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A blog that just wants to fit in…
About a month back a friend asked me to make her a mixtape. She’s a big fan of mixtapes. Unfortunately for her I can’t seem to burn CDs on my laptop at the moment and she doesn’t use 8tracks or have a Spotify account, so she’ll have to wait to listen to it. But you don’t have to wait, lucky devil.
The mix features artists like Elliott Smith, San Fermin, Wilco, Torres and Girls amongst others. Actually, it might be a bit of downer, but I’d like to think it’s worth a listen anyway. You can listen below below or check it out at my 8tracks account.
Yesterday I was at Circo II at the Claremont Showgrounds. It was supposed to be a circus themed dance event, but for some reason the circus performers weren’t there. Everything seemed to be set up for them, but they were nowhere to be seen. Which is a shame. But the company was good, as was the music and the drinks. So I can’t complain.
I’ve posted some grainy pictures and a video I haven’t watched on my Instagram account, if you want to check it out.
Melon is a headband and app that monitors brainwaves to measure focus. The app then presents the brainwave information in such a way as to help the user achieve flow in whatever task they’re engaged in.
It’s a pretty neat idea that plays into the recent craze of the quantified self, making it the ideal time to launch a Kickstarter campaign. Unsurprisingly, Melon was funded in only 4 days
But all I can keep thinking, along with how silly people will look wearing a Melon and Google Glass, is that one day employers will demand that workers wear something like the Melon to measure focus, and creative jobs will become as tediously controlling as an assembly line.
And something that was designed to help people gain an insight into how they work will be used by business to remove even more of that pesky personality we humans have, all in the name of productivity and the almighty dollar.
The soundtrack to my writing session tonight is a little bit depressing, but they’re all good songs. It can be found on Spotify under the name ‘Go Sadness’.
It appears my writing bone is broken. It’s been months since I’ve posted my weekly word count. Largely this has been down to how sporadic my word count currently is. And by that, I mean it ranges from a few hundred words to none at all. Some of this is down to new responsibilities at the day job taking up more spoons, and some of it is down to not really knowing what I want to work on.
This week I have been focusing on a steampunk/romance story for a short story compilation. The idea is solid and it’s coming along nicely, but I am still in the development phase. The characters are pretty well in place, but the plot still needs fine tuning. So I’ve been reading up on analytical engines, apothecaries, artificial respiration and parachutes. Yo ho, yo ho, a writer’s life for me.
When I’m not wrestling with words, I do occasionally Tweet. The following are the kind of things I say; you can always follow if you like them:
According to OKCupid, someone has a 0% match and 0% friend rating with me but a 98% enemy rating. Looks like I just found my arch-nemesis.
— Glen Parks (@yrmonster) April 20, 2013
Why is it that when people have safewords in relationships they’re edgy but when I try to have a safeword in work conversations I’m weird?
— Glen Parks (@yrmonster) April 24, 2013
I’ve been listening to a lot of new music this week. Or at least, new for me. After the release of the new Boy Least Likely To album, I’ve been listening to them a lot. But I’ve also tried the new James Blake album (pretty great), Atoms For Peace (very good), Patrick Wolf’s Sundark And Riverlight (solid), Cold Specks (beautiful), and Art Brut’s best of (bang, bang, rock and roll). Yes, I realise that ‘pretty great-very good-solid’ isn’t exactly a scale, but it’s what came to mind.
Incidentally, I interviewed Patrick Wolf back when he was promoting The Bachelor. I remember he was very nice, but he had a habit of referring to himself in the third person. Odd as that normally is, with Wolf it made him even more charming.
A while back I listened to Gospel Music’s debut EP, and tonight I finally got around to listening to their full length. Owen Holmes, the bassist of Black Kids, is the chief songwriter of Gospel Music and he has a knack for writing charming story-songs that are sardonic and humorous. ‘Apartment’ was the one that caught my attention, but it’s definitely an album I’ll be going back to.
With that, I’m going to get back to sipping my ginger beer and bashing this steampunk/romance story into shape.
The Boy Least Likely To are one of those bands I love to share with other people. Some might find them too twee or childlike or simple, and maybe at first blush some of that is true. After all, singer/lyricist Jof Owen does write songs like ‘Every Goliath Has It’s David’ which features the chorus:
‘I know kung fu and I’m not afraid of you
Cos I might be small but I’m not a coward
I’ve got puppy powers that I’m not afraid to use’
But Owen has always managed to mix devastating themes like alienation, loneliness and despair, into what one of my friends once called, nursery rhyme pop. I like to think of The Boy Least Likely To as The Wiggles for grown ups.
In this vein, for my ‘Now’ song, I’ve picked ‘It Could’ve Been Me’ a duet with Gwenno Saunders from The Pipettes. It’s a feelgood pop song about missing a chance with someone you had a crush on.
And for my ‘Then’ song I’ve picked a personal favourite, ‘My Tiger, My Heart’, a song written about having a tiger as your best friend that was apparently not inspired by Calvin and Hobbes. It’s a marvelous, heartbreaking song about growing up and accepting change.
