Monday, July 16, 2007


Eastern Standard Tribe

Have you heard the song "You Made Me Love You"? The next line goes "I didn't want to do it, I didn't want to do it." The song has been going through my head in relation to a particular issue, only I'd say that love is too strong a word, here. Like is more like it.

I recently read Cory Doctorow's book "Eastern Standard Tribe" and tried very hard not to like it. Very hard. I was predisposing myself not to like it because of something Doctorow wrote in his BoingBoing blog. He was talking about the National Spy Museum's no-photography policy and said:

"Christ this stuff bugs me, especially from museums. These places are supposed to be about preserving and disseminating human culture -- but no taking any pictures or we might not be able to sell as many picture postcards!"

Having worked in a museum for eleven years, I took umbrage with the statement and wrote to Doctorow to explain exactly why museums have no-photography policies. The short version is that we can't expose our collections to the flash of multiple cameras. Some museums allow for the use of cameras with the flash off, but I can understand a no-photography-period policy, as well. If you give some people an inch, they'll take a mile and if you read the BoingBoing post linked above, you'll see that someone took photos at the National Spy Museum with a camera phone. There's another reason for the no-photo policy. Museums collect items that are still under copyright. By law, we are supposed to uphold that copyright. From Doctorow's response back to me, it's obvious that he sees any explanation of museum restrictions to be nothing more than wimpy excuses. We're to give everything away, by golly, and that's that.

That's the short version of why I was predisposed not to like Doctorow's book. Childish, yes. But, I had wanted to read something of Doctorow's prior to the little tiff and decided it was time to get another view of the man. I checked out "Eastern Standard Tribe" and thought, "Well, mister, just show me what you've got." Despite my best intentions, I liked the book. It's got a great premise. With the digital age, people start grouping up with those of similar interest, no matter where they are, no matter what the time zone. Art, the main character, is from the Eastern Standard Tribe, and it's his job to screw up the inner workings of companies in other time zones. The tale swings around, battering poor Art with treachery. The opening scene is of him stuck on a roof with a pencil in his nose, ready to push it into his brain. The story is a bit choppy at first, but stick with it. It's part of the overall flow and it'll make sense after a while. Once in a while I found myself fogging off after some new tech idea was introduced, thinking how could this be pushed further? That's probably just me, though.

So, then, this was the thing I was waffling about. Liked the book, didn't care for the blog statement. Had to think about how to delicately tie the two together. Now the chips can fall where they may.

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