Friday, February 27, 2009

Shameless Media Plug: San Jose Mercury News

Mike Cassidy, columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, has written a kind piece about my new book City Ubiquitous: Place, Communication, and the Rise of Omnitopia.

His essay focuses mainly on my 2004 "silent road trip," in which I flew to New York and drove back cross-country, getting gas, food, lodging, and other sundries while speaking a total of five words during the entire trip. He cites concepts from the book such as "anticipatory disengagement" and seemed to really catch the vision of what the omnitopia project is all about. He writes:
"It's our choice, of course, to build barricades of personal technology around ourselves. To wall ourselves off. To anticipatorily disengage. But it's a choice that we may well be unconsciously slipping into more often."
Read the entire piece: Finding our own little worlds has never been easier

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Blue Skies Trailer Park

During our recent trip to Santa Barbara, Jenny photographed an oddly religious-looking neon sign for the Blue Skies Trailer Park.

(Photograph by Jenny Wood)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Obama's February 24, 2009 speech

President Obama's speech last night was an eloquent, tough-minded, and ambitious call for hope in a time of economic turmoil. After months of bad news, the nation needed to hear its President offer a balance of candor and optimism. And last night's speech fit the bill. Focusing just on the exordium, I was drawn into President Obama's visualization of the recession through an evocation of potent images:
You don't need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day. It's the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It's the job you thought you'd retire from but now have lost, the business you built your dreams upon that's now hanging by a thread, the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope.
With a daughter in college, I found that last line to be particularly salient. Moreover, I appreciated the President's encouragement through climatic parallelism.
We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.
I want to spend some time to analyze the design of his remarks. But right away I had to share my near-instant response. He said what had to be said. It was a powerful speech, no matter what the obstructionists say. If you haven't had a chance to read it, I recommend that you take some time and check it out.

Read the entire speech: Transcript: President Obama's February 24, 2009 speech

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Does Facebook Melt Your Brain?

David Derbyshire asks a frightening question in The Mail: Are social networking sites melting kids' brains? Some neuroscientists think: maybe.

Here's a snip: "Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Bebo are said to shorten attention spans, encourage instant gratification and make young people more self-centred."

The concern is that constant usage of these devices, along with video games, may "rewire" the brain, with profoundly disturbing effects, particularly for social interaction.

Professor Susan Greenfield is quoted: "I often wonder whether real conversation in real time may eventually give way to these sanitised and easier screen dialogues, in much the same way as killing, skinning and butchering an animal to eat has been replaced by the convenience of packages of meat on the supermarket shelf."

Read the entire article: Social websites harm children's brains: Chilling warning to parents from top neuroscientist

Monday, February 23, 2009

Omnitopia Book on Amazon

I am delighted to announce that Amazon is selling City Ubiquitous: Place, Communication, and the Rise of Omnitopia.

At present, they haven't yet uploaded a cover image. But I've received an advance copy of the book, and it looks swell.

If you'd like to learn more about City Ubiquitous, I encourage you to visit the book's website:

There, you can download an excerpt, peruse the table of contents, check out a book review, and even examine previously published omnitopian research.

And if you'd like to go to the Amazon page itself, here's a handy link:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Live Blog: 2009 Oscars

5:30 (Pacific): At last, the telecast for what some observers have presaged to be the most boring Oscars in recent history. Most prognosticators think the award winners were locked in months ago. And since stats-geek Nate Silver (of FiveThirtyEight fame) has weighed in on likely outcomes, few folks are expecting shocks. But with (sort of) live TV, you never know...

So, on with the show!

5:31: Like pretty much everyone else, I can't help but ask: Hugh Jackman?

5:32: Snarky snap at New Zealand!

5:33: So this is what Depression-era Oscars look like. Sad.

5:36: Richard Nixon as creepy sex-symbol.

5:37: Loved the line about not seeing The Reader. I guess few folks want to see movies-as-homework.

