Back to top

SPARKS: ONLINE ISSUE NUMBER 10

Page
SPARKS SPARKS, Volume 4, No. 3
Image

 

Fall 1995


Contents

Five Poems
Frank B. Ford
Poem: Only That
William C. Burns
Two Poems
Michael McNeilley
Story: On The Best Days
Paul Ford
Two Poems
John Grey
Essay: Turds of a Feather
Mort Allman
Two Poems
Denise Motta
Poem: I Wanna Live
B.J. Best
Essay: Portrait of an Etext User
Jim Esch

Sparks: A Magazine for Creative People
ISSN# 1077-4149
Editors: Jim Esch and Stacy Tartar
Copyright 1995  by Jim Esch and Stacy Tartar
All rights for each work contained herein revert back to the author(s) upon publication.
Printed in the U.S.A.
We welcome your submissions. Unsolicited manuscripts will be considered for publication and returned, provided you have included a self addressed stamped envelope. Send all correspondence to the address below.
232 North Kingshighway #616
St. Louis, MO 63108-1248
e-mail: jmesch@artsci.wustl.edu
Subscriptions
$8 for four issues of SPARKS.
Make checks payable to
Jim Esch
232 N. Kingshighway #616
St. Louis, MO 63108-1248

Five Poems

Frank B. Ford

Audiences

They laughed at William Carlos Williams at Ioway,
alien-old he among that corn where wellaway 'twas then
Vanguard,Academy wrI-tin' n' other
oxymorons. Padraic Colum at our small place wandering,
forgot his Gaelic riverbanks finally
asking us which poem of his we wished recited.
Not title one did we know. Shaking,he fished down
and drew up just a line,then another skein,
easing with those glistening charms our ignorant pain.
After,in an upper room used for junk never redeemed,
a student mine,female
in the sense that shook
the shit from time,enveloped
his freckled hand.
Hey, how're you doin?
rebuts the newest,hustlin'
jive of all the bored
auditoriums,All American
suety whores.

 

Numbers

1) hell,here they are
like to have their TITS
bounce for you.
2) X that rammy shit! key
LIBBERS,so what
3) 's left?   the
BRAIN?     STICK IT
4) up against (1)
5)      and thus with old
Sam Johnson I refute Berkley.

 

The Whatchacallit,Wasteland

PrezReagan slammed
as Bmovie actor--
yet TVnews n'all's one
BIG Bmovie.
's all Soap,
Softie.
All we know 'n
can write about
being
SHIT. What's the damned
endless debate,America? What
color?

 

Children

have died
in these times,
their sweet eyes
their sweet eyes murdered
in these
times
Children
in these times Children Children    in these times
have died in these murdering times their sweet
their sweet eyes their
eyes
eyes
eyes
eyes
eyes

 

In the Marketplace of Liars

no truthful person remains
genuine-
ly a bargain.

 

Poem

William C. Burns

Only That

Only that?
That's all you want?
Surely by now
you have guessed
The most difficult questions
are the easiest to ask
Very well
I will tell you
what I must
To find the True Center
you must walk on the Edge
The best place to hide a whisper
is in a hurricane
Guilt has never
prevented anyone
from doing
anything
Wrong

 

Two Poems

Michael McNeilley

you gonna eat that?

I got on the bus in Long Beach
thanks to Traveler's Aid
but there was only a couple
of bucks left for food
so by the time I took that left
in Albuquerque I was ready
to do what had to be done
but it wasn't so bad really
nabbing food off abandoned plates
as I walked by in the
bus station coffee shop
until I got to Durango
where all the tables were clean
and there was just one guy
eating a hamburger
and I sat across from him
with a glass of water and a
newspaper out of the trash
and stared him down
he left half of it
and I sat right in his spot
finished it up the waitress
even warmed up his coffee for me
she didn't look at me
hadn't looked at him
I made it home from there
I've had steak in Kansas City
Cuban in Miami and Creole
in New Orleans soulfood in
Atlanta and barbecue in Tennessee
bean soup in the Senate
wine from a loved ones lips
and none of it
was better

