self confidence and collaborations

Articles,Me, Myself, and this blog,Music — Sean Bonner @ 1:41 pm

I’m not exactly sure when but at some point in my life I started ranking collaborations higher than anything I could do on my own. Of course, I should note, there is value in both. But there was a solid section of my life when I knew that no one wanted to work on anything with me so if I wanted to do it my only choice was to do it myself. And I did. And I was happy with the results. Perhaps due in part to some of those results, people I looked up to started getting in touch, or maybe having some experience under my belt I wasn’t nervous about reaching out to them. Anyway, I’d talk to some of these people and on occasion one of us might propose working on a project together. I was always flattered. Seriously, anyone I’ve ever worked with in my life has been a dream come true for me. At first anyway, but that’s a different story. I’d only ever consider going in on something with someone I already respected, so that someone I respected was down for a collab with me felt great.

I’ve been lucky to work with or build things with a great number of people I think are serious badasses. And I’m incredibly proud of the outcomes of the vast majority of those collaborations. I wouldn’t undo them for anything. Even the ones that didn’t work out exactly as I’d hoped – all still awesome. But somewhere along the way I started second guessing anything that I didn’t have a collaborator to validate. I don’t think this was a conscious shift, at first it was just if a had the choice between doing something on my own or with someone else I’d opt for the joint endeavor because two heads are better than one right? And then as that went on it turned into a feeling that I needed some outside perspective or expertise to shape whatever my contribution was. And eventually that maybe they were the one with the value and I was just lucky to have the opportunity work with them, but without them my piece wasn’t all that interesting. I don’t think any of those are especially productive positions to take, but you know, hindsight and all.

It’s only after years of a slow shift and later a conscious decision to recognize it that I realized how many ideas, projects or things I put off because a collaboration hadn’t materialized. The slightest hint of interest from someone else justified an idea to me, and lack of interest nullified it. It’s like I stopped trusting my own internal gauge of what was worth doing. Similarly, if someone else thought an idea was cool but was unable to work on it with me I made myself believe I couldn’t do it on my own. That I needed that other person to help my ideal materialize. Of course none of that is true and these are just the things doubt fills your head with. The slide into that negative space is so gradual that it’s hard to recognize, so just realizing this is happening is a huge step. Having identified the culprit it’s easy to cast them out.

If I think I have a good idea, it doesn’t become less of a good idea just because I don’t have someone to collaborate with. If I do, great, but if I don’t, no biggie. This is probably a similar feeling to being in a relationship for a long time and when it ends, feeling uncertain about your own choices and quickly looking for someone else to shack up with so you don’t have to face all that on your own. Or choosing to be single for a while and seeing who you really are. So in a way, creatively, I’m trying to embrace being single for a bit. What does that mean? Probably means I’ll be producing and putting out a bunch of garbage that you all will have to sort through. But it also means I might make some things I’m happy with. I think about my friend Jonathan’s theory here – make lots of stuff and some of it will suck but some of it will be great and it’s worth it for the great stuff.

1000 words on religion

Articles,Philosophy — Sean Bonner @ 10:22 pm

[this post is also available on Medium & Tumblr for ease of sharing]

Yesterday I watched this video of Pastor Eric Dammann of New Jersey’s Bible Baptist Church recount his interaction with a kid named Ben. Go ahead and watch it, it’s short:

It’s disgusting for a whole all-you-can-eat-buffet of reasons but let’s go ahead and address a few of them. The most obvious is that he’s talking about punching a child. But not just talking about it, bragging. He underlines that he “crumpled” the kid. This full grown man, unprovoked, punched a child in the chest and crumpled him. And he’s proud of this. But just before that happens he mentions that this kid Ben was really bright which “didn’t help things” and “made him dangerous”. Reading between the lines anyone can assume Ben was a smart kid who perhaps didn’t take this guys word as law and asked some questions that the good pastor found annoying to have to answer, or not answer as the case my be. Dangerous because he didn’t just submit? Pastor Dammann then essentially lays out that through the use of physical violence he made a child succumb to his religious beliefs. Beliefs we can only assume Ben didn’t buy into prior to this altercation.

To recap: Smart people are dangerous, violence is the solution. This is the message here.

This video has sparked enough outrage that Bible Baptist Church posted a self serving, half ass, revisionist apology on their website which implores the community, and by extension the world, to be as understanding and forgiving as Ben who has already made peace with the pastor for his actions years ago. One has to wonder if this forgiveness came under threat of more violence. Forgive me or else! Of course this story is not making headlines the world over because unfortunately this kind of thing isn’t news. Religious people have been using violence to suppress dissenters for a very long time, and this week has some horrifically ugly examples. 12 people killed at the offices of Charlie Hebdo and another 5 in Paris because the magazine printed cartoons unflattering to the Prophet Muhammad. In Nigeria the militant Islamist movement Boko Haram has killed close to 2000 including strapping a bomb to a 10 year old girl and sending her into a market where the bomb was detonated remotely. And yes, killing people is different from punching them, but the motivations are the same. You haven’t blindly accepted this mythology that I believe is real so I’m going to hurt you.

