased publication now. Other than what I have written myself.

Vanished from the face of the Earth. Which is something for you to think about, Great Leader.
Second, for mysterious reasons I cannot explain, this little tune, "Hawk on the Hill," became a slight hit in China.
I got no pay for that.
Don't mind too much.
I did before. But not right now.
Since it was my offering, my sacrifice, while I was practically starving, too, during the Great Recession.
Three: There's a very good chance this song, with the one line to a trippy beat, "Knock that hawk down offa da hill," is still in possession of some folks on your side of the world, perhaps even members of your starving population.
So here we go, the nut of this message.
One, America does not waste its nuclear weapons by dumping them into the sea.
Two, America is in possession of post-stuxnet computer software than can pretty much melt your inferior technology down in less time than it takes to send this message.
Three, and this is a big one: America does not want to wipe you, your country, or your people off the face of the Earth.
Americans are good people and would prefer not to do that.
Four: There is a very good chance there are members of your own circle, most certainly members of your own society, who think you are a raving mad lunatic hell-bent on nothing more than spreading bottomless, baseless fear and, of course, total self-destruction.
So this one goes out to you, the people of North Korea, members of the inner circle, as well as Unit 180, who all must have better things in mind for their own lives than to die for you. So rise up. Rise up, North Korea. Knock that hawk down offa da hill.
And if they don't do that, because they likely won't, since they are all brainwashed since birth, then I have no other choice than to demand you immediate surrender.

Then you can join the world of rational nations (OK, OK just nations) and live in relative peace (Augh!) ... well, keep existing for the time being.
Namaste.
A Russian satellite crashing to the Earth. Now that's a fireworks display!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Just follow the gas, man ... follow the gas



I have ceased my Facebook friend's list policy of deleting Trump supporters. This practice only increases the sense of isolation and division in social media. My perspective is "liberal" because after many years of journalism and moving around in the U.S. I have witnessed the cruelties of conservative administrations first hand. However, we can all learn from each other. Healing this country has got to begin with civilized discourse between those with opposing views, as opposed to flaming one another like this whole electronic real-time medium is a weapon in some kind of civil war.

~

It's going to be 120 degrees in Phoenix, Arizona next week, where the only people who are happy are those looking forward to the punishment of the Lord.

~

First of all, the wealthy will always get their legislation passed, no matter who is running the show. Second, the intelligence agencies have a lot more to gain by sustaining fear of foreign enemies than wading into inside-job-style political shennanigans on the domestic front.

That's way too risky. The last thing they want is peace with Russia. Cuts into their budget requests. Foreign trade deals weren't favored by Trump or Clinton, a campaign meme masterminded by Bernie Sanders. In this case, instead of following the money, we should follow the fake news.

Critical metadata was stolen from the Democratic party. What did the hackers do with it? It was given to the Russians, which is where the key part of the whole collusion with the Trump campaign and the Kremlin rests.

That voter data was used to bomb swing state voters with disinformation, with the additional value of it going viral nationwide, which is why my kids thought the Clinton family ran a child pornography ring, Bill Clinton was a convicted serial rapist, and many other low-information voters took the fake news bait.

The whole thing would need to be a massive undertaking but pretty damn cheap. That's where Breitbart, Cambridge Analytics and all of the other fake news bots come in. If that can't be proven, then the whole Trump-Putin-collusion investigation goes soft, and the administration can escape the net by discrediting the whole thing as a conspiracy of Obama-lovin' leakers against them.

Therefore, the Occam's Razor of this is two entities with the most to gain were involved. A politically desperate Trump and his dubious oligarch friends Russia and elsewhere, and Putin, who wanted reduced sanctions to power up the Rosneft gasopoly. This is about gas, man. Gas. Gas. Gas. Why the fuck else would Rex Tillerson be secretary of state?

~

Republicans want us to tone down the rhetoric. Okay then. They misjudged the weapons of mass destruction threat in Iraq and caused some unhappiness and confusion in the region. They let Wall Street delete the economy, no sorry (too harsh) ... the chance for the middle class to have a really neat life. They elected Donald Trump, who is really doing his very best but it's not very good. He sold us out (hmmmm ..."negotiated") to the Russians, but really once you get to know them their leaders are really nice people. Putin is actually a pretty funny guy. Now they want to kill (Jeesh! Oh Gandhi, help me!) 25 million sick Americans who can't seem to pull themselves up by their own darned bootstraps and cure themselves. And no, I don't own a gun.

~

Is there some rule for poetry in The New Yorker where at least one word is so arcane it sends you scrambling for the dictionary, and if you don't provide that seldom heard word, they will provide one for you?

