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Cobras and Badgers and Twitter, oh my!

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.

2010: The year in review, in photos

For the past few years I’ve been recounting the previous 12 months by skimming my flickr stream and seeing what I was inspired to take photos of during that time, and seeing what that all ads up to at the end of the year. I’ve found it to be pretty therapeutic. Check it out if you want to, and if you want to walk further down memory lane, here’s the photo reviews of 2009, 2008 & 2007.

To recap I entered 2010 in LA which was something I hadn’t done in many years. I’d been making a habit of being in Berlin for New Years (looks like I’m missing it again this year btw). The CRASH space folks and I had secured a space and we’re moving in, and we started having real meetings in January…

Take apart Tuesday panorama

January was also when we (Tara and I) started facing up to the fact that “we” was going to include another person before too much longer and threw ourselves a little baby shower.

Party panorama

January was also a point where started thinking that I wasn’t just going to keep snapping a million photos and posting them all online. I wanted to create images that looked a little better, and started really thinking about how to do that. My initial steps just included iPhone filters.

beach sun

But I also picked up a real camera that shot on real film and started down an interesting path with that.

K1000

Luckily for me, living in Venice Beach provided some pretty regular and pretty interesting subject matter with which to try and improve those skills. Before the end of January I was making pretty regular visits to the new Skate Park.

Venice Skatepark

In February I started getting my first rolls of film back from the shop, and was pretty excited with the results. This is from the very first roll I ran through a camera in the last 20 years at least.

Bowl Air 2

I also got the filter settings I really liked on my iPhone pretty dialed in.

VSP today

This was all exciting and I jotted down some of my thoughts about photography in a long winded blog post. Sorry to anyone who read it.

For my birthday I decided to fix some old tattoos and reaffirm my faith in them. PMAxFVK.

PMA x FVK

Shooting on film impacted my flickr feed as well, with big dumps when I got things developed rather than uploads as things happened. Feb 19th was the first of those dumps. Clearly there had just been a big storm.

Venice Beach Post Storm

I’ve never been big on heros, but I’ve always looked up to Mike Vallely and I finally got to meet him when his Black Flag cover band, By The Sword played in LA. In the past meeting people I’ve looked up to has been disappointing, with wasn’t with Mike.

By The Sword

Waiting

Wave

But not to get all arty here. Normal things were going on as well. You might remember Johannes from previous years in review, and he came to LA and spoke at Crash Space about fun things they were doing in Vienna like Roböxotica and invited us to contribute something next time they did it.

Johannes talking at crash space

And just like that, I turned 35.

I think getting into photography helped me cope with living at the beach. Venice has a history and can be quite photogenic at times. Forcing myself to look for those moments was a good thing.

Dogtown

Phone: *ring*
Me: Hello?
Xeni: Hey, I’m going to have breakfast with Die Antwoord, want to come?
Me: HELL FUCKING YES!

Ninja and Xeni

Ninja

On March 3rd things got kind of eventful, on the family front…

Tara in labor

And just like that, there were 3 of us.

Born

Hold It Now

The Now: woke up just in time for a nap

Enter Ripley Ossm Bonner. But enough of this emo crap..

Kiko

Shit, actually it’s kind of hard to get past the emo crap.

Sleeps

And that was March. In April we started doing actual building classes at Crash Space, here’s some nerds showing off their recently completed TV-B-Gones. (mine’s on the table)

TV B Gone builders

On a routine trip to Singapore my flight was diverted to Alaska, one of the last two US states I’d not been to. We were on the ground for 2 hours. I think that counts. And I could see Russia from the plane window.

Moments before emergency landing in Alaska

Once in Singapore I finally found some cool areas.

Haji lane

Er, area. But that trip was short, and before I knew it I was racing to the airport at 5am…

5am Singapore

En route to Tokyo

Tokyo Hackerspace

Where Matt Alt took me around and introduced me to the famous Japanese “Rice Taco” or some shit.

Matt Alt

And Brian took me around and introduced me to the Custom Lowrider Big Scooter scene.

Reflecting

Big Scooters

Clutch

Taxis

Man I love Tokyo.

Then I rushed back to the US, and out to the Desert with Tara and Xeni to take Ripley to his first show:

@xenijardin and @tara rockin to zef beats

Which also happened to be the first US Die Antwoord show.

From behind: @dieantwoord on stage

And then to continue my rock and roll whatever, I ran back to LA to see Murder City Devils play.

Murder City Devils

It was real fun. I danced real hard. Then a guy hit me real hard and I broke a real rib. Really.

Got their dancing shoes on...

But it was still fun.

And then I got more tattoos.

