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Distrust That Particular Flavor

Distrust That Particular Flavor

Metadata

  • Author: William Gibson
  • Full Title: Distrust That Particular Flavor
  • Category: #books

Highlights

  • The Street finds its own uses for things—uses the manufacturers never imagined. (Location 142)
  • The aerosol can gives birth to the urban graffiti matrix. Soviet rockers press homemade flexi-discs out of used chest X rays. (Location 146)
  • The Walkman changed the way we understand cities. I first heard Joy Division on a Walkman, and I remain unable to separate the experience of the music’s bleak majesty from the first heady discovery of the pleasures of musically encapsulated fast-forward urban motion. (Location 181)
  • A paradox became increasingly evident: While artists needed the Net in order to reach a mass audience, it seemed to be the gaps through which the best art emerged, at least initially. (Location 183)
  • THE OTHER THING they ask you when you’re a science-fiction writer is, “What do you think will happen?” The day I reply with anything other than a qualified “I haven’t got a clue,” please shoot me. (Location 192)
  • Thereafter, probably needless to say, things didn’t seem to go very well for quite a while. I left my school without graduating, joined up with the rest of the Children’s Crusade of the day, and shortly found myself in Canada, a country I knew almost nothing about. I concentrated on evading the draft and staying alive, while trying to make sure I looked like I was at least enjoying the Summer of Love. I did literally evade the draft, as they never bothered drafting me, and have lived here in Canada, more or less, ever since. (Location 256)
  • (“They only want you to be the one thing,” Mick Jagger once told me, speaking of his own acting career.) (Location 340)
  • So James Joyce’s prose is now being very slowly pummeled into incoherence by cosmic rays. (Location 377)
  • Alvin Toffler warned us about Future Shock, but is this Future Fatigue? For the past decade or so, the only critics of science fiction I pay any attention to, all three of them, have been slyly declaring that the Future is over. (Location 380)
  • I think they’re talking about the capital-F Future, which in my lifetime has been a cult, if not a religion. (Location 382)
  • The Future, capital-F, be it crystalline city on the hill or radioactive postnuclear wasteland, is gone. Ahead of us, there is merely . . . more stuff. Events. Some tending to the crystalline, some to the wasteland-y. Stuff: the mixed bag of the quotidian. (Location 386)
  • Orwell knew it, writing Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1948, and I knew it writing Neuromancer, my first novel, which was published in 1984. (Location 394)
  • In 2001, I was writing a book that became Pattern Recognition, my seventh novel, though it only did so after 9-11, which I’m fairly certain will be the real start of every documentary ever to be made about the present century. (Location 404)
  • If Pattern Recognition was about the immediate psychic aftermath of 9-11, and Spook Country about the deep end of the Bush administration and the invasion of Iraq, I could say that Zero History is about the global financial crisis as some sort of nodal event, but that must be true of any 2010 novel with ambitions on the 2010 zeitgeist. (Location 413)
  • I sometimes think that nothing really is new; that the first pixels were particles of ocher clay, the bison rendered in just the resolution required. (Location 436)
  • This pattern-reading mutation is crucial to the survival of a species that must ceaselessly hunt, ceaselessly gather. One plant is good to eat; it grows in summer in these lowlands. But if you eat its seedpods, you sicken and die. The big, slow-moving river-animal can be surprised and killed, here in these shallows, but will escape in deeper water. This function is already so central, in our ancestors, that they discover the outlines of the river-animal in clouds. They see the faces of wolves and of their own dead in the flames. They are already capable of symbolic thought. Spoken language is long since a fact for them but written language has not yet evolved. They scribe crisscross patterns on approximately rectangular bits of ocher, currently the world’s oldest known human art. (Location 469)
  • I work in the oldest mass medium, the printed word. The book has been largely unchanged for centuries. Working in language expressed as a system of marks on a surface, I can induce extremely complex experiences, but only in an audience elaborately educated to experience this. (Location 483)
  • Much of history has been, often to an unrecognized degree, technologically driven. From the extinction of North America’s mega-fauna to the current geopolitical significance of the Middle East, technology has driven change. (That’s spear-hunting technology for the mega-fauna and the internal combustion engine for the Middle East, by the way.) Very seldom do nations legislate the emergence of new technologies. (Location 511)
  • Human capital (that is, talent) aside, all the end-consumer-slash-creator lacks today, in comparison to a music-marketing conglomerate, is the funds required to promote product. The business of popular music, today, is now, in some peculiarly new way, entirely about promotion. (Location 542)
  • Which is to say that, no matter who you are, nor how pure your artistic intentions, nor what your budget was, your product, somewhere up the line, will eventually find itself at the mercy of people whose ordinary civilian computational capacity outstrips anything anyone has access to today. (Location 550)
