Earlier this month at the Foo Camp, I screwed up and I’m still feeling bad about it. I found myself sitting around a fire with one of my truly major influences, and I couldn’t manage to compose even a few feeble words of thanks to someone who made a big difference in my life. This is by way of trying to make up for it a bit.
Stewart Brand (he looks younger in the flesh) has written a lot of stuff over the years, but he first hit the big time in the Sixties and Seventies with The Last Whole Earth Catalog: Access to Tools. This was a big thick paperback, its pages densely crammed with listings for everything from Tarot supplies to chainsaw parts, from Zen retreats to beermaking. Thematically organized, it was and remains a fine piece of work.
Here’s why it was important. In the early seventies, I had long hair and hung with other long-hairs, and a lot of long-hairs—arguably most—were airheaded party animals. I had the sense that there was something bigger out there, this whole cultural thing felt important, but there really had to be more to it than smoking dope and listening to Deep Purple’s Highway Star real loud.
The Catalog was what I was looking for. It was very no-bullshit, and it was definitely part of the New Thing, whatever that was, and it was quite carefully considered, and it was obviously aimed at people who think.
Stewart went on to publish Co-Evolution Quarterly, which morphed into Whole Earth magazine, which currently needs some help. That Web site has some good stuff about it, I particularly like the interview with Jaron Lanier (PDF), whom I’d never taken very seriously but who says some real smart things here—he was also at the Foo Camp and I also didn’t speak with him, which I now regret.
Anyhow, I was sitting around the fire with Stewart and a bunch of other famous names and I was thinking “Tim, you have to say ‘thank you’” but I’ve never been a quick thinker and in the moment I couldn’t figure out a graceful way, which was clueless because I could have just said “Hey, your books made a big difference to me, thank you.” We exchanged a couple of words about how great it is to have someone good as an editor.
Anyhow, if anyone is reading this who knows how to contact Stewart, I’d sure appreciate it if they could point him at this.