 

karma

you live your life in a sewer
drown on a clot of
ratshit and come back
as Robert Redford.
you win the lottery
marry a movie star
invent the no-stick
postage stamp
and come back as
rocky roadkill.
it all balances out
is all I know about it -
like a pendulum swinging
first south then north
slowing until thank god
you're done with it.
you become speaker of the house
by lying to the people
in every Machiavellian way
imaginable
fuck over your wife and kids
wipe your ass on the poor
and come back and come back and
come back over and over
as one of those prawns
they don't bother killing
before they saute.
I don't know what the hell
I did, but whatever it was
it must have been
pretty bad.
but now I'm working
through it and
if current indications
hold
next time I should be
President of Latvia
a Beverly Hills gynecologist
my own cartel
Bill Gates III.
I sit here in my underwear
watching some guy on tv
in the front row between
Nicholson and a knockout blonde
at the Lakers game.
his sunglasses cost more
than my car.
I wonder how soon
he'll get that
last quick look
at the bridge abutment.
This beer is a little
on the warm side.
I open it
anyway.

 

On The Best Days

Paul Ford

Looking to make an impression, I sat on the curb and drew patterns in the gravel with a barkless stick--buffalo, hunters, deer, that sort of thing. On the road, along the yellow stripes, men pounded fiercely on kettledrums filled with money.

Those men synched their drumming into a primal hum, and it filled my apelike cheeks. From my dirty perch I began to slap my thighs, quietly syncopating to their ringing system.

Slowly, without a hint of the irony that usually comes with paradox, their rhythm matched mine. Perhaps the quiet, insinuating cadence stumbled into their calloused ears like a boy into a bar, suggesting a crumbling innocence to their savage beating.

We struck out together, my thick thighs as loud as their cash-muffled oil drums. Hours, minutes, seconds, but never days, and in no way months, until my pain overwhelmed my percussion, we hammered out a baritone roar. In time, my skin reddened and my palm s blistered, so I returned my tired hands to my peeled stick, drafting machines instead of animals and hunters, carefully inscribing straight lines among the tiny stones.

 

 

Two Poems

John Grey

Teeth Land

Hooked on teeth at the
bottom of the water glass,
the perfect sleight of hand,
his wizened body no longer
dropping down and away from
his gums but floating
in a cup.
Fascination comes early,
no more so than for fake body
parts, these things that he can
only clean but I make
chatter, make swim, make dance.
I give each tooth a name,
a fresh non-bicuspid identitiy.
A face emerges from the surrounding
water clouds, this drowning,
floating, grinning man.
Later, his wrinkled fingers
slip them out of their
cubby hole, pop them back
in his mouth, but my
eyes remain fixed on the
water, my imagination, its teeth.

 

Pitch Man

ten years after
the hit t.v. show,
he's pushing poultry
on t.v.
the one who
could look down
the barrel of
a Saturday night special
and not blink
can't say one
piece of chicken
is better than another
without turning
from the camera
once,
after fifty solid minutes
of detective work,
he'd name the killer
now,
six months of
these dumb ads
poisoning my t.v.
and I bet he's
barely aware
there's a victim

 

Turds of a Feather: Hitler, Mussolini, Limbaugh

by Mort Allman

The aim of this project is to demonstrate, in a suggestive yet succinct way, the familial resemblence between Rush Limbaugh's "conservative" ideology and the principal architects of 20th century fascism. I thought the most fair and direct approach was to let the authors speak for themselves by means of direct quotations from their writings and speeches. Since the practice of ideology and propaganda tend to veil the truth from their audiences, it is hoped that this collage of quotations will throw the matter into critical relief, as if standing back from a painting to better assess its treatment of perspe ctive.

The quotations, I vouch, are accurate and typical of their authors. It would be foolish to claim that each author corresponds on all ideological points. They do agree enough to make this finding, shall we say, more than a bit distasteful.

 

ON ANTINATIONALIST INFLUENCES and NATIONALISM PROPER

The fascist needs to take liberalism's free and democratic individual and turn him into something else. He needs to nationalize that individual. He's an individual expressing a collective will, the will of the nation state. The fact that this seems to dil ute what it means to have an individual will is left unadressed.

