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Notes on Marx and the Project of Ideology

October 16th, 2011

Today I pulled together some loosely connected thoughts I’ve been sorting out.  I’m working on a print publication–for now things will get posted here.  I’m writing a lot, but mostly I do my editing on People’s Plaza, in the cold, on limited battery power, etc., behind the Teach-In booth.  It’s an experiment.

I’m acutely aware of right-wing polemics, so I always feel like it’s dangerous to mention Marx today. The fact is that Marx theorized extensively about what is going on right now, but at the same time, merely mentioning his name leads us to an ideological trap. In the popular consciousness, Marx is synonymous with authoritarianism and the Communist State (which is not the same as the theoretical socio-political organization of communism—a distinction most people don’t seem to make). The following is simply a list of points I want to make. Apologies for how they might read or flow together:

Marxism is not an ideology—in fact Marx critiques ideology itself. Marx analyzed the concept of capital, reflecting on its history and future. Part of his importance is that he saw political economy and our social relations as interdependent. Ideology is the system of ideas that mediates how we all work in society as social subjects. To reject Marx completely is to say that political economy is autonomous and that we are free to act as social subjects independently of it. Who can seriously argue that this is true?

Marx’s ideas as a whole are imperfect. To paraphrase Peter Singer, author of Marx: A Very Short Introduction: Marx created a painting of capitalism, not a photograph. There are many aspects to Marxist thought, only one of which is a call for revolution. By no means does that sum up his agenda, nor does the historical outcome of this one facet invalidate everything else he said.

Marx’s thought is centered on the Hegelian concept of humanity’s liberation as the goal of history. He saw that capitalism did not accomplish this, but would in fact lead to more oppression. Thus, communism is not theorized by Marx as a system of oppression, but rather as one holding the potential for freedom.

Our awareness of the mechanics of capitalism is extremely sophisticated today, in part due to Marx’s influence. That is, even those in power think in Marxist terms in order to be better capitalists. Right-wing rhetoric claims that socialized medicine, welfare and other extensions of public funding push us dangerously towards communism. Marx’s claim was that capitalism would gradually lead to class warfare, where the masses would overpower a rich ruling class. The presence of social programs in a capitalist economy makes more sense as a band-aid for the failures of capitalism. It’s absurd that the ruling class would be building towards communism. The essence of communism is common ownership of wealth and the means of production. These things are not given up by the ruling class. What the ruling class can do, however, is create a charitable element within the system to give the illusion of security. To me, the socialist element of our society is a concession to do just this.

Ideology essentially consists of a system of messages we receive and act on. Marx theorized that these messages work so that we keep ourselves working within the system’s parameters, even to the point of unknowingly helping to build the system so that it remains oppressive. Slavoj Zizek argues that much of the time, we do know what our actions are supporting, but we do it anyways. This means that even though the system is the root problem, it makes us part of the problem. We then grow aware of our role as citizens, and that awareness then needs to incorporate itself back into us-as-part of the problem. Once we understand this, we will take no bullshit from anyone.

Ideology’s project is to keep us functioning within a social system. Therefore, the problems arise not in that we are ideological, but in how. Ideology becomes oppressive insofar as our social relations are mediated by power. That is, the systems of power in which we function work to keep us oppressing ourselves. It is the project of ideology to keep us thinking of things such as the economy and the political process as natural and unchangeable. The phrase “you can’t fight city hall” is one such example of an ideological message.

As we grow up, we are socialized to function in a human community. That is a natural and timeless process. What is not natural for us, I think, is incorporating such a large number of abstractions into our systems of thought. If not for civilization, maybe we would not have anything to call ideology—it would be very simply referred to as culture.


To the Occupiers, Now and to Come:

October 11th, 2011

Things are organized in such a way that anyone trying to meet their needs by making an honest living must first pay into a process that abuses the common good. Both in the work that we do and the dollars we spend, power drifts away from us, only to be applied against us. This, I believe, is the real essence behind those currently occupying Wall Street in New York City, and now in cities throughout the country—of which Minneapolis is one. On October 15th, other countries are joining in.

