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The Ftrain Temporary FAQ

Out of ideas, I began writing about Ftrain itself. Bad sign.

These questions have each been asked more than 5 times.

1. Are you Scott Rahin?

We are all of us connected by tuning forks implanted in our brain, all of which vibrate sympathetically at the correct, resonant frequency.

2. How many people read Ftrain?

Dozens. Why? Does it change your experience in reading this site to know if it's popular or unpopular? Would Ftrain seem better, less amateur, if I was a real writer, with books and articles published? What do you think about writing on the Web in general?

3. It took me a while to find your e-mail address. Don't you want people to write you?

No, because strangely, I don't do this for praise. Or rather, I can't. I don't deny that I want praise, or any kind of feedback, every single second of the day, but I think it's unhealthy to open a direct line. I used to get excited to receive reader e-mail, taking both praise and criticism very seriously, but then I became numb. I took the e-mail link off of every page and banished it to one solitary part of the site, just in case someone wants to get in touch about my MacArthur grant.

I like when people send me notice of grammatical errors, links to their own work, or reading and viewing recommendations. I would love if people would send me links and references to interesting news about technology, especially in these topics:

4. When is Ftrain updated?

When I have time, and when I feel it will not be shit, but not sooner if I can help myself. Sometimes I post junk without realizing it, riding on some wave, and then I go back and delete it hours later. Other times I leave it up to punish myself.

To give an idea where I am going, here are sample sections from a few pieces close to completion.

Love Among the Ylem

They had a private joke about strange animals. At night, in bed, they would make up cross-bred monsters, dogs with cats' heads, llamas with elephant ears, rats with human hands, describing these animals' habitats, their herding behavior, their equally imaginary predators. Every creature had disgusting, rapacious, disturbing breeding habits. Their night zoo was filled with interspecies rapists, like the horse ferret, which laid its viscous eggs in the nose of the sneezing snake snail, and creatures like the briefly extant wild tooth, known only from the fossil record. It was just a single big tooth, and after it was born of primeval sludge it ate its mate and young, rendering itself immediately extinct. The stories of these animals were a line running from their third date, at a bad, expensive Italian restaurant, to their cohabitation eight months later, to this dinner; Tess, who woke early, would sometimes sketch the last night's creatures for his wallet.

A Brief History of Sex Robots

In 2008, Apple introduced a one-orifice model for the beginner. While less powerful than IBM's Microsoft-powered Zoom! brand of sex robots and prone to crashes, Apple's sex robots were considered the best looking, and during a triumphant presentation, master showman - and now cocksman - Steve Jobs successfully demonstrated the features of a blowMac running MacOS XXX to the roar of an appreciative crowd.

The Principles of Motherfuckerism

Scott Rahin & I are Motherfuckerists, which means we believe in the philosophy of Motherfuckerism as espoused by the American philosopher Yan Dran. Among other things, Motherfuckerists consider selfishness as an inherently good trait, and feel that you owe nothing special to your blood relatives. Much of this philosophy is clearly espoused in Yan Darn's great book, Hercules Shit All Over Everyone.

Puppet Show

"I'm Paul," I said to the older woman who opened the door. She wore a white button blouse and a pair of tan slacks. She smiled. Like my mother, I wore a black turtleneck and blue jeans, black sneakers. My hair was shaggy. I knelt on the floor and began unpacking, assembling. Wing nuts screwed the legs into the folding frame; the playboard slotted on, the top of the stage was mounted. A red curtain wrapped the outside; side curtains went out like wings. The lights were racked; the dimmer switch hung on the inside by shelves that folded in from the frame. I poured talcum powder across the playboard. Five minutes.

William Blake's Information Revolution

And here, clearly The Mental Traveler can be seen to apply to ARPANET, the birth of the concept of the connected digital network emerging from the limited domain of scientific anguish - nuclear research - a field both evil and well-funded, a field which produced accidental riches, and long prior to privatization:


For there the Babe is born in joy
That was begotten in dire woe
Just as we Reap in joy the fruit
Which we in bitter tears did sow

The Mysterious Port 80

Why, in so many discussions about Web usability and design, do people miss the point that the entire user interface is utter misery? You think future network dwellers, jacked into their neurolink VR motion-tracking work environments, will look back at IE, Navigator, and Mozilla, the HTTP protocol and HTML markup language, and say, "yeah, they almost got it, back then, except -- they didn't split their pages into multiple pieces?" Or they'll think that JavaScript rollovers mattered at all?

The Black Monolith just came from the sky; we're barely past the 12-year-olds-in-ape-suits level. This is the barest beginning. We're all running Altairs with dip switches, and hitting them with bones. And yet everyone can't wait to standardize every possible technology, from defining ECMAScript to, more nefariously, insisting, "this is a Web site, and this is a Web log, and this is a Web journal, and this is how they should be created."

The standardizers are convinced that what's needed is codification; they're seeking memetic immortality by imposing their template of thought on everybody else, the more conceptually rigid - XML, DOM, XSLT, ECMAScript - the better, insisting that at this early stage there's a right way. These are technologies for data; they model the behavior of networks, not humans.

Too often, the Internet pundits are expression killers, petrifying the opportunities of the new forms of expression - but it's more important for them to be right than take risks. Academics. Is Microsoft really that much worse than a bunch of Standards Zealots insisting their way is the right way? Yes, in fairness, but not that much worse. Not as much worse as it should be.

