Wow! Summer! In years past I would be slogging it out in a windowless cubicle, “working for the weekend” as wise sage Mike Reno of 80’s band Loverboy once described it. Did you know he owns Mr. Tubesteak? I don’t know if that’s true, but I want to believe it. Anyway, there have been some culture and technology items and issues that have caught my eye this summer in between working on my unemployment tan and fighting the urge to cut my own bangs.
I have been following a story that I originally read on the New York Times technology blog about an Amazon/Kindle controversy: after the publishing company that owns the right to George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and “1984” changed its mind about e-book formats, Amazon removed the book from hundreds of Kindles during the night. As the article explains, after the extensive campaign by Amazon to convince people that e-books are exactly the same as real books, this is akin to “Barnes & Noble sneaking into our homes in the middle of the night, taking some books that we’ve been reading off our night stands, and leaving us a check on the coffee table”. Some other interesting differences between e-books and real book are pointed out, like the inability to resell or donate e-books, and that made me think that you also can’t just pass a good book along to a person who might enjoy it, either. Amazon says they will deal with the situation differently in the future, but I don’t like the idea that they can still remove books when ever they want to, not that it effects me greatly, as I can’t use a Kindle in Canada. And sometimes I don’t think corporations really think things through; if it had been any other author it would not have been half the story. Come on, Amazon, Orwell? Really? They did apologize later, displaying the corporate adoration for the motto “it’s easier to beg forgiveness than ask for permission”.
I went to the Vancouver Art Gallery this week. There are several exhibits on, like “Vermeer, Rembrandt, and the Golden Age of Dutch Art” (yawn), Andreas Gursky’s super cool large format photographs, and Anthony Hernandez’ mesmerizing street photo’s (seriously, the 80’s Beverly Hills pics are worth the ticket alone), but the one I wanted to see the most is the Reece Terris, “Ought Apartment” exhibit. The art gallery has a tower in the middle staircase with six apartments from six decades stacked on top of each other, the lowest being from the 50’s and the highest being the 2000’s. It is completely interactive so you can open cupboards, sit in chairs and walk around inside the spaces (although the toilets are wired shut, I felt compelled to check). “Through this process of ‘making strange’, Terris invites viewers to consider their relationship to the consumption and construction of domestic space and the role this space plays in locating a public as social subjects.” If that doesn’t sound Culture Net-y, I don’t know what does.
Lastly, I was at a fast food restaurant not that long ago, and when I deposited my coke cup in the trash the garbage-can-box-thing thanked me for it with an electronic voice. Oddly enough, I sort of felt bad for the trash can at first, then angry; I couldn’t help but feel like it was saying “thank you for filling me with your waste, fat, self-destructive, always-consuming human”. It made me decide that I am against everyday inanimate objects having voices. I don’t like to being reminded of these things.
That’s about all I have to report on. It’s time for me to get back to watching bootlegged Chinese HBO television series (I’m looking at you, Deadwood) and google-researching interesting topics to make me more popular at parties (The Tetris Effect! Lancet Flukes! Alien Hand Syndrome!). I will leave you with some random online links that I have looked at recently and enjoyed.
Self destructing digital data: http://vanish.cs.washington.edu/
Surprisingly non-grating environmental site: http://www.treehugger.com/
“Get Your War On” gets co-opted by Jamba Juice: http://www.mnftiu.cc/2009/07/16/no-justice-part-ii-boycott-jamba-juice/
Buzz Aldrin punches Moon Landing Conspiracist: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUI36tPKDg4
British police bust rave (aka people eating hamburgers) by monitoring Facebook posts: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/devon/8155441.stm