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Books 'n' Stuff

I was going to share my impressions of a book I finished reading, but I didn't get to it right away, and now the enthusiasm, and the immediacy, have waned.

I also have a list of 25 exciting vocabulary words from a second book I read. I was gonna do the "vocabulary word list" thing like I've done in the past, but, y'know, whatever.

I try to write down all the books I read. I only read fifteen books last year. In the past four years I've only read 53 books, or about 15 per year (but only 7 or 8 in 2007 for some reason). Here I am, supposedly instilling an appreciation for reading in kids, and I rarely read myself. That is, I rarely read books. I spend hours reading stuff on the internet. I dunno, is it the same? Are books necessarily better? There seem to be an awful lot of crummy books out there.

I saw a poster for the movie "Prison Train" on eBay again recently. I'm having my "Prison Train" poster framed, by the way. True, a crime film poster isn't really in keeping with the tiki room theme, which is where it will hang, but neither is the "Girls Town" poster, and that one looks really kewl hanging in the bamboo bedecked Room of Doom. It's gonna be sort of an "eclectic" tiki room.

Anyway, what's the deal with being able to find, at regular intervals, vintage original posters for an obscure, ultra-low budget, practically forgotten film from 1938 on eBay in surprisingly good condition, yet it's impossible to find a poster for "Oneechanbara," which was released this past April? I mean, you'd think, after 70 years, that "Prison Train" posters would be rarities, yet in the past 18 months or so I've seen four... five... no, six of them for sale at various web sites; yet, I cannot find an "Oneechanbara" (or "OneChanbara" or "Chanbara Beauty") poster anywhere. There are a lot of internet images of the poster, but no actual posters for sale that I can find.

Not that I'd necessarily buy one but, like, you'd think they'd be out there, somewhere.

I'm not getting nearly as much accomplished during this intersession break as I hoped or intended. Everything takes so long to do. And, yeah, I spend a lot of hours sitting here at the computer, mindlessly clicking through a comparatively small number of web sites. I guess it's been a couple of days since I checked LJ. Several of you have updated, and updated at length, over the past few days.

I just learned that a Russian business bought Live Journal, apparently a year ago. Now there are rumblings that LJ is about to go under, and that draconian cost-cutting measures are going into effect. Additionally, there seems to be some hubbub over Wikipedia, with internal power struggles among the directors and millions of dollars at stake. The internet, or the world wide web, or the World Wide Web (the style guides we used in my grad school classes said to capitalize World Wide Web because it's a proper noun. Is it?) is changing, isn't it? This comes as no real surprise to me, although it's something of a disappointment. There used to be all this talk about how the internet was going to make information so readily available everywhere, how it would change the world for the better, and all that utopian stuff. It's reaching the point where it's nothing but a big spamming portal, with computer viruses, spyware, and "identity theft" threatening users at every turn. Plus, everything's being monetized, and the projects which fail to generate uncountable millions or billions of dollars in quick profits are falling by the wayside.

This comes, as I said, as no real surprise. I was always, even back in my college days when Mosaic was "the application that you must be proficient with if you want to find a job in the future," a little bit annoyed by people (college students and college staff) waxing rhapsodic over the "unrestricted access to information" offered by the wor... I mean World Wide Web. Even then, knowing, just like now, nothing about anything, I would ask, "uh, isn't the internet kind of dependent on, y'know, wires, from the telephone companies? Couldn't they just, like, shut it off if they wanted to?" The series of cable breaks in the Indian Ocean indicates that yes, the internet is quite dependent on wires. And the increasing restrictions on bandwidth being imposed by service providers like ComCast is reminiscent of the Empire of America Online, when internet service was provided at a per-minute charge.

Whatever happened to America Online? Remember when they became so vastly huge and wealthy that they bought Time-Warner? That was insane! I didn't understand it at the time. Even puny-brained little me could see that AOL was already on the verge of collapsing, as "unlimited" internet service became more readily available. Remember when AOL was kind of its own little world? It seems, now, like that was a long, long time ago... but really, it wasn't.

