Basic Conversation >Lesson 3: Huh?
Basic Conversation >Lesson 3: Huh?
Basic Conversation >Lesson 2: Do you speak English?
Como se diz em português?
Basic Conversation >Lesson 1: I speak a little Portuguese
João e Dona Ana à Conversa
Informal You and Formal You >Lesson 5
Informal You and Formal You >Lesson 4
O que queres jantar?
Informal You and Formal You >Lesson 3
Informal You and Formal You >Lesson 2
Informal You and Formal You >Lesson 1
Os Inteligentes e os Espertos
The Verbs Ser and Estar >Lesson 7
The Verbs Ser and Estar >Lesson 6
how to enjoy the real world
1. don't try present life as more beautiful than it already is (this is hard in both interpretations)
2. take photos right before you leave rather than when you first alive
I got new glasses today. The last time I bought a pair of glasses must have been 5 years ago. They were Warby Parker. And they cost $100. This new pair was significantly more expensive than that. By orders of magnitude. But I bought them because a) Warby Parker doesn't exist here and b) being able to see is important. And if I consider that it'll likely be another 5 years before I get another pair of glasses, the investment seemed worth it.
"Worth it" is an interesting concept when it comes to aesthetic objects. Because when you buy an aesthetic object (anything that augments your visual appearance in any way) it's hard to quantify what /value/ you're getting out of them.
Or at least I thought so until today.
Today, I have come to a new understanding of aesthetic augmentation. And only because I've done a lot of it recently.
I think that there's two main functions of aesthetic augmentation.
The first is to deal with the the kind of dysmorphia that we all experience on some level - to close to gap between the platonic vision of ourselves and the self that exists in reality. I feel more like myself with bleach blonde hair and tattoos. Even though I was born with a full head of brown hair and unblemished skin.
The other function is (and I'm being very honest here) to make ourselves more visually attractive.
And so when we're investing money into aesthetic augmentation (whether they be permanent like tattoos, semi-permanent like glasses, or temporary like a pair of pants) it's actually quite easy to understand what the outcome should be.
Whatever we pay for an aesthetic augmentation or object, we should feel proportionately /more/ like the platonic ideal of ourselves, or proportionately /more/ attractive.
By that litmus test "worth it" becomes easy to measure.
Was my new chest tattoo worth it? Yes. Not only do I feel €180 more like myself. I also feel €180 more attractive.
But were my glasses worth it? By this measure. No.
And, to be fair, it would be hard to push the needle as much as it they would need to in order to qualify. I look like myself, sure, but I also look like myself /without/ the glasses. The glasses don't make me look €300 /more/ like myself. Nor do they make me look €300 more attractive.
They look like glasses. And I look like a guy who needs them to see.
Does that mean that I shouldn't have bought them? Maybe. I'm sure there are glasses that could make me feel more of both of these things. But €300 more? Probably not. I think for glasses the maximum improvement in either of those fields maxes out at around €100. Which, coincidentally, is how much the frames cost by themselves. (The additional €200 is because of the Zeiss lenses).
Is this a bulletproof theory? Probably not. But it's a functional one. Next time I'm deciding on any sort of aesthetic investment, I'm going to ask the question: "Does this make me feel €[xx] more like myself or €[xx] more attractive?"
Because those are both things worth paying for. And it's also an easy way to understand if something is over or under valued.
The Verbs Ser and Estar >Lesson 5
The Verbs Ser and Estar >Lesson 4
I am currently drinking a very good €3 bottle of white wine that I bought at the grocery store.
As a matter of habit (and a matter of taste) I usually drink natural wine. Good, artisanal stuff that you certainly can't get at the grocery store and certainly not for €3.
But, as so many people have asked before, why spend €20 on a good bottle of hard to obtain natural red when you could spend €3 at the corner and have an experience that's just as delicious.
After all (haven't you heard?) they've done double blind taste tests that prove even sommeliers can't tell an expensive bottle from a cheap one.
There are many answers to this question. Of course there are. I am not on the side of either. I think drinking cheap wine is fine. I think drinking expensive wine is fine. I just want to drink good wine.
But the reason I drink natural wine is because it's a sure thing. It's a shortcut to good taste. But it's also an insurance policy against bad or boring wine.
Natural wine (in its stricter definition) is wine without any of the bullshit, tricks, and method that you can legally add to wine to make it taste good. No sugar to correct the taste. No sulfites to stop it from over fermenting. Just grapes, nature, technique, and timing. Also, natural wine often does away with /all/ the things that make winemaking easy: pesticides, machines, etc etc.
