Wednesday, June 17, 2015


1. This Rolling Stone Magazine cover story about legendary Canadian prog-rock power trio RUSH - the band I've seen live the most often in my own life (3 times) - is just excellent. Even those of you who aren't fans of Rush's particular brand(s) of musical mayhem should find the story of comrades in arms and decades-long best-friendships inspiring and uplifting. Cue up a playlist of "Moving Pictures", or "2112", or "Grace Under Pressure", and read this sucker from top to bottom in one sitting, like I just did. You won't be disappointed!

2. Another lengthy must-read story for today is Paul Ford's absolutely fascinating What Is Code? for Bloomberg. It's a beautiful bit of writing, exploring a poorly understood but incredibly important facet of our contemporary culture. Check out, for instance, what Ford has to say about "involuntary" coding...
When you “batch” process a thousand images in Photoshop or sum numbers in Excel, you’re programming, at least a little. When you use computers too much—which is to say a typical amount—they start to change you. I’ve had Photoshop dreams, Visio dreams, spreadsheet dreams, and Web browser dreams. The dreamscape becomes fluid and can be sorted and restructured. I’ve had programming dreams where I move text around the screen.
You can make computers do wonderful things, but you need to understand their limits. They’re not all-powerful, not conscious in the least. They’re fast, but some parts—the processor, the RAM—are faster than others—like the hard drive or the network connection. Making them seem infinite takes a great deal of work from a lot of programmers and a lot of marketers. 
The turn-of-last-century British artist William Morris once said you can’t have art without resistance in the materials. The computer and its multifarious peripherals are the materials. The code is the art.

 3. This excellent review of English Professor of Philosophy John Gray's thought-provoking new book - "The Soul of the Marionette" - serves as "a short enquiry into human freedom" that "exposes the follies, delusions and prevailing Gnosticism of our smugly arrogant times." It begins:
In these times the west, or what we used quaintly to call the civilised world, is threatened by two opposing perils, one actual and near, the other notional though becoming a reality at an ever-increasing pace. At one pole, there is the outright, unrelenting and often violent rejection of western modernity by fundamentalist movements, Islamic, Christian, Jewish; at the other is the seemingly limitless development of computer technology, which, as some highly intelligent people,Stephen Hawking among them, have been warning of late, may well end in producing machines much cleverer and even more destructive than we are. The future will be another country. John Gray, in his bleak yet bracing new book, once again addresses himself to the follies, delusions and willed blindness of our smugly arrogant times, in which, despite our arrogance, we cower before the twin menaces of old and new barbarisms.
 Delicious and filling food for thought. I look forward to reading Dr Gray's book.

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