Friday, June 28, 2002

Phil Ochs Remembered
Listening to Phil Ochs sing Ewan MacColl's "Ballad of the Carpenter" now, and I'm remembering when I first "met" Phil Ochs.

Actually, I didn't really meet him...but my girlfriend at the time, Suzan Wall (where are you now?), had the A&M double album Chords of Fame (now out of print). Not only did she have a huge effect on my life (her stories about hanging out with the Brigatta Rosa in Italy while her Lieutenant-Colonel father worked at the embassy in Rome kept me in rapt attention), so did Phil Ochs. I loved his voice, his sparse guitar playing , and the power of his words. Songs like "Crucifixion," "Draft Dodger Rag," "Here's to the State of Mississippi" (and its '70s update, "Here's to the State of Richard Nixon"), "The Ringing of Revolution," and on and on touched me both politically and spiritually.

Later, I read Death of a Rebel by Marc Elliot. Some people either love or hate this book (recent search for it shows "Hatchet Job" and "Great Book" as the titles of two reader reviews). Yet at the time, in the mid-Seventies, it was the only biography of Ochs, other than Ed Sanders's lengthy essay/liner notes to the LP. At the time, I was a big Kerouac fan. I'd read Ann Charter's bio of Kerouac and most of the man's books. Reading Death of a Rebel, I was struck by the similarities (in a later post, maybe I'll get around to enumerating them). Suffice it to say, the rebellious spirit of both men combined with their zeal enticed me to know more.

Maybe some of his songs fade...maybe some sentiments are dated. Yet others ring true, especially during these times. Hmm...

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Back on the Chain Gang
Working as a technical writer again, I am struck by how little the field has changed. Instead of reaping some of the user-centered activity of the dot-com era, technical writing seems to have drifted aimlessly back to a late-eighties approach:
  • Non-writers writing documents
  • Developers pushing for less white space
  • Analysts wanting to add numbered headings such as
And on and on. In a way, I'm damned tired of fighting wars I fought at client sites while I was with Whittman-Hart as a technical writing consultant in '92-'94...or earlier as a technical editor for Synoptic Systems. Subscribing again to the Techwhirl mailing list and reading the stuff that people are talking about is like a trip to 1994 for me.