Monthly Archives: March 2006

Trance (2005) – Christopher Sorrentino


I finally had the chance to read Trance, and I recommend it. Trance revolves around the story of Patricia Hearst and the SLA, picking up the story at the ‘beginning of the end’ just prior to the big shootout in LA that burned up two thirds of the ‘army.’ Sorrentino does a great job at getting inside of his characters, showing a huge variety of attitudes and perspectives on the events.

See this earlier post on Sorrentino’s reading at the Booksmith last year.

Martin Ritt films of early sixties

Two good films: “Hud” (1963) and “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” (1965) both directed by Martin Ritt.  Both are black and white, two strong dramas.  There’s a sense of ‘adultness’ about them that I rarely come across in more recent films.  Patricia Neal is especially good in “Hud” and she won an Oscar for it.  Watch ’em!

Maude Barlow in Portland, 22-March-2006

Maude Barlow, author of Blue Gold and much more, spoke tonight in Portland, OR as the third event in the Illahee Oil + Water series.  She’s a very good speaker!  Just in from Mexico City where she and others were essentially protesting the World Water Council‘s meeting (where she said the levels of security were incredible).

Her general message is pretty simple: water should not be a commodity sold for profit; it’s a common heritage of all species, present and future.  I found the case pretty compelling, amidst the stories of privatization and exploitation of water around the world.  Also:  stop buying and drinking bottled water!

MS Dinosaur Ads are not good

I’ve been meaning to get this off my chest for awhile. Every time I see one of the Microsoft Dinosaur print ads, I keep wondering why they are still running these things.

1. They indicate that their customers are ‘dinosaurs’ for using an old version of their product.

2. They basically just make me equate ‘Microsoft’ with ‘Extinct’. So be it.

Quickly looking around the web I found some pro-Dinosaur blog entries, but more that did not go for it.

Bruce Sterling stuff…

Shaping Things

I recently read Bruce Sterling’s last non-fiction book called Shaping Things, which is some visionary thinking on design and an internet of things.  Sterling’s concept of the next stage is the spime, which is a thing trackable in space and time, essentially an object that has it’s own data store attached, which is searchable.   Interesting stuff.
Here’s a link over to a WorldChanging post that has more info on recent Sterling speeches (with mp3 links) that are worth checking out.  In the SXSW speech he talks a fair amount about living in Serbia, which he’s doing this year.  He has some harsh comments on the state of affairs in America these days.

Eat the Document – Dana Spiotta (2006)

Eat the Document

Eat the Document is the new second novel by Dana Spiotta, that deals with the interesting period of the early seventies and the underground war protest that got violent. The book switches between 1972 and 1998, looking a two young generations attempting to make some sense of the world. The portrayal of the modern teens is pretty interesting, as they are hyper-aware, cynical, and media-savvy, and alone.

This connects to something I heard on a podcast today, David Foster Wallace on the KCRW Bookworm show. Wallace ends by talking about how his students are no longer afraid of being known as obscene or perverse, things that used to be avoided at all costs. That today, the thing that they most want to avoid being seen as is sentimental. That these feelings have been so used and abused by corporations to sell things based on emotion, that it’s very difficult to talk about or write about what it feels like to, say, mourn the loss of a loved one.

Back to the book, as is evident from the dust jacket photo, there’s an undercurrent in the book on female body image and identity. In the acknowledgements, Spiotta thanks Don and Gordon, who I must assume are DeLillo and Lish. ‘Eat the Document’ is the name of a film that was made about Bob Dylan in 1966 during his world tour, a film that was never officially shown. Another current in the book deals with obsessive music collecting/listening, which seems to be a type of escape that some are able to grow out of.

There are linkages here going back to Pynchon’s Vineland, Susan Choi’s American Woman, and Chris Sorrentino’s Trance.

Seems I'm not the only one…


That’s not to mention law-breaker.

Ideas on Hypnotism

The other night I saw Daniel Dennett speak at Reed, on the occasion of his new book on religion. I won’t go into the whole thing, but one notion that intrigued me.

In speaking about shamans, Dennett said they essentially invented hypnotic techniques of healing (along with uses of plants, touch, etc), that act somewhat like the placebo effect. They acted as the ‘health care’ system of their people, and thus were perhaps of most help to those who were susceptible to hypnotism. Dennett saw this as a ‘selection pressure’ on humans, that hypnotic susceptibility would be a favorable characteristic.

Along with this, a bit from an article on hynotism research by Sandra Blakeslee:

What you see is not always what you get, because what you see depends on a framework built by experience that stands ready to interpret the raw information – as a flower or a hammer or a face.
The top-down structure explains a lot. If the construction of reality has so much top-down processing, that would make sense of the powers of placebos (a sugar pill will make you feel better), nocebos (a witch doctor will make you ill), talk therapy and meditation. If the top is convinced, the bottom level of data will be overruled.

Bad Karma News! & a blog

Bad Karma Newstand

Near the corner of NW Irving & 21st in Portland.

And check out this great blog, with drawings of credit card bills and many great products! Obsessiveconsumption!

Thoughts on the 'flations!

I’m just trying to sort out my thoughts on the current economic circumstances, and in particular on inflation and deflation. It seems to me there are several sides to both of these phenomena, some of which are beyond our usual attempts to control things…

Inflation… classic inflation involves the ‘cheapening’ of the money – each dollar buys less and less of anything. This can extend into a cycle of both prices and wages going up and up, leading to consumer behavior where there is no savings, and people spend their income as soon as possible. This seems to be a monetary event, and also seems to frequently involve asset bubbles, as there is plenty of speculation that prices will continue to rise.

Yet there are times when prices can go up for certain things for simple reasons of supply and demand; oil may well be one of these items which will generally go up in price for a good long time now due to high demand and limited supply. Because oil is used for so many purposes, it will tend to push prices up for many items. But this is not so much monetary inflation as a reflection of reality!

In part this explains why the U.S. measures both overall price inflation and then subtracts food and energy prices to come up with a ‘core’ inflation rate. From the monetary standpoint it makes sense to attempt to separate the two price phenomena, but I’m not sure this approach is quite right… I’m not sure how well you can separate out the energy price impacts from the monetary inflation.

Deflation… the potentially destructive cycle involves money becoming more and more valuable, which can then lead to behavior changes where people wait to buy things since it will be cheaper later. This can lead to economic slowdown, and seems to be an overall monetary event.

But again, there are other reasons for money being ‘more valuable’ at least in terms of some items; the incredible productivity gains in the personal computer business comes to mind. This productivity deflation generally seems like a good thing… we get more for our money. Likewise the China manufacturing productivity give the U.S. many price benefits.

So… it seems to me that in the U.S. we may be seeing all four movements in different areas at the same time, and it will be quite a task to make monetary decisions in this environment. Bernanke seems to be a deflation fighter, but I’m not sure how much ‘bad’ deflation there really is out there… and no matter what they do with interest rates, the oil market will continue to be volatile.