5:58: That was a standing-O that was well deserved.

5:39: "Ladies and gentlemen, the real Nixon right here: Frank Langella." Huh?

5:44: I never thought I'd say this, but where's Hugh Jackman?

: Five Best Supporting Actress nominees are needed for this?

5:45: Goldie Hawn: Supporting America's plastics industry since 1969.

5:47: Penelope Cruz wins Best Actress in a Supporting Role. What a sweet presence.

5:53: Tina Fey and Steve Martin: Can you imagine what a dinner party must be like with these two as guests? Love the line: "Or a very good idea for a poster."

5:57: Milk picks up the first big win, for best original screenplay.

5:58: "You are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value."

5:59: "Don't fall in love with me," Steve Martin warns Tina Fey. How cool must it be to know exactly how hard to write a line without going over the line? I may never know.

6:01: Slumdog Millionaire wins for best adapted screenplay. OK, time to admit it: I've not seen this one. Yet.

6:03: Jack Black earned an awkward laugh.

6:05: OK, so the theme of this Movie Storybook (or whatever it's called) is: there were a lot of animated movies this year?

6:06: Wall-E wins for Best Animated Feature. Good. But, frankly, it merited a nom for Best Pic.

6:08: Jack Black manages to say "thank you" in one syllable.

6:10: Props to Mr. Roboto!

6:16: Sarah Jessica Parker seems to have stepped off from another awards show, maybe the Golden Globes.

6:17: Benjamin Button wins for set design.

6:19: Nice. Talk just long enough for the other guy to get played off...

6:20: The Duchess wins for best costumes. And another five percent of the audience nods off.

6:23: Poor Daniel Craig: stuck in a suit that fits all too well.

6:23: Benjamin Button wins another consolation prize.

6:24: Really. Really. Whatever-your-name-is-who-just-won-for-best-makeup: Didn't Tom Hanks warn you how awful it is to read off names of people we've never heard of as quickly as you can?

6:25: Since the show is clearly going too fast, let's slow down with "romance in 2008."

6:32: Ben Stiller-as-Joaquin Phoenix. Easily the funniest bit of the night so far.

6:35: Slumdog pics up the win for cinematography. The winner tries to riff off of Stiller's bit. No luck there.

6:38: Jessica Biel's dress looks like she's had a most unfortunate accident with a microwave oven.

6:39: The tech awards: Well, that was fast.

6:42: Seth Rogen's stoner humor takes us to strange places. I have no idea why. I need some chips.

6:46: Trashing the German pronunciation of - well, whatever it was called. And have you ever looked at your hand? I mean really looked at your hand?

6:52: Hugh Jackman is reminding us of Depression-era musical fashion. After all those ads for JCPenney and Hyundai, I'm not too surprised.

6:53: By way of Bob Fosse and Grease? And High School Musical?

6:56: Did you catch Hugh Jackman's look? Something like... "I can't believe we're doing this crap."

6:57: The musical is back. God save us.

7:02: Best Supporting Actor time. Again with the five-top. What has Cuba Gooding Jr. being doing lately?

7:05: Cuba needs to work, indeed.

7:08: Heath Ledger wins. Family comes to pick up the award. A sad moment. We'll never understand why he left the way he did. He knew that he'd accomplished something amazing with this role. And then... I just don't get it.

7:11: Now, a generic moment about documentaries!

7:13: Bill Mahar steps up, wearing a suit that looks like a Colorform. He then pimps his own documentary. You should go see their movies, he chides: "starting with mine." Stay classy, Bill.

7:16: The would-be shortest speech in Oscar history - isn't.

7:17: Best documentary - short subject. Joy: More Bill, who suggests that, just maybe, the winners of Man on Wire deserved to win. How gracious.

7:23: Great chases in 2008 movies? OK, sure. No, now it's fights. Uh, special effects? Oh... "action."

