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March 14, 2012

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Richard

I agree with pretty much everything you say above, and the general thrust of it dovetails with an online rant from a while back by Patton Oswalt to the effect that the intensity of geek passions was directly linked to the scarcity of materials. The harder you had to work to find a thing, the greater your emotional investment…and when there was very little of it around, for many people that passion got channeled into becoming a creator of more rather than just staying a consumer. When there's already too much of a thing for anyone to use up, there's a lot less motivation to make more.

However, there is a flip side to this. People in their teens and twenties now are far more receptive to discovering good things regardless of their vintage than my generation ever was. I can remember back in 1980 enthusing about some track from 1969, and having friends sneer "Eh, you're into that OLD stuff." Unthinkable today! Not too long ago, a 22 year old friend of mine turned me on to some great songs by the Equals with Eddy Grant from 1965. I'd never heard them before -- I was three back then! I've heard teenagers enthusing about my favorite comic book from 1971. Not new comics in the same series, I hasten to add -- they were talking about the same issue I read back then. Stuff I remember as being awesome has been validated by new generations who come along and say "Yeah, that actually was something special."

Our constant hunt for the new thing was an artifact of commerce, the system through which it reached us. Freed from the necessity to hunt, new listeners can actually focus on whether or not something is good without worrying if it's new or seventy years old. If you have to go out and hunt an animal with a spear every day or you don't eat, you have a certain concept of what "good food" is. If you live thirty thousand years later in a town with some nice restaurants, you develop more sophisticated ideas about cuisine. There's some passion lost in transition...but it's a tradeoff, and there are benefits as well.

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