There are very few for whom this process works in their favor. There are a lot more for whom it necessarily must work against. This is nothing new—it goes back to the days of feudalism. The promise of capitalism was the “middle class,” where one can dream big and work hard to make a meaningful life for themselves. The middle class was always an illusion, though. Capitalism is not feudalism, but only insofar as sharecropping was not technically slavery. While it seems we’re earning our keep, what’s harder to see is that the most powerful, most wealthy link in the chain has the power to take their cut off the top. It’s always been that way. What’s different now is that in 2008, those wealthy and powerful segments of our society lost at their own game. And the way this game is designed, when they lose, everyone does. Only, they lose a percentage of their bottom line and others lose everything.

This is not necessarily about greed. We are all part of the same ideological framework and we all, more or less, believe in the same fantasies. It’s easy to justify your place or demonize someone else’s, as we’re all given an ideological bag of tricks with which to do just that. We all learn that and it keeps us comfortable, apart—and functioning in the system as such. Profit, money, abstract value—however you refer to it—is an illusion. It’s something we made up in order to make life function in a large community. Tribes of such unmanageable size cannot do business on trust alone. But what we see now is that the illusion has become more important than trust. We cannot have that. Trust cannot be replaced.

What this is really about is respect. We are not trying to protect property, wealth or other illusions. We are trying to protect the common good. The so-called 1% are part of that common good. In fact, they need us to set things straight. This is about respecting the inherent logic of nature and the real wisdom of humanity. We need to get the message across to everyone that humanity should be trusted before fantasies.

We have the danger of falling into a moralistic, us vs. them mentality, ready to fight and spin our wheels endlessly. But the real enemy is not a “them” but an “it.” It’s made up of all the hard, dark, crystallized parts of human nature. Our society is one big pathological defense-mechanism-turned-machine and as a result our herd mentality operates on all of our most desperate instincts such as fear, greed and envy. The so-called greedy don’t create the greed, they’re just really good at the greed game, and thus they get rewarded for playing. And we’re taking in a backwards, mixed-up message whenever we feel guilty or small for not being “successful” enough. We need to learn, as a society, that such success is a disease; a society fueled by it needs to heal.

I’m looking forward to this thing growing and really taking shape. While I am not reproducing the means of producing my existence, I will be helping to occupy Minneapolis. I will try to get over my cultural programming and do as much as I am capable of. It’s not a battle; it must be a way of life. Let’s keep the conversation going. I’m sick of talking to myself about stuff like this!


Freedom and Capitalism: A Brief Note

October 9th, 2011

I saw a bumper sticker, blue and white with the little Obama logo, that read: “I’ll keep my guns and freedom, and you can keep the change.” I despise what the Right has done with the word freedom. It almost seems a dirty word, yet the concept is close to my heart. So it was with Karl Marx. It sucks that the existential crisis I have been in for the last ten years was being theorized about since at least the mid-nineteenth century. And today, protesters are occupying Wall Street for security in a system that doesn’t work and has never worked:

Capitalism seems different [than feudalism] because people are in theory free to work for themselves or for others as they choose. Yet most workers have as little control over their lives as feudal serfs. This is not because they have chosen badly. Nor is it because of the physical limits of our resources and technology. It is because the cumulative effect of countless individual choices is a society that no one—not even the capitalists—has chosen. Where those who hold the liberal conception of freedom would say we are free because we are not subject to deliberate interference by other humans, Marx says we are not free because we do not control our own society.

Economic relations appear to us to be blind natural forces. We do not see them as restricting our freedom—and indeed on the liberal conception of freedom they do not restrict our freedom, since they are not the result of deliberate human interference. Marx himself is quite explicit that the capitalist is not individually responsible for the economic relations of his society, but is controlled by these relations as much as the workers are.

Peter Singer, Marx: A Very Short Introduction, p. 91-92.

