© 2005 - Eero Ruuttila
Antiquarians are doing a thriving business with Beat-era books and memorabilia as well as documenta from the psychedelic era and rightly so, there are some fabulous left overs and used books (I wanted to say "used words") that certainly hold their own over time.
Gawd bless 'em, and the university libraries, too. Research librarians want primary documents for their collections -- letters, manuscripts, and artworks -- in addition to books and memorabilia. It's the historical record they're after, or as close to it as they can get it via artifacts.
So much of what is written by today's independently living writers is published on the Internet (i.e. without hard copy), where the best and the worst of their product will never see material form.
[ Adjusted Dialogue/Udo Breger: without exception everything digital lacks soul -- lacking the haptic experience ] -- the form in which it might be resold as antiquarian items. Perhaps 'ours' will be one of the last generations to have an actual 'product' to pass on.
True enough, though it's hard to tell what "material form" will come out of the Internet. The familiar "hard copy" I love, made of dead trees, [ Adjusted Dialogue/Udo Breger: This kind of hardware -- paper -- seems to be condemned to literally die out, after having existed so and so many hundreds of years. And we'll be gone, too. Atomized back to where we came from -- back to dirt. ] , may ultimately be recast as a by-product of the Internet in some sort of lasting (and let's hope, harmless) synthetic material useful for handling purposes when the virtual format is not sufficient. This is likely to doom the antiquarian business, unfortunately, but libraries themselves will adapt. Though I dunno whether we're the "last generation," we're getting there.
Two years ago I was contacted by an art history grad student who was so struck by my online chapters about the artists' group I founded that he wanted to see the whole text of the book. I told him he would have to make a commitment to coming to my place and making his own xerox of the 70s typescript, which he finally did last spring after more than a year's delay. As soon as he read it, he was on top of me about helping to find a publisher for the book and even agreed to show it around it to find the right one, since he had become convinced that the book had broad, international appeal--beyond the artists' segment--as a large-scale history of the 60s. I encouraged him and even offered him part of an agent's fee if he could really come up with something workable. I heard nothing from him for several months, but then in August I received a mesage he also sent to twenty others telling us that he had to leave behind his NYC work in favor of a job he had suddenly landed, teaching art history as a visiting assistant professor at a minor college down in Georgia.
Dedication! Yet regrettably, so many people don't seem to find the internal experience and curiosity through reading that has been handed down for centuries. I think the internet and overall frequency line -- cell phones, Blackberries, DVDs, CD-ROM, etc. are 'dumbing down' the population instead of inspiring them to explore the written word. The "word/virus" that Burroughs spoke of has perhaps come to fruition.
The "word" stops here -- or does it?
Law & Order
© 2005 - Eero Ruuttila
The subject of 60s memoirs plus the matter of online versus commercial publication is more than sufficient to provoke my reflections. Yes, products are everywhere, whether edible, drivable, or readable, & confusion has become the norm. And yes, people have been dumbed down in ways we could never have foreseen. Somewhere Kurt Vonnegut observed that until recently cultures functioned with one bard or story teller or historian for every 300 people. Now, through book & TV-movie deals, it seems to be one story teller per 30 million of population, with nothing left for the other 100,000 would-be bards to do. I wasn't brought up to believe this could become possible. I thought that really good words alone could actually break through to everyone. And of course I saw myself as capable of writing those really good words. As Ezra Pound put it via the Dao De Jing: "Real Words Are Not Vain, Vain Words Are Not Real." I never fully recovered from that notion.
I guess the "dumbing down" is beyond question. But I'm less certain about the impact on inspiration of and exploration by serious folks who are doing research on all kinds of subjects, whether literary, artistic, or scientific. Seems to me the Internet has invigorated the "word virus" in ways Uncle Bill once presciently reported and in others ways, too. The increasingly obvious fact that "nobody owns words" has both a positive and negative spin. On the negative side, debates about intellectual property, in terms of writers protecting their copyrighted material, often become pissing matches over plagiarized material with commercial (but no other) value. On the positive side, the spreading of information is facilitated by the principle that nobody owns words, and nowhere is this happening faster or more pervasively than on the Internet.
[ Adjusted Dialogue/Udo Breger: One late night when I installed my e-postal system. Sending out my first Email to NYC and getting an answer within a quarter hour left me dumbfounded. Action/Reaction: I got out my oldest fountain pen, an Italian Omas 1934 model, which I cleaned, refuelled with ink and some soul -- and gold nib-scratched a few after-midnight letters to close friends. ]
Writers 'on the side' (vs. working for the white christian right wing military industrial complex etc.), are for the most part neutered before they can set pen to paper [Adjusted Dialogue/Udo Breger: Everything written or printed on "dead trees" ]. So we too turn to the internet and where our 'products' are no longer "real," but virtually contained in an invisible storage tank where words can be eliminated or altered at the stroke of a key. The vast majority of works from this current generation of scribes might not exist beyond a download from hardware that is declared obsolete the moment it becomes available.
See above. As for being neutered, if that's true, I don't think we should blame the Internet. As to the reality of our products, well, the artifacts of history change. Once they were stone tablets with cuneiforms on them. Then they were rolls of papyrus, and so on. Whether they can be changed at the stroke of a key, shit, forged documents have always been around, and sometimes the forgeries of artworks have been as good (and maybe better than) the originals.
