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Archive for February, 2020

Book Review: Dot.Con: How America Lost Its Mind and Money in the Internet Era

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 23, 2020

Dot.Con: How America Lost Its Mind and Money in the Internet EraDot.Con: How America Lost Its Mind and Money in the Internet Era by John Cassidy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a relatively interesting book and not poorly written. Indeed, for those who don’t remember or didn’t live through this period, I would likely be recommending it and giving it a higher rating. So my rating might be viewed as both subjective and somewhat unfair. However I feel I have a different take on the subject that gives me a different and possibly more comprehensive understanding with greater overall context that I have neither the time or energy to delve deeply into, which makes this content a little…basic and lacking a more complete historical insider perspective that I feel I posses.

I don’t want to write my own book here, but a little personal background info. I acquired my first computer in 1982, took my first programming class in 1984 and “got on the (pre-Web) Internet” in 1985 when beginning to send and receive personal email. I quickly migrated to BBS’s and used other Internet protocols (email is one, actually) such as ftp, telnet (especially), the primary search tool, Gopher, and what kind of served as a pre-Web before the Web was invented by TBL — Usenet. I also got on the legendary and influential WELL, where I resided and interacted with many movers and shakers for close to 15 years. (One of my biggest regrets is giving up my longtime WELL email address.) With the introduction of the Web, I quickly learned HTML, opened my own consulting company in Beverly Hills and created small basic websites for companies using HTML 1.0 (and VRML, as well as other forgotten markup languages and scripts) with the text-only Lynx browser, charging $350 per web PAGE because with 100 international web servers then, back then there was no one to provide such services and you could just name your price. When the GUI Mosaic browser soon came out, things just exploded. I was already doing work with many ISPs and other Internet companies and got involved with the IETF to help create Internet protocols. I turned down awesome offers from companies like Oracle, Sun, Nike, Adobe, Apple and more to take much less to join a growing ISP I was betting would go big time, which turned out to be a good bet. During my time there, I helped grow the company into the 2nd largest ISP in the world, built my own Engineering department, worked in the largest data center on the west coast, traveled the country as the company’s sole rep for RFP bidder meetings and much more, as well as collaborating with NASA, Cal Tech and various national research labs (LBL was one) on several major projects and again, much more. Early on, we were idealistically (and naively) scaling the Internet, investing in massive redundancy, educating consumers and businesses, and trying to theoretically even the playing field by providing free access to education, information, technology, and social improvement efforts and opportunities for everyone in the world. I also spent a lot of time researching new technologies, such as the then-unnamed cloud technology that a decade later would become all the rage, as well as researching competitors and potentially interesting new tech/Internet companies to (personally) invest in.

Yet before the end of the century, many of we “old timers” were starting to feel nervous about the future and where things could lead, especially as the Web became more commercial with tons of new companies having IPOs, creating tons of overnight millionaires with companies that Wall Street had decided were somehow valued at many millions while virtually none were making ANY revenue, let alone profits, and while “experts” assumed there would somehow be ways to make big money, only the porn industry (and offshore gambling) were successful in doing so while people in the industry had no concrete ideas of their own on what to sell (everything had been free) and how to make real money. As the government gave up domain management (to begin with) and commercial entities moved in, I started to develop a queasy feeling in my stomach over what *could* happen in the future.

Soon many of we “veterans” starting worrying the public valuations were insane, it would take awhile as well as major changes for anyone to actually succeed, and concerns about things possibly getting “darker” as our ideals faded. Of course there had always been hackers, but old school hackers did it to 1) learn (and “free” information) and 2) for bragging rights. Even though the government threw the book at infamous hackers like Poulson and Mitnick, none were *truly* criminals in the sense that “hackers/crackers” would later become. Security became a major headache since TCP/IP packet switching had not been invented to support major financial transactions securely. As the number of viruses being created and released daily started to beat Moore’s Law exponentially, as more commercial companies got online, as more tech companies started up with nothing to sell, financial analysts, shareholders, and certain geeks in the tech/Internet industry started saying “No” and “I told you so” while VC money started drying up – the bust became predictably inevitable. Many of us in the industry unloaded our stock options while they still had value and started bailing on companies (I left less than a year before the Bust started demolishing the industry) and then it happened and everyone who had invested heavily in Internet stocks (like my parents years before on my advice) lost entire fortunes while company after company became forgotten historical footnotes.

