"I was alone, I took a ride,
I didn't know what I would find there...
Another road where maybe I
could see another kind of mind there..."
Got To Get You Into My Life
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something in the wayBy RageBoy®
I should have been a rock star. Laugh if you want to but I know it's true. I got close enough once to know what it feels like. There's a place where you're singing into the microphone -- and "singing" doesn't hardly cover it -- where breath catches fire and goes free, totally over the edge: music wrapping words in a resonant synesthetic blur like the birth of some dangerous and different animal, clawing at the walls and looking wildly to break out. Singer audience band and soundspace welded into the shock of ancient eyes awakening again. There's nothing quite like it, but I missed my calling. Bummer.
In case you're wondering, this is about content on the Internet. Hang in; we'll get there.
The last arena-rock show I caught was about 4,000 years ago in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Peter Gabriel opened with Shock the Monkey, a killer band and a light show that made it clear something entrirely Else was going down. By the end of the night, he had the crowd on its feet and chanting -- no, more like howling -- to a little number titled Biko. The energy in the hall was tangible, terrifying, joyous, angry, powerful, transporting. Ostensibly, the song was about Stephen Biko, Nelson Mandela and apartheid in South Africa -- subjects about which, I can tell you from living for five years in that city, very few of the participants really gave much of a shit about. Nonetheless, everybody was tripping on the vibe, out of control, headed somewhere critically important, gone. Look around kids: at your humanity. They don't teach you this in school.
As you may be able to tell from the Beatles quote, I am a child of the Sixties. For better or worse, it's a fact I live with every day. And it's mostly a feeling of loss. We were on the brink of waking up the world. Never mind all the silly shit -- and there was plenty of that too -- something was about to happen. Things would never be the same again. And then -- blackout, crashing -- we were back in the Fifties somehow. Only worse. Ex-freaks were working Wall Street. Gone from the streets, the cops were suddenly inside our heads. Overnight, volunteer slavery had become the new red badge of courage.
For the longest time, I kept thinking this nightmare would end. People would remember. Keep your Confederate money and all that. But it never happened. Now it's just a story that the people who weren't there for can't quite get their heads around. It's like trying to tell a stranger about rock and roll.
I'm writing this and listening to Nirvana at volume, Kurt Cobain singing "...something in the way..." No shit.
And then the Internet came along. Yes!!! I'd been on whatever net was out there from the early Eighties, but by ten years later things were beginning to really cut loose, and I did everything I could -- in the orgs I worked for and in print -- to push that particular envelope. And here we are today, things having progressed faster and further than many would have ever dared to dream.
Through blood, sweat and tears we've finally reinvented... AM radio. Do-wah.
I use the tools too, so I understand the draw of software reviews and product announcements. I track the news, so I understand that too. I read the analysts on which will win: Netscape or Microsoft? Yeah, and I even occasionally give a crap about the weather. But what happened to taking back the media, making it our own, using it to tell new stories, dream new dreams?
To find anything that isn't overtly complicit with The Great Technology Sitcom, you have to dig -- way down to the underbelly of the web. You have to get past the fond illusions of sites with commercial pretensions that they're going to be rolling in ad revenues Real Soon Now. They are slicing and dicing you, counting the legs and dividing by four, bringing in the sheep. You are being incorporated into their demographic surveys. And predictably, the lowest common denominator is getting all the juice. You are being packaged for advertisers by some of the hippest hucksters on the planet.
Don't give up; dig deeper. Down to the fuck-it sites that never entertained the hope of Buck One. They owe nobody anything. Not advertisers, not VC producers, not you. Put your ear to those tracks and listen to what's coming like a freight train. In that often flat and boring HTML -- sure to offend New Media sycophants like David Siegel with their too-kool killer kommercials -- what you're hearing is the sound of passion unhinged, people who have had it up to here with whitebread culture hooking up to form the biggest goddam garage band the world has ever seen. Rave without reason -- and why did you ever want one? Screw the losers at Novell and their stupid "Rock the Net" advertising. Hey, rock this motherfuckers!
What are these underbelly sites "about"? What is a rock concert about? How about creation, exploring a visceral and shared collective memory we've been brainwashed into believing never existed? Conspiracy theory my ass. Schools and teachers, the motor vehicle bureau, the IRS, the military, the line at the bank, the television set. The newspapers at the checkout stand, the news on your radio, the billboards along the highway, and now a hundred thousand cold comfort websites. All are tuned to your brain at the deepest level and you have lined up for the coolest latest-model implant. The carrier wave has been tuned at huge cost to deliver a single message: you are not free, you desire nothing but the products we produce, you have no world but the world we give you.
If you're OK with this then eat it up. There's a bulemic's dream-feast of kontent on the way. But if it already makes you want to puke, get angry. Write it, code it, paint it, play it -- rattle the cage however you can. Stay hungry. Stay free. And believe it: win, lose or draw, we're here for good. Armed only with imagination, we're gonna rip the fucking lid off.
RageBoy® a.k.a. Christopher Locke
is editor and publisher of
Entropy Gradient Reversals
and has done a couple
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