A Note on the New Information Age: Factwino and the Zombie Corpse of the Chronicle

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Factwino Meets the Moral Majority, 1981

A few days ago, one of these “content managers” who earn their living laying people off in order to “enable to the company to compete,” came out in one of the “papers of record” against “this thing they call [institutional] memory.” Huffing and puffing, he wrote: “Newspapers have absolutely no need of memory.” With that attitude and style, the man is obviously nothing but a two-legged jackass. But the truth of it is that it was the senior editors who, through their notorious subservience, gave rise to the origin of this species. –Batista Bastos, Jornal de Negócios (Portugal), February 2007.

Even if there were exceedingly few things in a finite space in an infinite time, they would not have to repeat in the same configurations. Suppose there were three wheels of equal size, rotating on the same axis, one point marked on the circumference of each wheel, and these three points lined up in one straight line. If the second wheel rotated twice as fast as the first, and if the speed of the third wheel was 1/π of the speed of the first, the initial line-up would never recur. –Walter Kaufmann on “the myth of eternal return”

“And Nietzsche, with his theory of eternal recurrence. He said that the life we lived, we’re gonna live over again the exact same way for eternity. Great. That means I’ll have to sit through the Ice Capades again.”— Mickey (Woody Allen) in Hannah and her Sisters.

San Francisco Bay Guardian: Censored in San Francisco.

The deal that gave Dean Singleton’s MediaNews Group control of almost every daily newspaper in the Bay Area made the business pages — but the impact on news coverage and the damage caused by the homogenization of local news to communities and the political debate were almost entirely ignored.

I would like to testify to that as well.

It really is a sad thing to see: The hotel we are spending the week in here in San Francisco disdains to offer the local papers to its guests for their complimentary morning briefing and caffeine infusion.

It offers the New York Times instead. A newspaper that, for all its virtues, scarcely acknowledges the existence of New York’s outer boroughs, and New Jersey only insofar as it is the subject of a long-running primetime cable soap opera about the mafia.

The Wall Street Journal is also available.

I generally read the W$J online, of course. But the actual throughput of the fabulous WiFi network in our chic New Age New Economy hotel is making me nostalgic for the days of beeping, booping dial-up at 9600 baud. I say that as someone whose first Internet experience was chatting with Finns over Bitnet on an IBM mainframe.

The city’s plans to become the first global metrosexual WiFitopia of the bellwether creative class has apparently gone the way of the Summer of Love.

As Valleywag noted last week (234 views):

Good luck with getting free Wi-Fi, you dirty hippies. As we’ve said, you don’t deserve it.

Front page feature in the New York Times yesterday: Diagnoses of manic-depressive disorder in children are rising.

Front page feature in the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday: Diagnoses of manic-depressive disorder in children are rising.

Front page feature in the Oakland Tribune yesterday: Diagnoses of manic-depressive disorder in children are rising.

Front page feature in the San Jose Mercury News yesterday: Diagnoses of manic-depressive disorder in children are rising.

Baghdad by the Bay is becoming a cultural and journalistic ghost town, it seems. Literally.

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The best column we have read in the local papers this week was a Herb Caen Labor Day column from 1986.

Herb Caen — whose brevity-witty, attention-deficit-disorderly prose made him an “e-writing” stylemaster before his time — is dead.

Long dead.

Which means, of course, that you no longer have to pay the man to observe the passing scene.

Or anyone, for that matter.

But hey, after the end of history, nothing every happens anymore. Right?

Just throw the “content” into the rendering pot and recycle it into Eternal Return-brand scented aromatherapy candles.

It really is astonishing to see: Contrary to the “hyperlocalism” celebrated by the rhetoricians of the technological sublime, was “local content” that actually gets produced here seems to be produced almost exclusively for export rather than local consumption.

It is as though the only affordable clothing San Franciscans could buy on the local market were T-shirts saying “I dedicated my productive life to San Francisco and all I got was this lousy tourist tchotchke.”

Or else you can shop at Banana Republic, of course. If you can afford to pay tourist prices.

(We observed a fascinating interaction yesterday between a young, gifted and fabulous Cheech and Chong team at an off-Union Square Swatch boutique and a woman bearing a PRC diplomatic passport that I am going to try to do justice to later.)

San Francisco has apparently morphed into a theme-park version of itself, pumping dry the well of its own pop-cultural iconicity.

And the sucking noise as the straw finds the bottom of the milkshake glass is finally starting to cut through the happy-hour chitchat, like nails on a chalkboard.

We naturally had to stroll the Haight yesterday, for example — it was my personal day of nostalgia for the N-Judah line — if only to appreciate the local Victorians, the architectural equivalents of the giant redwoods of Muir Woods.

That iconic San Francisco, as I keep reminding my wife, has degenerated over the years into a utopian marketing cliche that for decades afterwards lured young people from all over the country to a grimly dystopian black economy based on needle-drug dependency and non-union “sex labor.”

I mean, when I read someone in the Guardian complaining that the colorful days of the Polk Street male hustler scene are going the way of the dinosaur, I just had to snort a little.

Dude, if you had lived through the early 1980s in this city — I worked near the Tenderloin and had a lot of friends there — you might feel a little less nostalgic about it. I remember very clearly reading those first reports on a mysterious “gay cancer” at the time, for example.

On the other hand, I did used to go check out the Minutemen at the On Broadway in those days. Most of my peers were Deadheads, but I was also much, much more of a Minutemen man.

And I did used to schlep equipment here and there for the San Francisco Mime Troupe in those days, in my VW van, and dream of the day when the Fact Wino would be running City Hall.

These days, however, it seems the Fact Wino has been talked into signing the liability waiver for an experimental course of post-Information Age Antabuse.


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