on Feb. 7, 2015 :
A e-magazine makes great sense as a medium for the growth of a counter-culture. In the past, community-based newspapers and fanzines have made a major impact, and they had to work with the difficulties of printing and distributing a physical product. E-publishing makes it all so much easier. And, at a time when the mainstream media is dependent on corporate advertising and is pandering to an escapist obsession with celebrity lifestyles, a healthy counter-cultural media is something worth working on.
There is a "Field of Dreams" element to founding a magazine. You provide the forum as a act of faith that more writers will offer their work and a readership will build and, as a result, the magic of community will bless the arena. This first issue is pretty rough, but it shows energy and commitment. I don't know how it may have improved with later issues.
On the plus side, the magazine is not boring. The writing has a sense of enthusiasm. It also deals, at times, with issues that are very important - the debt crisis and the behaviour of Monsanto which may threaten our food security. And there is a real appreciation of fine literature, e.g. the inclusion of Friedrich Schiller's "The Division of the World" as Poem of the Issue.
But there is a lot of room for improvement.
On a practical note, it would be handy if there were an author credit at the beginning of each article. As it is the only clue as to who has written which piece is when the author will say something like "where I live in France" or "as an Australian".
In the discussion of the Poem of the Issue, the author (whichever one it is) says : "Also on the subject of the division of the world's resources it is interesting to note this little quote from the song 'All along the watchtower.' I believe Jimi Hendrix was possibly the first to sing it or Bob Dylan. In any case Bob Dylan was a much better singer and more profound thinker of his generation…” This seems sloppy and lazy when it would only take a minute at Wikipedia to clarify that Bob Dylan wrote the song and was the first to record it.
The article on Glass Steagall and the debt crisis gives a basic explanation of what the Glass Steagall Act was, but doesn’t really make it clear how an enforcement of this act would help with the debt crisis in Europe. The author simply recommends that we “further study this issue as this is something that will be discussed more and more.” This highlights one of the problems here. If there has been a lot written about the issues covered in this magazine, and a good deal of that coverage is no doubt better researched and articulated than what you will find here, what does this magazine have to offer?
The author of “The Big Lie” talks about the poor quality of some Hollywood adaptations of books. It is true that a lot of Hollywood product is dumbed down and sometimes gives a poor impression of some fine source material. But I’m reminded of something a certain itinerant preacher once reputedly said : “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” Second-rate mainstream Hollywood movies get too much attention as it is, to write more about how bad they are is to contribute to that problem. To his credit, Mikey Lee Ray (I think), tries to encourage the reader to read more books. But what a magazine like this can usefully do is to give coverage to good independent and foreign language movies which have a hard time finding an audience against the big guns with their millions to spend on publicity. And, given what is said elsewhere about the timelessness of quality writing, it would be worth giving some attention to some of the great cinema of the past which is in danger of being forgotten by the current generation.
In “Learn, Survive, Defect”, Mikey Lee Ray (I’m pretty sure) talks a little about Russell Brand’s “Revolution”. He faults Brand for not mentioning someone he himself admires by the name of Lyndon LaRouche. He points out that LaRouche is controversial and relates an anecdote about him. He says that some people have criticised him as “anti-Semitic”. But he gives us no real idea of what LaRouche believes and why we should care about him. He also doesn’t explain why some people call him “anti-Semitic”. Instead he goes off on a tangent about other hated historical figures - Jesus Christ and Jeanne d’Arc. In the absence of any explanation of who LaRouche is, this association with Jesus and the Maid of Orleans means nothing.
After this he goes into a lengthy impassioned account of revolutionary bloodbaths and the oppressive political systems which often have grown out of them. But this seems to be based an a misinterpretation of the passage from Brand’s book which he quotes : “My mate Nik said the first act after a successful Revolution should be the execution of its leaders. Brutal but smart.” Ray seems to interpret this to mean the killing of the overthrown leaders, but it seems clear to me that what Brand is acknowledge is the tendency of those who lead a revolution to become the new oppressors, thus his mate Nik advises that the beneficiaries of a revolution kill their own leaders. I don’t think that Brand really thinks that that should happen. He’s an anarchist. Anarchists “kill” those who would try to lead them or rule over them by refusing to obey. Given Ray’s views on Lenin and Stalin, I would have thought he might agree with the sentiment that the Bolsheviks would have been better off if they had killed their own leaders as soon as the Czar was defeated.
In “The Virtual Beggars” the author complains about on-line advertising, especially while he was watching “Life on Earth” on YouTube. What he doesn’t seem to acknowledge is that the makers of this program deserve an income from their efforts. If he doesn’t want advertising, he can buy the DVD and enjoy the program advertising free, but if the program is presented for free on the net (assuming that this has been done legally and the originators of the program are not being cut out altogether) then there has to be some other method for income to be generated. Having said that, he makes very good points about the counter-productive nature of advertising which annoys potential customers.
Humour is very subjective. There are a lot of attempts at humour in these essays. References to “Infidel Castrato” and “Cliche Guevara” and a suggestion that Hugh Grant (no relation), the CEO of Monsanto might have starred in a movie called “Four Thousand Funerals and a Wedding”, etc. Also asides directed to George W. Bush (“No, Dubya, I’m not talking about you, you liar.”) This kind of smart aleck humour makes me wince rather than laugh, but since there are popular stand-up comedians who specialise in it, I can’t say with any certainty that it is done badly, only that it isn’t to my taste.
Some of the writing here I would categorise as “rants”. The problem with rants is that, while they can be very cathartic for the author writing them, they can come across as over-bearing to the reader. If you are describing the obscene behaviour of a corporation then you should trust that the reader will have their own authentic response of anger, disgust, or whatever. To put your own angry, disgusted, etc. feelings to the forefront can seem like egotism and talking down to your audience.
(review of free book)