~

Wow, I'm earning micropayments for poetry. If I lived in Milton's time, I'd be one rich fucking bastard

~

Love is God's money.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Tequila Sunrise, NAU homecoming morning, Flagstaff, Arizona: an anthropological study



Today is Tequila Sunrise in Flagstaff, Arizona, when the downtown bars open at 6 a.m. for homecoming. My first sight, when I walked out my door at 7:26 a.m., as I took in the bright yellow fall colors of the morning sunlight, was a kid across the street in a black T-shirt and sunglasses, throwing up. Then he took a selfie of himself. Then a black car pulled up in the alley where the party was going on, already thumping before 6 a.m., and about 20 coeds in mini-skirts came out of the vehicle like a clown car. This must all be documented. I might have my only beer of the year at daybreak. The long black clown car, no doubt picking up the girls in the pre-day dark, has its headlights still on, parked in the sunrise.

Down San Francisco Street toward downtown, rivers of people moving with me. Startled even more awake by the blaring of the music at the Southside Tavern. The bouncers all wearing shades, all much older in their babysitting mission. Cops everywhere, four riding bicycles, two running on foot, race across San Francisco ... every train going by, say every 10 minutes, sounds their horn in violation of the usual railroad policy when going through town.

Everyone seems to be energized, but dazed, in "Why am I not sleeping" looks. Already, in my first five minutes, I've seen two arrests. Loaded into a Department of Public Safety vehicle, highway patrol. No selfie. Three blues, one brown. They are out early, in force, for a little duck hunting.

Outside the Green Room, there is a waiting line out the door and down the block. More train horns, a dangerously loud beat of pop music is coming from the bar. ID checked. One guy with a fake, maybe 18, maybe, turned away. I plunge into the cavernous melee with sunglasses on, can't see a thing but the Blue Oyster Cult of stage lights. My shoes come untied as someone bumps into me, then someone steps on my shoelace and that foot is stopped in its tracks as I stumble forward. I almost fall over as I notice the place is way too hot for my morning leather jacket.

In the artificial night of this place, with only daylight coming through the front door, all of the boys and girls are just standing around, and then deeper into the cave, people are dancing, somewhat. Everyone is drinking. Yelling at each other. Every now and then someone does a half-hearted move to the beat. It's been thirty years since I've been able to hear a conversation in a bar.

This is not wild abandon. This is mass conformity.

I go deeper into the crowd, into the swill of pheromones, raging hormones, a little wobbly, slow as a turtle, due to knees injured playing high school football, Should have known then. Should. Have. Known. Guy goes "Woe buddy" like I was one of the drunks. But I keep my distance. Don't want to be associated with this body of humanity, all wired up in the ether of cell phone traffic. Get bumped into again and again as the next generation races through. But I am still standing. My rehabbed knees holding me up, In fact, seems to be one of my better days. Little pain. Must be the beer.
But my first alcohol of the year, and surely the last, doesn't taste any weirder than any other time of the day.

I move even closer to the music. Oh God, the vibration, as people sing to a thumped-up version of "Wonderwall," originally for Oasis, but now turned up for the rave. Usually, by 9 a.m., I would be listening to the softer, acoustic Ryan Adams version. The music's endless bounce causes my groin to buzz, or am I born again?

Must remember not to lean on counters. My leather jacket sticks to these rare surfaces like fly paper.
As each moment passes in the pandemonium, I drink my beer of the year ever more quickly. Living in the moment is impossible here. The energy is immortal and headstrong. I feel the gotta-get-outta here fast urge as a single round bright stage light, 10 times brighter than the moon, ignites a song with the endlessly repeated line, "Lose your mind. Lose your mind. Lose your mind."

I go outside and talk to the smokers, trying to ask questions. But asking a college kid if beer tastes any different at 6 a.m. is like asking a fish how it feels to swim.

So I head back up stream, against the furious flow and increasingly staggering people on the way to the Green Room. The alley is paved, but alleys are great in old style mountain towns, and Flagstaff beats them all with murals painted on the outside of the building walls and a lot of posters up for coming events. I take notes near a garbage can. It's full of empty, ripped open boxes for 100 percent pure beef burgers, Red Bull and Budweiser.

Asked a guy my age about being out and about with people three times our junior. He says the Tequila Sunrise event, a tradition for decades, was "much worse" in 1978, when he graduated from Northern Arizona University. More fights, he says. More trouble. Losing your mind is now apparently more harnessed, more perfected now.

More cops around now, he says.

Must remember not to jaywalk. The dogs are out, feeding. I was warned not to let anybody throw up on me. So far, so good.

At Beaver and Aspen streets, there are barricades for pedestrian traffic. People are milling around, but mostly standing in clusters, while loose singles, guided by smart phones, find their friends and greet them excitedly, like they haven't seen each other for twenty years. There are people smoking and watching from upstory windows overlooking the street. This is all supposed to end at noon, but the stillness of the crowds in the line seems to indicate some kind of mid-morning entropy.

