Technology

Eat the Fire: Paul Goodman is 100

One hundred years ago Friday—September 9, 1911—a boy was born in upper Manhattan, the “Sugar Hill” area between Washington Heights and Harlem, into a family freshly torn apart.

Format

When you see the documentary biopic PAUL GOODMAN CHANGED MY LIFE, you can expect to learn a good amount about Paul Goodman and absorb a variety of impressions of his life. That's what you'd expect from any documentary biopic. The format of the genre imposes certain norms: an ample selection of snippets of vintage film footage and interviews, edited with adherence to standard narrative and cinema conventions, designed to hold your attention for a reasonable running time, entertain you, and provoke at least a little thought and/or feeling.

Where do the children play?

There's a moment midway through PAUL GOODMAN CHANGED MY LIFE that really struck home for me. We see a series of photographs of him as a teenager, as a young man, with a striking, unusually beaming grin.

Nuke Me Once, Shame on You. Nuke Me Twice, Shame on Me.

First I want to say that the suffering in Japan is weighing heavy in my heart. Second I want to say we should all of us be taking extra care of ourselves right now. No matter what they say about immediate health threats or lack thereof, radiation anywhere threatens us everywhere, especially in East Asia, the Pacific, and western North America.

Go Google Yourself

I just spent a few minutes surfing the World Wide Web, exploiting and learning about the pulses and rhythms of this communication nexus we and God hath wrought. I Googled my last blog post, the one about poverty and misery, and I did a little exploration of finding myself through my name. A solipsistic enterprise, I admit, but it seemed to have an intellectual justification.

Decent Poverty Report: Necessities

Today was a momentous day for our family, and not just because we celebrated the solstice. We got a home phone, a landline, after going cellphone-only for nearly three years. We did it mostly for our daughter, largely because of concerns about radiation but also because we want her to know the experience of having a "real" phone that's as much hers as ours, dialing one, answering one, using the answering machine, knowing people's numbers.

RFP OK!

Many of you may have heard the news that New York City is taking the initial steps—or should I say first pedal strokes—toward instituting a bicycle share system. The city is initiating a public-private partnership to create a network of rent-a-bike stations around town, and on November 23 the Department of Transportation announced a Request For Proposals from potential private-sector partners.

the city and the social network

Well, I admit, I'm not on Facebook, so what do I know about anything anyway? Nor have I even seen The Social Network yet, I feel compelled to disclose (but I will, since I loved Jesse Eisenberg in The Squid and the Whale). But just the plot summary—about all the backstabbing, jealousy, and antisocial vindictiveness that surrounded the creation of Facebook—confirms my intuitive sense that this is an interface with which I prefer not to interface. I know it has many adherents who swear by it but to me there's just something kinda creepy about it.

I Am Become Death (part 1)

One of the most brilliant quips from the social critic Paul Goodman is that "technology is a branch of moral philosophy, not of science." Goodman was astute enough to recognize that technological "progress" was not a monolithic process but the consequence of many decisions made by individuals and institutions. Any specific technology will bring about changes, sometimes unexpected ones, for good or ill, often both.

Mother fracker

In the Finger Lakes region of New York state, where I live, hydro-fracking has hit the top of the list of contentious, momentous political issues. If you haven't heard the term, hydro-fracking might sound like some kinky water sports. It's actually shorthand for hydraulic fracturing, an extremely invasive method for extracting natural gas from very great depths. The gas companies are especially covetous of the "Marcellus Shale," an ancient geological formation in central New York and Pennsylvania.