Gillmor Gang: Basement Tape

The Gillmor Gang — Robert Scoble, Dan Farber, Keith Teare, and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live Friday, November 28, 2014.

@stevegillmor, @scobleizer, @dbfarber, @kteare

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

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I stopped writing a few years ago, mostly because I felt the form was too much a parlor trick. Social felt more directed, less pious, touched with a gentle irony when played well. Threaded through Twitter, the social graph added context to the polemic of the post, a thin layer of group dynamics that went beyond the sizzle of products and personalities to the underlying zeitgeist of the time.

Boy was that narrative a drama. Life and death, no kidding. The arc of Steve Jobs’ life driving the epochal shift of the iPhone. The insistent pulse of the drive to do as much as was possible, while expanding the possible to change the world. What an arrogant youthful concept, to change the world. Was it even remotely within reach? I think so. The door perhaps opening by psychedelics remained open with the stillness of meditation.

Meanwhile, the media framed the discussion in terms of personal drama, when the real point was about a generation empowered and overwhelmed by technology. We are pulled along by our capacity for new, for constant answers to what’s happening, about to happen, inevitable to happen. It’s exhausting, but even in the defeat of 360,000 unread items is the satisfaction from doing the best we can. We think of it as filters, but the truth is something more human.

Before I stopped writing, the parlor trick didn’t feel false. It felt more like found material, the rush of stumbling upon a riff or a pattern that, upon inspection seemed not to have been copied from an identifiable place. Annie Hall is littered with these objects, the Marshall McLuhan scene, the What I would give for a large rubber mallet, the giddy quasi-horror of the Christopher Walken car ride. Somehow Woody Allen transcended the nagging sound of sarcastic comedy, perhaps the touch of Lennon/McCartney that Marshall Brickman provided.

It was also fun, sideswiping the copy desk and the Word autothesaurus with a Dylanesque rhythm. The language was fresh back then, like a Steely Dan record in its perfection, knowing it couldn’t last but giving not a damn. You could pick the players out of the crowd, watching the subtext of the social cloud take shape in the back and forth. Unspoken and embarrassing words like “neat” and “cool” nonetheless lived somewhere in the underbrush.

Also we had the anger, the clear implication that some correctly took personally, that they were being talked down to. But if you think about it, sharing started here. Funny is not about the speaker being smarter, but rather the transfer of energy in the laugh. Often you don’t know why it’s funny, but damn well that it is funny. That’s one of the hardest things to do on stage, get to the funny without insulting the partner in crime, your audience. It’s like software as a service, constantly renewing itself as you go.

However, the anger does wear you down. Thank God for co-conspirators, and Twitter for occasionally refreshing us. And with that, some questions:

Why do we worry about disruption, about the next big winner and the losers it creates? What if it just keeps going until the Sun burns out? Is it really valid that Apple will eventually fade? All the evidence I see is that they have really smart people and we have an insatiable desire for improvement. The actor and the audience: a perpetual motion machine where things get better all the time ‘cause they can’t get much worse.

The really good news is that this stuff is endlessly renewable, at least until the Sun burns out. Listen to Dylan and the Band incubate the Basement Tapes. Listen to Lorde ten minutes ago doing what my daughter calls a dumb rap song much much better. She gets out her SnapChat and films me in the car listening to this glorious live session, “Do you like Lorde? Yes. I love Lorde.” Don’t believe me; see for yourself. Who is she sending the SnapChat to, I wonder?

And how long will this SnapChat exist? Dylan swears the Basement Tapes were never going to be released too. Ri-Ri-Right.