Speaker’s Corner (aka Massimo Ricci’s New Year Rant And A Thankful Letter By Thom Bailey)

(Editor’s note: this writeup was emailed today to the 700-or-so subscribers of my monthly review bulletin. Sorry for repeating myself, folks, but someone told me that the stuff was interesting enough to be posted as a proper article). MR

Dear friends,

I wish you a bright 2013, for what it’s worth. As some of you know the last quarter of 2012 has been rather problematic for yours truly, and consequently my time for writing has been dwindling a bit of late (did I hear a “thank god” down there?). Nonetheless, Touching Extremes keeps sailing across the turbulent sea of its twelfth year, hopefully with renewed energies in the months to come. Where I will find them, this remains to be seen. But sure as hell, I won’t be putting my old laptop to definitive sleep anytime soon.

Let’s start with numbers. I am so amused by the absolute lack of reliability of the so-called “stats”, something that seems to worry certain writers an awful lot (and no, I’m NOT joining Facebook to boost the visits). At times WordPress reports, say, 80 page views in the first four/five hours of the day… too bad that almost all of them hypothetically come from a single nation, occasionally a small one! Then again, hundreds of hits in days when nothing gets published, a lesser number in the days when a review goes online. Bottom line: don’t trust stats, for they only give a spurious perception of how many people genuinely follow your work. At the very best, they are not updated in real time. And, ultimately, it’s just a representational process of uselessness.

Speaking of which, a careful examination of the web’s counterfeit reality reveals a mounting despair in people who beg to “belong” – silently or less. I gave up watching TV a long time ago; now let’s hope that the ever-increasing rational cannibalism – read: depression-inducing social networks mingling rare specimens of excellence with ugly parasites – does not end destroying the tiny residues of intelligence (stop press: the process has already begun). Not that the erstwhile “necessary” sources for learning about music and art are doing any better. From what I gather via my personal analyses – and after talking to (still) self-directed musicians – the clutch of certified “organizations” controlling large segments of contemporary aestheticism appears to be stronger than ever on younger and frequently unmindful audiences, an unbeatable predilection for verbose sterility notwithstanding (“I’ll quote obscure movies, books, paintings and add a few sexual implications; who cares about how the record sounds?”). Incidentally, I still wonder why in the world one should be interested in how writers and/or musicians belonging to the upper class (hey, I’m being ironic) have spent their life’s last 12 months.

However, becoming a pawn of some kind in the shoulder-patting game is extremely rewarding for the ego, isn’t it? Quoting a Fred Frith title: “Sadness, its bones bleached behind us”. Or, better, John Lydon: “Farewell, my fair-weathered friends”. Translation: express frank views about the output of someone who aspires to be a part of a pseudo-elitist circle – or has already joined it, or has acquaintances in there – and many of the oh-so-generous emails you used to receive (often just before the release of a new record) are going to disappear, now and again replaced by a missive of the “how dare you, nescient midget?” variety. Good riddance, I say: less work for me to do (I have a 5-year heap of promos crying for attention, and of course plenty of new stuff still comes in), less wasting of my increasingly precious time. Just think of the many true artists who are still waiting to be discovered, while someone sits on a chair and emits two whispered pitches per hour and bullshit “installations” receive accolades everywhere. A nothingness often rewarded by sizeable grants, needless to say.

Random questions. How are Genesis P-Orridge’s fake boobs? Is touted Julia Holter that good? (Answer: no). Is there a real need for dirtying the immaculate work of groundbreaking pioneers with a “remix”? How come writers who used to have an instantly identifiable style on the web are not recognizable anymore on a magazine? Why many people who roast the “art mob” in private conversations become a much-complacent part of it after a while?

As Charlie Brown would have it, good grief. But, contrarily to him, I’m not your average weep-now-rejoice-later wannabe socializer. One must learn to thrive in isolation: nothing beats a quiet awareness if you breathe inspiring sounds while maintaining a strict physical discipline (still remaining an animal, one would say in my case). Let reusable connections and the allure of a relative renown loctite your eyes in front of the actual facts, no problem whatsoever here. A good number of unpretentious, down-to-earth greats still exists, and I feel blessed to be able to share views, laughs, wishes and curses with them. You know who you are. Thanks from the deep of my heart for your loyalty, modesty and perspicaciousness.

Now, a note from Thom Bailey – you might remember his request for help a month ago.

A few weeks ago, Massimo graciously offered up some space on his personal site so that I could, with no other options immediately available to me, seek some kind of material and immaterial support in a scary situation here. I’m very happy to say that that situation has become a lot less scary, with at least one of the afflicted parties at last finding some gainful employment.

However, before that massive pressure drop came about, something else happened which gave us all the strength to continue fighting on here. That ‘something else’ was the unexpected (and sometimes even overwhelming) wave of assistance that I received from strangers and old friends alike, a good deal of whom had been directed to my sad little donation request from this site. Some of these contributions were made in exchange for a digital version of my ‘Micro Bionic’ book, some were in the form of orders for other products of mine, and some were simply unconditional acts of generosity not even calling for a product / professional service in return. Just as importantly, though, these contributions did a lot to blast away at the sense of alienation and enforced solitude that I often feel as I till the soil of self-determined creativity in a locale that is fairly indifferent to that work. For someone who writes “author” near or at the top of his curriculum vitae, it seems silly that I have few words to properly express my gratitude, yet this is where I find myself – I almost feel as if thanks need to be expressed in some altogether more sublime and nuanced medium than the verbiage I regularly crank out.

Of course, I did receive one or two hilariously uninformed comments in response to my call for help (you know, insinuations that I probably ‘really’ needed money for ‘drugs’ or the like), but these were decidedly in the minority when compared to the messages of support I received. As such, this petty sniping only made me more appreciative of the very sincere concern that came to me from all corners of the world and many different areas of cultural production. For all those who sacrificed even a little of their time and monetary resources for my benefit, THANK YOU once more, and I hope the new year will bring better and brighter things for all of you.

– Thomas B.W. Bailey

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