A final observation. None of the original inventors of the ARPANET (like at Xerox PARC) and my 2nd generation who made this happen ever imagined in their/our worst nightmares what would become of their idealistically great inventions and efforts. Back in early Web days, spam was the outrage of the tech world and considered by some to act as viruses. Today, identity theft, kiddie porn, human trafficking, cyber warfare??? No. For several years I’ve become more and more concerned and regretful of what became of my efforts and when talking with other old friends and colleagues around the world, many share the same disappointment, disillusionment and regrets as me and I’ve spent much of the past three years trying to get myself and my digital footprints offline as much as possible. I’ve closed hundreds of online accounts and closed virtually all of my social network accounts and I hope to soon be almost entirely off the Net, aside from an email address and a couple of other things – and now here I went and wrote way too much, so I apologize. I could actually write infinitely more. But as for this Dot.Con book, like I said, it’s not bad and addresses a short but major part of our recent history. I should give it a higher rating. It’s just that I know this stuff, predicted this stuff, could go far further in depth if I had the time and energy, and feel like this offered me, personally, little. However, as I previously implied, if you didn’t live through this or don’t know the history, it’s probably a valuable book and worth 4 stars. Thus recommended for people who don’t know this (but if you do, I wouldn’t recommend it)…

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Book Review: Leningrad: State of Siege

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 20, 2020

Leningrad: State of SiegeLeningrad: State of Siege by Michael Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Westerners tend to think of their losses, sacrifices, etc., when thinking about WWII, and Americans in particular like to “brag” on how not only did they save the world twice in less than 35 years, but “won” WWII. I’m an American with family who fought in that horrible war, who went in on D-Day and suffered terrible wounds and casualties, so I’m not trying to make light of this situation, nor am I a Russian “fan,” commie supporter, etc., as some might accuse me upon reading this. But if you study WWII, the US certainly played a big role, and really carried the war in the far east, but as for Europe, well, we didn’t come close to suffering the horrible atrocities, suffering and losses the Russians did. Not even close. The US, in total, lost slightly over 400,000 people in the war, a horrible figure to be sure. But Russia, or the Soviet Union, suffered roughly 10 Million military deaths and combined with civilian deaths, the total was closer to 25 MILLION, which basically makes all of the other countries fighting in that theater look like they were going to a high school dance, because if you want to read about some true atrocities (aside from the Holocaust itself, of course), study the Leningrad and Stalingrad campaigns. We love to laud Patton as an ass kicker, and he was a charismatic leader, but he had nothing on the Soviets, whose Field Marshal Zhukov beat the shit out of the Germans while driving them back to Berlin where the Germans surrendered to him personally. I don’t write this to mock my own country, nor to disrespect our losses and sacrifices. But I’ve basically had it with “patriots” who love to talk about how America kicked everyone’s ass in WWII while saving the world when we barely partook of the majority of the years, battles and campaigns other countries did, and while our civilians at home had nothing to worry about as opposed to nearly all European countries, as well as many in the Pacific theater. If you are unaware of these facts, I advise you to read this book, read another on Stalingrad I have listed in my bookshelves here, and anything else educational, because it really opens the eyes and makes one appreciate just how horrible things were on the eastern front, and how many people in other countries might be justified in arguing that it was the Soviets and not the Americans who won the war… Recommended.

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Book Review: The Future is Asian: Commerce, Conflict and Culture in the 21st Century

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 16, 2020

The Future is Asian: Commerce, Conflict and Culture in the 21st CenturyThe Future is Asian: Commerce, Conflict and Culture in the 21st Century by Parag Khanna
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This isn’t a bad book. In fact, it’s pretty good. But I’m torn on what to rate it. On one hand, it could potentially deserve 5 stars for accuracy, a good overview, it being topical. On the other hand, I feel inclined to give it only 3 stars because it’s really rather late to the party, so to speak. It’s not like there’s much that’s new here, and tons of things have been written and published on this very topic for over the past decade. Indeed, some may argue it’s SO late to the party, the author may have missed some important signs. The CFR’s noted Director of Asia Studies, Liz Economy (whose own potentially more topical book, “The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State,” was released last year) has been writing and publishing articles in most of the major foreign policy journals that China is actually on its way down — and fast! I don’t know that I agree with her, but others do and it’s no secret that China’s economy is in the midst of a serious slowdown — there was no feasible way China could sustain that GDP growth. Indeed, it appears India is poised to leap into that position as China fights a huge aging population crisis combined with the additional population crisis prompted by its one child rule, so its workforce will be radically impacted over the next 20+ years. Thus, those who adhere to Economy’s viewpoint — and there are quite a few — might give this book only 2 stars. I’m giving it 4 because I think it’s still currently relevant and probably will be for the next decade to come with much up in the air over that time as India strives to attain regional hegemony status, and while people are making noise over Indonesia’s possibilities in the region — Australian leaders are already discussing forming defense treaties with that country should the PLAN push further into international waters to its south… The ECS problem could turn into a nightmare should the CCP decide to do more than test Japan over the The Senkaku Islands dispute while South Korea is busy trying to match the PLAN with carrier strength buildouts while continuing to watch its northern neighbors. So, yes, the future IS Asian, but it’s faulty to assume it’s solely Chinese or will remain so because yes, it’s no longer a unipolar world, but then when people refer to a multipolar world, they’re no longer necessarily referring to the US, China and Russia. In addition to India, Brazil is trying to ambitiously strive for southern hemisphere regional hegemony status, and Britain has just sent a new carrier to the SCS while committing to invest more in such ships. The CFR’s Sheila Smith published a book last year on Japan mobilizing militarily for potential offensive purposes for the first time since WWII, largely contrary to the constitution we wrote for them since our current US administration is apparently leaving its longtime allies in the East to fend for themselves. Can we say powder keg? I think we can. Geopolitical observation and analysis have become all the more “fun” again, just as it’s becoming all the more frightening. This book is good but I doubt it stands out from a crowded field very much, but for those watching the eastward shift, it’s another good resource to invest in and thus, recommended.

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Some More Book Reviews

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 8, 2020

Being ThereBeing There by Jerzy Kosiński
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Postmodern brilliance. Stunning in what is says in what it doesn’t say. I actually prefer Kosinki’s The Painted Bird, which is a little more brutal, but I honestly think Being There is the author’s best truly “postmodern” work, translated well to the screen, and perfectly holds a mirror up to society. Will they even glance at it? I did. Kicked my ass. Couldn’t be more recommended, but for those of you don’t like minimalist postmodern, you may find yourself bored, possibly not picking up on some subtleties, or simply unimpressed. Or you may actually walk away feeling more and more impressed the more you think about it. (In fact, I was so impressed with it that I wrote a short paper on it from a Reader Response position and it was published in a peer-reviewed, MLA-indexed journal: The Arkansas Review. It’s titled “The Dialectics of Getting There: Kosinski’s Being There and the Existential Anti-Hero.” It’s actually online somewhere, but I don’t know what the policy here for giving our URLs is, so if you’re interested at all, you can either do a search or go to my blog listed on my profile (hankrules2011), with hyperlink, and find it listed among a few publications.) Feel free to leave comments re your own observations, if you’ve read it. It’s definitely not a universally admired or appreciated text. Which makes it all the more delicious for me. 😉

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MashMash by Richard Hooker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have always loved this book! I think it was a unique and special book for its time, a lightweight counter to the heavy stuff going on around it, such as Catch 22, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, A Clockwork Orange and the like, all of which are great, but are a reflection of their times, as well as what was going on socially, culturally and politically in the US, particularly with Vietnam — and Hooker using Korea as an obvious substitute in his commentary on such things couched in humor. The beauty of this novel is, it DOES allude to and address some really serious issues and things, similarly to the other books mentioned, but again, differently so that one didn’t feel so threatened, to use an odd description of possible/probable reader response to others of that time. Brilliant, IMO. And of course, the TV show that came out of the movie that came out of this book was one of the best loved TV shows of all time, including by me as a major fan, so the book set off a chain of awesome (cinematic) events that impacted millions of people, largely in a good way. So while most people probably wouldn’t consider this novel as more than a cheap comedy, I tend to see much more value in it and I’ll stand behind that as long as I’m alive. Definitely recommended!

