topic starter guy (bumbaugh) Wed 15 Dec 04 08:16
Welcome to the Inkwell Ken Goffman, to discuss his new book, Counterculture Through the Ages! Ken Goffman, a.k.a. R. U. Sirius, is a writer, editor and speaker. He was co-founder and former Editor-in-chief of Mondo 2000, the iconoclastic magazine that defined the digital culture of the early nineties. He is author or editor of eight books, including Mondo 2000: A User's Guide to the New Edge and Counterculture Through The Ages; and he co-wrote Timothy Leary's last book, Design for Dying. He was a columnist for ARTFORUM International and San Francisco Examiner. He currently edits the monthly webzine NeoFiles [http://www.life-enhancement.com/NeoFiles] As a high school student from 1967-1970, Goffman was influenced by the hippie and new left countercultures while those movements were at their peak. He formed the Binghamton, New York Chapter of Yippie! (Youth International Party), 1970-1973. He was vocalist in a punk rock band in Rochester, New York, 1979-1981. Goffman generally dislikes sleeping in tents and eating vegan foods, and makes an altogether bad hippie. During his entire time spent in various branches of the counterculture, he never heard anybody even suggest singing Kumbaiya. He lives in Mill Valley, California with his fiancé Eve and their cat Princess. Facilitating this whole conversation is Inkwell's own Jon Lebkowsky, CEO of Polycot, an innovative team of Internet technology experts with broad experience creating and managing information systems for businesses and nonprofit organizations. An authority on computer-mediated communications, virtual communities, and online social networks, he has worked as project manager, systems analyst, technology director, and online community developer. He was cofounder and CEO of one of the first virtual corporations, FringeWare, Inc. He is currently President of EFF-Austin, President of the Austin Free-Net Board of Directors, a cofounder of the Open Source Business Alliance, the Austin Wireless City Project, and the national Social Software Alliance, and advisor for the annual South by Southwest Interactive conference. He serves on the Advisory Board for the University of Texas Science, Technology, and Society Program. A longtime Internet activist, he is co-editing a book on technology, democracy, and advocacy, and he contributes to weblogs at weblogsky.com, smartmobs.com, worldchanging.com, ob4.org, greaterdemocracy.org, and austin.metblogs.com. Also joining regularly in the conversation is Dan Joy, a writer, editor, and inadvertent performance artist from San Francisco Welcome, gang!
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 15 Dec 04 09:26
Thanks, Bruce! I thought the counterculture was a sixties phenomenon, with people, mostly college students, making love, not war, smoking dope, listening to the Beatles, reading Allen Ginsberg and howling at the moon... but you take it all the way back to Prometheus and Abraham. How do you define counterculture so that it extends "through the ages"?
RUSirius (rusirius) Wed 15 Dec 04 11:06
Dan Joy and I have presented a selection of anti-authoritarian or non-authoritarian cultural movements or epochs peopled by non-conformists -- practitioners of deep, philosophic, creative individualism. These cultures generally embraced the idea of transvaluation -- that societies and individuals could change, and they all were (and are) characterized by a playful, antic spirit. This spirit, or perhaps several spirits, and this sensibility seems to show itself all across human history, and can appear in movements regarded as cultural, artistic, political, or spiritual. We try to show linkages and correspondences, both direct lines of influence and particular and perhaps peculiar similarities between and among these various "countercultures". The book traces the countercultural spirit in historical time back to the Socratics and the beginnings of Taoism. If I may, the TOC will tell readers what cultures we covered in the book http://www.counterculturethroughtheages.com/toc.php
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 15 Dec 04 11:38
How did the book come about, and what led you to this approach?
