Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wallace and the Tyranny of Irony

I so wish that David Foster Wallace had stuck around a bit longer. What a waste of a fantastically perceptive mind.

I know that the tyranny of irony was getting him down. I don't think he understood that the age of irony was coming to a close.

We're not going to have time for irony when energy becomes expensive. We're going to be too busy working, and hopefully working together, in earnest, to be looking for snide little ways to put each other down. When we say something, it’s going to be what we mean, because we won’t have time for anything else. Good manners and well-defined roles will come back into style when, after a hard day in the fields, we want to settle down to good food and pleasant conversation. If we manage the transition without killing each other, life is going to start to seem very hokey by 20th century standards. And there’s lots of ways in which that could be a good thing.

But maybe that was just it. DFW was invested in the age of irony, as much as he lamented it. He excelled at it, even as his characters longed for stability and meaning. The ironic age was the only age he knew.  It may have been too much for him, to watch it start to crumble in 2008.

Or maybe he was just really, really depressed.

Damn, but I bet he’d have some interesting things to say about the next few years.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mixed Reaction to Evernote Software

As a devotee of writing tools—let’s face it, I spend more time messing about with typewriters and computers and operating systems than I actually spend writing anything—it’s hard not to get excited about this free Evernote software. 


On the one hand, it seems to do just about everything I've ever wanted a note and information gathering piece of software to do. Screenshots? No problem. One-click gathering of content from the web? Easy. Drag and drop image collecting? Even easier. It’ll sync up your notebooks among as many devices as you install Evernote on.  If you think of something on the go, you can just email it to your Evernote address and it’ll be waiting in your notebook when you get to it later.

On the other hand, it pushes all of my paranoia buttons.

  • Forcing me to register before first use. Why should I need to give out my personal information before I even know I like you?
  • Encouraging me to "sync" all of my notes to the cloud, so that I can access them from other machines. Yeah, I understand this is a benefit, but it’s one I’m not entirely comfortable with. I’d rather the program default to not syncing. Consider: are these servers secured? Do I need to assume that anything I save in Evernote will be accessible to their staff? Or aggressive government investigators? Granted, I know that once I've registered I can set certain notebooks to not sync, but given the share-happy nature of the program I'm not optimistic that this wouldn't be easily switched by accident at some time in the future. And it’s creepy that anyone who guesses my email and password has instant access to all the notes I’ve collected.
  • Loading the interface with features that can only be used by upgrading to a "Premium" account. The free version is plenty functional, but there’s plenty of buttons cluttering up the interface which you can’t remove. When you click on them, you get a pop-up asking you to upgrade. I'd almost be willing to do this, except for
  • The monthly payment model. Sorry, but I'd be much happier to purchase your software all at once, rather than a little bit every month. (Yes, I know I’ll save money if I pay for the year in advance. That’s still a period. That ends.) Say I come upon hard times? Do the notes and content I've created under Evernote's premium functions become inaccessible if I don’t pay?  
  • The use of ads on the interface. They're small and tucked in the dead space at the bottom left. They even provide you with a little "x" to click on, to close this part of the window. But clicking on that “x” brings up the offer for the premium package again. This feels like a bit of a slap in the face. Does the ad come back if my subscription expires?

This is why I never get anything done. Nice tools come along, and instead of using them to make anything, I work myself into a paranoid frenzy.  

Think I might make an exception this time, though. For gathering web-clips and doing any kind of journalistic work or blogging, this program is hard to beat. It’s one of the few cases where I’ve found something new and shiny to use on my computer that’s better than the software we had fifteen or twenty years ago.

It difficult to begrudge the software engineers’ their business model. I guess I’ll just bite my tongue and use the free version for a month or two and see if it becomes indispensible, doing my best to ignore my privacy concerns.

After all, I’m just not that interesting. What snoop is going to care what I think about ■■■■ ■■■ or ■■■■■■’■ role in ■■■■■■ anyway?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

TMI as a Meal Ticket

I heard something on the radio the other day about employers demanding that job applicants sit down at a computer during an interview and log in to their Facebook pages and their blogs.

Needless to say this was another one of those what is the world coming to moments for me. Are you obligated to “friend” your boss? Do they get to read your email, too? Or tap into your Skype conversations? Or paw through your dirty laundry?

Good grief. We used to get worried about big brother installing cameras in our homes to spy on us. Now we purchase web-cams and strap them on top of our computers.

But it has me wondering. Can someone who is unemployed use their unfortunate blogging practices as a way to continue receiving unemployment benefits? Why yes, Uncle Sam, they could argue, I have been looking for work. But nobody will hire me because of some compromising photographs I put up on MySpace in 2004.

Self-embarrassment on social media could be to generation-Y what drug and alcohol habits were to Gen-X and the Baby Boomers: that “handicap” you inflicted on yourself that means you no longer have to take care of yourself. It’s a healthier way of staying on the dole than, say, developing a heroin problem. Eats up a smaller portion of your unemployment benefits too.

Lord, it’s almost self sustaining!