Posts Tagged ‘preparatory men’

Persona vs. Accountability (the Facebook* cultural black hole)

July 17, 2010 1 comment

Profile of The Emperor of America (and protector of Mexico)

Emperor of America, Protector of Mexico in profile.

The Emperor of America walks into his favorite local haunt. Wearing his crown and carrying his staff, he approaches the bar and sits down. Carrying no money of course, being Emperor, he asks the bartender for a vodka and soda. The bartender, seeing the mandatory name tag on his shirt that immediately identifies him not as the Emperor but instead as “Joshua” , pours the drink and asks him for 50 cents. The waitress, recognizing the Emperor from a distance across the bar, reminds the bartender of his greater than royal presence. “Nah, that’s just Joshua. I went to the same school as him. Everyone thought he was a nutter back then, too. No money, no drink.”,  he replies and moves on to the next customer before taking the drink from the Emperor’s hand.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Facebook and Google would like to call this “accountability”, but for the most part it’s purely (in my humble opinion****)  and simply  “party-pooperism”. And if you examine it even closer, it begins to take on a very sinister tone. Google in particular has made it fairly clear that it values what it’s calling accountability over anonymity, persona and ultimately privacy. If you go to the 21 minute mark in this ***DiggDialog interview with Marissa Myer (VP of Search and user experience at Google) from July, 2009, you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about. She says:

“I think the trend that concerns me most, now, on the Internet, is the concept of anonymity. Right? (Kevin nods and smiles, phht! I mean, I get it man, it’s an interview and you’re doing the ‘right thing’, but felt out of character for you to not address this properly.. it felt like you dropped the ball ) And I think that it’s, you know, I really feel that, the virtual world follows the physical world. Physical world has been around a lot longer, it’s gotten more of the kinks out, the virtual world is very young. And I think when you look at some of the systems, the closer it sort of parodies and follows that.. the memes that you see in the physical world the better off you are. And there’s very few things you can do anonymously in the physical world and I think that over time on the Internet, there will be less anonymity and I actually think that’s good, I actually think that’s good. I think it creates you know, more accountability, people acting more responsibly. And you know I really, I think that overall we all want the web to be great. Umm, and. Uhh, and I think that that’s something we really need to work on.”  !!??!!

WORK on? The intentions are obviously good, but my experience with reading and hearing the words of corporate representatives and spokespersons has tended to lean toward “carefully worded” and intentional rather than “off the cuff”. Make no mistake. Google may enrich your life like no other company ever has. It may have .. strike that.. it HAS improved the world in ways no-one could have imagined even 7 years ago. But they are not your friend. Their policies will be shaped internally and ultimately serve the largest portion of their user base over the individual. Always. Unless the user base lets them know otherwise. Examples of this can be seen in the now years-long battles on YouTube to silence the atheist community(and others) using the tools made available (and far too easy) to employ by any user with the balance of action leaning heavily toward the users who complain, report and file legal notices, false or otherwise.  In the case of YouTube, it is far easier to remove a user or a video that you want silenced than it is to counter that user’s video or point of view with your own content. (this principle produces another finding, of course.. that when you are unable to counter with a reasonable argument of your own.. file a complaint or a false legal claim and you win, brain power and reason not required) The algorithms in place to automagically deal with complaints have no counter-algorithm in place to protect speech. Of course, this is true in almost all Internet communities. It’s unfair to set apart and criticize Google/YouTube alone for this while the rest of the Internet behaves in mostly the same way. But the one concept I want you to take away from this is “balance of action“, since the Internet is brimming with “action” while most attempts or calls for balance are met with cries of  “it’s just the Internet, get over it” (tell that to the RIAA/MPAA and we’ll talk) and “get used to it, that’s the way it works”. Well, while it’s certainly true in what we like to label the “real world” that fairness is elusive if not a waste of time to pursue, the Internet is one place left in our known universe where the rules are still not entirely written. We have an opportunity, like the forefathers of the American experiment did, to slip a little reason into those rules for once to balance at least some of said rules over to the side of fairness and freedom of speech over comfort and fear. And let’s face it, comfort is truly what most of this boils down to. Internet anti-bullying laws will not prevent bullying any more than anti-murder laws have prevented or even slowed murders of passion or revenge. In the “real world”, laws are created in most cases to sustain a certain level of comfort. And the “justice” system claims to strike a balance between our freedoms and our pursuit of happiness in that comfort. The ability to walk out the door every day and expect not to encounter a neighbor who has decided you will pay with your life for mowing your lawn 4 inches over his property line. The ability to assume the person you love and married will not come to an emotional conclusion that you’re cheating on him or her and kill you in your sleep. These are reasonable expectations even in a state of anarchy. Everything else is nuance, interpretation and “moral authority” (not available in some states, your results may vary, no C.O.D.).

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A Young Person’s Guide to Basement Music

January 23, 2010 10 comments

Here I present to you a guide to Basement music for the beginner or for the experienced listener who would like to disagree or help to make this work more complete and inclusive (within reason). Either are, of course, welcome to dismiss this as just another attempt to coin an additional, pointless label. Whatever the outcome, my intention is to simply bring more ears to the music itself. All other interpretations restricted, use only as prescribed. May cause bleeding from expectations. Reclusive, anti-social effects have been indicated in double-blind studies but do not necessarily represent a definitive medical condition.