  • Colorization, up the line, is a preference setting. (Location 553)
  • Genuinely ubiquitous computing spreads like warm Vaseline. Genuinely evolved interfaces are transparent, so transparent as to be invisible. (Location 557)
  • He may need something akin to the sort of education that I needed in order to read novels—to appreciate, as it were, a marginalized but still powerfully viable media platform. I can only trust that Johnny’s entertainment system, and the culture that informs it, will be founded on solid curatorial principles. (Location 578)
  • Was it Laurie Anderson who said that VR would never look real until they learned how to put some dirt in it? (Location 597)
  • Singapore is a relentlessly G-rated experience, micromanaged by a state that has the look and feel of a very large corporation. If IBM had ever bothered to actually possess a physical country, that country might have had a lot in common with Singapore. (Location 605)
  • (The word “infrastructure” takes on a new and claustrophobic resonance here; somehow it’s all infrastructure.) (Location 681)
  • Singapore is curiously, indeed gratifyingly devoid of certain aspects of creativity. I say gratifyingly because I soon found myself taking a rather desperate satisfaction in any evidence that such a very tightly run ship would lack innovative élan. (Location 707)
  • The overt goal of the national IT2000 initiative is a simple one: to sustain indefinitely, for a population of 2.8 million, annual increases in productivity of three to four percent. (Location 737)
  • Myself, I’m inclined to think that if they prove to be right, what will really be proven will be something very sad; and not about Singapore, but about our species. They will have proven it possible to flourish through the active repression of free expression. They will have proven that information does not necessarily want to be free. (Location 751)
  • Perhaps Singapore’s destiny will be to become nothing more than a smug, neo-Swiss enclave of order and prosperity, amid a sea of unthinkable . . . weirdness. Dear God. What a fate. (Location 755)
  • He ran every red light between there and Changi, giggling. “Too early policeman . . .” (Location 786)
  • Gazing into E. Buk’s window, for me, has been like gazing into the back reaches of some cave where Manhattan stores its dreams. (Location 811)
  • But the image that kept coming to me, last week, was of the dust that must be settling on the ledge of E. Buk’s window, more or less between Houston and Canal streets. And in that dust, surely, the stuff of the atomized dead. The stuff of pyre and blasted dreams. (Location 817)
  • New York is a great city, and as such central to the history of civilization. Great cities can and invariably do bear such wounds. They suffer their vast agonies and they go on—carrying us, and civilization, and windows like Mr. Buk’s, however fragile and peculiar, with them. (Location 828)
  • Tokyu Hands assumes that the customer is very serious about something. If that happens to be shining a pair of shoes, and the customer is sufficiently serious about it, he or she may need the very best German sole-edge enamel available—for the museum-grade weekly restoration of the sides of the soles. (Location 857)
  • LATER I WOULD DISCOVER Kyoichi Tsuzuki’s photographs of the interiors of Japanese apartments: “cockpit living.” Everything you own directly before you, constantly available to your gaze. (Location 863)
  • THE PARADOXICAL SOLITUDE and omnipotence of the otaku, the new century’s ultimate enthusiast: the glory and terror inherent in the absolute narrowing of personal bandwidth. (Location 874)
  • Just as a life, lived silently enough, in sufficient solitude, becomes a different sort of sphere, no less perfect. (Location 893)
  • It is a city in which, he suggests, subjective time flows differently, from one area to the next, and may have come to a near-complete halt in others. It is a city in which the eternal suffering of the poor may perpetually serve some mysterious and driving purpose in the life of the whole, some hidden dynamo of torture and sacrifice dating back to something stranger and less easily articulated than the hungry ghosts of Hawksmoor. These are not observations that one could arrive at using any previous literary model of metropolitan history, but the result of a genuinely postmodern agenda, an entirely new and utterly compelling way to write about cities. If you wish to possess the world’s greatest city, read this book. If you would learn to expose the soul of a place, in the deepest and most thoroughly contemporary way, read it again. (Location 989)
  • The guilt I felt was equally straightforward, and perhaps as fantastic: that I was not repairing an electricity-generating windmill with a Leatherman tool. It made me feel terribly lazy. (Location 998)
  • Because Japan is the global imagination’s default setting for the future. (Location 1011)
  • Content is not the issue here, but rather the speed, the weird unconscious surety, with which the schoolgirls of Tokyo took up a secondary feature (text messaging) of a new version of the cellular telephone, and generated, almost overnight, a microculture. (Location 1020)
  • These Modern Boys, as the techno-cult they spawned came popularly to be known, somehow induced the nation of Japan to swallow whole the entirety of the Industrial Revolution. (Location 1028)
  • Were reborn, in fact, as the first industrialized nation in Asia. Which got them, not too many decades later, into empire-building expansionist mode, which eventually got them two of their larger cities vaporized, blown away by an enemy wielding a technology that might as well have come from a distant galaxy. (Location 1032)
