Friday, June 30, 2006
“Updike” is a search term on the “Uptick.” He’s hit the bloggers where it hurts – in their sense of being protected from outsiders. Making fun of their foibles and standing up for the old corner bookstore, Updike is a perfect target for counter salvo, and he could care less, though no less than the bloggers care for him and his set. See previous post.
You see, Wired’s Kevin Kelly wrote a piece. Kelly wrote “Scan this Book” in the NYTimes Sunday magazine. And, graphically presented as it was with cold ugly darkly lit and pretty decrepit books, dictionaries and thesauri, the really putrid tomes, it was an imposing screed.
Take as Kelly’s premise: that the era published books [copies] will end if for the only reason that we now are in the era of digital search technology.
That’s it! The new unimpeachable era of Scan this Book.
One may ask: What is the point of books if you are near sited and your glasses are broken, and there has just been a nuclear war? The universal library is pointless quest waiting for a conflagration. But I digress.
Kelly torted and Updike retorted. Splash.
Let’s exercise fair use and pick a few selections from Kelly. He zeros in on ‘hourly workers’ scanning the great books somewhere out there. Yes, a few crews have been pursuing this digitization of the classics and less than classics and it has gained steam with the Google Scan the Great Books in the Swell Libraries project. [what do people in the libraries thing about this?]
“They are assembling the universal library page by page.” [Ask them what they are doing: They are scanning books] The dream, he admits, is an old one.
Then he goes on to embellish, extend, and, finally, imbibe it. What is the dream?
It is the long-gone-era of the library of Alexandria, thought to hold pretty much, but not all, of the world’s literally encrypted knowledge, built in 300 B.C., and, later, burned, with tons of knowledge lost. Many stark hours we all have wondered what was lost.
But what happens if someone takes the Universal library index home for the weekend to do some work? And thieves grab it along with engagement rings, walkmans, and Krugerands? Or the remote workers shoots off fireworks in the house?
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
I'd been in the hardware trade press for 10 years when my boss assigned me to cover a Microsoft product rollout in Atlanta. Call it a simple twist of fate. It was 1991. Of course I'd heard of Bill Gates, but he was in the software business, and of just about no interest to us.
Friday, June 23, 2006
Meanwhile, I was in Harvard Sq. today for haircut. Coifing my ducktail. Customer at next barber chair is waxing poetic about the number of bookstores in the square. Of course, as I properly ambulated to the barbers’, I window shopped the Grolier, the nation's only all-poetry book store, now under new management [which you might want to put up in big letters, there, new owner], and I stuck my head in the Harvard Bookstore, to eyeball and smell the new books.
Funny because a speech making the rounds by John Updike begins with a discourse on the wonder of the Harvard Sq bookstores. I heard it on a podcast at lunchtime, and it relates to Internet monster side effect. Updike's treatise on the Square is not available via edited transcript, but it is available in entirety the podcast of his speech to the New York National Book expo [see links below]. What he is really there to talk about is Google, and the Universal Library - which I have been calling the Universal Mind, which John Battelle is calling the DataBase of Intentions. In his description of Harvard Sq. book life he is telling. He recalls the Grolier, among others, including used book stores. He recalls as well the book stores of his home town, and those of New York, including Doubledays, and the ‘baronial’ Scribners, both with spiral staircases. [My recollection of Doubledays was it was a grotto to the book, and, that one dark day, Danny Kaye [Walter Mitty!] was there -- famed -- and the staff doted, and I smiled.]
Updike recalls the feel of the books, the covers. As opposed, say, to the Firefox browser and Gutenberg Project Web site. Miss Lonely Hearts, Adventures in the Skin Trade, Season in Hell. New Directions books all. Of most concern to him is how authors make a living, and reach an audience during their live times. The immediate impetus for covering this topic his Kevin Kelly’s NYTimes Magazine article [May 14] on the future of the book [ still sitting on the floor in my living room]. Mash ups are the future, says Kelly, where you mince bits of authors’ together, as you rip CDs. The authors make money by going on lecture tours and becoming celebrities. As culled by Updike of our North Shore.
Now I get a kick out of the fact that I can find Petrarch online and search a term on the merest whim. I also longingly saw a book today, in the Harvard Press bookstore, a tome, red and gold, leather, man, part of a series, of Plutarch. Mother hot pants! John Updike has taken on the Global Google lovefest apparati.
I see some of this in fits. Talk to a kid doing research on the Web, and you worry. They see thngs in fits, and starts, context floats in a vortex. They have chunks they peered deeple into the tunnel to discover. If they'd gone to the library or the bookstore, and found one book, they might have become engaged, and at the same time engaged their subject. I worried about these things when I saw the Card Catalog give way to the terminal. Hail Updike!
His salvo is lisped and brilliant. Updike’s shot across the bow, will be fended by the fenders, but it should give pause to the crew digitizing ‘til the cows come to the home page.
Updike speech Podcast
Updike speech Partial transcript
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Punk to me will always be the Lucky Cue, 1965. Of Main Street Racine. That pin ball and pool parlor palace of our homed factory town. Black leather jackets, Beatle boots, attitude of indifference.Listen to my punky podcast. Listen on your computer or download to your favorite mobile device. Left click on the links below and the podcast will start running automatically; right click to download the file and listen later.
Check out the textual opus
Sunday, June 11, 2006
[Was an MP3 here; removed due to storage issues. Sorry.]
