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91

NEELAY MEHTA

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terms
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notes

Powers, R. (2019). NEELAY MEHTA. In Powers, R. The Overstory. W.W. Norton & Company, pp. 91-111

(noun) ; a projecting beam or member supported at only one end / a bracket-shaped member supporting a balcony or a cornice / either of the two beams or trusses that project from piers toward each other and that when joined directly or by a suspended connecting member form a span of a cantilever bridge

101

From high up in this crazy cantilevered oak, looking down on the sidewalk

—p.101 by Richard Powers
confirm
11 months, 4 weeks ago

From high up in this crazy cantilevered oak, looking down on the sidewalk

—p.101 by Richard Powers
confirm
11 months, 4 weeks ago
103

The itching is insane. Every spot above his waist is unreachable fire. When he drops back down to earth again, his mother is there, curled up in the chair next to his bed. A change in his breathing wakes her from her sleep. His father is there, too, somehow. Neelay worries; what will his employers say when they discover he’s not at work?

His mother says, “You came down out of a tree.”

He can’t connect the dots. “Fell?”

“Yes,” she argues. “That’s what you did.”

“Why are my legs in tubes? Is that to keep me from breaking things?”

Her finger wags in the air, then touches her lips. “Everything will be fine.”

His mother doesn’t say such things.

The nurses ease him by degrees off the pain drip. Anguish sets in as the drugs dry up. People come to see him. His father’s boss. His mother’s card-playing friends. They smile like they’re doing calisthenics. Their comfort scares the crap out of him.

“You’ve been through a lot,” the doctor says. But Neelay has been through nothing. His body, perhaps. His avatar. But he? Nothing important in the code has changed.

The doctor is kind, with a tremor when his hand drops to his side, and eyes that fix on a blank spot high up on the walls. Neelay asks, “Can you take the vise-things off my legs?”

The doctor nods, but not in agreement. “You have some mending to do.”

“It’s bugging me, not to be able to move them.”

“You concentrate on healing. Then we’ll talk about what happens next.”

“Can you at least take off the boots? I can’t even wriggle my toes.”

Then he understands. He’s not yet twelve. He has lived for years in a place of his own devising. The thought of countless good things passing out of his life doesn’t quite occur to him. He still has that other place, the heaven in embryo.

But his mother and father: they fall apart. Awful hours set in, days of disbelief and desperate bargaining that he won’t remember. There will be years of supernatural solutions, alternative practices, and miracle cures. For a long time, his parents’ love will make his sentence worse, until they finally put their faith in moksha and accept that their son is a cripple.

—p.103 by Richard Powers 11 months, 4 weeks ago

The itching is insane. Every spot above his waist is unreachable fire. When he drops back down to earth again, his mother is there, curled up in the chair next to his bed. A change in his breathing wakes her from her sleep. His father is there, too, somehow. Neelay worries; what will his employers say when they discover he’s not at work?

His mother says, “You came down out of a tree.”

He can’t connect the dots. “Fell?”

“Yes,” she argues. “That’s what you did.”

“Why are my legs in tubes? Is that to keep me from breaking things?”

Her finger wags in the air, then touches her lips. “Everything will be fine.”

His mother doesn’t say such things.

The nurses ease him by degrees off the pain drip. Anguish sets in as the drugs dry up. People come to see him. His father’s boss. His mother’s card-playing friends. They smile like they’re doing calisthenics. Their comfort scares the crap out of him.

“You’ve been through a lot,” the doctor says. But Neelay has been through nothing. His body, perhaps. His avatar. But he? Nothing important in the code has changed.

The doctor is kind, with a tremor when his hand drops to his side, and eyes that fix on a blank spot high up on the walls. Neelay asks, “Can you take the vise-things off my legs?”

The doctor nods, but not in agreement. “You have some mending to do.”

“It’s bugging me, not to be able to move them.”

“You concentrate on healing. Then we’ll talk about what happens next.”

“Can you at least take off the boots? I can’t even wriggle my toes.”

Then he understands. He’s not yet twelve. He has lived for years in a place of his own devising. The thought of countless good things passing out of his life doesn’t quite occur to him. He still has that other place, the heaven in embryo.

But his mother and father: they fall apart. Awful hours set in, days of disbelief and desperate bargaining that he won’t remember. There will be years of supernatural solutions, alternative practices, and miracle cures. For a long time, his parents’ love will make his sentence worse, until they finally put their faith in moksha and accept that their son is a cripple.

