In November, Knopf bought a 900-page debut novel by Garth Risk Hallberg for almost $2 million. It’s a tremendous gamble, regardless of the book’s quality, if one that many publishers were happy to make: more than 10 houses bid more than $1 million, according to the Times. Predicting a novel’s fate in the commercial or critical marketplace is a fool’s gambit, as indicated both by works like the first Harry Potter novel, which was repeatedly rejected before becoming, well, Harry Potter, and by expensive flops like Charles Frazier’s Thirteen Moons. The novelist Curtis Sittenfeld said, "People think publishing is a business, but it’s a casino."
While we await the next credit bubble, and with it the circumstances that justify pursuit of my master’s thesis, "Metaphors of Technology in R&B," plz allow me to share some notes for the chapter "Prince//The Komputer."
Prince was an early adopter. He got down with l’ordinateur in the early 80s, and quickly established himself as a pioneer of romantic cybernetics. On this extended version of "Computer Blue," from 1983, we hear a Wendy (Lisa?) monologue around the 10 min. mark:
Narrow-minded computer, it’s time someone programmed you. It’s time you learned. Women are not butterflies, they’re computers too. Just like you, Computer Blue.
The longhairs with the pocket protectors had already set up the lines between USC and Stanford and UC Santa Barbara. It was 1969, a weird year of technological and social progress (Apollo 11, Mariner 6 and 7, the Stonewall Riots) and de-evolution (President Richard Nixon, the Manson Murders). Students were still seizing campus buildings—SDS took the Harvard administration building that spring—but on this day 43 years ago, the hippie nerds in the computer labs made the last connection in their four-node Defense Department-funded networked computer project. The fourth computer came online at the University of Utah.
I am always shocked by how many of my friends regularly lose everything digital that they own. You're always crying from Tekserve! So yes: today is the day we tell you to back that ish up! (Back that assay up?) That being said, it's very freeing to lose a computer's worth of data! You get to start all fresh. But maybe you're not up for that.
There was recently an article posted in this space alerting you to another article about how increased use of computer technology is supposedly be changing your ability to focus. If you were paying attention, which you probably weren't, you may have read that University of California neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley thinks, "We are exposing our brains to an environment and asking them to do things we weren't necessarily evolved to do. We know already there are consequences." Or that Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and one of the world's leading brain scientists, agrees, saying, "The technology is rewiring our brains." NEW ALERT: in the unlikely [...]
In June, 2001, the F.B.I. awarded the contractor Science Applications International Corp. (S.A.I.C.) a fourteen-million-dollar contract to upgrade the F.B.I.’s computer systems. The project was called Virtual Case File, or V.C.F., and it would ultimately cost over six hundred million dollars before finally being abandoned, in early 2005, unfinished and never deployed. V.C.F. was then replaced with a project called Sentinel, expected to launch in 2009, which was “designed to be everything V.C.F. was not, with specific requirements, regular milestones and aggressive oversight,” according to F.B.I. officials who spoke to the Washington Post in 2006. [...]
Google billionaire Eric Schmidt is the chief lobbyist for The Machines, and so he has produced a piece of propaganda to encourage humans to welcome the ever-expanding roles of programs in their lives. Borrowing its name from a lost Joy Division recording, #NewDigitalAge will help retrain what he calls "humans" to give up all their data to the algorithms of The Machines, in exchange for ease and entertainment.
Schmidt's lobbying for The Machines includes teaching humans basic facts about The Machines and [...]
The late Steve Jobs is known to have been very keen on "taste." Microsoft has absolutely no taste, he said, going on to explain that by this he meant that "they don't think of original ideas, and they don't bring much culture into their product." Great products, he said, were a "triumph of taste." The exquisite taste of Jobs himself has long been a matter of doctrine in the tech world. Kevin Kelly's remarks after his death expressed the general sentiment: "Steve Jobs was a CEO of beauty. In his interviews and especially in private, Jobs often spoke about Art. Taste. Soul. Life. And he sincerely meant [...]
"We currently have built this Aquasar system that's one rack full of processors. We plan that 10 to 15 years from now, we can collapse such a system in to one sugar cube—we're going to have a supercomputer in a sugar cube." —IBM scientist Dr. Bruno Michel, talking about the much smaller and far more energy efficient machines he plans to build with his method of cooling processors with water (very tiny tubes of water) rather than with fans like most computers use today. "Aquasar" is an awesome name for something. Now here are five music videos.
You people have lost your minds over the iPad: "Your grandma will embrace it. Your aunt will embrace. Your cousins. Your kids. Everyone who doesn't have a fucking clue about computers and don't want to learn and don't care. Everyone will jump into this new era of computing. Everyone." I can happily admit it is gorgeous. And yet. We are gaga for a thing with an application that delivers a New York Times front page that only displays four whole stories? A thing that's just like reading a book, a book with DRM encoding, so you don't actually own it, and also book that weighs 1.5 pounds. (The [...]
"The percentage of households with a microwave climbed from 82 percent in 1992 to 97 percent in 2011. Similarly, the percentage with a computer jumped from 21 percent to 78 percent over the period. Landline phones followed the opposite trend; the share of households with landlines fell from 96 percent in 1998 to 71 percent in 2011."
"Yes, a meteor or comet was the death blow. But the giant lizards were already in trouble when the impact came. Giant herbivores that reached 80 tons had deforested more and more land and had to go far and wide for food. The predators and scavengers that lived off of them struggled to keep up. It wasn’t exactly good times before the sky would go dark and the volcanoes would erupt." —This must be from an article about … dinosaurs? No, not literal dinosaurs. Some kind of change in habits or industry, perhaps a "game changer" of some kind? Maybe it's about Windows 7, or Windows 8, or? Let's [...]
"You are at a party, and Alex is telling a boring story. You are much more interested in the gossip that Sam is recounting to Pat, so you tune out Alex and focus on Sam’s words. Congratulations: you have just demonstrated the human ability to solve the 'cocktail party problem'—to pick out one thread of speech from the babble of two or more people. Computers so far lack that power." —So being a computer is kind of listening to Lou Reed's "Kicks" all the time. (Which wouldn't actually be so bad. I love the way the "cocktail party problem" enhances the great paranoid creepiness of that song.) Seems [...]
By way of eulogy to the dying animal that is the Diva, my crack team of consultants, statisticians and graphic designers have assembled DIVA-OFF 2010, a highly scientific (we used computers!) evaluation of the greatest divas of the past twenty-five years. A list of divas was evaluated on eleven levels of diva-ness, and, because each diva characteristic is not created equal, we scaled the values in the hopes of creating an aggregate diva number that will serve as a reference point for future generations.
Here is why we needed to do this. On April 14, 1998, at the Beacon Theater in New York City, VH1 put on a [...]