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Friday, August 15, 2003

Want to Come Flash with Me in BostNyBalt This Pim?

This post is entitled "Feel free to die, insipid craze". It's about flash mobs.

A flash mob, as I understand it, is when a bunch of people (instructed by web site and cell phone), gather at some public place to do something relatively harmless, then disperse. In this article from the BBC, a flash mob gathers at a Bristol pub, goes outside, and does the conga.

Previous flash mobs (says the article) have 1) broken into spontaneous applause at a New York department store, 2) stared at a sofa in a London furniture store, and 3) "swamped" a Boston card store.

(Oh, my goodness---read about the Toys R Us dinosaur debacle in that second article.)

Now, I must admit that the idea of participating in such a thing has no charm for me. However, the knowledge that they even exist gives me a certain thrill. This is exactly the sort of things that we denizens of THE FUTURE! should be doing.

Throughout the '70s (and even before), it was SOP for science fiction stories to include temporal color by mentioning, off-handedly, some stupid craze sweeping the future's cities. Sometimes the author just wanted to throw in some color; sometimes he wanted to point out that future people (that's us) would take part in silly fads just like the ones of his own time, except they'd be cooler because they'd be technology-driven.

Other authors---usually British ones---were trying to make a point about how, in the endless grim gray cities of the future, our masters would arrange for pointless mass activities (which would be spontaneous and non-coercive yet universal) so that we would not grow discontented under their iron heels. Except that in these kinds of stories, the British mobs would, for example, stalk, kill, and eat an elderly Korean woman in the streets.

Just look at this sentence from the BBC story:

Between 1800 and 1815 BST, contact is made with a shaven-headed man wearing a black T-shirt with a skull logo, near the fruit machine of a Bristol pub.

(Niles, who claims wide experience of Bristol pubs, says a "fruit machine" is a slot machine.)

Imagine how this sentence would've been written in a science fiction novel from 1972:

Between 1800 and 1815 Zulu, contact is made with a domie wearing a craniac near the Fruit-O of a Bristopolis synthoteque.

(In this case, though, a Fruit-O would be a machine that would sell that rare-ish treat: tiny squares of fruit candy. For real fruit, you'd have to go to Claridge's or sumpfin.)

Isn't that just thrilling? You are living in a time when the drug-induced visions of 1970s sci-fi writers are coming true. And you can still run down to Safeway and buy all the fruit you want.

So I say, "Feel free to live for a little while longer, insipid futuristic craze."

Unless, of course, you get in my way or hurt people, in which case I might have to call the robobill and they'll come administer sleepies and cart you all off to the combers, if they don't ash you immediately with their lazos.

Via jang bloggie EmJnz.