THE RUN DOWN

One of the things I like to do on this blog sometimes is change the design and template from time to time. I get bored easily when it comes to a number of things in life, but my blog template is at least one thing I can change with relative ease. I have to tweak coding here and there to make it work, but it’s worth it.

A few months ago, an article in the New York Times was posted about how book choices influence your choice in partner. I can’t find the link right now, but it surprisingly spoke to me. I say surprisingly because, really, it smacked of elitist snobbery the moment I caught a whiff of its Upper East Side authorship.

Sometimes, The New York Times, I swear – if it were a person, it would be Scarlett Johansson. One minute, you’re mesmerized by what it/she represents and the infinite possibilities it/she invokes. The other minute, it/she only reminds you of how far away from that world you actually are, here in Beta-Class, Featureless-and-Formless, Passive-Aggressive Toronto.

Anyway, back to the article. Yes, that’s what I thought at first, the article was snobbery Writ Large. But I was wrong. It’s actually true. But not in the way the author intended, methinks.

It’s taken some time to really consider this, but the argument’s basically true for any kind of media a person enjoys. In order for you to really have a meaningful, long-lasting relationship with someone, you can’t connect on just touch or sentiment alone. That’s been understood for eons – the idea of sharing cultural interests to form a solid foundation with someone.

But what’s different about the idea of shared cultural interests now, as opposed to say, even 20 years ago, is the sheer depth and orders of magnitude culture produces now. It’s getting virtually impossible to find a prospective partner who fits your cultural make-up to a tee; nowadays, it’s almost becoming mathematical, even quadratic, in the relationship equation on the subject of culture.

Solve for X:
Me: Non-fiction books + science fiction (politics) = X
You: Fiction books (Reality TV) – horror = X

It’s an unworkable, if perhaps too literal, take on culture in a relationship. You have to almost find a Gladwell-esque Tipping Point in order to balance each other out.

If you really think about it, the more our cultural interests become atomized, self-directed, the harder it becomes to share a common bond with people. Some people might long for a simpler age.

When you’re young, it’s remarkably easy for people to bond on the basis of shared cultural interests. Music’s always the first thing to go when it comes to collective, broad appreciation. Then movies. Then television. And, eventually, books. Obviously it’s not the same formula for everyone. But it does beg some questions.

As the initial thrills of a relationship just blossoming eventually fade, can couples work past the cultural equations based on love alone? You know how relationships and love are about having something from someone that no one else can give you? Well, that may be true – but does it even apply to culture?

I-PATRIOT ACT

In today’s climate of fear and defensive posturing that governments around the world seem locked into, there’s nothing more potentially unnerving than an unpredictable, far-reaching conduit in which ordinary citizens are tapped into. That, my friends, is of course the Internet.

In case anyone remembers the aftermath of 9/11 and all the legal, political and military pivots that effectively turned America into The United States of Paranoia (albeit before Iraq, Katrina, the Recession-Depression that’s starting, extraordinary rendition, CIA-approved torture tactics… does it ever end?), there were two little bills that changed America forever: The now-infamous Patriot Act and Patriot Act II.

Well, consider the nature of government when it comes to encroachment of powers. Governments will sometimes use events (read: 9/11) as catalysts to enact legislation that would be inconceivable under normal conditions. Of course, no one would ever assume a government would conduct a false flag operation to justify certain actions in government, right?

Of course, smart men like Lawrence Lessig know better. Lessig – a man far more capable of formulating reasoned, sensible government policy than government mandarins – spoke at this year’s Brainstorm Tech conference about “an i-9/11 event” that could enable the U.S. government to completely change how the Internet works in America (and really, how the world accesses the Internet too).

We’re talking the whole hog of totalitarianism here, folks: Internet ID cards to govern where, when and who goes online; massive, overarching social tracking technology; blocking and filtering of web sites in public forums like libraries (!) that mysteriously don’t fall in with mainstream-approved readings; vast spy databases – the list goes on and on and on.

Don’t think for a moment this isn’t possible. Nobody saw 9/11 coming and look what happened there. What if a huge cyberterrorist attack – we’re talking a monumental, Denial-of-Service-Attacking, data eliminating, shit hits the fan bad – happens in a major American city or the entire East Coast? It doesn’t even have to be al-Qaeda-led, either. Hell, when you consider all the unsettling, questionable aspects of 9/11, you don’t have to look too far to wonder exactly who benefits from this kind of cyber law.

So let’s say it happens and this “Cyber Act” is brought into law: if you buy into this system of having ISPs reporting back data on your online habits to the government, you get access to the upcoming Internet2 – a sweet, super-fast replacement to the current architecture of the Web currently in development. Sort of like you’re the horse, Internet2 is the carrot.

You refuse to buy in, you’re a target for government surveillance (at least, now it’s U.S. government spying on Americans that’s suddenly legal and lawful, as opposed to the “extra-legal” spying happening now).

Even if you think this is all fear-mongering, just read the note, it’s informative at least.

OLYMPICS: There’s just two days left before the Games of the Chinese Olympiad (hey, not as if the IOC has any control over these Games anymore) commence. The New York Times has a really cool interactive Flash-based graphic that measures medal counts by country since the first Summer Olympics in 1896.

TEXTISM, MOZILLA AND SHIGERU MIYAMOTO

My boss pointed out a blog of sorts that I remember seeing years ago in Shift Magazine but I completely forgot about: Textism – an incredibly funny, erudite blog about random topics involving web culture, writing and whether or not anyone will ever get Francis Bacon’s paintings. Who knows. It’s a very dry, biting site in terms of the humour, but it’s worth checking out.

FIREFOX 3: The good folks at Mozilla have Release Candidate 1 out and ready for use. I’ve been using the Beta 5 model and now RC1 regularly; I can’t imagine using any other browser at this point. I really can’t stand Internet Explorer for one, but I do use the AOL Explorer browser sometimes. In any case, if you don’t use Firefox, you really should.

SHIGERU MIYAMOTO: The New York Times had a great article on the weekend profiling Nintendo’s resident genius Shigeru Miyamoto. Just a quick primer – he’s the driving force behind some of the gaming world’s most important innovations of the past 20 years, including the Nintendo Wii and the Wii Fit (which, by the way, I’m now using – it’s really excellent to use and tremendously fun, but it actually, you know, helps you exercise, which is great!).

Finally, is anyone else getting tired of hockey? Seriously, as much as I resent the Detroit Red Wings, can’t hockey be done in four straight victories so we can have no hockey this year in June? Please and thanks.

UPDATE: Dick Martin of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (not the most original comedy in American history, but still pretty good for the time) has passed away.