7:26: Outstanding visual effects: Benjamin Button again.

7:28: Four Oscars. One long, boring speech.

7:29: Outstanding sound editing: Dark Knight.

7:30: One Oscar. On long, boring speech. Dude. "uh" is not a comma.

7:30: Outstanding sound mixing: The superheroes of post-production. Really?

7:31: Slumdog wins for sound-mixing.

7:32: Dude, huffing and puffing don't count as commas either.

7:33: Jennifer Aniston looked like she lost money on the sound mixing part of her Oscar pool.

7:34: Film editing: Another win for Slumdog.

7:36: Another list of names, names, names. Another ten percent of the Oscar audience bows out.

7:41: Eddie Murphy is here to present a humanitarian award to Jerry Lewis.

7:44: Dude. He hasn't gotten this award yet?

7:46: I sure am glad he did.

7:50: A medley music competing for best original score.

7:54: Slumdog wins again.

7:54: Winner tries some humor about being nervous before coming, marriage, and mothers. It's best to just read the card, friend.

7:56: Best original song.

7:57: I heard that Peter Gabriel wouldn't perform because he didn't want to be stuck into a minute for his entire song. This guy sure didn't mind.

7:59: How would you like to be one of those audience members with a drummer swinging next to your ears? Please, please don't shatter my eardrums!

8:00: OK, I'm gonna call it: That was a swell medley.

8:01: Slumdog is the winner of the night, so far.

8:02: The essence of Slumdog is optimism and hope?!? Great, dude. Thanks for the spoiler.

8:06: Best foreign language film: Departures. And a roomful of Oscar audience members mentally adds to their Netflix queue.

8:10: Time for the Cavalcade of Dead People: Powered by the patented Hollywood Applause-Meter.

8:15: The winner: Paul Newman (who benefited from a video-excerpt goose). I always thought his most memorable "last image" should have been the "Are you there, Ol' Timer" glimpse up into the rafters near the end of Cool Hand Luke. Oh well. And man, that audience had little love for Charlton Heston!

8:18: Cheeky line about the departing president of the Academy. Tacky, even. But oh so true.

8:20: Best Director: Danny Boyle, receiving his Oscar "in the spirit of Tigger." Oh, and he's enjoying the show too.

8:22: Boyle offers props to dude he left off the credits. Nicely done.

8:25: Time for Best Actress honors. Once more: a "final five" of winners. They say Kate will win it. She deserves it. But I'd love to see Meryl take it anyway.

8:28: Leave it to Shirley MacLaine to transform an introduction into a lecture (Keep working on that singing. You've got some talent there!).

8:31: I know! Let's have five actresses talk about other actresses! That will only take a minute or two, right?

8:32: Kate Winslet wins for The Reader. Breathless, on the verge of crying, and preparing to thank "some people." Here we go...

8:34: Names, names, names... And heavy breathing.

8:34: A list of positions. Some geography. Eyes to the heavens. Oh, and those other nominees. Props to Meryl.

8:35: A screech. And - she's off!

8:37: One more fivesome. A pretty impressive one, too.

8:39: I've said it before, but it bears repetition. Robert De Niro is one funny guy.

8:41: Richard Jenkins is thinking to himself: I don't have a chance.

8:42: Mickey Rourke. Man, I hope he wins this.

8:43: Ah, crap, says Rourke. Crap.

8:44: Nice line from Sean Penn: "I know how hard I make it for you to appreciate me."

8:46: Penn gets just a little political. Never saw that one coming.

8:47: Rourke gets props from Penn. And the world seems a little nicer now.

8:47: Spielberg gets ethereal.

8:48: A somewhat clever introduction to how each Best Picture nominee draws from a lineage of big ideas.

8:53: And the winner is: Slumdog Millionaire.

8:55: Outtahere.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Fun Post: Fast Food: Ads vs. Reality

The name says it all: Fast Food: Ads vs. Reality. I won't include an image, just see for yourself.

