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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Feed by M. T. Anderson (Candlewick, 2004)
Feed by M.T. Anderson

This young adult novel explores the consequences of a technology out of control, one that ultimately reduces the mental abilities of the humans in this future world. The feed is a technology that is implanted in every baby's head, putting a world of information at every person's mental fingertips. The novel's protagonist, Titus, describes the background and use of the feed:

            I don't know when they first had feeds. Like maybe, fifty or a hundred years ago. Before that, they had to use their hands and their eyes. Computers were all outside the body. They carried them around outside of them, in their hands, like if you carried your lungs in a briefcase and opened it to breathe.
          People were really excited when they first came out with feeds. It as all da da da, this big educational thing, da da da, your child will have the advantage, encyclopedias at their fingertips, closer than their fingertips, etc. That's one of the great things about the feed—that you can be supersmart without ever working. Everyone is supersmart now. You can look things up automatic, like science and history, like if you want to know which battles of the Civil War George Washington fought in and shit. (47)

Anderson's irony is clear here: everyone is "supersmart" now that they can instantaneously look up the "battles of the Civil War George Washington fought in." In truth, these characters have become so dependent upon the feed that their own ability to think and understand the world around them has been lost. Everything is negotiated by the feed. Titus explains further, "the braggest thing about the feed, the thing that made it really big, is that it knows everything you want and hope for, sometimes before you even know what those things are. It can tell you how to get them, and help you make buying decisions that are hard. Everything we think and feel is taken in . . . and they make a special profile, one that's keyed just to you . . . so all you have to do is want something and there's a chance it will be yours" (48).

The feed that is presented as a technology that combines the characteristics of computers, television, and radio and that provides just-in-time information keyed to the every experience of the person whose brain it resides in. The examples of the feed in the novel are extreme satire of the media onslaught that shapes life everyday on present-day earth:

  . . . attracted to its powerful T44 fermion lift with vertical rise of fifty feed per second—and if you like comfort, quality, and class, the supple upholstery and ergonomically designed dash will leave you something like hysterical. But the best thing about it is the financing—at 18.9% A.P.R . . . .

* * *


* * *

. . . month's summer styles, and the word on the street is "squeaky." . . .

Feeds like these provide suggestions throughout the story. At times, characters actively ask the feed for information; at other times, the feed simply suggests based on the character's profile and situation. More frightening than this complete control over the characters' thinking, however, is the close similarities between the feed and the broadcasts any reader might watch or hear on television or radio. Admittedly, my experience with the feed was influenced by the excellent production of the book on tape, which couples the Anderson's words with music, appropriate voice actors, and a smooth transition from the character's thoughts to the feed's suggestions.

Anderson's book is an excellent exploration of a science-fiction world that is far too close to our present-day experiences. Couple the book with the taped production for an amazing experience.


Saturday, May 14, 2005

Metaphors from Click Here
Click Here: (To Find Our How I Survived Seventh Grade) by Denise Vega (Little, Brown, 2005)

Thrill in some worst technology metaphors ever:
Click Here
  • "The gossip superhighway at Molly Brown [Middle School] is wireless." (21).

  • "The news spread like a computer virus...." (36).

  • "I turned and glared at him. 'You can p align your butt to a different group,' I said. 'It doesn't matter to me.'
         'P align is an HTML code for aligning somethin on a page.' I looked up to see Mark Sacks standing in the cluster to our right, looking at the boy beside me. 'Positioning it. You know, like left, center, right.' He moved his hands to demonstrate each position. 'She knows her stuff,' he said, nodding at me." (50)

  • "Her meanness couldn't penetrate my webmaster shield." (86)

  • "Well, maybe because I'd rather have a virus attack my hard drive than have people staring at various parts of my body the way they were staring at Jilly." (94)

  • "His face lit up like the DSL light on a modem." (107)

  • "I took a breath, then let it out long and slow. I should have been completely embarrassed saying all of that to a complete stranger, but for some reason I felt . . . relieved. Lighter. Like I'd just defragmented my hard drive." (112)

Friday, May 13, 2005

More to read
More books! Got copies of An Order Of Amelie, Hold The Fries by Nina Schindler, ChaseR : A Novel in E-mails by Michael J. Rosen, and The E-mail Mystery: Nancy Drew Digest #144. Amelie is visually the most interesting—lots of images and text intertwined. The Booklist review said: "Imagine Nick Bantock's Griffin and Sabine series with two young, urban Canadians. Now expand their communication to include e-mails, newspaper clippings, text messages on cell phones, and notes written on toilet paper, hotel registration forms, and take-out menus." It's very different. Very cool. Now if I'd just get finished with Click Here: To Find Out How I Survived Seventh Grade by Denise Vega so that I can read it!

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Another Day Full of Books
Today began with two new books: an autographed copy of Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci and a copy of Lauren Myracle's Rhymes with Witches—both from LiteratiCat, my winnings from the contest on teenliterature.

Not exactly children's lit, but I also got a copy of Literacy Moves On: Popular Culture, New Technologies, and Critical Literacy in the Elementary Classroom. Looks like a very promising book. Includes an excellent definition of multimodal literacy—very reader-friendly:
Previously a text was seen as being "a passage of print or a slice of speech, or an image" (Lankshear et al. 2002: 45); that is, texts were seen as things written down—books,magazines, and newspapers. They are now perceived as being much more than this. A text is now seen as a unit of communication that may take the form of something written down but also a chunk of discourse, for example speech, a conversation, a radio program a TV advert, text messaging, a photo in a newspaper, and so on. Many of these texts are drawn from children's popular culture and have changed the ways in which young readers expect to read, the ways they think, and the ways they construct meaning. (p. 8)
And thanks to Mike on Kairosnews, I found out about what looks like an short chapter book from 1958 that focuses on computers, Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine. Illustrations are listed as by Ezra Jack Keats. I found a used copy online, and it's on its way!

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Currently Reading and New Books
I'm currently reading Click Here: To Find Out How I Survived Seventh Grade by Denise Vega. I need to do a little research on Ms. Vega before I review the book because it has some questionably odd imagery. It's a fairly normal tale of young adult social woes of friendship and love, but some of the computerish references are flat-out odd.

I need to return to Feed, which I read months ago, and write up a review for it. And I need to decide whether to review non-computerish books here as well. But not tonight.

Today's kind delivery included The Secret Blog of Raisin Rodriguez by Judy Goldschmidt and The Dating Game #1 by Natalie Standiford (according to Booklist, it's about the "Dating Game Web site, which [the characters] created for their Interpersonal Human Dynamics class." My pile of things to read grows and grows!

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