Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Web access logs are a funny thing, when you own your own domain. You get to look at a lot of interesting information, such as the domain names from which people visit your site, but also a little about how they get there.
I look at them from time to time, and occasionally find some odd things vaguely related to things I’ve written about and the articles I host here. There are lots of hits from people searching for information about Bungee Jumping. No surprise there. Or there’s people looking for information about computer hackers. Again, no surprise there.
But three were very curious. They were Google search requests with the syntax “www.arik+air” and then another “arik+jobs+publish” and finally, “on+the+wings+of+arik”.
Somewhere over the skies of the African nation of Nigeria, there are airplanes bearing the name Arik. According to its corporate history, it emerged in part from the liquidation of that nation’s national airline. A local businessman, stepped up and purchased one of its aircraft for his personal use, and soon word spread and private citizens in the gas and oil industry were using his plane to fly around the country. It wasn’t long before he bought another, and then a few more. I don’t know where the idea for its name came from.
Silent in this space now these 71 days. It’s not as if I’ve had nothing to say, rather that I’ve been saying it elsewhere, where my words pay my bills.
This is of course the curse of blogging. In order to make it seem worthwhile you have to feed the beast regularly. This of course takes effort and time, the latter of which is in critically short supply these days it seems.
The onset of summer hasn’t done much for my time budgeting. Perhaps better calendar management will help. I’m somewhat encouraged by what I see of the new Google Calendar service. It seems that with a little outside help, it will sync up with the Outlook calendar on the Windows machine at the office, and thus bridge the gap with the iCal calendar on the Mac, all the while creating a long-term record of where I go and what I do.
Will this magically create some kind of quantum singularity through which I can pull additional time which I can use for writing pointless screeds here? Certainly not.
The key is to simply waste less time, though one could argue that blogging is itself a waste of time. There certainly appear to be a lot of people with opinions on that very subject.
I have been at times variously inventive and not with how I’ve been wasting my time these 71 days. There have been a few too many hours playing “Command and Conquer: Generals”, another set of lost hours downloading Van Morrison and John Lee Hooker concerts (see sample below) from Dimeadozen and trading them with the folks on the Vantrades mailing list.
Intermittently I’ve devoted some hours to raising money for the Columbia’s J-School Annual Fund, an effort to which I have committed five years of my life.
But mostly the hours are tied up with the job. Its as simple as that. It’s now been almost a year since the big change and there hasn’t been a single nanosecond of regret or second-guessing. I guess that, coupled with the lack of personally blogging, combine to be a pretty good sign.
Enough about that. Here’s a shot of Hooker from ’76.
It’s been about a year since this was published, but I’m just now getting around to posting it. Below is the text of the piece I wrote on Hunter S. Thompson for the summer 2005 issue of Oregon Quarterly, (cover at left) the magazine sent to alumni of the University of Oregon. It’s a more concise version of the blog entry I wrote on Feb. 26, 2005. I offered it up to OQ editors Guy Maynard and Ross West on a lark, and they were kind enough to publish it. Sadly OQ never published the text online, so here’s the text. You can see it as it appeared in the magazine here, courtesy of my Pixily account.
Going, Going, Gonzo
Six-thirty came and gave way to 7 o’clock as I anxiously paced the hallway of the University’s Sweetser dormitory. Five friends were coming down to Eugene from Corvallis, and they were appallingly late. The date was Feb. 28, 1991, and we had to get to the ballroom at the Eugene Hilton by 7:30 in order to get seats at a lecture given by the outlaw journalist Hunter S. Thompson.
I shouldn’t have worried about running late. Just as we sat down a woman, presumably with the UO Cultural Forum, which had invited Thompson to speak, took the microphone and apologized for this tardiness. Last seen at the hotel bar, he had disappeared.
Thompson was governed by his own twisted version of the circadian rhythm. If his daily routine, as described by his biographer E. Jean Carroll is accurate Thompson, would typically lunch around 7 p.m. on cheeseburgers and fries, several bottles of Heineken, followed by carrot cake or ice cream, a snort of cocaine, and a “snow cone” — a glass of shaved ice flavored with a generous pour of Chivas Regal. No wonder he was late.
An hour late. Ken Kesey ’57 and Ken Babbs made a brief and disastrous effort to sate the increasingly impatient audience by telling a few choice anecdotes about their friend. The effort was cut short by a surly heckler. Right about then Thompson emerged from wherever he had been hiding and sat down at the table from which he’d speak. In his hand, he held a yellow plastic cup filled with Chivas and ice — perhaps the remnants of a “snow cone.” He opened by mumbling incomprehensibly into the microphone.
Drunk and likely stoned, and with no prepared remarks, he rambled for about ten minutes. This changed when someone in the audience called out a question. Thompson perked up. His voice became clearer. He seemed to draw strength from two-way dialogue.