Still not sure? OK, I'll give you a preview:

The real Arby's Beef 'n Cheddar looks like a human head that melted in a grease fire. The real KFC Famous Bowl resembles one of those 70s' era dog foods where you add water for "gravy" (oh, and the dog got sick too), the real Subway Turkey Breast and Ham Sub reminds me of awful days in the middle school lunch room, and the real Wendy's Southwest Taco Salad evokes something from a Sam Peckinpah film.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

One thing I like about Facebook

Here's one thing I like about Facebook.

Over the weekend, I hurt my back, pulled it while scooping up some laundry. The next day I felt good enough, and that night I slept as I normally do: on my side.

The next day I could barely move. Just walking was a cause for agony.

Naturally I updated my Facebook status.

First, I was so grateful to receive notes of encouragement from friends. It meant a lot, really. But that's not what I'm talking about. What I love about Facebook is its ability to improve my connections in the physical world.

You see, that night, I had taught a class and then shuffled back to my department. I climbed onto the couch in my office and passed out. It really hurt that much. Three hours later, I awoke just in time to catch a bus home.

I looked like death. My hair was all disheveled and my skin had a zombie-like pallor. I didn't want anyone to see me. Of course, struggling to walk outside, stooped over painfully, I passed by a student. He asked, "How are you doing?" I was a bit embarrassed, thinking that I looked drunk, or worse. Then he caught himself. "Oh! Your back! I'm sorry to hear about your back!"

He'd read my Facebook status report.

That's what I love most about Facebook, its ability to help us contextualize our relationships, particularly our loose connections. In the face-to-face world, Facebook helped him make sense of my appearance and offer his best wishes for something that he might not have otherwise understood.

I know some people who eschew Facebook because of its inability to reproduce "real" friendship. But I think that dismissal misses the point. Sure, "real" friendship is better than "fake" friendship. There's no disputing that. But Facebook is a friendship augmenter, not replicant. Thanks to this resource, we know more about each other.

Some folks hear that and get paranoid.

Not me. I'm grateful.

Follow-up: Excellent article with solid numbers of Facebook growth and social impact: How Facebook is taking over our lives

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Starbucks Via

Another sign of the economic times? Starbucks is now selling instant coffee.

Here's a review by the folks at the Chicago Tribune:

Instant reaction to Starbucks' Via Ready Brew: How does it actually taste?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The cellphone, navigating our lives

John Markoff offers a terrific intro in yesterday's New York Times ("The cellphone, navigating our lives"): "The cellphone is the world’s most ubiquitous computer. The four billion cellphones in use around the globe carry personal information, provide access to the Web and are being used more and more to navigate the real world. And as cellphones change how we live, computer scientists say, they are also changing how we think about information."

In his piece, Markoff proposes that the metaphor of the map is replacing the metaphor of the office file as a means to understanding our relationship to information. To illustrate, the author discusses Google's new Latitude location-orientation application. With this app, the information aggregator will be able to sift through more and more content with each use of a mobile phone to relate ourselves to places in the world.

Moreover, according to Markoff, "a new generation of smartphones like the G1, with Android software developed by Google, and a range of Japanese phones now “augment” reality by painting a map over a phone-screen image of the user’s surroundings produced by the phone’s camera." Markoff cites M:Metrics research to state that only ten percent U.S. mobile phone users use the map features on their phones. But that number is growing.

I find this particularly interesting given the relationship of our uses of technology to the development of our brains. While a cause-effect question remains, I am intrigued by Markoff's proposal that our turning over to machines the mapping that we typically do in our brains (as we have abandoned so many of our other memory functions) may produce profound effects. A snip:

“I have wondered about the fact that we might as a culture lose the skill of mapping our environment, relying on the Web to tell us how to navigate,” said Hugo Spiers, a neurobiologist at University College London. “Thus, it might reduce the growth of cells in the hippocampus, which we think stores our internal maps.”