  • And then that enemy, their conquerors, the Americans, turned up in person, smilingly intent on an astonishingly ambitious program of cultural re-engineering. The Americans, bent on restructuring the national psyche from the roots up, inadvertently plunged the Japanese several clicks further along the timeline. And then left, their grand project hanging fire, and went off to fight Communism instead. (Location 1034)
  • Muji is the perfect example of the sort of thing I’m thinking of, because it calls up a wonderful Japan that doesn’t really exist. A Japan of the mind, where even toenail clippers and plastic coat hangers possess a Zen purity: functional, minimal, reasonably priced. I would very much like to visit the Japan that Muji evokes. I would vacation there and attain a new serenity, smooth and translucent, in perfect counterpoint to natural fabrics and unbleached cardboard. (Location 1054)
  • The otaku, the passionate obsessive, the information age’s embodiment of the connoisseur, more concerned with the accumulation of data than of objects, seems a natural crossover figure in today’s interface of British and Japanese cultures. (Location 1067)
  • Understanding otaku-hood, I think, is one of the keys to understanding the culture of the Web. (Location 1070)
  • There is something profoundly postnational about it, extra-geographic. We are all curators, in the postmodern world, whether we want to be or not. (Location 1070)
  • Mainly because the cut-rate treasures, the “scores” of legend, are long gone. The market has been rationalized. We have become a nation, a world, of pickers. (Location 1093)
  • The software-driven sniper isn’t really bidding; he’s shopping. Skimming an existing situation. The sniper (or his software package) is able to look at the final minutes of any auction as a done deal, then decide whether or not to purchase that item at the fixed price, plus one bid increment. Which pissed me off, and took some of the fun away. (Location 1257)
  • I think it worked, the binge cure. Possibly because getting serious about choosing serious watches made the shuffling of pages a chore rather than a pleasure. (Location 1288)
  • I’d always hoped that I wouldn’t turn into the sort of person who collected anything. I no longer open to watches on eBay first thing in the morning. Days go by without my contributing so much as a single hit. Or maybe I just have enough wristwatches. (Location 1291)
  • The glass cube was one man’s shop. He was a dealer in curios, and from within it he would reluctantly fetch, like the human equivalent of those robotic cranes in amusement arcades, objects I indicated that I wished to examine. He used a long pair of spring-loaded faux-ivory chopsticks, antiques themselves, their warped tips lent traction by wrappings of rubber bands. And with these he plucked up, and I purchased, a single stone bead of great beauty, the color of apricot, with bright mineral blood at its core, to make a necklace for the girl I’d later marry, and an excessively mechanical Swiss cigarette lighter, circa 1911 or so, broken, its hallmarked silver case crudely soldered with strange, Eastern, aftermarket sigils. And in that moment, I think, were all the elements of a real futurity: all the elements of the world toward which we were heading—an emerging technology, a map that was about to evert, to swallow the territory it represented. The technology that sign foreshadowed would become the venue, the city itself. And the bazaar within it. But I’m glad we still have a place for things to change hands. Even here, in this territory the map became. (Location 1301)
  • People who’ve read this piece often assume that I subsequently became a collector of watches. I didn’t, at least not in my own view. Collections of things, and their collectors, have generally tended to give me the willies. I sometimes, usually only temporarily, accumulate things in some one category, but the real pursuit is in the learning curve. The dive into esoterica. The quest for expertise. This one lasted, in its purest form, for five or six years. None of the eBay purchases documented here proved to be “keepers.” Not even close. (Location 1318)
  • Tokyo has been my handiest prop shop for as long as I’ve been writing: sheer eye candy. You can see more chronological strata of futuristic design in a Tokyo streetscape than anywhere else in the world. Like successive layers of Tomorrowlands, older ones showing through when the newer ones start to peel. (Location 1339)
  • NEXT DAY, I run into fellow Vancouverite Douglas Coupland in the Shibuya branch of Tokyu Hands, an eight-floor DIY emporium where doing it yourself includes things like serious diamond-cutting. (Location 1378)
  • Here, in the first city to have this firmly and this comfortably arrived in this new century—the most truly contemporary city on earth—the center is holding. (Location 1401)
  • It is becoming unprecedentedly difficult for anyone, anyone at all, to keep a secret. In the age of the leak and the blog, of evidence extraction and link discovery, truths will either out or be outed, later if not sooner. This is something I would bring to the attention of every diplomat, politician, and corporate leader: The future, eventually, will find you out. The future, wielding unimaginable tools of transparency, will have its way with you. (Location 1451)
  • In the end, you will be seen to have done that which you did. (Location 1454)