Gorilla Biscuits in yor fukin head...

Because I’m living in my youth or something.

Venice remained good fodder:

Beautiful day at th post office

I wanna be a boat...

And Ripley started smiling, a lot.

The Fam

Maybe because he knew we were about to leave Venice. We ended our lease, put everything in storage and headed out into the world.

This rocks

@tara and Ripley in tha row

We got to Singapore just in time for June, the hottest month of the year. But at least Tara made a new friend.

Tara and her new friend

I worked a lot that month, and Tara hid inside a lot. But we did get out and see some monkeys.

That's the spot

I spent a lot of time at the Hackerspace there, it kind of became my office. And what a view that office had.

Same thing, tilt shifted

I walked around a lot that trip and got a much better feel for the country, at least I think I did.

Temple

By the end of June we were ready to get out. And the flight back to LA worked out much better for us, all family size and whatnot.

On the plane

But we were only in LA long enough to drop off suitcases and grab other, and then we ran off to Europe. France specifically. Vincennes to be exact.

This was the view from the flat we’d call home for the next two months.

Vincennes view panorama

Well, Tara and Ripley would call it home at least. Within hours I was on my way to Dublin.

Jet

For coffee.

Colin brewing

Really good coffee.

Comparing beans

But also to see Glen and the opening of his exhibition. Which I’ve seen plenty of times before, but is always worth seeing.

Floor lit works

Glen signing

Glen on Ha'Penny Bridge

We had dinner and walked around Dublin in the rain, and then a few hours later I was back in Paris.

Sodoku Guy

Vincennes

Where we went on a secret mission to find black market back alley spices

Passage du pondichery pano

Which was exciting, but short lived because before I knew it I was back in the US, in NYC at HOPE talking to nerds about hackerspaces

HOPE badge

View from the panel

But as usual I learned more than I taught. I like it that way.

While in NYC I took some creepy photos of some friends

Stitch Portrait - Luke

Stitch Portrait - Atom

Stitch Portrait - Meeno

Completely unintentionally, all of whom are way better with a camera than me.

But man, NYC was hot. Real hot. I picked the wrong cities to spend the summer in apparently.

No fun

But at the same time, the right cities as I got tipped off to a secret last minute Forgetters show in Brooklyn. It was pouring rain outside, but rocking inside.

Even more Forgetters

Fun fact: That’s not a filter or post processing at all, it’s just how my iPhone scrambled to handle the weird lighting in the club. Wild, man. Wild!

And before I knew it I was back in Paris with the fam.

Attempted camera theft

One day we went to the a park

Paris park

And walked around the city a bit

It's not a car it's a canvas

But the train ride home ended up being a bit more memorable

A moment on the metro

I have a totally different opinion of Paris after living there for a while. I don’t think it’s any less cold and grey, I think I just found the cold and grey parts that I like.

2 dimensional

Love locks, Paris

Bridge walkers

Yet for all it’s “city of love” flag waving, I think it feels like a pretty lonely place.

Seat for one, Paris Metro

Not wanting to waste a European adventure, we headed to the south of France for a week of sightseeing.

View from our lunch spot, Bonnieux, France

This was built almost 2,000 years ago!

St Paul residences

Which changed my opinion of France all over again. I like it when that happens too. Then we went back to Paris to re-soak up some of the things we loved before heading back to North America.

Falafels yonder

Conductor

three

Ripley checks out Chicago

We stopped briefly in Toronto and then made our way back to LA, where things hadn’t slowed without us.

10 years

We subletted a friends place near Larchmont and checked out a new neighborhood

New hood

Well, Tara and Ripley did anyway, because I had to be back in Singapore for an event.

Marina panorama

But a had a few days off, and Joi took me diving. From a boat. Me. On a boat. It was crazy. But I loved it.

Self portrait with Tioman

Joi nightdiving

The Event in Singapore ended up being a little bigger than we expected. But it all worked out.

Strictly for vegetarians

And Singapore was kind of nuts because that was the week of their F1 race

Speedy

Almost accident

Which was loud. So I left and went to Tokyo.

Rainy and overcast in Tokyo

Ebisu  #NCC2010

Have I mentioned that I like Tokyo? I was there for another event, which was fun. Once we took over anyway. 😉

Talking SPARK in girl geeks session #NCC2010

It’s funny, I dreamed of going to Japan for so much of my life, and now I’ve been there maybe 10 times in the last few years and it’s kinda still just as magical and exciting as I’d hoped it would be. I hope that doesn’t change.

yoyogi

Shibuya

I got back to LA to find a little something in my PO Box:

Unexpected awesomeness at the post office! #dieantwoord

Die Antwoord - $O$

Did I forget to mention that? I spent most of the time when I was in Paris designing this album. Which was fun, and something I hadn’t done in a while. And it made me sort of realize how much I missed the creative parts that used to be such a big part of my life. I need to do something about that in 2011.

