June 15, 2004



Land: 'Cyberpunk is too wired to concentrate...'

There's been a slightly valedictory air on the blogs of late, prompted by Matt's open-ended vacation, Marcello's announcement of yet another retirement (back soon, but, with any luck, not for the Glass Spider tour) and Simon's recent enforced absence.

Simon and Matt's semi-retirement has had its positive effects, if only to demonstrate the strength and tenacity of the network. I prefer the term 'network' to 'community' for a number of reasons. (The word 'community' always has a sinister, authoritarian taint for me. Have you noticed how it is always mobilized in the pathologically nebulous logic of differentiation at work in the mainstream news media? We hear about the 'black community', the 'gay community'; these groups, unlike 'us', the interpellated normative mass, always have 'leaders' and 'spokesman'. But that's another story...) Some, notably Marcello, have bristled at the notion that they are included in a community. But the very fact that it features hyperlinks (and is linked to) means that Naked Maja is a node in a network.

Simon was such a crucial lynchpin in the formation of the network, yet it's clear now that it is a genuine rhizome (for 'network' read 'rhizome'), no longer requiring a central focus or head. Simon's rep as a writer gave the network its initial 'charismatic seeding', drawing in readers-writers with disparate interests . An example: Oliver and Luka started reading k-punk because of links from Blissblog, both then started reading each other and became involved in the glorious heronbone-worldwarfour becoming that has been so fruitful over the past year.

John is right, naturally, to call for more distribution, less concentration. The internet was founded on this very principle (the military realising that its data network would be more robust if it was instantiated in multiple terminals). Yet I don't recognize the homogeneity John bemoans. All of the blogs I read are wonderfully idiosyncratic (Heronbone, Crumbling Loaf and Erase the World, to name but three, are absolutely unique, unlike anything to be found in print). I must admit, I don't spend much time reading 'review blogs'; what I want from blogs is best provided by those which exploit the form's capacity for digression. What I want from blogs is what I want from culture in general - vision, the co-ordinates for experiencing the world in a (re)newed way.

Also in respect of John's remarks, I think we need to be careful of Oedipalizing the relationship between blogs; of conceiving of certain blogs as 'fathers' whose influence needs to be violently overthrown (a la Harold Bloom's anxiety of influence thesis). The relationship is much more lateral. And in any case, there are new buds emerging on the rhizome all the time: the female philosophy offshoot comprised by Glueboot, Infinite Thought and And So It's Christmas is a particularly welcome new development, for instance.

The pro/amateur thing is a bit of a red herring in my view. There is the same distinction on the blogosphere as there is in the mainstream media: there are hacks and there are writers (just as in the academy, there are academics and intellectuals). The difference is not to do with whether you're remunerated for what you do, but whether you feel a genuine compulsion to produce it, if you experience an obligation to write that goes beyond simply having to pay the bills. One of the interesting things to come out of Marcello's otherwise unedifying hectoring of Dave in the World of Stelfox comments box was the clear message coming from both of them that they don't blog as some sort of compensation for 'failing' to be professional writers. As a matter of fact, both Dave and Marcello are professional writers, even if both also hold day jobs. It's clear, particularly in Marcello's case, that the only space that they can develop ideas at any length or with any idiosyncratic verve is on the internet. The print media is simply too crowded, too hidebound by all sorts of demographic and marketing pressures for anything of much cultural import to occur on it. While I make no bones that I would rather spend more time writing than teaching, what I feel for most music journalists, most of the time, is pity, not envy.

Of course, I still find myself checking prejudices in my assumptions about what counts as 'proper' writing. But what was once my default inclination to regard blog writing as secondary to work that is 'properly published', that has 'permanence', or is 'finished' is increasingly less insistent. The aphoristic, necessarily unfinished nature of the blog text is what separates it from the print form . I have to keep reminding myself of why the blog is called k-punk in the first place, and why Ccru spent so much time theorising the potential of cyberspace. We're living through exciting times, and blogs are part of that, one of the k(yber)-punk cultural developments. As I said in tribute to Luka last year:

"It's not supposed to 'fit together', to finally 'cohere', it's a (dis)assembly kit, it's writing in the aphoristic mode, writing as a part object, an object intrinsically hostile to wholeness, a series of holes in good sense, it's not One...
That way, it is left open...
... a directed outpouring from the unconscious, with its own rules, its own rhythms, its own singularity....
.... And this is what punk is ---- not amateurism, not destruction for its own sake ------ but systematic anti-professionalism ----"

Speaking for myself, for better or worse, I have to write.

So, no, I'm not ready to be torn apart by the primal horde yet. I'm sticking around, and I hope you are too.

Posted by mark at June 15, 2004 07:00 PM | TrackBack

Yeah! Wise move to concentrate on the positive as well - of course there are a load of great blogs (including the ones you mention) which do have their own voices - which should be celebrated.

Posted by: john eden at June 15, 2004 08:41 PM

heh heh, the 'female philosophy offshoot' of the blog rhizome. What a muddy tuber that's turning out to be.....but a nice synoptic over-view of the trials and tribulations of the elder of the blog-tribe, k-p.....fail again! fail better!

It's just a fact that blogvolk write better than hackvolk - just like the best philosophers are not to be found in Oxbridge. Or, indeed, in philosophy departments at all.