RUSirius (rusirius) Wed 15 Dec 04 14:15
Timothy Leary and Dan Joy were sitting around shooting the breeze and trying to think of a concept for a book. Dan actually came up with the concept, under the influence... the influence of Tim that is. Leary, during his later years, liked to contextualize his life's work (or play) in a broad historical context. He felt, for one thing, that individuals or small groups of non-conformists had long been wrestling technologies, ideas, "God," political power out of the hands of elites and priesthoods and giving them to the individual or to small groups. He believed he had done this to some extent with drugs and had played a role in a culture that has done that with communications media through the so-called digital revolution. That was a Learyesque historical analyses. In that context, he would say, for instance, that Martin Luther took God from the church hierarchy and allowed some worshippers to create dissident versions of that religion. The American Transcendentalists took that even further, giving divinity and the right to have and interpret cosmological insights -- to have revelations without the intercession of the Church to each individual. Diderot's Encycleopedia took knowledge from experts and secretive guilds and put it into the hands of literate citizens. Ad infinitum. And then there were all the "apostles of doubt." Leary's penchant for sloganeering had taken him from Turn On Tune In Drop Out" to "Think For Yourself and Question Authority." In that context, he saw himself as part of a tradition that went at least back to Socrates, whose method revolved largely around questioning all received values and ideas, and then questioning the answers. Endlessly questioning. Socrates never found a truth he liked, although he believed that truth was possible (unlike the sophists... or the post-modernists in more recent times). Voltaire is another figure in that particular "rogue's gallery" of doubters. Anyway, Dan went ahead and created an outline for the book based largely on these notions and the characteristics I discussed in answer to your first question. The final criteria for making choices was that the culture should have caste a bit of a shadow. It shouldn't be merely obscure (although that would make a lovely book as well, that's not the one we chose to write). So, ironically, we chose "mainstream" countercultures, movements and moments that are familiar... at least a little bit familiar. Dan contacted me because I had completed Leary's last book after his death, Design For Dying. Dan liked what I'd done and thought I would be the person to collaborate with on this one. I'd actually vaguely heard about this idea somewhere along the "Friends Of Tim" grapevine and thought it was just a great idea. I didn't have a moments hesitation or any sense that I couldn't make the project my own.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 15 Dec 04 15:57
So how did the collaboration work? Who did what?
RUSirius (rusirius) Wed 15 Dec 04 17:12
Basically, Dan did a majority of the book proposal, which was very substantial. I believe it was well over 10,000 words and included a complete chapter, the one on the Troubadours. I wrote most of the text for the rest of the book but strip mined lots of the text that Dan had put into the proposal for inclusion in the book as a whole. Dan also sent me a good chunk of material for the Zen chapter and, at the end, after the first draft of the book had been completed, he came in with several vital paragraphs and short bits that no doubt saved me from looking like an idiot. For instance, in the chapter on Prometheus and Abraham, I posited that there are Promethean and anti-Promethean countercultures. Prometheans glory in human achievement -- technology, science, the human quest to know everything and be able to do anything. Anti-Promethans see dangers in those urges and might characterize the urge as an expression of hubris. The original Greek myth, of course, was intended as a cautionary tale and Prometheas was, for them, a model of hubris against the gods. The character was only taken up as a positive role model later, particularly by Romantics at the start of the 19th Century. Dan beautifully raised points about some "Promethean" characteristics held by modern counterculturalists who I dubbed "anti-Promethean". He helped to enclose a group of anti-authoritarians who question the aggressive pursuit of scientific and technological development into one of the major theses of the book. I had suggested that this could be done, but then failed to take the trouble to do it. Collaboration is a wonderful thing. (I'm sure when Dan gets online he will tell this story in his own way, and correct me on something or other...)
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 15 Dec 04 18:01
Before we get more into the subject matter, I wanted to ask about Ken Goffman vs RU Sirius. You've been writing as RU forever. Are you dropping the nom de plume permanently? Or just for this book?
RUSirius (rusirius) Wed 15 Dec 04 20:13
I don't think I'll drop RU Sirius. I love that cartoon character. My sense as I was writing this book was that I wasn't writing it for the hippest of the hipsters, I was writing it for any reasonably open-minded reader who might be curious or might be enticed into reading it. I think the message that freethinkers, freewheelers, and other odd characters have always contributed to the human thing through novel ideas, invention, art, dissent, and so forth, and that the Enlightenment that is supposed to be at the core of democratic, civil libertarian life was a counterculture was an important and necessary message for these times. Of course, I also want to sell books I tried to make it an uncharacteristically gentle book. That was also, in many ways, a reflection of the fact that so much of it was written in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. There was a high level of sensitivity around at that time, and I was... err... sensitive to it. Anyway, I didn't want any potential reader (or buyer for that matter) to be thrown by "RU Sirius"
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 16 Dec 04 05:59
People who know you only through your Sirius persona may be surprised to find that you've written a book that is closer to academic, though the "Sirius" spirit pops up here and there throughout. Was it as much fun to write this kind of book as, say, your earlier _How to Mutate_?
