Tag Archives: sex

From Hot Air to Second Wind (Part 1)

I hear it all the time: “How did you get into writing these crazy columns, anyway?”

Truth be told, I used to hear it only once in a great while when I started my own weekly commentaries in 1998, emailed essays that through creative accretion morphed into my webzine, What Next?, cyberheir to my 1987-1990 print magazine, Pedantic Monthly: The Journal of Contentious Persiflage. Let’s just leave that all aside for a moment, shall we?

writers write

Writers write, right?

Okay, then, so I started hearing it a bit more when a few of the larger, louder web journals began carrying some of my flammable and inflammatory musings to a larger, louder audience; and then, having reached a crescendo with a regular “Culture Shock” feature at a big-time slam-bang web event known as The American Partisan, I heard it all the time. “Where do you get this stuff? How did your brain come to work like this?” And they still weren’t called blogs.

Like most writers, I’ve been writing since, well, since I could write. And I was raised in let’s-call-it a patriotic household, where Flag Day meant something (or other) and July 4th really meant something or other. So, from an early age, I was both writing and thinking right in lockstep. Something turned me from that conformist path, back to my (everyone’s) exclusive and eclectic one, took me out of the Silicon Valley biz world right when everything was turning to gold, and set me back on my proper journey—artist, not merchant. And I’m good with that.

Okay, then. Take a deep breath. (Not you. The guy in Schenectady.)

By the early 1980s, after thrashing about in a few different careers—insurance agent, financial planner, struggling musician, permanent student, part-time deadbeat—I found myself working for a Silicon Valley computer supplies distributor while recording original jazz in my basement on the “latest” four-track cassette multitrack recorders. On the Day Job, the company branch I worked at was supposedly the flagship of a $100 million fleet, which led me to conclude that the other tubs were probably not even seaworthy.

The general manager was a balding yuppie adulterer with the absolute worst taste in co-defendants, who never convinced anyone to respect him, though he tried long and hard. He was a shallow snot-nose punk kid pushing 40 begging for a fat lip. I figured he’d read a Tom Peters book or some other in-search-of-superlatives management manifesto that succeeded only in making him even more insufferable than he was born.

Bill was my first management role model.

During one holiday stretch, I became a “team captain” charged with exhorting my cross-departmental squad to more phone orders, cash collections, same-day shipping, etc. I tried to get into the spirit of the event. I followed my starchy boss’s directives, and played it fairly straight the first few weeks, until I realized that the contest itself was insignificant compared to what I was discovering about myself and my relations with others.

What I was learning about human beings I had either missed or ignored before. I discovered that exhortation was not motivation; that pride and enthusiasm are instilled, not inserted, into people; that all the one-minute maxims in the world don’t make a manager, mentor, or leader; and that the stress of competition must be relieved by a little fun.

People are bundles of balancing acts, emotional and rational, ephemeral and material. I learned this, as I learned all my lessons about how to lead and motivate, the way any effective learning is done: by making mistakes. My initial mistake was following someone who didn’t know where he was going; in doing so, I committed a second grievous error, which was taking on someone else’s demeanor. I had removed from my team captain persona the gregariousness and joy that make me who I am, as if those traits were inappropriate in leadership.

I was becoming one guy on the job, another guy everywhere else. After about a month of looking at meeting rooms full of unhappy harried faces, I stumbled upon a realization that would make me a congruent person for the home stretch of the contest: I recognized that I had better relationships off the job, when I was uniquely, solely “me,” than on the job, when I was a group member, one of “us.” I seized on this revelation like a stick shift and slammed it into overdrive.

Come back soon for Part 2 of ‘From Hot Air to Second Wind.’

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Porn Drove Tech Boom, Part 2 of 3

If you missed Part 1, read it first, because that’s why I made it the first part.

The first haptics-based sex simulator with a 21st-century pedigree, Real Touch, was a product of Internet video technology leader AEBN, one of the pioneers of Video on Demand (VoD). The device itself is a cross between a football and a rocket model, somehow appropriate as it was developed and tested by a former NASA scientist. Its array of heating elements, moving parts, belts, and assorted gadgets work together to mimic authentic sexual acts—fellatio, vaginal and anal intercourse, manual stimulation, and more.

Realtouch#2

The device can be used as a standalone sex toy, albeit a costly one at $199 retail. Its signature purpose, however, is to synchronize over a USB cable with online, streaming media that is available exclusively at a Real Touch web page. As users watch the screen, signals are sent from the site to the Real Touch unit, putting the viewer literally in the middle (or top or bottom) of the action.

Just in time for “twerking”

At 2008’s 30th Exotic Erotic Ball in San Francisco, ScottCoffman, CEO of AEBN, was already lamenting that “people could only experience movies through two senses, sight and sound.”Coffman’s answer was to have his firm “bring the sense of touch, arguably the most important element to human intimacy, into the equation.” Within two years it was on the market.

Studios and independent content producers continue to work with Real Touch to expand the list of available titles, both “retrofitting” existing titles and encoding new productions for the device. It is still not a Vulcan mind-meld, or “holographic” virtual sex, but it is another step closer. Holographic images, of course, may get a real tryout within a few years—beyond the resurrection of dead rappers on stage—but the first such monitors will be very expensive.

Bring it on home

The proliferation of streaming media to the full range of consumer devices (phone, computer, TV), and the continuing convergence of the television with the PC (PCTV? IPTV? TVIPPC?), will make for a very interesting near future. “This is a transitional period for porn,” Graham Travis of Elegant Angel said when haptics first hit the headlines, “and I don’t think it’s possible to know exactly where we’re heading.” Echoing the view of several other industry veterans, Travis believes that a return to “quality adult brands” and an emphasis on excellence are required no matter where the technology leads.

At the same time, of course, there are real business challenges to confront. Travis thinks there are a few Internet maneuvers that can make the next few years ones of “opportunity”for the industry. From online media that is “free at the point of use” but incorporates in-player advertising, to “live adult chat”and other interactive technologies, he sees nothing but ongoing change—some proactive, some reactive.

Watch for Part 3, the conclusion of this magical mystery tour through puritanical culture!

Porn Drove Tech Boom, Part 1 of 3

According to a New York Times article in October 2000, still in the World Wide Web’s first decade, some 20 percent of AT&T broadband customers were paying considerable amounts of money to watch real, live, red-blooded, all-American sex online. With speeds now considered glacially slow, cable and DSL service cost upwards of $60, and viewing a short video clip could set you back $10.

By 2003, a study by Nielsen/NetRatings was reporting that pornography and music/film piracy were the most influential factors driving broadband penetration. In other words, what everyone in the porn business knew intuitively, and could discuss anecdotally, finally got its scientific imprimatur. By 2010, another decade in the Web’s adolescence, this was all common knowledge, though it was quite distasteful for some of the Religious Right to admit.

Necessity, the mother of invention

Because of a huge audience willing to spend hard-earned cash on personal, media-centric sexual entertainment, innovators and entrepreneurs coalesced to create the content and the tools that consumers needed. Porn-driven advances include modern means of credit card clearing; methodologies for discovering and plugging browser security holes; as well as traffic optimization, mobile services, promotion of the open source movement, and encryption technologies.

Today, one of the biggest areas of development in the porn industry is adding the sense of touch to technology, called haptics. Even with the advent of live chat, the porn experience was insensate and two-dimensional, at best. Certainly, porn consumers wanted to be on the receiving end, but the first use of haptics headed the other direction.

Shrinking Violet? No way

“Teledildonics” is the term author and sex educator Violet Blue, proprietress of the NSFW (Not Safe For Work) site Tiny Nibbles, gave to the first generation of tech-enabled peer-to-peer sex work. Adding a remote-controlled sex toy to a live webcam session was a natural progression, with Blue telling PC World magazine that it may herald “the death of the pimp.”

Although that hasn’t happened, Blue assures interested parties that “it remains in lucrative commercial use.” In coming years, though, you can expect a two-lane highway, thanks to another frontier in haptics.

Next time in Part 2: Interactivity, innovation, introspection…