The forgotten Encyclopedia

Encyclopedia #fail

[Flickr Photo by A. Vantaggiato, CC-Licensed BY-SA-NC]

The forgotten encyclopedia lies on the boardwalk, close to the street, a couple of meters off dirt, rain and abandon. Not even school libraries want it.

Of course, it is old, virtually obsolete [pun almost not intended] and impractical. Compare it to Wikipedia. Which by the way did not kill the enclycopedia (á la Britannica) –worst, it was Microsoft’s Encarta that did, the living room computer-living CD-ROM-stored encyclopedia that suddenly, for little money, everybody had. [See: Wikipedia Didn’t Kill Britannica. Windows Did. , Wired, 3.14.2012].

Not like Britannica or the best encyclopedias. Those were the patrimony of few. My father bought one (an Enciclopedia Treccani, some 40 volumes, each huge and weighty) which stayed like a queen in our big library shelves. Heavy, mighty, except it was rarely used, even when I was at school. He–like many– bought one in installments. At the time, no respectable family in Italy would stay without one. Now, almost forgotten except in libraries, it is fully available online.

The model of a world closed on itself, all encyclopedias managed to do was not turning their nose up and see the future coming. Nor could they foresee the open and collaborative nature of the future of the encyclopedia and imagine Wikipedia, the mythical Web encyclopedia, likely the greatest collective work of humankind. Full of errors, it showed us the even the best paper encyclopedias actually contained mistakes. Which, as Umberto Eco loved to repeat, one could easily correct.

So here they lay, in a simple space called Libros Libres on the street, an initiative aiming to put some books on the paths of people passing by. But encyclopedias, so big and bulky, don’t really belong on those shelves. And in fact they are left on the boardwalk, and there they remain.

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Blocked from one Twitter account

So, I found myself blocked from Dave Winer’s Twitter. This means I cannot see his tweets while I’m logged into Twitter as myself. As soon I logout, though, I can get to his timeline. Weird, I know. Dave is one of the very first bloggers, and I still like to read his blog Scripting News.

First, I do not know what I have done to deserve this. I wasn’t given any explanation, nor warning–at least that I know of. But there I am, in the accused box, without trial and accusation. Mind you, not that I believe I ever did anything against him.

Screenshot from my intent to access Winer's Twitter feed.

Screenshot from my intent to access Winer’s Twitter feed.

Well, it happened while I was reading a sour post of his–which I agree with– on why he does not link stuff to Facebook. The post is Why I can’t/won’t point to Facebook blog posts:

It’s supporting their downgrading and killing the web. Your post sucks because it doesn’t contain links, styling, and you can’t enclose a podcast if you want. The more people post there, the more the web dies.

So, I wanted to write a post like this and quote him fully with his Tweeter handle. Voilá, I discovered the thing.

I don’t know, I think it’s a bit rude. And I leave it at that, in the hope that… what, do I believe there is a way out? I tried to interview him once. Is this the outcome?

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Media and Politics

While in the middle of this amorphous political environment of the past months (Trumpism, state of emergency in France and general elections, students’ strike and 1st May manifestation here in the provinces fo Puerto Rico), I kept looking for media signage through the internets, the great internets.

To begin with, my search was driven toward Paris ’68 protests and civil resistance and protest of those hot times. Interesting choice, isn’t it? But today, after the animus has calmed down, we recognize the value of the fights done by our younger selves. After all  Nobel Prize to Bob Dylan was awarded to one who was present in person or spirit in much of the political rallies of the ’60s and ’70s. Same with Dario Fo’s Prize.

Friends and myself at times may be afraid (the media’s scrupulous workings) of protests and strikes. This image projects calm and awareness.

Even in times of turmoil. [Jean-Pierre Rey: Girl Waving Flag During General Strike, Paris, May 1968]

The media have always been working in the background, with their only goal (not truth, nor information): selling.


This poster from the same time is frankly very current, everywhere. Do we realize that France’s general elections of today are happening while the country in in a state of emergency? Usually states of emergency are the first stage for anti-democratic and autocratic movements. And the people of France are compelled to choice between one of two candidates whom they generally do not agree with.

Sure, Order reigns. Here and there. Always.

There is a hilarious video (Conferencia de prensa del Departamento Batatero de Justicia) done with a fantastic sense of humor, and captures well the times they are a-changing: Are they, though? But the Frente Memero de Liberación Nacional unfortunately has buried its own site (and the video) in the black hole of Facebook. So there’s no way for me to embed it here. Not even Google finds it. So, you have to manually go the FB page linked before and watch it there (sic). There’s a lesson in this too.


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Fascinating anatomy art

Anatomy fascinated artists and there are examples of great anatomical drawings done by artists, especially in the Renaissance.

After watching Vanessa Ruiz’s TED talk, The spellbinding art of human anatomy,  I was captured by the contemporary artists who chose to portray anatomical parts in their work. As Vanessa shows in her talk, two are particularly interesting (to me), even though I have almost no interest in the scientific part of anatomy (!).

First, Fernando Vicente’s anatomy drawings.

Vicente is an illustrator and this is his Vanitas painting collection. I love the irony.

Then, there is Michael Reedy’s anatomy series:

A bit darker, perhaps.

Anyhow, a good excuse to show their work.

[Featured image: Paintings from Fernando Vicente’s Vanitas collection]

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Social networks, breakups and memory

it's the worst picture I've ever seen!

[Photo: Tom Simpson it’s the worst picture I’ve ever seen! via photopin (CC license)]

New developments in social networking: breaking up is a complex issue, often burdened with sorrow, anguish, pain and guilt. What to do with the memorabilia produced during the long or short time the couple (or trio, quartet, etc.) stayed together?

Some prefer to delete everything, for amazing that may seem to me. Thus a few apps have come out to help one erase from social networks those media souvenirs of the significant other who is not significant any longer. But, wait… what?? How’s that possible? Why would I want to **erase** those mementos as though they did not happen at all? Just because watching or reading them makes one feel nostalgic or sad or angry?? Do not those mementos precisely and irrevocably point to something and someone that cannot be erased because it happened? Where is one’s own self irony?

Do we really want to erase the past just because it is (now) uncomfortable? And when we’ll end up telling stories to our grandchildren, wouldn’t we perhaps like to have those mementos at hand and just smile? “See, that was my Facebook! How silly of me to take all those selfies with Ms. X!!” It was perhaps silly to take all those selfies, but not necessarily to take pictures, not even the act of writing letters or poems or shopping lists. All such artifacts are but mementos of one’s life, like the posts of this blog.

Is this just a matter of such mementos being public instead than private? Certainly, the fact that social media are public compounds the issue, but here we’re not talking about photos of some drunk nights being taken out. Instead we’re talking photos of a previous story we may feel uncomfortable with now. Yet it is very much related to the recent European courts’ decisions to demand that Google erase some past situation from our… past if it offends us now. Meaning: if it bothers you then it’s ok to erase it from the past. If not, then it existed publicly. It is fertile terrain for huge discussions; I am not even sure I understand it.

Anyhow, I just came across these two websites which are happy to help one erase the un-erasable. They are (1) Breakup Shop and (2) killSwitch. Google them if you will. I am not activating the links (contrary to my policy of linking!) just because I do not need to be pingbacked or tracked by the companies they point to.

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