RUSirius (rusirius) Thu 16 Dec 04 09:34
Fun can be a funny thing. This book was hard work, it required a lot of discipline. It was basically full time for about 26 months, but I was learning from it, I was discovering things about myself, like a pretty strong sense of connection to the spirit of the Tao. I felt that I was doing something that was going to be pretty good. So the process felt good. And in that sense, it was fun. Writing Mutate was in many ways painful because I was trying to wring some inspiration out of feelings of dissipation that I had in the wake of Mondo 2000 and various disappointing, or maybe just bizarre relationships. I was wrestling with my own sense of entitlement that resulted from various sorts of attention I received when Mondo was being treated like the hippest, trendiest thing around by a certain portion of the population. I wanted to keep being treated that way, and various projects, like a TV show and a seven-album recording deal with Nothing/Interscope records came tantalizingly close to becoming reality only to disappear in a haze of smoke and mirrors. So I had those ego investments and had to learn to let them go... well, at least somewhat. At the same time, I was trying to write a revolutionary book in terms of the form ("an exploded post-novel") and, to some extent, in terms of the content. I have no idea what to make of Mutate now myself. A few very serious people -- mostly from the post-structuralist academic world, and a handful of freaks, thought it was the great novel of the decade. Most people thought it sucked. I'm happy to move on from it, either way.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 16 Dec 04 12:41
Sounds like you're getting critical distance from the roaring 90s. Any temptation to write a memoir?
RUSirius (rusirius) Thu 16 Dec 04 12:59
Sort of. I have an idea on the table that would sort of be a memoir and sort of be a meditation on the nature of memory and identity in a society in which most people (like moi) don't remain in one place for most of their lives, don't maintain a lot of their ties to the past, so what happens to memory and identity in fragmented, fast-forward, post-toasty sort of times. Within that context, I would try to have my memoir be partly based on other people's memories. In some ways I'm more interested in my memories from the seventies, in my late teens and early twenties. For instance, I had a friend who took over the local Nixon headquarters in the name of the Zippies (Yippies with an extra zip) with an unloaded bb gun on Halloween in 1972. It was a scene straight out of Rebel Without A Cause. The cops were ready to shoot up the place when another friend of mine stepped up and coaxed him out of the building. That's just one memory. Some of the people in my circle of friends in Binghamton, New York were in some ways more extreme than the people I would end up hanging out with in NYC, in LA around the Leary cabal, around the MONDO cabal in Berkeley (well, MONDO may fight that one to a draw). So what was that about and how do some of those people remember it, if they have survived? It would be interesting to spend some time there finding out.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 17 Dec 04 04:06
Digging out one memory that's relevant to this particular book: the genesis of the project was in conversations that included Tim Leary. Can you say a little more about your and Dan's relationship with Tim and the extent to which he was an inspiration for the project?
RUSirius (rusirius) Fri 17 Dec 04 09:59
Tim Leary was a friend and a mentor... (or tormentor) to both of us. He was an editor for Mondo 2000, contributing material for free. He was someone you could go stay with in Los Angeles and he was generally right there for whoever was around... very social, very into long, late night conversations although he usually wanted to talk about anything other than the theories he had presented in his various books. As I said, something of the Leary way of looking at the world informed what we were doing with this book.
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Fri 17 Dec 04 10:31
Binghamton is my home town as well (somewhat later) and I always thought of it as a rather conservative place. It would be cool to hear more about what was happening back then.
