If you are on my mailing list then you just learned about this because I just came up with it while I was writing up the latest edition of it. I turn 40 in February so I’m asking people to help me come up with a list of things I should before that date. Here’s the doc where you can add your ideas. Go for it.
(originally posted on my secret blog, and then sent to my mailing list, been getting some great feedback on it so posting more widely here too)
I’ve been thinking a lot about the balance between creation and curation recently, or maybe the imbalance between the two. And how rewarding each are for different reasons. For better or worse I’ve spent a lot of my time and life in the curation category – finding cool things and pointing others to them. Be it bands, artists, news stories, whatever. I’ve also had my share of creation of course too – I put designing record covers in that category, and of course writing as well. Photography, music, art are firmly in creation. I’m much more confident about the curation – I know when something is awesome or interesting and I don’t second guess the urge or need to point other people to it. I love doing it – but in the end I’m still pointing to other people’s work and I’m only valuable tomorrow if I find more things to point at. I’m less comfortable with the creation but I find it infinitely more fulfilling. From now for the rest of time I made that, and I can look back on it and people can discover it years later and it still came from me. It’s just as awesome, maybe more so, today when I see someone wearing a t-shirt with a band logo I drew or quoting something I wrote many years ago. These things have a life of their own.
Making music and art now is similarly exciting and I’m looking forward to where that ends up. But it keeps making me think about opportunities I passed up that I didn’t even recognize as opportunities at the time. I was lucky to find punk rock in the mid-80’s and those influences changed my life. I felt like I contributed to the scene by putting out records and booking tours, but looking back now I shouldn’t have passed on the many chances I had to actually be in bands and create things that might have lasted. I don’t feel like I missed out so much as I didn’t get all I could out of it. I love the experiences I had, but I can’t help but recognize that there could have been more. I try to keep this in mind going forward with new ideas.
I have books that I wrote 10 years ago and never published, it feels too late now but I know I shouldn’t have talked myself out of it then. When it’s mine, I want things to be great and perfect. And I’m good at convincing myself that things need more work to be great, work that never gets finished. Real artists ship right? I need to ship more often.
I think a lot about the world right now and my place in it. I still do a lot of curation. I find things and point people to them. A lot of things I’m reading or things that sparked my interest. In turn, people point to me as a filter. But I don’t know that I really want to be a filter. I mean, I am so there’s that, but that’s not my aspiration, and at the end of the day thinking about and saying “Man, I linked to some great stuff today, so proud of that!” isn’t really something that happens. Ever.
And on top of that, the world is fucking depressing right now. The news is all bad all the time. And I think that’s influencing my mood in ways I don’t like. I wake up next to my beautiful wife to the sounds of our amazing kid causing some awesome chaos somewhere in our great house filled with wonderfully handpicked stuff and I smile. And then I see the news and I think we’re fucked. And then I pass that on to everyone else. I don’t want to ruin people’s days anymore.
I don’t know where I’m getting with this line of thought, just that I’m thinking. And I want to make more things. I want to make more music. I want to write more. I want to create more. So that’s what I’m going to do. Said. Done. Stay tuned.
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.
Two things I’m not terribly good at and very uncomfortable doing: Talking about myself & Asking for help. Especially when there are so many other more important things to talk about these days, but this is me attempting to do both.
A little over a year ago I started talking about an art & music project I’d been working on with some friends called Cross My Heart Hope To Die. Almost non stop since then I’ve been working on physical art pieces – photos & sculptures – that I’d hoped to show off publicly in a real art world setting. That went from a crazy idea to a goal to a plan to a reality – the gallery exhibition opens this Saturday July 26th here in Los Angeles. Admittedly this project has been very hard for people to really wrap their head around – a band that makes physical art? An art collective that releases music? Treating music like photos? Treating photos like songs? It doesn’t make immediate sense to people looking to categorize it in the context of something else they are familiar with and I’ve been immensely lucky to have a handful of friends who believe in my crazy ideas and have been helpful and supportive of them. This wouldn’t have happened without them, for-fucking-sure.