Now, however, it seems that some of the giants of "free" service, like Yahoo and Wikipedia, are finding it difficult to finance their continued operations. What would the internet world do if Google were to close up shop? I still don't quite understand how Google makes money. What I do see, however, is that Google is already, from a practical standpoint, the only game in town when it comes to searching the web. I mean Web. I'm hearing desperate-sounding radio spots touting the features of Yahoo search, but I don't like those "features," because what the features really are, are "limits." Yahoo feeds you what they want you to see. And once they've finished off Yahoo, Google will be free to do the same thing.

What became of AltaVista? AskJeeves? (I never cared for the AskJeeves interface.) DogPile? There used to be a lot of search engines. But the World Wide Web used to be a lot smaller. There are a lotta web sites out there. Google seems to be able to scan a pretty good chunk of them. But, will they always? Who knows, they're a private company, they can do whatever they want... and they will, once they control the entire search engine market.

I always thought it was weird that Microsoft couldn't come up with a really killer search engine. I think MS wasted a lot of years trying to follow the AOL model. They wanted to control everything. Seeing as how their OS is in most of the computers out there, I don't quite get how they failed to nab a bigger share of internet "stuff." I don't know, is their MS-NBC news service still going? You don't hear much about it anymore.

I think the bottom line is, it's difficult to make sustainable income by providing information or services over the internet. LiveJOurnal... how do you make money from on-line journaling? Plaster advertising all over the site, or charge for use. I'd rather pay for use, up to a point, rather than look at advertising. But the number of people willing to pay twenty or thirty or more dollars per year for their "space" on a site like this is pretty limited. MySpace got so big because it was "free." I can't stand it because of the ads. Wasn't it Murdoch's News Corp that paid some-ungodly-sum to buy MySpace? How are they gonna make money from it? I mean, how are they going to make BILLIONS of dollars from MySpace? Even at the time they bought it, squaresvill schlub me was aware of the rumbles from "the 'net" that MySpace was on its way out, and that FaceBook was the place to be.

I've never even looked at FaceBook. Several of my friends have FaceBook pages. In fact, almost all of my internet contacts have a FaceBook page. How does it work? Is it advertising supported? Can you buy an ad-free subscription? It seems to keep growing, but, MySpace seemed to have unlimited potential, too. What makes FaceBook so d@mned cool that even my "reticent, private" internet friends have a page there? Am I missing out?

Prob'ly not.

I feel myself edging into an interWeb slump. Yeah, I spend a lot of hours on the computer, but I'm flicking between Plurk and Flickr mostly, and LJ a bit, and a couple of other hobby sites. What I'm finding is that it's getting difficult to read the news on the internet. Most of the news sites are going toward streaming video. I don't want some talking head giving me a dumbed-down verbal synopsis of things. I want to have big blocks of text full of facts to read through. That's getting harder to find.

It's kind of ironic. You have to be able to read to get information from the internet. Reading, however, is becoming a skill which fewer students are willing to master. This works to the advantage of the "gatekeepers," who are more than happy to spoon-feed pre-packaged video clips to the dulled-down masses. As the New Year commences, I've seen a number of stories prognosticating about the future of the internet and of society. My long-term prediction is that the internet will eventually become nearly text free. It will be almost exclusively video clips and flashing lights and game-like clicky-button interfacing. Alternately, and equally likely: the internet will mostly just stop. If Amazon and eBay are the only ones making money, the companies who put the wires on the poles to keep the thing going aren't going to find it worthwhile to subsidize the operations of a handful of profitable internet businesses. And users are becoming stingier and stingier. I read, almost every day, about people who refuse to pay for internet service, thinking that free Wi-Fi will be available everywhere.

There's a local coffee shop that provides free Wi-Fi. At the moment. They have pleading signs posted around their establishment more or less begging people to please buy a cup of coffee if they're gonna milk the Wi-Fi. Free Wi-Fi is still a rare commodity in my part of the country. Besides, it's not really free. Again, somebody's paying for the service. Who is going to provide free Wi-Fi for free, forever, for everyone? Who can afford to do that?

Uhm... what did I start off to write about?

