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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Wonderful Wizards of Odd

I remember when personal computers and video games began to become popular. I remember columnists and television and print media pundits issuing alarming predictions about the decline of education, intelligence and western civilization in general. To hear them talk at the time, you'd have expected that the Internet and computers would, by this time, have reduced us all to disembodied brains in jars being pumped full of mindless government propoganda designed to keep us all cooperative and quiet.

Turns out, the personal computer and the rise of the Internet has probably done more to promote human creativity, individuality and literacy than any tool yet invented. Don't believe me, google something you are interested in - anything at all. I told my kids that once and Micah, the smart alec child, bet me I couldn't find anything about "navel lint".

In 5 minutes, I'd found 3 websites dedicated to the subject - complete with pictures of their own navels and imbedded lint, contributed by viewers of the site. It's true, like television, you can find tons of garbage. Google recently listed "Paris Hilton" among the most googled words of the week. I'm not really surprised. It only proves we have a huge segment of the population that gets a vicarious thrill from peeking at the lives of shallow spoiled rich kids. It's the soap opera crowd and, sadly, there are always lots of us who want nothing deeper than that for entertainment. You can find plenty of pornography and illiteracy and stupidity on the net too - if that's what your hunting for.

The good news is that a person with any sort of brains at all can find plenty of really good stuff with which to occupy his or her mind. Not only that, but bright or really determined people can create their own websites, contribute to encyclopedias from their own peculiar areas of expertise and become columnists and pundits in their own right. Ninety year olds can become rock singers and popular video-journalists almost overnight. Bloggers had their own booth at the political conventions last time - right alongside the network journalists.

The mainstream media finds itself becoming more and more marginalized as the blogger nation grows. The music industry is losing it's hold on the musical tastes of America as we can download songs we like instead of buying expensive albums that only have maybe one track we want. Virtual unknowns can set up their own websites, build an audience, record, market and sell their music, movies or art entirely outside the mainstream.

That's refreshing. It lets those that leftists refer to as "the people" enjoy a level of freedom that is unheard of the history of the world. Those who believe that a wealthy or privileged elite should have the power to tell ordinary people how to live, what to believe and how to spend their money are FRANTIC!!!

The virtual world of the Internet is expanding rapidly and the fastest growing segment is outside the control of the traditional arbiters of public taste. We increasingly demand substance over style. When CBS canceled Jericho, fans set up a howl. There's even talk of running the show over the Internet at 99 cents a download to subscribers. The fact that we can talk about marketing a television show outside the networks entirely or on any one of 100 cable channels tells you something about how the world is changing.

The big networks aren't so big any more. They fight for an increasingly smaller portion of the biggest segment of the audience pie - mostly, it seems, the "reality" television junkies. Meanwhile, the intelligent and individualistic segment of the public is drawn to other places for their entertainment and they are willing to buy what they want instead of wading through drek.

I love folk music and weird songs. I found a website belonging to Joe Bethancourt, a 60 year old native of Arizona who does a version of "Benson, Arizona", the theme from John Carpenter's odd comedy space opera, "Dark Star". I love that song and right away found a copy on the Internet. Do you know how long I'd have had to look to find that song just 20 years ago?

I made a CD that has songs I like to listen to when I'm walking:

1. Benson, Arizona,
2. Hallelujah - 2 versions (Cale & Buckley)
3. Mad World (Jules)
4. Faith of the Heart (Russel Watson)
5. I'm my Own Grandpa (Lonso & Oscar)
6. That's How the Yodel Was Born (Riders in the Sky)
7. Sail Away - Enya
8. As Time Goes By - Sinatra
9. Superman Song - Crash Test Dummies
10. If I Had a Boat - Lyle Lovett)
11. Pass Me By - (Theme from "Father Goose")
12. Grow Old Along With Me - John Lennon
13. Rainbow Connection - Kermit the Frog
14. Waltz Across Texas - Earnest Tubb
15. Waltzing With Bears - ?
16. Over the Rainbow (Izzy K - with ukelele)
17. Don't Fence Me In (Bing & the Andrews Sisters)
18. When I'm 64 - Beatles
19. Gilligan's Island Theme
20 Hobo's Lullaby - Arlo Guthrie
21. I Will - Alison Kraus
22. When I was a Dinosaur - Trout Fishing in America
23. Cover of the Rolling Stone - Dr. Hook
24. Mad Dogs & Englishmen - Noel Coward
25. Ape Man
26. All of Me - Sinatra
27. Sleepytime Cartoon - Trout Fishing in America

All available on the internet from 11 cents to 50 cents apiece.

How cool is that? And I watched a Joe Bethencourt concert of selected songs for an hour for free on You-Tube. How utterly cool is that. I read the news on 10 right wing and 1 leftist blog and cruised a new music site for a folk musician named Josh Woodard who lets you download his music for free - how cool is that? He's pretty good too. I think I'm going to be a fan. As a kid who used to read encyclopedias for fun, all of this is like having a gigantic library at my fingertips. I can download the classics for free - even audio book versions.....

Now that's what I call THE PEOPLE'S ENTERTAINMENT. You want to find out what entertainment is like when the elite are in charge, just check out North Korean television. If you don't like stories about how heroic Kim Jong Il is, you might just want to reconsider moving to that little worker's paradise. So when they start talking about reining in the Internet or "fairness" rules, WATCH OUT!!! They're going to mess up things sure as shootin'.

In the meantime, I'm just tickled that all those wonderful oddballs, kooks and geniuses have a place to display their wares. It's like an informational farmers market and I think it's the healthiest thing to happen to this world in a long time.

Just one man's opinion...

Tom

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