shifts in the wordscape: Dusted + Discorder

It's been slow lately because it's been busy. Abe heads up here and the whole world falls to pieces over Unibroue beers and yoga-inspired smoke. The nomad managed to experience just about every taste of Montreal weather save for snow. Dank cold greeted him; humidity and heat followed; and rain saw him on his way to the RNC.

"Too weird to live, too strong to die."
- paraphrase/d HST on Dr. Gonzo

Along with the slow decline of summer into Fall, I've ended a few old writing gigs. My "venerable" (read: "unpredictable") column in Discorder magazine, Panarticon, is finding its close in the October 2004 issue. I've been writing for Vancouver-based, CiTR radio affiliated Discorder since 1997. The column crawled into existence around 2000 and dashed a bit of the freak around. Art and politics, gonzo and theory... I'd like to think it added to the oft-neglected international perspective, a curse of outward blindness at the heart of Vancouver's entropy. I've been through about 8 editors during the column's tenure, and unfortunately Discorder every 5 years or so seems to take it upon itself to pigeon-hole the publication into indie-isolation. The punk ethos that fuelled its 1982 inception is somewhat lost on its contemporary incarnation. It's a generational shift. The lack of subculture in the early '00s undergraduates rises to the top like bile: it's all recycled for them, all industry, the commercial advantage, the Net a commodity, TV a reality kick (at least in the indie scene: exterior to that, there are other microcultural movements at play, but they aren't gravitating to campus radio and traditional print rags. Why? Technology: SMS microchatting defines the current youth; music is downloadable data, not experience).

Bets are on that current Discorder staff are clueless as to the title's meaning (as they are to the bent of Panarticon). Any Discordians out there?

"It's hard to nail down Discordians - which figures, since they're dedicated to the sowing of Discord, generally of the mental kind. They don't damage the physical world much in worship of sexy ol' Eris, Goddess of Chaos. Discordians all work, I mean play, in their spare time, on Operation Mindfuck - an insidious yet disorganized attempt to tear down your old mental paradigms without offering anything with which to replace them. Techniques include everything from elaborate pranks, to...well, simple pranks. Sort of a Zen version of the Merry Pranksters." - Rev. Ivan Stang, High Weirdness by Mail

In any case, when I offered words on Sonar 2004 after Mutek coverage, the response was to the effect that "it's another electronic music article." Right. As if the rest of the magazine isn't the ultimately repetitive slew of indie-rock it always is? Relentless bands formed by 18 year-olds who disappear a year later, nevertheless gracing cover after cover? Of course this is exactly Discorder's domain. And good for it. That's the point. But it's "underground" status often is an excuse for enclosed regionalism and conservative approaches to culture and music. In the '00s, it's no pose. Why is indie so incestuous?

I met the original Editor for Discorder sometime around 1999--she dropped into the station. Her response to the contemporary remix of "That Magazine from CiTR 101.9FM" was that she would never place a band or musician on the cover (I think this practice was introduced sometime in the late '80s...). I like this idea of the absent publicity. After writing dozens of stories for the mag, I can only think of two covers where I've managed to get a photo on the frontpage. Both were tripped out, splashes of colour and indiscernible bodies. Newsprint paintings...surreal interventions in the greyscape of the urban doldrums. Otherwise, it's always the indie-rock band that graces the main interview. Electronic never gets its image among the perpetual indie bastion. Another reason why I like e/i: there's an attempt to reroute the cover politic of the face.

Yah. Anyways. In other news, I think I'm on the way out of Dusted. For about 2.5 years now I've been throwing coverage and reviews in their direction, including some gonzo work on Mutek and critical pieces on Sonar. I hopped over after I was booted from Stylus for excessive questioning. (Of the practices of reviewing via poetics and inane rambling, if you're interested). However since I arrived Dusted's site has stalemated and Stylus' has become all that much more interesting. Dusted has no searchable database & the webdesign has hit the glacial era... apparently climate change is coming. I hope so. But more weirdness. Sometime during the summer they removed a number of writers from their "writer's list," thereby erasing a lot of hard-earned web credit. When you're not getting paid, it's about the love. You most love your writers. Give them a page and a link. Basic lessons of reciprocity.

Then there's this whole column thing. This sounds like a rant but the particulars here are broad. It concerns the state of the Net as a medium and the general inability to grasp what can be done with it. Blog publishing is a start. Unfortunately a lot of "online magazines" are becoming severely outdated because they are both not able to grasp new models of organisation and publishing and because they don't have enough sense of history--ie, of essay writing, pamphlets, and of the writer-in-general. It seems our generation is the one to peg the writer in the smallest box possible. Keep them down as reviewers, minor feature writers. And human thought suffers for it.

For awhile I tried to get something called "Dusting off the Wax" into motion, on 12" releases, but even after the go-ahead it never managed to get going. That was like, over a year ago. Then there's the few installments of "conduit & torque," which goes through the bins and mixes a few releases together. I was informed last night, after handing in two installments, that because a few releases had already been covered, they wouldn't run it. Now, in a print magazine I can understand--if only for reasons of space. But online? What the bushwick are they afraid of? Conflicting opinion? The ethos of debate and selection is apparently foreign to Dusted, as are the possibilities of the Net medium: multiplicity. The hierarchy of the publisher is reproduced online in the very space that 10 years ago was heralded as offering all the liberties of the Roussean pamphlet or the Voltairean screed. Thank bejeezus for blogs, but all intents and worries signal that blogs too will become a stale emulation of mid-90s era Geocities.

What ever happened to cultivating a writer's opinion? And looking toward their experience as a barometer? The same goes for Dj culture: just like anyone can apparently Dj (as witnessed this past week, mashing together bad CDs or vinyl or Mp3s without beatmatching), apparently anyone can write. One review is as good as another, one band is as good as another, one track is as good as another. Afterall, they're all 99 cents, or free. This is the downside of downloadable data and digital culture.

Anyway, I dig the guys over there. Otis and Sam are sweet boys. But they really miss the boat here and there, namely in how they could foster a circle of writers. Like Discorder, the vision is far, far too narrow. Despite reservations, one is better off blog publishing than working the needless filters of online magazines, especially if their scope is devoid of creativity and reserved (or plain hostile) to invention, intervention, subvention... hell: subversion and entrepreneurial spirit. Every site originally has its vision, and in its daily slug of editing and maintenance, the steam hits a brain cell shortage in the back-end of labour. If you can't recognize that, then it dies on the vine.

So. So--if a few writers are asking for columns--then let's give them columns! Throw them in the waters! Trial by fire. Why not? What's wrong with the column or essay? Why is the 21C so afraid of the column, the coverage, the word?

The proper response of these organs, like all good publications, of course, is to take these ideas and put them into place as soon as I--and others like me--have left. Kick the dissidents, steal their ideas... it worked for Rolling Stone.

Right. Time to up the heat on that homebrew I've been minding on the backburner. Eyes peeled in print for something I can finally recline in, comfortably at the collective helm. And something online. Hints.

With the return of acid house also comes the bullshit: "It's All Good."

// //./ ./. ./ . /. /./ ./. .. ./. /.

posted. Tue - August 31, 2004 @ 12:53 PM           |