The Librarian and the Bloggers

The Librarian and the Bloggers

Michael Gorman, President-Elect of that venerable body, the American Library Association, doesn’t think much of Bloggers. He explains why here. It all started because he dared to write something dismissive about the Google phenomenon — which he described as “a wonderfully modern manifestation of the triumph of hope and boosterism over reality.”

As a conoisseur of invective, I particularly like this passage:

“It is obvious that the Blog People read what they want to read rather than what is in front of them and judge me to be wrong on the basis of what they think rather than what I actually wrote. Given the quality of the writing in the blogs I have seen, I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts. It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs. In that case, their rejection of my view is quite understandable.”

I sympathise with Mr. Gorman, but it’s clear that he has led a sheltered life up to now. I doubt, for example, that he has ever seen a flame war in a News Group!

Travelling with the Prez

Travelling with the Prez

Justin Webb is the BBC reporter who’s been travelling with Dubya on his mission to smooth ruffled European feathers. (En passant will somebody explain to me why Europe has been welcoming the head of a state which practices and condones torture?) Mr. Webb has been keeping a Blog. Here’s an excerpt from today’s:

“Made a big error of judgement this morning – leaving the warm embrace of the White House team to cross this snow covered city to get to a studio for an interview with the Today programme on Radio Four.

All went fine till I tried to get back. I have seven passes (no really!) all with photos and official inscriptions. But none of them impress riot police schooled in the eastern European approach to public relations. “No,” they say. “You go. You no come here today.”

I smile. I try to look important and official. Nothing works. Briefly I imagine being trapped here forever among the stony faced denizens of Bratislava (I have no passport: the White House whips them away on these trips and whisks you in and out of nations without need of it).

Then a miracle. The secret service agent with whom I had been discussing hamburgers in Brussels passes by on the other side of the barricade. “Help,” I shout!

A small man in a sensible grey suit, he approaches the goons and says, “US Secret Service: I need him in here.”

They briefly consider clubbing us both to death there and then. Old habits die hard even when you’ve joined Nato.

But my man in the grey suit is backed up by the greatest power ever seen on the face of the Earth: his identity card carries a menace which every security guard in every godforsaken corner of the globe understands and appreciates.

If you are going to be an ally of America, you must let the secret service through roadblocks with whomsoever they choose to travel.

And they did. Freedom is on the march.”

The funniest things today were the hostile questions about US ‘democracy’ planted by the Russians during the Press Conference in Bratislava Castle.

Gonzo signs off

Gonzo signs off

Hunter S. Thompson is dead. And in style — shot himself in the head. I wouldn’t be surprised if he used the .357 Magnum he always kept handy in case someone he’d skewered in print came by. Nice appreciation in the Wall Street Journal by Tom Wolfe. Sample:

“We were walking along West 46th Street toward a restaurant, The Brazilian Coffee House, when we passed Goldberg Marine Supply. Hunter stopped, ducked into the store and emerged holding a tiny brown paper bag. A sixth sense, probably activated by the alarming eyes and the six-inch rise and fall of his Adam’s apple, told me not to ask what was inside. In the restaurant he kept it on top of the table as we ate. Finally, the fool in me became so curious, he had to go and ask, “What’s in the bag, Hunter?”

“I’ve got something in there that would clear out this restaurant in 20 seconds,” said Hunter. He began opening the bag. His eyes had rheostated up to 300 watts. “No, never mind,” I said. “I believe you! Show me later!” From the bag he produced what looked like a small travel-size can of shaving foam, uncapped the top and pressed down on it. There ensued the most violently brain-piercing sound I had ever heard. It didn’t clear out The Brazilian Coffee House. It froze it. The place became so quiet, you could hear an old-fashioned timer clock ticking in the kitchen. Chunks of churasco gaucho remained impaled on forks in mid-air. A bartender mixing a sidecar became a statue holding a shaker with both hands just below his chin. Hunter was slipping the little can back into the paper bag. It was a marine distress signaling device, audible for 20 miles over water.”

How times change

How times change

osbourne.jpgThis was the cover of Portable Computing on the month in 1981 when Adam Osborne launched his port…, er, luggable CP-M computer. (It weighed 21 lbs, and those of us who owned one still have one arm longer the other as a result!) It was, of course, a revolutionary product in its time — hence the cover. But in these days of global terror hysteria, can you imagine any entrepreneur using this imagery to launch a new computer?

All your colours are belong to us

All your colours are belong to us

The madness of IP law. First Microsoft tries to maintain that it owns the word ‘Windows’. And now this (from the NYT report):

“Orange said yesterday evening that it would sue easyMobile, a wireless start-up founded by the entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou, who also founded the easyJet discount airline. Orange wants to keep easyMobile from ever using its signature color in advertisements.

The crux of the argument is that ads for Orange prominently feature its namesake color. Its shade of orange is similar to the one used by all the easyGroup brands, and to the one that easyMobile plans to use in advertisements of its own.”

Stelios is not going to take this lying down, I am glad to say, so this one will run and run.

Connoisseurs of these matters will recall the famous exchange between Groucho Marx and Warner Brothers, when the latter objected to the title of the Marx Brothers’ film, A Night in Casablanca. Groucho’s masterful letter reads, in part:

“You claim you own Casablanca and that no one else can use that name without your permission. What about Warner Brothers — do you own that, too? You probably have the right to use the name Warner, but what about Brothers. Professionally, we were brothers long before you were.

Even before us, there had been other brothers — the Smith Brothers, the Brothers Karamazov; Dan Brouthers, an outfielder with Detroit, and ‘Brother, can you spare a dime?’ This was originally ‘Brothers, can you spare a dime,’ but this was spreading a dime pretty thin.

The younger Warner Brother calls himself Jack. Does he claim that, too? It’s not an original name — it was used long before he was born, Offhand, I can think of two Jacks — there was Jack of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ and Jack the Ripper, who cut quite a figure in his day.

As for Harry, offhand I can think of two Harrys that preceded him. There was Lighthorse Harry of revolutionary fame and a Harry Appelbaum, who lived on the corner of 93rd Street and Lexington Avenue.”  

Yahoos set up camp in Dean Swift’s home town

Yahoos set up camp in Dean Swift’s home town

While we were in Ireland, it was announced, with much hoopla, that Yahoo is to move its European headquarters to Dublin. The announcement was made at a press conference held by Micheal Martin, the Republic’s Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment who described the move as an “outstanding achievement for Ireland” and affirmation of Ireland’s reputation as a “serious contender for the world’s largest internet companies.” John Marcom, a senior vice president of Yahoo!, was wheeled out to declare that the decision was also based on “the calibre and volume of graduates available in Ireland; the up-to-date and cost competitive telecommunications and data centre infrastructures and the assistance of IDA Ireland”. (Note for beginners: IDA is the government agency which bri…, er, encourages foreign companies to locate in Ireland by offering them ludicrous tax breaks.)

The most interesting thing about the hoo-hah, however, was the absence of any reference to the man who first invented the word ‘Yahoo’ — Jonathan Swift, the great satirist who was Dean of St patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin and the author of Gulliver’s Travels. If any of the clowns participating in the press conference had been literate I would have suspected them of leaving out Swift on purpose. After all, he described the Yahoos as “a species of animals utterly incapable of amendment by precept or example”, which is not a bad description of Fianna Fail, the dominant party in the government in which Mr Martin serves. But somehow I think that sheer philistinism provides the more plausible explanation of the lacuna.