Friday, July 30, 2004

Life Among The Mammals

The first blog should explain the title, Life Among The Mammals.  It sounds condescending but it isn't.  If one accepts the scientific and scholarly works, then mammals are the most evolved form of life on this planet. If one accepts the position of some religious scholars, then mammals are the most evolved form of life in the universe.  But those are not the reason.  

Whatever their position in the spiritual and diachronic pecking order of life, mammals are relentlessly innovative.   While ants are content with mounds, beavers dam rivers.   While salmon will give their last erg of energy leaping the cascades to spawn, Californians will build mansions on the side of mud slopes in the hopes of spawning with a Vivid starlet.   In fact, the central fact of existence for the mammals is sex.  They live for it, die for it, create eternal works of art for it, and will even risk the White House for it.    All of their evolution suits them to it, and every accomplishment of male and female, large, small, wet or greasy can be attributed to their need for it.

But that is not the origin of the title.

The title originates in a conversation with Dr. Charles Goldfarb at IBM Alamaden in the late 1980s.  You can google his name with the term 'markup' or 'SGML' or 'Big Bad Stereo' to find out who he is.   At the time, we were meeting with a long forgotten group developing a standard called 'HyTime'.   You can google that too, but it will mostly return scree about overbuilt designs that lose to underbuilt hacks.    None of these facts are important to the title.   At that meeting, we were discussing what the effect of very large integrated bibliographic hypertext systems (something the mammals now refer to as 'the web' or 'the net' or just 'the http thing') on the world that at that time, had no idea that such a thing was possible, or useful, and those that did said it would "f**k up the game".   Who knew?    Dr. Goldfarb, or "Doc" for short, speculated about the vast amounts of information that would become available which if freely accessible would improve everyone's knowledge of the world.   Sitting at lunch with he and a fellow musician, Bryan Markey, I looked up from the table and said, "It will make the porn industry richer."   Doc stopped and looked at me while Bryan nodded in agreement.

"Why do you think that?" Doc asked.

"It's just another medium", I said, "and the history of every medium from cave paintings to the movies starts with porn.  We're mammals.  It's what we do.  That's life among the mammals."

He looked on incredulously and said, "I doubt it.", but Bryan kept nodding in agreement.  Bryan and I had both grown up working in the nightclubs where the mammals come to spawn, and we had seen that it wasn't how well we played but what we played that filled the cash register.   At the end of the night, the band that plays the funkiest grooves shreds the most 'natch because they don't come for a concert.  They come, as an older musician told me once (another story), to 'get high, get drunk, and get laid'.

That's life among the mammals.


xmlphire said...

hmm, except for the fact that mammals don't spawn, you got it right, pity.

Anonymous said...

Isn't that why mammals own hot tubs?

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