The Thrill Of The Hunt

I gave a new Ignite talk the other day at an icebreaker opening to a several day conference. The organizers asked for talks about the most exciting thing people had learned this year. Since I’ve been getting into vinyl jazz records recently I wrote back and asked if that might be a worthwhile talk – turned out it was and so I got to work. In thinking about these records and what drew me to them I started seeing a pattern emerge and I’m once again forced to admit that I’m a collector. I collect stuff. But this is conflicting because as the same time I really hate stuff. It piles up around and makes me feel cluttered and I want to just get rid of it all and then I do and everything is clean and nice and then I think “oh, it might be nice to put something in that space” and then it all starts all over again. But why?

It’s the thrill of the hunt. I’m not excited primarily about the stuff, I’m exciting about learning about it and tracking it down. Once it’s tracked down the thrill is gone and my attention finds itself pointing in other directions. So what is the special sauce that – for me at least – makes something thrilling and sucks me into collecting it? Once I identify a “thing” there are 4 qualities that make it irresistible.

1. LEARNABLE – The info about the thing has to be finite. That is, it can’t be continually expanding which usually means the thing has to be old and out of production. I need to be able to wrap my head around what the thing is, when it was made, for how long, what were the variations and issues involved with it’s production, how to know the early or rare stuff, etc. There has to be a complete cannon of information that I can digest. If it’s something too vast – like wine or something – then I’m instantly turned off because I know I can’t ever hope to know it all.

2. ATTAINABLE – Is it actually feasible that I could attain this thing that I’m considering collecting? This is mostly financial. I’m not going to collect Ferraris, I’m not going to collect Patek Philippe. I’m never going to even own one of those things so there’s no risk of collecting it, and thus no chance of getting infatuated with it. If the top tier collectable of this thing is in the lower 4 digits that seems much more likely to spark my interest, though upper 2 digits/lower 3 digits is much more comfortable.

3. COMPLETABLE – This is more about the thing, did they make enough of them that I can actually hope to find them? If something was produced in such limited numbers that there’s slim chance of me finding one, not to mention a bunch of them, then no chance I’ll fall into collecting it. More likely if they turn up on ebay from time to time, so not thinking about the money part, it has to actually be possible for me to find this thing. If it is, and it’s a bit of a challenge, that’s thrilling.

4. NICHE AS FUCK – This sounds hipster, like I’m saying it’s not cool if anyone else likes it, but that’s not the case. It’s more that if something is common enough that I see it when I go to everyone’s house, or if it’s produced in a “collectors edition” specifically aimed at collectors, then it’s just not exciting. If I’m really honest with myself, the fewer people who know about it the better, it’s possible to become a recognized authority on something that very few people know anything about. And before you know it, that’s infatuation.

Before I realized it the talk wasn’t so much about Jazz records as it was self psychoanalysis, but I ran with it anyway and of course I didn’t skip the jazz stuff, but out of 20 slides 13 of them were about what’s going on inside my head. After the talk lots of people came up to me saying I perfectly identified the crazy in their head too and they appreciated how much they could relate. Which was nice to hear, and so I thought I’d post those points online as well for others to find and mull over too.

2011: The year in review, in photos

Back in 2007 I had a crazy idea to skim my flickr stream and pick a few photos from each month to try and illustrate how I spent the year. I found it to be pretty cathartic and gave me a whole different impression of the year I’d just experienced. I liked it. So I did it again in 2008. And then in 2009 it was kind of “a thing” so I did it again. And then again in 2010. I really like doing this. It’s a pain in the ass, but it’s awesome to reference.

I’ve been slow getting to it this year for no good reason, I can’t believe it’s April already. Gah. I’m sorry. So here it is. The first photo I posted in 2011 was this one of Ripley and Lucky cat just waking up. I guess that’s a good way to get this moving

Waking up, sort of

Which I think must have been followed by a hike up to Runyon Canyon with the family based on my pics. I had a beard.

Bite your tongue! (more…)

On leaving Facebook

For better or worse, I consider myself a fairly principled person. That is, I’ve chosen to live my life in a way that reflects my convictions. From what I eat to how I vote to what I spend money on, I consider how those choices impact me, those around me, and the world as a whole. I consider what my actions and choices say about me as a person, and take great care to ensure I like who that person is. Ethics are important. Convictions mean something.

If you know me in person you know this to be true. It’s not about changing the world, or even changing anyone else’s mind, it’s about being comfortable with my own choices. It doesn’t make life particularly easy, but I sleep really well at night.