To think that we have arrived at true forms of digital narrative, and that they can be codified, is not just idiotic but wrong; those who would tell you what a Journal, Weblog, WebZine, or Web Site is, who would define its shape, are content to live in this current self-reflexive world of digital pablum, as long as they can map it and tell us what to think about it, normalizing all the frequencies, slowing the oscillation to a safe, steady hum.

Despite their efforts, there are no right or correct words or colors or shapes; there are only the words and colors and shapes we choose. If the future is an information economy, our current efforts - including this one - will seem laughable and trivial, greedy and small to our future selves and progeny.

The Black Monolith just came from the sky; we're barely past the 12-year-olds-in-ape-suits level. This is the barest beginning. We're all running Altairs with dip switches, and hitting them with bones. And yet everyone can't wait to standardize every possible technology, from defining ECMAScript to, more nefariously, insisting, "this is a Web site, and this is a Web log, and this is a Web journal, and this is how they should be created."

The standardizers are convinced that what's needed is codification; they're seeking memetic immortality by imposing their template of thought on everybody else, the more conceptually rigid - XML, DOM, XSLT, ECMAScript - the better, insisting that at this early stage there's a right way. These are technologies for data; they model the behavior of networks, not humans.

Too often, the Internet pundits are expression killers, petrifying the opportunities of the new forms of expression - but it's more important for them to be right than take risks. Academics. Is Microsoft really that much worse than a bunch of Standards Zealots insisting their way is the right way? Yes, in fairness, but not that much worse. Not as much worse as it should be.

To think that we have arrived at true forms of digital narrative, and that they can be codified, is not just idiotic but wrong; those who would tell you what a Journal, Weblog, WebZine, or Web Site is, who would define its shape, are content to live in this current self-reflexive world of digital pablum, as long as they can map it and tell us what to think about it, normalizing all the frequencies, slowing the oscillation to a safe, steady hum.

Despite their efforts, there are no right or correct words or colors or shapes; there are only the words and colors and shapes we choose. If the future is an information economy, our current efforts - including this one - will seem laughable and trivial, greedy and small to our future selves and progeny.

5. How do I link to Ftrain?

This is not a FAQ, but it matters to me. From the Ftrain Style Guide, Chapter 198::A::5:

All references to a Ftrain-class Web site should include derogatory terms and personally injurious terms concerning the author of the site.

Incorrect Usage
Ftrain is a literary Web site that I visit often.

Correct Usage
Fuck Ftrain, a huge, miserable waste of the reader's time. Why does this fat bastard even bother?

Incorrect Usage
Check out today's Ftrain on fishing!

Correct Usage
Today's Ftrain on fishing is a great example of why the Web is a huge waste of time. First, that ignorant mess of an author pontificates about the quality of fishing poles. Then, the shit goes on and babbles for many paragraphs more, and for what? So that there can be more meaningless drivel in the world. Thanks Paul Ford, you pustulent nodule.

Authors are strongly encouraged to be creative and obscene.

You may leave little hints, like "Paul Ford forces me to say this," or "I hate to say this, but."

As in all 4019 Ftrain style guidelines, you may also opt out completely and do everything as you choose. But those who repeatedly link with negative comments and participate in the soon-to-arrive "Ftrain Webwide Smearing" exercises will receive a signed, personal certificate which identifies them as official riders of the Ftrain, and perhaps also a wallet identification card, and perhaps a special laserprinted "Ford Models: Paul Ford, a large man, dresses up in different wigs and explores New York photo shoot," if I don't get too embarassed, and if they send me their real mail addresses.

Incorrect Usage
Ftrain is a literary Web site that I visit often.

Correct Usage
Fuck Ftrain, a huge, miserable waste of the reader's time. Why does this fat bastard even bother?

Incorrect Usage
Check out today's Ftrain on fishing!

Correct Usage
Today's Ftrain on fishing is a great example of why the Web is a huge waste of time. First, that ignorant mess of an author pontificates about the quality of fishing poles. Then, the shit goes on and babbles for many paragraphs more, and for what? So that there can be more meaningless drivel in the world. Thanks Paul Ford, you pustulent nodule.

Authors are strongly encouraged to be creative and obscene.

You may leave little hints, like "Paul Ford forces me to say this," or "I hate to say this, but."

As in all 4019 Ftrain style guidelines, you may also opt out completely and do everything as you choose. But those who repeatedly link with negative comments and participate in the soon-to-arrive "Ftrain Webwide Smearing" exercises will receive a signed, personal certificate which identifies them as official riders of the Ftrain, and perhaps also a wallet identification card, and perhaps a special laserprinted "Ford Models: Paul Ford, a large man, dresses up in different wigs and explores New York photo shoot," if I don't get too embarassed, and if they send me their real mail addresses.

This is entirely serious. Reasons why will become apparent in the next six months, but in essence, it is the goal of the author to become a source of cognitive dissonance on the role of creativity on the Web; the narrative of the Ftrain will then resolve that cognitive dissonance as best as his pitiful mind can. The author also wishes people to question their role as readers and critics in the dialogue of the Web, etc. I will not use the word dialectic.


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Ftrain.com

PEEK

Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.

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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.

POKE


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford

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