Taken from the recently released, The Great Perhaps:
Taken from 2005’s excellent debut, The Best Party Ever:
Yesterday Warren Ellis posted a question, what is your priority internet? His question was based off the following Sean Bonner tweet:
Super interesting forced experiment: have no Internet for 2 days, then get only 30 minutes – what is top priority?
— Sean Bonner (@seanbonner) March 31, 2013
My first reaction was to reply with something glib like, “porn”. But then I was like, well, yeah, sometimes it would be porn but sometimes it would be checking the Premier League results or reading reviews on Pitchfork or ordering a book online. And at that point I felt like I’d come to two diverging paths to answer the question.
When Bonner asks the question he’s asking it from the perspective of rating what you’d feel most behind on after two days. But what he’s really asking is, what do you use on the internet every day? What could you not live without?
For him it’s email and Twitter as a top priority, and then Twitter (again), Vine and Flickr as a lower priority. Ellis answers the question from the same perspective in his blog post, highlighting email and Google Reader, and then maybe posting a picture various places through an IFTTT trigger tag.
Answering the question this way, I think the only essential site I visit is email. Outside of that, the big three that I stay on top of throughout the day are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but none of these are so urgent that they couldn’t be left alone indefinitely.
Extending Bonner’s experiment to see what really matter: if I only had half an hour every day, I’d probably stop using Instagram and Twitter altogether. Facebook would be touch and go. I’d either stop using it, or cater my Facebook feed to focus on family and very close friends. Anyone who posts boring stuff would quickly get unfollowed. So that’s me, email and maybe Facebook.
But I do remember a time when, between studying for exams and sharing the internet with two brothers, I often did only get half an hour or so to browse online. When I was 14 or 15 the only sites I would bet my friends all knew were the search engines, Alta Vista and Yahoo. The internet has changed a lot since then, it now has giants like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia that tower over all other sites. And keeping track of these giants gobbles up a lot of time.
Which brings me back to my original answer to the question. If I only had 30 minutes of online time, what would I do? I would do whatever I most wanted at the time, whether it’s writing some emails to friends, focusing on football results, reading music reviews for albums I’ll never listen to, reading articles about politics or entertainment, or whatever else came to mind.
Bonner’s question highlights how the endless scroll of social media has entrapped our time, so that we feel beholden to “keep up” with what has happened while we were gone. It’s also made the internet a more uniform place. What was once the Wild, Wild Web, has now been sanded down, polished and buffed to a sheen of standarised perfection delivered by Google, Facebook and the various tech companies they’ve inspired.
It made me think of Jaron Lanier’s excellent, endlessly quotable, You Are Not A Gadget. I’ll end with two of his thoughts:
“Individual web pages as they first appeared in the early 1990s had the flavour of person-hood. MySpace preserved some of that flavour, though a process of regularized formatting had begun. Facebook went further, organizing people into multiple-choice identities while Wikipedia seeks to erase point of view entirely. If a church or government were doing these things, it would feel authoritarian, but when technologists are the culprits, we seem hip, fresh, and inventive. People accept ideas presented in technological form that would be abhorrent in any other forms.”
“I fear that we are beginning to design ourselves to suit digital models of us, and I worry about a leaching of empathy and humanity in that process.”
When Tom Krell, aka How To Dress Well, released a limited edition of Total Loss, it featured a bonus 7″ single which featured a cover of Robbie Basho’s ‘Blue Crystal Fire’. At the start of that song, Krell dedicates it to his brother whose middle name is Blue.
Last month I saw How To Dress Well perform as part of the Perth International Arts Festival. After the set, the lights came on and everyone was just about to head home when Krell wandered back on stage for an encore. After debating what to sing acapella, he finally settled on a new song called ‘Blue’, named again for his brother. Krell said the song will be on the next How To Dress Well album.
All I had on me was my scratched up iPhone so the video isn’t fantastic, but the vocals come across well enough.
“‘On Invisible Pause’, choreographed by Christopher Arouni, is part of Skånes Dansteater’s performance HAZE, November 4th 2011 in Malmö’s Skånesdansteater. Mixed by Christopher Arouni, Christian Fennesz & Anders Myhrman.”
Music fit for a haunting. Download it here.
I have this reoccurring vision of the day aliens land on Earth. Everybody is long since dust, but thanks to the marvels of modern technology, computers sit idle, waiting to be brought back to life. Inevitably, one of the aliens stirs a computer to reveal a Tumblr dashboard. And there sits a lonely GIF of a porn star dude pumping away at a blonde bombshell, looping in an endless Sisyphean cycle of all grind and no bang.
It’s a scary thought to realise that somewhere out in the interwebs, that stupid dancing baby will outlive us all. But now, with the advent of Vine, we too have the ability to digitally echo on indefinitely.
Over the past year there have been a fair few articles about the rise of the animated GIF. During last year’s Olympic Games coverage GIFs were even used on sites such as the Atlantic Wire and Business Insider to show the briefest highlights of action possible. And anyone who has used Tumblr knows that if a post isn’t of a GIF, eventually it will most likely be reblogged with a “reaction GIF”. There are even blogs dedicated to answering questions using only reaction GIFs.
