In the latest issue of Antinomy, regular columnist Jamy Ian Swiss has a wonderful piece about book introductions; particularly those from books now considered classics. As has been the case with most of his essays and reviews, its a thought provoking piece. (To say that Mr. Swiss is, at times, controversial may be an understatement, but the fact of the matter is that whether or not one agrees with whator howhe says what he does, if he stimulates your grey matter he has done his job. And Mr. Swiss does that job well. Besides, wheres the funor educationin reading only the words of those with whom you always agree?)
In this particular piece, however, it wasnt enough to just expound on the virtues of these remarkable works. Swiss also found it sporting to take several swipes at other forms of magical media, including ebooks, DVDs, and, of course, the Internet. During these criticisms (most of which I agree with), Swiss makes one comment that hit too close to home. He makes a very broad statement regarding Internet discussion boards implying that they are completely devoid of useful information and, in fact, a complete waste of timecertainly his time given that he chooses to ignore it.
When I read Swisss words, the lyrics of Beck Hansen began swirling in my mind:
Im a loser, baby, so why dont you kill me?
If it were not for the Internet, the only thing on my rsum would be a poorly written (albeit fun to do) trivia column that once appeared in couple of now defunct magic magazines. Fortunately for me it was this site that brought me to the attention of Richard Kaufman and eventually into the pages of the greatest magic magazine ever published. Im glad somebody was paying attention.
Im the first to admit thatin regard to magicInternet discussion boards are mostly a vast wasteland. But I also believe they do have many oases available to its travelers: They are far from bereft of good information. They certainly do not deserve the sweeping negative verdict offered by Swiss. The trick is knowing whats good since Internet discussion boards have little in the way of a filtration system (except for a handful of moderators that some consider heavy-handed tyrants and/or, as in my case, sycophants). Of course perhaps knowing is easy and the trick is finding.
I will also grant that there is a level of permanence found in books that the Internet does not enjoy. The Internet is mostly fleeting: Sites are closed; servers deleted; archives are forever lost. Books and their information last for generations and, ironically, the finding is much easier than it used to be now that information is disseminated so much more quickly than it used to be.
So perhapsand Im just speculating herethat what Mr. Swiss is doing is considering the ratio of valuable information found at sites like The Genii Forum and the time and effort needed to extrapolate it and in the end he finds no value. To that, I can only offer my apologies: It wasnt for lack of trying.