There was much in the news to talk about. Operation Desert Storm was winding down, Kuwait having just been recaptured by U.S. forces the day before. “I have the tape machine running back home recording the whole war,” he said. I piped in with a strangely prescient question of my own: Should we go in and get Saddam? Answer: “I don’t see what difference that would make.” Ever the political junkie, he described then-President George H.W. Bush as “the meanest yuppie who ever lived.” He predicted that the 1990s would be “like the 80s but without the money.”
At one point, one of my friends approached the stage and casually tossed a small plastic bag of marijuana into Thompson’s lap. This started a stream of other ever more interesting tossed gifts: More grass, several sheets of LSD, and a mysterious paperback book offered by an agitated long-haired chap who insisted it was “extremely important” that Thompson read it.
Later Thompson received a strange visit from a local homeless woman known popularly around campus as Hatoon (see sidebar). Entertained, Thompson let her try to make a speech on the peril of water in campus drinking fountains, but she struggled and sputtered. Seemingly frustrated, she said, “If you could point a laser beam at my brain, you might understand.” Thompson smirked, and pulled a laser sight — the kind used on rifles — from a pocket and pointed it at her as she had described. She didn’t like this and fled the stage.
Throughout the course of his sometime variously incoherent and eloquent ramblings, emerged the kernel of the message that runs through his published work: That the American Dream is nothing if not ambiguous, uncertain, and for far too many elusive. Chronicling “the death of the American Dream” was his journalistic mission, despite the inconvenient fact that through his own success he proved his entire premise false.
As Thompson’s talk wrapped up, the crowd — including me — rushed forward in search of his autograph. Someone standing next to me reached through the scrum and swiped Thompson’s cup of Chivas, still about a third full. While he wanted the cup as a memento, he was kind enough to let me drain its remaining few ounces of watery Scotch. Perhaps I hoped it to be an elixir, that might mystically convey a touch of Thompson’s gift for powerful prose.
I wasn’t the least bit surprised to hear that Thompson had turned a gun on himself on Feb. 20, 2005. Watching his father die after lingering powerlessly in a Louisville Veteran’s Administration hospital in 1952 would have left an indelible scar upon Thompson’s then 14-year old psyche.
A piece he wrote in 1964 for The National Observer on the 1961 suicide of Ernest Hemingway in Ketchum, Idaho is about the closest thing once can find in the Thompson oeuvre to the kind of self-reflection his readers hungered for, particularly in his later years. And it’s also easy to see it as a blueprint for the exit Thompson would choose for himself forty-one years later.
It opens with a quote from a neighbor describing Hemingway in his final days as “That poor old man. …He was so frail and thin and old-looking that it was embarrassing to see him.”
“Frail” was no adjective for Thompson. He knew the clock was running out. Approaching his 68th year, various health problems had started to mount. He sometimes used a wheelchair after breaking a leg last year, had recently acquired an artificial hip, and was at the time of his death recovering from spinal surgery.
He was far from the man who a little over three decades earlier had written his last great book, the one Frank Mankiewicz, George McGovern’s campaign manager in the 1972 presidential race, often described as “the most accurate and least factual book” about the election. Fear and Loathing: On The Campaign Trail, 1972, a dazzling and disturbing indictment of the dirty business of presidential politics. In it, we see Thompson at the height of his power, flexing his strange muscles for the polemic and inventing fictitious anecdotes that in fallacy contain more truth than most meticulously fact-checked news reports.
This made the terse news reports that first revealed his death that cold Sunday night all the more unbearable to read. They unflinchingly called it a “self-inflicted gunshot wound,” robotically reciting the unforgiving clinical facts, with neither texture nor style. How might Hunter Thompson have described the scene of his own final exit?
The indignities of human age had launched their final, unshakable assault upon his body, and he would deny them their prize. Seated at his kitchen “command post” before his typewriter — the word “counselor” cryptically typed on the center of the page — he paused mid-conversation to set down the telephone receiver, his wife Anita on the other end of the line. Then he wrapped his lips around the barrel of a .45 caliber pistol, and figured he’d see what happened next.
On March 1, fourteen years and one day after her encounter with Hunter S. Thompson, Hatoon, a colorful campus figure for more than three decades, died after being struck by a motorist while riding her bicycle across Franklin Boulevard. Hatoon, whose given name was Victoria Adkins, had lived on a bench near the UO bookstore since early 2000 and before that kept her possessions in front of the Knight Library. News of her passing rippled across campus and an impromptu memorial sprang up outside the bookstore, followed days later by an on-campus memorial service attended by many friends and acquaintances. Her death followed Thompson’s by only nine days. Both were sixty-seven years old.
