Probably like every other academic in the world, I have a novel that I've been working on for years. I turned it into a screenplay last year, but found that format restrictive. In particular, it's hard for me to develop characters without the prose techniques of delving into thoughts and motivations. Realizing that the novel is never going to be written at the rate I was going, I resolved to simply write a page a day. I figure that's 365 pages a year--a whole lot better than I was doing. So far I've kept to this schedule with only a couple of lapses.

The point of all this is that I made an important realization in the last couple of nights as I banged away on the keyboard. To understand, I have to describe the setting briefly. Imagine a world in the near future where cell phones and personal computers have merged into a single mobile device that people wear around with them. Specifically, they wear high-tech masks with cameras on the outside and precision low-power lasers on the inside that project images directly onto the retina. This allows for a 'virtualization' of the real world. If you don't like the way someone looks, just replace their natural features with others, using software filters. If you want to have a lunch meeting with a friend, project her into your perceived world. Imagine a world like Second Life that actually coincides with the physical world. So you can walk down the street in your neighborhood and see real people (wearing masks) and virtual people, who physically exist somewhere else, but have chosen to virtually be at that place. There would still be virtual-only places like World of Warcraft, but reality as perceived socially by humans would take on a whole new dimension. Hence hyper-reality, if I may coin a word.


Despair, Inc

We got a flyer in the mail from Despair, Inc. , which is a real company, as unlikely as that sounds. The cover of the slick catalog looks like a Mad Magazine version of a motivational products company's. The photo on the cover looks like a typical positive image of a whale's flukes emerging from the ocean. Except that on second glance, it's a ship going under! And the title in big Times Roman letters isn't SUCCESS, it's FAILURE. Underneath it reads "It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others." There's much more in this vein. It reminds me of the management book I saw a few years ago What Would Machiavelli Do?

I bought something from their e-store for my boss for Christmas. Here's part of the closing transaction page.

You're More than Just Another Customer
You're more than just another order to us. In fact, you're the sum total of the amount you've spent with us, minus the designing, printing, fulfillment, licensing and other costs incurred to bring our products to you... Now that you've given us several dollars, feel free to share your two cents with us, as well.

Satisfaction Guaranteed*! With every order made, Despair, Inc.™ offers my unlimited personal guarantee. With every credit card effectively processed, my personal satisfaction is completely guaranteed*. And it is my promise to you, the holder of someone's valid credit card information, to commit myself to even greater degrees of self-satisfaction in the days and weeks to come, as I invest your hard-earned money in ever more gratuitous and hollow displays of wealth- with which I will intimidate and demoralize my narcissistic and materialistic peers in industry. Ah, the relentless pursuit of dejection!