Summer Reading

Because It's summer and because I spend a lot of time in the office looking at a computer screen reading blogs, I've made more of an effort lately to get outside and just read a book in the park. Perhaps its just my mindset, but I've come across some interesting PR characters in the last couple of things I've read, and I thought I'd share them here.

A few weeks ago, I picked up a copy of All Tomorrow's Parties by William Gibson. It is the third in a trilogy of books that I read years ago, and re-reading it reminded me that one of the main characters is one Harwood, super-star PR man. Like nearly all of Gibson's books, All Tomorrow's Parties is pure cyberpunk, taking place in a media-saturated, post-now setting extrapolated a few years down the road from the present time. One of the main characters, Harwood, was experimentally dosed with a substance known as SB-1. This substance makes him simultaneously able to see patterns in the otherwise random blur of information on the net while he also becomes obsessed with Harwood. As a result of self-dosing himself with SB-1, Harwood also has a heightened sense of patterns. Being so self-centered to begin with, his own object of obsession is himself. The result is that he has a kind of preternatural ability to predict the way that things will turn out, and is thus able to put his own unique spin on the world, always backing winners. The result is that he appears to be one of the most powerful men in the world, subtly working behind the scenes so that things play into his own hands. As they say at one point in the book, he's the man who put the man in the White House. If you haven't read anything by Gibson, you need to. I mean, damn, the man coined the word "cyberspace" back in the early 80s.

In a recent copy of RADAR magazine, there was a one-page list of lobbyists whose practices and professional morals are questionable at best. Among those discussed by RADAR are Herman Cohen (clients included Robert Mugabe and Mobutu Sese Seko) and Richard T. Hines (who worked on behalf of the Khmer Rouge to argue against war crimes trials for its leaders).

I'm currently reading Boomsday by Christopher Buckley. The main character is Cass Devine, 29 year old PR chick and blogger. I'm only a few chapters in, but so far its a pretty good book. The PR firm she works for could easily be a fictional stand-in for one from the RADAR list mentioned above, as it seems to take only very dubious clients.

I'm not exactly sure how I feel about the portrait that these pieces of PR paint for our profession. Part of me is slightly flattered that the world thinks we have so much power with our ability to manipulate facts as we see fit in order to suit our needs. Another part of me is slightly offended that the majority of the population sees us as so unscrupulous.

How do you feel about this? Would you say that you stand behind every single clients and their causes whole-heartedly, or do aspects of your work make you pause and think for a minute? Or are you like the fictional Harwood, climbing your way to the top via a twisted cat's cradle?

Post-Now and Loving It (a real Slashdot dump)

I'm a little behind in my posting lately, but that shouldn't matter because what is happening in the world these days is so positively post-now that it'll probably never go out of style. It seems that a group of hackers in Italy have managed to mess with those in-car navigation systems. In my personal life, I couldn't really care less about this because I don't have a car and (unless someone wants to buy the BlogCampaigning domain name for a lot of cash) I don't forsee myself buying one soon. However, I can see the cause for concern. Immediately, security experts will probably point out that this will make it easier to send an important vehicle (say, the limousine for a head-of-state or an armored car) down a different path, and directly into an elaborate ambush. As much as I would love to plan an ambush like that (planning ANY ambush involving an armored car would be pretty sweet), this technology has way bigger implications for the average consumer. I envision one gas station jamming a car-navigation signal in order to lead drivers away from a rival station. Ditto for restaurants, or even shopping malls. Forget saying that there is trouble down on road, this kind of tech can probably just erase roads. Considering that the majority of the population probably spends more time looking at the screen than the road, they won't even notice and will instead just cruise over to wherever the little machine tells them.

Also in the news this past week or so is a story (via Slashdot) about rival botnet gangs brawling it out for cyber supremacy. I don't know exactly what that entails, but I would imagine that, despite the medium, it gets pretty personal. I would love to hear more details about this whole thing, right down to the average day in the life of a soldier in the botnet mafia.

I still feel like there is money to made in spam, and I'm sure that botnet crime bosses have it good. I know people would hate me, but I could probably just live somewhere awesome and surf my life away on spam money. Sweet, sweet spam cash.

Lastly, I don't even know what this means, but it sounds awesome. Experimental memory created by nanosecond pulses of electric current pushing magnetic regions along a wire? There is nothing that doesn't sound cool about that. (Thanks again, Slashdot)

My friends and I refer to things like the above stories as post-now, where something currently happening in the world resembles a science-fiction film or novel. We also describe the inverse as post-now, where something in a piece of sci-fi resembles modern society, or is at least a few years of easy extrapolation from the current situation. Think Bladerunner, Minority Report, that sort of shit. I'm still working out the details of post-now theory and how it differs from post-modernism, but its going to be hot, so watch out. Oh, and reading Paleo-Future pretty much gives me post-now willies.

I wonder how ol' Billy G feels about all this?