This “cumulative effect of countless individual choices” is the playground of ideology—a sort of organized societal schizophrenia. Ideology is full of contradictions, giving the media plenty of ground to call the protesters a bunch of idiots who don’t know what’s good for them, or at best don’t know exactly what they want. It’s obvious that things are not right; it’s too bad that it takes a crisis in the middle class to see it, because by the time it gets to that point, the problems all seem hopelessly obscured. Not to mention the fact that the lower classes have been struggling so long, they don’t even notice anything’s different.


Going Open Source: Switching to Linux

June 10th, 2011

About a month ago, my computer got infected with the insanely messy Windows Vista Recovery virus.  This is partly my fault for being really lazy about virus protection and updates.  I hate anti-virus programs.  They slow the computer down.  Windows alone loads up your computer with all kinds of Microsoft crap and just on startup with a clean install my memory usage is at least 50%.  Anti-virus is also expensive and I don’t trust that they will protect you from everything.  So I just naturally get into the habit of not using them.

Trying to figure out how to clean the virus off of the computer was a lot of running in circles involving downloading various anti-malware apps and trying to edit lines in the registry, running commands and then rebooting, etc.  In the end the only solution seemed to be to buy an external drive, transfer my user folder and restore Vista to the factory install.

This inspired me, as it has every other time I’ve had to reinstall Windows, to set up a clean and usable system: carefully go through the list of installed applications and take out all the proprietary crap that you don’t need, look for fixes online to get rid of redundant icons and customize stuff that Microsoft doesn’t like you to customize, run Google searches like Why is “Encrypt Contents to Secure Data” grayed out?, Hide unused icons in user folder, and Disable Acer Empowering Technology.   I ended up with a cleaner, more usable system when I was done, but something didn’t feel right.  It’s hard to explain.  It’s like I had to stuff this monster into an elegant, clean and friendly mask.  But it’s still a monster, and it doesn’t fit behind the mask anyways, so I’m not really fooling myself by cleaning it up.

My friend advised that I get a Mac.  I thought about it, but said that I wouldn’t.  That doesn’t feel right either, but I didn’t know why.  I guess now I would say that Apple builds a much prettier monster, but in my opinion, it’s still a monster.  I admit that I probably have a somewhat naive perspective when it comes to Macs, and the most honest answer as to why I wouldn’t buy a mac was that I was used to PCs.  Committing to a completely different proprietary OS does not appeal to me.  The other thing I thought was that it seemed ridiculous to have to buy a new computer just to change operating systems.  I’m not actually sure if I could install OSX or something on an Acer laptop, but I assume not.

At some point I realized that I’ve never given Linux a try.  I had gradually over the years been replacing the pirated software I acquired back in my design-school days with open source alternatives, and just recently got rid of the last one: Photoshop.  (I had been using 6.0 since who-knows-when.) I take issue with using proprietary commercial software more than the fact that it’s pirated.  Legitimate or not, Windows was in the same camp as Photoshop.  With so much friendly, open software populating my system, Windows seemed to be the last weak link.  Switching to Linux seemed like a good thing to look into.

Since I finished my Vista reinstall, I’ve been navigating the learning curve for Linux.  The experience has been far from utopic, and at this point, I’m making the move for philosophical reasons.  The easiest thing for me to do would be to set up Vista and just use it, not getting all bent out of shape about Microsoft, etc.  It’s just an OS, right?  But I’ve decided that stepping outside of easy is a good thing to do here.  To configure Linux at all is a little bit of a struggle, but overall I think it’s worth it because Linux is completely configurable.  I experienced the same thing moving from Blogger (proprietary) to Wordpress (open source.)  With Windows, the things they let you configure are easy to configure and everything else is blocked off.  For good.  So screw you if you liked this about the old version and that about the new one, and screw you if you like Vista but you want a Mac-style dock.  With Linux, you can get in there and change whatever you want, provided that you know how to, or that you know how to find out, or that you can find someone who’s already done it and copy them.