And holy crap, Ripley is getting huge.

Suspicious, with foot

And acting like a kid twice his age.

Ripley is gonna be walking any day now

And my coffee obsession wasn’t slowing

V60 porn

We made a quick trip to Vancouver so Tara and Ripley could get matching Tiger hats

Tiger head(s)

And when we got back to LA we moved into our new house. One with a yard.

Ripley in our new yard, eating leaves

And I finally got a new computer

First photo of my MacBook Air

And was invited to a super amazing coffee tasting at Intelligentsia

Scent of a... um... Bean?

And whoah, somewhere along the line Crash Space got real

Soldering at @crashspacela

Meeting in London, BRB

Reflecting

I got back to LA just in time for an amazing dinner and coffee paring thingy at Intelligentsia in Pasadena with Tara and 30 of our closest friends – who we just met that night. One of the best meals of my life, and one of the most fun evenings we’d had in a long time.

Course 7

Sparkly

We spent Thanksgiving with more friends, and Xeni tried to turn Ripley in a goddamn hippy.

Xeni teaching Ripley to be a damn hippy

Mark and I couldn’t take it, so we escaped to his bathroom. For espresso.

Mark's Bathroom Espresso

Then I flew to Vienna, where it was snowing. A lot.

Wien Wheels Down

Aftermath

Snow

I was invited to speak at TEDxVienna which was pretty fantastic.

What are they trying to suggest?!

And Crash Space and a robot entry for Roböxotica.

Exciterator installation

Which people seemed to enjoy.

Another satisfied customer

I met some great new people, and came up with some exciting new plans

It starts like this

And then rushed back to LA in time for Rips to get an early xmas gift.

Ripley's first trike ride

Speaking of the kid, his 9 month check up was all aces. And our Pediatrician, Dr Jay Gordon is awesome.

Dr Jay & Rips

And through some weird facebook trickery I got invited to be in an art show. So I drew stuff on post it notes.

All of 'em

Which might like a weird thing to make art on, but that’s what all the cool kids were doing.

GR2 post it show

It’s kind of hard to believe that at this time last year this guy didn’t even exist, and now he’s deciding which is the best Cheerio to eat next.

Serious Business

And then since he was being so cute we decided to scare the shit out of the little guy by handing him off to some creep in a red suit:

Saw this coming...

Which pissed him off royally for 5 or 6 minutes. But then he got to play with some new toys so all was good.

Aftermath

And seeing friends from NYC (one of the few cities he hasn’t been yet) worked too.

Moms + kids

The year came to a close with the final days having some crazy as hell wind here in LA, which resulted in a black out due largely to things like this:

I guess that's why we didn't have any power last night

I didn’t take any photos of the big exciting New Years Eve blow out I went to, mostly because it had a little existence problem. There was a dance party at my house though, but it wrapped up early due to bedtime. Then Tara and I spent the rest of the night doing stuff like this:

And watching movies, which was actually kind of awesome. And now, let’s see what 2011 has to offer…

Hero Worship, Julian Assange and Religion

[Advance apologies for scatterbrained nature of this post, it’s kind of an expanded idea I was running with on Twitter that keep taking more than 140 chars and I just wanted to write it out while it was fresh in my head. Perhaps I’ll expand on it more in the future as well if folks think it’s worthwhile.]

So there’s been a lot of discussion of the Rape accusations against Julian Assange recently, and a lot of discussion about the reaction to those accusations. I don’t think I’m mistaken when I say that a non-trivial number of people have publicly speculated the rape charges might be fraudulent for one reason or another putting the credibility of the accusers in question, but there’s also been a non-trivial number of people who’ve done just the opposite – instantly believed any and all accusations and condemned Assange based on what is basically hearsay at this point. We’ll see how much that changes after the trial, but I think that’s to be expected for a lot of reasons.

It’s easy to think this is indicative of some kind of sexism but it’s worth noting that, in my observations anyway, I’ve seen just as many men as women take both of the above sides. Personally, having known women who have been raped, as well as men who have been falsely accused of rape – I’m extremely hesitant to make early assumptions but I’m very much in the minority there I think. It might be some underlying sexism, it might be some ingrained guilt, or it might be something else. I think it’s less of those things and more that our society as a whole has a really hard time accepting the duality of people. People are not all good, or all bad. They are both, sometimes they do really good, or really bad things, but by and large one action isn’t indicative of everything about a person.

