Vol. 2 No. 8

April, 2003


Toys Out of the Attic

iToon on Silicon Parachutes

The Urge to Buy

Special iToon on iPod People

New! Bends & Trends

Guaranteed Access?

iToon on Record Industry









Toys Out of the Attic

The net has surpassed any weekend flea market, estate sale, or attic cleaning. The underbelly of American materialism, self-obsession and hobby-kink interests are readily available. The collective conscious of the eccentric hermit is now on full display, for information, communication or trade. eBay was built on the buying and selling of PEZ dispensers. One man's junk (physical or intangible) is another man's gold.

If you want something, any search engine will vomit thousands of hits to your screen. Collectors no longer have to spend thousands of hours of legwork to find clues or a prized possession anymore. They have thousands of leads in a matter of minutes.

Some academics now worry about the ease of discovery that the net provides. They contend that our obsessive materialism is a natural tangent to our basic human hunting and gathering instincts. We need to gather things. We need to collect things. We need to hunt things down. In the past, it was food. With food provided by others, we needed to fill those primal urges with something-- so the gathering of objects was a replacement. Even the caveman developed this substitution situation, when others did the hunting, gathering or cooking the food, his idle time was to gather better rocks and sticks to build better tools.

Even lazy procrastinators with loads of idle time collect things. Only the totally feebly bedridden don't materially collect things, except possibly disability checks, prescriptions and medical conditions.

The Internet, as a collector's tool, has created the means to explode the flea market gold mine mentality that has crested over America. Ever since PBS started airing Antiques Roadshow, people are sneaking up to their parents, grandparents or relatives attics looking for something that may be valuable, and easily uploaded to eBay.

With local and state governments pining over the loss of Internet tax revenues, politicians have yet to realize that the garage sale, flea market and cash individual to individual non-retail sales boom is also not taxed. Or taxes not collected or remitted to the government. The local police will not be cuffing ma and pa garage sellers. First, its bad politics (these people are voters). Second, there is probably an exemption for individuals doing non-business sales of their own personal property. They are not in the business of selling junk so they are not on par with big box retailers who collect sales taxes.

However, there are some individuals on the net who are actually in business of buying and selling their personal collections for profit. But it would be impossible to find the small minority of professional net sellers from the ma and pa garage seller. It is like trying to find a needle in a haystack, to the tenth power.

The progressive growth of these person to person sales gnaws on the general child collectors. Their toys in the attic were considered for decades as mere junk. Pack ratism was frowned upon. No one could have projected the high tech money making future. Who has not had an overzealous mother clean out the attic while you were away at camp or school? Your childhood baseball card collection gone with the snap a garbage can lid. In retrospect, those baseball cards today could have funded your retirement.

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The Urge to Buy

When you wake up in the morning, and the radio is on to that first tune of the day; that song gets caught in your frontal lobe for the rest of the day? You can't get it out of your head. It is burned into short term memory.

All of those short term memory burns chaotically appear at weird times. Consciously, it may not make any sense. Subconsciously, it probably is tied to some tangent of what you were thinking or reacting to at the moment. One of those oddities occurred when the news last year that Bob Greene, the Chicago Tribune columnist, was dismissed for inappropriate behavior while acting as a Trib employee. When I heard the news, a song immediately popped into my mind, Sister Havana, by Urge Overkill. Now, it was odd since Urge has not played in YEARS. It was also odd since it was a local favorite spin, but I had not heard it on the radio for YEARS. In writing my reaction to the Greene termination, I used this memory burn in an article in a sister publication, The Real News, Fall 2002 issue, as a tie to the weird behavior that bridged the song and the story. The link was that Greene got fired for his own urge overkills.

That should of ended this memory burn. But it continued to haunt. The chorus kept on coming up from time to time; enough that I decided once I bought the song, the cycle would stop. Easier said than done.

First I went to the local record shops; normally the bins are filled with local bands. There was a plastic card with the Urge name, but no Saturation, the LP I was looking for. Well, maybe next time. A couple more trips in the next month, still no CD in the bin.

The a search on the large net music sites, amazon and barnes & noble. It was like the local record store; they have listings, liner notes, but nothing in stock. You can get a used on in some collateral damage swap link; but I wanted a crisp, vac-sealed factory fresh copy. It is just my way. After running to secondary sites, I found I could get a new copy--- from Germany. Germany?! A source for a local band archive is across the Atlantic? I would have to import a locally produced CD? It makes one head spin as fast as the CD player.