RUSirius (rusirius) Fri 17 Dec 04 11:59
Binghamton is, no doubt, a conservative place. Back then, it was working class, Slavic conservatism, there was a pretty strong conservative Christian influence around. Several of my teachers used to spend entire classes advocating John Birchite views. That was pretty common. Binghamton also had a University that was very hip and radical throughout the 60s and 70s, so some of that influence was felt. But the Binghamton counterculture -- the "heads" and the "hairs"... nobody liked the word hippie... was quite visible and substantially large by the infamous summer of '67, without a lot of influence from the University types. I don't know why it happened there, but their were a lot of garage rock bands (early punks really) who identified with the Rolling Stones and The Troggs and Standells and those bands started sending out some sort of slightly wicked countercultural vibe, so that was probably an influence. A guy named John Goughery moved back to his home town... I think he'd been part of the Haight scene, and he opened up a very cool headshop with lots of underground newspapers and worthy books and so forth. So something just sort of started happening. I was just starting high school. My young friends were rockers... they were the ratty sorts of kids who liked the Stones better than the Beatles... Anyway, we were quite taken when we heard about what was going on in the Haight and the East Village. I don't know what made us receptive, but we were. So we got into it in our own quirky ways. My father also was a left-liberal and an athiest and an amateur writer of an existentialist sort of fiction living in the suburbs and my mom was a liberal who liked Herman Hesse and told me about the beats even before the hippies arrived on the scene. So I had a kind of intellectual interest that lead me toward "the movement." So I was reading Marxist newspapers and black militant biographies by Malcolm X, H. Rap Brown, and Eldridge Cleaver at the same time that I was trying to understand Alan Watts and Leary and Huxley and all that. Anyway, the politics started really heating up towards the end of the sixties. The college students organized the antiwar movement but increasingly local "Bingies" participated. There was this shift at my high school around 1969. I remember noting that one kid who had wanted to kill us for having long hair now had long hair and was wearing a Che Guevara T-Shirt. So there was some kind of cultural shift that happened among young people that even got to Binghamton New York. There was a general hipster ambiance among young people there pretty much throughout the 70s. Most of it was presumably just people going along with the trends and they returned to more conservative attitudes when the moment passed. None of this explains the gang of lunatics that we accumulated around the Binghamton Yippies. I mean, we just had some highly imaginative, psychologically weird people. I would say our conversations were pretty expansive and interesting though. The nature of reality was being questioned while we were also fantasizing about how we were going to build a laser ray to take out the Pentagon on July 4, 1976. You see, the revolution was inevitable....
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 17 Dec 04 15:13
Ah, memories... "Question Reality," the bumpersticker read. (The Austin version was "I brake for hallucinations.") I was reading Ramparts and Evergreen Review - ER's blurb said "Join the underground," and I did... difference was, I was in a small town in West Texas at the time. Weird context. Did you write for the underground press at the time? What was your path to Reality Hackers and Mondo, to Queen Mu and St. Jude?
RUSirius (rusirius) Fri 17 Dec 04 15:26
I started a Yippie underground paper in my home town called "Space" and I did a little bit of work for the Underground Press Syndicate, Tom Forcade's organization before he created High Times. In the grand RU Sirius tradition, Space was too frivolous and journalistically irresponsible for even the Yippie home office. We were critiqued in the national Yippie paper, the Yipster Times for being too frivolous. It was about that time -- 1972 -- that I sort of "quit the left." I saw political correctness as just another pair of handcuffs... mental handcuffs. I searched for heretics and became a big fan of Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol. I loved that their vulgar pursuit of attention pissed people off and at the same time, I thought their works were attractive and interesting and clever. I didn't do much though. I was a mid-seventies slacker. Then, in college in Brockport New York, I started a punk rock band, Party Dogs. I was the lead singer and I worked with a friend on a sort of surrealist poetry/prose magazine called Black Veins, which I think came from Maldoror by Lautreamont, but I could be misremembering. We interviewed Leary for it when he appeared in Rochester NY doing a "stand up philosophy" tour. That's when I met Tim. I started High Frontiers, the psychedelic magazine a year or so after I left upstate New York for the SF Bay area with just that intention. High Frontiers was largely about psychedelics and psychedelic ideas but in the background was a sense of intrigue about things that were happening in science and technology. With Reality Hackers in 1988, we reversed fields... we put the technology and science up front. And then, we decided we needed a more attractive name so it became Mondo 2000.
Dennis Wilen aka (the-voidmstr) Fri 17 Dec 04 15:44
When and why did Ken Goffman become RU Sirius? And was assuming a counterculture identity an integral part of your own transformation? I'm still /0!d to many old friends, although I came out of the pseud closet a few years back. Being VOIDMSTR instead of Dennis helped me escape a lot of baggage, just like moving to LaLa, away from my east coast roots, helped me break free of others' expectations. And is this renaming and reinventing of selves based in some collective memory of the magic in names?
