Read below and then click to continue reading this essay from The Modern Word:
Borges’ “Library of Babel” and the Internet By Christopher Rollason, M.A., Ph.D.
[Published in: IJOWLAC (Indian Journal of World Literature and Culture) (Kolkata/Calcutta, India), Vol.1.1, January-June 2004, pp. 117-120]
On 16 April 1999, the French newspaper Libération carried an interview with Ignacio Ramonet, the editor of the prestigious publication Le Monde Diplomatique, on the subject of the communications revolution and entitled “Sur l’Internet, ‘une rumeur et une info se valent’“ (“On the Internet, ‘rumour and fact become as one”’)1.
Ramonet was launching his book La Tyrannie de la communication (The Tyranny of Communication)2, offered to the world as an interrogation of what Libération called the “prolifération d’une information de plus en plus diffusée, et de moins en moins contrôlée” (“proliferation of information in a form which is more and more diffuse and less and less subject to control”)3.
The book is primarily a critique of the distortions, oversimplifications and misinformations perpetrated by newspapers and audiovisual media; the main targets are the global communications empires and the “nouvelle idéologie de l”information en continu et en temps direct” (“the new ideology of continuous, real-time information”)4. In the course of his critique, Ramonet airs the notion that the “network of networks” is creating an overload or surfeit of fact and opinion, a “surabondance de l’information” (“information overkill”)5, much of which has not been checked and cannot be verified: “le pouvoir de publier est désormais décentralisé, toute rumeur, vraie ou fausse, devient de l’information, et les contrôles, effectués naguère par la rédaction en chef, volent en éclats” (“ability to publish has now been decentralised: any rumour, true or false, can become information, and the old editorial checking process simply falls apart”)6.
In the Libération interview, Ramonet confronts the Internet head-on, further developing the views expressed in his book. Elements of his position merit careful examination. Of particular interest is the comparison he makes with a celebrated image of twentieth-century literature, namely the imaginary, infinite library of Jorge Luis Borges’ story “La Biblioteca de Babel” (“The Library of Babel”). Ramonet declares: “Il y a ... l’excès de l’information, qui confronte tout internaute à sa propre ignorance en matière de pilotage dans un océan d’informations souvent difficiles à hiérarchiser, à vérifier; c’est le syndrome de la bibliothèque de Babel qu’avait imaginée Jorge Luis Borges, dans laquelle se trouvent tous les livres écrits et à écrire (dans toutes les langues et toutes les écritures) ... Comme dans cette bibliothèque de Babel, beaucoup d’informations se trouvent sur le Net, avec toutes leurs variantes et approximations; rien ne garantit la véracité des données; une rumeur et une info se valent”
(“There is ... the excess of information, which confronts all Internet users with their own ignorance as they try to find their way through an ocean of information which tends to be difficult to organise or verify; this is the syndrome of the Library of Babel as imagined by Jorge Luis Borges, which contains all the books ever written or to be written [in every language and every script] ... Just as in that Library of Babel, vast amounts of information are there on the Net, with all their variants and approximations; nothing guarantees the reliability of the data; rumour and fact become as one”)7.
Hour of the Wolverton This is one of Basil Wolverton's apocalyptic illustrations for Herbert W. Armstrong's 1975 in Prophecy (1956). To read the entire booklet, click on the heading above and scroll down through the Herbert W. Armstrong Searchable Library: Books and Booklets. Almost all of the Wolverton drawings for 1975 in Prophecy illustrate passages from Revelations.
In the late 1950s and through the 1960s, Wolverton wrote and illustrated The Bible Story and The Story of Man for Armstrong's magazine, The Plain Truth. In 1959 I used to listen to Armstrong's radio program, The World Tomorrow, which interlinked Biblical prophecies with current news. When I learned that Wolverton illustrated for The Plain Truth, I got on the mailing list, and free issues would arrive each month.