It also seems like the world of the open OS is getting closer and closer to Windows/Mac-type instant-gratification usability.  I think that one day you will be able to just download whatever Linux distro looks good to you and throw it on any old laptop without worrying about whether or not your hardware will work with it, and all your software will be easily integrated without having to think about it.  Right now, it would be easy for someone to take a look at this process I’m going through and just say, “Linux is not ready for widespread use.”  To set up anything specific, you need to go into the forums, try out code in the Terminal, you’ll find out that some things are just not supported and you have to learn to live with living without.  For instance, on my computer running Linux, the Wifi light is off when the Wifi in on.  The light is on when Wifi is off.  It’s backwards and that’s just the way it is.  Some day things will be more cohesive.  But not today.

I don’t blame the open source community for this.  I’m not too well-read on it, but generally I think that widespread open-source OS use is being held back by the commercial hardware and software developers.  Put simply, my computer was built with Vista in mind, not Linux.  It should have been built with it’s users in mind.  And there are plenty of Acer Extensa 4620z users, who paid good money for their hardware, who are fighting the manufacturer’s “intended use.” Technology companies are very obviously restricting the use of their products for the purposes of manipulating how they can make a profit off of them.  It seems to me that things that are out there in the open tend to be put together in useful ways by the people who know how to do it.  Nature, for example, didn’t have shareholders.

I’ll focus on Linux itself in my next post, with specific info about the distro and desktop environment I’m using.


Open up…

June 15th, 2009

There’s something pure and infinite in you, that wants to come out of you, and can come out of no other person on the planet. That’s what you’ve got to share, and that’s as real and important as the fact that you’re alive… The world at large, careerism, money, magazines, your parents, the people at the rock club in your town, other kids, nothing is going to give you that message, necessarily. In fact most things are going to lead you away from it, sadly, because humanity is really confused at the moment. But you wouldn’t exist if the universe didn’t need you. And anytime I encounter something beautiful that came out of a human somewhere, that’s them, that’s their own soul. That’s just pure, whatever its physicality is, if the person can play a piano, if they’re tone deaf, whatever it is, if it’s pure, it hits you like a sledgehammer. It fills up your own soul, it makes you want to cry, it makes you glad you’re alive, it lets you come out of you. And that’s what we need: we desperately need you.

- Julian Koster of Neutral Milk Hotel, quoted at the closing of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Kim Cooper

I’ve always felt like I’m being distracted from what could be my own life.  The past few days I’ve been picturing myself as being in a cloud, where I can see myself but everything else is obscured, and I’m obscured to everyone around me.  I’ve always imagined the soul as being these lines that you cast out from yourself, to attach yourself to things.  I make music, keep up a few relationships with people, write a blog, etc.  There are things that pull at me that threaten those connections.  The demands of my job and my small role in this unnatural capitalist machine we live in, for example.  I think in your 20s you’re discovering yourself, and when you hit 30, it’s time to stop trying so hard and just be yourself.  I’m going on this solo road trip in September, and it’s by no means a way of finding myself.  It’s an attempt at being myself, without the distractions.  I think I’m dedicated to the idea whether or not I save up my ideal amount of money to make it happen.

I just finished the book that I quoted above, and it reminded me of what I’ve always thought life was about.  As soon as Careerism was mentioned it hit home why I spent 10 years recording fourtrack records that no one ever heard and unsuccessfully jumping from part-time job to part-time job, trying to get out what I needed to get out.  John Frusciante said that he believes most music is made for the wrong reasons, and I agree.  Sometimes I try really hard to make something sound a certain way, even though my heart’s not in it.  Then the songs I like the most are the ones where something just clicked and took off.  I hear about bands getting all this hype and going on these huge tours and it just seems like too much of an industry, and I’m still trying to reconcile that attitude with the fact that I need to make money to fucking survive and I really don’t see myself delivering pizza much past the first frost.

