Remembering the early Blogosphere
So I’m writing a book chapter on alternative media, and in some of it I talk about the early days of the blogosphere. Here’s an excerpt, for paid subscribers.
I was lucky enough to be an early player in the blogosphere’s development. I’d call InstaPundit, which started on August 8, 2001, a “late first-wave” blog. I came after people like Mickey Kaus’s Kausfiles (the first blog I ever read), Andrew Sullivan, Josh Marshall, Virginia Postrel, Joanne Jacobs, and Rebecca Blood. But not much after. At the time, the term “weblog,” later shortened to “blog,” had not yet achieved wide popularity. Slate magazine used the term “me-zine,” comparing them to the celebrated 1990s indie “zine” phenomenon (independent, quirky magazines published on actual paper).
I taught Internet Law, which meant I was always looking for ways to keep my hand in online. By the summer of 2001 I had decided to do something new. I had been active with music sites, including a chain of Internet “radio stations” on the late, lamented, MP3.com site, and also produced some online bands. For a while my brother Jonathan and I played a sort of game in which we’d come up with a band name, decide what genre the band went with, then write and record some songs and release an album on the MP3.com site, which made that very easy. (They even made it easy to sell CDs.) So, for example, the Nebraska Guitar Militia, which we decided was an alt-country band. We gave it a fictional backstory of being from Whiteclay, Nebraska, a tiny town that revolves around selling beer to the Indians at the reservation just across the line in South Dakota, wrote some songs (“The Town that Booze Built,” “Waves of Grain” – a lot of alcohol references. Though another song, “Reckoning,” predicted a Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump confrontation, which wasn’t bad for 2000.) Another band was “Mobius Dick,” which came from an old math joke (“What’s non-orientable and lives under the sea? Mobius Dick!”). That name naturally meant a techno/EDM band, and the Dick actually did tolerably well, with our Embrace the Machine becoming the best-selling CD on the MP3.com site for three weeks in 2000. The title track even got written up in Salon, back when that outlet was readable. Other Mobius Dick albums included Got Dick?, Indistinguishable from Magic? and Upload Your Mind.
I had also run a site, RaveRights.Com, aimed at defending electronic music promoters from the Drug Enforcement Agency, which was prosecuting rave promoters under the so-called “crack house law,” which criminalizes owning or operating a building for the purpose of taking drugs. (The DEA took the position that no one would go to raves for the music, so they must be there for the drugs.) That site was quickly replaced by the Electronic Music Defense Fund, a nonprofit funded by musician Moby, but I did work with the ACLU on a friend-of-the-court brief in a New Orleans case, where I explained the nature and background and audience of electronic music.
But, in part because of teaching Internet Law, I was always looking for something new to do.
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