With all the security issues, I passed on giving my credit card number to an overseas vendor. I had the urge to buy, but not that urgent.

I thought this phase would pass until about another month went by. It was late at night, and quickly channel clicking through the cable, I came across those weakly produced local access music videos on public access. Normally, that would be an instant click, but the host was just starting to talk about an “old local favorite,” so I paused. Then jumped like a cat when the video began to roll with the first drum beats.

Yes, I still do not have Saturation, the LP, but I have a copy of the Sister Havana video. How bizarre is that? The search was on once again.

Lately, I have been dishing back and forth in the music sites; occasionally finding another used listing, but still have not pulled the trigger. I found a new copy, but shipping was dubious (or so I thought from the disclaimer.)

If the true potential, post-Napster, will be that the Internet will be the virtual jukebox to the world, an unlimited music on-line distribution channel, it is clear that we are still along way away from that goal.

But as we go to iPress, I find a proclaimed factory sealed new LP on line, and pull the trigger for $7. We will see if this bottom fishing yields a keeper catch. The gnawing impulse urge to get a copy has been partially satisfied. We we know next month when it arrives.

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For all the sites, pundits, magazines and software utility programmers who have campaigned for the elimination of spam, spam is getting worse. The flood of morning spam-mails is growing like unchecked algae on a pond. The pop-under windows are suddenly shutting down memory allocation or freezing machines during mid-surf.

A new consortium of universities are creating Internet 2, a web based system that is 300 times faster than current Internet data transfer speeds. Anything that will improve the 56k bottleneck of normal connection speeds is worth the research and implementation.

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Guaranteed Access?

Public libraries are caught in the middle of the Internet filter debate. On one hand, proponents of the filters want librarians to guard against their children from having full frontal access to all the bad sites. On the other hand, opponents want librarians to allow anyone to have full and unabated access from the library terminals to all net resources.

But both sides miss the first point. Does anyone have guaranteed free access to the net?

A quick glance at the Constitution shows no mention of government sponsored access to the world wide web, let alone any telecommunications system. It is not a fundamental constitutional right. Could it be a liberty or property interest? No, though regulated by the government, the public communications systems are owned by public companies for the benefit of their customers and users.

Local libraries are community knowledge bases. Libraries were formed to bring educational resources to the general public. Now, is a terminal connected to net search engines the same as a book? Then, does a library owe a duty to have all the books any one library card holder would ask for, at any time? No, libraries have limited resources. They guard their stacks, and the reference books never leave the premises. So librarians can't guarantee that all the books ever published, or even all the books in their catalogs, will be available. So at best a local library is a limited informational center.

So a terminal connected to the web will give anyone universal access to all those checked out text books, right? Well, again the concept of limited resources could restrict the number of net users that can log on at any one time. The capital costs of equipment and the operating costs of telecom lines and access providers are much greater than buying a volume, and putting it on a metal shelf. The physical book never crashes, unless it is dropped to the floor.

The library board is the gatekeeper and operator of the information services. It has the duty to provide its community with the necessary tools to meet its mission. A patron can not come into a library and demand the board to buy a book he or she wants to read. The only recourse is decreased patronage or voting the current board members out at the next election. If the board decides it wants its users to have Internet access, then it should reserve the right on how it should be used. The U.S. Supreme Court defined pornography (the crux of the library debate) as it violates community standards. The library board is representative of the community so its filter decision should control.

Locally, library board members, who used to slumber through election cycles now have an issue that they have to take a stand on. Opponents now show up on the ballot taking the opposite tack. Suddenly, the incumbents are not so secure because they have to make a public stand on an issue that gets chewed up in the media like deep sea fishing chum. The cushy, church mouse job on the board is no longer secure. In local elections where the total turnout is in the hundreds of votes, a one issue campaign is a hand grenade ready to go off.

The naysayers want to have total access, period. It is like the public library is an extension of their living room. It is not. The argument for non-filtering of public terminals has been extended to demands for free, universal access to the Internet No one can guarantee such access. No government, public school or library could afford to guarantee such access.

The argument is that the poor need this free, public access to compete in education. There is no guarantee that information on the net is trustworthy. There is no greater dilution of education than students zipping quotes and passages from net resources, and cutting and pasting them into their term papers without reading or understanding the content or context of their work. Opening a textbook, reading passages, finding the answers, and copying the information long hand is the repetition of thought that is the cornerstone of acquiring knowledge. If the poor want the same Internet research skill levels, hand them a scissors and piece of paper to learn to cut and paste.

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