The idea that there was a unique mysterious wisdom, or just misterioso, floating around on the foggy marshlands of America – well for my money it goes back to Poe, maybe Irving. But it was out and about outside of literature, in song Americana immemorial no doubt. No matter what I think: this foggy mist of an idea gained a big shot in the arm with Greil Marcus’s Invisible Republic in 1997. Marcus looked at Dylan’s genius, and attributed it in big hunks to his reading of ‘The Old, Weird America’ represented in Black and Appalachian folks songs where mean old train firemen drink your blood like wine, the cuckoo warbles as she flies, and you ask a country house wife to surreptitiously make you a pallet on her floor.
For many years, Harry Smith’s Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music, with its crystalline madman liner notes was bell mark for the Weird America. A Smithsonian re-release includes Marcus liner notes under the heading, waydyaknow, 'The Old, Weird America.’ Certainly, this record set was one of Dylan’s foundation touch points. Dylan described the beautiful archetypal strangeness with effect in his own liner notes for his Jimmie Rodgers tribute LP on his very own Egyptian label.
Marcus’s notions gained currency, and the success – well, success in what passes as the underground these days, anyway – of the re-released Anthology through coal on the chugging Old Weird America world tour. One of the great indicators here is the Revenant label’s American Primitive series. [American Primitive seems to have gained as a coinage for the Old Weird America. In Boston, on Saturday afternoons, we have an American Primitive radio show.]
I take it that Revenant’s archive is a John Fahey archive. He was the central figure/performer at the label running up to his death. Over the years, Fahey’s fantastic blues scholarship and collecting was overshadowed by his mystical and precise guitar work. A monograph on Charlie Patton was one of his greatest contributions to blues studies. This American Primitives series pay homage to the barnstorming musicians of the southern past , but also to Fahey. Fahey appears in the liner notes to American Primitive Volume 2 as writer Scott Blackwood describes meeting up with him in Chicago.
[By the way, Fahey himself appears in the liner notes of the Anthology (Gee, this is turning into an essay on liner notes…), where he pledges to match the Anthology “up against any other single compendium of important information ever assembled. Dead Sea Scrolls? Nah. I’ll take the Anthology.”]
In Chicago for a gig, a scant Fahey is staying in a hotel near where Blind Lemon Jefferson died. We know that give or take a few years Fahey, who is just returning from a long skid row slide, doesn’t have long for terra firma. Blackwell couches the conversation – they stop at a Salvation Army to, like guerillas, insert some recent Fahey 78 recordings in record bins – with reference to Borges and mystery for the sake of amazement. Odd, I know I found Fahey’s Blind Joe Death in a Salvation Army record bin.
“Revenant” it seems, means ‘a spirit who returns after a long absence. “Crucial to the Revenant ethos is the notion of the neglected gem.” And so, American Primitive forgoes Blind Willie McTell, Memphis Jug Band, or Scrapper Blackwell, because they have been covered in previous prospecting. So on this Vol 2 we have the Salty Dog Four, Pigmeat Terry, and Two Poor Boys doing Ballin the Jack, Black Sheep Blues and Two White Horses. Alfred Lewis doing what I called BlueFrog Blues. Clarinets over imagined pie-stealing hobo soft foot shuffles. You got the hiss, the high-droning banjos, kazoos, juke joint pianos and harmonica combs moaning low, haunting violins. Did you ever hear churchbell tone?
The voices are not trained. They come as messages from beyond. You sense the location of the recording could be a hotel of the ‘30s, or a crossroads dessert radio station ala Oh Brother. The harmonies are one-ofs.
The point of all this is the kick I got out of the record American Primitive Vol. 2. Coming in for special attention are the NuGrape Twins doing “I Got the Ice Cold NuGrape”
NuGrape. It’s a singsong like a skip rope song. Watch out! It is jingle at heart and will not leave you alone. Odd the way the two guys voices echo a round. It’s got the feel of the medicne show come to town. Its quaint advertiser huckstering. But it is spiritual in that it brings in the promised land – and natural in that little kids are playing in the sand. The basic old modus is at work today at the little league field across from my house… where the ice cream truck now plays digital strains. .. Goal: Gather the children, or better yet, send them to their parents to beg them to open their wallets. I did a cut on this as part of the project to figure out how to go from WMA to MP3. [You see, I am off to Microsoft TechEd in exotic South Boston.] And that is linked to here.
Here's Two Jack's doing I got a NuGrape
American Primitive Vol 2 on Amazon
On Alan Wilson
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
She is up in years, but her hair was new, and she just had a young spirit. She is the original Rockabilly Woman Singer of the 1950s. Elivs’ one-time girl friend. A ball of energy in her day, who could probably scare Eddie Cochrane and Gene Vincent if they had to follow her on stage. “Let’s Have a Party” was the big number.
It was a rainy night – “monsoon-like” suggested Wanda’s husband, manager and emcee – in Lexington [birthplace of American Revolution] Mass. Wanda’s show was a window back into time, when country performers had a way of old style vaudeville entertainment .. a firm grip on audience patter .. she would joke as she strapped on her [pink] guitar.
And tried to tune it in the humidity…one line..she tunes it.. some … “Well, that’s good enough for rocknroll! …”
“ I used to tell my band, if we’re out of tune it sounds like more of us.”
More Wanda http://www.wandajackson.com/
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