Anyway, now I'm starting to get bummed out by all the corporate mergers and the expectations for endless double- and triple-digit percentage profit gains. It's not like I have anything worthwhile to say, but I'll be bummed when LiveJournal folds up. With so many people talking about it, I'd say it's pretty much a done deal at this point. Self-fulfilling prophecy, maybe, but yeah, it's gonna disappear.

I guess maybe I'll still see some of you back where I first met most of you, at the NewDream/StormWerks sites. Of course, voxmachina.com hasn't been updated in five months, and @!/usr/bin/girl only sparkles sporadically, once every two or three weeks (it's been at least a month since the last activity there). What further evidence do you need that the internet, at least as we've known it, is grinding to a halt?

I have fun at Flickr. I hope it manages to survive when Yahoo collapses into bankruptcy.

I hope Apple Computers can thrive without Steve Jobs. "Hormone imbalance," they say. I wish I could believe that were true. I wonder what's up with iTunes removing copy protection and lowering the price of most songs? Savvy business move, or desperation?

I need to get my life in order. I was thinking about my possessions today. I have too many. (Like, duhhh....) When I'm gone, someday, although probably not imminently, nobody's gonna care about all that stuff. And right now, all that stuff is serving, to a large degree, as both physical and psychological baggage. I should just... clear it out. I mean, it's just stuff, right?

Instead, I acquire more. "Ooh, that'd be neat to have, that'd be fun, that'd make me feel more like a cool person." None of that is true, is it? It's good to have a few neat things around, or a few totally impractical objects that you keep just because you like them. But... boxes full of stuff? What's the point of having it if it's hidden away?

I also need to organize my time. I need to stay on top of things at work so I'm not up against last-minute deadlines. I need to take care of the little things so they don't turn into big things.

Werk... yeah. I need to try to care, y'know? I mean, I do all right, most of the time. But I need to get re-enthused about werk, make the most of the time that I spend there... and not bring any of it home!

I need to get more exercise, and eat better. Breakfast yesterday was packaged Chex Mix and a Coca Cola.

I should try to write coherently, stay on topic, and format what I write with a clear beginning, middle, and end. I should try to write with a purpose.

I should turn off the computer and go to bed.

Maybe I'll type up that book review thing tomorrow.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 7th, 2009 08:52 pm (UTC)
I started with my own site. Lost the domain, started again, lost it again, ...
Now I have a couple of domains of my own.
Then I joined LJ following someone I learned to know on some forum.
Then I got onto Deviantart. And I found my way to GJ, and LJB and IJ ... and MySpace and Gaia and ...
But if I look now more than half the 'social networking sites' that I joined are gone.

The WWW is growing up I suppose.

I suspect we will se a lot more changes.
ost of the websites now are surviving and making money on advertising. But there is one problem. In the old door-to-door leaflet and billboard addvertising there was no way to actually measure return. You payed a million for five minutes on TV. But you couldn't measure how many people became customers because of that add. Now you can measure it. You pay a million to get your add placed on Yahoo. And five customet\rs click on it. Now you can measure that you payed 200.000 for each customer. And you know what each individual custome bought, one big plasma tv (1500) two medium LCD tvs (800) one stero-chain (100) and earbuds for an iPod (15). Great return on your investment.
And then the economy shrinks and you got to explain on your boss where your budget went.

Yeah, the internet lives on advertising income but I doubt it can survive on it.
Soon people will learn they get what they pay for.
Jan. 7th, 2009 09:11 pm (UTC)
Jan. 8th, 2009 12:31 am (UTC)
Please do type up that book review. (I really don't mind if we disagree, so don't hold back on my account.)

Also, there are some major shifts coming (on the wWeb), but it's all a part of life. Enjoy the ride.
Jan. 8th, 2009 02:30 am (UTC)
Some rides are easier to enjoy than others. :(
Jan. 8th, 2009 03:46 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for this link! It well-states what I've been thinking, backed up with facts, knowledge, and a talent for clear expression.

It's kind of ironic that the banner ad at the top of the page screams: JOIN FANS OF THE ATLANTIC ON FACEBOOK!!!