Posted by: infinite thought at June 15, 2004 10:04 PM

Muddy tuber, yeh!!

This 'amateurism' things needs to be turned around... Obviously ppl who are doing things for love means there's an even chance that it'll have some quality... 'Professionalism' is a dubious appelation...

Posted by: mark k-p at June 15, 2004 10:19 PM

Excellent piece.

But oi! Mark! The pro / amateur thing can't be a red herring (or maybe tilting at windmills!) -- or at least, you say what I meant much better by saying "Obviously ppl who are doing things for love means there's an even chance that it'll have some quality... 'Professionalism' is a dubious appelation..."

Posted by: paul "Essex boy" meme at June 15, 2004 11:06 PM

Fair play, Paul --- I asked for that one....

Posted by: mark k-p at June 15, 2004 11:14 PM

Muddy tuber indeed, and hopefully it shall continue to be murky. I like it that way.

I agree that its a network and not a community. A community always seems to be somewhat closed off but networks continue to grow and every day I seem to be finding new things going on all over the place. I'm hoping to find more 'muddy tubers' springing up that go off in different and unexpected directions.

(I also replied on my own blog as it was long a little babbly but I can't figure out this trackback business. It's somewhat of a mystery to me).

Posted by: siobhan at June 15, 2004 11:46 PM

A mystery no longer!

Posted by: siobhan at June 15, 2004 11:58 PM

It's still a mystery to me Sio!

Paul, on reflection, the reason I'm unhappy with the pro/ amateur binary is that it disses ppl like Simon and Penman who obviously DO write from a libidinal impulse. I just don't want to be committed to saying that BECAUSE someone is 'professional', they're worse.

Posted by: mark k-p at June 16, 2004 07:31 AM

Spike Milligan on Bowie: "What did he need that bloody great big glass spider for? There's a perfectly decent bus service."

Yes NM has made more comebacks than Donald O'Connor but, no, this is definitely it.

1. As far as being a memorial to Laura is concerned, both blogs are in my opinion "complete." The story has been told and as yet there is no new story to tell.

2. Recent personal crises - in terms of both relationships and health - have convinced me that the blog is not working for me as a means of catharsis or diverting my post-traumatic depression thoughts safely (so that they do not impinge upon my day-to-day life).

In many ways I appear to have returned to exactly the same place I was two summers ago, and the same morbid options remain in situ. It's hugely depressing and I need to find other means of dealing with it.

I acknowledge the existence of a "community" but still do not feel comfortable being "part" of one because I started blogging for a very specific reason and purpose. My blogs are self-contained to the point of hermeticism, but that's part of their point.

3. In terms of writing, I do not feel I have anything left to say, or any interesting new ways of saying it. The Meek and SAW2 pieces were interesting and enlivening experiments but clearly one-offs; I couldn't repeat those formulae ad infinitum.

4. Although I have manfully tried to avoid falling into Hornbyite 40-something it's-all-over-itis, it's a fact that 95% of new music I hear bores and/or annoys me and that 95% of my music listening time is taken up listening to old music (and I speak as someone who now considers 1998 as "old"). So I feel it better to retreat into the simple enjoyment of music rather than coming across in public as an aesthetic reactionary. This was why Larkin stopped reviewing jazz for the Telegraph; he knew he wasn't feeling anything from the New Thing and that other people were better qualified to write about what was happening.

I suppose that's how I will end up - like Larkin, encased alone in my self-constructed prison, bopping around the front room to Deep Dish or Donna Summer, glass of abstinthe and tonic firmly in hand, waiting patiently for death.

Time, therefore, to hand the blog space over to people who actually want to write.

Posted by: Marcello Carlin at June 16, 2004 09:55 AM

In that last paragraph, of course, I am remonstrating with myself, not other bloggers.

Posted by: Marcello Carlin at June 16, 2004 09:56 AM

there's a big post coming up on blogging /the decline of uk mags/my doubts about the whole damned thing/the fact that i can't stop etc. i've been meaning to do it for days but i've been in a *foul* mood for the past week and don't want to say stuff i'll regret in a better frame of mind. marcello, i don't know whether it was supposed to, but your final paragraph has just made me laugh out loud. last night i was feeling very miserable/irritable. to occupy myself, i ended up doing the ironing, drinking gin and listening to larry levan live at the paradise garage at a totally offensive volume. it actually felt okay. leads me to consider that we may well have a lot more in common than we think.

Posted by: stelfox at June 16, 2004 12:27 PM

great post, Mark...im sticking around, though i may take a break here and there as i feel no compulsion to write, really...but im certainly glad you do...long may you blog

Posted by: Rob at June 16, 2004 06:33 PM

Whatever you all decide to do, we're so very thankful for the things you've already done...

Words always help...

Posted by: jand at June 17, 2004 11:39 AM

I like these musings. As far as the Loaf is concerned, the very reason he likes the blog format is because it's EASY. And it also suits his rather wayward mind. And I can remember my best jokes too. With Penman, you could tell there'd been quite a bit of drafting, note taking, second thinking before posting - just as you would if you were getting paid, and often you'd get 2000 words or more - just like a paid gig. He's probably fucked off because he realised he was using up all his talent/energy. Old Loaf, he's just too lazy to work towards a career, and so he blogs to the best of his ability!

Posted by: EAS at June 18, 2004 10:07 PM