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Chris Lydon's weblog for the ears

Thursday, July 31, 2003 by Dave Winer.

Alice's Restaurant Permalink to Alice's Restaurant

If Napster were still around I'd download a fresh copy of Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant and play it for you.

I bought it on vinyl many years ago. My copy is in a dump near San Jose or Palo Alto. Hey if Napster still existed they would have found a way for me to pay for it by now.

So much for nursing my guilt. I still have the song in my brain. I can sing it for you right now. Here goes.

You can get anything you want. At Alice's Restaurant. You can get anything you want. At Alice's Restaurant. Walk right in it's around the back. Just a half a mile from the railroad track. You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant.

He repeats the chorus over and over throughout the song, with a great story in the middle, which starts in a dump, which is where my copy of his song is right now. So there is a certain beautiful symmetry to the universe after all.

Anyway, you might wonder why I am thinking of an old funny song on a cool New England summer morning.

Chris Lydon made me do it

Berkman has this great fellowship program. They invite people like Chris Lydon and Jim Moore, Ben Edelman and John Perry Barlow to hang out and shoot the breeze and get each other excited about things we get excited about. They're smart and excitable people, and that's why it's so much fun to be here. They take good care of us, intellectually. A smorgasbord for the mind.

So, a few weeks ago Chris did his first audio blog post. It was one of those Berkman cross-pollination things. I read an essay he wrote about blogging and Ralph Waldo Emerson, and I thought to myself that I could hear Chris reciting these deep thoughts in his golden voice. Sure enough, when he read it it into a microphone and put it on the Web -- goose bumps. So a couple of days later we did an interview, he wore headphones and asked me questions, really good ones, just like the lunch conversations we have, but even tougher. It was probably the best interview I've ever done. Chris is that good at what he does.

He didn't stop there. He did interviews with many of the lions of the weblog world, and introduced us to new people he found. Then he branched out to people he knew through his NPR radio show, a NY Times reporter, Steve Kinzer, talked about his new book; and literary critic Elaine Scarry talked about a gap in American defenses that the 9/11 attack revealed.

You can hear all the interviews in the left margin of Chris's weblog. There's a few hours of audio, I think they may be the finest Web-only interviews ever produced. Well worth checking out on a long lazy summer afternoon.

Back to Alice Permalink to Back to Alice

At the end of the song Arlo goes to the draft board on Whitehall Street in NYC. This was the 60s, during the Vietnam war, when there was a draft.

Arlo had an idea. If he went in to see the shrink singing the chorus to his song (it's recursive) they'd think he was crazy and give him a deferral.

His reasoning continues, if two people went in singing the chorus, they'd think they're both gay (not the word he used) and kick them both out. (This was before don't ask don't tell.)

If three people went in and sang the chorus to Alice's Restaurant they'd think it was an organization.

And so it goes until fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day, walk in to the shrink and sing the chorus to Alice's Restaurant, and friends (says Arlo) they'll think it's a movement.

And friends, I think that's what we're seeing. Do-it-yourself radio with no sponsors, no interest other than curiosity, a searcher and his friends seeking the truth and nothing but the truth.


A weblog for the ears.

I'm excited.

A movement?

Could be.

Dave Winer

© Copyright 1994-2004 Dave Winer. Last update: 2/5/07; 10:50:05 AM Pacific. "There's no time like now."