Jan 26, 2014.
I’m not sure what Disqus is, but I know it eats comments. One of the pleasures of writing pieces like this is the responses that it can provoke. Sadly, often nothing is said in response to the 2000 or so, of what I am willing to admit are sometimes intentionally-provocative words, that get thrown down on these pages every week. This, in spite of a thousand or more visits. The length of those visits is unknown and they may be mostly quick hellos rather than deep conversations, still, it has been the case, some weeks, that a half dozen or more visitors have decided, after they have finished reading, to make their feelings known at the bottom of the page. Sometimes these have been very complimentary and friendly and other times not. This is normal, to be expected, and include plenty of disagreements or differences of opinion. Truth be known, regardless, I wish every one of you would say something, even if it was minimal, give an opinion, state a fact, but…
For some reason, Disqus, the mechanism employed to capture and display comments on EVWorld, likes to show them when it feels like it and otherwise keeps them secret. Odd but true. Since this is my 20th contribution in a row to this blog, which has become a regular feature of my life for a bit, I will admit that I miss the occasional barbs and bouquets. I wonder if they were taken out to a lonely field, like in an episode of the Sopranos or Boardwalk Empire, and dispatched in the tall grass, or given a more dignified end, perhaps in a restful archive by the sea, or slowly floating cloud. I have seen them come back to life a few times too, only to disappear once again, an agonizing flashback to what might have been and actually was, but is no more.
I had a job once, which may have been my best one ever, being the head waiter, really doorman, at the Village Vanguard, a jazz music club in Greenwich Village for the past 500 or so years. As this was a place that many luminaries made it a point to record at, it had a heady bill on, almost continuously. At this time it was a couple of famous musical giants, bassist Charles Mingus and saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, each with their own groups. Since both of these fellows could be described as Demi-Gods of their craft, some of the greatest artists of our time in any field, I wish I had spent more time listening to their mutterings and exclamations, but I do remember one. Mingus was notorious for his displeasure at the bad, which is to say inattentive, the behavior of his audience. This was a club, with drinks and a small amount of food, no hushed concert hall, but the sounds made there, at times, were as amazing, transporting and important, as any made anywhere.
Regardless of the fact that this was a basement joint, in a raucous neighborhood, Mingus would simply stop the music, if there was too much noise and too little appreciation that this was the finest music on the planet being performed before them. In one such episode, after he stormed off the stage, I remember “The Hawk”, as he was popularly known, nattily dressed, standing ramrod straight but not very tall, approaching the great bass player and telling him, “You have to play them quiet Charles”, in a sympathetic but chiding voice. The point is, if I expect more people to make more comments about my writing, I’m going to have to “Play them noisy”, more openly daring them, that is you, to join the picture and establish a presence.
I notice that a few weeks ago, Popular Science decided to abandon their comment function altogether. Too many little spats and petty problems probably, which took up space and discouraged others with more substantial points to make, from even participating. Who wants to get lost among the slings and arrows filling the air, aimed at nobody in particular? I’m sure their legal department was pelted with controversies over libel and patent infringement and other matters which soaked up time and bled expenses. It is a sad day though when scientific and technical inquiry can not be matters for lively discussion and widely varying points of view. Fortunately, there are still many many thousands, maybe millions, of online forums on every imaginable subject to help promote healthy controversy and fact dissemination. Generating directories, that rate them according to their relevance and popularity, needs to be a priority, and that process is, thankfully, well underway.
Sure, there is plenty that is of little weight or value in the mix, but also a lot of important information, that is now having a much easier time finding its way to the public. In balance, the flood of new information is a boon to honest inquiry, even if it is also hard to sift through and the major outlet for loony stuff too. The filters that have always been there, to separate the wheat from the chaff (and too often, to serve the chaff and call it wheat), claim a high degree of reliability for their product. It used to be that if you read it in the paper it was true. The TV had the same power, to grant, to their presentations, an aura of certainty and finality. It was rare that they actually deserved such confidence, but there wasn’t much competition. It is clear, in many minds, that the opposite is now the case.
We are having to be much more discerning, to question the quality of our sources, to come to rely on certain ones because of their proven track records. We have been lied to and misled too often, and by experts, to simply accept what we are told without a high degree of skepticism. Our gratitude must go out to the Bill Moore’s of this world, who devote such a substantial portion of their life on this planet, to trying to figure out what matters and what is true, because it is beyond the ability of each of us to do this for ourselves. I opined in one of my previous pieces about the way in which the commercial media serves the interests of its advertisers rather than its consumers. The movement away from that integrity-sapping formula, is what is needed, and demonstrated by EVWorld and many other worthwhile and truth-seeking web sources.
The Underground Press of the 60s and 70s forced the aboveground press to pay more attention to differing viewpoints. I was proud to be its distributor for a time here in NYC. Unfortunately, the shrinking of the printed press has left us with somewhat fewer of them as potential sources, even while the world of apps and blogs has multiplied the total of potential resources, all reachable free, easily and electronically, by a factor of infinity. The increase of Localism is partly a realization that common conditions, even those prevalent on a broad scale, can often best be affected by the collection of individuals, in physical reach of one another. This has been most conspicuous when it comes to food issues, especially in areas where there is local production of some kind. The addition of community gardens, roofs and other projects in urban spaces is growing rapidly too. Interest in the origins of what ends up on your table is surging and CSAs and variations on them are spreading every day. The connections between the most mundane daily concerns and the big questions, the ones that supposedly matter most, become more apparent every day.
The Chicago SEED, the Atlanta Great Speckled Bird, the L.A Free Press and all the rest of the Undergrounds were totally independent and self-reliant operations. The late ’60s generated much interest in the ways that governments functioned or didn’t, on account of the war primarily but for many other reasons too …