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ten years after Cobain

Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth remembers Kurt Cobain in the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times, with the aptly titled: "When the Edge Moved to the Middle". I was thinking just yesterday of how disgusted I am of what passes for popular music these days (btw, I'm not saying that it was better in the past, it's just that for some reason I've been more sensitive to it recently. I mean, I cringe to think of, say, the time of Disco). Few songs have any meaning at all. There is no innovation in the music. Then the videos: Visual effects. Photoshop-ed bodies. Sub-second shots. Smile. Click. Smile. Slick. Jump. Smile. Every single time (I'm not kidding) I happen to land on MTV or related I remember Beck's MTV makes me wanna smoke crack.

It's the underground that matters. The subconscious of society. And Nirvana was at the center of one of those few times when the underground went overground, and briefly (so very briefly) took over.

Strangely enough, I wasn't into Nirvana at the time, I re-discovered it on my own, and on my own terms, at the end of the 90s.

So today I'll repeat that Heavier than Heaven is a must-read. I'll listen to favorites like Heart-Shaped Box and Pennyroyal Tea.

I'll listen, and wonder.

Posted by diego on April 8, 2004 at 4:16 PM

articles, depth and threading

I started writing this intertwined within the previous post about blogs & fiction, but I quickly realized that it deserved a little more than a paragraph lost within another entry (diego solemnly tells the idea: you have been upgraded from "paragraph" to "entry", and you're free to go! There is much rejoicing in the world of ideas. Tearful goodbyes are exchanged and so on.) I was saying...

The interview I did for that article was probably half an hour or more, and having written articles before (although technical) I knew very well what would have to happen in the end. I think that Jim McClellan (reporter) did a good job given his space constraints, and he cared and was knowledgeable about the topic.

Now what I was thinking about was that no topics with any degree of depth can be properly discussed in one or two pages no matter how good you are and how much care you put into your writing; there just isn't space enough to do things justice.

This made me wonder about more complex and consequential matters, which also get alloted similar amounts of space, and it reminds me that when I see an article on which I know the background, I can make a different judgment, but what about articles where there can be no background because it is evolving news? Until time passes, there is no other source of information on what's going on aside from 1,500 word articles and 5-minute news clips. Overtime you get books, documentaries, etc, and more and more we've got weblogs to cover part of the picture. But the reality is that, for the most part, we're still subject to the vision provided us by those brief news items. And that's not enough.

I have a habit, which is to keep track of threads within newspapers and across them. I don't do this formally (not that obsessive :)) but I do it. So what I was thinking was whether this idea of reading of "trails" of news on given topics is something that could be formalized in some way, and what would be the requirements. In true blog fashion, and since I have to get other things done, I will simply ask a bunch of questions, provide few if any answers, and then cart off riding my faithful donkey into the sunset, with my extra large sombrero, laptop in one hand, bottle of tequila--worm and all--in the other, under the fading desert sun.


Well, someone might say, newspapers themselves do this. Or does it (With their "big picture" feature). Or RSS search aggregates some of this... Feedster's feedpapers come to mind... but that's not what I mean, although Feedpapers come close in some respects.

And that's not what I mean because both the current "news cycle" and search place importance on recency. And recency stresses what is shocking. (Because the more shocking something is, the bigger the chance of it being noticed when there's a sea of new information that comes in every day).

There are two problems here, one is that of following a thread across time, in a given medium (eg., newspapers) and even across different media, and focus only on it to be able to go beyond the soundbite-dependent world in which we live in.

The second problem is that, structurally, writing something that can exist both as a unit and as a part of a larger whole is, well, complicated. That's why "series" of articles are made explicit. Maybe now that media is merging in different ways and you can actually use digital to expose its underlying continuum, it will (should?) become more common practice to serialize works.

If both were done regularly, we could combine the technology with the writing style (yes, some of these ideas echo in what I've tried to do with plan b as far as creating a structure that can be coherent both through linear and hypertextual paths, and that is also "episodic"). I naturally gravitate towards thinking of the technology required, but this is as much a question of technology (which is largely there already) as it is of writing style and how we are used to receiving our information. And weblogs have a role to play there, I think...

...and off riding into the sunset I go. :)

Categories: writing
Posted by diego on April 8, 2004 at 2:25 PM

blogs & fiction

The guardian has an article today on blogs & fiction. I was interviewed for it, since plan b (mentioned in the article) was maybe the first attempt (certainly one of the first attempts) at this mix.

The interview was actually quite long, and it certainly went beyond the two sentences of my quote :-) but that's how it is. (I will have something to add about what the nature of articles does to any topic in a little bit). It was an interesting experience.

One thing: where I'm quoted "When you're writing, there is a kind of idealised reader in your mind [...]" I think this might give the impression that you actually control or are conscious about writing for someone, when, at least for me, there might be the faint image of this idealised reader somewhere, but it's not really present. Writing requires flow. Flow means that common rational processes don't necessarily apply. Most if not all the time you're writing for yourself (except that there might be a thin veil of disguise, but when you read later what you wrote, and enjoy it, you can't deny reality :)). Then again there's no denying that what's written will be read by others, and since you know that is the case, it becomes difficult to argue that isn't a factor at all. Editing doesn't require flow, and sometimes things are modified during the editing process for one reason or other... and then with plan b even though there isn't much editing, there is feedback, which as I said in the interview clearly has some effect simply because it exists.

Anyway, this is confusing enough to merit a revision at some later date. :) Or maybe it isn't confusing, and I just hesitate because I've lost writing flow after a few days of being not blogging...

Categories: writing
Posted by diego on April 8, 2004 at 12:18 PM

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