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The Late Great Planet EarthThe Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Utter trash! I still can’t believe how this POS swept over America during the 1970s, resulting in millions, I’m sure, for Lindsey, that asshole, as well as a horrible POS wildly fantastic, mythological horror show of a movie that was traumatic as shit to kids like me and others I knew whose fundie parents forced them to go see it. In retrospect, it was a total joke, a hoax, and Lindsey was and remains an utter fraud. Personally, I think those of us who are “fundie survivors” from the 1970s — and there are a LOT of us: read Seth Andrews — should file class action lawsuits against Hal and his publisher, as well as those assholes responsible for that shitty movie, A Thief In The Night, which traumatized me and tons of people and kids like me, not only at that time, but to this day, resulting in decades of therapy which has never been effective, scarring me for life. Another target of a wished for class action lawsuit would be the publisher of those damn Chick tracts, which also scared the shit out of me and most of the other people I knew. All those awesome cartoons and drawings of demons, the flames of Hell, drugged out ’70s hippies destined for Hell, etc. All of these and much more contributed to fucking ruining my life and tens of thousands like me, of driving us away from fundie/evangelicals forever, of feeling nothing but disgust and disdain, if not outright hatred for the hypocritical, lying fire and brimstone manipulators trying to use prehistoric rubbish to scare everyone possible into doing their damn will (and filling their pockets at the same time). I’ll never forgive them and I’ll never forgive Lindsey for this wretched joke of a piece of total shit book that did so much permanent damage to untold legions of people. If you wonder why people are leaving the churches in the US in droves these days and why over 20% of the American population are called the “Nones,” as in no church, no mythological supernatural tooth fairy in the sky, etc., you can thank Lindsey, those responsible for the other atrocities mentioned here, and the assholes who carry on their tradition, like Tim Lehay , who field a softer brand, but still put through the same apocalyptic message (while raking in millions on the side). If it were possible, I wouldn’t give this book a “0” – I would give it a “-1,000” or onward to infinity. If you value reason, logic, sanity, human decency, facts, etc., and if you frown upon or even despise those theistic religionists (particularly conservative Christians in the western world) who use terms like “love,” “morals,” “peace,” “family values,” etc., when they’re too lazy and stupid to read their own holy book and discover the atrocities committed by the god of the old testament while claiming their Jesus was a holy man of peace and love, while he stated he came with a sword to split up families and turn parents against children, etc., bragged that he spoke in parables so his idiot disciples literally wouldn’t be able to understand anything he said, and left no writings or proof of his existence, and none from any witnesses were ever written down so much could be said about the gospels, etc., aside from the millions of literal lies, discrepancies, untruths, fraud, etc., in their holy book and especially the new testament, then by all means, avoid this idiocy. I couldn’t recommend it any less than I am doing now. Truly one of the most despicable books in history by one of the most despicable humans in history… If there were an actual hell their mythology describes, he and his ilk would be destined for it.

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Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Not remotely impressed. For two primary reasons, among others. One, this just seems like a lot of fluffy filler. I have no idea how Godin made this into a full length book because I just got the feeling a decent, well thought out and written magazine article would have sufficed and even been more successful, perhaps. More importantly, I disagree with the title, premise and some possible conclusions that may be drawn from the book’s thesis.

OBVIOUSLY there are typically “linchpins” in most companies and certainly most successful companies. That should be so transparently understood that I fail to see the necessity in even writing a book about it at all. However, I learned early in my business career, initially from advisors and mentors, later from employers and bosses, and sadly, from personal experience as well as witnessing such with various colleagues in many companies and businesses — the thing that was drilled into my head from the beginning both verbally and through observation and experience — is that NO ONE is EVER indispensable! To think someone is, is utterly foolish, totally naive, completely wrong, and places too much value on “linchpins,” whom while no matter how valuable, can ALWAYS be replaced — I’ve seen it dozens of times at companies throughout the country from the lowest on the rungs to the very highest, at Founder, President and CEO, etc.

So, I have well over 30 years of business experience and I’ve seen this play out too many times to count. I’ve seen teachers with experience, great success and tenure get sacked. I’ve seen founders of startups that quickly grew into multimillion dollar public companies get dumped by the board. No One is Indispensable! I literally have only seen one person at one company who very likely may have been and was treated as such and who basically calls the shots as VP Engineering — after her former boss, the VP of Engineering with multiple degrees from Georgia Tech — was let go to move her up. Bizarre world… Book? Not recommended.

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Strange Attraction: The Best Of Ten Years Of ZyzzyvaStrange Attraction: The Best Of Ten Years Of Zyzzyva by Howard Junker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have to confess that during my decades of writing several hours a day, 362 days a year, and submitting work to hundreds, thousands of zines, journals, magazines, publications around the world and during my decades of prolific success, while I had a very good acceptance percentage and was fortunate enough to be published in many high quality literary journals as well as newspapers, commercial magazines and more, there were really very few “major” ones I actually liked to read. I know that sounds nuts, but I was never a big fan of the New Yorker or the Paris Review, nor the Southern Humanities Review, Ploughshares, etc. Too damn mainstream, too much a party of the only “acceptable” literary canon, as defined by those who thought and think they are the official arbiters of such. Most of whom are idiots with no talent.

