"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 4 October 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Back In The Bottle


[I smell bacon.]

Like most good ideas, Six Degrees

of Kevin Bacon probably started

out as a catchy name in search

of an idea, but the end product

was as tasty as a creme-filled

center: a lowbrow manifestation

of a high-concept commentary on

middling talent and medium cool.

It was a delightful analog

diversion, ideal for long

theater lines, moving cars, or

anywhere else smart people might

be gathered together facing idle



Of course, the web ruined all of




Reminiscence and six bits will

get you coffee (except in some

neighborhoods) - but it tends to

scare off anyone who might have

sat down to keep you company

while you drink it. Ignoring

that and blazing ahead

(backward, really), I seem to

recall a more "carefree and

alcohol-soaked era," and the

undertaking of The Roadtrip: an

institution requiring only a

gorgeous Sunday afternoon, a

couple of buddies, a beat-up

vehicle, a vague idea of where

we were going - and no strong

opinion on how to get there.


Those were the days.



Add to that the ersatz

bounty-hunter thrill of tracking

down an old friend in the

strange town, stumbling onto a

great restaurant, and finding

someplace to crash without

getting lost in the middle of

the night, and you had a real

adventure. Memoriiees.



Let us set aside for a moment,

gentle reader, our incredulity

at the unlikely and totally

unforeseen occurrence of Marc

Andreessen's class project

becoming the world's next

operating system - and,

concomitantly, the window

through which, with increasing

exclusivity, we view the world.

It's true that one minute,

Mosaic was a cute novelty, and

the next, we were looking down

the barrel of a server in every

garage and a browser in every

pot. But, perverse and

kaleidoscopic though that gray

clickable embrasure may be, the

truly disturbing issue has to do

with the wide and dazzling

panorama spread out beyond. The

view is stunning, but the glare

does take its toll, and I for

one am finally beginning to have

second thoughts about the

benefits of my membership in the

Information HavesTM. I'm

starting maybe to feel a little

of the eyestrain headache

associated with knowing

everything all the time.



Even that historical bastion of

impenetrability, that one realm

where the universe was believed

to stay forever out of control -

the weather - has fallen under

the merciless and methodical

wheels of the Information

Monster Car Crusher. It wasn't

geostationary LEO satellites or

millimeter-wave Doppler radar

that killed the mystery in

Mother Nature's mercurial whims;

we've had that stuff for years.

No, meteorological data hasn't

gotten any better, it's just

gotten closer.


"Maybe the weekend will be nice."

"Maybe not."



So, suppose that the things

available through port 80 are

approaching the full "body of

human knowledge" (as I've

grandiloquently advised a

microlab full of wide-eyed,

deep-pocketed net newbies, on

more than one


occasion). Suppose that you now

can, or soon will be able to,

with just a little skill and a

few good bookmarks, solve any

mystery you can think to ponder,

without ever leaving your

ergonomic rolling swivel chair.


If so, the question remains:

Didn't the obscurity and

evasiveness of the facts of the

world (now deceased) hold just a

little bit of charm, create just

a little drama, at some point

back down the road? The Bhagavad

Gita notes that "Maya lowers

seven veils of illusion between

us and them," but that was

before Lycos, and now we're

surely down to only one or two.


To paraphrase Mark Twain, I'm not

only marching in this parade of

search engine savants, but

carrying an ad banner. Sure, my

hierarchical bookmark menu goes

five levels deep and a thousand

entries long. And yeah, I get

more information over my first

cup of coffee than was available

to an entire abbey of medieval

monks in 20 years of patient

study. And, yes, that gaping

hypertextual wound sits right on

my desk, and it's been

hemorrhaging information at me

at 1.45 Mbps for so long now

that I really can't remember

anything else.



Well, surely, the enlightened

reader might note, I can simply

pull the plug? Why not flip the

switch, snip the thinnet, simply

refuse to look at it anymore?

Hang up my Information Architect

Hat, eschew the dizzying lure of

the virtual corridors of

knowledge power, and leave the

whole damned thing alone? It

doesn't matter... everyone knows

the djinni doesn't go back in

the bottle.


"I gave myself to know wisdom.... 
I perceived that this is          
vexation of spirit. For in much   
wisdom is much grief; and he      
that increaseth knowledge,        
increaseth sorrow."               
- Ecclesiastes 1:17-8             


The advantages and ecstasies of

the coming ubiquity of

information are widely assumed,

and I suppose there are worse

things than the prospect of

information flowing like tap

water. But neither is it so

strange to consider that when

you've had your head under the

spigot for a while, you

ultimately may find yourself

pining for the innocent days of

fresh air, dry clothes - and

that little touch of knowledge

thirst that made the next oasis

worth getting up and looking

for. Or at least worth talking


courtesy of Mr. Fuches