RUSirius (rusirius) Fri 17 Dec 04 18:25
In 1984 when I started High Frontiers I took on the name RU Sirius. Largely, I was just being playful. At the same time, I was into the magickal idea that you can invoke a sort of mythical character by taking on that character... by NAMING yourself and really taking it on. So I took a name that had a certain jester/trickster vibe to it, and I think I worked it pretty well. I became RU Sirius. I mean, I mostly forgot about Ken Goffman in my day to day life, although it was still a name on my bank account and so forth. Anyway, RU got a bit carried away. He got increasingly decadent. I couldn't afford him full time anymore; physically, emotionally, or financially. So Ken Goffman came back in and reoccupied my daily life, as a stabilizing force. So, how 'bout this book? -)
Berliner (captward) Sat 18 Dec 04 06:25
Ah, the book. A great idea, one I had great hopes for, but, I'm afraid, a great idea not realized. Believe me when I say I write the following with a heavy heart. I realize that editors no longer edit at publishing houses, for the most part, but I do wish someone had caught some of the more blatant errors I encountered in the sections where I have some knowledge. I was doing okay with some of it, sort of sceptical about some of it, but then, about half-way through, I hit some stuff I just couldn't deal with. It started on page 228, where there's a quote from Charlie Parker, set up from what appears to be a book called In Music. What? Bird wrote a book? First I'd heard of it. But, I thought, maybe you got it from a book with that title. Strangely, it's not in the bibliography. Then, a couple of pages later, we get this: "The new jazz style was called bebop, and it did something previously unheard of in popular music -- it allowed the musicians *to improvise*. Until the 1940s, musicians had marched in formation, rendering each composition more or less as it was intended." Well, horseshit. The very thing which set jazz aside from other popular music of the 20th century was that it was improvised, either in ensemble or with individual solos. The earliest jazz recordings feature bands with each of the leading voices improvising against each other at the same time. Listen to King Oliver with a teenaged Louis Armstrong. Armstrong, on his own, helped initiate the tradition of each voice improvising a solo while the others backed him. Listen to "West End Blues," with its astonishing improvised free-jazz Armstrong solo opening. Out there? I'll say. It's almost un-notatable. Listen to Duke Ellington's great soloists -- Johnny Hodges, Ben Webster, Harry Carney, and so on -- as they take flight above his great band. Listen to Coleman Hawkins, in a variety of situations, develop the saxophone into arguably the leading vehicle for instrumental improvisation in jazz. Listen to him, in his revolutionary recording of "Body and Soul," begin to set the soloist free from the harmonic chains that had bound jazz musicians, an innovation which presaged the even more inventive harmonic explorations the beboppers brought to bear. The beboppers were improvising, but hell, that's what their audience expected them to do. What they did *not* expect them to do was to do it the way they did, which is what caused all the controversy, and, in fact, caused that old improvisor Louis Armstrong to call what they did "Chinese music." A lot of the cognoscenti were disappointed in him for that. Surely an old pothead like him could free his mind enough to dig what they were doing! Skip ahead to page 352. "A simpler but more culturally and commercially viable stream in cyberdelic counterculture -- the acid house/rave movement -- emerged in great Britain in the late 1980s. The music that gave birth to this counterculture had originated among African-American musicians and disc jockeys from the tough streets of Chicago. Using digital synthesizers, these club entertainers created a robotic nightclub dance music called 'house' that was stripped of human voice and emotion." Well, no. House music arose in gay clubs in Chicago, true, but if anything it was hyper-emotional, dependent on the voices of anonymous divas, male and female. It was a more synthesizer-oriented version of disco, right down to the beat. What you're referring to in the paragraph I just excerpted is, in fact, techno, which arose on the tough streets of *Detroit* among a rather geeky crowd of black kids (and one very disturbed Vietnam veteran) who were, in fact, looking for a way to strip dance music of its emotion. It caught on with a mixed hetero and gay crowd in Detroit who went to clubs dressed in clothes that mocked the "preppy" culture of the era -- itself a pretty countercultural move, since few of these Detroit kids had anything like that kind of background. Okay, let's hold this here while I quote from the next paragraph. "Somehow, the acid house music travelled to a psychedelic-drug-saturated hippie dropout party scene on the island of Ibiza, where the tripsters found the rhythms conducive to the production of benevolent communal