Reminds me of the true story of the anthropology grad student who managed over several years to ingratiate himself with a tribe of Native Americans in northern Michigan, one not previously investigated by scholars. Over time he was able to persuade their elders that it would be useful to them to have him record their secular habits and sacred rituals, they even came to welcome this somewhat invasive process. And he went about it in great detail over several years until he had a great store of publishable lore ready to present for his doctor's degree. Along the way he acquired a girlfriend whom he married, and the two of them finally had a heart-to-heart talk about how he would be managing to make a living sufficient to support them both and raise a family. Reluctantly he and she agreed that even a professor's salary, which he was still a few years from receiving, would not be enough. And so he simply abandoned the field of anthropology and his unfinished doctor's thesis and became an insurance salesman. Ironic but true: once again North American cultural values had triumphed over those of an ancient, indigenous people, the very values his ancestors had helped to destroy and he had set out to study and preserve. Wonder how they will greet the next grad student who comes along. The source for this story is an anthropology text I still have upstate. Thus doth modern life conspire to make products of us all.
Nothing is permanent in the virtual world.
Not in the real world, either, no matter how much we'd like to believe that.
The "work" of the Sixties is still being done. Just because the era is passed, or past, doesn't mean the work that was started then has stopped. The only reason it might stop is that if those who were conscious decide to hang up their jocks metaphorically speaking, and be something they're not. Just because we live in a post-literate age does NOT mean that "we" have to adapt to post literate ways. As Jean Shepherd, the great radio monologist used to say, "Ninety-five percent of the world is made up of fatheads." The percentage has gone down considerably since the Late Fifties. There are only a small percentage of people at any time of history who are conscious. If "we" stop doing what we're doing, then what examples will be left for those afterwards to follow? Recently, I came across a wonderful quote from Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his novella Memoirs of My Melancholy Whores [translated by Edith Grossman] (New York: Alfred Knopf, 2005, p. 39.]. In it he said the following: "The adolescents of my generation, greedy for life, forgot in body and soul about their hopes for the future, until reality taught that that tomorrow was not what they had dreamed, and they discovered nostalgia." What the Sixties were about had little to do with nostalgia, but tell that to the corporate interests who've manipulated it to their own ends.
Well, there's certainly enough to go around.
The game is to circumvent that ugly game ... To get one's work into print means to sow it widely ... Waiting for Godot (the publisher who will shepherd your work to the public) is more or less a lost cause (the days of Gallimard are over) ... Capitalism's ultimate game is to destroy the space in which difference exists ... Thus to exit this ugly game means to work on several fronts all at once ... The artist book remains one way (though that too has fallen in terms of its viability because there's too much of this stuff out there and no place for it to make any real impression) ... In Soviet times the Samizdat was the way ... These works returned, later, as archival moments ... The Archival Moment is manifold ... I'd say publishing anything today in the mainstream is as relatively useless as on the Internet since it will also be lost in the avalanche of stuff / rubbish generated every day ... Therefore, the true game is to convert words into things (not books per se) but things that have a life of their own outside the warped world of 'new media' ... Books-as-Things, if you will (as artworks) ... But this sounds tautological ... While it is tautological on one level, it is utterly revolutionary on another ... The book is an aesthetic object (which is why the Internet is so devoid of any real pleasure) ... The Aesthetic Object is the Answer ... Words have to become things versus a stream of garbage emanating from the broken machine of public discourse ... However one does this is up to the author ... There is no one way, and yet (alas) there is no other way.
I cannot approach such complexity, such simplicity.
This is blowing my mind. I suppose I have images of stringing words together, creating phrases that have the power to burn the brain with memory -- wherever the phrases first appear. But then capitalism (after a while) takes these phrases and their images and uses them for profit and exploitation. It seems our work can enjoy only a limited period of freedom.
Rather like 'toning' the written word rather than the sound of the word.
Read it once and you will never forget it!
Yes, that's it!
Only Once Twice
© 2005 - Mathew Tell
Perhaps we have been flung into this virtual world especially to remind us that nothing is permanent. I myself have been doing some writing on the subject of language wars -- wars for control of the 'neuroverse', with words, letters, numerals as weaponry. I am struck that 75% homo sapiens lack easy access even to a telephone -- will "wired" and non-wired populations evolve along different paths? Sort of looks that way already... I think, but don't know "what" to think.
Can you give me an example of 'word as weapon'?
San Francisco Earthquake Cover
courtesy of Jan Herman
Jab, as in "Playwright Takes a Prize and a Jab at U.S." (New York Times Dec. 9, 2005). Harold Pinter's Nobel acceptance speech jabbed at the use of language to destroy thought -- to create mass hypnosis. Words can be used as "weapons" to perforate ignorance, for epiphany and for renting of the veil.
Anyone who can dictate which words are used by a given population, [ Adjusted Dialogue/Udo Breger: Periods of spiritual hygiene] and what meanings are attached to those words, (especially on an emotional level) exercises tremendous power over that population. In mass-media, a lot of energy is expended in trying to dictate what words are always to be used and what words are never to be used. That's the most common form of what I think of as "language wars", but it is really much more complex than that. Which language is to be used, and which forbidden, or suppressed? This is still an issue around the world. Ask an American Indian, or a Kurd.
A common use of words as weapons is in scape-goating -- blaming all of society's problems on "those" people, the attempt to demonize entire populations, along national, religious, ethnic, or even sexual lines as "dirty," "dishonest," "dangerous," "disease-carrying" (Hmmm- what IS it about them "D" 's?). Nowadays all any US politician must do to smear an opponent is suggest that, what "he" or "she" or "they" want, is the same as what the "terrorist nations" want. Mere mention of Iran, Syria, or Saudi Arabia is calculated to make listeners salivate with hatred, as I heard from one man on radio yesterday who was condemning attempts to internationalize control of the Internet. This kind of thing has been around a long, long time.
© 2005 - Authors @ The 3rd Page