As I write its about 1 AM and I feel like a grad school student again with much to do and precious little time for niceties like sleep.
First of all, thanks for having me in advance. I always like visiting with the class every year, if only because it gets me back up to campus.
As you know I was in the class of 1997, way back in the dim mists of history for the new media workshop days. In fact those days are such ancient history that the school stopped storing the archives of our projects sometime in 1999 or 2000 when the server they were living on crashed.
I’ve been slowly and painstakingly re-assembling the projects from the shreds that remains, in a project I’ve come to describe as digital archaeology. I use the piecemeal pieces of the projects, luckily preserved at The Internet Archive to put them back together one file at a time. With my job schedule and so on, I don’t get much time to work on this restoration project. But here’s a few things you can look at. First is the NMW home page from 1997. This was the first year that Dean Sreenivasan taught the class with a chap named Andrew Lih, who now teaches in Hong Kong. Andrew used what I think was the first commerically available digital camera — made by Apple oddly enough — to take the picture of me on this page in late 1996.
I don’t know what it was like this year, but the New Media Workshop was the hot ticket class in 1997. After the bubble burst in 2000, I noticed the class size tended to shrink, and so I’ll be curious to see how full the room is tonight. It tends to ebb and flow with the perceptions of students that the Internet is where the jobs will be after graduation, or not. We should talk about this.
If you’re interested in the historical perspective of the class you’re taking, I’d encourage you to check out what’s available from The Internet Archive. You might also find this early iteration of NYC24 interesting as well. I’ll talk a bit more about the history of NYC24 later tonight.
I point out all this ancient history because I think in those days we focused a lot more on the nuts and bolts of production than on compelling storytelling. In 1997, we hand-coded the HTML almost 100% of the time, and had never heard of Dreamweaver and knew nothing of Flash. Creating an audio file – what we now in some instances might call Podcasting – was a rather involved affair involving cassette tapes borrowed from the radio folks, a trip to the radio lab, a session in ProTools, and so on. Today I could speak into the Mic on my iSight camera, record an audio or video stream, edit it in a few minutes with Audacity, or iMovie and publish it in another two or three minutes via Audioblog. The tools we dreamed of then are common now. As John Prine so famously sang: “We are living in the future.”
What else would I like to talk about tonight? What life is like on the job as a reporter for an Internet publication. I’ve worked for a few of those over the last decade or so. And speaking of a decade or so, what was I doing 10 years ago tonight? Probably writing a weekly column that appeared in the paper I was working for at the time, predicting that within 15 years most of the paper of the newspaper industry would be gone and we’d be reading digital tablets. Well, how far off the mark was I in 1996? We can talk about that. I’ll be very interested to know where you think digital media is going, where it should and should not go, how your media consumption habits differ from mine. I’d like to know what you’re reading, watching and listening to, online, in paper, and in whatever other forms of media the engineers are dreaming up these days.
Other things you should remind me to talk about: Internships, and other situations that might be available with my current employer. The strange realities of Internet journalism, how a guy like me ended up as a business reporter, what I think makes for a good story, and whatever else comes to mind. And I’ll be interested in hearing what you all have to say, so come to class ready to talk back and forth. Duy tells me to be prepared to talk for 45 minutes and leave 15 minutes for questions. We can also talk about your pitches for the next issue of NYC24 if you like.
If you’d like to know what I’ve been working on recently, here are some links:
AMD Plays Offense
And some stuff from the old place:
See you in about 16 hours.
A few times every year I get random inquiries by email about my unusual first name. They seem to occur near the holidays for some reason that doesn’t make much sense to me. This year was no exception.
Last week I received an email from someone in Sri Lanka saying they had given the name Arik to a newly born boy, and asking if I knew anything about its origin. I had to say I really didn’t, which I found rather unfortunate given that I’ve lived with it, and spelled it for people in person and over the phone several dozen times a day for the better part of four decades.
I really don’t know much about my unusual name. I have a little script I go through which everyone who sits near me at the office can recite from memory after only a few weeks. “A like in Apple, R-I-K. No, no C. K. Yes, that’s an A, not an E. Yes its pronounced like plain old “Eric” or “Erik…” at which point the person I’m talking to will either ask after its ethnic origin or comment on having seen the name spelled in some other variation or both. I have little patience for these conversations, because I’m usually in a hurry.
So back to my Sri Lankan interlocutor. I replied, saying that regrettably I couldn’t offer much on the history of the name Arik. The next day he wrote back shedding some light: “The name Arik is a variation of the name Aryeh, which is Hebrew for a lion.” The name also appears as Arieh, which is the name of an officer of king Pekahiah in the Old Testament.