  • If you wish to know an era, study its most lucid nightmares. In the mirrors of our darkest fears, much will be revealed. But don’t mistake those mirrors for road maps to the future, or even to the present. (Location 1465)
  • Survival Research Laboratories, the machine-assisted street theater of Barcelona’s La Fura dels Baus, and the performances of Stelarc. (Location 1544)
  • have avoided it because I am lazy and enjoy staring blankly into space (which is also the space where novels come from) and because unanswered mail, e- or otherwise, is a source of discomfort. (Location 1574)
  • My wife shakes her head in dismay as I patiently await the downloading of some Japanese Beatles fan’s personal catalog of bootlegs. “But it’s from Japan!” She isn’t moved. She goes out to enjoy the flowers in her garden. (Location 1587)
  • To be successful, apparently, is to be chronically busy. (Location 1609)
  • As new technologies search out and lace over every interstice in the net of global communication, we find ourselves with increasingly less excuse for . . . slack. (Location 1610)
  • history, once acknowledged, had quickly become a sort of nightmare, one from which there seemed to be no escape. (Location 1647)
  • History, I was learning, there at the start of the 1960s, never stops happening. (Location 1648)
  • Freed by Wells and his literary descendants to roam, in my imagination, up and down the timeline, I had stumbled upon World War III, and the end of civilization. (Location 1663)
  • In 1905 he had imagined it arriving with the military use of aerial bombs against civilian targets, but then he would see zeppelins bomb London, and after that the Blitz, and then the advent of the German rocket bombs. In The Time Machine, wars are a thing of the immemorial past, something necessarily transcended on the way to some safer, more rational basis for society. (Location 1668)
  • They are the italics of the perpetually impatient and somehow perpetually unworldly futurist, seeing his model going terminally wrong in the hands of the less clever, the less evolved. And they are with us today, those italics, though I’ve long since learned to run shy of science fiction that employs them. (Location 1701)
  • I suspect that I began to distrust that particular flavor of italics when the world didn’t end in October of 1962. (Location 1704)
  • the most memorable images of science fiction often have more to do with our anxieties in the past (the writer’s present) than with those singular and ongoing scenarios that make up our life as a species: our real futures, our ongoing present. (Location 1724)
  • At least there’s still a certain macho frisson to be had in the idea of deliberately embedding a tactical shard of glass in one’s head, and surely crazier things have been done in the name of king and country. (Location 1738)
  • Rather than plug a piece of hardware into our gray matter, how much more elegant to extract some brain cells, plop them into a Petri dish, and graft on various sorts of gelatinous computing goo. Slug it all back into the skull and watch it run on blood sugar, the way a human brain’s supposed to. (Location 1741)
  • Our hardware is likely to turn into something like us a lot faster than we are likely to turn into something like our hardware. Our hardware is evolving at the speed of light, while we are still the product, for the most part, of unskilled labor. (Location 1747)
  • The wired world will consist, in effect, of a single unbroken interface. (Location 1754)
  • Whether this is literally true is arguable, but the world, in my experience, is filled with wannabe auteurs, and my imagination conjured one particularly focused and obsessive example. (Location 1820)
  • You dream of having a personal assistant. Someone to handle all the little things, like relating to your children and brushing your teeth. (Location 1953)
  • To any informed contemporary child, a robot is simply a computer being carried around by its peripherals. (Location 2045)
  • Who today wouldn’t simply prefer to have a faster and more powerful computer, faster Internet access? That’s where the action is. That augmentation. Of the user. Of (Location 2047)
  • Vannevar Bush, whom I mentioned earlier, was not a science-fiction writer. In World War II he was chief scientific adviser to Franklin Roosevelt, and director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, (Location 2062)
  • In 1945, he published an article in The Atlantic Monthly titled, “As We May Think.” In this article he imagined a system he called the “memex,” short for “memory extender.” If there was a more eerily prescient piece of prose, fiction or otherwise, written in the first half the twentieth century, I don’t know (Location 2064)
  • Bush imagines this as a sort of pre-Polaroid microfilm device, “dry photography” he calls it, and he imagines his technocrat snapping away at project sites, blueprints, documents, as he works. (Location 2073)
  • Bush didn’t have the technology to put beneath the desktop, so he made do with what he knew, but he’s describing the personal computer. He’s describing, with an accuracy of prediction that still gives me goose bumps, how these devices will be used. (Location 2082)
  • There’s my cybernetic organism: the Internet. If you accept that “physical” isn’t only the things we can touch, it’s the largest man-made object on the planet, or will be, soon: It’s outstripping the telephone system, or ingesting it, as I speak. (Location 2087)
  • Interface evolves toward transparency. The one you have to devote the least conscious effort to, survives, prospers. (Location 2093)
    • Note: Important

