Die or Evolve

Patton Oswalt has opened a can of worms:

Fast-forward to now: Boba Fett’s helmet emblazoned on sleeveless T-shirts worn by gym douches hefting dumbbells. The Glee kids performing the songs from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And Toad the Wet Sprocket, a band that took its name from a Monty Python riff, joining the permanent soundtrack of a night out at Bennigan’s. Our below-the-topsoil passions have been rudely dug up and displayed in the noonday sun. The Lord of the Rings used to be ours and only ours simply because of the sheer goddamn thickness of the books. Twenty years later, the entire cast and crew would be trooping onstage at the Oscars to collect their statuettes, and replicas of the One Ring would be sold as bling.

The topsoil has been scraped away, forever, in 2010. In fact, it’s been dug up, thrown into the air, and allowed to rain down and coat everyone in a thin gray-brown mist called the Internet. Everyone considers themselves otaku about something—whether it’s the mythology of Lost or the minor intrigues of Top Chef. American Idol inspires—if not in depth, at least in length and passion—the same number of conversations as does The Wire. There are no more hidden thought-palaces—they’re easily accessed websites, or Facebook pages with thousands of fans. And I’m not going to bore you with the step-by-step specifics of how it happened. In the timeline of the upheaval, part of the graph should be interrupted by the words the Internet. And now here we are.

[…] Now, with everyone more or less otaku and everything immediately awesome (or, if not, just as immediately rebooted or recut as a hilarious YouTube or Funny or Die spoof), the old inner longing for more or better that made our present pop culture so amazing is dwindling. The Onion’s A.V. Club—essential and transcendent in so many ways—has a weekly feature called Gateways to Geekery, in which an entire artistic subculture—say, anime, H. P. Lovecraft, or the Marx Brothers—is mapped out so you can become otaku on it but avoid its more tedious aspects.

Here’s the danger: That creates weak otakus. Etewaf [Everything That Ever Was—Available Forever] doesn’t produce a new generation of artists—just an army of sated consumers. Why create anything new when there’s a mountain of freshly excavated pop culture to recut, repurpose, and manipulate on your iMovie? The Shining can be remade into a comedy trailer. Both movie versions of the Joker can be sent to battle each another. The Dude is in The Matrix.

There’s been some, shall we say, interesting feedback about this essay. (See here for a nice little slice) and while there are some salient rebuttels, mostly everyone seems to think Oswalt has turned on Geek Culture, which is not the case.

What Oswalt is saying isn’t just a variation of “you kids these days, get off my lawn!”, but a  call to Make: enjoy your inspirational material, those totemic stories and pieces of media that slid under your eyeballs and grabbed your brain and made you scream, “Yes! More!” but don’t just stop there. Oswalt wants you kids to get off his lawn and go make soemthing. Take that dizzy feeling you got the first time you read Lord of the Rings or Watchmen and use it to make something new that will inspire the next generation of otaku/geeks to do the same.

We’re mired in a stagnant media doldrum. Every othe rmovie is a remake or sequal. Books ar ebecomign the same. Comics, video games, you name it. It’s all more of the same and it gets spread thinner and thinner with each itteration. Inspired creativity, has become like some infinitely diluted drug, spread so thin it has almost vanished.

So, remake, mashup, but then once that’s out of your system, make soemthing else. Make soemthing new for us to Geek out about.

Save Our Souls (And Our Book Store!)

Moby Lives has two unrelated stories that have a sort of symmetry: Amazon.com employs Dickensian work conditions in its UK warehouse, forcing workers to toil in unreasonable conditions for up to 7 days a week. Meanwhile, Powell’s books, here in Portland is having some financial trouble, due in large part to the recession. So: if you have a few gifts left to purchase this holiday season and were going to buy them from Amazon, why not buy them from Powell’s instead? They need the money more and don’t force their workers into cruel and unusual conditions.

Tales of Beadle The Bard

Now here’s a Christmas present any Harry Potter fan would love to receive:

We’re incredibly excited to announce that Amazon has purchased J.K. Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard at an auction held by Sotheby’s in London. The book of five wizarding fairy tales, referenced in the last book of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is one of only seven handmade copies in existence. The purchase price was £1,950,000, and Ms. Rowling is donating the proceeds to The Children’s Voice campaign, a charity she co-founded to help improve the lives of institutionalized children across Europe.The Tales of Beedle the Bard is extensively illustrated and handwritten by the bard herself–all 157 pages of it. It’s bound in brown Moroccan leather and embellished with five hand-chased hallmarked sterling silver ornaments and mounted moonstones.

Enjoy these first images of the book. We’ll be adding reviews of each of the fairy tales and more photos of this beautiful object as we can get them up in the coming hours (if you want to be sure of a link that will permanently work, use www.amazon.com/beedlebard). For the curious of mind, Amazon editors are now taking questions about the tales from all comers on our discussion boards (located further down this page).

So, when do the facsimile editions go on sale?

Sorry, We Discarded Our Copy of the Necronomicon Back In 1986

A common feature in the Lovecraftian horror sub-genre is the idea that there is some class of knowledge that Man Was Not Meant to Know. This usually involved some mind bending aspect of the cosmos that turns our psyche inside out if we were to perceive it, or a race of semi-tangible aliens who resemble pineapples with bat wings that turn out to have genetically engineered us as at some distant point in the past because they liked the taste of our brains. This information is invariably located in a book with a tongue twister for a name kept handily on the shelf at Miskatonic University‘s Library, albeit in the closed stacks, though pretty much anyone could get it if they just asked for it. A recent poll by the Pew Research Group confirms that a surprisingly large number of people actually think there are books that contain Things Man Was Not Meant to Know, and that they are in our school libraries:

Since 1999, support for the idea of banning “books with dangerous ideas” from public school libraries has declined from 55% to 46% and has now fallen to the lowest level of support of the past 20 years, in contrast with the modest increase observed in concerns about pornographic material in magazines and movies.

The fact that the number of people who would ban books form libraries has fallen to 46% is bothersome.

Hat tip to Emily at Library Revolution.