January 17, 2006

Brain Jazz

Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever-spinning reel
As the images unwind
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

     -- Dusty Springfield, The Windmills

[Note: First published in when this page was brand new in July of 2003, but just as true today. For an example of pure Brain Jazz, see how RattlerGator has taken my essay on Judas (below) and riffed off into something I never could aspire to in "Betrayal." Brainjazz at its best.]

I try not to write too much about the nature of blogging. For one thing, I'd written way too much about online conferencing during the decade and a half when I was an active member of The Well. I wrote about it elsewhere during those years and even, with the late Tom Mandel, wrote a book about it - THE RULES OF THE NET: Online Operating Instructions for Human Beings.

Played out, burnt out, that was then this is now, goodbye to all that, so long thanks for the ASCII -- in any case, I've had my say. And since you have only so much wetware

hard drive, you've got to delete whole continents of thought from time to time to make room for the new worlds that are always being discovered from the flagship, USS Mylife.

Besides, "Bloggers on Blogging" has been done to death, dragged out by the heels, nailed to the perch and backhoed into the rich byte-loam the Internet calls: "Been There, Done That, Have the Tee Shirt." Yes, all just too much inside tee-ball for me. Which means, of course, that bloggings overdue for a cutting edge Time cover sometime this summer.

But still, but still.... "Just when you think you're out, they pull you back in."

One day this month, at the end of a long golden braid of looping hyperlinks, I remembered....

I remembered something I'd already forgotten twice. I remembered the item below that I wrote late one night on The Well, somewhere towards the end of the 1980's, about what was then called, quaintly, "online conferencing."

I'd forgotten about the item until Dan Levy brought it back to the web in the late 90s. Then I'd forgotten about it again until today when it came swimming up out of my memory like some weird collection of fragments from a file only partially recovered. Deleted, but not destroyed. And, then, thanks to the almost godlike powers of Google, I got it all back. And I found that it was still, to my mind, not that bad; that it was still a concept that might still be of use.


We don't fill in a formula of departments and features every week, we're jamming.

We just make up our content on the fly. No going back. No edits. Mainlining others thoughts.

It's like an endless assortment of brain musicians high on brain jazz.

If you can type and have something to say, you can sit in and jam.

You can play. ANY NUMBER can play a number and that number is always an unknown number. But if you can play unknown numbers you can sit in on the session.

If not, you can just login and kick back and watch the others go at it.

You never know what you're going to get, or which way the next person is going to bend the thread.

You're just there, in real time, and saying, really, whatever comes into your head.

Sometimes its flat, even more often predictable, and, yes, it can get really boring, just like a lot of modern jazz.

But still, there are times -- rarer now to be sure -- when the thing just takes off

And you find yourself thinking things you never thought you'd think and saying things you never planned to say to a lot of people who are coming right back at you, jamming harder and seeing if you can all somehow take it higher.

Not to be profound, just to take it around. It's like being in a Doctor Strange intellectual groove and you've got lift off.

Have this happen a couple of time and you're hooked, man. Like me, man. I've been hooked for years, man, but it doesn't rule my life, man.

Image by Van der Leun

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Posted by Vanderleun at January 17, 2006 11:59 AM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Can't say that I do jazz. At best I hope for strands of fantasia, but most of the time it's idle brain farts. But the best any of us can really hope for is to spark an idea in a reader. Where the idea leads to, that's up to others.

So we write about what we consider important enough to write about. You of failed attempts at apostolic rehabilitation (rather reminiscent of the Middle Kingdom attempts to rehabilitate Set), and I of imaginary paleontology. And if we entertain somebody besides ourselves, cool.

But what we're really doing is entertaining ourselves. Pleasing ourselves as the old song put it. For if we weren't interested in what we write, we wouldn't do near the job we manage to achieve. And out there is somebody or somebodies who actually like your toodlings on the sax, or my noodlings on the piano. Or whatever forced musical metaphor you prefer.

If we can amuse, entertain, spark then we have done well.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at April 17, 2006 9:50 PM
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