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title: Distrust That Particular Flavor longtitle: Distrust That Particular Flavor author: William Gibson url: , source: kindle last_highlight: 2021-01-24 type: books tags:

Distrust That Particular Flavor

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Metadata

  • Author: William Gibson
  • Full Title: Distrust That Particular Flavor
  • Category: #books

Highlights

  • The Street finds its own uses for things—uses the manufacturers never imagined. (Location 142)
  • The aerosol can gives birth to the urban graffiti matrix. Soviet rockers press homemade flexi-discs out of used chest X rays. (Location 146)
  • The Walkman changed the way we understand cities. I first heard Joy Division on a Walkman, and I remain unable to separate the experience of the music’s bleak majesty from the first heady discovery of the pleasures of musically encapsulated fast-forward urban motion. (Location 181)
  • A paradox became increasingly evident: While artists needed the Net in order to reach a mass audience, it seemed to be the gaps through which the best art emerged, at least initially. (Location 183)
  • THE OTHER THING they ask you when you’re a science-fiction writer is, “What do you think will happen?” The day I reply with anything other than a qualified “I haven’t got a clue,” please shoot me. (Location 192)
  • Thereafter, probably needless to say, things didn’t seem to go very well for quite a while. I left my school without graduating, joined up with the rest of the Children’s Crusade of the day, and shortly found myself in Canada, a country I knew almost nothing about. I concentrated on evading the draft and staying alive, while trying to make sure I looked like I was at least enjoying the Summer of Love. I did literally evade the draft, as they never bothered drafting me, and have lived here in Canada, more or less, ever since. (Location 256)
  • (“They only want you to be the one thing,” Mick Jagger once told me, speaking of his own acting career.) (Location 340)
  • So James Joyce’s prose is now being very slowly pummeled into incoherence by cosmic rays. (Location 377)
  • Alvin Toffler warned us about Future Shock, but is this Future Fatigue? For the past decade or so, the only critics of science fiction I pay any attention to, all three of them, have been slyly declaring that the Future is over. (Location 380)
  • I think they’re talking about the capital-F Future, which in my lifetime has been a cult, if not a religion. (Location 382)
  • The Future, capital-F, be it crystalline city on the hill or radioactive postnuclear wasteland, is gone. Ahead of us, there is merely . . . more stuff. Events. Some tending to the crystalline, some to the wasteland-y. Stuff: the mixed bag of the quotidian. (Location 386)
  • Orwell knew it, writing Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1948, and I knew it writing Neuromancer, my first novel, which was published in 1984. (Location 394)
  • In 2001, I was writing a book that became Pattern Recognition, my seventh novel, though it only did so after 9-11, which I’m fairly certain will be the real start of every documentary ever to be made about the present century. (Location 404)
  • If Pattern Recognition was about the immediate psychic aftermath of 9-11, and Spook Country about the deep end of the Bush administration and the invasion of Iraq, I could say that Zero History is about the global financial crisis as some sort of nodal event, but that must be true of any 2010 novel with ambitions on the 2010 zeitgeist. (Location 413)
  • I sometimes think that nothing really is new; that the first pixels were particles of ocher clay, the bison rendered in just the resolution required. (Location 436)
  • This pattern-reading mutation is crucial to the survival of a species that must ceaselessly hunt, ceaselessly gather. One plant is good to eat; it grows in summer in these lowlands. But if you eat its seedpods, you sicken and die. The big, slow-moving river-animal can be surprised and killed, here in these shallows, but will escape in deeper water. This function is already so central, in our ancestors, that they discover the outlines of the river-animal in clouds. They see the faces of wolves and of their own dead in the flames. They are already capable of symbolic thought. Spoken language is long since a fact for them but written language has not yet evolved. They scribe crisscross patterns on approximately rectangular bits of ocher, currently the world’s oldest known human art. (Location 469)
  • I work in the oldest mass medium, the printed word. The book has been largely unchanged for centuries. Working in language expressed as a system of marks on a surface, I can induce extremely complex experiences, but only in an audience elaborately educated to experience this. (Location 483)
  • Much of history has been, often to an unrecognized degree, technologically driven. From the extinction of North America’s mega-fauna to the current geopolitical significance of the Middle East, technology has driven change. (That’s spear-hunting technology for the mega-fauna and the internal combustion engine for the Middle East, by the way.) Very seldom do nations legislate the emergence of new technologies. (Location 511)
  • Human capital (that is, talent) aside, all the end-consumer-slash-creator lacks today, in comparison to a music-marketing conglomerate, is the funds required to promote product. The business of popular music, today, is now, in some peculiarly new way, entirely about promotion. (Location 542)
  • Which is to say that, no matter who you are, nor how pure your artistic intentions, nor what your budget was, your product, somewhere up the line, will eventually find itself at the mercy of people whose ordinary civilian computational capacity outstrips anything anyone has access to today. (Location 550)