It's making wine on hard mode. You have to be insane to do it. And so the people that do do it, more often than not, are insane.
Basically, the price of entry to making natural wine is that you have to /really/ give a shit.
So the people that make it are nerds. They're artists and poets and botanists and astronomers and astrologers and weirdos whose only tools are time and the sun and the moon and the vibes and maybe a goat or two.
They do it knowing that it will be painful and that it's likely that it won't work. That it is painful and often doesn't work is what dictates the price most of the time. What you are buying is more of a sculpture made of soil than it is a drink.
Anyway. The point is that when you select out like that - when you know that the only people doing something are the ones who really give a fuck - then the products that you end up with are often worth giving a fuck about.
The thing about €3 grocery store wine is that while there are many that are good, there are also many that are bad. It's hard to know which ones are worth caring about and which aren't. And even when one's good. It's really hard to tell why.
If I go back to the grocery store and want to replicate my experience, which part of it should I bet on? The grapes? (Moscatel) Or the region? (Setúbal) Or the winemaker? (João Pires)
But then again. Do I event want a similar experience?
The person who taught me to love natural wine (hi Lisa!) taught me to love it because it's better (no sulfites and no sugar = no hangovers) but also because it's more interesting. It's more artistic. She taught me that each bottle being different is the point. That what you're tasting isn't really a grape, it's an interpretation, it's what somebody did with the raw materials. But most important, that it's something that somebody spent time to really care about making good.
In that way, it's no different to any other act of creation. And if I had to put my money - €3 or otherwise - on somebody, I'm going to put it on the person that cares the most.
On 20 July 1969, 652 million people - or about 1/5th of everyone on earth at the time - watched the first humans land on the moon.
Eight years later, in 1997, 2 billion people around the world watched Princess Diana's funeral.
And in 2012, 3.6 billion people watched the Olympic Games in London.
Technology, for better or worse, has dramatically increased the ability for collective human experience.
It's made it so that the population of the world can all witness, or mourn, or marvel at the same thing at the same time.
But there's one thing that we don't have figures for that I bet smashes all these records. And instead of being a once in a lifetime event, it's something that happens, without fail, at the end of every day.
There are so few things that are really universally enjoyed. But no matter where you go in the world, when the day ends, and what's left of the sun's light explodes across the sky, you'll find people (who otherwise have nothing in common) gathered together to marvel at the setting sun.
The magnetism of a sunset is one of those unexplainable quirks of the human experience. It's so impossible to not like sunsets that admitting that you do borders on the same level of non-statement as saying that you like to travel. But exponentially more so.
I've often wondered why we watch sunsets. If there is some sort of evolutionary reason. Like maybe it makes sense that we would take the time to collectively make note of the end of the day. Because darkness has always historically meant danger. And that to watch the sun dip below the horizon is to know you're safe for the last time until tomorrow.
At more sentimental times, I've thought that maybe it's a celebration. A kind of gratitude at having made it through the end of another day on earth.
Or maybe, most likely, it's because we know that, when we see a sun set, we're witnessing something special. Something magical. That, like all of the most beautiful and magical parts of being a human, we don't entirely understand.
But despite all that, a sunset isn't a reliable and repeatable miracle. It's entirely understandable and explainable result of the structure of our solar system.
So what are we seeing when we're looking at a sunset?
Let's begin at the beginning.
The Verbs Ser and Estar >Lesson 2
Getting better at hearing
The Verbs Ser and Estar >Lesson 1
Pedro e João à Refeição
On 20 July 1969, 652 million people - or about 1/5th of the world's population at the time - watched the Apollo 11 Moon landing.
In 1997, 2 billion people watched Princess Diana's funeral.
And in 2012, 3.6 billion people watched the Olympic Games in London.
Technology, for better or worse, has dramatically increased the ability for collective human experience. It's made it so that the population of the world can all, at one time, witness, or mourn, or marvel at the same thing at the same time.
But there's one thing that we don't have figures for that I bet smashes all these records. And instead of being a once in a lifetime event, it's something that happens, without fail, at the end of every day.
[who are you,little i
(five or six years old)
peering from some high
window;at the gold
of november sunset
(and feeling: that if day
has to become night
this is a beautiful way)]
The human experience is so unique that there are so few things that are universally enjoyed. But no matter where you go in the world, when the day ends, and what's left of the sun's light explodes across the sky, you'll find people who've stopped what they're doing to gather together and marvel at the setting sun.
