What difference does it make who is speaking?

Thanks to an ongoing discussion with @twigz that has now taken place over so many days and channels that I expect she’s ready to unfriend me (or worse), I’ve been thinking on the role of the author in networked digital culture and how it might be different from the established role of the author.

At the very end of his essay, What is an author?, Michel Foucault imagines a dramatic shift in the cultural role the author plays in the “modern” era that he so carefully lays out in the rest of the essay:

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W.G. Sebald’s Rings of Saturn

As our inaugural book, we read W.G. Sebald‘s Rings of Saturn.



I suppose it is submerged memories that give to dreams their curious air of hyper-reality. But perhaps there is something else as well, something nebulous, gauze-like, through which everything one sees in a dream seems, paradoxically, much clearer. A pond becomes a lake, a breeze becomes a storm, a handful of dust is a desert, a grain of sulphur in the blood is a volcanic inferno. What manner of theatre is it, in which we are at once playwright, actor, stage manager, scene painter and audience?


This then, I thought, as I looked round about me, is the representation of history. It requires a falsification of perspective. We, the survivors, see everything from above, see everything at once, and still we do not know how it was.


Combustion is the hidden principle behind every artefact we create. The making of a fish-hook, manufacture of a china cup, or production of a television programme, all depend on the same process of combustion. Like our bodies and like our desires, the machines we have devised are possessed of a heart which is slowly reduced to embers. From the earliest times, human civilization has been no more than a strange luminescence growing more intense by the hour, of which no one can say when it will begin to wane and when it will fade away.


Perhaps we all lose our sense of reality to the precise degree to which we are engrossed in our own work, and perhaps that is why we see in the increasing complexity of our mental constructs a means for greater understanding, even while intuitively we know that we shall never be able to fathom the imponderables that govern our course through life.

Things that came up during the discussion (in no particular order):

In keeping with the theme of quasi-autobiographic meandering rants, our next reading will be Céline’s Journey to the End of the Night (Voyage au bout de la nuit, 1932). We will meet at 3:30pm PT Sunday, 22 November 2009.

New York City Palimpsest

In the last month I’ve had a couple of chances to finally get back to visit New York City for the first time since 1999. I first moved to NY in 1982 and lived there (mostly) through 1998. If I were to pick a place to call home-if home is that place that defines us-New York would be one of my primal homes. The other being that entirely opposite, strange, mostly unpopulated mesa country in Western Colorado where I did some of my growing up, for better or worse.

I hadn’t been back to to NY since before 9/11 and everyone had told me it had completely changed. I heard different descriptions about exactly how, but everyone agreed: NY was a different place than it used to be.

After spending some time in NY, I have to disagree.

I’m not saying NY is not different than it used to be. But I don’t think change is the right word. I spent some time visiting my old neighborhoods and the thing that struck me most is that everything I remembered was still there-sandwiched in by incredible changes for sure-but still there. It’s as if NY grew, keeping everything it already had, and just adding more.

Every bar, restaurant, store and place I ever went to seemed all still almost exactly as I left it 10 years ago. The only difference is what is next door. The caribbean restaurant El Castillo de Jagua is still open just off Essex St on the Lower East Side, but right next door is a gleaming glass box holding a tony hotel/restaurant of the type you would only think to see in Soho. The liquor store my old landlord ran down there is still in business, but now instead of neoyorquinos and heroin addicts out front, there are bridge and tunnel girls talking on their iPhones waiting for their boyfriends to pull round in the Nissan. The store that stayed alive by selling bikes stolen from gentrifying yuppies back their kin is still in business, announced by the same crude, airbrushed mural.

New York is like a palimpsest: everything that was ever written is still legible under the heavy script of the latest capitalist, cultural story.

I suspect that 10 years of incredible financial expansion happened so fast that there wasn’t even time to erase what was already there. During this eve before the financial collapse, I am also left suspecting that these newer stories of excess will fade away. Not so long from now I might be able to come back to NY and find it almost exactly as I left it. Before 9/11. Before the wild money ride that wrote a temporary short story across New York.

PDX #powerballVC Reaps Rewards Worthy of Wall St

I’m pleased to report that the first ever PDX Powerball Venture Capital fund returned earnings worthy of a Wall Street investment fund. With a generous $155 in initial capital, #powerballVC returned a stunning $9 in winnings!

After subtracting our promised 10%—or $0.90 —donation to the Legion of Tech, 31 #powerballVC fund members divide the remaining $8.10 equally to earn a whopping $0.26 each for their original $5 investment—a healthy -94.8% profit!

If you are among the lucky 31 #powerballVC fund founders, please tweet me your vote for how we should invest the fund’s current $9 capitalization:

  1. Let it ride (ie, buy $9 worth of Powerball tickets for the next drawing)
  2. Liquify (ie, buy a pitcher of beer for LoT board members at the next LoT Happy Hour)
  3. Get out now (ie, collect your 26¢ before the market crashes)

For anyone who’s interested, 3 out of our 155 powerball tickets won $3 each by matching 29, the powerball number for the Sat 27 Sep 2008 drawing. If anyone wants to look over the remaining 152 losing tickets to double check for other winners, let me know.