Read the entire article: The cellphone, navigating our lives

Monday, February 16, 2009

Almost There

In the next week, I hope, City Ubiquitous will be available on Amazon.

This will be the end of one phrase, researching, writing, and getting the book to market, and the beginning of the next: marketing the book.

For many academics, the notion that one would "sell" ideas is an anathema, at least we perform it to be. As Stanley Fish has described in recent pieces in The New York Times, many members of the professorate fantasize of a world in which ideas are unconstrained by such pedestrian concerns as popular opinion and monetary value. Information, and how we produce it, should be free.

To be fair, a great many of these folks manage to do just fine for themselves, financially. But like well applied makeup, it is rude to ask how the illusion is crafted.

Me, I have no problem admitting that I've worked more than a decade on my articulation of omnitopia (certainly, not the only one around), and that I seek at least some modest compensation for all that time and labor. In short, I'm happy to enter the marketplace of ideas with a book to sell.

So I await the news that Amazon has placed City Ubiquitous on its virtual bookshelves. And I look forward to whatever happens next.

Friday, February 13, 2009

How to Argue Like Jesus - Book Review

If you speak to do well - but also to do right - Joe Carter and John Coleman's How to Argue Like Jesus is a worthy addition to your library. I say this not only as an occasional instructor of public speaking classes but also as an agnostic who, nonetheless, is impressed with the message contained in this book.

The authors lay out an impressive goal: to employ an Aristotelian framework that unpacks the rhetorical strategies of Jesus (even as Jesus offers a means to illuminate Aristotle's notions of ethos, pathos, and logos). Given my interest in logos, I am particularly drawn to the reminder that, "While many modern anti-thesists argue for the irrationality of religion, Jesus is an exemplar of reason, rationality, and logic" (p. 44). The authors then expand their gaze to explore Jesus' use of imagery, his strategies for message dissemination, and the ways in which his rhetorical principles may be applied to contemporary speaking challenges.

This is, after all, a practical book. The authors expertly shift from historical context to rhetorical analysis to personal application, demonstrating how even complex concepts and strategies may be employed in familial, academic, and corporate environments. Notable contributions include a rich description of argumentative strategies and a section exploring the five C's of effective parables that will prove useful to those who would motivate people in both businesses and places of worship (pp. 94-95) -- though I would add that the bright line between grows ever more dim.

Perhaps the most fascinating component of this book appears (at first) to be its least rhetorical: a discussion of the cellular process or organization growth and maintenance. The authors state, "So Christ commanded his disciples not only to stick together but to disperse" (p. 119). From this point, the authors offer an insightful discussion of the role of communication in a world of increasingly detached human relationships.

While written as a textbook - with a list of key terms, questions for consideration, and even footnotes - How to Argue Like Jesus is designed for a "lay audience." It is not for scholars or would-be scholars; it is for those who simply wish to be more effective speakers. The authors wisely write in a manner that is not pedantic but is rather practical, direct, and engaging.

I would further add that How to Argue Like Jesus may be termed a sort of ministry for folks like me who have not thought carefully about the various lessons, warnings, and opportunities offered by Christ but, in studying his words from a technical perspective, gain some sense of the deeper purpose of the work. As such, I can highly recommend this book.

Amazon link: How to Argue Like Jesus

What Age is Starbucks America?

The folks at the Pew Research Center have come up with an oddly compelling statistic about the relative cultural placement of Starbucks and McDonald's.

When asking whether Americans prefer living in a place with more of one chain over the other, Pew reports that 43 percent prefer to live in a world of Happy Meals while 35 percent prefer the land of ventis and scones.

Of course, age proved to be a factor. Younger people trend toward cappucinos while older folks maintain their love of Big Macs.

Adweek has details: Starbucks America vs. McDonald's America

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Yahoo Chat

Have you been on Yahoo chat recently?

