The question: what happens when you take a Marxist-oriented literary critic and poet and put him in front of a Bloomberg terminal?

The answer: Well, the first thing that happened, naturally, is that I sent out a mess of tweets and texts saying, basically, I’m using the Bloomberg terminal and isn’t that hilarious? (sorry to those whose workdays I interrupted). So, I’m ten, we all know that. But the second thing that happened was I actually found myself rather fascinated by it. Two observations:

1) I was using the terminal at the New York Public Library, specifically, the Science Industry and Business Library branch on 34th Street. The terminal costs about $20,000 a year, but if you have a library card, you can use it for free — in hour-long installments — at the library. This intersection of a stream of highly esoteric and therefore expensive information being made quietly accessible in the somewhat down-at-heels institutional context of the NYPL seems… well, I don’t know what. It means something, though; it must.

2) When I say was using the terminal, I’m exaggerating, of course; you might as well put me in the cockpit of a fighter jet. Part of the weird pleasure of the experiment was being put in contact with sets of data, and of ways of visualizing them, that are so staggeringly, endlessly complex that you can’t help but be awed. The interface is allowing you to slice and dice inconceivably vast amounts of data; terabyte upon terabyte, all awaiting the magic key that, turned, would unlock a fortune… I began, for the first time, to sense, perhaps, a whisper of a ghost of the appeal of finance. The charts can be zoomed in and out on, multiplied, stretched, shaded, fragmented; the various axes pop up in different blues and reds against the green grid, with orange and yellow text fields flickering and scrolling away. It’s actually kind of beautiful.