I just did a lot of searching to figure out exactly when The Bible Story serial began. If you want to see this from the beginning, go to Armstrong Searchable Library: The Plain Truth 1950-1959 and begin on page five of the November 1958 issue. It starts with an introduction explaining how Wolverton became associated with Armstrong's organization.
Wolverton's son, Monte Wolverton, did eye-grabbing color versions of the 1975 in Prophecy illustrations which can be seen hereand also at Monte Wolverton's own site.
Joe Orlando's contribution to the Watchmen graphic novel was Tales of the Black Freighter, the Brechtian comic-within-the-comic. Warner Brothers will release Watchmen on March 6, 2009. Five days later, Warner will release the animated Tales of the Black Freighter as a DVD only. The studio is also planning The Watchmen Motion Guide, a panel-by-panel slide show of the graphic novel, narrated by an actor in a dozen 22- to 26-minute webisodes.
Wood's "Hindu", published in Panic 4 (August-September 1954), satirized the Western film Hondo (1953) with John Wayne and Geraldine Page. Hondo was based on the Louis L'Amour short story "The Gift of Cochise," published in Collier's (July 1952). On the right is a Wood sketch drawn years later. Based on the notes, Wood was evidently thinking of doing another one of his tales for an adult audience. Wayne's basic pose repeats in all four of these images. Note the subtle way in which Wood gave a slight torso tilt and lowered one shoulder. If you compare this with the poster and still, you can see the difference. Studying this, I realized that Wood had been attempting to illustrate the way Wayne walked. In addition to the simulation of 3D, Wood had challenged himself to draw single-frame animation!
Thomas M. Disch, an author, poet and critic who twisted the inherently twisted genre of science fiction in new, disturbing directions, including writing his last book in the voice of God, died on Friday in his Manhattan apartment. He was 68. His friend Alice K. Turner said Mr. Disch shot himself. She and other friends told how his apartment had been devastated by a fire; then his partner of more than 30 years died; then his home in Barryville, N.Y., was flooded; and finally, he faced eviction after he returned to the apartment. He also suffered from diabetes and sciatica. “He was simply ground down by the sequence of catastrophes,” his friend Norman Rush, the novelist, said Monday.
Photo: Ann Monn
Here are the final posts he made on his Live Journal blog. For the full text of a Thomas Disch story, start reading here and continue via the link:
Understanding Human Behavior By Thomas M. Disch (30 July 2001)
He would wake up each morning with a consciousness clear as the Boulder sky, a sense of being on the same wave length exactly as the sunlight. Innocence, bland dreams, a healthy appetite -- these were glories that issued directly from his having been erased. Of course, there were some corresponding disadvantages. His job, monitoring the terminals of a drive-in convenience center, could get pretty dull, especially on days when no one drove in for an hour or so at a stretch, and even at the busiest times it didn't provide much opportunity for human contact. He envied the waitresses in restaurants and the drivers of buses their chance to say hello to real live customers.
Away from work it was different; he didn't feel the same hunger for socializing. That, in fact, was the major disadvantage of having no past life, no established preferences, no identity in the usual sense of a history to attach his name to -- he just didn't want anything very much.
Not that he was bored or depressed or anything like that. The world was all new to him, and full of surprises: the strangeness of anchovies; the beauty of old songs in their blurry Muzak versions at the Stop-and-Shop; the feel of a new shirt or a March day. These sensations were not wholly unfamiliar, nor was his mind a tabula rasa. His use of the language and his motor skills were all intact; also what the psychologists at Delphi Institute called generic recognition. But none of the occasions of newness reminded him of any earlier experience, some first time or best time or worst time that he'd survived. His only set of memories of a personal and non-generic character were those he'd brought from the halfway house in Delphi, Indiana. But such fine memories they were -- so fragile, so distinct, so privileged. If only (he often wished) he could have lived out his life in the sanctuary of Delphi, among men and women like himself, all newly summoned to another life and responsive to the wonders and beauties around them. But no, for reasons he could not understand, the world insisted on being organized otherwise. An erasee was allowed six months at the Institute, and then he was dispatched to wherever he or the computer decided, where he would have to live like everyone else, either alone or in a family (though the Institute advised everyone to be wary at first of establishing primary ties), in a small room or a cramped house or a dormitory ship in some tropical lagoon. Unless you were fairly rich or very lucky, your clothes, furniture, and suchlike appurtenances were liable to be rough, shabby, makeshift. The food most people ate was an incitement to infantile gluttony, a slop of sugars, starches, and chemically enhanced flavors. It would have been difficult to live among such people and to seem to share their values, except so few of them ever questioned the reasonableness of their arrangements. Those who did, if they had the money, would probably opt, eventually, to have their identities erased, since it was clear, just looking around, that erasees seemed to strike the right intuitive balance between being aware and keeping calm.
