Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

greed and materialism in the 90s

A big part of the background of American Psycho (previous entry here) is the rise of Wall Street as the definitive center of power in the world economy and the appearance of all sort of financial manipulations--the creation of money out of thin air, so to speak, but hedge funds, mergers, acquisitions and so on. It was the time of the "Masters of the Universe" depicted on the excellent Wall Street by Oliver Stone.

Now, the late 90s were, on the surface, different. "The world was going to be changed" according to what most people felt or said, and therefore the speculation, the instant millionaires and the resulting crap was somehow justified. In the new world order, everyone could, and would, be a millionaire.

Or so the excuse went.

I realize now that it was an excuse because what was being done, for the most part, was a replica (amplified) of what went on in the late 80s. In the 80s, however, there was no pretense, it was just the race for money at any cost and with no need for reasons. Money for money, Greed driving it all as the "greed speech" of Gordon Gekko in Wall Street explained: "Greed is good."

By the 90s we had "learned" to hide the greed behind a slick veneer of world-changing proclamations, and we convinced ourselves that money was a by-product, and no one talked about greed. Yet Greed it was, and nothing can prove it better than the current world-wide financial crisis (which is hanging in the balance right now, and anything --say, a war?-- might tip the balance over and make things a lot worse).

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on October 6, 2002 at 7:16 PM

it was only money

[via Karlin Lillington] According to Java creator James Gosling, .NET's threat to Java is financial, not technological. I agree, of course, but I wonder, when you have (at last count) 42 billion dollars in cash in the bank, plus an estimated additional 15 billion in securities and investments, the financial threat can easily become technological if they get the right people.

They certainly can out-market you, as they demonstrated with Netscape, but as they also demostrated with Netscape, they can come up with a better product (IE 4 was much better than Netscape Communicator). Only now Mozilla has surpassed IE, after 5 years, but IE now controls the market.

For the moment, though, even though they seem to be out-marketing Java at least they haven't surpassed it technologically, Java is still the main platform used to innovate in web applications (think about EJBs for example), and in smaller measure, smart cards and many portable platforms, as well as multiplatform development for PCs. As long as Sun continues supporting it the way they've done so far, Java will remain relevant as "the other" platform.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on October 6, 2002 at 3:55 PM

american psycho

Ten years ago I read Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho when it just came out. At the time, I could only marginally understand the harsh criticism to the 1980s and american consumerism, partly because I was a teenager with science fiction and fantasy on my mind, partly because I really didn't know a lot of the things the book talked about. As far as I was concerned, a lot of what was said there was fiction. Regarding the violence in it, I remember at times getting so disgusted that I just skipped entire pages.

About 4 weeks ago I wandered into a bookstore and found it, somehow buying it without thinking. Now I could read it as it was meant to, with full knowledge of the society (and particularly, a certain strata of society) the book was talking about, and I just finished reading it.

And what a read. The gems are many, from the obsession with designer clothing to the fact that everyone looks so much like everyone else that they spend most of the time confused, talking to people thinking they are someone they are not, waving to acquaintances that are total strangers. The chasing of reservations at cool restaurants, the 90-dollar pizzas, the constant working out to appear perfect since appearance is everything.

The violence (and the sex) are possibly the most explicit that have been included in a serious book (even Fight Club published a few years later, pales in comparison). At times it is sickening. However, because of the banality of the context and the people that surround the narrator, the lack of real humanity, the trap that he is in, it is probably necessary to go to such extremes: anything less and it would be put in the "thriller" or whatever.

Maybe it will be another ten years until I read it again. It would be interesting to see what my view is then.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on October 6, 2002 at 3:23 PM

going to extremes

Two editorials (one from the New York Times, the other from the Washington Post) today about the recent attacks on Islam by the Christian far right in the US.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on October 6, 2002 at 9:42 AM

worms

The bugbear worm seems to continue to propagate very fast. I received at least 30 copies of the virus in the last 2 days. On top of spam, having to deal with these email-transmitted worms is incredibly annoying. And the worm trend is beginning to hit Linux seriously as well.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on October 6, 2002 at 8:11 AM

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