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Tom Gordon's Blother

February 12, 2006

Fishing The Memory Hole
Gah. Since New York is presently being transformed into a snow-encased wasteland, I've been forced to drudge through several non-essential compu-tasks, until that significant risk of power outages has passed. So instead of his daily suds-filled Photoshop bath, your truly's robotically pulling music off of a warbly eighteen-year-old audio cassette, and encoding its component tunes as MP3s. Oh, a most tedious job to say the least, but it's cheaper than the alternative: plunking down fifty to a hundred dollars for the apparently uber-rare compact disc. Yup, for some reason, Michael Kamen's transcendent soundtrack to "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" is nearly impossible to locate in that digital format. As a result, you probably won't see any of its tracks amidst the file-sharing, uh, 'services.' Heck, even the increasingly nifty iTunes Music Store doesn't host the album -- a shame, as it's without a doubt one the finest movie scores ever written. Go for baroque!

Sigh. Such translation difficulties make me wonder what other wondrous creative gems aren't being scanned into the Great Database, there. For instance, fully half of the tomes sitting on my bookshelf are obscure, out-of-print novels and non-fictional works -- stuff that in all likelihood won't ever be printed again. Likewise, many are also mass-marketed (read low quality) paperbacks that're three, four decades old -- in some cases, the pages are actually beginning to yellow over, fall out and crumble. So nothing would give me greater pleasure than being able to wave some lasery optical character-recognizing widget over these deteriorating kilopages, transmogrify the entire lot into hypertext and pipe 'em all into a readily-accessible 21st Century electronic medium for all freakin' eternity. But ye gods --even if I could convert my entire library in such a user-friendly fashion (as opposed to off-the-shelf OCR gimcrackery available today whose monotonous workflow/performance makes the prospect of encoding audio cassettes look like an amphetemine-fueled sexual marathon), well, so what? That's still just a microscopic millionth of a percent, zealously preserved by a single pathetic loser enthusiast of questionable literary tastes. What about the rest of us?

And (for that matter) what about old magazines? Or short-lived comic books and one-season television sitcoms? This is ultimately the chief drawback with an imminent permaculture; somebody still has to actually say "I think this is worth saving," take active steps to archive the work and then upload it to the Overmind Whatever. Or else it is -- save that occasional cross-referenced Usenet discussion or three -- gone forever. And... well, being a few steps removed from Complete Obscurity meself -- I just don't like the thought of that. Dagnabbit, who's to say a nondescript episode of a nearly-forgotten game show won't contain something of value for future generations? Maybe they'll all be artificially immortal, and thus starved for any entertainment (however inane) that temporarily distracts them from contemplating the boredom-filled millennia ahead. Or perhaps aliens'll need it to better acclimatize themselves to human culture.

You just don't know!
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