trance states via a combination of psychedelic drugs and all-night dancing. This information quickly made its way back to England, and by the end of the 1980s, acid house had conquered nightlife in that trend-saturated country." Hard to say where to start with this one, but I'll start with the first word. Ibiza is and has been for some time a cheap destination for summer vacationers, particularly from Germany and England, and there have long been discos and other clubs catering to them there. So there's no "somehow" about it. This has long been an alcohol-fuled scene -- cheap Spanish wine, of course -- and there has long been a gay scene there. House (and techno) were both popular in England before the Ibiza acid house scene started, but what made acid house possible was the combination of the introduction of Ecstacy and the popularity of the Roland 404 synthesizer, which had a preset on it that seemed to make E-stoned folks go nuts. For some reason (but this is well-documented), Ecstacy, on Ibiza, was called "acid," and the local Spanish dealers of course pronounced it "ah-ceeed." Thus we have the scenes where DJs are playing house music, everyone's stoned on E, and someone in the booth is overlaying the beats with that 404 sound and everyone on the floor is going "ah-ceeed!" That's what acid house is. I find it rather remarkable that you didn't follow up the "second Summer of Love" movement in England that followed "Ibiza summer," and led to the whole Shamen/JAMMS/Orbital thing on the rock scene and the concomitant utopian social and political movement that came out of that. However, the "hippie dropout party scene...where the tripsters found the rhythms cnonducive to...trance states" *does* describe the scene in Goa, where Goa trance came from. Trance was a subset of techno, thanks to the fact that techno, after a brief period as flavor of the month in England, found its true acceptance in what's probably the only city in the world as depressing and grotty as Detroit: Berlin. Just about every one of the original generation of Detroit techno innovators became major stars in Berlin, and, in fact, a lot of them recorded the bulk of their stuff here. This led to locals picking the style up and making their own variants of it. Some, like the minimal, foreboding stuff from Basic Channel, was just as dark and machine-like as its inspiration (although I'd argue that some of the original guys, like Juan Atkins, aren't as dehumanized as they pretend to be). Other Berlin techno tried for a more mainstream approach, and actually began to overlay melody on the beats, which remained as brutal as ever. This became known as trance. Several of the trance artists, most notably Cosmic Baby in the late '80s and early '90s, and Paul van Dyk in the early to mid '90s, became international stars, thanks partially to the late John Peel, who heard a lot of Berlin music because he had a show here. These records were taken by some of the more hippy-minded young vacationers to another inexpensive summer destination, Goa, where the dominant drugs were charas (hashish) and, yes, our old friend LSD. Goa trance wound up feeding into that "second Summer of Love" soundtrack as well, and in fact the groups/performers I named earlier probably fit better into the trance scene than the acid house one. Both trance and acid house remain integral parts of the electronic dance music scene today. I'm astonished that you don't seem to have consulted Simon Reynolds' book Generation Ecstacy, which may be exasperating in its need to micro-genre everything, but at least has the chronology right, especially since you quote his website in the book. But perhaps his somewhat sneering dismissal of the San Francisco rave scene and his observation (which I can't comment on, having not been there) that the nature of its audience ossified it too early in its development for it to produce anything much of value (a statement he also applies to the States generally) would have run counter to some of your understandable predilections. These are just two examples, and music-related ones, that I was able to find immediately by picking up the book again this afternoon. I began reading faster once I hit that bebop whopper, and yet there are more errors and omissions (what, no bohemia in Paris before 1900? Excuse me, but the original bohemians from Bohemia were there in the 1840s!) I could find if I were to go back and look at the book some more. And I will if others in this discussion would like me to. As a cultural historian with an interest in this specific field, I know that a history of countercultures is something we need, and I'm not denying that there are some good ideas kicking around here -- the Promethean versus anti-Promethian dialectic is one of them -- but I think there's a great deal of suspect analysis and factual error here that someone, like an editor, should have caught. If it makes you feel better, I'm not planning to review this book anywhere. But I'm sure other people are, and I'm fairly sure I'm not the only one who'll catch this stuff.