I haven't been in a chatroom in maybe 15 years. But I started messing around in a few chatspaces in the past couple days.

Wow. Sad. So very sad.

First - and this is hardly news to most folks, but it surprised me - most of the "people" participating are 'bots. I'm not talking about Turing Test experiments. No, just random assortments of come-on lines designed to get you to enter a private chat space. Then, the hook:

"Wanna come [or some variation] to my website? My cam is switched on!"

Uh huh. The URLs to which these invites lead are crazy quilt addresses linking to God knows where.

Occasionally real people troll the sites too, seemingly never choosing to talk about the ostensible purpose of the chatroom (parenting, computers, whatever). Mostly it's folks yelling into the void: "Are there any humans here?" Sometimes its just an assemblage of goofy oddball pranks (eg., "I put on my robe and wizard hat"). I played along, too. But it got boring real fast.

Amid all the invitations for porn, viewing Yahoo chat is kind of like checking my old Yahoo mail account. Except that it scrolls on its own.

Yeah. I don't think I'll be back.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Anaesthetized Impersons

E. E. Cummings once described a world of “anaesthetized impersons,” which I imagine to be people who have become strangers to their environments and to each other. When we interact with others according to the rules of the built environment or the practices of social norms or the uniforms we wear, we become impersons, and so do they: not quite dead but, rather, anesthetized.

The cop who pulls you over for a traffic infraction must know your name and other personal information. But she should not, cannot, care to learn your personal story. Doing so would invite the specter of favoritism, corruption, even when faced with the most dire circumstances. For example, were she to ask your opinion of the previous evening's presidential debate while writing your speeding ticket, an essential line between personal and social life would be breached, perhaps with fearful consequences.

After all, in the matrix of bureaucracy, even the most humanistic among us wisely fear the administration of power that claims to know our souls, particularly when the relationship can never be reciprocal. One can hardly detach these relationships from the practices of power, most obviously of class.

Indeed, one might consider the etymological connection between the architectural "manor" and the social practice of "manners." In both cases, one must "know one's place." The psychic burden of such inequity can be too heavy to bear. Better to sleepwalk through our interactions with impersons, to not look to deeply into our own lives when acting as impersons ourselves.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


It is afternoon and I complete my work early.

All the blocks of green on my electronic calendar have collapsed into thin slivers, cheerful reminders of tasks turned away.

I try not to look ahead to the next day. Now is enough.

I will go out for a walk, to get some coffee.

It is chilly.

The sun shines distantly.

I begin to cross the path of a parked bus. The engine churns, pulsating against the asphalt.

I scan warily around the corner to search out racing cars.

One of my deep fears is being hit by a car.

My gaze focuses to my left.

A flash. A burst of movement. Toward me, straight ahead on the crosswalk. My heart pounds. Everything telescopes. Eyes. At first I only see wide eyes flashing. A smile, open and round. Waving hands, twirling. A young woman. My pulse rushes. The distance between us nearly collapsed. I vaguely recognize her. I think I do. Someone I used to trust but no longer see. Is that smile for me? Her eyes dart past, her stare focused further in the distance. I've affixed a smile on my face, anticipating some meeting.

But it is not for me,

that smile.

She is racing

to catch the bus.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Starbucks "Value Menu"

In a February 9, 2009 Wall Street Journal article, Janet Adamy reports that Starbucks is offering a sort of "value menu" to banish its persona as a pricey extravagance in an era of economic uncertainty. Here's a snip:
"I strongly believe we are going to be in this environment for years," Howard Schultz, chief executive of Starbucks, said in an interview. "It is a reset of both economic and social behavior."
No longer an "affordable luxury," Starbucks must now work even harder to compete with the likes of McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts.

Read the entire story: Starbucks Plays Common Joe

Also, for more Starbucks news from the past few weeks, point your browser here:

Friday, February 6, 2009

It's a Commercial World After All

Well, I guess I've spotted my cue to be shocked once more that Disney would reveal itself to be motivated primarily by commercial interests.