"Fascism sees in the world not only those superficial, material aspects in which man appears as an individual, standing by himself, self-centred, subject to natural law which instinctively urges him toward a life of selfish momentary pleasure; it sees not only the individual but the nation and the country; individuals and generations bound together by a moral law, with common traditions and a mission which supressing the instinct for life closed in a brief circle of pleasure, builds up a higher life, founded on duty, a life free from the limitations of time and space, in which theindividual, by self-sacrifice, the renunciation of self-interest, by death itself...can achieve that purely spiritual existence in which his value as man consists." -- Benit o Mussolini

The red-blooded American form of this subordination of the will gets expressed by resorting to traditional religion, patriotism, Mom, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet.

"But please understand, we are not intent on exporting our American culture as exclusively superior (even though we believe that the values upon which America was founded are second to none). No, we are not on an affirmative mission at all. We mer ely seek to defend for America its Judeo-Christian tradition against the onslaught that is taking place against it in our schools. We believe that although America is a melting pot, its citizens will blend together and live harmoniously only if they are w illing, not to discard their heritage, but to recognize that they are first and foremost Americans. They must realize and appreciate the fact that they are citizens of the greatest nation in the history of the world.... I say to you that national allegian ce and patriotism are absolute minimum requirements a nation must demand of those who want to enjoy its citizenship.... For any nation to survive as a cohesive national unit...its citizens must be imbued with a strong sense of nationalism and patriotism. That's right. Those are not dirty words. For America to remain the beacon of light it has been to the rest of the world, that "shining city on a hill," its citizens must honor their social compact with one another and, above all, with the United States of America. For America to remain the melting pot, it must encourage its citizens truly to melt in and not segregate themselves to the point of Balkanizing the nation." -- Rush Limbaugh

"Melt in" is simply a code-word for "conform." And we have to ask ourselves, "conform to WHAT standard, for what purpose, for whom's benefit?"

 

ON EQUALITY vs. QUALITY

Much of the rationale for fascism hinges on the equality vs. quality debate. Does democracy, with its assumptions that all men [and women] are created equal, contradict the capitalist ideology of "screw you, I got mine" ? The fascist answers, "yes." Democ racy, (essentially a system that allows the people to participate and decide on the distribution of society's goods and services), is at odds with the profit motive, which seeks to divide humanity into haves and have nots and base it on such notions as "s uperiority", "excellence," "competition," etc. Thus, according to the fascist mind, democracy leads society into a crippling and impotent sameness, a foolish quest to make everyone equal. Only the fascist thinks that people aren't "REALLY" equal; government should insure that things stay that way.

"There are...two other closely related factors which we can time and again trace in periods of national decline: the one is that for the conception of the value of personality there is substituted a levelling idea of the supremacy of mere numbers--dem ocracy--and the other is the negation of the value of a people, the denial of any difference in the inborn capacity, the achievement, etc., of individual peoples....Internationalism and democracy are inseperable conceptions. It is but logical that democra cy, which within a people denies the special value of the individual and puts in its place a value which represents the sum of all individualities--a purely numerical value--should proceed in precisely the same way in the life of peoples and should in tha t sphere result in internationalism. Broadly it is maintained: peoples have no inborn values, but, at the most, there can be admitted perhaps temporary differences in education....[W]ithin a people, differences in value between the individual members of t his people are denied." -- Adolph Hitler

So democracy denies individual difference. It demands equality. But the fascist needs inequality, he needs leaders and followers, rich and poor, good and bad, pure and impure.

"We need to emphasize excellence--not equality, sameness, or fairness. The Founding Fathers, who liberals fraudulently identify as their soul mates, incorporated into the Constitution the principle of equality of opportunity, not equality of result. L ike the Founding Fathers, we must understand that individual and national excellence can be achieved only if we reward rather than punish achievement and success....Equality of outcome or result is impossible because no two individuals are alike. We all h ave different abilities, talents, desires, ambitions, capabilities, and other characteristics. There is no way these differences can be equalized--even by force." -- Rush Limbaugh

To the fascist the poor baby has the same equality of opportunity as the rich baby. After birth, the rest is left to "natural" selection, assisted in part by government rewards to those who have achieved. It's harder for the American Limbaugh to dance aro und the equality issue than it is for others, for whom democracy has less tradition attached to it. They can cut to the chase:

"Fascism is...opposed to that form of democracy which equates a nation to the majority, lowering it to the level of the largest number; but it is the purest form of democracy if the nation be considered--as it should be--from the point of view of quali ty rather than quantity." -- Benito Mussolini

 

ON UTOPIANISM AND SOCIALISM and PATRIOTISM

Equality, for the fascist, is an unrealizable, utopian concept. It doesn't square with his version of reality. It cannot be accepted as a possibility; it must be rigorously denied, excluded, exiled to the realm of fantasy.

