Monday, November 14, 2005

Whole Earth Epilog Posted by Picasa

Whole Earth

Doing a blog is fun and I'm looking forward to reading more blogs by people I know. The regularity of output is something I admire. I suspect there is some sort of rhthym involved that I haven't yet discovered. What to write is still something of a mystery to me.

For some reason the image "Stay hungry. Stay foolish." came to mind, probably in the fog of just waking up. I knew that the photograph was on the back cover of the 1974 Whole Earth Epilog, but not a clue as to why I would think of it, or even what it's supposed to mean. I dug deep into the recesses of my closet to find the box where my yellowed copy of the Whole Earth Epilog was stashed.

I loved the Whole Earth Catalogs and the Epilog too. Stewart Brand is an important intellectual. His book How Buildings Learn: What happens after they're built is really fascinating. It has some of the same appeal of The Whole Earth of engaging readers in subject they didn't know they were interested in yet.

It's a serious book about architecture. When Brand asked permission to use a 1797 sketch by Benjamin Latrobe of Washington's Mount Vernon Piazza, the curator of Mount Vernon refused, deciding that his book was an inappropriate place for it. Such is the taint of the counter-culture. I suspect that a perk of getting old is the notion that somehow just in age we might gain at least a little respectability. In some strange way, the "no" answer is reassuring. Digby points to some who are saying the current polarization of politics goes right back to the old fights of the sixties and seventies; man that seems like it's getting old.

Brand writes at the beginning of the Epilog:
Where the insights of Buckminster Fuller initiated the Whole Earth Catalog, Gregory Bateson's insights lurk behind most of what's going on in this Epilog.
Brand became convinced that much more of wholes systems could be understood than he previously thought. The contents of theEpilog are both very dated and thourghly modern.

Something that dates the whole thing are the prices of the books. The Epilog costed four bucks and as I remember the Catalog costed seven. In 1974 the cost of a paperback was less than two bucks. And there are some books in it that I still want. A wonderful resource is Advanced Book Exchange , a searchable database of books available for sale by independent book sellers. One of the books I searched was Oh, What a Blow That Phantom Gave Me! by Edmund Carpenter. I was pleased to discover that today's price via a bookseller linked to ABE is only a nickle more than what I'd have to pay in 1974.

If you remember, one of the great aspects of the Whole Earth approach to book reviews were a few sentences and then a few snippets from the books themselves. Here's the snip from Oh, What a Blow That Phantom Gave Me! that makes me want to read it still:
We assume the role of our costumes, our information. The public figure's image, detatched from his body by electricity, is transfered to ours. His spirit enters us, pocesses us, displacing our private spirit. We wear his image, play his role, assume his identity. When Eisenhower suffered a heart attack, the stock market fell. On Moratorium Day in Washington, April 1971, tens of thousands of marchers clothed in collective guilt, wore Lieutenant Calley masks.

In the prelitterate world, spirit possession is thought to occur rarely, under circumstances fraught with mystery & danger. With us, it occurs daily, without wonder, free from examination.
The quote from the book is split by a photograph of two of the marchers looking like twin Calley's.

I wonder if there's a place for a new Whole Earth Catalog or whether the Internet makes it passe? Big books have a great appeal. I was at a friend's house last night and she showed me the old Atlas she used as a kid. The maps representing colonial Africa were informative. But what impressed me most were the pages of corrected homework and the hand-drawn maps she'd crafted as a child. I got the impression that big Atlas held sway as much as the oldtime Sears catalogs with their extensive pages of brassieres had held so much of my attention as a kid.

No, no it wasn't just those pages. It was the window into worlds that I didn't fully understand: guns, tools, and elastic undergarments. The same jumble is a big part of what made the Whole Earth Catalog so engaging. That's a big part of what makes the Internet so engaging for me too.

The best advice about blogging is to stick to a single subject. In this case it's service to Africans. But what the heck, I've collected a few links in anticipation of this post, and I think I'll tack them on.

The Epilog reminded me of Kenneth Boulding. The photograph of him of that page makes me think that old people can look good, and encourages me that others might appreciate my graying looks. Opps, the photo is at this link. What I was happy to discover by searching for Kenneth Boulding was that he was married to a very remarkable Elise Boulding. They were peace-builders together.

Using Global Voices to find "bridge" bloggers, that is, bloggers whose intended audience expands beyond the blogger's national borders, is quite fun. Global Voices has an aggregator that will be familiar to everyone who's subcribed to Bloglines feeds, with folders of various countries. In the Vietnam folder are several that seem mostly to do with cuisine, probably because it's still best to avoid overtly political topics in Vietnam. Check out Vietnamese God if you're bored or curious. The author is Vietnamese and his handle, God Knows, is sweet.

1 comment:

pingting said...

(0) blogger comments

is a website i made up. Try it to see if it actually exsists.

Love all these hyperlinks.

I'm not getting much work done for clickety clicks but
my mind is enjoying thr trip(s).

See what I also found........

Hey! John's Bazungu Bucks blog is coming on a treat! (And not just 'cos he blogrolled me, honest :-)

Permalink posted by phil jones @ 11:39 AM Comment on ThoughtStorms