So in the case of Julian Assange, people who are supporters of wikileaks are having a really hard time with the idea that the guy behind it might not be a saint. And I’m not using that word as just a random example, I think religion, Christianity specifically, is very much to blame for a lot of this. People are brought up being taught about this group of people who were completely flawless or who if by chance did mess up, were instantly repentant and forgiven thus maintaining their good graces with God. Children are taught to aspire to be like this, and given this ideal that isn’t realistic or achievable at all. So what happens is when someone gets in to the spotlight all of those hopes and dreams are projected on them. We saw it with Obama and we’re seeing it again with Julian Assange.

It’s very hard for people to wrap their head around the concept that someone they look up to on one level might not be as respectable on another. Wait, how could Obama smoke? He’s supposed to be perfect and a role model. Wait, how could he give Bush & Co a pass, I thought he was going to be the shining light of change? This is a problem when you put anyone on a pedestal – how could Assange be anything but a gentleman in his personal life because wikileaks is such a great thing? Wait, I really agree with that one thing Assange said, but I can’t support rape so in order for that to balance out in my head one of those must be false, and I want a hero so I must assume the rape charges are bullshit. Hell maybe the rape charges *are* bullshit. But maybe they aren’t.

Good people sometimes do really bad things.

Bad people sometimes do really good things.

There’s no such thing as saints or saviours. People are just that, people. Anytime we expect them to be more than that we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. This is something we should keep in mind, and judge actions based on the actions, and not try to constantly fit people into the role of great redeemer.

Embracing the unknown Path

logoI’ve been playing with Path for a little while now and I wanted to talk a little bit about my feelings towards it as well as respond a little bit to some of the reactions I’ve been getting from others. I should disclose upfront that Neoteny Labs is one of their investors, but short of getting me into the beta a few weeks ago I haven’t had any interaction with the folks there and my reactions are 100% based on my own interpretations and not any insider info or whatever. If you don’t know what I’m talking about by this point, this might be a good time to walk away as I suspect this post is just going to dig deeper into this hole.

If you think of “social media” as a collection of various networks of people you know in real life it’s a little easier to see how different sites and applications focus on different parts of those networks. Last.fm for example is a network of people who enjoy music, perhaps the same music you do. Flickr is a network for sharing photos, you can share them with friends, family, or everyone. Linkedin is interested in the networks of people you know professionally, perhaps those you’ve worked with – it requires mutual connections so anyone you say you’ve worked with has to agree and say they’ve worked with you. Facebook, well at this point Facebook seems to be a collection of everyone you’ve ever met or any friend of a friend, though at one point it was a little more protected than that. Twitter lets you only follow those you are interested in while still letting you reach those you might not know yourself. I’m rambling, but those are a few examples of existing sites that enable communication with your networks, and various wide varieties of those.

Path on the other hand in much smaller and seemingly has a different focus. While the above sites tend to share a goal of reaching as many people as possible, Path is designed to keep your network small. The idea of intimate communities isn’t new, but so far it’s been poorly implements with side focus groups, mailing lists, or simple after thought features. Path restricts you to 50 connections, and who you share with and who shares with you do not have to be the same. While I’m generally excited about a more intimate network like this, I almost think 50 is too many – 25 would be much better, but that is not really the issue right now. The point is rather than having the option to link up with anyone and everyone, you have to actually think about it and pick who your closest connections are. Once you’ve done this, in theory, how you interact with Path will be different than how you might interact with other sites. That’s not a crazy idea, you’d act differently in a room with only your closest friends than you would on stage in front of thousands of people. The contact limit on Path allows you to be less guarded to some extent.

But choice of action isn’t the only feature of this, it allows you to focus on your real friends rather than risk them being lost in a flood of people you only kind of sort of know. I have a strict policy on Facebook that I won’t accept a friend request from anyone I haven’t met in person, but even with that I have people that I’ve only met once or twice, and their updates often push updates by close friends off my page before I ever see them. Limiting the connections ensures you only see the people you actually care about.

The criticism I’ve seen so far is mostly that Path doesn’t allow some action that another site does. I think we’ve all gotten so used to new sites just being rehashed versions of some other site, that when something new is presented to us we’re not sure how to contextualize it. The same thing happened with Twitter. You may remember the first year of Twitters existence, or rather, or twttr as it were. No one really knew how to use it, and people frequently complained that it didn’t work like a blog. What?! Only 160 characters? (yes, it used to be 160) I can write way more than that on my blog. What?! No photos? I can post photos on my blog. What?! No way to comment on someone elses tweet? I can post comments on other people’s blogs. I was no different. I barely used Twitter for the first year because it made no sense to me. But then I got it, and so did everyone else and it became very clear how this was something different. The things we’d all thought were bugs, were actually core features.