With all this in mind, a service like Vine now seems inevitable. For the uninitiated, Vine is an app which allows users to make 6 second GIFs, with the option for sound, which can be easily shared through Twitter and Facebook. Twitter users have been divided about Vine, with some questioning it’s “purpose”. However, this is a somewhat ironic complaint to level at Vine on a platform that also faced questions of purpose. Now the “public SMS” service that Twitter provides seems as natural to internet communication as a blue underlined word indicating a link.
While Vine is relatively new, it has received a lot of attention largely due to its ties to Twitter. Some commentators have highlighted it’s brevity as a strength, in the same way that the 140 character limit in Twitter has made people think more about what they are writing. While other commentators have highlighted that same brevity, 6 seconds, as being too short.
Watching Vinepeek, which streams Vine videos as they’re uploaded, shows that the issue at the moment isn’t the length of the posts, but what users are posting. The thing about the recent popularity of GIFs for news coverage or reactions is that they capture very specific moments. There are fandom posts on Tumblr which post GIFs of these little moments – some expert acting, an in joke, a stuff up – exposing and highlighting them for applause or ridicule. But there is always something in the GIF that makes it noteworthy.
While Instagram allows for us to trawl our iPhone photo gallery to find a picture to post, Vine doesn’t allow for the same flexibility. If we video something with our phones, 6 seconds of it can’t be transferred to Vine. A GIF can only be created live in the app. This is fundamentally different from the way reaction GIFs are used online, because they are about finding a moment and isolating it, as opposed to videoing something on the off-chance it might be interesting.
All of which creates the central problem of Vine, as I see it. How will general users, those not trying to craft 6 second narratives (or short, short movies), create worthwhile content? After all, how many interesting moments do we really go through in a day that are worth sharing? Even worse, how many of those moments would we then be sitting with our finger on the screen creating a Vine?
Of course, this is a problem that may well be solved over time as more users explore the possibilities of Vine or scale increases the likelihood of finding friends using the app. And then there is the potential that news sites will be able to use Vine as another fillip to draw people to their site (and slowly kill their print sales).
Vine is still very new and users are still working out how the app works into their social media presence, but that hasn’t stopped Verge from announcing the first “Vine Auteur“. I’m not sure how much art can really be created in 6 seconds, but I suppose time will tell. I’m just hoping people stop posting GIFs of their lunch. It’s not very interesting as an Instagram image, it’s even less interesting as a looping GIF.
This week in Australian politics there were three big pieces of news. Firstly, Julia Gillard announced there would be an election on 14 September; secondly, Craig Thomson was arrested; thirdly, and possibly most importantly, when Gillard announced the election, she wore “hipster glasses”. One issue at a time then:
Gillard’s Hipster Glasses:
Thankfully the press picked right up on this issue, reporting that while Gillard normally wears contacts, she has worn glasses before. The media kerfuffle may well have been because, according to her media manager, these are a new pair. With that cleared up, we’ll move on.
The September Election & The Craig Thomson Affair:
It’s hard to know which headline to look at next, because sadly both issues are so intrinsically linked. As stylish as she looked, the point of Gillard putting on her hipster glasses was to address the National Press Club, during which she announced that there would be a federal election on 14 September. And for a day Australians pondered our two choices, a woman who will fight for equality for women but not for gays and lesbians, and a man who will attack any vulnerable group he can get away with while dodging any real debate. Everything was as it should be.
However, the next morning we awoke to the news that Craig Thomson, accused for so long of improper use of union credit cards during his time with the Health Services Union, had been arrested. So naturally the Opposition only wanted to speak to that, because lord knows they don’t want to actually debate policy issues yet. Actually, Abbott hasn’t wanted to discuss policy the whole time he’s been leader of the Opposition.
Call me cynical, but I expect the sideshow of the Craig Thomson Affair will garner about as much media attention as the impending election. And I get it, a sitting politician needed by the current government to keep a comfortable balance of power is accused of misappropriating funds to get to where he is as well as for *gasp* prostitutes. It’s all brilliant thearte. But it’s also not really relevant to most of the Australian public.
Now I could be wrong, but I have a feeling that if you asked the average punter on the street if they wanted politicians actually debating issues like the two speed economy, mental health issues, education, immigration, promoting multiculturalism, prolonging the mining boom, capitalising on the potential agricultural boom, preparing for communication and technology changes, and the myriad other issues that create a better, more diverse Australia, or to sort out whether Craig Thomson misappropriated union funds for hookers, well, hopefully the answer is self evident.
An election is typically called with 6 weeks notice, this time Gillard called it with 32 weeks notice. There have been those that have raised the possibility that this was to divert public attention away from Labor and to put the spotlight back on an Opposition that has failed to develop true policy positions of any worth. If that was the case however, the very next day the Opposition got just what they would have wanted with the Craig Thomson arrest, a fillip to bait the government with, to question Gillard’s political judgement, and to divert public attention away from an Opposition that has nothing to say.
It is a shame that with all the new ways to communicate in the modern era, both the government and the Opposition seem to have less and less of worth to say. No wonder they are both looking to divert public attention onto each other’s failings instead of trying to claim the spotlight for themselves.