"Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum strong enough, and single-handed I can move the world." - Archimedes Martin Jensen makes commentaries on real issues, or at least interesting essays. Banality filter is on.


I Copy from the Cluetrain List
> Date: Fri, 8 Mar 2002 17:11:32 -0800
> From: Kevin Marks
> Subject: Re: [cluetrain] Nonzero and Dawkins
> Hey, I'm writing the debate on Slashdot too...
> Nonzero says that the root of human ontology can be found in game
> theory. Non-zero sum activities do better than zero-sum ones, so
> over
> time they win out by basic Darwinism.
> With markets and conversations being key examples of non-zero-sum
> behaviour, there is a long term evolutionary pressure towards
> cluetrain.

This is so cool. I've been out for a few days, kicking back in the
Ozarks. I come back completely clueless about all the topicas under
discussion, then I find I gotta buy a book. Just keeps readings, I sez.
Before I know it, Kevin encapsulates.

I don't even have to read it now, because a couple weeks ago, I said the
same thing about clued cavemen.

Meanwhile, I'm troubled about this "open source" discussion on
intellectual property. Because that's what we're talking about when we
talk about fair use -- in practice, it has meant that you steal from
those you love. You think you are screwing the bad bad record company
when you dupe an MP3 by your favorite artist off the net -- but you
haven't *screwed* the record company -- you've *become* the record
company. You are now screwing the artist, which used to be A&R's job.

The ironic thing is that some of the most compelling arguments for the
need for unrestricted copying comes from the very creative sorts of minds
you would expect to be most threatened by it. If my product is not
wingnuts or woodracks, but an act of my imagination, then I must have
some measure of compensation or I must needs return to the wimpole

And everyone acts like this is the most intractable religious schism --
you are FOR copy protection or you are FOR freedom of information. It's
like there is no historical precedent for the economic model where
stealing is so easy and yet so undetectible. And yet somehow rare.

I can think of at least two: Horse thievery and paper hanging.
Everybody's watched the old westerns where the cowboys would ride into
town and just flip the reins around the hitching post before they went
into the saloon. Was it because it was hard to steal a horse? Was it
because people in them days was so durned honest? Hail, no. It was
because the penalty for stealing a horse was hanging -- generally hastily
arranged and unencumbered by legal procedure.

A tamer example is forgery or check kiting. It's actually pretty easy to
do. Write a check for a hundred dollars, present it with a smile on your
face and a ready excuse, and someone will likely cash it. But if your
fraud is exposed, the penalties are more akin to armed robbery than
shoplifting. And no one said there was gonna be math, but you'll have
ten years to figure out how much that hundred bucks has cost you.

So what brings this up is my kid's birthday party. I got five fourteen
year old boys in da house and they're talking about burning CDs and
upgrading pirate OSes and they can't even understand me when I say what
they are doing is three ways from right. And I'm not lecturing them, I'm
just giving perspectives, doncha know, but to them I might as well have
antennae sprouting from my temples. And then I start talking about
buying a $70 copy of Linux and getting better performance out of a
castaway PC than they will get sinking $1500 into a Microsloth Monster
and all they can say is, "But can it play GAMES?" And I'm saying, but
you can run a website in your bedroom and sell 5 gigs of space for $20 a
month and you'll graduate from High School knowing enough to earn $100K
your first year and so finally they're starting to listen to me, but
somehow I've lost the momentum and I can't go back and say that the
twenty cents a song they should be paying that grungemetal hiphoppist
band from New Jersey really makes a difference and if they don't figure
out a way to make sure the poor bastards get paid they're gonna wind up
workin' in a gas station and spend the rest of their lifes in san

So I want my genius kid to be able to make a living from his brain if he
cares to. That's why I think we need fair use backed by fierce penalty.
Take away the fuckin' smart card, that's what we'll do. Disable the
digital signature. No Amazon for a month! I will turn this SCSI bus
right around, mister!


Small Pieces Loosely Joined A new book by David Weinberger
Co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto
Perseus Books, April 2002

Not a maze of twisty passages, all alike, but a new medium with, perhaps, a new message? I just read the preface. The first couple of chapters are online, and from what I've seen, it's worth getting sucked into. Plus, you can sign on and do online commentary, making you either one of the Early Adopters, or one of the Soon-to-be-Forgotten Wannabes. Only time (or space, or something new that exists only in the realm of the web) will tell....
What Wasn't In the Milk

I was picking up some items at the Wild Oats the other day
and remembered Allie asking for milk;
They didn't have the familiar plastic cartons I had resisted for
years and now bought thoughtlessly, but ultra-expensive
old-fashioned cartons of Organic Lowfat 1% Milk.

I actually weighed the seventy-five cent difference against the
time and effort to stop at another store, the extra 1%
milkfat I would get with the plastic kind,
the uncomfortable feeling of the unfamiliar purchase
of the otherwise everyday household good.

I bought in a paroxysm of extravagance.

Here, I said to the kids, it's Organic Milk from Organic Cows
I thought if you like it we might start buying it.
It tastes the same, said Livi.
It's milk, said Max.
But Livi got some more, which neither ever does, and Max
finished the small glass without encouragement or extortion, which
he often does not.

And so I tried it myself, late at night alone,
with some ginger snaps and a windmill cookie
and it was like tasting something that wasn't there.
Not the thing that was in the glass, but the thing that had been
in every glass before and did not have a name,
that thing that weighs down your life and you
do not feel released from it
until one day you suddenly
breathe and it is gone.


Meanwhile, back at the Polder

I also get credit from David Weinberger, Pundit and Cluminary, for recommending an article by Richard Dawkins; a site which I just now visited for the first time in mememory.... Oh, well, maybe it was the other Martin Jensen. Did someone say something about Multiple Blog Disorder?
Somebody who isn't related actually reads this thing?

I willingly admit that I started this blog in part to adress my infrequent yet wholly unsatisfying ego surfing -- attempts to find references to "Martin Jensen" on the WWW that weren't Danish Ministers of Somethingorother. Imagine my surprise to go to Daypop tonight and find this, from Doc Searls:

The poet Martin Jensen has posted wisely to the Cluetrain list:
>  Kind of cool, isn't it, when we overthrow capitalism with CAPITALISM, as evenly-armed competitors in a formerly one-sided contest?
Yes, very.
His blog is fulcrum and his blogrolling list is "A Plague of Blogs," which made me laugh so hard a few minutes ago that I may have awakened neighbors.

Thanks, Doc. And I liked learning that Firesign Theatre birthed your participation in the writing of the Book That Dare Not Speak Its Name. I think we're all bozos on this bus.


It's for reasons like this that I need to add Frank Paynter to my Plague of Blogs:
Sandhill Trek Let's put the rat bastard greedball stick-it-to-everyone opportunistic twizzledicks out of business by opening up a new space for communicating truth, revealing beauty, and damn it! - leaping tall buildings with a single bound.

Is that poetry, or what?

I heard about this site on To the Best of Our Knowledge today...

> Philip Milano is the author of "Why Do White People Smell Like Dogs
> When They Come Out of the Rain?" and founder of the controversial Web
> site, YForum.com. He tells Anne Strainchamps
> his goal is to increase understanding between the races. He thinks we
> have to have a full and open discussion of all the embarrassing,
> niggling questions the races have about each other before we can make
> real progress toward harmony.

An interesting comment he made toward the end of the segment was that he felt these small questions were more important than the big ones. Sort of, "How can we talk about welfare reform when you can't see past my hair?"


Another Whiny Outdated Post
From an email response to my nephew Dave, who made the mistake of saying something like, "When are you going to quit your day job and become a writer?" Okay, so he is neither that ridiculous nor that encouraging, but you get the picture.

A great Elvis once sang, "Every day I write the book."

Writing that note (two hours of writing separated by 36 hours of agonizing) made me realize (again) how little I have retained of my life in my memory. I'm not even sure if what I am writing is what I experienced at the time, much less what it may have to with any objective sense of reality. Whenever I try to tell a story on myself, I am constantly being interrupted by another witness to the events. "Don't you remember that X happened first? And that X happened because Y because Z?"

Well, no.

It's daunting when I think maybe I have something to say, that I will not remember what it is I know. I don't know whether to chalk this up to a brain defect or a defense mechanism.

I'm not sure how much sympathy I have for people like me. I hear stories about people that grew up in circumstances of serious abuse, physical disability, material need. All I am is the seventh child in a diseased but relatively gifted family.

I just finished the "Anti-Oprah" book -- The Corrections. This is the one where the author, Jonathan Franzen, thought being an Oprah book was too low-brow. That the great middle-western unwashed could never appreciate the high literary art he had created. It's about a seriously f-ed-up family where everybody blames everybody else for their own f-ed-up lives. One of the characters is, of course, a writer and he is, of course, a snob and he is, of course, a loser.

Story didn't seem that obtuse to me. Maybe I'm just living in the wrong city.

Anyway, the writing, which is to say the style, is pretty good, and I'm reading along trying to either see why I should care about any of these characters or how I can write a commentary on this author and his ungracious attitude. But as it's going along, I am carried into the story. Even though I don't care about them, the narrative is compelling. Even though I hate the characters and the author and the plot by the end of the book, I am staying up and reading it for hours.

I remember Gardner saying that you shouldn't write to compete with other authors -- most other books are trash, and most people won't read them anyway. You should write to compete with the circus -- like a Romanian circus with the real acrobats who work without a net, not one of those cheap commercial American imitations. People should rather stay home from the circus to read your book.

So I'm reading this damnable book, and I'm thinking, at least this guy actually wrote it, and who am I to criticize him? So what if he kills this character off at the end of the book and the whole family is transformed as if the sins have been lifted from them, even if the character didn't do what they imagined, even if their faults are their own, even if they are not fundamentally changed -- they get to change their lives. This, I probably don't need to tell you, is an authorial sin, one of several transgressions the author makes.

So I'm not writing my life story (or writing from my life story) because I barely remember it. It's like images shifting off the surface of the water when the objects they represent are hidden behind a windowshade. All I see is the glimmer on the water, and only in those moments when the air is calm. And because I am busy doing "real work" and raising kids and doing, doing, doing. Sometimes I have a fantasy that I have lost my incredibly well-paying job and so have to live by my wits but instead of pounding the pavement I pound the keyboard and somehow get my shit together all at once and become a famous author without missing a house payment.

When I find myself thinking that way, I perform the mental equivalent of sticking my fingertips in my ears and whistling.

Picture me now, bicycling up a grade, fingers in my ears, lips pursed, just ahead of a screaming monster labelled bankruptcy. If I stop pedaling, even for a moment, I will lose my momentum and the bike will swerve and fall. If I pull the fingers from my ears, I will be distracted. I will hear the monster and my muscles will freeze; I will lose momentum, swerve and fall. If I stop whistling, I will become fearful; I will become distracted, hear the monster....

That is why I do not write my book.

That, or I am basically damaged goods, not facing up to the wounds I have sustained, not dealing with my own not-dealing-with-the-problem.

Yeah, maybe that's it.

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