When it comes to the internet, I’ve always tried to have my online presence reflect my offline presence. I frequently speak out in favor of things I support, and against those I don’t. But I hadn’t considered that where that online presence was also said something about me. (more…)

Labels and definitions

Articles,Philosophy — Sean Bonner @ 12:23 pm

“You’re not punk, and I’m telling everyone.
Save your breath, I never was one.
You don’t know what I’m all about.
Like killing cops and reading Kerouac.”

A few days ago Tara wrote a post for her Forbes column called “Dear Fake Geek Girls: Please Go Away.” Now you could read that title and jump to any number of conclusions, but that would literally be judging the book by it’s cover. Which clearly a lot of people don’t have a problem doing. Since I don’t know what the venn diagram of Forbes readers vs SBDC readers looks like, I’ll give you the short version – she notes that increasingly (often for marketing purposes) there are people claiming to be “geeks” who are doing that because they think it will advance them somehow, or give them an in with a certain crowd and opines that rather that trying to be something they aren’t, people should embrace the things that they are. She’s speaking directly about girls in her article as she has a bit of a women-in-technology theme, but the same could be said dudes just as easily.

What’s interesting to me is that this isn’t a new situation. There’s a repeatable pattern here that anyone who has been paying attention to any number of subcultures can clearly see. (more…)

Why Coffee?

Articles,Coffee — Sean Bonner @ 9:06 pm

It should be no surprise to anyone who follows this blog – or any of my interactions online or off now that I think about it – that I’m a fan of coffee. But lots of people like coffee and don’t obsess over it like I do, so maybe I’m a bit obsessed with coffee. Again, not really a surprise I’m sure. But why? That’s a question that comes up quite frequently these days so I thought I’d write a little bit about it and maybe answer some of the questions and maybe help sort through some of my own feelings about it as well.

New cups

Coffee is interesting because it’s ubiquitous, yet still shrouded in mystery. It’s something everyone knows about, and at the same time most people know nothing about. I know that because for most of my life I was one of those people. Hell I’m still one of those people. But I know a little bit more than I did and that is exciting, and when I get excited about something I have a bad habit of talking about it constantly to everyone in earshot. I say it’s a bad habit because most often that constant yammering is met with replies like “OMG Sean are you still talking about [blogs/art/toys/records/minimalism/etc]?!” however when I started talking about coffee I started getting replies like “Oh awesome! I love coffee! Tell me more!!” so then I had to go find more to talk about. (more…)

Bye Steve

Articles — Sean Bonner @ 7:13 pm

My first computer was a Macintosh 512.

I say “my” because even though it was really the family computer, I was the one on it all the time. This was late 1984 and while had Apple IIe’s at my school, the Macintosh was obviously the thing to have at home. I mean, I had one, right? I had friends with random incarnations of PCs but they seemed so blah. My Mac was cool. I was 9 or 10 at the time and somehow got a subscription to Macword and I’d rip out the full page photos of Macs and put them on my wall. There was a 5-6 panel fold out cover one time that I kept for years before there were finally more push pin holes than paper on the edges and it found it’s way to the trash. This was a few years before I progressed to ripping pages out of Thrasher for the same purpose and without question is where I developed my object lust. I could stare at those beige boxes for hours imagining all the exciting banners I could great with Print Shop on that sweet monochromatic display.

Years later a college era room mate, Jon Resh, would use an almost identical Mac Plus to make a perforated paper dot matrix banner for his room that read “Someday you will die, live hard now” which without knowing it would foreshadow many of Steve Jobs later comments about remembering that you won’t be here forever, and the importance of making the most of your life – and living it for yourself and your terms. His words stuck with me then, and resonated with me often. I knew he was right, even if it was a scary thing. You can’t live your own life and be happy without believing in yourself, and I always knew that’s what Steve was trying to tell us all to do. If we just believed in ourselves, we could do anything.

I can’t even speculate how many Macintosh products I’ve owned. I can’t even speculate how much better my life has been because I had access to those products. The first Mac I ever bought myself was a Macintosh LC. I bought it shortly after moving to Gainesville for college, and lived off pepsi and sunflower seeds for months to afford it. It was totally worth it. I’d like to say it changed my world, but the truth is my world had already been unquestionably changed because of these computers. There were only 2 computer laps on the University of Florida campus that had Macs and in the many months between when I moved out of my mothers house and bought that LC, I spent more hours than I’ll ever be comfortable admitting bouncing between those two labs. Between talking to people all over the world on #IRC and the newly released mosaic browser which allowed me to see content on literally *hundreds* of pages on the world wide web, there was a lot to keep up with. Also, since I wasn’t technically a student I could only hang out in each lab for a few hours until the SysOps would notice. But I was already a diehard at that point.

I saw someone mention yesterday that everything they’ve ever created that they were proud of was made using tools Steve Jobs had a hand in making. I thought about it and there’s no question thats true for me as well. With the exception of 4 jobs I held in my early employment carrer, Dishwasher, Grocery Store stocker, video store clerk and pizza delivery guy every single thing I’ve done professionally, for my self and my own companies or for others has involved Macs heavily. Every logo I’ve ever designed has been with the help of a Mac, and the very first logo I ever made, the first logo for my record company blatantly swiped clip art that came with our family Mac.

Shortly after I moved to Los Angeles in 2001 the iPod was released. I’d just been laid off from Playboy but I didn’t give a shit, I knew this thing was going to change my world and I bought the original 5MB version the day it was released. I still have it and it was every bit as revolutionary as I knew it would be. The thing I probably heard most in 2002 was “I hope you have stock in that company because you are selling more of those iPods by constantly talking about than any ad campaign could.” I didn’t have stock, but it wasn’t about money. It was about the future.

Through all of this, Steve Jobs has been like a constant beacon of hope. I’ve always been able to count on him, and I trusted him. I never met the man and I don’t think I ever had the opportunity, but like a dear friend who you don’t always agree with, I knew he wanted the best for me and I trusted the direction he lead me in. Dropping SCSI caused me weeks of headache at the company I worked at, but I knew it was the right move. SCSI sucked and my life would be better without it, even if it hurt to walk away. Same with floppy drives and CDS. Lots of people have vision, few people have the dedication and commitment to that vision to inspire others. Steve did, and I didn’t even realize until yesterday how important he was to me.

Over the years I’ve gone from watching his keynotes on baited breath, dying to find out what he’ll announce next, to having a pretty good idea what is coming out and not needing to see it live because I trust that I’ll know about it in a few hours and it will be every bit as awesome I as assume it will be. Because for better or worse, if something isn’t awesome Apple won’t release it. Steve wouldn’t let that happen. He was dependable and even when he took his first leave from Apple for medical reasons I never suspected he wouldn’t be around tomorrow. I mean, people get sick, and sometimes those people die, but we’re talking about Steve Jobs here. Right? I couldn’t imagine a world without him.

Earlier this year when he stepped down for real, I convinced myself that he’d done what he needed to do and was going out on top. He’d started a company, survived getting kicked out of it only to come back and rescue it from sure death and turn it into one of the most successful companies ever. How do you top that? I told myself he had accomplished his goals and was ready to move on to the next thing, and even when I read his letter saying he was stepping down for medical reasons, I downplayed it.

Hearing that he died yesterday hit me so much harder than I could have imagined. I’m getting choked up writing this right now and it’s been a full day. I’ve had friends and family die and it hasn’t impacted me this much. I feel like a idiot saying that, how could this guy who I never even met mean that much to me? I really don’t know, but as I looked around my house and saw his influence in every corner, and as I read the stories from his friends and people who had interacted with him I couldn’t help, and can’t help thinking that we, all of us, lost something so much more than just one person yesterday. This isn’t some fanboy shit either, I have a pretty strong distaste for celebrity on all levels but this one person had such a huge impact in my life, for so much of my life, I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t admit how much I’m going to miss him.

Right now in my living room there is a Macintosh 512 on a pedestal. It’s not the one I had as a child, but I hunted for years to get one just like it. The model 128 that came out before it is “worth” more, but this one means more to me personally. I’ve had it displayed for years, not because it’s useful on any technological level, but because it’s inspiration of how far an idea can go when you really believe in it. How far you can go when you really believe in yourself. And how doing that today is of paramount importance.

Thank you Steve, thanks for everything.

I wouldn’t be who I am today without you.

Cobras and Badgers and Twitter, oh my!

Articles,Networks, Theory, and the Web — Sean Bonner @ 11:09 pm

There is something awesome happening on Twitter right now, but since as I write this there are under 300 people following this account I suspect you might be missing it. Allow me to shed some light. Here are the major players:

I’ll get to them in a second, first – the back story. Last month I blogged about this video:

Yes, that’s the Honey Badger video which if you haven’t seen it you really need to just stop right here and watch it. It’s lulz. I’ll wait… OK? Good. So now we all know that the Honey Badger not only doesn’t give a shit, but also enjoys eating cobras. Right, so skip ahead to last week when the Bronx Zoo announced that their Egyptian Cobra had escaped. While mildly scary, this isn’t quite the same as a Lion getting out or anything and they likely made the announcement and expected the story to just go away. They tweeted something to that effect:

But there was something about it that caught on and people on twitter started using the #bronxzoocobra and #bronxcobra hashtags to append their original and witty jokes. And actually I shouldn’t really consider @TheBronxZoo a player in this from here on out, as they have completely missed the boat on this and have no further contributions.

But some other imaginative character picked up that lead and ran with it. Enter @BronxZoosCobra. A snake out on the town.

Someone set up this account and is tweeting the tails of a snake checking out all that NYC has to offer. Seeing the sites. Visiting the spots. Spotting the celebs. This crazy cobra is having the time of it’s life. But let’s remember this snake is *supposed* to be locked up in the Bronx, but someone screwed up and it got out. Who screwed up you might ask? @BronxZooKeeper.

This account is full of the tweeted failures of the poor zoo keeper out trying to recapture the cobra. You can’t help but feel bad for the guy. But he’s clearly not cutting it as the cobra hasn’t been captured just yet. Maybe the keeper should follow the cobra on twitter to get an idea where it might go next?

With conventional approaches failing, the internet put on it’s collective thinking cap and called for the big guns. That’s right, @BronxZooHBadger – The Honey Badger.

I have to say, as a bystander watching all this unfold, this was the point this went from amusing to completely full of win. Whoever is behind the Honey Badger account is killing it. Well, attempting to kill it, if you know what I mean. Earlier today the cobra tweeted that it was on it’s way to Ellis Island and shortly there after the Honey Badger checked into The Statue Of Liberty on FourSquare. Of course that’s the wrong island, but that’s an A for effort regardless. And then… the drama!

The Honey Badger is obviously following the Cobra but thus far the Cobra seems oblivious to the Badger’s existence. Regardless, this is completely amusing to watch play out and a tiny news story has basically turned into an ARG (Alternate Reality Game). If you look at the replies to those accounts the engagement is insane and there are over 150,000 people already following the Cobra. Remember, this is a pretend account for a snake that no one even knew existed a week ago. I actually think the Honey Badger account is the funniest of the bunch, but the existence of the cobra’s account willed that into even happening. A company would kill for this kind of reaction to one of it’s brands, but that’s sort of the trick here – this is just fun, and exists only to give something to people who are interested, which is why people are interested. I love it.

It’s not just in my head it’s in my heart…

(pic H2O soundchecking, 2/6/11)

I haven’t been to many shows in the last few years, certainly not that many punk / hardcore shows. I’ve seen some bands play here and there but there’s quite a difference between standing in the audience bobbing your head to a catchy tune and maybe tapping your toe if things get really bouncy, and jumping and clawing to get to the front of the room so you climb on top of someone and scream the lyrics that you know by heart into the mic that the singer of a band is holding out into the crowd. There’s quite a difference between a band thanking the people in the room, their fans, for coming out, and a band rattling off the names of half the people in the room, expressing their love for them, and treating everyone there like brothers and sisters, like family. I’ve been to a lot of the stand around and get thanked shows recently, but not so many of the jump around and get hugged ones. This is only really noteworthy because I spent probably 5 nights a week at those kinds of shows until somewhere around ’98.

I quite working at Victory Records in ’98 and when I walked away from that job I walked away from a group of people that meant more to me than I can ever explain. If you grew up in the punk and hardcore scenes than I don’t even have to try because you already know exactly what I’m talking about (I started going to shows when I was 12 – my formative years revolved around this world). I didn’t realize I was walking away at the time, but in hindsight that’s exactly what I did. The problem for me was the music that I loved had become fused with a job that I hated. My feelings for one spilled on to the other and rather than think of shows as places were all my friends were and where I’d be surrounded by people who knew me, loved me for who I was and would always be there for me, I began to think of shows as places where I might run into that someone from that band that said that thing in that one magazine or who went with this label instead of that one, or whatever. It became a nest of business politics instead of a positive comfort zone. I let that happen without realizing it, and when I had the chance to get out of the business I left the scene and the people behind as well.

Not one of my better decisions I might add.

Sure I’ve been to a handful of real hardcore shows over the past 13 years but mostly friends bands, and I mostly just stood around to see them and support them, and soaked up the mellon collie of what used to be but no longer was. I missed it, but it was the past. That’s kind of how I think I felt about it, without having actually consciously been thinking that at the time.

Twitter has helped me reconnect with many old friends and I’m glad they still remember who I am and want to talk to me from time to time. Over the last year I saw that Toby from H2O was talking about a new project of his called One Life One Chance – something like motivational speaking, but for kids in schools, and really more of a sharing stories and trying to set a good example. I often talk about things I’m doing in my own life, knowing full well that most people won’t change their lives because of it, but if what I have to say inspires a few people to change their lives for the better it’s worth it. Toby’s project was like that but on rocket fuel. By talking to school aged kids he was really reaching out to people who it might really make a difference to.

