Me? Edgy is hot.
I've been pondering Apple's mystique of late. Maybe 'cause this coming April 1st is their 30th birthday, maybe 'cause they rose from ashes of near-death, maybe 'cause my friends that work there are the most religious folks I've met in high-tech, maybe 'cause their products are sexy, maybe 'cause they're within walking distance of my front door and are an easy target.
All in all though Apple is edgy. What's the opposite of edgy?
"Mass marketing demands mass products. And mass products beg for mass marketing.
This equation leads to a dangerous Catch 22, one with two parts.
Part One: Boring Products. Companies that are built around mass marketing develop their products accordingly. They round the edges, smooth out the differentiating features and try to make products that are bland enough to work for the masses. They make spicy food less spicy, insanely great service a little less great (and a little cheaper). They push everything—from the price to the performance —to the center of the market. They listen to the merchandisers at K-Mart and Wal-mart or the purchasing agents at Johnson & Johnson and make products that will appeal to everybody." - "Purple Cow", Seth Godin
The zone of mediocrity sucks you into its vortex the minute you start smoothing edges and nodding mindlessly along with the masses.
They're certainly not advocating starving artists (there is a 4-part method to their madness). Ultimately if it doesn't enthrall you first, (satisfy yourself first, says Kerouac) it's gonna be a real tough sell.
I felt something happening when I first stumbled onto reading blogs in 2001 post-O'Reilly P2P Conference. In the words of Beat salonist Kenneth Rexroth: "Something's happening man." The energy of a renaissance was palpable even as the dot-com flame was extinguishing.
"What's happening? Who's interesting? What's going on?" asked Ginsberg, 29, fresh out of Columbia University in black horn-rim glasses and a sack suit.
It was 1955. The San Francisco Poetry Renaissance was in full swing, with the erudite Rexroth and poet Robert Duncan of San Francisco State at the white-hot center. - "HOWL: When Allen Ginsberg hurled his shattering poem at a San Francisco audience in 1955, it proved to be the depth charge that started the Beat movement", San Francisco Chronicle, October 4, 2005
Artists flocked to San Francisco ("the last refuge of the bohemian remnant") partially because it was as far, far way as you could get from the Old Establishment in New York, according to Rexroth.
The blogosphere used to push my edges. Po Bronson in his bestselling What Should I Do With My Life? talks about the establishment of the Writers Grotto, a workspace where the creators encouraged each other to take creative risks. In isolation, Bronson confesses, he might be tempted to chuck it and take that editing job after all.
"The first time I heard him read was a revelation. Here was a man talking about real things in his own voice and not trying to cover his feelings with a lot of slimy poetry." - Allen Ginsberg speaking of his own influence, poet William Carlos Williams - The Beat Papers of Al Aronowitz, "Chap 6: The San Francisco Renaissance"
How many times has reading a blog been revelatory lately?
Fine. Maybe it's all projection, and maybe I'm preaching to myself "don't dilute your art", "don't smooth your edges" "you teach best what you need to learn (Richard Bach)" but the more blogs I read, the more they sound alike - the more they sound rounded.
Hmmm, Richard Bach also said, "Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself." Now the $64,000 question: How do you do that? (Can you do that?!) In the words of another immortal poet whom influenced the rucksack raw quality of the Beats as well as Williams himself:
"Don't seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise: seek what they sought." - Basho
The rest here are random splatterings. Connect the dots yourself:
"...blogging 1.0 having been completely consumed and repurposed by a cabal of MSM and faux-hip-and-late-to-the-party-but-hell-let's-trash-it-anyway PR bods - and blogging's core hacker ethic is finally sullied beyond sauvage after one too many commercial pisses in the proverbial punchbowl." - "Quit Pro Quo", Gary Turner
"It is impossible for an artist to remain true to himself as a man, let alone an artist, and work within the context of this society." - Kenneth Rexroth (impossible? difficult, yes...)
rebecca, well put. one line stands out:
"First and foremost, they ask themselves if they can sell it. If they don't think they can, they pass."
spot-on. in a similar vein, had a set of buddies who were in an incredible band with a strong, significant local following in chicago. they played regionally, hundreds of gigs, had a bunch of critically praised discs out. they went to NYC to play at the mercury lounge for the industry types. three execs showed up, two left during the gig. the third waited around, wanting to meet with them afterwards. the conversation went like this:
"you guys are incredible. i love your lyrics. i love your sound.
but i could never sell you. i'm sorry."
and with that, she turned and walked out.
"The only significant fiction in America is popular fiction...fiction indistinguishable from the advertising columns on either side of the page." - Kenneth Rexroth
A Cautionary Tale? "[Keen said that] blogging opens the door to too many mediocre voices. When he tried to apply this critique tonight, Des Jardins shot it down with a single line that exposed its irrelevance to the conversation: "The cream also rises in the blogosphere." - "Blogs: threat or menace?", Scott Rosenberg
How the Beat Generation Ended: "It would seem that every high school senior who thought he or she could write poetry hitchhiked to the Bay Area immediately upon graduation — or flunking out. This was not all to the bad. [In fact the Beats were for the democratization of arts.] If you’ve got enough milk some cream is bound to rise to the top — unless the milk is homogenized. Unfortunately the counterculture was busy homogenizing itself, so there was less cream than might be expected.
The Twenties are supposed to be the time when little magazines of experimental verse flourished. There are probably more such little magazines [mostly published by hand press!] being published in the Bay Area in recent years than were published in the entire country and Paris-America in the decade of the Twenties. Are they in fact magazines of “experiment and revolt”? With very few exceptions they are not. They are conventional and conservative, but like the art school, conservative of a convention — the convention of experiment and revolt.
Something had happened to the preceding generation who had broken the fetters of the conventions before them. They had become the Establishment and they don’t know it to this day. They had also become celebrities and cult figures. They sold more books of poetry than were sold by all living poets between the wars except for Robert Frost and Edna Millay. (Editions in those days numbered a thousand copies or less.) They drew enormous audiences who dutifully absorbed whatever they were given — except for those who walked out in anger. It is unbelievable that Allen Ginsberg could force an audience in North Dakota, who had traveled to hear him from all over the central Northwest, to chant “Ah-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-” for three quarters of an hour followed by “singing” by his friend Peter Orlovsky. This certainly defines a cult figure. - "The Beat Era: The End of a Golden Age", Kenneth Rexroth
[And the final food-for-thought:]" "Jack Kerouac may have worn khakis, but he didn't get them at the Gap," yet "even Ginsberg did a Gap ad before he died."
This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. - Hamlet, by that edgy hottie, Shakespeare
Bonus: Tom Foremski tells us about a re-enactment of the infamous Howl reading TOMORROW Friday night at The Beat Museum, 1345 Grant, SF, 8 p.m. (He he: Be there or be square.) He also starts the new beatblog tag.
more Apple tattoos http://www.theapplecollection.com/Collection/objects/tattoo.shtml