"It [Fascism] does not believe in the possibility of 'happiness' on earth as conceived by the economistic literature of the 18th century, and it therefore rejects the teleological notion that at some future time the human family will secure a final set tlement of its difficulties." -- Benito Mussolini

"It is utopian, and therefore unrealistic, to expect that every citizen will eat equally every day of the year. It is utopian to expect that every citizen will be provided the exact health care that citizens want every day of the year. It is utopian t o believe that suffering of any kind can be eliminated through government intervention and action. As I have told you, there will always be poor people, however earnestly we try to eradicate poverty." -- Rush Limbaugh

Once he's taken away the idealism, he discredits democratic logic itself.

"After socialism, Fascism trains its guns on the whole block of democratic ideologies, and rejects both their premises and their practical applications and implements. [I]t asserts the irremediable and fertile and beneficent inequality of men who can not be levelled by any such mechanical and extrinsic device as universal suffrage." -- Benito Mussolini

In America, again, the fascist can't crudely dismantle democracy willy nilly. He deftly shifts the meaning of democracy so as to neuter it.

"My hysterical critics often accuse me of "threatening democracy." To the contrary, ladies and gentlemen, it would be more accurate to describe me as Rush Limbaugh, D.D.--Doctor of Democracy.... I have the cure for what ails us. Here's my prescriptio n: Self-reliance. Morality. Personal responsibility. Optimism and good cheer. Confidence in the irepressibility of the human spirit. Dependence not on the government, but on the universal yearning for freedom and the desire to make life better for oneself and one's family...." -- Rush Limbaugh

None of these desirable virtues applies to democracy; rather, they apply to individual conduct. The fascist wants to hide the fact that democracy functions as a system of self-government, where individuals collectively make decisions, delegate power, dist ribute resources in a just, fair, equitable way. If we accept the fascist definition of democracy, we'll be so self reliant that we won't need to worry about who's actually making the decisions.

 

A COMMON ENEMY

"The Jewish doctrine of Marxism rejects the aristocratic principle of Nature and replaces the eternal privilege of power and strength by the mass of numbers and their dead weight. Thus it denies the value of personality in man, contests the significanc e of nationality and race, and thereby withdraws from humanity the premise of its existence and its culture. As a foundation of the universe, this doctrine would bring about the end of any order intellectually conceivable to man." -- Adolph Hitler

One man's Jewish Marxism is another man's multiculturalism -- devoid of traditional values, anti-nationalist, appealing to humanity's lowest common denominator.

"By its very nature, multiculturalism holds that no civilization, no moral code, no way of living, is better than another. In general, it finds fault with little in most cultures--the exception being the actual nation of America, which is usually portr ayed as an oppressive, racist, sexist, homophobic nation with few redeeming qualities." -- Rush Limbaugh

Try replacing the word "Multiculturalist" for the word "Jew" below.

"In the political field he [The Jew] refuses the state the means for its self-preservation, destroys the foundations of all national self-maintenance and defense, destroys faith in the leadership, scoffs at its history and past, and drags everything th at is truly great into the gutter. Culturally he contaminates art, literature, the theater, makes a mockery of natural feeling, overthrows all concepts of beauty and sublimity, of the noble and the good, and instead drags men down into the sphere of his o wn base nature. Religion is ridiculed, ethics and morality represented as outmoded, until the last props of a nation in its struggle for existence in this world have fallen." -- Adolph Hitler

The fascist needs a scapegoat, an enemy to the established capitalist order, always perceived as the natural, traditional, best-of-all-possible-worlds solution to humanity's ills. Whether it's the Jews, the multiculturalists, the moral relativists, the so cialists, the liberals, the communists -- the lot of them pigs in a poke -- the enemy is portrayed in the same colors, from the same broad brush. A tragic case in point:

"In the early 1900s, an obscure Italian communist by the name of Antonio Gramsci theorized that it would take a 'long march through the insitutions' before socialism and relativism would be victorious. Up until then, most of the radical left still bel ieved that they would take power only when they convinced enough people in the working class to take up arms in their cause. But Gramsci theorized that by capturing these key institutions and using their power, cultural values would be changed, traditiona l morals would be broken down, and the stage would be set for the political and economic power of the West to fall. "The key, according to Gramsci, was to change the way the whole society thinks about its problems. For starters, he wrote, you have to subv ert and undermine the belief in God. Chip away at the assumption that there are a set of divinely inspired moral absolutes, and everything more or less begins to fall into place for the socialists, relativists, and materialists. Now the name Gramsci is ce rtainly not a household name, even among the most enlightened people on Earth--my readers. But trust me when I tell you that his name and theories are well known and understood throughout intellectual leftist circles. Leftist think tanks worship at Gramsc i's altar." -- Rush Limbaugh

Gramsci was arrested as a political enemy by Mussolini's Fascist Government on November 8, 1926. He died in 1937 after eleven years of imprisonment. 'Twould have made Rush proud, I suppose.

To be fair, Limbaugh's "let's get the government out of our lives" song and dance, is, at face value, opposed to the dictates of authoritarian state control found in Nazi ideology. But if one understands the true extent to which the United States governme nt intervenes and maintains the corporate system (via tax policy, environmental loopholes, federal giveaways, massive funding of defense and scientific research, NAFTA, GATT, etc.) then it becomes clear that the effect in both cases is fascistic: both are systems controlled from the top-down, with a weak mass public following orders. The Limbaugh world-view differs in degree, not in kind.

 

SOURCES

Hitler, Adolph. Mein Kampf, trans. Ralph Mannheim, Boston: Houghton Mifflin,         1943
Hitler, Adolph. My New Order. ed. Raoul de Roussy de Sales. New  York:         Reynal & Hitchcock, 1941.
Rush Limbaugh. See I Told You So, New York: Pocket Books, 1993.
Benito Mussolini. Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions, Rome: Ardita,1935.

 

Two Poems

Denise Motta

Mutiny

you decide
ought i to be
espousing fate for me
allowed, i am not
tensing a bowline knot
in doubt i hide
fear of vanished pride
break out --
released from my cage
irresolution disengage
I decide
now beginning
an autonomous being
thriving in certain ardor
barricading your door

 

Everyone Is A Critic

good "men" Humpty slide
like eggs hurled at ice,
shattered ego casings
drip, melting into
mosaic tile pools.
the efficacy of pitching
machines rhythmically
steady and tight -
"man" to loose
to break
the ruinous beat
accepts the toilet
tissue flogging
placing aside its
purpose for ass holes.
flesh translucent nodules
of armor callous
to shield the
heart and soul
from jealous, captious
bombardment -
the off plumb
suit, a bathrobe
to the birth  shell.

 

Poem

B.J. Best

I Wanna Live

I wanna live on Mead Lake
lost somewhere in northwestern Wisconsin
with no raucous ringing sounds of telephones.
I wanna swim in the copper-colored creek
and catch carp as I fish from the pier.
I wanna camp on the island thatUs barely large enough
to fit a pup tent and a fire on
and roast hot dogs for dinner and try to make pancakes for breakfast.
I wanna wake up to the dead sound of the steam
rising off of the glassy gray lake
and fall asleep hearing the calls of a far-off hoot-owl
and the gentle tap of rain on the tin roof.
I wanna sit in the sunset and watch
my sadness roll over the dam
and I wanna sit the small country cottage at dusk
with my feet up, drinking a dry martini in front of the fireplace.
I wanna live in Ishpeming,
plunked down somewhere on the peninsula,
partially because I just like the sound of it:
Ish-pe-ming.
I wanna walk around and see the copper-carved canyons
and confer with the conifers as I watch the water fall
off of the old red ledges.
I wanna sleep in a nice warm bed with a feather pillow and a down blanket
and every night I wanna go to a quaint, country restaurant
where they make homemade bread and put salad in big, wooden bowls.
I wanna wake up to the commotion of waves slamming
into the shores of the superior lake
and fall asleep to the gentle twinkle of snowflakes
drifting under the moonlight.
I wanna shoot bears with my camera and leave my worries in their traps,
and order brandy old-fashioned sweets while I sit on a black, padded stool
talking to the bartender about the characters that come and go.
I wanna live with you
ever since we were thrown together out of nowhere
because I knew I like the sound of it from the beginning:
"I love you."
I wanna thrive among the copper-crafted kettles
and create constant beauty as we fish through our lives.
I wanna camp on the couch with you soundly at my side,
so close like we were in a down sleeping bag.
I wanna have pancakes or watermelon or garden-grown salad for dinner,
depending on the season.
I wanna wake up to sheets quietly rustling
as you get up to tell me to get ready for the day
and fall asleep to the gentle sound of a quiet kiss upon my forehead
while watching your snowy skin and your twinkling eyes.
I wanna get rid of all the damn sadness and worries
that I don't have to bear anymore
and sit in front of the fiery sun at dusk drinking nectar
talking about what characters we are.
I wanna live on Mead Lake or in Ishpeming;
it's all up for you to decide.

