Monday, May 4, 2009

“No man is an island, entire of itself…”

“…every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were
any man's death diminishes me…”

The time has come to acknowledge a sad truth of blogging. The sidebar adjacent to these words is a relic of interests that existed at the inception of this enterprise. If you will examine it, you will note that Any Major Dude “left home” 4 months back, and now Red Telephone 66 has ceased operation. John Donne’s meditation 17 is the lamentation aforesaid and the theme here.

This brings up something that has been bubbling about in the back brain a bit. My first attraction to the blogspot-o-sphere (specifically) was the vast reservoirs of mp3 rarities from personal collections. Having weathered the final days of Napster (and no, I was not in until the end because they didn’t have any Macintosh/Apple software until the last year), I was not unfamiliar with ‘file-sharing”, but only as an anonymous source of amazement, an endless cornucopia in a void, being able to find albums and artists I only vaguely recalled from the dim past, summoning up songs on a whim, seemingly from nought but a brisk rubbing of Aladdin’s modem.

Blogspot, however, had identities galore. For a lot of people (not necessarily you), it has always been a habit and practice to vet potential friends or lovers by an initial visit to their digs. This affords a chance to check out their furnishings, then books, then record collections, and, in the '60s, their medicine cabinets. (I purposefully ignore the implications of closets and underwear drawers as they are not germaine to this essay. And you should be ashamed of yourself!) You can figure out where this is going so I will skip over the obvious. More revealing, however, is the way each deals with the standard templates, dressing them up and fitting them out with avatar photos, quotes, and then all the available widgets. After that, the links to their favorite blogs as well—for if we are not all one in fun, none are random in fandom.

As revealing as these runes read, it was the blogger's write-ups that showed I was not alone in the zone. In praise of these obscure-to-downright-unknown records, their uploaders—waxing rhapsodic-to-effuplosive in some cases—rivaled Lester Bangs in insight and exposition. And, despite the bad rap about “stealing from the artists”, a large bulk of these were straight from vinyl to Rapidshare, without advent of re-issue, even more treasured for having missed the CD craze altogether (which I am beginning to think is as over as the 8-track). The “community” was such that I felt no compunction whatsoever in d-l’ing like a fiend, leaving only a few thanks here and there for such bounty. But more, it was the whole interaction, the conversation and creativity among the blogs (and yes, it is as if these journals of interest and observation ARE personalities and—in as much as they are fonts of self-expression—artforms equal to sprawling canvasses and ongoing performances) that kept me coming back...and lingering.

I liked these people for more than what they gave me. I liked having them around. So, I would like to cite them here as an honor roll, exporting my bookmarks to pict.files and hence into ReadIris to become text.

A Million Miles Away - ARCA DO PYRATA - A Closet of Curiosities - Acesso Raro - Alma Matters - And then the chimney spoke.... - ARSENAL-X - Back On The Road - Bring Me The Heads - California Harmony - Caverna do Som - Cheeseonion - Crap I Found at the Library - 8 Days In April - Are Friends Electric - BigO Worldwide - Cantina do Rock - Cantos e Encantos - De musica alterque - De Pouco Um Tudo - Good job I kept my turntable... - Lagrima Psicodslica - Music Eldorado - misterlesterkeen - Phlegm Noir - all that jazz - bongolong land - Bossa Nova Music - elsebasto - Fidelisharium - Groovy Fab Index - insect & individual - Kinda Kinky - Lounge Latin Funk Beat - Acid Dazed - ACID VISIONS - Acorde Final - Brazilian Nuggets - FEIJEO TROPEIRO - Marmalade Skies - Martian Shaker - The Annex - the packet switcher – TWILIGHTZONE! - zerodimension - Lost Bands Of The New Wave Era - grown so ugly - X-Y-Z -Cosmonaut - sounds of champaign (side-C) - MOODSWINGS music - PixelMutt - RecordBrother - Rato Records Blog - Razzle Tazzle - roggelstroe - Play It Again, Sam - Hipidetripi - 7 Black Notes - Skypilot - Kiddie Records Weekly - That's the Way It Is - Skunkape's Crap - The Slaughtered Lamb - Soundtrack Sharity - You Don't Have To Visit This Blog - Rare and OOP Soundtracks - Psychoplasmica - ScoreBaby Annex - Le Blog de Pekis - curved-air - Palestinian Light Orchestra - ORGY IN RHYTHM - SCORE, BABY! - Rock Progressivo Portugues - Prog Not Frog - Time Traveller - realm of [X] - zinhof - The Tuna Melt - lellebelle - Honey, Where You Been So Long - 6070Rock - Green Fuz - These Records Are BenT - The Sky Moves Sideways - It's Psych - The L.S. Bumble Bee - DISTORCOES, ACIDO E FLORES - Chocoreve - Acht Tage - Krautrockdock Ohnes - Musica para Todo - Discos Completos Varios Artistos - Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll - Musica Boa Sempre - Musicology - Solo Buena Music - The Orange Cornflake Zoo - VINYL VELHO - Time Has Told Me - EZHEVIKA FIELDS - Psychedelic Rock - The Music I Like - 1967 0 Ano da Psicodelia - Garden Of Delights - A Pound for a Brown - Artery of the Sun - thebbmusicfactory - Loronix - Sarava Club - El Diabio Tun Tun - La nuit detend - Visions of Juju - Capsula da Cultura - Abracadabra-LPs do Brazil - PEP SONIC BLUE MUSIC – Lost-In-Tyme - Quimsy's Mumbo Jumbo

The list is by no means complete; and it is not an obit. A lot of them are still around (if you wish to check out their viability, please do so by all means. I would suggest you start with this one link to totallyfuzzy and go from there), but no few have gone in for “comment moderation” in order to allay poor conduct by visitors and rude remarks or flame wars (is that term still used?), and even more have “gone private”, becoming more like clubs with memberships. This latter action being a defense against, I suppose, people stealing their “links” or reporting them to the administrators for violating copyright laws or whatever, seems to often be the case when people let their guard down to all comers in a cruel and indifferent world, which is yet another part of the sadness. And still more of them have folded their tents, gone onto other vehicles or vanished like those tunes from Aladdin's modem, into the aether from which they had come.

My only regret is that I didn't spend more time with a lot of them. They are, in point of fact, for me at least, an online village more real than anything you'll find at Second Life.

So that's the reason for the lead.

Now for the real body copy.

The idea of Sharing is not very compatible with Capitalism, which exists on the premise of acquisition for individual ownership and exclusive rights to property. There are truly expert people—and I include economists and philosophers and all those others who really give things a lot of thought—who will liken Capitalism to Democracy, using some variation on Churchill's famous line, “It's the world's worst system of government...until you consider all the others.” Which is correct, as far as it goes. But Evolution is a funny thing; in advancing the species (more or less), it also makes certain parts useless, even obsolete. I was just reading about the human appendix here, and found “the appendix is traditionally thought to have no function in the human body” written just before secondary thought that it may have served a function in the creation of intestinal bacteria at some previous stage of existence. See? Why do humans still have to deal with leftover organs and vestigial tails? Because it takes hundreds of thousands of generations for them to vanish completely, and, in this, if in no other way (not saying I agree with him totally, nope!), validates a portion of Richard Dawkins' theory of genes and evolutionary biology: DNA has memory, that's for sure.

Back to Sharing, it is also something wherein competition is more subtle. The only “honor” or “status” conferred may come from being the first to introduce something to the group, or perhaps having discovered its essential beauty or authored the most resonant concept. We call that a “coup”. (And yes, I know it's a French word but who cares?) Among native American tribes, some of the fiercest warriors ever to grace this planet, this was, as well, a way to wage war without war. It is my opinion and belief that I have read an account of how, when the Sioux first encountered US Calvary, they thought them such poor horsemen, they would ride around them in circles and tap them with the blunt end of their spears, taking a “coup” instead of a life. It was something of a shock then, when the soldiers opened fire on them. It was as if these bluecoats had not learned the delicate art of combat and knew only brute savagery.

Yeah, I know. Kinda turns the tables on the John Wayne view of this, dud'n'it?

There's been a lot of cant bruited about in the right-wing press about the so-called “socialist agenda” and even the “communist conspiracy” of the present chief executive. I won't dignify this further but would just like to point out the panic, an almost ingrained knee-jerk reaction to these terms, that happens whenever laissez-faire capitalism is threatened by legislative reform. It is as if we must rear up on our hind legs (note the imagery of the allusion as well: primitive, feral, predatory, appealing to an animal instinct) and kill, before it becomes a menace. And why? To protect 'what is “ours”…', of course. And by that, of course, to say, '…which is “mine”'; for, in the end, there can never be an “ours” when speaking of something that I would kill for (with the exception of national service, which enters an entirely different sphere of civic participation); it must forever be “mine”—frequently, as well, from motives that are selfish and often greedy. (And if you didn't check out the link above, the title of it is “Laissez-Faire Capitalism Has Failed.” And that's from FORBES, people. Not me.)

Now, before this sprawl gets worse, I must state clearly: this is not about competing economic theories and practices of supply of goods and services and the distribution of wealth therefrom. Neither is it about the repression of blogspot uploaders by record labels, nor the issue of copyright infringement. (For a fascinating and witty presentation on that subject, I would point you towards an old friend of mine's comic book on the subject.)

No, this is about “stuff”.

I have some friends who are collectors. Almost everybody these days has one little eccentric passion or other for some serial progression of artifacts that they can file, alphabetize or arrange in orderly rows, which gives meaning to their lives and, hence, the Universe, and I can appreciate that. (Or, more simply—as they will explain when given the least opportunity to someone who has looked askance at their walls covered with Transformer dolls still sealed in their original packaging—that it is an investment opportunity which will appreciate over time as others who DO have that passion or other will pay through the nose to satisfy it. (Although, for the life of me—Nancy—Fiestaware? Can't see that.)) These are not necessarily fetishistic and sense-memory devices that go straight to our core identity like electric daemons, hot-wired to favorite stuffed animals and puree-of-whatever tastes that babies understand intrinsically as “goo-goo-goodies”…but they can be There is nothing wrong with accumulation, per se, especially when it satisfies some primal drive or urge. (Unless it is the mindless pursuit of wealth at all costs—but no, I have already said all I wish to about that subject. Thank you.) It is a bit more useful when it has some bearing on one's profession, and easier to manage if you have a spare room or basement or garage. And always better when it isn't strewn all over the place, like an infant's toys. There comes, however, a stage at which the inert matter builds up to a point where the sheer mass may constitute a potential for collapse into a dwarf star. For guys especially, this is when their “stuff” can be the cause of much friction between themselves and their girlfriends/wives. (Having little experience in G/L/T-G relationships, for all I know it could be the same, but I am not going there.)

But for one of them, in particular, this constitutes a mania. Not that that is such a bad thing or makes him anti-social or something (as is wont to happen to certain people who inordinately value inanimate objects above all else). And, as said, I am not immune to the charms of a well-ordered display of one’s possessions; it is just the word “possession” that makes me a little wary. In “The Exorcist” it was another thing altogether, but that's just, y'know, superstition. Yet, that is not so far off the march from my objective. It is one thing to own a house, or even a car; and these “big ticket items” are, without question, the most desired in most people’s lives. But after the tornado or the hurricane or the rebel uprising that led to the genocidal war, isn’t it the same thing every survivor tells the man with the mike?—I mean, after the tears for loss? “I still have my health.” Now, what kind of ownership is that?

It makes one re-think the “big ticket item” category a bit, at least. I pay approximately ten grand a year for the privilege of calling myself “insured” when, in point of fact, that coverage may turn out to be a tissue of lies, should the company decide for any reason it likes, not to honor that policy. Maybe all I “own” then is peace of mind…as long as I don’t think about it to much. But this is straying again.