There's the real new face of journalism for ya.

Edited at 2009-01-08 03:49 am (UTC)
Jan. 8th, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC)
Maybe you're not reading me. You wouldn't mourn the loss of something you didn't enjoy, so you evidently get The New York Times.

So, if you're able to, enjoy today's paper issue of The New York Times. Find a comfortable chair. Relish it.

It's like enjoying the visits from the ice man with those big blocks of ice to restock your ice box, or opening the front door to fresh milk bottles. Or gathering the family around the radio at a specific time each day to listen to your favorite program.

I was a newspaper boy, with bicycle, bags, black fingers and all. My son won't be. You two would stop in your tracks mourning what he won't be and what he won't have. But he won't.

Enjoy the ride, because the ride will end, and you got to be on it.
Jan. 8th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)
Personally, I'm not so much concerned about the loss of a newspaper, as about the loss of the ability to find information; and more than that, even, about the lack of critical reading and thinking skills -- and heck, even basic "sound out the words" reading skills -- that allow people to understand and use information.

So much internet-provided content is provided in a "pre-thought" format; that is, the opinions and interpretations are provided already in the video clips and text snippets. No thinking is necessary. Indeed, thinking is discouraged.

Part of this is due, perhaps, to the pace of modern life. People want "news digests." Indeed, I want news digests. But I don't want them in video clip format with some eye-candy reporteress telling me what I should think, and an embedded advert that I can't skip past. I'd like to see "digest clips" with click-through options for longer text articles.

But I want this because I know how to read, and I can usually understand at least most of the big words.

As for newspapers per se, I haven't purchased a paper in a couple of years now. Despite the slumping readership, it's still easy enough to pick up a leftover paper at work. Some fast food restaurants even give them away for free.

Besides, newspapers are a huge environmental burden, both for processing and for disposal. When I do pick up a paper, even a free one, I can't help but think about this. I wish I could believe that trees are being "saved" as fewer newspapers are being printed, but I suspect this simply means that the timber harvesting and wood pulp industries are finding it economically non-viable to replant after clear-cutting.

Speaking of economics, the article linked to above opens up a whole 'nother topic for serious rantage! But LJ has a character cap on comment length!
Jan. 8th, 2009 08:22 pm (UTC)
BTW: I don't remember the ice man commething, but the milkman still came around when I was a very young kid (cartons, though, not bottles). In fact, one of my friends' dad was a milk man.

Forget the radio -- do you remember when people used to gather around the TV to see their favorite programs? Back in the days of broadcast TV, pre-TIVO or VCR or video-on-demand. Then, as kids (and I assume adults did this too), we'd all talk about the shows we watched the previous evening. Now, with so many video options, "time slots" don't matter, and it's unlikely that kids have seen the same show at the same time. There's a loss of "community" when communally shared experiences, even ones so vapid as watching Gilligan's Island, are no longer an option.

The flip side of this is, the internet allows for a much broader community, where experiences can be shared with like-minded people irrespective of geography. I know almost nobody who shares my eclectic range of interests who is geographically close -- yet via the internet... I gots you guyz!

The internet opens up vast opportunities for intellectual stimulation and social connections, far beyond anything that was available during my formative years.

So yeah, things change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not. The ride can be exhilarating... or it can make you sick.
Jan. 8th, 2009 01:42 am (UTC)
I wish I had more time to write.

Facebook is probably the most annoying experience I've had online to date. And since I had two years on AOL that's saying something. For me Facebook is like being in a cubicle office environment where you can't hide or escape from other's inane chatter. Just AWFUL.
Jan. 9th, 2009 05:35 am (UTC)
you only read 15 PER YEAR?

I read 15 per DAY, crazed psychotic man! Geesh, slow much?

Or maybe I'm just reading too quickly. I was the first one finished reading Deathly Hallows in my town, anyways....
Jan. 9th, 2009 05:54 am (UTC)
I used to read voraciously like that. Maybe not fifteen books a day but, yeah, I was reading all the time.

Dunno what happened.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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