MacSimple

The Rodney O. Lain Archive

Classic Mac Writings - Coming to a Browser Near You

Rodney O. Lain - 1999.10.28

This article was originally published on MacSimple, a site which no longer exists. It is copyright 1999 by The Linton Media Company, which also seems to no longer exist. It is thus reprinted here without permission (which we would gladly obtain if possible.) Links have been retained when possible, but many go to the Internet Wayback Machine.

True, I speak of dreams,
which are children of an idle brain,
begot of nothing but vain fantasy.
 - Romeo and Juliet, Act I Scene 4

The fondest memories from my college days consist of the worldview-challenging debates that often occurred between myself and that group of acid-tongued hell raisers known as English majors.

Armed with their latest ideology du jour, they entertained me with their arguments, many of which vacillated among varying ratios of emotion and logic - hindsight shows the debates usually had more of the former than the latter. Every now and then, I participated in debate myself, often quickly yielding the floor to my peers, due to a chronic inferiority complex and lack of confidence in my burgeoning oratorical competence.

One particular argument stands out as an awakening for me, an awakening that inspires my writing to this very day.

My "combatant" was a classmate named Jerry. We were having a light argument about the literary canon. The literary canon is the body of writings that are considered to be the foundational literature of our civilization. When I say "literature" to you average, workaday folk, you should think of the famous works that dwell in the literary canon. When you mention "canon" to English-major types, they should also evoke in their minds similar images of writers like Bill Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson and e. e. cummings, along with famous works like Melville's "Moby Dick," Kafka's "Metamorphosis" and Poe's "The Raven."

Anyway, our contention was this: Jerry opined that, in the future English curriculum, the writings of Stephen King (crowned prince of the modern-day horror novel) would be in the literary canon.

To this, I - not quite sober at the time - replied, "[expletive deleted]."

But Jerry wasn't one to succumb to my rhetorical prowess that easily. His argument continued: Shakespeare, for example, wasn't famous for the whole of his lifetime. In truth, writers like Shakespeare were often viewed as being beneath the civilized man. The cultured man (remember this was the 16th century, where men were men, rulers were men, and no one else mattered) just did not lower himself to mere poetry- and prose writing. (There is even a literary society that believes Shakespeare was actually a blue blood named Edward DeVere, who ghost-wrote all works attributed to the man from Stratford-on-Avon.). Shakespeare toiled as a little-known playwright, according to Jerry. No one imagined that his work would garner even a smidgen of recognition. But today, The Bards plays are read, performed and enjoyed everywhere.

Jerry extrapolated this argument to include the likes of Stephen King.

What does Jerry's argument have to do with the Mac and with Mac Simple, you ask?

Well, I believe we Mac web columnists are like Shakespeare - and Stephen King, if Jerry is to believed. We could very well be embarking on an enterprise that will be seen retrospectively as a cyber-canon classic in the annals of web journalism[0].

What we are doing has no parallel - well, except for the Linux/OpenSource web effort. Surely there is no parallel in the PC industry to what you get from the Mac-related press [1]. I listen to and read several PC journals, and I agree with the e-mail that I received from Mac user Dave Murray: all the PC journalists write about are bug fixes, crash recovery and their livid disdain of Windows and Microsoft. There isn't much personality in their writing, which cuts us above the rest. PC journalistic writing, as a result, is usually lifeless, dull writing. Maybe beige can be used not only as a description of the PC, but also to describe the PC press.

We, however, aspire to better stuff. We want you to enjoy what we write, as well as to be educated and entertained. We want to do more than to wax poetically. We want to do more than write warm-fuzzy fluff. We want to make you think. We want you to realize that the Mac is more than a computer. Its more than a lifestyle. The Macintosh is a movement.

Do you really think the PC web has a "journalistic movement" to equal what is happening on websites like ours? I liken what we are doing to a literary explosion - a renaissance, if you will. And if you doubt that we are creating literature on the Mac web, go and read the Del Millers [2], the John Martellaro's [3], and the others who consistently put out damn good writing.

I mention Del and John for three reasons:

  1. They really are good writers.
  2. Their writing is the type that makes me say: "I've gotta get back to the drawing board and hone my craft!"
  3. I predict their writings will be instant classics in this medium. They are the vanguard of a new art form.

Point #3 is the main reason why I'm writing this column today. I'm here to announce, believe it or not, that we are creating classics here - of a sort. I should explain what I mean by "classic," because I am using a nonstandard definition of the term.

I have many literary role models. One is Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. A MacArthur "genius" scholar who now serves as head of Harvard's African-American Studies, Dr. Gates edited the Microsoft Encarta Africana [4]. Several years ago, he made a profound statement about what makes a classic. He says that truly classical writings evoke "that special, exhilarating feeling that the reader gets when the author names things that the reader has felt very deeply but could not articulate - the sort of passages that young scholars write out, verbatim, in their private commonplace books. It is this splendid capacity to name the previously unarticulated in human experience that, among other things, defines a classic."

Amen, my brother.

Many writers on the Mac web articulate things that Mac aficionados feel about the Mac, about Apple Computer, about computing today, about the interaction between man and machine. Many of these thoughts are thoughts that many Mac users have neither the words nor the venue to articulate. That's where MacSimple comes in. To create these "Gatesian" classical writings. Again, that is the type of writing to which we MacSimple writers aspire - that to which people can relate. And it is a commendable and reachable goal. You may think it pride and arrogance for me to call our work classical, but your criticism doesn't bother me in the least. I'm in good company:

Shakespeare had to put up with the same stuff

Fini.

Notes, links and references....

[0] Roger Born seems to agree with me. Go to his web site "Forum for Critical Thinking," which lists some of what he considers the best writing on the Internet... BTW, I did not ask him to link me on that site :-)

[1] I must give due credit to Kim Komando, the self-styled "Digital Goddess" of the airwaves, with her one-person industry of computer advice (all-PC, of course). Never one to be self-effacing, Kim says she is a PC guru and says she "looks good doing it." Check her out at http://www.komando.com

[2] Del writes for several sites, but his most frequent stuff can be found at MacOpinion, under the "Difference Engine" flag at http://www.macopinion.com/columns/engine

[3] John Martellaro also writes at MacOpinion, at http://www.macopinion.com/columns/utopia

[4] You can take a virtual tour of Encarta Africana at http://www.microsoft.com/encarta/africana/tour1.htm

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