Bookmarked Stepping into the portal – Austin Kleon (Austin Kleon)

You step into the portal and sometimes discover what you didn’t know want to know.

That is the gamble. The roll of the dice.

A book is the safest portal, and a diary is the second-safest portal. They are both private. When it comes to public portals, a blog, I think, is one of the safest, most forgiving portals.

I stepped into the portal a few hours ago and I discovered some things and made some connections that I hadn’t before.

Now I’m going to hit “publish” and step out.

Austin Kleon steps into the digital portal that is his blog as a means of reflecting about the spaces we have to imagine a different world. These include games, books and writing. Sometimes I wonder if we avoid some portals for fear we may not come back?
Reflecting on the practice of archaeology, Gabriel D. Wrobel and Stacey Camp talk about staring at a site and you will start noticing things:

I brought my father to a site where workers had removed the thick foliage so archaeologists could thoroughly map the site. Another archaeologist and I excitedly discussed the visible architectural features – patios, terraces, the stubs of walls. Finally, my dad threw his hands up in the air and said “All I see are rocks!”
But our trained eyes recognized that the piles of stones or earthen mounds we saw were suspiciously aligned. Stare at archaeological sites long enough and you’ll notice them too.

Mark Binelli talks about the way in which Frederick Wiseman makes documentaries from found objects.

He sees himself, he told me, like an artist who makes work from found objects, except in his case, the art is assembled from found events.

Sometimes such a practice involves instilling constraints as Matthew Herbert outlines in his ‘found sounds’ manifesto.

This reminds me of what Alan Levine calls a noticing pattern and being open to the space you are in

Continuing on from my discussion of space and music, I am always apprehensive about playing new music out loud. I feel there is a strange assumption that when you play something out loud you know what is coming. For example, I recently played The Avalanches’ We Will Always Love You and I was asked about the bleeps at the end:

The last song, “Weightless”, contains the sound of morse code, the original 1974 broadcasted message beamed into space, written by Frank Drake with assistance from Carl Sagan among others. It included encoded information about human DNA and other indications of intelligent life to anyone in the cosmic vastness who might be listening.

Although I had an inkling what it was, I was a little lost for words.

I often have the same issue when putting on playlists too.

Today I spent some time in the backyard. A part of this was listening to music. I somehow ended up down a rabbit starting with Empress Of, I then listened to BANKS and, after realising the BJ Burton connection, then moved onto Sylvan Esso. Before jumping ship, going back to Matthew Herbert. Although I did all this in my own physical space, one thing that I often forget about is the shared space of sound.

This reminded me of my next door neighbour growing up. He and his band were in some sort of band and they would play I Shot the Sheriff again and again. (I am going to assume that it was just their song or maybe my poor memory.) This would often be late at night, with little consideration for world around.

In the end, a fence may designate where my property may stop and start, however there is very little to separate sounds, even more so when living in an apartment. As my father once quipped, bass is not designed to be heard in the room you are in, but in the next room over.

I have been reading Fiona Hardy’s How to Write the Soundtrack to Your Life with Ms 9 and am really intrigued by the space created. There is a part of me which keeps on questioning various actions and activities, wondering if they would really happen. Would kids write songs so quick? Would they really have access to a video camera … at lunchtime? However, I also wonder if the problem is me? Maybe, I am not the intended audience? Maybe such books are not about being true, but instead about dreaming in an alternative universe?
I went into Global2 today and cleared out my data before it closes down at the end of this month. I exported the various sites and deleted them. I can understand the decision to move on from Edublogs, however I think that this is (still) a very under-utilised platform. A Google Site is not a blog and it has many limitations.

As we talk about Social Networking 2.0, I wonder what safe spaces we are providing students to experiment and explore?

Kevin Parker reflected on his choice to cover A Girl Like You for Triple J’s Like a Version. He explained the restrictions currently place with the fact that half of the band are not in Perth. These constraints have forced the band to rethink how he performs. It is for this reason that he has started tinkering with a 90s house music setup, built upon programmed loops.

In some ways, this reminds me of the Moog series where artists use the just Moog equipment to reproduce their songs:

I have been watching the Seal Team. One of the key phrases used by the team leader, Jason Hayes, is ‘work the problem’. This relates to going beyond intuition to focus on the situation at hand.

Leaders must “work the problem” through proper and thorough procedures. Specifically, they should:

  1. Define the problem
  2. Determine goals/objectives
  3. Generate an array of alternative solutions
  4. Evaluate the possible consequences of each solution
  5. Use this analysis to choose one or more courses of action
  6. Plan the implementation
  7. Implement with full commitment
  8. Adapt as needed based on incoming data

It is interesting to watch the show and think about the problems that can be broken down and those outside of the sphere of control. Makes me wonder about whether working the problem relates to the space at hand or the space created.

I ate out at a restaurant for the first time today since the start of COVID. It was strange knowing what was appropriate practices in the new normal. There was the line for in and out, the sanitising stations (one of which was empty) and the pre-booking to balance numbers. At the end of it all though, it was easy to look around and find examples of humans and average practices. More than confidence, it felt about faith.
This month, my feeds have been full of Trump. Here is a selection:

Although this is a significant decision for everybody in the world, I wonder if a part of the post-election actions have been as much about Trump’s effort to garner attention. I am reminded here of Doug Belshaw’s post from a few years ago, Curate or be Curated and the challenge that we face in regards to managing our feeds and thinking about who or what is filling our mental space.

After listening to a recent episode on corruption in politics on The Minefield podcast.

During this conversation Waleed Aly, Scott Stevens and Bruce Buchan discuss the current situation at home and abroad, I am left thinking whether people have simply become jaded by such discussions and how this all plays out.

In Tom Barrett’s newsletter, he asked the question, who owns the learning?

This left me thinking about ownership and instead wondering about assemblages and systems.

A desiring machine is an assemblage “always in relation to the big social machines and technological machines” (Deleuze, 2004, p. 243). Language, media, literature, education and capitalism for example always orient a body towards a particular way of expressing desire, to produce a desiring subject so to speak. Desire always precedes subjectivity; subjectivity is the codification of ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ desires within a given body.

From that perspective, it feels like learning becomes about components rather than ownership. Maybe it is technology, maybe teachers, maybe heutagogy or maybe space? Maybe it is about the shock?

Learning, for Deleuze, is an experience which cannot be planned or organised, but that all learning is an event that shocks, causing some form of transformation within the body and mind of the learner.

I have been recording a number of tutorials lately for work. One of the challenges I have is remembering to include every piece of the process. This is easy enough in print form as you can add after the fact, but when you are clicking, talking and checking the script, things become a bit more complicated. To me, it is like texting while driving, it just doesn’t work.
In robotics, there is a concept called the ‘uncanny valley’ where the human-like appearance of a robot is only appealing to a certain point.

In aesthetics, the uncanny valley is a hypothesized relationship between the degree of an object’s resemblance to a human being and the emotional response to such an object. The concept suggests that humanoid objects which imperfectly resemble actual human beings provoke uncanny or strangely familiar feelings of eeriness and revulsion in observers.

I was wondering about this recently in regards to music and covers. A song produced for a record is going to sound different in a live performance space, even if it is a remix. I wonder if there is a similar ‘uncanny valley’ experience where a song gets too close to replicating the original that it becomes a little lost?

In Fiona Hardy’s novel How to Write the Soundtrack to Your Life, the protagonist, Murphy, reflects on the association between songs and feelings.

As more songs played, I kept thinking about that. How songs made people feel different ways, like they were in different seasons. Like they were running, or sitting calmly, or at the beach; or the feeling they had when their dog had gone to the vet and not come back; or when they were at their grandma’s farm and it was night and so dark they could see everything and nothing. And the more they spoke, the more I knew I was desperate to play my keyboard. To make something like these things. To build a feeling.

This had me thinking about the role of music in setting space. For example, the soundtrack to Sons of Anarchy draws on many familar tracks, but interprets them to fit a particular feel. Or David Lynch’s subversive choices, such as the use of Roy Orbison’s In Dreams in Blue Velvet.

To me, Lynch and Orbison both occupy a space in their respective art forms as singular voices. Each seem to traverse or explore more dream-like or subconscious terrain and each bring back a vision that is unique, that is, perhaps, candy colored.

Another way of looking at the creation of space, is the search for a space long lost. This is what Daniel Leviton unpacks in regards to the association between music and the memory of a particular time in life,

I have started reading Cory Doctorow’s novel, Attack Surface. A novel that explores the stories that we tell ourselves. Central to this is the notion of compartmentalisation:

Compartmentalization is a subconscious psychological defense mechanism used to avoid cognitive dissonance, or the mental discomfort and anxiety caused by a person’s having conflicting values, cognitions, emotions, beliefs, etc. within themselves.

Compartmentalization allows these conflicting ideas to co-exist by inhibiting direct or explicit acknowledgement and interaction between separate compartmentalized self-states.

Masha is constantly reorganising her mental space to stay on top of things.

Far as I could tell, there was nothing underneath Ilsa but more Ilsa. It was amazing. I wanted to be like that someday. In one of my compartments, anyway. In another compartment, I hated her and myself for that.

“You realize that you’re compromised now.”

I shrugged. Compromised is only a few letters away from compartmentalized.

It has me thinking about Gilles Deleuze and the concept of multiplicity:

A multiplicity is an entity that originates from a folding or twisting of simple elements. Like a sand dune, a multiplicity is in constant flux, though it attains some consistency for a short or long duration. A multiplicity has porous boundaries and is defined provisionally by its variations and dimensions. Deleuze and Guattari redefine as multiplicities many of the key terms of Western political theory—including race, class, gender, language, state, society, person, and party. Their method aims to render political thinking more nuanced and generous toward difference.

In an interview with Metal Hammer, Tom Morello rues the fact that young people are unwilling to put in the time and effort these days when it comes to mastery.

“I’m disgusted by the fact that a lot of young people these days aren’t willing to sit down and practise the electric guitar for eight hours a day. They are all looking for an easier route to becoming famous. Look at the Top 50 songs on the radio in the US – there are no guitar solos in them. I see [Tom’s 2018 all-star solo album] The Atlas Underground as a Trojan horse. I want it to turn a new generation of kids on to cranking up the guitar.”

In an interview with Tim Shiel, Kate Miller-Heidke touched on the effort and sacrifices required to maintain her skills. In order to preserve her voice, she does not drink, smoke or go out in loud venues.

This sense of dedication reminds me of the story about Picasso’s napkin.

The story goes that Picasso was sitting in a Paris café when an admirer approached and asked if he would do a quick sketch on a paper napkin. Picasso politely agreed, swiftly executed the work, and handed back the napkin — but not before asking for a rather significant amount of money. The admirer was shocked: “How can you ask for so much? It took you a minute to draw this!” “No”, Picasso replied, “It took me 40 years”

It can be so easy to judge a provide off the cuff remarks on a piece of music, without any recognition of the time, effort, sacrifice and nuance that may sit behind it. However, this only captures a part of the space. I guess this is part of Ed Droste’s point it usually takes five listens to form a judgement.

I remember when my mother passed, in the last month it felt like the whole world stopped. However, when I was finally forced by life to reconsider things, it occurred to me that space does not stand still.

In getting the backyard organised for my daughter’s birthday this morning, it dawned on me that during the last month when the last thing on my list of things to do was cutting things back and nurturing the garden, that the garden didn’t care, it just kept on growing. Whether it be the passionfruit vine stretching out even further along the fence line or the lemon tree growing even taller, the garden had kept on going.

I had a similar experience recently as the restrictions put in place to get on top of Melbourne’s second wave were lowered. I breathed again and moved beyond the day-to-day to consider again with the world outside. In the process I discovered that an old friend had been diagnosed with cancer.

In Alex Hern’s recent newsletter, he discusses the importance of ‘setting your eyes on the horizon’.

I think it’s important to set your eyes on the horizon. Find some things a couple of weeks away, a month away, maybe more, and just let yourself get excited about them. Maybe try and book some time off work in the middle of the week to do something you wouldn’t normally devote a day to. Upgrade your TV dinners to film nights with popcorn, and rent a movie you actually want to see rather than just picking whatever’s included with your Netflix subscription.

I agree with that, this is how I got through. Keep an eye on the prize. However, I guess it is also important to keep connected to world around you.

When my mother died, a colleague told me it can take years to come to grips with it. A part of me understood, but was also perplexed with why. As our daughters grow older, they have me reflecting on my own childhood, about what I did and how I acted at the time. Maybe it is one of those mysteries of time and memory that cannot be known, but I still find myself wanting to ask my mother questions. It has taught me that there are just some spaces in life that cannot be filled, merely acknowledged.
After six months, I got my hair cut today. Playing it safe, I got it cut short. I know with all the discussion of donuts and lowering of restrictions that I should be more confident, however for me, confidence takes time. One of the things I noticed afterwards was my experience of space. In particular, I felt more aware of the temperature, of the breeze blowing or chill in the air.
Just behind my old office there was a box. An innocuous box. I only noticed it when my principal showed it to me one day. It was a pump for a spring, with the water pumped into a nearby lake. For me it is a reminder of how we can think we are in control of land and space, but it would seem that we are only ever managing it, at best?