23 January

I begin with the following bias: periodicals, both print and online, that cover what we could call lowbrow or mainstream culture are nonetheless significant to our culture to a greater extent than books, films, or music we would consider lowbrow or mainstream. That is, I'd rather read National Enquirer or People than watch American Idol or Pirates of the Caribbean. Why? Perhaps, because even one interested in all kinds of culture still prefers to sample certain kinds in small amounts, second-hand. The periodical allows this; arguably, "general interest" publications like Time or Esquire at times offer a selection of topics broad enough to satisfy, if not please, even the sheltered academic or cynical intellectual.

When you delve into the massive number of periodicals, though, this situation turns upside down. Each professional association, most academic subdisciplines, and many museums have their own publication; certain kinds of products, like guns, "home theater" equipment, and cars, have numerous magazines devoted to them. In the highbrow world of book reviews and long-form journalism, one expects to get a broad view of the subjects at hand. Many books are reviewed, complicated subjects are summarized concisely. But the great mass of periodicals give the opposite: they take you to the particular, the remote, without helping you back out.

The initial plan for this first year of The World's Wide Web: after going online at the start of the new year, updates would only be made biannually: June 1 and December 31--that is, formally uploaded to the site. The actual additions would be made gradually, making an update log that would also go up on those two dates. I've delayed that arrangement, until January 31. First of all, as I've learned from doing my "anthology-in-progress" Sweet Pea's Ghost Dance and Music Review, once any web page one has been working on for a long period of time goes online, or is about to go online due to a self-imposed deadline, one's attention to the details of the text, if not images and other media, increases dramatically. With the pressure of others, however tiny a number, looking on--and, in turn, me being able suddenly to step back and see the work more objectively--mistakes and omissions that have been made become clear.

The errors corrected and clarifications made, the tightening of the page's organization, in turn led to a realization that the periodicals section of The World's Wide Web, though massive, has some minor holes that could be fixed by a visit to any university library. Granted, the periodicals I learn of there might actually point to academic and professional associations, rather than their drab magazines and newsletters; either way, they'll make for additions to the site.

The process of becoming more aware of the many periodicals, especially those of high literary quality, has only made want to read books more. Books seem like so much less of a waste of time. Limiting myself only to a few publications, in print (favorites like Bookforum, the London Review of Books, the Nation) is still too much--nevermind what's available free of charge at web sites. That's not to say that books, especially the assembly-line-like productions of university presses and self-publishing companies, do not at times deserve the same dismissal. In this society we live in, the filtering process can take as much time as the reading itself.