Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pattern Recognition

Larry’s been reading (for the second time) William Gibson’s 2003 novel Pattern Recognition. He read it when it was first published in paperback, not having read anything by Gibson for quite a few years (in fact, not since The Difference Engine). But Gibson is one of Larry’s favourite writers, or at least one that intrigues him.

Back when he was writing books like Mona Lisa Overdrive and Neuromancer, it could be said that Gibson was ahead of the technological curve. With Pattern Recognition he’s right on the curve. Slipping, perhaps, off the curve? Larry doesn’t know, but Gibson still manages to offer an interesting take on the (early) 21st century. DT probably likes Gibson, or would if she read him. He uses sentence fragments frequently and effectively.

Larry can’t tell you the plot, exactly. That’s why he’s reading it again. He’s already forgotten how it went. But he can tell you this: Pattern Recognition is a catalogue of cultural references. Part of the reason for this is the plot itself, and its main character, Cayce Pollard. Cayce is in “advertising”. She’s a “cool-hunter”, a term which Larry thinks is still in use. She also does design consulting…a product of a peculiarity in her psyche. She is allergic to certain well-known logos and trademarks, such that she can become physically ill if exposed to them. The most prominent one (and the one that alerted her to this at the age of nine or something) is the Michelin Man, Bibendum. So, somehow, Cayce has learned to distinguish between logos that work as marketing symbols and those that don’t. In fact, Cayce has a general aversion to any kind of trademarking, and it’s an interesting twist that the very thing which makes her ill is how she makes her living.

The actual story is about what appears to be some sort of marketing on the Internet…disconnected pieces of haunting film footage that appear periodically. No one knows who’s producing them or why or where…or even what the footage is supposed to represent…a movie? a product? a philosophy? Basically the story is about how Cayce goes about discovering the source of this footage.

Larry is not going to tell you how it ends. (He doesn’t know yet.)


Anonymous said...

DT hasn't read him and will - which book do you recommend as a starting place? I read ABOUT him, but not his own actual words.

DT is reading a book given her by Lulu called "Do Cats Think?" - okay, it's not William Gibson, but interesting nonetheless and relevant to this posting in this way. The book was published in 1974. What is interesting about books of this era is how far off they were about today's computerized society, and how dead-on they were at other times.

Consider this quotation": "Let's take a look into the future. It is reasonable to assume that, before the year 2000, computers and automation will create an age when people will work only a few job-hours a week. What are we going to do with all the leisure time we will have?"


But what is dead-on is the coinage of our era as the Cybernetic Age, cybernetics explained as the science of communication. So many people saw computers and technology as lessening interaction among humankind, and instead, it has increased it immensely, so this viewpoint of the future was apt... as apt as the term "Information Age" which was so popular once upon a time...

Anonymous said...

Like that, "Cybernetic Age". Do cats think in cyber space? No matter what age?

Anonymous said...

I'll let you know after I confer with the cats in the house...

CC - Cybernetic Cat, but there have been other CCs - Cheshire Cat, Calico Cat...

Anonymous said...

It's all in the CAT Tales

Larry Keiler said...

2 things:
1. Cosmicat sez "Meoww." Translation: "Meoww."
2. Hold on, DT, Larry will appear soon with books in hand.

OK 3 things:

"Facts About Cats"
Written by Pat MacDonald

Young rockin' robin said "Oh Mama please,
I'm beggin' you down on bended knees
I wanna go jam, I wanna jump and shout
Down on the corner where the cats hang out."

Mama said "Rockin', you're makin' me cry
But a robin's gotta rock & a bird's gotta fly
So before you make the jump & go out rockin' tonight
It's time I tell you a few facts of life.

"Cats will be cats & cats will be cool
Cats can be callous & cats can be cruel
Cats will be cats, remember these words!
Cats will be cats & cats eat birds."

So robin get wise, use good sense
And better brush up on your self defense
It's a jungle out there and hunger strikes deep
You better take care, better watch where you sleep
You better take care, better watch where you sleep

Cause cats will be cats & cats will be cool
Cats can be callous & cats can be cruel
Cats will be cats, remember these words!
Cats will be cats & cats eat birds."
Copyright 1985 by Pat MacDonald

(This is a great tune by Timbuk3. Anybody remember them? Same duo that did The Future's So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades.)

Anonymous said...

My Cat Plumduff

My cat Plumduff
When feeling gruff
Was terribly fond
Of taking snuff,
And his favourite spot
For a sniff and a sneeze
Was a nest at the very
Top of the trees

And there he'd sit
And sneeze and sniff
With the aid of a gentleman's
And he look on the world
With lordly air
As if he was master
Of everything there.

Cried passers by,
'Just look at that!
He thinks he's a bird,
That silly old cat!'

But my cat Plumduff
Was heard to say,
'How curious people
Are today!'

'Do I think I'm a bird?"
Said my cat Plumduff.
'All smothered in fur
And this whiskery stuff,
With my swishy tail
And my teeth so sharp
And my guinea-gold eyes
That shine in the dark?

'Aren't they peculiar
People - and how!
Whoever has heard
Of a bird with a miaow?
Such ignorant creatures!
What nonsense and stuff!
No wonder I'm grumpy,'
Said my cat Plumduff.

From Collected Poems for Children by Charles Causley

Anonymous said...

I like "Facts About Cats" a lot. Stuck it in with my documents.