I have a feeling that the same will prove true with Path. Right now people are objecting that Path doesn’t work like Flickr, or Twitpic, or Instagram, or their own blogs. But I think it’s not supposed to act like those sites. I think it’s a mistake to look at Path as a photosharing site. Path talks about sharing “moments” and while that is easy to write off as bullshit marketing talk, I actually think it makes a lot of sense. By requiring you to take the photo in app (as opposed to using a photo from your existing library) it ensures you are actually experiencing whatever you are posting. It’s more real. There’s no comments, because moments are fleeting – once they pass they are gone (I’d actually like to see it have a limited archive as well -maybe the last 24 hours only). If the goal is to share the now, it makes no sense to have features allowing you to dwell on the then.

So I’m currently enjoying using Path, in fact I’m bummed that I keep forgetting to post to it and I find myself wishing specific people were using it, or were using it more. I think thats a good sign – for me anyway. What will actually happen remains to be seen, but I think there is some real value here and the chance for us all to share some new things in some new ways. I guess we’ll see how it works out.

Shelving It – why bookshelves have become outdated and obsolete

When I was a kid growing up, one of the most impressive things I could see when visiting someone’s house was floor to ceiling shelving, every inch packed full of books. This was before I could read, or before I remember being able to read so which books were on the shelves wasn’t nearly as important as there just being tons of them. I felt like this meant the people were important and smart. I may have I picked up that notion from hanging around my fathers office, he was a lawyer and had towers of law books and encyclopedias everywhere, though I don’t recall thinking that he, or *we* were exceptionally important so I’m not entirely sure from where that concept came. What I am sure of is that if I saw a massive book case at your house I was impressed. I also know I wasn’t the only one thinking that.

I didn’t really get into books myself until I was a bit older, but what I did get into was movies. Given that this was the mid 80’s – the day and age when you could rent a VHS player from Blockbuster and every respectable video tape rental location had a well stocked betamax section – the idea of having a home video library was gaining popularity. Hollywood had given up on the war against video tape, abandoned the idea that this technology was going to bankrupt every studio out there, and were now making cash by the pirate ship full from selling and renting videos. The advertising of the day played off the obviously understood notion that if you were at all cultured you were actively building out your own home video library. I know that my step father at the time once explained to me how it was smart to rent a movie first to see if you liked it, then if you did you could buy it to put on your shelf, but you shouldn’t buy movies before you’d seen them.

This concept made perfect sense to me because your video library was a representation of your tastes. You only wanted to have good stuff in it, but you wanted to have all the good stuff in it. I was young then and without any real refined cinematic taste, so “good” was synonymous with “big” for me, and thusly we ended up renting a lot of Jim Varney, Tom Hanks, and Nightmare on Elm Street movies. For some unknown reason, still a mystery to this day, my family decided many of these titles were not worth purchasing after viewing. This didn’t go over well with me and at the wise old age of 10 I decided I needed to get started putting together my own video library. Getting a head start on it at that point was clearly genius because by the time I was an adult I’d have the best library ever. Probably an exact duplicate of the Blockbuster stock if I had my way.

I convinced my family it was a good idea to rent a VCR each time we went to blockbuster so that I could hook it up the one we had at home and make copies of the movies we rented so that I could add them to my newly started video library. I drew the covers of all the movies I copied because I wanted them to look real when on the shelf and I distinctly remember spending an afternoon attempting to replicate the cover of “The Man With One Red Shoe.” No reason why that one sticks out to me but there you have it.

Oh, did I mention that our home VCR was betamax? Yep. So you know that library had staying power.

This mindset stuck with me all the way through college when I did get into real books, I’d hang out at peoples houses and see books and movies on their shelves and decide I also had to have those on my shelves. Its embarrassing but true, in those days I definitely had books I’d never read on my shelves just because I saw them on other friends shelves and assumed that meant I should have them too. I did go on to read most of them later, but that’s beside the point. I didn’t buy them to read them, I bought them to fit in.

I’m getting somewhere with all this nostalgia – I wanted well stocked shelves because I wanted people to be impressed the way I was when I saw that kind of thing at other people’s houses. The shelves weren’t for me, they were for them. They were for my ego certainly, but I wasn’t keeping those books around so that I could reread them at a later date, I was keeping them so that people who visited me would know I’d read them. I wasn’t doing this consciously, but I was doing it. And once I realized what I was doing I felt like a douche and stopped adding to the stacks I’d amassed.