The culprit this time? The "Small World" attraction, a childhood rite since its introduction at the 1964-5 New York World's Fair, beloved by all except those who'd prefer to stick a screwdriver in their ear rather than hear that damned song again.

Now Disney is reopening the Anaheim version of the ride after a hiatus with a little more "magic": the addition of movie characters like Ariel, Stitch, and Aladdin.

What was that? Did I hear your childhood-self cry out through the interwebs?

Yeah, I think it sucks too. But I can hardly profess to be surprised.

Reading an article about the creeping commercialism into what had once been known as an irony-free Model United Nations for kids, I came across a nearly omnitopian quote:
"What message are they actually saying about the world?," said Jerry Beck, an animation historian who runs the blog Cartoon Brew. "That you can go anywhere and there will be a Disney theme park?"
Here's another one:
"Disney wants to brand the diversity of the entire world and somehow say that it's Disney derived," said Leo Braudy, a cultural historian at the University of Southern California.
Sad, but hardly shocking.

Am I disappointed? Yes. Will I go to see for myself?

Of course.

Read the entire article: MSNBC,

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Shameless Media Plug - Santa Cruz Sentinel

City Ubiquitous (due out later this month) has been featured in today's Santa Cruz Sentinel.

It appeared in an article written by Stephanie Pappas, "SJSU professor looks to burst the bubble of omnitopia with new book."

I enjoyed the piece, particularly her introduction about our family's tradition of "silent walks." You've got to like an article that starts this way:
"Andrew Wood has an unusual approach to road trips: Whenever he drives through the desert, he kicks one of his family members out of the car."
Here's a snip about the piece's larger emphasis:
Wood wants people to burst the bubble of omnitopia "as often and as frequently as possible" by seeking out places where human connection is more important than convenience or commerce.

"Get out! As quickly as you can," Wood said. "Get off the interstate, turn off the mobile phone, get out of the chain restaurants and be where people are who they are."
Read the entire article:

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

1981's Newspaper of the Future

This video has gone viral over the past few days, but I had to share it anyway.

It's a news story about a not-too-far-off future when people will get newspaper content from - wait for it...

Their computers!

These denizens of the brave new world will use Tandy TRS-80s to print off their favorite articles (minus pictures, ads, and comics, of course).

In the story, a San Francisco Examiner editor opines hopefully, "We're not in it to make money, [but] we're probably not going to lose a lot..."

An anchorperson at the end of the piece adds that it takes two hours to receive the text of the paper over the phone, and the price to access content is five bucks per hour of use. She sounds kind of snarky about it, but I think the paper-of-the-future is a bargain.

After all, we're told, you can print your favorite stories... on paper.

Return with me now to the future of newspapers as it was envisioned in the year:

Nineteen Eighty One!

Read the story (thanks to TechCrunch) and see the video: How the Future of Online News Looked in 1981

(Image from YouTube video)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Animated Neon: Monty's Log Cabin

Monty's Log Cabin is often mislabeled a "dive bar." It's much more cheerful and friendly than that. Even my wife, an unwavering teetotaler, enjoyed the vibe (except for the creepy guy checking her out). Nestled among the Redwoods, the Log Cabin is classic old school Felton (CA). And it's got a fine neon sign.

Difficulty seeing this video? Point your browser to the following link (and select "watch in high quality"):

Like this video? Visit my YouTube channel:

Monday, February 2, 2009

Flickering Neon: Santa Cruz VCR Repair

Particularly as media-geeks forecast the imminent decline of DVDs, I think it's swell that this VCR repair sign continues to flicker - another one of William Gibson's "semiotic ghosts" - in Santa Cruz.

Difficulty seeing this video? Point your browser to the following link (and select "watch in high quality"):

Like this video? Visit my YouTube channel: