Do not turn off

Do not turn off the lights
: If you’ve ever imagined what a soul looks like, it looks like the two towers of lights over Manhattan.

At dusk, the lights at the World Trade Center come on and you can barely see them, they are so light against a light sky, barely there, almost a secret.

Then, as the night grows deeper, the light grows stronger, clearer, more beautiful, more moving.

I took the pilgrimage to see the lights tonight because they will soon be turned off.

I drove down through Jersey City’s seedy side — well, seedier side — to Liberty State Park and people were gathering by the water to see the lights.

It was so much better than going to Ground Zero. There was no tacky tourist honky tonk here, no souvenirs of terror, no tourists gaping at the hole, fewer tourists taking pictures. One group did try to take a picture of themselves with Manhattan in the background, the flash on their camera lighting the light. But this scene was filled with life: people with proper reverance but without a hush walking to the water; lots of sound from kids running around and helicopters and planes and boats; the sight of office and apartment buildings across the water all filled with life and lights.

I was more moved by the towers of light than by anything I have seen or read or heard about September 11.

And that is why I appeal to Mayor Bloomberg to leave the lights lit.

They are all we have now from the towers and the day. They are a tremendous symbol of hope and assurance. They are beautiful. I can’t bear the thought that they will be turned off and that the hole in our city will go dark again.

Please don’t turn out our lights.

Old v. new
: I hold dual citizenship in old media and new (my InstaResume here). Today, once again, there is much buzz about these two media spheres — the media Flintstones against the media Jetsons — thanks to a blog-baiting column by a flaming jackass in beantown and retorts by Glenn Reynolds, James Lileks, Matt Welch and by the end of today, surely many more.

But everybody’s been getting this slightly wrong. This is not about making a choice: old media or new media. They aren’t competitors. They are different.

New media is fundamentally new for one essential reason: The Web is owned by its audience. That cannot be said of any other medium; publishers, editors, producers, moguls own the printing presses and transmitters and they have always made their living deciding what we should know; they stand proudly on the other side of the barrier to entry.

On the Web, anyone can be a protopublisher. The people post in forums (we get thousands of posts a day from the audience on my company’s sites); they create web pages; they broadcast; now they write weblogs.

Collectively, this gives the Web its voice. That is the voice of the people.

Some old-media people aren’t sure what to do with that; some (like the beantown bozo) try to dismiss it; some are even scared by it. But the wise mediaman will just listen to that voice. The Web gives us an entirely new relationship to the audience, an entirely new way to hear what the people are thinking, what interests and concerns and excites them. There is no better way — no, no other way — to do that.

When that gullible gasbag in Boston — and the odd other old media types like him — denegrate weblogs and the Web, they are dismissing their very own audience. They are showing a complete lack of respect, even disdain, for their audience. They don’t want to hear what the audience to say. They want the audience to listen to them, not vice versa. As Lileks (who, I hope, hires me when he starts his paper) says with characteristic eloquence: “The newspaper is a lecture. The web is a conversation.”

But on our part, we in the new media world also should not dismiss the old. We do not have reporters and photographers out there asking hard questions and ferretting out facts and even risking their lives to inform us; old media operations do. Daniel Pearl was not a blogger; he was a reporter and that is an honorable and vital title. Let us be grateful for the work they do. Without it, we would know nothing; we would just be blathering.

What old media does best is give us the facts. Credibility is their asset.

What new media does best is give us perspective — a new perspective, the too-long-unheard perspective of the people. The people are our asset.

And new media does that best in weblogs because these are products of passionate interest where quality rises to the top. Nobody’s getting rich or famous (yet) blogging; we do it because we love it (I do it because I learn); and the best ones succeed because they’re the better than the worst ones and the audience knows the difference. Weblogs as a whole do an amazing job of editing the world of news, finding the best, warning of the worst, asking questions, poking holes, adding perspective and opinion and the voice of the people.

Both are valuable. Only the blind cannot see that.

The terrorist vacation
: I’m amazed that anyone is talking about exile for Yasser Arafat.

Picture it: Arafat — fat, sassy, and tanned under his pathetic beard of 10 hairs — is sitting on the sand in Casablanca, snarfing down the hummus and couscous as he gets on his mobile phone back home: “Send in another suicide bomber,” he orders. “Make it a young one this time… No, we just bombed a mall. How about a hospital? Have we done a school yet? Screw the peace process.”

He will make his people suffer and delight in making his enemy suffer as he basks.

Bad idea.