He lived now in a condo on the northwest edge of the city, a room and a half with unlimited off-peak power access. The rent was modest (so was his salary), but his equity in the condo was large enough to suggest that his pre-erasure income had been up there in the top percentiles.
He wondered, as all erasees do, why he'd decided to wipe out his past.
This grouping of three has been scanned same size (click to enlarge) to show how Wood saved his sketches. He went through his files, cut out the drawings he liked and threw away others. Then he used Scotch tape to mount the small drawings on standard-size typing paper. This effectively eliminated the possibility of any chronological filing, creating problems for future researchers.
For instance, the top right drawing looks like his work of the 1940s. The Frankenstein creature in the spacesuit looks similar to other sketches he did in the early 1960s. The Kukla, Fran and Ollie television puppet show in the bottom right image suggests that it was drawn during the 1950s.
Dirge for Disch I met Tom Disch only briefly, but I'm saddened to learn of his suicide. Deleted on July 4 by God's red, white and blue pencil, he truly ranked as one of the past century's magnificent imaginative writers. This photo by Beth Gwinn is remarkable in that it is instantly evocative of his fiction, with walking-on-water joyfulness set against a rising tide of impending darkness. He did it all: novels, short stories, poetry, non-fiction, criticism, blog entries and a text adventure game (Amnesia). His work was adapted to both animation (The Brave Little Toaster) and comics (Ralph Reese's "The Roaches"). The great horror tale of "Descending" on an escalator to sub-levels where there is no escalator ascending was followed by the future world of "Concepts," in which he foresaw webcams, social networking, cyber romance and lifecasting. On the Wings of Song (1979) is a novel that soars.
Disch liked this powerful poem by Bret Harte (1839-1902), told first-person by a bullet. It prompted him to write his own follow-up:
What the Bullet Sang
O JOY of creation, To be! O rapture, to fly And be free! Be the battle lost or won, Though its smoke shall hide the sun, I shall find my love—the one Born for me!
I shall know him where he stands All alone, With the power in his hands Not o'erthrown; I shall know him by his face, By his godlike front and grace; I shall hold him for a space All my own!
It is he—O my love! So bold! It is I—all thy love Foretold! It is I—O love, what bliss! Dost thou answer to my kiss? O sweetheart! what is this Lieth there so cold? --Bret Harte l
Tears the Bullet Wept
We know that bullets sing. Bret Harte transcribed their song. But give them this: they weep as well, And theirs are the most precious souvenirs That venders hawk on the streets of hell.
What is so tragic as the lethal blast Of thunderbolt or .38 That turns what had been present Into past? There he stood And here he lies at last. Will you not shed a single tear For any such? Is that too much to ask?
Here is a tear. Weigh it, Please, Sir, on your scale-- And I will tell you the whole tale. But only when your job is done. Kill all the rest first. I will wait.
I'm now going to begin a series of Wally Wood sketches and fragments. We'll start with this sketch that looks like the attack of the 50-foot Triffid. Yes, celery stalks at midnight! In truth, it's the Spinach Monster from "The Mad Horror Primer" in Mad #49 (September 1959), as seen in the finished panel on the right. Click to enlarge. Curiously, the creature in the sketch looks scarier, and his leg looks stronger in the sketch.