This gallery show is 2 years in the planning, and I can’t even begin to tell you the sweat and stomach acid that has been generated putting it together. And on top of that, at the opening on Saturday we’ll be performing publicly for the first time ever as a band.
I’ve put on tons of gallery shows, but I’ve never been in one. Certainly never a gallery full of work I created.
I’ve put out records and toured with bands, but I’ve never been the one on stage performing.
I’m super excited about both of these things, and at the same time horrified. Not that people won’t like it, I’m completely confident in the work and what we’re doing, I believe in it 1000% – I’m scared I will have spent all this time and all this money making this work and no one will see it. I know that is fairly irrational because a lot of my friends will be there for sure, but still. I’m scared. And here’s the asking for help part – please, pretty please, help me get the word out about the opening and help me get people there to see the work and the performance.
The exhibition is called “Vita E Morte” and is being held at SUBLIMINAL PROJECTS gallery, 1331 W. Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
The public opening is Saturday from 8pm until 11pm and the live performance will probably be around 8:45 and should last 30 minutes or so.
Here’s some more info and images of some of the works in the show – it’s not everything, but it’s a lot of it. Full images will be together soon, in the meantime hopefully this gives a good idea of what we’re up to. It’s very high concept, so much happening behind the scenes for each and every piece, but I trust it’ll make sense when you see it all together. And I trust that the whole project will make more sense after this show. Some people see it as a band doing some weird art thing on the side, I’m confident this show will illustrate that it’s so much more.
Also we have a new record coming out next week too, you can hear some of the songs already on Soundcloud, and it’ll be up on the pirate bay soon too. Amazon and iTunes too I guess and we’ll have CDs at the gallery opening, but only 100 of them.
But seriously – if you are in Los Angeles and can come out that would be amazing, and if you can pass the word on to your friends and audiences and anyone you pays attention to you, that would mean the world to me.
I have a secret blog that I write in every day but I don’t ever tell anyone about. Today’s entry was a memory lane trip that I thought some others might enjoy so I’m reposting it here, not linking to it there. Which is a secret.
Salt n Pepa’s classic “Push It” came on the radio yesterday and as I instinctively turned it up I was immediately reminded of a music teacher I had in 8th grade while attending a Catholic school in Florida. A classmate inquired once what his current favorite song was – not an odd question to pose to a music teacher but his reply stuck with me all these years. Let me just contextualize this, this teacher was probably late 30’s at the time, kind of overweight and balding. He wore a lot of polo shirts and sandals. He responded that musically his favorite song was Rob Base’s then super hit “It Takes Two” because he really enjoyed the beat, but lyrically he didn’t like it at all though this was largely due to the fact that as a Catholic he didn’t believe in premarital sex and as he wasn’t married and still a virgin, he didn’t have a personal connection to what was being discussed in the song and didn’t think it was really the right message to be sending out to people, especially younger people who listen to the radio. I’ve often thought of him and wondered how that turned out for him.
Conversely the math teacher I had at that time in the same school would often blow off the entire days lesson to tell us stories about getting drunk, high and partying with her husband and “their friends” which on more than one occasion led to a morning with several naked people waking up in bed together.
And the same year I had a nun who taught history throw a book across the room and hit me square in the face. This was after I’d caused a bit of a fuss in the school by refusing to sign a document saying I wouldn’t talk to anyone who I knew was using drugs or alcohol, which caused the school to fall just short of their 100% Drug Free Zone classification or something like that. The rest of my class was a bunch of liars.
I learned a lot about the world in 8th grade, though probably not what was on the curriculum.
Professor Ellis requested an update to my current travel kit and I happen to have it all laying around since I just got back to town so that seemed like a worthwhile endeavor. It should be unsurprising to anyone reading this who didn’t get here by accident that I try really hard to maximize usage and minimalize parts so that I have a simple set up that works no matter what or where I’m going – though admittedly I’m always fine tuning it. Let’s start with bags.
I have 3 bags – I never take more than 2 of them.
- A no-brand thick canvas shoulder bag that is purposely too small to fit my laptop.
- A Mission Workshop Sanction backpack
- A Rimowa Cabin Tolley rollerboard suitcase.
