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How to destroy P2P.

Let’s say when you were younger than you are now that you went to your girlfriend’s senior-year prom and when she was occupied elsewhere (this would be after the thing with the fountain outside, so maybe she’s in the bathroom with her best friend, laughing as she peels off her damp stockings), you screw your courage to the sticking point and sidle up to the band between songs and say hey, you know, could you maybe play, you know, that song? The one by that band, Modern English? “I’ll Stop the World and Melt With You”? You know? And he laughs and says sure, in a couple of songs. And in a couple of songs they do and the way her face lights up when they do and you grin and hold out your hand is something to see.

Even if there’s a dozen other people at least lighting up all across the dance floor for the very same reason.

So you go online years later because, you remember that TV commercial Michael Palin did for that decent radio station in Chicago? Where he’s holding the pizza the whole time, going on about how on W-whatever, we don’t play songs over and over and over again until they lose all meaning and become a mockery of themselves like every other radio station in town, and then he looks down at the pizza and looks mournfully up at the camera and says, to think this was once “Stairway to Heaven”? I mean, yeah, “I’ll Melt With You” is total pizza, but her face lit up. You know? And when you were in high school everybody bought that Modern English album for that song but they all bought it on cassette and who has cassettes nowadays? And who can find the 4AD retrospective in their local record shop? So you go online and you fire up your favorite P2P filesharing software and you plug in Modern English and sure enough, presto! There’s a whole slew of copies of “I’ll Melt With You.”

Only just about every single one of them is that ghastly early ’90s remake they did as “the 80s Modern English” or some such shit after that goddamn Burger King commercial.

(Then again, Gilmore Girls used the La’s original version of “There She Goes” on its soundtrack or something, apparently, so hey, the filesharing thing wasn’t a total loss.)


Between Sebbo’s digression into the Bloggerhans triumphalism that really isn’t the point of my homeschooling post below at all, and this genteel dustup over in Johnathon Delacour’s always-excellent journal, I’ve found myself falling backwards into thoughts of generalizations, and why we do them, and when, and how, and when they’re well done, and when they aren’t, and how, and why, little stuff, you know, so instead I’m going to talk about this quote, and this bit from the Tao Te Ching, which maybe have something to do with generalizations, what doesn’t, after all, but really they more sort of back into some really big stuff that kept trying to squeeze its way into the aforementioned homeschooling post no matter how many times I tried to wave ’em off, since, you know, really fuckin’ long, and if after reading this the connection isn’t so clear to you, keep in mind it’s only rather moreso to me; my muse, it sems, is a magpie. (Ooh! Shiny!)

The quote:

Anyone who is not a liberal at 16 has no heart; anyone who is not a conservative at 60 has no head.

Which has been said in a lot of different ways by a lot of different people at a lot of different times, so let’s take it, glib though it is, as if there were hidden inside a kernel of truth. —Because I’m starting to think there is, and not of the liberal-who-gets-mugged or the liberal-who-pays-property-tax-for-the-first-time variety. (After all, what of the conservative who gets arrested? —But are they really becoming liberal? Or have they merely found something new to conserve?) Let’s take as our text “Freedom,” the 80th chapter from Ursula Le Guin’s rendition of the Tao (she doesn’t call it a translation, and we might as well respect that):

Let there be a little country without many people.
Let them have tools that do the work of ten or a hundred,
and never use them.
Let them be mindful of death
and disinclined to long journeys.
They’d have ships and carriages,
but no place to go.
They’d have armor and weapons,
but no parades.
Instead of writing,
they might go back to using knotted cords.
They’d enjoy eating,
take pleasure in clothes,
be happy with their houses,
devoted to their customs.
The next little country might be so close
the people could hear cocks crowing
and dogs barking there,
but they’d grow old and die
without ever having been there.

And the 60-year-old says after a thoughtful pause, yes, I can see: this would be the best of all possible worlds; this is the solution at the other end of the moral calculus; this is the good life for the greatest number of people, with a minimum of pain and suffering. Utopia. Nirvana. On a clear day, you can just barely see it from here.

The 16-year-old? The 16-year-old blinks and shrugs and says, yeah, sure, but what the fuck do you do on a Saturday night?