The magnetism of a sunset is one of those unexplainable quirks of the human experience.
But regardless of why we do it, when we watch a sunset, we know that we're seeing /something/ special.
But what exactly is it that we're /seeing/?
I think vibes are super important. I want this to be a beautiful thing to listen to. So maybe I'll take some time to set vibes first. When I think about watching a sunset I'm usually thinking about being on a beach. Or watching it from the viewpoint here in Graça. But the quintessential image, the most universal one, is being on a beach watching the image of the sun stretch towards us through the waves.
- The universal beauty of sunsets
(maybe comparing it to other things that get a lot of universal viewers. the superbowl. the soccer world cup final. things that so many people are all watching at the same time. but there's something that I'd bet beats all those things. and it happens every day.)
[e.e. cummings poem]
- That there are so few things that everyone enjoys, but that nobody can resist the beauty of a sunset
(I don't know what it is. But it's magnetic. No matter where you go, when the sun does its final salute, people gather to watch it. Maybe it's something evolutionary. That we're acknowledging the coming night. That we're savouring the last light of the day. That we're watching one miracle to give thanks for another - that we've survived through another day.)
- That it's easier to think of a as a poetic, rather than a scientific thing
(I think it's natural to think of the sunset as a kind of metaphor. As a poetic thing rather than a scientific one. Regardless of why we do it, when we watch a sunset we know that we're seeing something special.
But what is it exactly that we're /seeing/?)
- Contemplating a sunset. That often, when we're looking at a sunset, we're thinking about everything except for what we're seeing.
- So what are we seeing?
- Like most beautiful things. It's complicated.
[Sagan Quote: If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.]
- So let's begin at the beginning.
[START W/ BIG BANG]
I suffer from the same thing that a lot of creative people I know do - the need for preamble. The need to explain a thing before showing it. To try explain why we made a thing. What's important about it. Before we actually do the thing.
It's an opportunity we take because it's so infrequently offered to us. We almost never get to explain ourselves. And when given the platform, we do it. Which I think is a mistake.
I'm writing this preamble so that I don't write one in the actual piece. I'm working out a way into the story. But in reality, a sunset is a universal enough thing that I don't need to explain why I was wondering about them.
At the beginning of this journal I explain why I'm doing what I'm doing - I was flying over some mountains in South Africa and, trying to go through everything I knew about them in my head, I realized that my understanding of /most/ things is super flimsy.
I think there's a huge gap between the audience for understanding and the audience that's interested in a thing like sunsets. The audience for sunsets is every human alive. And the audience for explainers about them is people who are willing to spend a couple days watching science content on youtube and reading wikipedia.
I'm going to output these pieces as audio essays. Because that's the way that my mind thinks of explaining things. Sound is the way I "draw" pictures in my mind. I could explain any concept better using sound than I can using words or video or any other medium.
So anyway. That's the preamble. Now into the real thing. Or at least, into a draft that's getting closer to the real thing.
Last night I watched one of the most confusing movies I've ever seen in theatre. It was called (Siberia)[https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4687856/] and, although I did arrive a couple minutes after it started (I was starving and you weren't allowed to eat popcorn in the theatre. So my friend Sophie and I stood outside eating popcorn until we were fairly certain we weren't going to die.) I don't think that whatever I missed in the first few minutes could have explained what I saw in the next 90.
I was conflicted about what to write about it here because I didn't know what I felt about it. I didn't /like/ it. But there were things that I liked /about/ it. At times the cinematography bordered on genius. There were individual frames in that film that undoubtably belonged in an art gallery.
The film itself wasn't enjoyable. But I'm also fairly certain that the director hadn't intended for it to be. It was probably intentionally hard to watch. It wasn't supposed to be an easy or relaxing experience as an audience. But even knowing that, I still didn't think it was very good.
When I woke up this morning I found myself thinking a lot about the beautiful frames that belonged in an art gallery and very little about the weird story that belonged in a student film exhibition.
When watching the film, I was thinking about how many people worked on it. That there was an editor who cut the footage together in this way that made no sense to me. That there was a cinematographer who poured so much artistry into a film that few people would like. That there were actors who spent hours and hours on set recording a series of weird stilted monologues that belong more on a stage than they do on a screen.
When I was there experiencing it these things seemed like they were a waste. Like an embarrassment. But today I feel differently about it.
I think there's value in creating /anything/. In having an idea and bringing it to life. In labouring over something for your own enjoyment. For your own catharsis. So that you can be the same person in the world that you are in your head.
As somebody who struggles so often to create the things that I dream of making, I now realize that the feeling I felt is actually jealously. It's not "how did this get made?" it's "if this person can make this, why can't I make the things that I want so badly to create?"
I cry a lot in movies. And often in movies that (I'd imagine) aren't trying to elicit that emotional response. I cried in La La Land. I cried in The Last Black Man in San Francisco. And, although they're very different films, I cried in them for the same reason. It was so moving to me that somebody /made/ this thing that wasn't for everyone. But that obviously was for them. I cry because I know how much they would have had to believe in themselves so much, for so long, in order to make it happen. I cry because I know there's probably a lot of times where they wanted to give up but didn't. I cry because this person who made this thing exists. And so does the thing they were brave enough to make.
So should you watch Siberia? Fuck no. But does that mean it shouldn't have been made? No. But it does mean that you should make the things that speak to you. That are begging to get out of you. Because there is space for it in the world. There are people that will cry watching it. The people that it's for. Even if that person isn't me.
Likes and Dislikes >Lesson 3: Good and Bad
Likes and Dislikes >Lesson 2: What Do They Like?
Likes and Dislikes >Lesson 1: What Do You Like?
Introduce Yourself >Lesson 3: Where Are You From?
Took all day to make this because of weird tech issues of different varieties. This is the raw file that I'll edit when I can.
Is there a way to predict how beautiful a sunset will be?
The more stuff there is for the light to shine on, the better and more dramatic a sunset is going to look. A clear day with clouds is going to have a better sunset than a clear day without clouds.
Clouds give the light something to bounce off and get caught in. The more particles (water) in the atmosphere, the more of the light is going to be visible to us.
At noon, in the middle of the day, the sun is directly above the earth. And so the light that's shining down is travelling down directly through the atmosphere. In order to reach the earth, it just has to travel /directly/ through 60 miles of atmosphere.
But as the earth rotates, and the angle of the sun becomes more oblique, the light has to travel /sideways/ through the atmosphere in order to get to us on earth.
And so, as the angle changes, so does the /amount/ of atmosphere that the light has to travel through. More travelling through the atmosphere means more opportunity for the light to bump into and bounce off of more particles, and because of that /more/ of those weak blue waves are bounced off into the atmosphere.
So the sky becomes /more/ blue, and the light reaching earth becomes /less/ blue. That's why we get golden hour. By the time the sun is setting, all the blue wavelengths have been taken out of the white light, leaving only the waves that are pink, red, and yellow.
The sunlight is still white, but now only the /red/ parts of that light actually make it to earth. Because those waves are the only ones with enough energy to make it through the the atmosphere and to our eyes.
It's not that these waves aren't bouncing around in the sky during the day, it's just that they're so dramatically outnumbered by blue waves that we can only seem them once all the blue waves are gone.
What we're seeing, each sunset, is the last fingers of the sun's light spreading through the atmosphere, before the angle of the earth eclipses the sun entirely and none of it reaches our eyes anymore.
I'm so sorry…
first draft con't:
Light leaving the sun contains /all/ the colours that we can see. And it contains them in equal intensity. So if you were to look at sunlight directly (please don't do this) it'd be white.
And it would stay white too, if it weren't for the earth's atmosphere.
Just like gravity keeps us from floating off the earth, gravity keeps gasses from floating off into space. And these gasses - things like oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen - make a blanket over the earth that we call the atmosphere. The atmosphere is mostly gas. But it also has little bits of things from earth, tiny, microscopic particles of rocks, sand, dust, water and other space junk.
If we could see these gases and space junk, the atmosphere would look like a big cloud that stretches over the entire earth. But we can't. Because they're too small.
But you know what else is really small?
In fact, some of these light waves - the low frequency ones like purple and blue - are so skinny that they're smaller than the size of the particles floating around in the atmosphere.
So when the white light from the sun makes its way into the earth's atmosphere, a lot of these skinny waves of light can't actually make it past the atmosphere. They're blocked by and bounce off these tiny particles, and scatter back out into the atmosphere before actually hitting the surface of the earth.
The skinniest waves of light - the blue and purple ones - are the least likely to make it all the way to earth. And so they mostly bounce around in the atmosphere without ever reaching earth.
If you look up, you can actually see these light waves stuck up there in the atmosphere. They're why the sky looks blue.
But, of course, the sky isn't /always/ blue…
Introduce Yourself >Lesson 2: Who Are You?
Introduce Yourself >Lesson 1: How Are You?
Hi, welcome to part 98123712837 of me bitching about how much being cold sucks.
Recently I wrote about daylight hours as a determining factor in where one decides to live.
I'd like to introduce you to another equation that should be an important part of the 'where to live' question: sustained average temperature.
Central heating was invented in 1816. Insulation was invented in the 1940s. Unfortunately, 200 years later, neither invention has made its way to Portugal.
It is currently 7 degrees in Lisbon [-7C below my minimum temperature threshold]. And enduring this temperature, for me, has been much harder than enduring any Canadian winter.
Let's use Marco's Comfort Constant (MCC) of 14 degrees.
The weather in Toronto is currently 1C or -13MCC.
The weather in Lisbon is currently 7C or -7MCC.
In order to be a happy, healthy person, I need to be walking outside for around 2 hours.
In order to walk for 2 hours outside in Toronto I would have to endure a total of -26MCC (arrived at by multiplying temp x time). In Lisbon I need to endure -14MCC.
Based on that measurement alone, Lisbon is a much more pleasant place to be. Yay.
But what about the other 22 hours of the day?
In Toronto, the average indoor temp is about 22C or +8MCC.
In Lisbon, the average indoor temp is THE SAME FUCKING TEMPERATURE AS IT IS OUTSIDE. Or -7MCC.
Let's extrapolate the numbers here and see what my average temp would be in each place during a day.
(2*-13) + (22*8) = 150
150/24 = 6.25M
OR, on average, I am +6.25MCC
(24*-7) = -168
-168/24 = -7
OR, on average, I am 13.25C COLDER THAN I WOULD BE IN CANADA.
The other thing that you can't really factor in is the psychological suffering of existing in a state of cold that has no end. In Canada there is a solution to being cold. Go inside. In Lisbon, I have to endure this until the earth spins on its axis enough to be summer again.
What I am trying to say is that I live an in eternal tundra from which there is no escape. I wake up cold. I go to sleep cold. I am typing this, in my home, with a winter jacket and shoes on. My fingers are numb.
I am chilled. To the bone. And I do not know if I'll ever know what it feels like to be warm again.
fuck first drafts are so embarrassing but here's where I'm at so far.
Okay so I think /basically/ what we're talking about with a sunset is this.
The big bang set the universe in motion. Not metaphorically, but quite literally. Every single thing in the universe - every atom and quark and particle - is moving.
How much a thing moves is called energy. And on earth almost /all/ our energy comes from the sun.
Energy /radiates/ out from the sun in waves that we call /light/.
Although /light/ does include everything that we can see with our eyes. It also includes other kinds of waves that we can't. Microwaves - the kind that heats our food and radio waves - the kind that let us listen to music - are all /kinds/ of light. We just can't see them.
You know how there are some animals that can hear things that are either too high or too low for human ears to hear? Well the exact same thing is true when it comes to light.
Humans only see a tiny sliver of all the light that the sun gives off. And we call the light that we /can/ see the 'visible spectrum'. Or in other words, the /range/ of light that is visible with the human eye.
Just like sound, whether or not we can see light depends on its /frequency/. Because light is a wave, the frequency just means how tall and powerful a wave is. How much energy it has.
Remember, frequency is a measurement of energy.
So if you were on a beach looking at waves, which would be high frequency? A strong, tall, fast wave? Or a small, slow, calm one?
Imagine if we decided that we wanted to put all the waves in a beach into categories based on their size and speed, and we named those categories after colours. So big, fast waves would be red, and small, slow waves would be blue.
This is exactly how it works for us. Our eyes interpret each different size of wave as a different colour. The frequency is like a little code between the sun and our eyes to help our brain understand what colour something is.
The more you learn the more you realize why people used to believe crazy shit about the origins of the world.
Even the things that we know sound a little bit mysterious and made up.
The four fundamental forces that are responsible for everything that happens in the universe are gravity, electromagnetism (sounds legit so far) and then STRONG FORCE and WEAK FORCE.
As Crianças e os Adultos
Introduction to Verbs >Lesson 4: Comer and Partir
They mixed endings (er and ir) on this one which made it harder to remember. Only noticed that now :)
Introduction to Verbs >Lesson 3: Falar
Introduction to Verbs >Lesson 2: Ser
"Light receptors within the eye transmit messages to the brain, which produces the familiar sensations of color. Newton observed that color is not inherent in objects. Rather, the surface of an object reflects some colors and absorbs all the others. We perceive only the reflected colors."
The other day somebody I care about sent me a story by Isaac Asimov called The Last Question.
A lot of people I really like happen to really like sci-fi literature. I've never really gotten into it myself.
And so while the story itself was interesting, I found myself thinking more about the /form/. About sci-fi itself.
People make it sound like sci-fi is about the future. But I don't think that's true at all. I think sci-fi is about the eternal present. Because sci-fi isn't about technology. It's about fears, conflicts, and concerns that - yes, will exist in the future - but have also have existed since the beginning of time.
Sci-fi always feels current because it's always still talking about the future (if you can get over the pedantry of the dates that authors often arbitrarily include). The things in sci-fi have either not yet come to pass or (in the cases of technology) have - and either feel obvious and natural.
Reading this story in particular, it's obvious that "a computer that can answer any question" was almost entirely theoretical back then (1956). That it does now doesn't feel spectacular. At least not to me. And Asimov's vision of the technology of the future doesn't seem out of place either. It seems inevitable. Whether that inevitability is real or informed by Asimov's vision of the future itself I can't be sure.
Sci-fi is about /possible/ futures. About imagined futures. And I think that maybe we've reached a point where all futures are imaginable. Where all futures are possible. Where we are so aware that we cannot predict or avoid any future more than the other.
The thing that I do find revealing is the /tone/ Asimov has about the future. Modern sci-fi's focus on technology seems to me to be focused on a world where things continue /as they current are/ as opposed to one where the world is unimaginably different to the one that we have today.
Maybe in Asimov's day an all powerful computer was something one could be ambivalent about. Today it's something almost entirely quotidian in our imaginings of near and distant futures. What we seem more concerned about isn't how dramatically things might change. But what the dramatic effect of them /not/ changing might be.
Okay so now that I understand all of this I had to go back and ask why the sky was blue. And this dude just explained sunsets lol. I'm not sure that I would have understood this before? But now I do. Is this the end?
Damn this was the most informative video ever. I'm not sure if it just smashed it out of the park or if I feel that way because it filled in all the knowledge gaps I had left.
"The energy of light tells us how it'll interact with matter"
"Our eyes are only sensitive to a very narrow band of energy"
LOL THE UNIVERSE IS LITERALLY /VIBES/
and we can't see any of it!
"Rods measure brightness so we know how much light there is. And Cones measure colour".
Cones are just basically specialized tools that detect certain wavelengths. Because we have 3 kinds (R,G,B) the sum of those measurements can create all the colours that we can see.
God here I am again saying that it helps to understand the semantics of the thing…but honestly it's true. Ideas become much more easy to understand when we understand what the words we're using mean.
a brief dictionary:
[light] is any electromagentic energy. which includes, but is not limited to, /visible light/. xrays, microwaves, radio waves, are all light. it's just that humans can only see a very limited sliver of all light that exists.
[frequency] of a wave is an expression of how much energy there is in a wave. Really, this kind of frequency is the same as the other kind of frequency which means "how often". The /higher/ the frequency, the /more/ waves fit into the same space or amount of time.
// I know this probably doesn't make sense to other people yet, but it makes sense to me and helps me outline the things that are important to explain
CrashCourse is one of my favourite projects in the universe.
Simple stuff I'm learning here:
- light is energy
- when you heat up matter it gains energy and wants to get rid of it
- since light is energy, emitting light is a way to get rid of energy
- the kind of light an object emits depends on its temp.
- if you look at the light spectrum it makes sense that the short waves (more energy) are the ones we associate with heat and vice versa
by this metric lightbulbs make sense to me now. it's energy.
accidentally learned some really cool shit about taking photos of stars and how we know what distant planets are made of
This I understand the most. Hate that "simple" explanations often omit the most important part. Obviously the thing that I want to know is /what/ properties impact which wavelengths are reflected? Like how do we get paint that looks like different colours to us?
Going to look into reflection and absorption of light today. Tried to sum it up quickly in a sentence here and failed so this'll be fun.
Introduction to Verbs >Lesson 1: Ser
Conjugating "ser" - to be.
Turns out a lot of them feel intuitive already.
