R. U. Sirius

  • R. U. Sirius on way weird websites

    A random sampling of Internet voters in the 1996 US elections favored the Libertarian candidate for president. Ralph Nader came in second. Bob Dole finished fifth, behind Perot. In other words, despite a great infusion of corporate vibes, the Web is more than ever the home of subculture attitude—it’s still a bunch of weirdos out there. As a medium, the Web explodes consensus and decentralizes attention; as a storehouse for conspiratorial paranoia, it drives fact-checking journalists to apoplexy. Walter Cronkite’s latest crusade to bring journalistic responsibility to Web culture is a bit like demanding journalistic responsibility in a neighborhood bar. There are a lot of freaky sites out there.
     
    I didn’t exactly go shopping for weirdest of weird. One of the sites below isn’t that weird at all, and a couple are simply the most professional of the bunch. But the overall picture is still way weird.

    R. U. Sirius is a San Francisco-based writer.

  • Nanotechnology

    IT WOULD HAVE EASILY qualified as Grand Guignol. Timothy Leary, the man who brought psychedelic drugs to the already hallucinatory United States of Disneyland, thereby adding a dimension of cosmic delirium to the hysteria accompanying our migration into hyperreality, was threatening to die on the Net. And then, members of ALCOR, a cryonic preservation company, were going to chop off his head and preserve it. There he’d have waited, not dead (according to his own self-definition) but deanimated, for the arrival of nanotechnology—engineering on the level of molecules. Through nanotechnology,

  • Bill Gates’ The Road Ahead

    IN TERRY GILLIAM’S 1981 FILM Time Bandits, the evil overlord of the child protagonist’s ever-shifting fantasy world is a slick huckster who, among other things, is hawking a high-tech home of the future. The overseer leers at the young boy salaciously before launching into his pitch, but the “money shot” in this gadget pornography isn’t orgasm: it’s domestic convenience. Convenience as the goal of 20th-century bourgeois life is one of the director’s favorite themes, and it would be easy to imagine that Gilliam invented Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft and author of the blandest book ever written

  • The Information State

    SOCIAL CRITICS, PARTICULARLY on the political and academic left, may disapprove of the dream of transcending ordinary humanness that has been unleashed by technoculture and the cyberpunk trope, but they also manifest a perverse attraction—even an atavistic hunger—for it. Pomo French philosophers like Deleuze and Virilio (keep in mind that these guys blur into a singularly overwrought point of view to cyberpop dilettantes such as myself) can at least be credited with putting their lustings to valid use, cobbling together a bitter theory of seduction aimed at the television viewer, or, arguably,

  • James Brook and Iain Boal's Resisting the Virtual Life

    The widespread popularity of computer-based games represents a fundamental and rampant confusion as to what constitutes pleasure.

    —John Simmons, “Sade and Cyberspace,” Resisting the Virtual Life, 1995

    AM I HAVING FUN YET?

    Resisting the Virtual Life is a collection of essays critiquing the romantic corporate techno-juggernaut currently careening down the info hypeway. With The Gutenberg Elegies, by Sven Birkerts, and Silicon Snake Oil, by Clifford Stoll, it may constitute a full-fledged anticyber backlash. Resisting is the more important of these books, thanks to the essentially materialist,

  • J.C. Herz’s Surfing the Internet

    Compu-telecommunications technology involves an epistemological shift no less radical than Kant’s Copernican revolution. The very forms through which we perceive and categories with which we think are transformed by the changing technologies of knowledge production. Things give way to events, identities to differences, and substances to relations. Everything is simultaneously interconnected and in flux.

    —Mark C. Taylor and Esa Saarinen, Imagologies: Media Philosophy, 1993

    Why don’t you pry your atrophied little brain out of your reeking, cancerous colon and shove it up your weevil-infested,

  • R. U. Sirius

    WE, THE JURY

    The O.J. VERDICT—specifically, those few minutes when the jury emerged, the verdict was read, and the various players reacted—stood out as the McLuhanesque event of the year. Carried on pretty much every station on the tube (as well as on the dial), these enormously intense few moments of television provided a creepy voyeuristic tension not unlike watching a real-life game of Russian roulette. In this age of decentered media and info overload, it made us a global village again, or at least an American community, pulling in the largest TV audience in several years.

    Honorable Mentions: