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[Guest Post] God, Devil, Google by Ethan Ryan.

October 25, 2011 \pm\31 5:11 pm

Click to make big!

I have faith in Google. Yes, I realize it’s a for-profit corporation, and therefore not to be completely trusted, but rare is the day I don’t check my gmail a hundred times or watch YouTube videos or google something silly. Godlike, Google provides for my needs, and only Google knows how very needy I am, for information and communication and never-ending entertainment. Truth be told, I’d invest in Google if I could, but a single share costs like five hundred bucks, and at the moment I can only afford penny stocks.

Google’s slogan is “Don’t be evil,” but Google is not without it’s critics. Ursula K. Le Guin is not a fan of Google’s book digitization project, and in 2009 she resigned from the Authors Guild in protest over its settlement with the almighty company. She wrote: “You decided to deal with the devil, as it were, and have presented your arguments for doing so. I wish I could accept them. I can’t. There are principles involved, above all the whole concept of copyright; and these you have seen fit to abandon to a corporation, on their terms, without a struggle.”

There was a period of time when all I read for fun was Ursula K. Le Guin. She’s a great writer, and her far-flung intergalactic stories about culture shocked visitors to foreign planets, the brutal enslavement of indigenous races, and people who could be both male and female served as compelling metaphors for life on Earth. I don’t know much about copyright law, but I respect Le Guin’s resignation from the Authors Guild. Writers deserve as much compensation as they can get for all the effort that goes into crafting their invaluable cultural products. That said, I think Google Books is pretty cool.

The Google Books Ngram Viewer has been around for a while now, but I’ve only recently started playing with it, so it’s new to me. You can read up on the hows and whys of it here. It’ll be interesting to see how ivory tower academics and smarty pants cyborgs manipulate all this data to prove their important hypotheses and otherwise make the world a better place. In the meantime, the rest of us can do stupid stuff like this:

Pleasure is so 19th century. Everybody knows the cool kids are talking about pain.

Meanwhile, in the eternal battle of the sexes, women have taken the lead for getting attention in books.

But how about when males and females are reduced to their genitalia?

Wow. 1881 was a good year for vagina.

On to the media:

Hmm. Looks like literature’s kicking ass. Film’s in a close second, but books still mention literature more than other forms of media. Books are so self-referential. Literature is so meta.

And speaking of meta:

Haha! Colors.

Finally, because I’m irreverent and scatological:

Damn. Shit is killing it! Shit is through the roof.

This was fun. Thanks Google. Keep up the good work.

Ethan Ryan lives in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in McSweeney’s, Opium, Monkeybicycle, Metazen, Titular, and elsewhere. Visit him online at

  1. October 25, 2011 \pm\31 7:28 pm 7:28 pm

    This is really fascinating stuff, Ryan. A bit discouraged you beat me to putting in genitalia parameters, but that’s small potatoes.

    • October 25, 2011 \pm\31 8:05 pm 8:05 pm

      Thanks Nester! Putting in genitalia parameters is what I do best.

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