If I’m going somewhere for under 48 hours then I take the backpack only, more than that I go with the shoulder bag and suitcase. In some situations I’ll shake that up – for instance if I know it’s raining where I’m heading or if I expect that I’ll be walking a lot and needing to bring stuff with me on those walk then the backpack comes and the shoulder bag might even be shoved inside it. The driving bit behind this is that I want the very least amount of stuff with me as possible in the seat on the plane, so the small shoulder bag is typically what I shove under the seat in front of me and everything else goes in the over head. Which might as well lead us to what I keep in that shoulder bag:
- iPad Mini Retina with privacy screen
- Kindle Paperwhite
- 8.5 x 5 notebook, currently this is a Moleskine Classic Notebook but I’ll probably be switching to the Livescribe 5.5 x 8.25 Lined Journal shortly.
- Eyeshade – nothing special here, the one I currently have I got free in a business class care package sometime last year.
- Pen – Currently a Karra’s Customs RETRAKT in copper, but likely switching to Livescribe 3 Smartpen in not too distant future.
- If it’s an exceptionally long flight I might also bring a plug and charger for the iPad. I standardized around Apple’s 12W USB charger because it charges much faster than the smaller 5W one that comes with iPhones.
- Bacitracin First aid Antibiotic Ointment, USP – 1/2 Oz
- Stanley 4-in-1 Pocket Screwdriver
- Streamlight LED Pen Flashlight
And that’s pretty much it. Again, in a specific situation I might add or swap something in there but that’s typically what I default to.
I have a few other things I keep in the suitcase and then pull out once I arrive places for on the go working and using. Almost all of these things are contained in one of these small zipper pouches and held together with these gear ties.
Various short cords – Nothing longer than 6 inches, preferably under 2 inches. There are several brands that make cords like this in all the usuals: USB, Lightning, Mini and Nano USB etc. I have several brands all mixed together and I’m fairly impartial to which. In some cases I couldn’t find a short cord so I busted out scissors and a soldering iron and cut a cord down to size and then put it back together. At home, at a desk, a cord with some length can be helpful – on the road it just gets in the way. I’m never connecting something that isn’t right next to it, so no need for any extra cabling.
My main computer is the newest 11″ MacBook Air. I have one of the cheaper chromebooks at home but everytime I attempt to use it I get frustrated and then it sits unused for a few months. In rare occasions I’ll take the laptop into a plane seat with me, but generally I leave it in my suitcase and rely on the iPad for in flight. Especially after leaving my laptop in the seatback pocket on a flight to Hawaii last year.
For travel coffee I still rely on my trusty Porlex JP-30 Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder. If you subscribe to my Quarterly box I just sent you one of these. Pair that with a plastic Hario 02 Coffee Dripper (I keep the ceramic version at home) and you have an awesome set up for in hotel room coffee.
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.
Followers is a term I’ve never been too comfortable with. It implies acceptance of leadership when in fact it’s more like just half assed interestingness. Am I a follower of someone I “follow” on twitter or am I just curios what they might be thinking about. That’s a pretty big difference. And worse is when followers are called “fans” – just because I “follow” someone doesn’t mean I like them, or am their fan, again I might just be curious about their thought process. I don’t have a better term, but this one is no good either. Anyway, this is all something I think about when people talk about influence and attention online. How much influence does having some number of people’s attention translate to? It’s very hard to say.
I have 38,781 followers on Google+
I have 11,442 followers on Twitter
I have 2,237 followers on Tumblr
I have 510 subscribers to my mailing list
I have 112 subscribers to my podcast
I have other profiles online but you get the point I’m making I hope.
WTF does that mean? Certainly you can’t add those together as inevitably there is some overlap, and while there are certainly some people following on Google+ who aren’t subscribed to my podcast, it’s probably less likely that many of the podcast subscribers aren’t also following on twitter. Is the difference in numbers due to platform adoption or personal messaging? How many people are actually paying attention to any given thing I post? Accepted wisdom is that all those things should reference each other so people can easily find one or the other, but does that build in some redundancy?
I don’t have answers here, just something I was thinking about and wondering what others thoughts are.