RUSirius (rusirius) Sat 18 Dec 04 10:25
I think where I get into some trouble, and I did expect this, was by painting in broad strokes. I had half-a-dozen books out on jazz and each one of them identified bebop with busting out the improvisations. Were there exceptions before bebop? As I note in almost every chapter of the book, there are always exceptions. House music: The closer you get to a current moment, the more contradictory stories there are. It's like a giant game of telephone. My friend Genesis P. Orridge has his own story about discovering acid house in a Chicago record store... African American dance music... and giving it a psychedelic spin. The description of the qualities of the music come from Jah Sonic and DJ Paul Oakenfold. Also, I'm not sure that I would describe disco as emotional music. I remember hearing from people going to both Ibiza and Goa in the mid-80s and it's possible that I got the two of them scrambled, although I don't recall people at that time drawing such a distintion between the two of them and the sources I checked emphasized the Ibiza scene. Again, my information came mostly from the Jah Sonic website and a few other sources that were recommended to me. I didn't read Generation Ecstasy because I didn't have it around and I was into a chapter with a lot of different parts. A few people who seem to know the history of the movement recommended a few websites. The stories on the web seemed to correspond pretty well so I went with it. In the context of the 20th Century, I was covering dozens of counter/subcultures and honestly, I didn't treat each one as a major research project. I did spend quite a bit of time with jazz and with Paris bohemia. I never claimed that early 20th Century Paris invented bohemia. The scene did cement and spread that sensibility and moved various types of art and literature several steps on from realism presenting works that seemed to correspond to modernity and the way consciousness works...
RUSirius (rusirius) Sat 18 Dec 04 11:10
One more thought. Ed quotes this: "Somehow, the acid house music travelled to a psychedelic-drug-saturated hippie dropout party scene on the island of Ibiza..." and then says >> "there's no "somehow" about it." >> Using somehow is simply, admittedly a cheap quick way of moving on to a few points about rave culture as it connects to themes in the book or to points I wanted to emphasize in the 4.5 pages dedicated to it.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sat 18 Dec 04 11:22
I'm trying to remember whether I knew that you were from Rochester/Brockport. What influence did being from that part of the world have on you?
RUSirius (rusirius) Sat 18 Dec 04 13:04
Perhaps the only relevent influence I can think of is... as opposed to being from a major urban or hipster area. Like Devo used to say about Akron, Ohio, the weirdos are really forced to lean on each other... everybody knows everybody else. There's a certain sense of desparation that can be condusive for producing weird things (like Devo). At the same time, there's very little chance for the "hip community" to "get its shit together and develop alternative institutions" or anything like that. which I think means that we spent more time in our heads developing personal and aesthetic reactions and defenses against a mainstream culture that was a bit redneck and ubiquitous. Finally, once in the Bay Area, when I would hear people (mostly mainstream people really) say that nobody is thinking about this stuff beyond SF and maybe a few other places, I would bristle. When I got to tour 20 cities for the Mondo 2000 book I found that my most interesting conversations weren't in SF or LA or NY or even Seattle. THey were in Minnesota and Philadelphia and a few other places less associated with hipsterism. It didn't surprise me. I guess it makes you a little bit more hungry for alternative culture. At the same time, it makes you a little less success oriented. We had a damn good band in Rochester New York but their was one record label that was putting out new wave and they were going to release one band. We were #2 in town. We never really looked for greater possibilities for having a commercially successful band, whereas we might have if we'd been in NYC. I want to say a bit more about Ed's post above. Naturally, when you do a book of this sort, you try very hard to get everything right... even given the broad strokes caveat that I attach to the scope of the book. I 'm sure there are a few errors in the book, but I'm not sure that those pointed out by Ed are they. The editors did a good job of saving us from a few. Every one of the errors that they caught, we were passing on from previously written books, "serious" books, but the editors were able to convince me that these were mistakes... mostly because they weren't included in other biographies, books etc. One instance, a big substantive history of jazz said that Fats Waller had been a pimp. A friend of one of the editors angrily objected that this was false. In that case, I just dropped it without further question since it was in no way central to the point I ws making. With the earlier chapters, I located experts for each, sent them the draft and received corrections and suggestions. I definitely got a few saves out of that. Off the top of my head, I was advised by Norman Giradot, a professor of Taoism at Lehigh, Peter Lamborn Wilson who has written many books on radical Sufism, and Erik Davis checked over the chapter on Zen. At the same time, experts themselves are quirky. They disagree with each other. Their were a few cases in both the chapters on Taoism and particularly on Sufism where the sources in the literature seemed like they knew what they were talking about. Rather than ignoring the expert adviced, I changed the language to allow for an element of uncertainty. Wilson, for one, told me that I shouldn't trust anything from Idries Shah. But a lot of scholars seemed to use Shah as a resource. I cut back on the Shah historical details a bit but used him to make broad points. In the later chapters, where I was dealing with lots of movements and sub-countercultures in each chapter, I didn't query the experts but relied on my own intuition and in some cases my memory, that the facts before me were reliable.
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