As a graphic designer I could always justify buying design books which I could argue were for inspiration and reference. And I definitely put them to heavy use for many years. Until the web really started getting going and then I found it was easier to go there to reference things than to hunt through stacks of books.

Skip ahead a few years, I’ve moved from Florida to Chicago to Los Angeles, and often several places in each city. And I’ve moved tons of books and DVDs and things each time. I take them off the shelf, pack them in heavy boxes, struggle to move them, unpack the boxes and put them back on the shelves. Rinse. Repeat. Until finally I realized it just didn’t make any sense. I had books I’d read once and hadn’t touched other than to move in over 10 years. I had reference books that had never been opened after looking through them in the bookshop and bringing them home because Google has proven to be a more efficient reference source. I have movies that are easier to just watch on my laptop via Netflix streaming or download from somewhere else then to have to fumble with DVDs and sit through unskippable advertising and trailers and antipiracy warnings. Digital files replaced CDs for me as well a very long time ago. So how is it better to have these things on my bookshelf?

I stopped being able to come up with a good answer for that.

I can argue valid reasons to keep art books which are all about the visual and tactile, and aren’t the same as a single JPG, but very few people have houses full of art books. Even I, an ex-gallery owner and art collector had some stacks, but not piles. But fiction and non-fiction?

As I get older the less I care about people’s opinion of me, and feel that my actions should say more about me than what objects I decided to purchase. Once I realized that it was hard to justify keeping these things and I decided they’d be better off in the hands of someone who hadn’t read them and could actually benefit from possessing them. Am I the only one coming to this conclusion? Do you have shelves full of books and media? Do you still use them?

Some thoughts on the 100 thing challenge

Fair warning, this is a rambling jumble of thoughts kind of post.

People keep sending me links to or excerpts from this NY Times story “But Will It Make You Happy?” And rightfully so, as it’s about how having (and buying) less stuff can make you happier, which if you have ever read my blog in the past you know is very relevant to my interests. Specifically the story starts off following a couple who were drowning in debt and had mountains of crap in their house, and in their life, and how they decided to pair down and get away from it, and how their families thought they were nuts, but how it worked and now everyone is jealous of their swanky minimalist lifestyle. Well not exactly that, but basically. And how spending money on stuff is a waste, but on experiences is golden. There are a few really good quotes in it worth noting, even if they are painfully obvious:

“One major finding is that spending money for an experience — concert tickets, French lessons, sushi-rolling classes, a hotel room in Monaco — produces longer-lasting satisfaction than spending money on plain old stuff.”

“A $20,000 increase in spending on leisure was roughly equivalent to the happiness boost one gets from marriage,” he said, adding that spending on leisure activities appeared to make people less lonely and increased their interactions with others.

Current research suggests that, unlike consumption of material goods, spending on leisure and services typically strengthens social bonds, which in turn helps amplify happiness. (Academics are already in broad agreement that there is a strong correlation between the quality of people’s relationships and their happiness; hence, anything that promotes stronger social bonds has a good chance of making us feel all warm and fuzzy.)

and

Another reason that scholars contend that experiences provide a bigger pop than things is that they can’t be absorbed in one gulp — it takes more time to adapt to them and engage with them than it does to put on a new leather jacket or turn on that shiny flat-screen TV.

“We buy a new house, we get accustomed to it,” says Professor Lyubomirsky, who studies what psychologists call “hedonic adaptation,” a phenomenon in which people quickly become used to changes, great or terrible, in order to maintain a stable level of happiness.

Over time, that means the buzz from a new purchase is pushed toward the emotional norm.

“We stop getting pleasure from it,” she says.

And then, of course, we buy new things.

Like I said these aren’t really new concepts for me or anyone who has spent time talking about these issues with me in the last few years, but it’s nice to see some big media backup of those ideas and it’s reenforcing to know there is some neurological science to back up the speculations I’ve been throwing around here so won-tonly.

One thing that was news to me, and I blame each and every one of you for not tipping me off to it sooner, was a passing mention of a website that encouraged people to live with only 100 personal things which inspired some of their early stuff purging. What? 100 Things? A website promoting this? How did I not know about this before? I did some searching and found the source over on Guy Named Dave and wouldn’t you know it’s over 2 years old? I’ve really been slacking to let this get past me. Anyway, I dug in and read the challenge, and honestly was a bit disappointed. Dave’s motives are in the right place, and his efforts have certainly worked out well, but it’s not *really* a 100 thing challenge as it was advertised. Sure the goal is to pair your belongings down to 100 things, but as Dave notes in his initial post he has a family, wife and kids, and so the challenge only applies to his stuff, not to theirs or the stuff they share. So he could kind of just give his wife everything he owned, and then be at 0 and not have to change his lifestyle at all. And some things he considered a set, all of his underwear counted as 1 item, etc. So yeah, it wasn’t quite as hardcore as I was hoping it would be.