The new record is entitled OPEN and will be out September 3rd, my 31st birthday and the night before I leave for the road.  I decided tonight its underlying theme of authenticity.  I’m looking for something real in myself, and others, and in the world around me, and I’m struggling to find it.  The idea is that you’re more likely to find it by leaving your door open than by knocking on closed ones.


I don’t just sit at home and watch TV.

April 13th, 2009

Large groups of people (society) fall into patterns naturally, and elements of power, whether it’s advertising and marketing or public policy, take advantage of and/or dictate those patterns so that society keeps within certain boundaries.  In other words, the world is mostly lame.  It’s up to artists to break away from that and do something different.

As expected, society makes little channels for artists to fit into.  For instance, if you’re a painter you go get a studio in the Northrup King building.  If you’re in a band then you get a practice space and book studio time when you decide to make a record.  If you’re a writer you sit at the coffee shop with your laptop.  None of these are necessarily deviations from the status quo. You’re participating in one of our “industries.”  Most likely you’re also participating in some other industry to make up for the fact that your creative activity doesn’t pay the bills.

There’s no doubt that artists benefit from having separate, dedicated space and time to do their work.  The problem is that your rent is not being determined by the economics of what artists are willing to pay for studio space, it’s being determined by what anyone is willing to pay.  My first studio was, before I moved in, a storage space for the Whittier Globe newspaper.  It was $100 a month and it was all I could afford.   Lots of buildings that would be perfect for artist studios are occupied by offices because anyone would value the same amenities artists value–things like high ceilings, historic character, and large windows.  Those spaces are much more likely to be snatched up by entities for whom those things are a luxury.

I have a bottom-scraping life, consisting of a part-time job (not career), my artistic goals (music), and a minuscule social life (made up mostly of artists and musicians.)  I’m continually fighting for the one element with any potential to pan out.  If I enjoyed prosperity in the other two elements of my life (career/money and social life) it wouldn’t be that hard.  But since I’m a natural misfit, trying to be successful at those two things would burn me out. I would rather risk burn-out doing something that’s important to me.

I make records at home.  I write and record music, in my apartment.  When I moved into my building it definitely felt like a creative community, but in the past six months or so I’ve felt like I’ve been intruding on people’s lives by doing what I do.  Meanwhile I’m probably living below the poverty line, which rules out any other options as far as living my life without any conflicts.  I won’t be buying a house or getting a separated studio space anytime soon.  Not on a delivery driver’s income.  I try to record as much as I can without feeling like I’m being too annoying of a neighbor.  But it’s hard  to do when you know people are just going to be passive aggressive.  It doesn’t help me feel like any less of a hack when I’m trying to work on a recording that isn’t working out how I want.  And the whole time there’s people out there making records and writing songs and forming bands, and I read about them on blogs and see them on radio station playlists and advertised playing shows and I feel like I’m missing something.  Either it’s because they have more money or more friends than I do, or it’s because I’m just not very good at what I do.

“Common sense” logic dictates that if you’re unsuccessful at something, you’re probably just not very good at it.  I refuse to believe that because it would force me to value my work according to the terms of capitalism.  But I’m losing that fight.  They say if you can’t beat them you should join them, but the only thing I have in the square world is laziness and alcoholism.  I don’t want to be any lazier or alcoholic than I am right now.


What to sacrifice in these dark times

March 12th, 2009

Here’s a list of things that I allow myself in life, and the things I’m sacrificing to keep them.

I get:

  • Time.  Plenty of free time to do what I want.  Sometimes that means laziness, others it means being creative. I never get up before nine. I get a three day weekend every week.
  • The following things are always on hand at home: cheap beer, frozen pizza, breakfast food, and coffee. I eat like shit and I know it. I probably drink too much. I’m impatient with food.
  • Trips to Caffetto if the walls start closing in. If you don’t go out because you’re trying to save money, going out for coffee is a good alternative
  • A band to play shows with. This is a good alternative to a social life, and a lot of times, you get a nice package deal: you get to go out, see a show, play a show, and you get paid a little. Plus playing and practicing with other people forces yourself out of your own head.

