Friday, February 22, 2002


Tickets to Chicago Cubs games (including opening day) went on sale today, at 11AM EST. After futzing around with their Web site for at least an hour and a half, with no luck, I gave up and attempted to simply call it in. That took another half hour, at least, of dialing in and getting busy signals. When I finally got through, I was on hold for another twenty minutes. (The "your call is important to us" recording actually ran all the way through. The tape is only so long.) Finally -- nearly three hours after tickets went on sale -- I got to talk to a person. All I wanted was two lousy seats to a game that isn't even going to be played for six weeks, but by that time there were only single seats remaining, scattered around the stadium. Sigh ... opening day at Wrigley will have to wait for another year.

I'm about to check availability of opening day seats in Milwaukee, the White Sox, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. I'll also check Minnesota, which might be preferable: It's probably the last year for the Twins, and so there will be no opening day there next year. If the team continues to exist, a new stadium there is all but guaranteed. I'm reading that that might be what saves the team. In any case, it's the last opportunity, or nearly so, to see the Minnesota Twins on opening day at the Metrodome. (Ditto for Montréal -- but who cares?)

An amusing quote, from my bathroom reading. (Richard Cavendish, ed., 1980. Mythology: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. London: Orbis Publishing Limited.)

A witch ... was believed to be a member of a gigantic conspiracy, organized and led by the Devil, whose aim was to destroy Christianity, degrade all decent values, overturn the established order, set the poor against the rich and the young against the old, and bring society down in ruins.

Sounds to me like the platform of the Democratic Party.

(Although those most likely to read this will fully understand why I say that, for others, I should perhaps explain. The causes which Democrats often choose bespeak a hostility to Christianity, even if their aim is not to "destroy" it. For example, the ACLU fights student-led prayer at football games, and nativity scenes at city hall, while simultaneously fighting to preserve a place for minority religions (Islam, Buddhism, Native American practices, etc.) in some of those same places. I would point to progressives' (Democrats') very self-definition as being an escape from the status quo, which one could say means a desire to "degrade all decent values" and "overturn the established order." The Democratic Party's defense of, and attempts to expand, a bloated welfare state cannot help but set the poor against the rich. (Indeed, their campaign rhetoric unabashedly excoriates the rich.) Their attempts to expand Medicare and Social Security at the expense of younger workers sets the young against the old. I'll grant them this: They probably mean well. They probably don't actually want to "bring society down in ruins," whatever the results of their platform.)

It might be fun to have a Democrat take me on, on this. Click my mailto link here or on the left, and remove NOSPAM from your "To:" line (twice). I might even excerpt parts of the exchange on the site. Then again, I might not.

Well, that was interesting. It took me a while to get BLOGGER to recognize that I was, indeed, a valid user of their site. It's been a while since I last used the site, and in the interim BLOGGER was hacked. The long and the short of it is that I've got a new password, and for some reason BLOGGER didn't recognize it. Anyway, it's fixed now.

The rant I had in mind, which prompted me to go through that mumbo-jumbo, was one about how the hyperlinkedness of the Internet was mostly underutilized. There is an anthology of stories set in Isaac Asimov's Foundation/Robots universe, entitled Foundation's Friends. While I don't have the book to hand, the link on Amazon that I just provided suggests that the title of the story I considered to be the best, was "The Originist" by Orson Scott Card.

A large part of the story describes the protagonist's research efforts through a database of the future. While the description of the holographic display was interesting, the best thing about this database was its incredible web of hyperlinks. One article led the researcher to another, to another, and further to another; the protagonist even stumbles onto an article about the evolution of the children's song "Ring around the Rosy" over the next ten million years or so (which masks a serious contemplation of the nature of the "community" of children, which is as profound as anything Card's written).

The story, the Internet Speculative Fiction Database tells us, is copyrighted 1989. While the Internet certainly existed then, the World Wide Web did not, and hyperlinks were for the most part simply thought experiments. (This actually isn't entirely true but I don't want to go off on yet another tangent.) Once the Web did come into existence, one of the features that was touted the most loudly was the concept of linking, of following up and down from page to page among similar or even totally disparate sites. To some small extent, this existed, even if it was mostly in the form of "my favorite links" sections on various web pages. But it never seemed to reach its potential.

Lately I've been occasionally perusing Salon.com. To add irony, or poignancy, or something, to this tale, I started because I was linked there. But anyway, the thing I like best about Salon is that it is fully hyperlinked. For example, if I were to begin reading an article on, say, the upcoming Spiderman movie, within the article, and at context-appropriate places, I would find links to the movie studio, the comic book publisher, many of the principal people involved in the making of the film, and stories on Salon itself about such things as the modification of the movie in the wake of Sept. 11. Most of the links, in fact, are to previous articles that Salon has written on the topic, and on tangential topics (the last example, for one, might lead me into an exploration of the events of Sept. 11 itself ... that is, if I (and all of us) weren't suffering from overload on that particular topic).

Following the dots, it falls to me to say that spending some time on Salon's site has felt more like research in Trantor's library, than anything else I've ever done. But I wonder how much it would feel like this, if I were reading Salon in its infancy. As I said, most of their links are to articles on Salon.com itself. How many links could there be, then, in Salon's first days, weeks, or even years? It's interesting enough to be linked back to articles written when the site's layout was significantly different (and more ad-free) than it is now. I wonder how interesting it would be if there weren't old links to go back to.

I'm stuck for how to end this article/rant. Salon recently started charging for full access to the site. I haven't paid; the limited access is still fascinating. But I've been more tempted than I ever have to a pay site. That, in itself, says something. Another is that I have attempted here to be as hyperlinked as possible. It is like me, too, to go through old articles and add more hyperlinks. No promises, but that's the sort of project that I embark upon for no earthly reason, every now and again. (Sort of like the site itself, now that I think of it.)