There’s no question to me that punk and hardcore, and straight edge specifically, saved my life. No question at all. I was a pretty depressed kid with a fairly bleak outlook on life. I didn’t see much of a future for myself, and didn’t get along with most of the kids in the schools I went to. I tried to get along with them, but for whatever reason it just never clicked. I was trying to be something I wasn’t, and it was obvious to everyone. And then I found punk rock and a group of people who didn’t want me to be anything other than me. I found hardcore and a group of people who treated me like family and I knew I could count on for anything. I found straight edge and realized that every day, every moment was a chance to do something positive. These things changed me forever and I’ll never forget that.

Lately I’ve been feeling old. I’ve been wallowing in missed opportunities and failed attempts. I try very hard to be positive and sometimes that is easy, but sometimes it’s harder than others, and sometimes the weight of the world gets really fucking heavy.

Toby has been doing OLOC for a year know and spoken at a ton of schools. Looking at the videos and photos of the students he’s talked it, it’s pretty clear he’s making an positive impact and I think that’s amazing. Some schools can pay to bring him out to talk, but others can’t afford that, and those are likely the ones who can use this message the most. When I heard H2O was going to play a benefit show for OLOC I paid for a ticket right away, without even seeing if I’d be in town when it was happening, just because I knew it was a good cause and I knew that was money well spent. Turns out I was going to be in town and as the date got a little closer I saw Toby put out the request for some people in LA to give “testimonials” on film for a mini doc they are working on about OLOC. He was looking for people who had positive things to say about how hardcore impacted their lived. I offered and was asked to come in and, I said yes right away.

The day of the show, as I was driving in for my scheduled filming time I was thinking about all of the above and all the great things I could say. I could talk about directions my life could have gone without it, I could talk about amazing friendships I’ve made thanks to it, so much I could say. But then I got in front of the camera and blew it. I froze, totally blanked, and likely gave the worst testimonial they have recorded yet. I don’t even remember what I said, but I think I spoke for about 20 seconds. Maybe. It was bad.

I’d been trying to channel the positivity so much but it just happen. Which was kind of a bummer. The dudes said it was great, but I knew they were just trying to be nice.

Does it sound like I’m feeling sorry for myself? Well, just you wait.

With recordings done and sound check out of the way I had a few moments to walk down the street with one of my super old friends from the hardcore world. I hadn’t talked too him much in many years and that sucks, so I was really happy to catch up with him a little bit. But it reminded me, hell kind of smacked me right in the head with the reality that there are a ton of people out there who I really care about, an entire scene of people I really care about that I had been completely out of touch with for a really, really long time. This is simultaneously a good and bad thing, bad because I feel like I missed something I shouldn’t have, and good because now that I’ve identified it I can try to correct it.

When the first band played, I saw them and the kids who came out to see them so filled with everything I remember once being filled with. At one time I would have felt perfectly at home in that crowd, but I felt like an outsider. I didn’t know the band, I didn’t know the songs, and I didn’t recognize a single face around me. This used to be my briar patch, but now it was kind of jabbing me where it hurt. I felt out of place, and after the stellar performance on camera earlier I thought maybe I should just go home. I stopped myself when I got to the front door and thought about it a little more.

If I was going to wallow and feel bad for myself, I could do that anywhere, and if I went home now that’s certainly what I would be doing. Or I could stay and see what might happen. Hell, I have PMA tattooed on my wrist, it’s there for a reason. It’s a reminder and I needed it right then. I reminded myself that giving up was a guaranteed loss. If I stayed I at least had the chance of turning that around.

So I stayed.

Toby showed some footage before the H2O set of previous OLOC talks at schools and it was inspiring. I could see the kids it was inspiring, and I could feel it inspiring me. This was a good thing that was going on, and this was a good thing to be a part of. Through out the set there was constant talk, both in the songs and between them, about the positivity, support and friendship that makes up the hardcore scene. Seeing Toby, now 40 years old, thanking his wife sitting off stage, and his 6 year old son standing right there on stage really hit home for me. I thought about how I’d been feeling so old before, and who I’m turning 36 this month, and how my own son Ripley is turning 1 next month, and how not only does this world which means so much to me not have to be just a part of my past, it can actively be part of my future. I just have to make the decision for that to happen. I was kind of floored by that revelation. And a bit ashamed it wasn’t obvious to me before this.

I didn’t go to this show to be inspired. If anything, I just went to say hi to a few friends and show some support to a cause I thought was a positive influence for other people. Turns out it had a pretty positive influence on me too. I realized I was smiling when I was walking back to my car to head home. I liked how that felt.

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