GAM3R 7H3ORY 1.1
Instead, I thought I'd mention a fascinating site I came across this evening, via Julian Dibbell's article "Edit Me!" in this week's Village Voice, GAM3R 7H30RY 1.1 (Gamer Theory). The site, created by Australian scholar and new media theorist McKenzie Wark in conjunction with the Institute for the Future of the Book, is a networked book(-in progress) that examines nine online games and gaming communities (The Cave to SimEarth), in a modular, tiered format of nine chapters of 25 paragraphs each. The networked book also allows any reader to offer online comments, critiques, corrections, queries, and other kinds of clarifications and emendations on the book's conceptualization and content. There are also affiliated fora for more extensive chat. Wark, who authored The Hacker's Manifesto (Harvard, 2004) and teaches at The New School University, specifically hopes to engender commentary on gaming as major media form, and says in the FAQ that he would like to use, with posters' permission, some of the concepts and commentary this nascent project generates in the printed work. So far I've only read "Allegory (on the Sims)," but the entire project really excites me, and I'm curious to see how it turns out, especially if Wark decides to keep a version of this networked online site alongside the printed, published text. I hope that it becomes a paradigm for many other kinds of future publishing projects; does anyone know of any other similar works online?
On the Institute for the Future of the Book site, there are other projects underway to check out as well.
El Jheri Curl Crew
Thanks go to Anthony Montgomery's Monaga blog, which pointed me to Felix Gillette's article in the same issue of the Voice on one of the notorious Washington Heights Dominican drug gangs of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Jheri Curls. I swear I'm not making that name up! The premise, at least based on the gang's name, would probably be utterly comical except that in reality they wrought considerably more terror than mere fashion faux-pas in their heyday. Gillette identifies several of their victims, including an outspoken neighborhood activist who refused to remain silent as they propagated their drug trade and paid with his life. Gillette notes that the gangs' leaders are mostly rusticating in prison in upstate New York, and have not had the chance to enjoy the Caribbean fruits of their ill-gotten gains, while in their place, a new scourge has hit their former stomping grounds: gentrification. Several of the new residents of the area that Gillette interviews are as blissfully unaware of the recent violent history as they are, I would imagine, of what a Jheri Curl is, or was. (And yes, I can assure any of my readers, you can still see them in their full efflorescence on selected streets of Chicago....)
No, not the Tarkovsky film, which is actually Nostalghia, I believe, and, since it's one of his slowest and most visually poetic and grounded in ritual imagery and performance, will always be one of my aesthetic models and favorites, but an article, "The In-betweeners," by Philip Marchand in the Toronto Star, on why the Boomer generation (my immediate predecessors) doesn't match up to those who came before (my parents generation, i.e., those people born between 1926-1945, or the proverbial "Greatest," which I guess would include the cohort of my grandmother, who's in her 80s, and everyone else who were young adults during World War II and the Great Depression), and why those of us who follow in age (Generation X, Generation Y, Generation Z, AA, etc.) are doomed to be even more lackluster by comparison. You see, though Marchand claims he's not engaging in nostalgia, he still cites the genius of Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Alice Munro (okay, you've got the read the argument) and others born in the period 1925-1945, and how their talents flowered in the 1960s, while post-then, we're looking at the lack of a common culture, short attention spans, too many people these days, grueling and unpleasant jobs, etc. MEDIOCRITY. He also notes (rightly, but cruelly) that Paul McCartney now looks like an old woman. The monster of television, naturally enough, makes an appearance.
By contrast, we are now in an age when people are encouraged to "personalize their use of the media" and to join "virtual communities." As Joey Kramer would say, people are "kind of doing their own thing." The coherence of cultural conversations, and the general sense of meaningfulness, is breaking down. It is unthinkable now that any audience could care as much, or believe that religiously in its music, as the audience members at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival that booed Bob Dylan for going electric.
I'm always skeptical of such arguments, which tend to romantic overgeneralizations, and which have been emanating from the mouths of annoying cultural commentators since the Medieval era ("Oh, how great it was when everyone in the country's name could be written in the Domesday Book"), and am doubly suspicious when Tom Wolfe, whose radar has been off since his sharply tuned The Bonfire of the Vanities (cf. drugs, class conflict, northern Manhattan, etc.) appeared, is cited for evidentiary reasons; but then I tend to repeat some version of these quasi-Spenglerian assessments to myself and others around me at least once a week. One might also ask whether these "Tweeners" match up to the crowds that gave us, say, Romanticism, late Romanticism, New England Wits, Transcendentalism, the Victorian novel, Impressionism, High Modernism, the Harlem Renaissance, etc. Talk about a fall off! But seriously, I don't think it's so bad, even though at times I do. But I don't....