Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Dinner with a Grateful Dead

John Perry Barlow was the lyricist for the Grateful Dead and is a founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). I am at this conference in Memphis where he's one of the organizers. I spoke to him just before dinner and we got talking about Naipaul and John's trip to India in 1969. I then sat next to him at dinner and it was a lot of fun.

He couldn't stop acclaiming the virtues of LSD. He thinks the Silicn Valley must thank LSD and said the whole Valley was on LSD during 'those days'. The VA in Palo Alto and the government used to give out LSD as part of some experiments. He highly recommended the John Markoff book "What the Dormouse Said." He also spoke highly of Ed Hall and especially recommended "The Dance of Life: The Other Dimension of Time".

He told stories about anarchists, the Grateful Dead, Ken Kesey as well as Jay Keyworth, his "friend" and the HP director who was recently fired for leaking boardroom discussions to the press.

John Barlow seems to be quite down-to-Earth and a very interesting person indeed.

In those days, there were the extremists and the non-violent types. He said he himself preferred the middle ground. Example: He made an announcement one day that he would napalm a dog in public after a meeting. That got lots of attention. The press came to watch. When they all came, he told them he wasn't going to do anything that stupid. But he also made his point: the press would be better off highlighting the napalming going on Vietnam.

He thinks Terry Winograd may have been one of the more extremist types. "Terry must have debated at some point whether he was a socialist or a Maoist for sure." All that sounds very funny now.

At the table was also David Reed. David said companies and IT people may say they're happy with their Outlook (MS Office) Calendar. But as soon as they start working with someone from outside, they realize that they need something else and boom - Google Calendar comes in. He was one of the early people and Chief Scientist at Lotus and said Notes came into organizations thru the employees. Then group managers liked it and finally IT would say, "We'll negotiate a contract and make it cheaper for you guys." That's how Notes made it into corporations.

David also told us in detail the story of Lotus and Mitch Kapor. Mitch was a hippie too and the name comes from the Lotus position. It was a massive set of screwups from VisiCalc that let Mitch found and gain success with Lotus.

Awesome. As I was reading the first two paragraphs, I was wondering if this guy (or you) would mention Ken Kesey or the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

I was listening to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, on NPR today. Among other things, she was talking about Bush's ban on photographs of coffins. She said that one of the most indelible images of the Vietnam war was that of the naked girl burnt by napalm, running down the road, and that such images play a powerful and an important role in informing the citizenry, and letting them make informed decisions. (Which is not to say that the ban isn't just totally ridiculous!)
very cool.
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