The “Exorcist” reference brought up that age-old question that, for me, started when I first saw Scrooge McDuck diving into his bank vault of gold coins. “Do we own our possessions or do our possessions own us?” Ok, admittedly, anthropomorphizing and assigning motivations, wants, needs and desires to a chair is ludicrous, but not when you accept the fact that your personal space, the one you exist in, becomes overtaken, compromised even, by the amount of it you allot to said “stuff” and also by the amount of time you spend trying to keep said “stuff” in order or cleaning or just schlepping it around.

So, it was while trying to help him out, to build a “library” of sorts, that we had a discussion on this subject, and I was forced to defend my position with this: I have come to believe that I would rather have the experience of an object than the object itself.

This is a position I took a long time to come around to, or, rather, to become aware that I held. It is not something that you choose out of the box, so to speak. It requires a major disassociation from the physical touch of the sacred objects, but, as well, a re-establishment of the connection to the spirit behind those objects; what they represent, not just to the personal religion from which you formulated their worship rites, yet the actual source of their excitement towards reverence.

“Wait a minute. Where did that come from?” Is that your question? Consider: what other tangible goods do we hold in such high regard besides holy relics? This isn’t a joke: it doesn’t have to be the Shroud of Turin or the Buddha’s sandals to be venerated. Do you think the “Mona Lisa” is just a painting? These are all extreme examples, yes, but nonetheless NO DIFFERENT FROM BEATLES MEMORABILIA!

I first became aware of this when I stopped caring about my record collection. Somewhere between the ongoing debate of vinyl vs. digital and all the nuances lost and found and the quality of the former and the perfection of the latter, it struck me that, what with all the mp3s I’d d-l’ed into my collection, it would take upwards of 30 years to listen to everything I had. Once. And that’s assuming I did nothing else all day. Every day. Then I began to consider all the movies I’d picked up. And the books. And the fact that I do have an interpersonal relationship with a significant other who might appreciate me more if I did something else for the next 30 years but listen to, watch or read my stash. Oscar Wilde, I believe, said something to the effect that, giving someone a book is something of an insult, unless of course they also give that person the time to read it.

That’s it in a nutshell.

This is where I began to turn around on the subject. See, I used to like having records. They had these 12-inch square pictures, sometimes front and back for 24” and with gatefold sleeves inside too for 48”, sometimes with just liner notes. They were pretty, sometimes stunning, and you could also use the gatefold sleeve to separate seeds and stems from your lid. And afterwards, stare at the cover for an hour, trying to glean every last scrap of meaning and symbolism from the artwork (if intricate) or idealize and adore the artist (if you like), much the same as you would—gasp!—a religious icon! Alas, both that herbal preparation and innocence are long past, as is the purpose of that album jacket. All that remains are the memories associated with the sounds and lyrics (those of which I could understand). And, with hearing less, ah, “dealer prep” shall we say, than it was when the vinyl was new, I have my doubts as to whether a 25hz variation between the midrange of a needle and the track of a laser is going to be detected by my ears. But I’m not arguing aesthetics now.

My Time and Space have begun to assume more than mere arbitrary designations; I now class them among metaphors for the cosmos, giving them Einsteinian properties and capital letters the same as I would Matter and Energy. As I become aware of such concepts as a “carbon footprint”, I begin to see greater significance in all that I do, and, consequently, devote less attention to that which I see as without purpose to my existence.

This does sound grandiose, I suppose. I am also aware that this particular argument may be a convenient rationalization for that of “sour grapes”. Granted. I freely confess that all I say is utter conjecture and stands upon a logic base which is specious, at best. Blogspot, sharing, Communism, ownership—I’ve been all over the map, it seems, only stopping to create transitions from one paragraph to the next. However, if we go all the way back to the start, I believe I can tie it up here.

“…because I am involved in mankind
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
it tolls for thee.”

Yes. Sonorous and ponderous, ain't it? But really, that's all i was saying top to bottom. Trivialities are great when you got time for the Pursuit, but kinda sad when you consider the Big Thief With One Slow Hand and One Fast Hand.

See, I really DO like my mp3 lifestyle with the magic brick and the DVD and the master list. Now it isn’t so much what I own as if I can find it when I want it.