 

Portrait of an Etext User

Jim Esch

In this short essay I'd like to touch on some issues that relate to how electronic publishing may be affecting and perhaps shall later affect the consciousness of everyday users of the information superhighway. I will use my own personal experience as a vehicle to travel by these destinations. As I consider myself more of a "user" of new technology than a programmer or scientist of that technology, perhaps my perspective reflects something that is happening out in "netland," where most people only learn enough skills to get them driving away on the superhighway. I'm like the guy who doesn't know much about how my car works, how the roads are built, but I do know where I'm headed and what I want these roads to take me to.

It may be a presumptuous conceit on my part, but I feel as if many users of technology may identify with these observations. I think it important to raise these matters because it is important to remind ourselves what the purpose of these enabling techno logies actually might be. The everyday user is, in the final analysis, the ultimate arbiter of HOW the superhighway is used.

I'd like to place emphasis for the time being on how I think the superhighway is being used for issues involving electronic publishing, specifically electronic text -- books, journals, zines, etc. The way I have used and thought about these matters can b e broken down into 5 categories, sequentially ordered: Euphoria, Hoarding Mentality, Disillusionment, Skepticism, Practical Application of New Abilities.

My personal acquaintance with the Internet began at a small college in southeast Pennsylvania -- Widener University. Having known about the Internet a couple of years before by way of a computer company I had done some writing for, I sought and obtained a computer account at the college. When I first used telnet to connect to a site overseas I was filled with a rush of adrenelain -- mad utopian visions danced in my head -- the whole world was at my fingertips! The whole world was connected. Suddenly, geo graphy didn't seem to matter as much. Communication could bring us all closer. And nobody seemed to be paying for all these file transfers and e-mail messages. Such was my euphoria at the potential of the information superhighway.

Not long after this initial rush I began to use the Internet like someone who's left to forage through a store with an unlimited credit card and no obligation to ever pay. A petty bourgeois hoarding mentality overtook me. I started downloading every elec tronic text I could lay my hands on. I must have filled about 20 floppy disks with Shakespeare plays, Melville Novels, Latin Poetry, Philosophy, you name it. I was spellbound by the idea of a library in the palm of your hand. I was a consumer, an electron ic shop till you drop freak.

Up until this point, all was sweetness and light. The Internet was all good -- benificent, bountiful, a land of milk and honey. Resources everywhere. More than you could imagine. All accessible via my personal computer. But I soon arrived at a chasm -- w hat did all this access and material really amount to anyway? Could I REALLY USE any of it? I had only read about two of the e-texts I had downloaded -- Shakespeare's Measure for Measure and Frederick Douglass' Autobiography. I soon found that reading som ething off the computer screen is vastly less comfortable than reading a paper book.

In short, disillusionment set in. Sure, the Internet was "cool" but would it really improve my life at all? Because that was the promise of the initial euphoria -- that there would be a paradigm shift in the way humans relate. Now I could see that it was n't really happening as suddenly as I had anticipated. In fact, I even found myself beginning to question the wisdom of electronic publishing. Who wanted to be stuck in front of a monitor reading a book, when one can curl into a comfortable bed with an ol d fashioned print book? Who but the technology hobbiests would want to sort through different hypertext front-ends and textual formats, wading through a tangle of standards and protocols to access the texts. It all began to seem a bit silly, even futile.

