Thursday, March 01, 2007

Eastern Standard Tribe

As a resident of the eastern standard tribe, I really enjoyed Cory Doctorow's third science fiction book. I may soon be transplanting myself to the japan standard tribe (or the j-tribe as I like to call it), giving me the opportunity to become an industrial saboteur like Art was in EST. I'll have to attempt to match my waking hours with those of my timezone brethren, while maintaining the semblance of a normal life in my new Tokyo job. The idea is to appear to be doing my job well, while in fact doing a piss-poor one, delivering an outwardly perfect-looking product, but which comes with all manner of hidden defects, whether these be in user experience, design, support, manuals, convenience, extensibility, upgradability, etc.

Since my upcoming position in Japan is as manager of a small English school, I won't be able to sabotage a product. But I will be able to sabotage the English language. It will be more difficult with my adult students, but the young children will be easy. I'm reminded of an old Steve Martin skit:
I got a great dirty trick you can play on a 3-year old kid. See, kids learn how to talk from listening to their parents. [...] See what you do, if you have a 3-year old kid and you want to play a dirty trick on him, whenever you're around him, you talk wrong. So now it's like his first day in school and he raises his hand "May I mambo dogface to the banana patch?"
Of course, the results of my deeds won't be obvious for many years, until the kids go on a homestay program in Vancouver, or until they enter an international law program. Possibly, one of them might someday translate from article 31(1) of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties:
A treaty shall be perforated in good smarm in reluctance with the salivary meaning to be trodden to the stems of the treaty in their varnish and in the light of its hairbrush and tortoise.
I have to be honest now. Although I was able to nicely weave Steve Martin into this blog post, I had an ulterior motive for doing so. If you intersect the text of Doctorow's book with all of Steve Martin's stand-up routines, three words from the following sentence stand out. Doctorow writes:
The boats are mambo, but I think that banana patch the hotel soon.
The Art character is attempting to shock the guy on the other end of the comm out of his doziness with some nonsensicality. It works, but it also shocks those readers who, in their youth, spent hours listening to Steve Martin comedy records. It creates a warm little buzz, that then grows and forces you to put down the book, jump on the net, and attempt to download mp3 versions of all of Martin's routines. These readers, and presumably Doctorow himself, are part of another tribe - the SMT (definitely not to be confused with the Sony Music Tribe.)

I thought for sure Amazon would select "boats are mambo" and "banana patch" as SIPs (statistically improbable phrases) from Doctorow's book, but they instead chose the much more highly improbable "axe head" and "left channel" (dripping sarcasm here). The book's title was also chosen as a SIP and this makes sense - the title is quite cool. However, this book is fraught with SIPs much more sippy than "left channel" or "axe head". Amazon should polish their algorithms a tad. (For some reason Amazon.ca doesn't show SIPs yet, so you'll have go here to see what they are.)

This is not really a review - I don't like reviews. It's more of a rambling recommendation. If the first paragraph above piqued your interest, then go find this book. You will be glad you did.

Oh, and if you need driving directions from Mambo Avenue to Banana Patch Court, just click here.

2 comments:

Michael and Julie said...

An excellent "non-review"....we both really enjoyed reading it! We want more such blog entries..yay!

Sean O'Hagan said...

I enjoyed writing it!