And the soul, at what moment is it reborn? At birth. At death? When you finally get into the latest hot spot to feel of the overwhelming wash of hip-hop amid a mob of people the same age?

Finally, I rest far from the crowds, sitting in a courtyard of shops, boutiques, eateries and bars right off Route 66. There is a guy playing flute for tips along the road. There is peace. A slight wind. Autumn leaves blowing around. Two crab apples fall off a tree. Then there more horn as the train goes by. Then there are cars going by turbulatin' their anxious energies up and down the Mother Road. Then a guy sits nearby, and he's on his phone, saying "I'm too drunk. I can't understand you. I'm at Rooftop Solar. yeah, Rooftop Solar." But there is nothing called Rooftop Solar around, and we are at street level.

Vamped up girls carry each other up and down the street, two drunk for two legs, by weaving wobblies with four. The sun is close to noon height. The inebriated are melting before my eyes. Doesn't the underworld have rules for this?



Saturday, August 20, 2016

What works, what doesn't, as a voice in the wilderness of social media and the blogosphere

William Blake never got a break ... until he was near death.

The problem isn't the poetry, it's the medium. Most of the greatest poets who are internationally recognized pre-date color TV. Dylan, Lennon, Springsteen and later Leonard Cohen took poetry and carried it across the airwaves on a musical vehicle a book of poetry could never attain. In terms of popularity, who cares? Sure, poets are minimized in comparison. If there was an Incredible Hulk of poetry, how bad would that be? A small press poet is something to be. Their art is no less meaningful despite a competitive environment that has relegated the poetry book medium into the arcane shadows of the dispossessed. As Blake wrote, "It is not my job to reason or compare. My job is to create." If I can move a room full of 20 people, then I have made a wave in the turning of the world ... In other words, a pin-prick fraction of eight billion souls is still a shitload.

~

Using social media as a news gathering source has its drawbacks. It's hard to get people to write. They just hit "like" and move on. This after I posted the following on Facebook: I'm doing an article on the National Park Service centennial and I'm looking from people about their recent experiences at National Parks, as well as related issues, such as encroaching development. Looking for quotes, so please give me a hand ..." The only response I got was a like from a new friend in Timor, Indonesia.

~

It happened: The Mythville blog finally surpassed 100,000 visits. My story and interview with Gordon Lightfoot finally pushed it over the edge. Thank you, whoever you are, 100,000th visitor ... You've made a lone voice in the wilderness of the web a happy man today ... http://mythville.blogspot.com


Just looked at some of the reports on Trump's rally in North Carolina, and Jared Yates Sexton, who has turned tweeting crowd commentary into an art form, has noticed a new form of behavior. After the GOP candidate blames the media for his sinking in the polls, people like to stalk the area cordoned off for reporters covering his campaign to shout insults and take photos of journalists, as if they were trying to intimidate them. As Sexton tweeted tonight, "I heard several people talking about wanting to hurt the press, several mentioning a civil war if Trump loses. This is building in a hurry."

~

Trump got his first intelligence briefing this week. On page one on the list of threats was a warning about a madman in the U.S. stirring up hatred in large gatherings, threatening political assassinations and nuclear war. Trump ran out of the room, in terror, retreating to his tower.

~

Who owns America's film companies? Up to a few years ago, 20th Century Fox was owned by Rupert Murdoch, but now is apparently still under that empire's wing, owned by Fox Entertainment Group. Columbia Pictures is owned by Sony. Paramount Pictures is owned by Viacom, owned by the family of Sumner Redstone, a long-time Democrat who nonetheless endorsed George W. Bush for president because he said it would be better for his business. That industry, in turn, has turned into a forum for supposedly "serious" films with a heavy post-9/11 heroism vibe, comic book blow outs, yuppie training films posing as comedies, and, getting back to the topic, buddies with guns. Anyhow, these major corporations have very little interest in artistic undertakings. They are casting out their nets for the blockbuster bucks. Clearly, a key engine for the dumbing down of America. P.S. Paramount's blockbuster attempt, a remake of "Ben Hur," is tanking this weekend. It's as if Hollywood has completely run out of ideas and now they are paying for it.


By far the biggest response I got this week, other than a good number of hits for my archived article about Gordon Lightfoot at Mythville, was a kind of honest assessment of how I managed to tame my Facebook feeds: "A lot of people are posting about how they get nasty comments on Facebook, mostly due to their political views. But I weeded these people out years ago by unfriending anyone writing angry words in caps. My friends are mostly poets and humanists, teachers, professors and publishing people. Back in those days of political flaming on Facebook it was like shooting ducks in a barrel. Now, I kind of miss the action. Of course, there are members of my family who refuse to friend me. I'm the crazy poor liberal living in the woods." The bottom line:  You want the love? Then be unabashedly personal.

Thursday, August 4, 2016