Still, his list of 100 things that he decided were worth keeping is certainly a good starting point for a mental exercise. What 100 things would you keep, could you get it down that low? I posted that question on my tumblr and got a few replies of interest and support, and one that stood out from my good friend Michael, who said:

“The concept works toward preventing you from deep interests in things like cooking or cycling, etc. Perhaps a limit to buying 100 items/yr”

Now I don’t agree with that at all. First of all I don’t subscribe to the idea that you have to buy anything to learn or be interested in it. Thanks to things like NeighborGoods it’s much easier to borrow just about anything, and if you keep a diligent eye on craigslist or ebay you can find many things for free or next to nothing. Now obviously you aren’t going to find a $2000 bike on craigslist for free (unless it’s stolen or being given away by a pissed off ex-lover), but you can probably borrow one from a friend on NeighborGoods. And yes I know that is a stretch and to really dive into something you need your own that you can customize, but I think having to make sure you buy the right one instead of buying several can actually make that choice better. For instance at the beginning of this year I had 5 bikes. I’ve been selling them and moving towards having one that is better than all the others. That’s less stuff, which is good.

So I don’t think this idea prevents you from getting deep interests in things, rather it causes you to be a bit more focused. And certainly being deeply into several things all at once could be a bit harder, but that is really more of a problem of people who can afford it. I say that from experience, being a obsessive collector of both cool stuff and interesting info about said cool stuff, who also happened to grow up broke as hell. When I found something I was interested in it became all encompassing for me and it was hard to get me to talk or think about anything until I felt I’d satisfied that interest. In many ways I’m still like that. The thing is, when you have no money the option of putting the last obsession in a box in the closet and moving on to the next is impossible, and having two costly obsessions at once slows progress on both. So what I had to do was focus on one, learn what I could, buy the stuff I wanted, and then decide what if any of that I was going to keep when I got the taste of the next obsession. The cash from the sale of the last interest was the seed funds for the next one. That doesn’t mean I’m any less interested in the old stuff or think it’s any less cool, it’s just not center stage for me which means having money tied up in it seemed like a bad idea. For example at one point I had a record collection that was easily over 1000 albums, I probably have closer to 100 now. At one point I had a Japanese toy collection that was easily over 500 pieces, I maybe have 30 now. And yes, I know that 130 items right there blows the whole 100 personal items in a heartbeat, but that’s kind the path I’m trying to walk down. Slowly, but the intent is there.

But back to the point, maybe 100 is too tight which is why Dave had to make exceptions. Maybe 256 is more realistic. Or maybe 100 is realistic you just have to be seriously committed to it. I’m not sure, but I’m trying to make a list. If I could only keep 100 items what would those be, and what exceptions would I find myself making? I have a complete collection of Ark Diecast robots from the 70’s. They only made 8 of them. I have all 8. Are those 8 items, or is the collection one 1 item? I have a bike, that’s one item right, it’s not 2 wheels, 1 frame, 1 saddle, etc. Is a box of bike tools one item or is each tool an item? This is why it’s an interesting exercise. What would be on your list, and why?

I always wanted to be a rock star

DIE

I always wanted to be a rock star.

Not for the usual reasons including the endless supply of cash and groupies, but I suppose those wouldn’t be terrible perks. I mean, if I had to take the cash and the groupies I suppose I could go ahead and do that. The groupies at least, I wouldn’t want to disappoint them you know? That wouldn’t be a very nice thing to do so I guess I could go ahead and take the groupies. But now that I think of it if I was going to run with the whole endless supply of groupies, I should probably have some extra cash on hand for groupie related costs that might come up right? I’m sure groupies come with a whole sting of related costs that we non-rock stars never think about. Lets say you give out a few band t-shirts at the very least, those still have to be paid for by someone. And then there’s the settlements and abortions that no one wants to talk about, those aren’t cheap right? OK so just to be safe I should probably take the endless cash too, but really that is just to keep the groupies happy and I’d only be saying yes to the groupies to avoid getting the reputation of being a dick. If I was a rock star I’d definitely be the lover not the fighter kind. Well, maybe a little bit of a fighter, just for the reputation. A rock star has to have a reputation, thats where the legend will come from later on. So I’d be mostly a lover but a little bit of a fighter, just every once and a while, nothing excessive.