I lose:

  • Income.  I haven’t paid rent this month yet.  Car insurance is due. I don’t save money.  It’s out the day it comes in.
  • A social life.  I don’t care what people say.  Love costs money.  I don’t go out to eat. I’ll go to a show to see a particular band, but I’m in no position to be buying anybody their drinks. I don’t do dates. Every person I’ve ever been with, we just skipped that part and went right to “relationship.” I try to be nice to people but sometimes I come off as rude or anti-social. I don’t play games and I’m not going to be someone I’m not or try to get you to like me. I try to not try too hard. I’m alone in this world and I’m trying to accept it.
  • My passenger seat.  It had to come out because my driver’s side door is stuck shut, so I had a choice: pay to get it fixed or find some other means of getting in and out of the car without giving myself a new bruise everytime. (Delivering pizza, you can easily get in and out of your car up to 20 or 30 times a day.) There’s also no air filter in my car and it’s leaking oil somewhere.
  • My mental health.  I’m not clinically depressed.  I get depressed when I get tired of fighting for my own well-being.  I get bitter when I look at society and see the kinds of work that gets rewarded and the kind that gets overshadowed.  I get upset about how successful people use their resources.  And I hate that there’s nothing you can do about it unless you become one on them.  Lately I’m reading way too many people’s facial expressions toward me as saying “fuck you, I’m better than you.”
  • Hope for the future.  I tell myself, if I’m going to be living like this the rest of my life, then who cares about saving for the future?  If this is my plateau, then maybe the end is something to look forward to.
  • Material possessions, family (breeding) and empowerment.  These are things I never much thought I’d have anyways.  I always figured that by forfeiting my chances in these areas, it would open up for me those avenues which I wanted to go down.  I was wrong.

Is it worth it?


Bullet Points to Accompany the Dead Space Between my Obligations to the Service Industry

December 30th, 2008

Being a pizza delivery driver, I must peak my activity when most others are dragging in theirs.  When most people get back to business, I get a break.  I’m learning that no matter what role we play in the capitalist society, it’s still the same damn game.  Fuck it all.

An attempt to transpose:
The square weekend is roughly from 5 p.m. Friday until about 8 a.m Monday.
My weekend is typically from 10 p.m Sunday until anywhere from 11 a.m to 4:30 p.m on Wednesday.

So, here’s my best attempt at creating for myself a comparable transgression into freedom (weekend):

  • I caught the last two songs of the Knotwell’s set at the Turf Club, assuming the show would be going on until at least 1 a.m.  Luckily I didn’t have the pay the cover charge.  I bought a beer and talked to an old acquaintance and then left.
  • At the CC Club, I read more than I cared to get through of Chuck Palahniuk’s Novel, “Survivor,” as I’m getting kind of bored of it.
  • I Completely cleaned my entire apartment from one end to the other.  I’m not talking about just picking up trash and dirty clothes.  EVERY piece of furniture got moved and dusted.  When the rug under the drum set gets shaken out, you know it’s serious.
  • I Bowled two consecutive games scoring 123 at Memory Lanes, during the first of which I succesfully picked up a 7-9 split for the first time ever.
  • I got at least halfway through “The Communist Manifesto” with an increasing interest in the subject, seeing as how I’m trying my best to party on a Monday night.  (Why is Punk Bowling night at Memory Lanes on Monday?  Because it’s so punk rock to drink and bowl while the Squares [Bourgeoisie] are going to bed.)
  • Also at Punk Bowling, I was sitting at the bar, drinking PBR and reading Marx, and I was offered a free PBR.  I said yes and I got a free sticker and a tall boy.  She admitted, when I asked her, to being “out marketing.”  Not very punk rock, but then again it’s free beer, and thus, a toss up.  What is punk if not a conflicted ideology anyway?

By the way, all of the above took place by myself.  Seems everyone I know (with the exception of the acquaintance I ran into at the Turf Club) is just too Bougie.  Oh well.


