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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Eco’s Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

I’m currently enjoying Umberto Eco’s new illustrated novel The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana (no spoilers ahead). This is the German translation of the Italian original (again, by Burkhart Kroeber, who also translated the other novels by Umberto Eco); the English version has not yet been published and is announced for 2005.

The story is carefully set in an “innocent” pre-web era of 1991 when you would have to dig through the attic to find a lost childhood – instead of just googling it. As in The Foucault’s Pendulum we ride along on a quest for authenticity to the end of all pointers; that quietly shining place in history when something is created that is pure by itself and without reference to something that was before, or at least close to it (like Gutenberg’s first print of the Bible).

On the surface the plot circles around Italian antique books collector and dealer Giambattista “Yambo” Bodoni who lost his personal “episodical” memory, but still remembers common world knowledge (like where and when Napoleon died). So while he would have a perfect score in any trivia quiz he’s lacking an autobiography and couldn’t even tell you his own name. (He’s an extreme version of the net citizen to come as he acknowledges on page 100, German version.)

Just as in semiotician Eco’s previous novels, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana is full of references carried in quote after quote, and partly reads like a vintage encyclopedia of fin-de-siècle memorabilia (now forgotten 1880-1930 book covers, cigarette packages, magazines, and other miscellaneous commercial art nouveau and art deco). The text is interspersed with delightfully romantic full-color images of what Yambo sees for us to follow along (and while the artwork may seem naive by today’s standards – certainly politically incorrect – you can’t shake off the feeling its mastery has never been surpassed).

I hope this served as starter, because I believe any good book should be read without too much prior knowledge (and I’m only on about page 150 anyway). So like Yambo, maybe you should forget everything I told you, delve into the book once it’s published in your language, and (like Mickey Mouse discovering Clarabelle Cow’s treasure) find meaning in it – or rather, in yourself. I’ll go on and do the same.

Google Cartoons

[I could just google it]

Here’s a page full of nothing but Google Cartoons. (Do you know more?)

Google and Comment Spam

Is Google responsible for comment spam (the act of signing other people’s discussion areas in order to increase a site’s PageRank and keyword-weight)?

Gmail Flaw Fixed

According to Infoworld, Google plugs the hole exposing Gmail accounts. The Unofficial Google Weblog comments “this is the fastest response to an announced security vulnerability I’ve seen in a long time (maybe ever). (...) We’ve been reading for years about ’zero-day exploits’. Now we have ’zero-day exploit fixes’.”
Google openly lists the remaining known Gmail bugs.

Google Halloween Logo 2004

Like in 2001, 2002, and 2003, Google put up a Halloween* logo in 2004.

*Interestingly enough, when I was a kid there was no Halloween (in Germany, that is). Nowadays, every kid here celebrates this day with costumes, trick and treat, and jack-o-lanterns.

More Googlers Who Blog

Steve Rubel notes that Google’s head of Corporate PR, David Krane, has a weblog. So does Chris DiBona, another Google corporate blogger. I added both two my blogs by Google employees.


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