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a thousand points of failure

May 28th, 2004

“A thousand points of light? Is that some kind of eastern thing?”

He got 100 cool points for this witty quoting from The Big Lebowski, but then lost them for not getting the reference to the first President Bush. Points of light had been big, a meme right up there with kinder, gentler.

“Don’t you remember 1989?”, I ask. “A thousand points of light?”

“It sounds familiar,” he says tentatively.

It all sounds familiar, I’ll grant you. With him, I was less generous.

“Well, nevermind, you won’t get the joke unless it does more than ring a bell. You’d have to know something of the context.”

“You could explain it, instead of pouting, perhaps?”

Okay, this was charming. Evenness of temperament with backbone. This was mastery of another kind. But he was still wrong. I couldn’t explain without pouting.

“It’s not a joke anymore when you have to explain. It’s a lesson. I don’t want to play teacher now. I want to be a comedian. You know, like Lenny Bruce.”

There are a thousand points of failure in any conversation. I had found one. And I wouldn’t let go.

In a classroom, in the daylight, for an old friend, I could’ve explained my thousand points of failure quip. Could’ve explained my satire of dismantling public infrastructure to rely instead on individual charity for the social safety net as akin to engineering in as many points of failure as possible.

Not that I don’t respect the power of individuals to make a difference. Each point is a possibility of failure, not a promise of it. But moving social welfare out of the public sphere, off the slate of collective, national priorities is a major shift in course. In an age where everything important is handled by experts, what are we to make of the importance of jobs left to domestics? Left to the private, household economy (oikos)? Apparently, that tending the young, old, sick, and poor are below-the-line, after-profit, expenses.

It seems disingenuous to forget that New Deal reforms, not Rockefeller-style philanthropy, saved the free world from the depression. At least that’s the story I got growing up. Sure, laissez-faire capitalism, the Satanic Mills, 18-hour workdays, unfettered monopolies, and all that, had threatened democracy. But Upton Sinclair, labor unions, and FDR’s reforms restored the balance, making the world safe again for unprecedented economic growth.

Today, when “unions” and “welfare-state” are dirty words to so many, I wonder how effectively a charity-net of a thousand points of light can weather the vicissitudes of boom and bust.

green fuse force

May 26th, 2004

Monday I got a jolt of the force that through the green fuse drives the flower. Work and pages offline to me so long I feared them lost were suddenly back again. With digital, it’s always a switch, flick on | flick off. Even when you’re the flicker, the change is sudden.

One of the works lost to me was my cyborganic manifesto, the other was my masters thesis. I had digital and paper copies of the thesis, but nothing of the manifesto. Yet I grinned widely in the moment I realized it was gone. What does it mean when you lose your manifestos? What falls away is always. And is near.

Green fuse force drove a little further today with the re-activation of my pirates website and all this changed my identity in a rather literal, aka textual, way. I made a new .sig file.
<>..............[current project]
<>..........[old work]
<>....[blog as scrapbook, an experiment]

untimely ripped

May 24th, 2004

It was some time ago now that I was untimely ripped from the grid and nearly disappearred entirely from the web. No big loss to most, to be sure, but a bit of a jolt to me.

In April a friend I met in November googled me and all he found was my filmmaker page at — a site that’s actually down today, amusingly enough — and some Wayback Machine pages.

“Jenny Cool, are you out there?,” his subject line read.

I wasn’t.

The rupture was neither complete, nor unexpected. In many ways it was delightful to see my “return from the field” mirrored by this retreat from the net, and especially the web, where for years it would’ve been easy to locate me with a single i’m-feeling-lucky click.

But it was also unsettling. Web death I thought. No, not some kind of mass-scribbling à la Blair Newman removing all his Well postings in an act of virtual suicide followed, weeks later, with his suicide IRL (Rheingold’s account). It was nevertheless, partially the result of deliberate neglect.

It was a letting go, a retreat from a decade of wired-weirdness and weird-wiredness.

Not that anyone was watching at this point in the long good-bye. It took about four months for anyone to ping me with the news that I had disappeared from view.

Cyborganic ported to a new server about a year ago. Trusty boxes xanadu and erewhon went offline at 11:59 PM on Friday May 23, 2003. Now the switchover went pretty damn smoothly, all praise to Cybotech, but my entire web directory remained .tgz somewhere invisible and unknown to me, my efforts to reach it thwarted by disconnection.

The untimely rippage of another box from its rack at Hurricane Electric knocked out and voilà, web silence.

And’s that’s right about the time I started writing here with no clear plan, but a deep, intransitive need to transmit. Better send out something on my frequencies lest web death feedback IRL.


May 24th, 2004

From: Jeremy Douglass

Date: April 18, 2004 4:44:40 PM PDT
Subject: Jenny Cool, are you out there?

Dear Jenny,
Had a really hard time tracking you down. Only found three live links, all of which were out of date:

...all of them seem to list these defunct contact points:

...and the best lead that I could find was using the WayBack machine on your dead coolstudios site:

which listed your email as I checked:

...but it looked empty. Still, I'll give it a shot.

Jeremy Douglass

Co-chair, "Narr@tive: Digital Storytelling" UC Graduate Conference
Department of English
University of California Santa Barbara

standard gauge

May 12th, 2004

quik 1 … why is std banner ad that size? was invented chez hotwired for zima, nu?
ian3141592: 468×60
ian3141592: My great contribution to mankind. 🙂
jennybot19: yours… tell me the story again
ian3141592: Mine and 3 other people.
jennybot19: organic made the banner, i know that much, was mathew nelson 1/3?
ian3141592: We were sitting around, me and Jeff Veen and um, me and my bad name memory… The art director at HW, and one other person.
ian3141592: Dunno. Could have been. Him or Steuer.
ian3141592: We said, well, we’re designing for 640×480…
ian3141592: And netscape is this wide….
ian3141592: And leaves this much space…
ian3141592: So let’s make it 468 wide…
ian3141592: And 60 high looks good.
ian3141592: …
jennybot19: neat…first person versions are cool, thanks!

jennybot19 is me. you should be able to figure out who ian3141592 is from this HotSooth page of Justin’s.

Another account of the birth of the Zima banner ad