  • Colorization, up the line, is a preference setting. (Location 553)
  • Genuinely ubiquitous computing spreads like warm Vaseline. Genuinely evolved interfaces are transparent, so transparent as to be invisible. (Location 557)
  • He may need something akin to the sort of education that I needed in order to read novels—to appreciate, as it were, a marginalized but still powerfully viable media platform. I can only trust that Johnny’s entertainment system, and the culture that informs it, will be founded on solid curatorial principles. (Location 578)
  • Was it Laurie Anderson who said that VR would never look real until they learned how to put some dirt in it? (Location 597)
  • Singapore is a relentlessly G-rated experience, micromanaged by a state that has the look and feel of a very large corporation. If IBM had ever bothered to actually possess a physical country, that country might have had a lot in common with Singapore. (Location 605)
  • (The word “infrastructure” takes on a new and claustrophobic resonance here; somehow it’s all infrastructure.) (Location 681)
  • Singapore is curiously, indeed gratifyingly devoid of certain aspects of creativity. I say gratifyingly because I soon found myself taking a rather desperate satisfaction in any evidence that such a very tightly run ship would lack innovative élan. (Location 707)
  • The overt goal of the national IT2000 initiative is a simple one: to sustain indefinitely, for a population of 2.8 million, annual increases in productivity of three to four percent. (Location 737)
  • Myself, I’m inclined to think that if they prove to be right, what will really be proven will be something very sad; and not about Singapore, but about our species. They will have proven it possible to flourish through the active repression of free expression. They will have proven that information does not necessarily want to be free. (Location 751)
  • Perhaps Singapore’s destiny will be to become nothing more than a smug, neo-Swiss enclave of order and prosperity, amid a sea of unthinkable . . . weirdness. Dear God. What a fate. (Location 755)
  • He ran every red light between there and Changi, giggling. “Too early policeman . . .” (Location 786)
  • Gazing into E. Buk’s window, for me, has been like gazing into the back reaches of some cave where Manhattan stores its dreams. (Location 811)
  • But the image that kept coming to me, last week, was of the dust that must be settling on the ledge of E. Buk’s window, more or less between Houston and Canal streets. And in that dust, surely, the stuff of the atomized dead. The stuff of pyre and blasted dreams. (Location 817)
  • New York is a great city, and as such central to the history of civilization. Great cities can and invariably do bear such wounds. They suffer their vast agonies and they go on—carrying us, and civilization, and windows like Mr. Buk’s, however fragile and peculiar, with them. (Location 828)
  • Tokyu Hands assumes that the customer is very serious about something. If that happens to be shining a pair of shoes, and the customer is sufficiently serious about it, he or she may need the very best German sole-edge enamel available—for the museum-grade weekly restoration of the sides of the soles. (Location 857)
  • LATER I WOULD DISCOVER Kyoichi Tsuzuki’s photographs of the interiors of Japanese apartments: “cockpit living.” Everything you own directly before you, constantly available to your gaze. (Location 863)
  • THE PARADOXICAL SOLITUDE and omnipotence of the otaku, the new century’s ultimate enthusiast: the glory and terror inherent in the absolute narrowing of personal bandwidth. (Location 874)
  • Just as a life, lived silently enough, in sufficient solitude, becomes a different sort of sphere, no less perfect. (Location 893)
  • It is a city in which, he suggests, subjective time flows differently, from one area to the next, and may have come to a near-complete halt in others. It is a city in which the eternal suffering of the poor may perpetually serve some mysterious and driving purpose in the life of the whole, some hidden dynamo of torture and sacrifice dating back to something stranger and less easily articulated than the hungry ghosts of Hawksmoor. These are not observations that one could arrive at using any previous literary model of metropolitan history, but the result of a genuinely postmodern agenda, an entirely new and utterly compelling way to write about cities. If you wish to possess the world’s greatest city, read this book. If you would learn to expose the soul of a place, in the deepest and most thoroughly contemporary way, read it again. (Location 989)
  • The guilt I felt was equally straightforward, and perhaps as fantastic: that I was not repairing an electricity-generating windmill with a Leatherman tool. It made me feel terribly lazy. (Location 998)
  • Because Japan is the global imagination’s default setting for the future. (Location 1011)
  • Content is not the issue here, but rather the speed, the weird unconscious surety, with which the schoolgirls of Tokyo took up a secondary feature (text messaging) of a new version of the cellular telephone, and generated, almost overnight, a microculture. (Location 1020)
  • These Modern Boys, as the techno-cult they spawned came popularly to be known, somehow induced the nation of Japan to swallow whole the entirety of the Industrial Revolution. (Location 1028)