However, there were some journals, as well as many zines, magazines and the like, that I DID look forward to, often because they weren’t so freaking obsessed with calm ponds, chirping robins, lovely deer in the forest, calm lake waters and all that bullshit. At a minimum, they’d publish a diverse selection of material and writers, typically mixing the totally unknown with the most famous around. And on more topics of interest, relatable to me and others who weren’t Black Mountain fans, and Zyzzyva was one of them. Some others included Exquisite Corpse, New York Quarterly, Long Shot, Wormwood Review, Chiron Review, Caffeine, ONTHEBUS, Rattle, Poetry, Asheville Poetry Review, Main Street Rag and several others. The interesting thing about Zyzzyva was it centered largely on West Coast writers, and that intrigued me even before I became a West Coast writer!

Zyzzyva was a large, beautiful perfect bound book-sized journal and Junker, as editor, picked some great stuff, a nice fairly diverse selection of works, with a great mix of writers, and it was one of the few I read through cover to cover. I must admit though that one of my great publishing disappointments was I could never get Howard to accept ANY of my stuff, and I submitted annually for years! And I couldn’t figure out why because he published a ton of writers I was often published with in other magazines. It didn’t make any sense. But every editor is different and frankly it’s often subjective. Sometimes you like a person’s work and never another’s, no matter how qualified or whatever. I was an editor and publisher myself for some years, so I know what I’m talking about. There were two sides to this. On one hand, if various literary journals rejected me a couple of times, I usually crossed them off my list and moved on, but there were – for reasons I still don’t know – some others out there that I continued to submit to every damn year for YEARS, both hoping and convinced they’d eventually accept some of my work, only to be rejected annually by 98% of them. It was disheartening. It’s been a long time and I forget virtually all of them, but I do recall one was Arizona State’s Haydens Ferry Review, the annual issue of ONTHEBUS – and Jack Grapes, the editor, was a freaking friend of mine! – the Sierra Nevada Review (seriously???) and a few others. One that finally accepted my work after over a decade of submissions was Emory University’s Lullwater Review. Funny, that… And so Zyzzyva was one of these journals.

Conversely, there were some high quality writers, editors, magazines, journals and zines that liked me personally, liked what and how I wrote, liked my work and in some cases, loved to publish me constantly. As in the opposite of the example I just gave in the previous paragraph. Some of the writers and editors who seemed to like me included the great Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gerald Locklin (author of over 125 books, as well as editor), Michael Bugeja at Writer’s Digest, who liked to quote me as an SME in the annual Poet’s Market they published, the incredible Charles Bukowski, the longtime editor of the esteemed Poetry Magazine, Joseph Parisi (who amusingly secretly confided in me that he loved my work but worried that some might be “too much” for the traditional Poetry Magazine reader, which I thought was funny and it made me happy to see people like myself and the most openly anti-establishment poet around – Bukowski – start to appear in Poetry and other high quality literary journals, in some cases with the editors gritting their teeth, I’m sure), Black Flag’s Henry Rollins, who was publisher of his own press, and many others. And as stated, there were some journals and magazines that seemed to like to publish my work regularly to constantly in virtually every issue. Some of these included Chiron Review, Caffeine (where I regularly appeared alongside Bukowski), Hawaii Review, Pearl, Long Shot, Finland’s Sivullinen (and many other Finnish magazines, where they often shockingly put me on their covers alongside Bukowski – I mean photos and everything!), Belgium’s De Nar, Poetry Ireland Review (with Seamus Heaney, and they paid very well!), the infamous longtime punk magazine, Flipside, whose poetry editor loved my stuff, the famous horro magazine, Wicked Mystic (they paid well), L.A.’s big Saturday Afternoon Journal, music magazine Industrialnation, and a number of others.

The point? The point is that while I was very successful, pretty well known around the world in those kinds of literary circles, appeared regularly in publications featuring Ginsberg, Bukowski, Amiri Baraka, Ted Berrigan, William Burroughs, and other heavyweights, I felt I *should* have been good enough to have my work appear in most publications I submitted to — because I did so strategically, avoiding those I knew wouldn’t like my style or my stuff — and so Zyzzyva remained a constant disappointment for me as a writer because I could not understand at all why Junker wouldn’t publish me when he published so many others in my various circles. But I never let that disappointment ruin my appreciation for and love of that journal, and while I’ve not seen it in a long time, I’ll always remember it fondly and with great respect. If you missed out on it, I recommend looking up old issues, or perhaps … of course, getting this book because Howard picked an assortment of quality writers and material to appear in these pages, so I strongly recommend it.

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