Am noticing issues hearing the difference between "um" and "o" (a and the)
João e os Livros
Short convo between two guys about books. Was cool that the quiz was in Portuguese.
pergunta = question
Basic Grammar >Lesson 6: With
I've had mixtapes on the mind ever since I listened to the incredible episode of Louder than a Riot about DJ Drama and the death of the mixtape. The episode featured a lot of excerpts of Drama's early mixtapes and I was instantly struck by the unpretentiousness and authenticity of them.
I loved that they were hosted. Loved the adlibs. The interludes. There was a kind of theatre to them - a scrappiness that I recognized from my early days of creating where you'd throw in anything that really made the thing work. It didn't matter if it made sense, or had precedent. It was a way of communicating. And communication really has no rules.
Ever since then I've been thinking about mixtapes and what they could mean for me. Mixtapes don't really exist in my life, but other kinds of storytelling, other kinds of curated suggestion, are more prevalent than ever.
I've also been thinking of broader, more encompassing formats of communication. Especially as you meet and connect with people, is there a /thing/ that you can create that can communicate your identity more effectively?
Suggestions and recommendations have always - for me - been the most direct path to understanding. I share things I like with people I like so they can exist instead my head for a bit. You can tell who I am by watching a movie I like. The movie tells you more than I could about how I exist in the world. What I believe and what I feel.
I've started to wonder about a format - a kind of mixtape - that exists over a massive timescale. What if there was an audiofile, for example, that was hours long, curated around a single mood, feeling, place, or emotion?
There was a video version of this in Toronto - people curating visual mixtapes - but I think audio might be a format that feels more correct to me. What if, over the course of several hours, you listened to songs, podcasts, and audiobooks that immersed you in a certain kind of world.
Spotify is sort of starting to do this - combining playlists of music, podcasts, and other audio. But I think there's space for a more raw version. A re-emergence of a kind of mixtape. It won't be for everyone but it'll be for someone. It'd definitely be for me.
I love to live in moods and emotions. Imagine a week's worth of audio about nostalgia. Songs. And excepts of books, and movies, and soundscapes. I don't know how or when I'll start exploring this. Only that I will.
Song Exploder is a super popular podcast and Netflix TV show (although it doesn't work as well in visual format) about how music is made.
It's a show that's built for marvel, not mastery. Which means that it teaches you how things are made, but not how to make them.
The creators of song exploder believe in the myth that there is something special about creative people and about creation. That making unique things is a result of /being/ unique. The show is not for people who want to make music themselves.
It's for people who want to marvel at the ability of other people to make music. It's for people who want to continue to believe in magic.
It is cool to hear how people construct a song. It's cool to hear the little parts that you may have noticed. It's informative. But it's not educational.
Information isn't helpful if it can't be applied. I'm not saying that everything should be useful. Or even that Song Exploder /isn't/. Only that there's a difference between that people - sometimes even the people making the thing - don't notice between useful and useless information.
Useless information is entertainment. Useful information is entertainment. The only difference is in the purpose of the information. The distance between how I did something and how you can do it too.
our eyes have evolved receptors that are sensitive to light. which means that we have cells in our bodies that are reactive (or able to absorb) certain kinds of energy. those cells are like a meter that can read these energy waves. so they're a tiny little meter like maybe a tuner for a guitar that causes the cells to vibrate at a certain frequency. it tells you how much energy is in something (a wave).
so it's like a meter that measures an amount of energy and turns that measurement into an electrical signal. it actually changes the amount of electricity in the cell.
photons carry light. and the receptors in our retinas convert photon energy into an electrical signal that our brains can read as colour?
I wonder how the brain understands the light.
the main source of light (or of visible energy) on earth is the sun.
interesting wiki outtake:
In physics, the term light sometimes refers to electromagnetic radiation of any wavelength, whether visible or not. In this sense, gamma rays, X-rays, microwaves and radio waves are also light.
shit got deep really quickly. started looking into light and discovered electromagnetic radiation.
basically everything in the universe is moving. it has energy. we think of radiation (at least I do) in a pretty narrow sense. like xrays, cellphone towers. generally bad stuff. but radiation really just means something that radiates. something that spreads out from a certain point.
electromagnetic radiation is all energy in the universe. so you pretty quickly have to go back to the big bang making a whole lot of sense. because something started all this movement. the point that universe radiates from is the big bang.
anyway electromagnetic radiation is /all/ energy. and it radiates out in waves. waves like the ocean towards the shore. waves like sound. energy is exerted and pushes the waves through space. it's the tide of everything…
we're actually vaguely familiar with most kinds of waves on the electromagnetic spectrum (a spectrum that basically measures the length of waves)
the waves go from gamma and xrays (the shortest) to light waves (medium) to things like microwaves and radio waves. the longest radio waves are 100000 km.