  • Were reborn, in fact, as the first industrialized nation in Asia. Which got them, not too many decades later, into empire-building expansionist mode, which eventually got them two of their larger cities vaporized, blown away by an enemy wielding a technology that might as well have come from a distant galaxy. (Location 1032)
  • And then that enemy, their conquerors, the Americans, turned up in person, smilingly intent on an astonishingly ambitious program of cultural re-engineering. The Americans, bent on restructuring the national psyche from the roots up, inadvertently plunged the Japanese several clicks further along the timeline. And then left, their grand project hanging fire, and went off to fight Communism instead. (Location 1034)
  • Muji is the perfect example of the sort of thing I’m thinking of, because it calls up a wonderful Japan that doesn’t really exist. A Japan of the mind, where even toenail clippers and plastic coat hangers possess a Zen purity: functional, minimal, reasonably priced. I would very much like to visit the Japan that Muji evokes. I would vacation there and attain a new serenity, smooth and translucent, in perfect counterpoint to natural fabrics and unbleached cardboard. (Location 1054)
  • The otaku, the passionate obsessive, the information age’s embodiment of the connoisseur, more concerned with the accumulation of data than of objects, seems a natural crossover figure in today’s interface of British and Japanese cultures. (Location 1067)
  • Understanding otaku-hood, I think, is one of the keys to understanding the culture of the Web. (Location 1070)
  • There is something profoundly postnational about it, extra-geographic. We are all curators, in the postmodern world, whether we want to be or not. (Location 1070)
  • Mainly because the cut-rate treasures, the “scores” of legend, are long gone. The market has been rationalized. We have become a nation, a world, of pickers. (Location 1093)
  • The software-driven sniper isn’t really bidding; he’s shopping. Skimming an existing situation. The sniper (or his software package) is able to look at the final minutes of any auction as a done deal, then decide whether or not to purchase that item at the fixed price, plus one bid increment. Which pissed me off, and took some of the fun away. (Location 1257)
  • I think it worked, the binge cure. Possibly because getting serious about choosing serious watches made the shuffling of pages a chore rather than a pleasure. (Location 1288)
  • I’d always hoped that I wouldn’t turn into the sort of person who collected anything. I no longer open to watches on eBay first thing in the morning. Days go by without my contributing so much as a single hit. Or maybe I just have enough wristwatches. (Location 1291)
  • The glass cube was one man’s shop. He was a dealer in curios, and from within it he would reluctantly fetch, like the human equivalent of those robotic cranes in amusement arcades, objects I indicated that I wished to examine. He used a long pair of spring-loaded faux-ivory chopsticks, antiques themselves, their warped tips lent traction by wrappings of rubber bands. And with these he plucked up, and I purchased, a single stone bead of great beauty, the color of apricot, with bright mineral blood at its core, to make a necklace for the girl I’d later marry, and an excessively mechanical Swiss cigarette lighter, circa 1911 or so, broken, its hallmarked silver case crudely soldered with strange, Eastern, aftermarket sigils. And in that moment, I think, were all the elements of a real futurity: all the elements of the world toward which we were heading—an emerging technology, a map that was about to evert, to swallow the territory it represented. The technology that sign foreshadowed would become the venue, the city itself. And the bazaar within it. But I’m glad we still have a place for things to change hands. Even here, in this territory the map became. (Location 1301)
  • People who’ve read this piece often assume that I subsequently became a collector of watches. I didn’t, at least not in my own view. Collections of things, and their collectors, have generally tended to give me the willies. I sometimes, usually only temporarily, accumulate things in some one category, but the real pursuit is in the learning curve. The dive into esoterica. The quest for expertise. This one lasted, in its purest form, for five or six years. None of the eBay purchases documented here proved to be “keepers.” Not even close. (Location 1318)
  • Tokyo has been my handiest prop shop for as long as I’ve been writing: sheer eye candy. You can see more chronological strata of futuristic design in a Tokyo streetscape than anywhere else in the world. Like successive layers of Tomorrowlands, older ones showing through when the newer ones start to peel. (Location 1339)
  • NEXT DAY, I run into fellow Vancouverite Douglas Coupland in the Shibuya branch of Tokyu Hands, an eight-floor DIY emporium where doing it yourself includes things like serious diamond-cutting. (Location 1378)
  • Here, in the first city to have this firmly and this comfortably arrived in this new century—the most truly contemporary city on earth—the center is holding. (Location 1401)
  • It is becoming unprecedentedly difficult for anyone, anyone at all, to keep a secret. In the age of the leak and the blog, of evidence extraction and link discovery, truths will either out or be outed, later if not sooner. This is something I would bring to the attention of every diplomat, politician, and corporate leader: The future, eventually, will find you out. The future, wielding unimaginable tools of transparency, will have its way with you. (Location 1451)
  • In the end, you will be seen to have done that which you did. (Location 1454)
