aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Friday, October 07, 2005
Pyramids & pancakes
I was thinking of William Gibson‘s oft quoted “The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.”
And I thought that it applies to talent, only in reverse: Genius is evenly distributed. We just don’t know it yet.
Now the genius I mean includes a whole bunch of things, talent of all kinds: artistic ability, musical ability, craftsmanship, business acumen, you name it. Not so long ago, in order to shine in any of those areas—or, rather, in order to be more widely recognized—you had to leave your hometown and go to the city.
That was a function of our primitive ability to find and produce you; we didn’t have a more efficient structure. And for all it cost to produce you once found, you’d better be a star. Not a whole lot of room there for particular tastes.
The internet has made it possible for us to stay in our own towns and shine.
Lately I’ve been quoting Michael Lewis’s metaphor of “pyramids and pancakes.” It’s a chapter title from his 2002 book, Next: The Future Just Happened, that describes how the successful organization of the future (and the future is now) will not have a top down, pyramidal structure. Rather, the organization will be flat, like a pancake, and draw intelligence from those of us on the edges.
All this comes to mind thanks to a significantly successful week of student media production here in rural Georgia. I am wonderfully and genuinely and joyfully impressed by the quality of their student work. And this is just the beginning; their homemade micro-content is tomorrow’s Media Giant killer.
I’ve been down this road before; cable was once my technology of choice. This is better. I know they’re going to do great things.
Lying is such a complex issue. Would that it could be so simple as to say that lying is always bad. The South is well known for the gentle lie that covers up a hard truth. And much as it is sometimes difficult for this direct, cut to the chase New Yorker to get used to, I kind of like that.
The lying we ask of our politicians might even be related. We blame them and berate them for it, but we’re unwilling to vote for the truth. So they lie and they lie and they become quite good at it. But once inured to lying, the difficult question becomes where to draw the line:
Former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) met for at least 30 minutes with the top fundraiser of his Texas political action committee on Oct. 2, 2002, the same day that the Republican National Committee in Washington set in motion a series of financial transactions at the heart of the money-laundering and conspiracy case against DeLay.
During the meeting at his Capitol office, DeLay conferred with James W. Ellis, the head of his principal fundraising committee in Washington and his chief fundraiser in Texas. Ellis had earlier given the Republican National Committee a check for $190,000 drawn mostly from corporate contributions. The same day as the meeting, the RNC ordered $190,000 worth of checks sent to seven Republican legislative candidates in Texas.
In the past two weeks, two separate Texas grand juries have returned indictments against DeLay, Ellis and a political associate alleging that these transactions amounted to money laundering intended to circumvent a Texas campaign law barring the use of corporate funds for state election purposes. The aim of the alleged scheme was to ensure that Republicans gain control of the Texas House, and thus reorder the state’s congressional districts in a manner favoring the election of more Republicans to Congress.
liberal conervative elite
Noam Scheiber says the Miers nomination reveals a conservative schism:
In many ways, the biggest fault line emerging among conservatives is between East Coast elites, on the one hand, and rank-and-file conservatives elsewhere in the country. As soon as the nomination was announced, Beltway conservatives began griping that Miers, a former Dallas lawyer and a graduate of Southern Methodist University Law School, lacked the credentials to serve on the Supreme Court. “An inspiring testament to the diversity of the president’s cronies,” quipped National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru. Former Bush speechwriter David Frum argued that the conservative movement had spent decades grooming legal talent for the next Republican Supreme Court nomination. Promising young conservatives had attended top law schools, written weighty academic papers, embarked on distinguished careers as professors and judges--all to hone their legal philosophy for the day when they would be able to impose it on U.S. jurisprudence. For Bush “to take a hazard on anything other than a known quantity of the highest intellectual and personal excellence” was “simply reckless,” Frum concluded.
Away from the Eastern seaboard, however, conservatives were warming to Miers. Irate National Review readers wrote to accuse the magazine of elitism. A conservative Texas lawyer complained that calling Miers’s old firm “undistinguished” was “the kind of thing that only an absolute snob--someone who takes the position that no Texas firm could ever be anything but undistinguished--would say.”
What’s important here, says Scheiber, isn’t ideology; it’s sociology:
[C]onservative elites are frequently as credentialist, even snobbish, as the liberal elites they scorn. Many conservative pundits and wonks attended top schools, read highbrow publications, and belong to exclusive professional societies. They firmly believe that elite credentials signify merit. This has important implications. For example, one of the reasons conservative elites are offended by affirmative action is that they equate it (wrongly, it turns out, but not preposterously) with a relaxation of standards. In their minds, in fact, cronyism and affirmative action are equivalent, since both undercut meritocracy for political reasons. “It’s not just that Miers has zero judicial experience,” wrote commentator Michelle Malkin. “It’s that she’s so transparently a crony/’diversity’ pick.”
To be fair, the conservatives who populate National Review’s blog retreated from the credentialist critique of Miers once the angry e-mails began pouring in. They emphasized instead that Miers lacked a coherent conservative legal philosophy--that she’d “never written seriously on constitutional issues,” as National Review’s Jonah Goldberg wrote. But this is really just a politically correct form of the same argument.
Maps, McDonalds & the future of the Net
Wired on how digital maps are changing how we navigate our lives:
This technology used to be top-secret government stuff. Then, in the 1980s, McDonald’s dumped thousands into buying satellite images and developing software called Quintillion, which predicted the growth of cities and school districts. Ever notice there’s always a McDonald’s where you’d expect one? The company looked down from the heavens and dropped new franchises wherever it saw the right combination of kids, interstates, and suburbs, using one of the first geographic information systems for business analysis.
Look what we’re doing with maps now:
At their best, they’re user interfaces to the world, connecting places and people. Google has figured this out - the company knows its maps are only as good as the refinements made by users. In June, it gave away the code to its maps, as did Yahoo! Now an army of amateurs is flooding the Web with map-based analyses. ChicagoCrime.org lets users evaluate Windy City neighborhoods based on police data. Gmaps Pedometer lays out distances between any two points. And Squid Labs is working on augmented-reality screens that embed tags into 3-D space so you can tour a museum or battlefield and readily footnote what you see. And what’s more brilliant than those open source subway maps optimized for an iPod screen?
Imagine how vibrant the entertainment world would be if the big media companies acted as Google did.