This has been happening as long as religion has existed and no faith is free from blame.

Coincidentally this is exactly the motivation behind the creation of something else happening in the US this week: National Religious Freedom Day. Did you know there was a religious freedom day? Created in 1992 and based on Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom which dates back to 1777. This is important because it clearly states a legal and natural freedom of and from all religions. Here’s a snip:

“…no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.”

If you think sounds familiar you are right, as it was the primary influence for the First Amendment of the US which assures freedom of religion and speech to all people. Here’s that:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Speech and religion are intricately related as we’re seeing in every news report coming out of Paris. People were killed because of what they said about someone else’s religion. And this sparked massive freedom of speech rallies attended by millions – the biggest such rallies in France since liberation from the Nazis. The people are obviously in support of free speech and politicians from the world over rushed to Paris to stand side by side with these people. Of course, many of politicians are barely paying lip service to the ideals represented, and it took mere hours for this to be apparent as a French comedian was arrested for making a joke on Facebook (plus 54 other cases opened for people expressing opinions) and for Turkey to ban the newest issue of Charlie Hebdo.

But that’s over there and here we’ve just got pastors punching kids, so big deal, right? Well with a 92% Christian Congress and a Supreme Court ruling that businesses can discriminate based on of religion we’re already seeing where someone’s religious beliefs could prevent people from receiving health care because of their sexual orientation. This isn’t far away hypothetical thought experiments, this is actually happening right now. Religious massacres are low hanging fruit – easy to condemn, but I feel just as strongly that kids shouldn’t fear or risk being punched by an adult for not sharing the same imaginary friends. And it’s important to recognize that there is some structure, and some basis for the idea that we should all be allowed to decide what we do or don’t believe in, and shouldn’t fear institutional backlash from those decisions.

That’s the world I want to live in, that’s the world I’m trying to shape.

Body Cameras And Law Enforcement

Articles — Sean Bonner @ 11:02 am

The Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO has brought a number of worthwhile discussion topics to national attention – not the least of which is countering widespread public distrust of law enforcement with technology. In the above mentioned case there are several conflicting reports of what happened, and that’s just taking into account the ever changing official statements from the police department. Add in eyewitness reports and it’s possible we’ll never know exactly what happened. Many people are suggesting that if police officers were required to wear body cameras this kind of problem would disappear into thin air.

In truth the argument that compelling police to wear body cameras is the one stop simple solution to ensure accountability is laughable. We know this because we can look at direct track records. In Los Angeles the LAPD (which has been trying to overcome an unfortunate reputation the department earned very publicly in 1991 with the Rodney King beating and the Rampart scandal a few years later) are required to wear voice recorders which switch on automatically when their cruiser sirens are activated and record voice audio within a certain range of the car once the officer steps outside. The benefit here is obvious and the argument was made that this would ensure accountability. Which it would if they worked, but mysteriously the recorders stopped working and this kept happening until the department was forced to admit that theirinternal investigations showed that officers were purposefully breaking off the antennas on their recorders to disable them. Perhaps unsurprisingly the majority of the sabotaged recorders were in the Southeast division – a low income, high minority area with a long history of excessive force complaints. One can imagine mandatory body cameras might suffer similar “technical problems.”

In fact, Los Angeles has been rolling out body cameras on a trial basis already equipping officers who volunteer for the trial program with lapel cameras to compliment the ubiquitous dash cams already deployed on police cruisers everywhere. But again, these things need to be used in order to be useful – in the recent shooting of Ezell Ford, the officers were not wearing the lapel cameras and the dash cam in their car is missing.

Here’s the thing – regardless of what anyone would like to believe or would like you to believe cops are just people doing their jobs, and we know from the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram Experiment that ordinary people, when put in positions of authority over other people will abuse it and can easily disassociate and justify that their position requires such actions. Officer Sunil Dutta’s recent Washington Post oped is dripping with this and there isn’t a technological solution to it. Law Enforcement should be first and foremost public servants, as long as police officers and the system that supports and enables them continues to act as if their job is authoritarian in nature and they are out on the streets to keep people in line rather than to protect them, as long as they look at people as the potential threats rather than those they are charged to look after, nothing will change and everything – including body cameras – will just be a temporary bandaid.

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…)

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