Tuesday, February 7, 2012

broader but shallower

last night on my drive home from class I stopped in at a buns & noodles to read the copy of century: 1969 I'd spotted there about a week before. I've really enjoyed the league of extraordinary gentlemen stories alan moore has written over the past decade, and maybe what I enjoy even more is the little visual and verbal contemporary memes he and his artists smuggle into each story, sometimes jampacked into each panel. in the most recent I twigged onto most of the big ones, like the semimajor figure of jerry cornelius who I'd expected as he's a moorcock invention of that time period (and moorcock's kane of old mars had appeared in the 2nd volume), but also the major characters of turner and pherber and jack who I hadn't expected because, unlike moore's other pilferings, they aren't literary. (I've also something to say about the uproar over moore's complaints that dc comics are pilfering from him by releasing new before watchmen comics based on his seminal work, which is this: moore is a braggart and a bully and a genius and he is right.)

at any rate, much of the little sidling things that kevin o'neill put in, like the patrick troughton dr who of that period and andy capp, were really good. but the thing I most appreciated about the book and the thing that I wanted to comment on was the nostalgia I felt reading it for an era when there were secret pockets of information and experiences that were hidden from most people (and mostly found through selfselection). some were right on the surface and freely available, like the village voice of that time and the carlos castenada books. for others, like times square and woodstock and be-ins and dope, you had to seek them out and in some cases you had to know someone who knew someone.

today it seems different, as if every experience is available at any time in some way through the internet as a repository of other people's experiences. those experiences were available, in some form, back then too, but it took time and effort and just plain luck and dogged pursuit to tease them out. I suppose I'm bemoaning the loss of a kind of elite adventurer, of which I was only modestly ever one, a person who knew the codes and where to find things and if he didn't knew someone who did and might be willing to give them out in trade.

I'm not sure I'm complaining about this change entirely--I think it's good that formerly cult tastes like occult kung fu movies or lovecraft's cthulu stories or gutbucket music can be easily found by anyone with a search engine--but there's something different in it, a patina of knowledge that can be laid over a broader but shallower knowledge. I miss the days when I could only find a gang of four album by spending time in a holeinthewall shop on a new york sidestreet and only knew about gang of four because I'd read about them in spin--in its early days, the punker rolling stone made a little more punk by its relation to penthouse--and heard a single tune on erik erikson's latenight overnight show on wdst, long after the squares had shut down for an early day tomorrow. back then I needed weeks or months to make those circuitous and accidental connections. now I can do it all, even the listening, in a half hour.

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