No, those aren’t the reasons I spent the majority of my youth dreaming of my unrealized rock star future. It was because rock stars can get away with writing anything. To be a good writer you have to give it everything you have. You have to spill all the gory details, sparing no pain or suffering. You have to lay your insides out for the world to judge and you can’t hold anything back. As a writer as soon as you start pulling punches you get boring and people know you are faking it and that is the end of it. The truly amazing writers leave no parts of their lives untouched and give everything they have to their stories. Bloody, sweaty, tearful. Goodness, badness, ugliness. Life, love, regret. If you want to be a writer that is worth a damn you have to open up and spill all of it. Think about the writers you enjoy reading and you’ll know just what I’m talking about. Writers are applauded for being frank and courageous by talking openly about their lives. No writer was ever celebrated for being coy and vague.

This is probably not unrelated to how much of a disaster many writers are on a personal level. Train wrecks. All of them. But that is what makes them interesting and compelling. Who wants to read a brutally honest story about what a perfect life someone has, free from any stress or confliction?

Fiction writers get off easy because they can blame anything on their characters. They can explore their deepest darkest secrets and call it an artistic experiment. This is good for readers because we end up with characters like Tyler Durden and Holden Caufield that we can all cheer on and blame our support on ‘enjoying a good story.’ Of course the best characters are just thinly veiled represntations of their authors and it’s not too hard, when you look at the rest of their lives, that much of Tyler’s rantings wouldn’t have been too out of place if Chuck had said them himself, and that if you talked to JG you could safely assume he thought you were a big phonie. This is great if you can write fiction. I can’t. I’ve tried and it’s freightening how bad I suck at it. I keep trying though and maybe someday I won’t suck so much but don’t hold your breath thinking you might read some of it someday. It’s pretty bad.

I’m much better at non-fiction, and at the autobiographical and self reflective non-fiction at that. The problem with this is as mentioned before, to be any good at that a writer needs to be brutally honest. Actually it’s not so much a problem, in fact it’s really the main draw to it for me. Writing has always been my own form of self therapy. And I say that as someone who has spent what is probably combined years worth of time in actual therapy. Talking about what I’m thinking and feeling and experiencing helps me understand what I’m thinking and feeling and experiencing. It’s almost like I can’t make heads of tails of it until I spell it out for myself. When I’ve done that in one of an endless string of psychologists offices it’s been helpful but I usually leave thinking it would have been more helpful, and less expensive, if I’d just written about it on my own. It’s amusing because I’m so cripplingly self conscious sometimes that I can’t walk down some metal roads verbally with people, but I can write about them and lay them out for the world to see without any hesitation. That was easy for me when I used to photocopy my writings and pass them out fanzine style, and it’s only easier now that I have a blog and the web as my distribution tools.

The hang up is I’m rarely thinking or feeling or experiencing anything on my own. Frequently there are other people involved in some way. And writing about anything that involved anyone else unintentionally drags them into it. I’ve always been aware of this and explicitly avoided speaking for anyone else in my writing. My writing is introspective, admittedly and to a fault sometimes, but it’s what keeps me sane. I’ve been pouring my heart out in text since as far back as I can remember and I know I’ll do it for the rest of my life, but I guess I just want to rack up as few casualties as I can along the way. Some people deserve to be casualties and while I’ve never intentionally outed anyone, if someone figured something out I probably wouldn’t jump to their defense. But that isn’t the thing that worries me, the thing that scares me are the unintentional casualties. Any experience you have with someone, chances are you have with many someones. At least in a general sense, so when writing about those things it’s too big a leap for more than one person to read it and sense a connection. But really, that’s a good thing right? If you read something and it evokes an emotional reaction of any kind then the writer has done their job well. This applies equally to people you know and people you don’t know. One of the things that reassures me about this is the comments and notes I get from people who I’ve never met in my life who say they relate to something I’ve written. I know I’m hitting a chord then. And so if people I don’t know are relating to things, you’re goddamn right people I do know will relate to them as well. And some will take it personally. And some will become unintentional casualties.

Maybe I’m just being a huge pussy about this and assuming people will expect the worst.

And if you think I’m talking about you, well… that’s kind of the point isn’t it?

Of course now I’ve built this up so much as if I have some scandalous thing to write about and I’m fearing fall out. I don’t and I’m not. It’s just kind of a general musing about how musicians kind of get a free pass on this one. They can write about anything and people will assume they are drawing from experiences throughout their lives, or from their friends experiences, or just flat making shit up. With writers people assume the experience is immediately relevant in their lives. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. I know I’ve written about thinks with 20 year hindsight, and I’ve written about things that happened yesterday.

Though not recently because I haven’t been writing shit. This is my mental drain-o.