Pacing the Void is back, and today it poses a question:
Could these last three weeks have been any weirder?
The last 15 days were downright freaky. It all began with the Heaven's Gate suicides, of course, which should have been an obvious precursor to how strange April was going to get. Dead Internet-based cults do not point to a cheery upcoming month.
Don't worry, I'm not going to talk about the Heaven's Gate cult. I'm as sick of the whole thing as you are, I'm sure. After reading the thousands of predictable news articles that 'exposed' the surge of cult activity on the 'Net that went into print right after the suicides, I have no intention of reviving an already dead subject (Cheap jokes, though are fair game).
Let me just say that the timing could have been better, because I mailed my parents some copies of these columns a week prior to the suicides. Little did I know that the day after my letter arrived, 39 wannabe E.T.'s would vacate the planet and leave behind a trail of wacky websites that read like they were written by a Star Trek fan/Jesus freak on hard drugs. Picture my mom watching all of this unfold on CNN while looking through my letter. What's the first thing she sees when she opens the envelope?
That trippy, Buddha-boy graphic that rides the top of each one of these pages. The one with the robes and the computer monitor for a head.
Let me tell you how fun that phone call was.
At least we were lucky enough to get a distraction from the round-the-clock Heaven's Gate coverage, at least locally. Then again, an NCAA basketball victory doesn't happen every year, now, does it?
It's old news now, but the Wildcat's win transformed Tucson in a way that had me smiling for a week. People criticize today's students for their inability to get excited over any issue, political or otherwise, but the 'Cat's win proved this criticism unjustified. I saw thousands of my peers come together and work towards a common goal that night. Of course that goal was to thrash Tucson in a half-naked victory party that would have made the Vandals proud, but it was a goal nonetheless, and it was the first university-wide bonding experience I've ever witnessed.
I've seen some very large and uncontrolled parties, but this one left certain parts of Tucson looking like a post-Godzilla Tokyo. That's stretching a metaphor, sure, but if you were here for the hours after the buzzer sounded, I'm sure you'd agree with me.
On a geekier side, it was also nice to watch the world flock to our Final Four website the next day. The exodus gave our server a nice little workout, and it's good to know the world has seen our hand in the Final Four frenzy, no matter how tiny it was. As for our Wildcat Chat, our online forum where people from around the world can discuss whatever they please, it suddenly became the "I want Mike Bibby/Miles Simon" Chat, saving it from becoming the "Please discuss nothing but sports" Chat.
Buried within all this hoopla came some very startling technology news, in that the Federal Communications Commission set a schedule for what is being called the television industry's largest overhaul since the introduction of color in the '50s.
In short, the nation's television broadcasters have a nine-year limit to switch their broadcasts to an entirely digital format. By 2006, all stations will have dumped their old analog channels for the new digital ones, and the nation will have to buy new, higher resolution digital TV's. What happens to the old TV frequencies? They'll get auctioned off for non-broadcast uses, like cellular phone networks and - you guessed it - wireless Internet access.
Three days after this announcement was made, Microsoft bought the pioneering inernet-via-your-television provider, WebTV Networks, for a cool $425 million.
So, in a three day span, we have a gargantuan TV-digitalization mandate from the government. This will mean the sale of billions of high-definition televisions (read: big computer monitors) into America's homes. Microsoft, whose checkbook is already on the line with its partnership in a plan to launch a network of low-flying satellites for global Internet access, then buys the largest niche company already pumping the Web out to millions of Americans via their TVs.
Things aren't just weird anymore, they're scary, and methinks we'll be seeing a lot more of MSNBC than we bargained for. What's left for a company after it takes over the news, broadcast, Internet browser, operating system, satellite communications, office software and digital art markets? Buy the former Soviet Republic? Buy itself, just for the heck of it?
And finally, clinching the weeks' worth of weirdness out on sad note, Allen Ginsberg died on April 5th. The second-to-last living father of the Beat Generation passed away in New York at the age of 70, days after it was announced he had inoperable liver cancer. Ginsberg's estimated "four to 12" months of life soon became hours as the First Amendment champion, author and Buddhist poet died in his New York residence. Pacing the Void mourns the loss and remembers Ginsberg with appreciation.
All I can say is, I can't wait to see what the next three weeks are like.
#1- January 24
#2- January 31
#3- February 4
#4- February 7
#5- February 11
#6- February 14
#7- February 18
#8- February 21
#9- February 25
#10- February 28
#11- March 4
#12- March 7
#13- March 11
#14- March 14