I’ve posted a couple of examples of home-recorded (and mostly home recorded) albums that have risen above expectations in Another Day On Earth and William Doyle’s recent releases. But there’s an entire universe of what I will call (in the service of attaching labels where none are needed)  Basement Music, to be sampled, ingested and archived. You’ve probably heard of what many call outsider music (Jandek, Harry Partch, Daniel Johnston, etc), but what I will call “Basement Music”  ( not to be confused with the various companies, studios and services calling themselves “basement music…” ) is probably closer to a home-made, DIY, “maker” attempt at approximating something a bit more mainstream, even if only a little. Or at least an attempt to reach actual ears, which isn’t really fair to label as mainstream. That’s just past “not hiding from the world” , really.

Now, Outsider music is almost the same thing. But not quite, as it usually includes artists that employ no attention to home studio techniques and sometimes merely record with a cassette deck in the room with them. This, to me, is not Basement. I would say that for music to fall into this category, it must be created by an artist that is striving for something, with or without success. While a recording of one voice in a room could very well be interesting, it’s not Basement.

The Basement

The Basement

I find it still slightly difficult to use the label since so much of the music industry now (that matters) more closely resembles a cottage industry than a major machine. Many bands you would assume live a certain lifestyle or record in famous studios have simply invested in high end equipment and record right where they live, sometimes just beyond squalor. This stuff I will call “Basement” from here on out is a bit of a different animal. It’s neither outsider OR mainstream/indie. It’s that middle ground. Some would say maybe it’s simply the fact that not many have heard of these artists/bands. Perhaps. Or perhaps it’s the fact that these artists will most likely continue what they’re doing, recording and releasing albums and EPs no matter if you listen or not. And there’s something pure about this, to me. Something that’s been missing in music for the last few years. Doing it not necessarily for art’s sake, or for a living. Doing it simply because they must, passionately. This passion means that these artists sometimes work within limitations imposed upon them. These limitations can facilitate new discoveries, techniques and creative arrangements that would not be imposed upon the music in a less limited environment. Everything from fixed incomes and noise laws to limited hours of free time and even physical or mental handicaps can have an unexpected impact on the finished recordings.

In the words of Brian Eno, “‘Regard your limitations as secret strengths. Or as constraints that you can make use of.”

It’s also pure in the true sense of what music has always been. Back before lawyers (whom I do NOT hate as many people do, but rather associate with cowboys and hackers. They can wear a white hat and save your life or they can wear a black hat and destroy all that is good in the universe. But to call them all evil while ignoring a white knight such as Lessig is just ignorance) started hanging around campfires demanding royalties and peddling mandatory representation/protection schemes, music was made to be heard and to be shared, period. No business model was designed around it, no expectations of payment regardless of enjoyment existed beyond a scowl aimed at an empty hat and singing another person’s song or even changing the lyrics was a compliment rather than a rip-off or” lost” revenue. (to be lost, a thing must exist and be found somewhere, IMO)

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Hey.. Bono? A few words. (or many.. in any case you’ll probably never see them)

January 3, 2010 3 comments

In your “10 for the next 10 “article, I found a lot I agreed with(and was inspired by), but I think your assessment of the entertainment (and news, lumped in there) industry was terribly far off the mark as well as reality. Perhaps the lack of insight from such an obviously sharp, passionate and compassionate mind is  a matter of information not read, heard?  You say that the people downloading is hurting are the people who are essentially unknown. People who cannot make a living off tickets and t-shirt sales. First of all, who? You get my point there? The reason we have no idea who you’re speaking of is because no-one KNOWS WHO these people are because they’re not famous. Of COURSE they cannot expect to make a living off t-shirt sales! How can or could they if their fan-base is 400 people on myspace spread out over the entire PLANET? (most of which cannot afford, as you are aware, clean drinking water, let alone t-shirts with unknown bands emblazoned upon them) But that’s always been the case. The only difference now is that they can actually HAVE 400 fans worldwide, unlike before when they would have trouble even reaching the people in their home-towns.

I do agree that we in the US should give more credit where it’s due when it comes to the entertainment industry. In California we are want to say “it’s the cheese”. Well, I don’t know about you, but when was the last time a hunk of medium cheddar made people want to snog in the back seat of a car, or inspire someone to write a novel? And when was the last time a gruyere was alphabetized, shelved and consumed 100 times in a year? Then again and again over a 50 year period? Not once. The entertainment economy of California (and the US) is a gift that keeps on giving. Take that, cows. Why don’t you try licensing some pepper jack for the end credits of a film sometime. I didn’t think so. Read more…

And I will build my empire of free under Vesuvius.. (An open letter to 2010)

December 15, 2009 Leave a comment


Walking on a monster.

2009, you were quite a year. I loved you, you frightened me. And no matter how many times you hit me with some new surprise, some new fear, some new reason to stay inside and avoid people, I kept coming back. It was an unhealthy relationship. But this post is not for you. Nothing personal, I’ve just moved on. Knowing you, the pain will pass quickly and you will move on. That seemed to be your M.O. anyway.

2010, I have some questions for you and some demands. I know it’s a little early for demands, we’ve only just met. I feel tentative but full of promise, not unlike the vibe I get from you. But I have real concerns. You know this Internet thing? Yeah, still here in spite of everyone wanting to turn it into a one-way medium like TV. Read more…

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