Sunday, July 15, 2007

Blogs have been around for ten years, apparently, according to this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, which has deemed “by widespread consensus, 1997 … a reasonable point at which to mark the emergence of the blog as a distinct life-form” (sec. P, p. 1). If my memory can be trusted (a dubious proposition), the hottest thing on the Web that year was the NASA Pathfinder mission, which had racked up a then-unprecedented number of hits. So these web logs, as they were initially known, didn’t gain much general appreciation until, say, 2002; that might be a more reasonable starting-point. This blogger didn’t get interviewed by the Journal, for very good reason, even though the Center has been here since 2003, when the medium was still quite young and the good people at Blogger were still operating a tiny, independent “push-button publish[er] for the people” that had yet to be acquired by Google.

In a similar vein, a recent item that has fancied my interest is this excellent compilation of “indecent” and “obscene” recordings from 1890-era wax cylinders created by the great Vaudeville-era performers of the day, only to be harassed and (in some cases) imprisoned under the rather theocratic police powers of Anthony Comstock and his — Saudi-like — New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, to be referred later as the infamous “Comstock laws.” In a way, it’s like the very early, and obviously different, sort of blogging; the Internet, infinitely more tied up and connected than the fairs, amusements and parlors of those days, had only been a commercial entity for two years preceding the apparent advent of the Blog, whose first author — quoting the Journal — is “regarded by many to be Jorn Barger” and his Robot Wisdom site. [Barger’s subtitles, in a very tiny print that run at the bottom of the top banner, have a curiousity of their own; according to the Internet Archive crawl, they’ve included colorful things like “stop economic satanism” and “smash with truth the lying machine,” along with “we are all palestinians now” and, as of right now, “judaism is racism is incompatible with democracy” — must he be the father of our craft?]

A very similar vein, it turns out; it is indeed quite profane to believe, no less broadcast, that an entire religion — particularly one that has suffered a terrible and obvious history of persecution at the hands of malevolent racists — is, irony of all ironies, racist(!) or is somehow “incompatible” with democratic governance, like some alien force. Fortunately, Actionable Offenses, that collection of cylindrical “smut,” is actually funny. And you’d never get my seal of approval for a band of witch-hunters seeking the suppression of blogland vice.

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