There can be no doubt that up in the Marriott, in 4th Street, courtesy of the Intel Corporation, Tom Foremski perhaps made the best joke ever. The best jokes are mantras. Tom relayed a story of a guy who had thrown himself off the Empire State Building and was overheard to say, half way down, “so far, so good”. We all hit the pavement or sidewalk eventually.
His book – In my Humble Experience, is a collation of articles that show a different side of Silicon Valley. As yours truly has been holed up near La Honda for the last four days and night, sometimes dipping into Woodside, we can affirm there is a different, higher side to the Valley (surely Valet, Ed?). We love chapter 19 – Die, press release, die! Die! Die! – Foremski had been hinting strongly that the PR machine had a few cogs loose – because press releases are nearly useless. They’re created by committees, edited by lawyers, and then vast amounts of moolah are spent to get this stuff into the spam filters of countless journalists. “This madness has to end,” points out Foremski. Aptly. But it hasn’t yet ended. This is a great book, a really great book.
In my hidey hole in the mountains near La Honda, where many an eagle quails, where the coyotes shriek, and where you can always at least descend to Woodside to stalk Larry the Man and Jobs the Steve, we pondered long and hard on Divining a Digital Future, penned by the Professor, nay Good Doctor, Genevieve Bell from La Intella and by Paul Dourish too. Bell indicates, says this dense tome, that the UK exists within “a set of competing hubs of social activity”, including pubs, gardens, community centres and sporting facilities. “People move between these local hubs, frequently without first going home,” the book avers. Going down the pub, however, is harder and harder these days in good old Blighty because so many of them are closing down, or are geschloten already. It’s cigarettes, see. Cigarettes, or rather the lack of cigarettes, are the cancer sticks that are shutting down pubs down and giving strength to the Tesco elbow. Or is it that the major pub chains seek to capitalise on their extensive property portfolios and delude the shareholders with tales of Starbucks anew? This is a dense read, but well worth the reading. We haven’t finished it yet. Bloody anthropologists write dense.
And so from science fact to science function, sorry fiction. In his Science Fiction Prototyping, by Intel chap Brian David Johnson, he argues rather persuasively that it would be really good if there could be more sci-fi around. Johnson has form – he has a good pedigree in film making and art. I kind of agree with his propositions though; it is a bit of an outdated genre though, as witness this passage from the clearly charming Roger Zelazny in Lord of Light: “Yama snorted: ‘The rod of Trimurti still falls upon the back of men. Nirriti stirs within his dark lair; he harasses the seaways of the south.” And: “To beauty, down with ugliness.” This is clearly based on Hinduism of a certain kind and surely cannot contribute to the shape of things to come.
Lastly, but not leastly, we turn to another of the books we’ve read while in our lair not too far from the Pacific but far enough away from Bucks in Woodside. The Science of Light: An introduction to Vedic Astrology by Freedom Tobias Cole, says, crucially, that developing initiation, sorry intuition, is the key to greater things. “Hard work,” says Freedom, nourishes discipline and control of the senses. “We are all busy, but we must make the time for this great study and still perform all tasks required of us in this world.”
As Foremski’s mantra has it: “So far, so good.” Separating the observer from the observed is a difficult procedure as witnessed by the first documentary ever – Nanook of the North. It seems to have taken an entire 100 years for the community to have kind of gotten the point, though but. Lemmings Brothers, or what…