This was my skeptical phase. The fundamental question was -- if these are "enabling" technologies (i. e. hypertext, CD ROM, World Wide Web browsers, etc. ) what are the enabling me to do? Was I becoming a prisoner of the network? Was the network a spider 's web, trapping me in endless data and talking about data. Wasn't there something being lost in the rush to collect and reach that data?

I think there was. Slowly my attitude changed into something more modest. The information highway might change the world, but it wouldn't all be for the good. It might actually create a new elite -- instead of breaking down social barriers, it might erec t new ones. I could see it happening amongst friends -- I was keeping in closer touch with friends on the net than with my technologically challenged friends. Why? Because it was easier, more convenient.

Much as I distrusted the new technology, I kept using it. But my change in attitude sobered me, and I changed my behavior to suit. Instead of hoarding, I only accessed an e-text if I really needed to look at it at that moment for a specific purpose -- a research project perhaps, or following a particular train of thought. I also scaled back my time online, shaved off excess usage, stopped reading many a newsgroup. It had been too addictive, too much a narcotic up until that point.

And I found that this self-discipline led me into a new phase -- one of practical application of the technology. Instead of being impressed by the "glitz" and "sexiness" of the info-highway, I simply realized it was a means to an end, and that the end is not the net itself. I began to use the net as a means for participating in a large community of like minds -- in this case, people with an interest in literature, writing, electronic publishing, and underground zine culture. This is something the net can do for you that no other technology can do quite as well. At its best, it enables us to SHARE more of ourselves with others.

So instead of merely consuming cultural artifacts, I began to share my own productions with others. Now I am both a consumer and a producer. This has practical benefits for writers like me. It gives us an audience where none existed before. As editors it widens the reach of our journals and zines.

This may all sound decidedly mundane. And perhaps that's the lesson of this small personal narrative -- that the biggest strength of the emerging information superhighway is not 24-bit movie clips in little windows synced to 16-bit audio -- it's not Shak espeare on a disk -- it's not jazzy interfaces (as fascinating and useful though these all be) -- it's something much simpler. The strength of the net is that it is a medium that allows us to share our produce with each other. The net is and will increasi ngly BIND us into new communities.

Let me give you an example. A few years ago my publishing company released a poetry collection by a man named Frank B. Ford, a great and experienced talent. Called Connecting Light, we probably were able to sell at most 50 copies of the the book -- not t hrough any fault of the poems -- but merely because we didn't have the means to distriute, advertise and find an audience for the book. When I suggested to Frank that we do an electronic-version of the book, he was enthusiastic. There was no hesitation. I t wasn't the prospect of making a few extra nickels that drew him in -- it was the prospect of simply getting people to read his poems! That's all that many writers want in the end. Most of us know that we won't make fortunes slaving away on our poems, st ories and novels. We just want readers. The net gives us a way to get to readers we never would have reached before.

This brings me back to my main point: I think it is important for those working on standards, technology, hypertext and publishing to always keep in mind that while people may be hypnotized to some extent by "content" and "form" -- the substance and str ucture of publications -- what will really turn people on is that which enhances or makes easier their efforts to reach each other. That which ties together writers, editors, and readers. This means that I don't mind a whole lot if an electronic text does n't have fancy fonts and multimedia links -- I'm much more concerned with the text -- what it says, what it means, how can I respond to it or use it.

Time will surely bring slicker on-line publishing within reach, probably drawing even more readers into the networks, and that's not a bad thing either. There's nothing to fear there, unless of course the costs are prohibitive to the very audience one's trying to reach. The thing to remember is that the net excels at connectivity over all else; electronic publishers don't need to reinvent the wheel, they just need to get rolling. Produce your works for the lowest common denomination of user first, the pe rson with the cheapest computers and the slowest connect speeds. Simpler is better than nothing at all. If you can get more refined, great. But have faith that there will always be folks out there who'll want to read what you've got to say. It's what you' re printing that they're most interested in.

The net makes it easier for writers to be publishers, for readers to be publishers, for everyone to be a publisher. This can only be a good thing for publishing, because publishing is at bottom communication between people.