I have to confess: It’s not that I knew nothing about the history of my name. Just that I know precious little. I neglected to mention that according to some obscure reference of which I have little memory, the name in English means “sacred ruler.” The German tradition translates it as “noble ruler,” while the Norse comes down as “rule with mercy.”
One thing I have learned about the name since I moved to New York a decade ago, is that Arik is a fairly common name in Israel, though I think in this particular case it’s pronounced “Ah-REEK” and not “AIR-ik” as in my case. Someone with the name has registered the domain name arik.co.il though, since I don’t read Hebrew, I couldn’t tell you the first thing about him. Still, many people, upon seeing the name written, will ask if I’m Jewish.
Ariel Sharon (born Ariel Schienerman), the current prime minister of Israel uses it as a nickname, and so occasionally I will see the name Arik used within the pages of The New York Times, or other international news organizations. Another prominent Israeli bearing the name is Arik Vardi, who with friends Sefi Vigiser and Yair Goldfinger founded the instant messaging company ICQ, which is now owned by Time-Warner’s AOL.
I’m not sure precisely why people who know no more about me other than what I publish here on the Web site expect that I’m some sort of authority on the history of this name. But perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I’ve registered so many variants of the name on the Internet. Obviously I have arik.org, but I also have arik.net, arik.name and arik.info.
But these domain names are notable for what they are not: arik.com. I sometimes wonder how much email intended for me gets misdirected to a guy from India, who lives in Washington DC, professes to suffer from attention deficit disorder, and who apparently goes by the nickname “Riki Tiki,” an apparent reference to the Rudyard Kipling tale about a mongoose.
The arik.com domain had previously belonged to a commercial enterprise of some sort calling itself the Arik Group Ltd. in Sofia, Bulgaria. It can’t have been all that successful. I originally wanted the .com domain, but didn’t notice it had come available and then found to my dismay that the current owner has the registration sewn up through 2009.
Then there’s the mysterious arik.us which is in Spanish. I have no idea who “pops” is, but in this case, Arik is his last name, at least according to the whois registration data. His registration expires in 2008.
I made a concerted effort to get arik.net some years back mainly so that I could have a fallback domain in the event that some bureaucrat ICANN decided that org top-level domains were to be for non-profits only. I wasn’t truly worried, but figured it best to hedge. Its previous owner pointed it to a Web camera in Vilnius, Lithuania. Someone who also has Arik as a first name recently asked if I would be willing to part with arik.net, promising in some attempt at jest to use it for spam, a Phil Donahue fan club, or two other things so obnoxious I can’t print them here. I declined his overture.
Now what I find so interesting is the ethnic dispersion of people using the name. I’m of Scandinavian extraction myself. My family hails from Minnesota, and Denmark and Norway before that. (My folks have traced the family origins to 1654, and possibly further back than that now.) But here I’ve seen my first name in use all over the world.
Others outside of Israel bearing the name include an Economics Professor at Georgetown University; a furniture designer in Paris; A graphic artist; A professional wrestler; A Web artist; A character on Star Trek; A director of a Seattle talk radio show who blogs and podcasts; And an Elvis impersonator.
Ariks also appear in history. There was a King of Assyria, which is in the northern portion of modern-day Iraq, named Arik-den-ili ruled from 1319 to 1308 BCE (though I’ve seen different references as to the dates of his reign, some saying it was as late as 1295 BCE.)
Another Arik – or Ariq – was a grandson of Genghis Kahn. Arik Boke was youngest son of Genghis’ son Tolui, and a brother of the better-known Kublai Khan who was the founder of China’s Yuan Dynasty, which lasted from 1271 to 1368. Arik was a rival of Kublai’s, and had been the commander of the Mongol homeland while Kublai was campaigning in China. In 1259 he made tried to make himself the great Khan. Kublai then cut short the Chinese campaign and in 1260 had himself elected Khan. This led to a series of battles between them, which culminated in Arik’s capture in 1264. He died in 1266.
This particular reference caught my attention because of a comic book I once bought during my college years called “Arik Khan.” I had never seen it before and have never seen that title since. It turns out the character is the creation of a Filipino comic book artist named Franc Reyes. According to one source, he created the character Arik Khan for Andromeda Comics, a Canadian comic publishing concern, in 1977. Reyes was also one of a long series of artists to draw Tarzan for DC Comics in the early 1970s. The character appears to be similar to the tradition of “Conan the Barbarian.” Lots of swordplay, violence, you get the idea. Reyes went on to work for Disney on Brother Bearand the short John Henry.
The name also has many variants: The one I find most entertaining is the Swedish one: Jerk, though I would guess the correct pronunciation would be closer to “yurk.” Still, I can imagine a few people who might think me aptly named and preferring the English pronunciation of that spelling.
And so, that’s about all I know about my first name.