—p.103 by Richard Powers 11 months, 4 weeks ago
107

AT FIRST, the point of coding is to give everything away. Pure philanthropy. He’ll find a marvelous seed program in the public domain. Then he’ll flesh it out, add new features, switch on his 1,200-baud modem, dial in to a local bulletin board, and upload the source for anyone who wants to grow it some more. Soon his creatures propagate on hosts across the planet. Every day people around the globe add new species to the repositories. It’s the Cambrian Explosion all over again, only a billion times faster.

Neelay gives away his first masterpiece, a turn-based romp where you play a Japanese movie monster eating its way across the world’s metropolises. Hundreds of people in a dozen countries grab it, even at forty-five minutes per download. So what if playing it does to your free time what the monsters do to Tokyo? His second game—conquistadores ravaging the virgin Americas—is another freeware hit. A Usenet group forms just to trade game strategies. The program generates a new, geologically realistic New World each time you play. It turns any grocery store bag boy into stout Cortez.

His games spawn imitations. The more people steal from him, the better Neelay feels about his chair-bound life. The more he gives away, the more he has. From his vantage, stranded in his wheelchair in a basement lab, whole new continents swing into view. The gift economy—free duplication of well-shaped commands—promises to solve scarcity at last and cure the hunger at the heart’s core. The name Neelay Mehta grows mini-legendary among the pioneers. People thank him on dial-up boards and in game news groups. College kids talk about him in chat rooms as if he’s some Tolkien character. On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a beached, elongated freak, unable to move without machines.

But by his eighteenth birthday, paradise is sprouting fences. Former philanthropists of free code start taking out copyrights and making actual coin. They even have the nerve to form private companies. Granted, they’re still just peddling floppy discs in baggies, but it’s clear how things will go. The commons are getting enclosed. The gift culture will be throttled in the cradle.

Neelay blasts the betrayal at each week’s meeting of the Home-Rolled Club. He spends his free time re-creating one of the most famous commercial offerings, improving on it, then releasing the clone into the public domain. Infringement? Maybe. But every one of the so-called copyrighted properties relies on decades of prior unpaid art. For a year, Neelay plays Robin Hood, camped out in the anarchic forest with his merry men, under a massive oak older than the deed to the land it grows on.

—p.107 by Richard Powers 11 months, 4 weeks ago

AT FIRST, the point of coding is to give everything away. Pure philanthropy. He’ll find a marvelous seed program in the public domain. Then he’ll flesh it out, add new features, switch on his 1,200-baud modem, dial in to a local bulletin board, and upload the source for anyone who wants to grow it some more. Soon his creatures propagate on hosts across the planet. Every day people around the globe add new species to the repositories. It’s the Cambrian Explosion all over again, only a billion times faster.

Neelay gives away his first masterpiece, a turn-based romp where you play a Japanese movie monster eating its way across the world’s metropolises. Hundreds of people in a dozen countries grab it, even at forty-five minutes per download. So what if playing it does to your free time what the monsters do to Tokyo? His second game—conquistadores ravaging the virgin Americas—is another freeware hit. A Usenet group forms just to trade game strategies. The program generates a new, geologically realistic New World each time you play. It turns any grocery store bag boy into stout Cortez.

His games spawn imitations. The more people steal from him, the better Neelay feels about his chair-bound life. The more he gives away, the more he has. From his vantage, stranded in his wheelchair in a basement lab, whole new continents swing into view. The gift economy—free duplication of well-shaped commands—promises to solve scarcity at last and cure the hunger at the heart’s core. The name Neelay Mehta grows mini-legendary among the pioneers. People thank him on dial-up boards and in game news groups. College kids talk about him in chat rooms as if he’s some Tolkien character. On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a beached, elongated freak, unable to move without machines.

But by his eighteenth birthday, paradise is sprouting fences. Former philanthropists of free code start taking out copyrights and making actual coin. They even have the nerve to form private companies. Granted, they’re still just peddling floppy discs in baggies, but it’s clear how things will go. The commons are getting enclosed. The gift culture will be throttled in the cradle.

Neelay blasts the betrayal at each week’s meeting of the Home-Rolled Club. He spends his free time re-creating one of the most famous commercial offerings, improving on it, then releasing the clone into the public domain. Infringement? Maybe. But every one of the so-called copyrighted properties relies on decades of prior unpaid art. For a year, Neelay plays Robin Hood, camped out in the anarchic forest with his merry men, under a massive oak older than the deed to the land it grows on.

—p.107 by Richard Powers 11 months, 4 weeks ago