Sick of it/stuck in it

August 15th, 2008

About every other day or so I end up in a fistfight with some inanimate object at work after about two hours of being there.  I leave, because there’s no sense in letting that get any worse.  Today I left with my knuckles bleeding from punching a door over and over again.  I don’t really know why this happens.  Is it really because the pen stopped working?  Is it because I feel like I’m being taken advantage of?  Is it just because I had different plans for myself at this point in my life, or because I feel like I failed at everything else?  I need to get out of this, but every time I go and actually look for a different job, I get even angrier.  I get this sense that the whole system is just flawed and the real problem is that there’s just no place for me in any of it.

Until further notice, I’m not playing anymore shows. There’s probably about six people in the world who aren’t in bands themselves who have ever come out to see me play.  I got the hint.  Not a big loss on my part, I guess.

I don’t want to be so negative, but it’s better than pretending to be positive.


On sound and where it lives

July 16th, 2008

You can’t have a zine festival without getting questions about zines’ survival in an increasingly digital age.  Are they dying?  Why don’t people just start blogs?  Etc. etc.  I’ve had this stuff on my mind lately, as I’m about to release another record on a different dying format: CD.  Now, this time I’m actually getting them professionally duplicated, just because it will open more doors for reviews and distribution.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a problem with it…

(BTW-zines are not dying, and the people who read zines are not the same people who read blogs though there are those that do both.  Nobody “collects” blogs, you can’t fill a shoebox or a milkcrate with them, you can’t save them.  A zine will be there to stumble upon when you’re old and going through things.  A blog will be deleted from the server.)

So-called MP3 culture asserts a song’s autonomy, making it available on it’s own without the other songs, without artwork or credits or packaging.  I obviously don’t buy this.  Songs need homes, and singles are the equivalent of a cramped apartment where there’s nothing but you, but at least it’s a place to stay.  MP3s are like homeless people.  Just as society in general doesn’t really give a shit if some guy is homeless, the consumer market doesn’t care if a song gets distributed as part of an album or on it’s own.  I think musicians do care though.  Songs are usually recorded as albums, with a distinct group of people working on them in the same place and over a certain period of time, etc.  Songs in an album often complement each other or just “go with” each other.  They live together.

Just because a new technology makes it effortless to distribute something in a certain form, doesn’t mean that the thing necessarily benefits from that form.  Amazon.com could save people a lot in shipping by selling books as PDF files.  Why is this debate not happening with literature?

Imagine your favorite book and then imagine if you had read it curled up with your laptop computer.

When I go over to someone’s house for the first time, for a party maybe, I glance through their music collection and their book shelf while everybody else is socializing.  People typically display these things prominently.  What I don’t do is turn on their computer and start opening folders.

I decided a little while ago just what is the problem with CDs. They’re ugly, stupid, fragile things.  They don’t age well, the cases break, they scratch.  Not only that but typically CDs are not produced with any consideration for the aesthetics of the physical product.  Beyond the graphic design and artwork of the booklet, and the screenprint of the disc itself, they’re all the same.  A  beautifully produced concept-album that took two-years to make is likely to come in the same form as a the bundle of free software included with your inkjet printer.

CDs have become ephemera.  The general consensus in our culture is that if it’s on CD, it’s endlessly replaceable, repeatable, and if it’s not free, it may as well be.

I think that even though people prefer having a tangible product, CDs just don’t have that many redeeming qualities as such a product.  A little while ago, I started thinking, “why am I still using CDs?  I can buy a USB turntable, buy records, and burn them to CD when I need to play them somewhere else.”  I just read an article from last year claiming that vinyl sales are up.  It makes sense to me.  Now I’m thinking my next release might be on vinyl.  This one will be a CD, but there’s no jewel case.  It’s going to be a little bit of a book-arts project, and consequently will also be expensive and a major pain in the ass.  But I needed to make it something that I could see myself buying.