April 22nd, 2008

summer reading

Link Salad

There are a couple of topics doing the whirligig through my mind that I keep thinking of posting about, but I have a feeling both of them will be time consuming to work through. So instead (at least for now), I bring you this.

I've mentioned many a time that one thing I enjoy about my particular industry is that it touches every other industry. As a consequence, topics in our publications and news gathering services can be wonderfully varied. I imagine I wouldn't know about many things if not for this.

Recently, news of a satellite on its way back to earth grabbed the headlines. The will it or won't it cause lots of destruction question was both dramatic and relevant, so it was no wonder it grabbed the headlines for a few days. What I found particularly interesting at the time was how it was then reported (as is always the case ~ one disastrous thing always results in the reporting of all of the other like-disastrous things) how many times satellites do fall out of orbit. Yesterday I saw an article about a satellite loss. Seeing that article reminded me of one I saw on the same subject about a year ago.

My point is, I suppose, that we've come to think so little about all of the satellites hovering around the earth that it seems a simple, routine, non-noteworthy thing. But really, if you think about it, it's a remarkably noteworthy thing. It's a very difficult process getting the satellites into orbit, keeping them there, and managing the risk should they come back to earth unexpectedly. [All of these failures would, I hope, be a part of any potential space tourist's examination of the risk involved in taking a jaunt into space.] The other side to all of the satellites, for me, is that - like so many times before - humans have rushed in and created a situation with no real knowledge of the potential outcomes. Can it be a purely good thing to have so many satellites circling round the earth? We're dependent on them for many things, of course, so it's not as though we're going to stop using them and stop sending them up there. But it seems something akin to a sacrilege, I think, to litter space with our junk and widen the scope of the pollution that's been so thoroughly undertaken here on earth.

Going in an entirely different direction, I had lost touch with the status of the JK Rowling suit that's been going on here in the U.S. over copyright infringement issues related to a compendium about the Harry Potter universe. (The information related to the income earned by the average writer that appears in that linked article was certainly eye opening.) Anyway, I find the whole topic of fair use, sampling, fan fiction and other uses of created material fascinating as well as how many people's opinions seemed to be so tied to which side of the income stream they fall on.

And last but not least, from a Wil Wheaton blog entry wherein he talks about a trip to New York city, this sentence caught my eye:

Maybe it's just me, but I'm getting really sick and tired of seeing the same twenty stores wherever I go.

I was struck by this some years ago when we were driving from Lake Tahoe westward towards San Francisco, then northward towards home. Time after time after time, we passed through cities and suburbs where the same stores and restaurants could be found. It was extremely depressing. There are obviously positive sides to certain uniformities of culture, but I find this particular brand of imperialism especially insidious. It's like a slow conquering where the natives invite the invaders in. As the virus of branded commercialism spreads, places that once had unique identities, sub-cultures and personalities lose the characteristics that set them apart from all other places. As we drove, I noticed that it was quite difficult to even tell one city from another. And I decided we're going to have to change the lyrics in America the Beautiful from "And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea" to include something in there about how we're now a nation of strip malls from sea to shining sea.