  • If you wish to know an era, study its most lucid nightmares. In the mirrors of our darkest fears, much will be revealed. But don’t mistake those mirrors for road maps to the future, or even to the present. (Location 1465)
  • Survival Research Laboratories, the machine-assisted street theater of Barcelona’s La Fura dels Baus, and the performances of Stelarc. (Location 1544)
  • have avoided it because I am lazy and enjoy staring blankly into space (which is also the space where novels come from) and because unanswered mail, e- or otherwise, is a source of discomfort. (Location 1574)
  • My wife shakes her head in dismay as I patiently await the downloading of some Japanese Beatles fan’s personal catalog of bootlegs. “But it’s from Japan!” She isn’t moved. She goes out to enjoy the flowers in her garden. (Location 1587)
  • To be successful, apparently, is to be chronically busy. (Location 1609)
  • As new technologies search out and lace over every interstice in the net of global communication, we find ourselves with increasingly less excuse for . . . slack. (Location 1610)
  • history, once acknowledged, had quickly become a sort of nightmare, one from which there seemed to be no escape. (Location 1647)
  • History, I was learning, there at the start of the 1960s, never stops happening. (Location 1648)
  • Freed by Wells and his literary descendants to roam, in my imagination, up and down the timeline, I had stumbled upon World War III, and the end of civilization. (Location 1663)
  • In 1905 he had imagined it arriving with the military use of aerial bombs against civilian targets, but then he would see zeppelins bomb London, and after that the Blitz, and then the advent of the German rocket bombs. In The Time Machine, wars are a thing of the immemorial past, something necessarily transcended on the way to some safer, more rational basis for society. (Location 1668)
  • They are the italics of the perpetually impatient and somehow perpetually unworldly futurist, seeing his model going terminally wrong in the hands of the less clever, the less evolved. And they are with us today, those italics, though I’ve long since learned to run shy of science fiction that employs them. (Location 1701)
  • I suspect that I began to distrust that particular flavor of italics when the world didn’t end in October of 1962. (Location 1704)
  • the most memorable images of science fiction often have more to do with our anxieties in the past (the writer’s present) than with those singular and ongoing scenarios that make up our life as a species: our real futures, our ongoing present. (Location 1724)
  • At least there’s still a certain macho frisson to be had in the idea of deliberately embedding a tactical shard of glass in one’s head, and surely crazier things have been done in the name of king and country. (Location 1738)
  • Rather than plug a piece of hardware into our gray matter, how much more elegant to extract some brain cells, plop them into a Petri dish, and graft on various sorts of gelatinous computing goo. Slug it all back into the skull and watch it run on blood sugar, the way a human brain’s supposed to. (Location 1741)
  • Our hardware is likely to turn into something like us a lot faster than we are likely to turn into something like our hardware. Our hardware is evolving at the speed of light, while we are still the product, for the most part, of unskilled labor. (Location 1747)
  • The wired world will consist, in effect, of a single unbroken interface. (Location 1754)
  • Whether this is literally true is arguable, but the world, in my experience, is filled with wannabe auteurs, and my imagination conjured one particularly focused and obsessive example. (Location 1820)
  • You dream of having a personal assistant. Someone to handle all the little things, like relating to your children and brushing your teeth. (Location 1953)
  • To any informed contemporary child, a robot is simply a computer being carried around by its peripherals. (Location 2045)
  • Who today wouldn’t simply prefer to have a faster and more powerful computer, faster Internet access? That’s where the action is. That augmentation. Of the user. Of (Location 2047)
  • Vannevar Bush, whom I mentioned earlier, was not a science-fiction writer. In World War II he was chief scientific adviser to Franklin Roosevelt, and director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, (Location 2062)
  • In 1945, he published an article in The Atlantic Monthly titled, “As We May Think.” In this article he imagined a system he called the “memex,” short for “memory extender.” If there was a more eerily prescient piece of prose, fiction or otherwise, written in the first half the twentieth century, I don’t know (Location 2064)
  • Bush imagines this as a sort of pre-Polaroid microfilm device, “dry photography” he calls it, and he imagines his technocrat snapping away at project sites, blueprints, documents, as he works. (Location 2073)
  • Bush didn’t have the technology to put beneath the desktop, so he made do with what he knew, but he’s describing the personal computer. He’s describing, with an accuracy of prediction that still gives me goose bumps, how these devices will be used. (Location 2082)
  • There’s my cybernetic organism: the Internet. If you accept that “physical” isn’t only the things we can touch, it’s the largest man-made object on the planet, or will be, soon: It’s outstripping the telephone system, or ingesting it, as I speak. (Location 2087)
  • Interface evolves toward transparency. The one you have to devote the least conscious effort to, survives, prospers. (Location 2093)
    • Note: Important