Thursday, May 31, 2007

After School Special: "If Freud Were Right."

Mrs. Janewski visits Little Billie's desk in the fourth row.

Gee, Billy, what's wrong? You seem a little..out of sorts.

I don't know. I feel tense and sad.

That's not good. Are you eliminating effectively?

Eliminating?

Yes. Your BM's. Your bowel movements--how are they?

Well, it's funny you mention. I haven't been able to have one for a while. I love my turds so much--I don't want to let them go.

You know Billie, that's pretty common. It's called being anal compulsive. Sometimes there are good things. Like the way you keep your tidy. Or the way you're so good at saving money.

I saved enough to get a new bike last week!

Yes, that's great. But it's important to know when to let go.

Like that song about 'The Gambler'?

Ha. Yes, like that song about the gambler.


Later. The bathroom. Billie's looking down into the bowl, a tear in his eye. His teacher forces open the stall door.

Mrs. Janewski! What are you doing here? I was just--

It's okay Billie. I know. You were just...trying to say goodbye.

Yes. I'm going to miss this little guy so much. He took so long to make!

Yes, that's why I brought all your friends along. Come in everybody!

All Billie's friends fill the tiny stall.

Hey Jake. Hey Todd. Hey Sara. Hey Kimberly.

Everybody, I'd like us all to look at Billie's B.M. Isn't it terrific.

Wow. Cool. Great. It's nice and tight.

Billie beams with pride.

Now we all have to help Billie do something very difficult.

What's that Mrs. J.?

Billie has to say goodbye to his B.M.

Goodbye forever?

Sort of. Billie's B.M. has to sleep with the fishes and fertilize fields and pastures. But he can have another one tomorrow--if he works real hard.

Goodbye, little turd. I'll miss you.

Everyone joins in.

Is it time, Billy?

I think it's finally time, Mrs. J.

Each lends a hand to pull the handle and flush. We see the turd wisked cleanly away. Montage of happy fish and waving seaweed. Billy beams.

Thanks Mrs. J. I feel much better now.

That's good.

And I'm going to start right away saving for a nice big turd for tomorrow!

Smells like you're halfway there.

That's enough, Todd McCarthy. How many times have I told you?

But Billy smells like an old ham sandwich!

Enough! Now apologize.

Sorry Mrs. J. Sorry Billy.

Okay, everyone, back to class. Who wants graham crackers?

Me! Me! Oh me!


Next week on "If Freud Were Right": Why Sara's Angry She Doesn't Have a Penis.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

learn.google.com

Google is all about information--finding it, organizing it, distributing.

Google is part of a worldwide shift that's been taking place for thirty or so years: transfering information is adding up to a lot more than just numbers and files.

Information is becoming networked knoweldge management. It stretches from the way numbers and letters, visual and auditory information are digitized and stored on computers to the way this information is distributed over networks, browsed and shaped for our eyes and ears, understood by users, created and organized collectively, flagged and tagged for usefulness.

By doing everything from making the internet searchable to helping people retouch and organize photos to combining maps with sattellite photos to publishing blogs (like this one) to spearheading an operation to scan public domain books and make them widely available, Google is arguably on the forefront of networked knowledge management today.

Google's focus on managing information opens the way for them to achieve the kind of project piloted by MIT and now being developed by Harvard: open source education.

Right now colleges and universities pay millions to companies like WebCT and Blackboard for prioprietary services that allow teachers to managing and organize their courses. The software is fairly simple--threaded discussion, writing and posting elementary web pages, allowing students to collaborate.

These companies offer nothing so special or so elegant.

And the class sites are doubly proprietary: the whole things are firewalled. It's like having a university surrounded by an electrified fence topped by razor wire. The border between expert knowledge and the public at large is rigidly guarded. (They might as well have barking dogs.)

Google could do it better--and expand the reach of knowledge world-wide in the process.

Google needs to bundle its relevant tools, as well as building others.

They could all live together under a learn.google.com url.

Accredited colleges and universities could use some of the services for free--depending on issues like enrollment, if they're public or private, etc.--esp. on the condition that some of the teaching materials were available to all users.

Yes, it's nice that MIT and Stanford and Berkeley have some course materials and podcasts online.

And yes there are open source software projects like Moodle and the like--but how many people use them? How robust are they? Right now they're all competing for a market largely given over to for-profit companies who could, let's admit it, do a better job.

Who has more computing power?

Who's more on the forefront of making the distribution of information into the actual management of knowledge--from your photos to your calendar to collaborating on documents to mapping the planet?

Who should get behind open source education on the internet?

Google.

--E. R. O'Neill

Monday, May 21, 2007

Inside the Adult Actors' Studio

Just like Inside the Actors' Studio--but with adult (i.e., porn) stars.

(Sample dialogue: "And then you made a little movie called Anal Gang Bang 6." Audience: oohs and ahs, smattering of applause.)

Instead of James Lipton metaphorically crawling up the star's ass, the host would literally go up the star's ass--with latex gloves and lube.

--E. R. O'Neill

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Needle in the Hay.

A short autobiography after the fashion of Nicholson Baker's "U & I" and Frederick Exley's "A Fan's Notes."

My life so far as lived in the shadow of, with the gift of Elliott Smith and his work.

Elliott as excuse for, trigger of retrospection, introspection.

A stranger as constant echo and friend of/in the imagination.

NOT a biography of Elliott Smith. A biography of me, but with a soundtrack.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Sequel.

A sequel to The Truman Show.

Truman has 'escaped' from the dome that housed the television show that secretly broadcast his every move.

Since then, The Truman Show morphed to show Truman's troubles adapting to the real world of contemporary Los Angeles--simply called The Truman Show: The Sequel.

No longer a cause celebre, his relationship to his long-time secret crush, an activist dedicated to rescuing him, has foundered. Truman tried to help her with other causes--saving baby seals, blowing up SUV dealerships--but everything went rather pathetically (and comically) wrong.

Now The Sequel, as it came to be called, has been canceled.

Truman must find a job and survive in contemporary Los Angeles.

Everywhere he goes, he meets actors and technicians thrown out of work by the cancellation of the massive enterprise that was documenting his life. Before, everyone loved him. Now, everyone hates him in advance of anything he says or does.

This is the not-so-pretty life that does not take place in a small town, but everyone still knows your name.

Truman can't do anything requiring real knowledge, since it turns out that most of the science and other knowledge taught to him inside the dome was jerry-rigged and made-up just to keep him inside. The actual knowledge of the world as it is puzzles and terrifies him. ("We did what to the native Americans?")

Truman tries an acting career, since it's something that he knows, but he's no good at it. He can't act when he knows he's acting. (He's a true naif.)

What ever will become of Truman Burbank?

That is the question for which life does not prepare us.

--Edward R. O'Neill

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Dreamers

A genius dropout who works in a 24-hour market develops insomnia because of his schedule.

He just can't sleep.

Random strangers seem oddly interested in helping him sleep.

The fitful bits of sleep he gets resound with strange dreams.

He pieces together the pieces and realizes the truth.

A secret agency has invaded our dreams.

When we fall asleep, our brain's power to dream is being used as a distributed supercomputer. A single brain's power outstrips that of the fastest supercomputer, so this agency is using all our brains together.

Seemingly innocuous TV shows and advertisements program us with the information we need to process while we sleep.

Electrical circuits in everyday appliances--like cell phones--monitor our dreams and upload the results to the secret intelligence agency.

Our clerk hero has to find out who's behind it, what it's for, and, if need be, to smash the whole operation.

--E. R. O'Neill