everything in the universe is in constant motion. the capacity for motion - how much something can move, or how much movement it can create - is called energy.
so light is a kind energy. it radiates out from a certain point. and travels in waves.
we know that we can't see all kinds of energy (we can't see radiowaves) but /can/ see other kinds. the kind of electromagnetic energy we can see is called light.
to me, that makes infrared light make sense. it's not that it's colours that we can't see. it's that we can't see /most/ energy. light is unique in that we can. and only because our eyes have evolved to. it's a thing that exists in the universe. but also that exists in our eyes. and within the limits of our perception.
so above the fold now looks like…
the alliteration is a bit hardcore right now. like the sentence doesn't feel smooth. but it's sentimentally correct for me. so going to let that bounce around in my head while I work out the rest of the page.
futureland is a place to create identity through creation and repetition
futureland is a place for creative people to do, track and measure more of what matters
futureland is a place for creative people to do and track experiments on a daily basis
futureland is a place for creative people to do anything everyday
futureland is a place build around the creative process
/futureland is a place for collective creative experimentation/
the point of this sentence is just to get people to want to learn more basically.
I do feel like a place for collective creative experimentation is a more compelling and more accurate description than "a new kind of journal" but have a feeling @internetvin won't like the idea lol. he's a really smart dude and often sees things that I don't.
kk so then we need to explain what you're adding a journal to.
@internetvin has mentioned that FL should feel more like a /place/ wherever possible so let's start there.
if futureland is a place, what kind of place is it?
futureland is a place…
- to create, keep, track, and measure more of what matters to you
- for creative people to…
helps to answer what it is, and who it is for.,
what - futureland is a place (a community, an online journal, it's a thing you visit, but also a place you exist)
what - futureland is a collection of tools
what - futureland is a new kind of journal
the issue that I have with /journal is that it relates too directly to an existing symbol and it sets up FL in opposition to "old" journals. As a human my question is why do I need a new kind of journal? The value of journaling with FL isn't inherent in the word journal itself.
who - artists* and creative people* or people who create*
there's also an element of ambition in FL, we start journals because we want to mindfully record, or track, or learn, or create a thing on an ongoing basis and see what happens. because we want to watch ourselves evolve.
we want to create and be things that don't exist yet. not in the sense that they don't exist tangibly (although this is also true) but in that we don't know what will exist if we keep doing the things that we're doing. in a way it's also a place for experiments. which has always felt like the vibe. many of us are people who are /trying/ to do something and /seeing/ what happens.
FL is unique in that it's the place that we both try and see or show what happens.
so is FL a place for running, measuring, and tracking creative experiments?
there's also an element of organization and motivation. daily, for example, empowers you to do the things that you want to be doing more often. it's an easy way to commit to an experiment. the thesis is that every day is the right cadence to run many or most experiments.
that to /be/ something (an identity statement) you simply have to do that thing everyday.
you are what you do. so do more of what you want to be.
* I also understand that this doesn't apply to ALL FL users. but it's definitely the most consistent thread amongst them.
in a way, FL is a place for people who want to become who they are by doing what they want every day.
it's a tool for experimental living.
kk so section 1:
CTA should be more clear.
- add a journal
Feels low stakes. Sign up process is pretty quick (especially relative to other online tools) and so it's not really dishonest to funnel people to FL under a "add a journal" CTA. Also gives you more insight into what using FL is like.
Why "add" Because it alludes to the collective aspect of FL (you're adding or contributing to the community) but also because it mirrors the language used on the daily sidebar.
Basic Grammar >Lesson 5: And, But, Or
Basic Grammar >Lesson 4: And, But, Or
when I wake up going to bang through some variations for a structure that looks like this:
1. one liner [what is the website that I'm even on]
2. what FL is [value prop]
3. how it works [in action/videos]
4. join CTA
think we can maybe consolidate CTAs for joining and downloading ios app? giving you two ways to get started?
also need something aspirational for here.
structurally wonder if this is the right place for this but I guess depends on where we land for what this is. if any CTA is attempting to /convert// then it's this one. interesting to have something to loo at and to be thinking about the language. what would be the tipping point before hitting /join/?
or, in other words, what is the thing that people will happen /after/ they click the button.
Really like the value prop part here. Going to work on what the points should be here. This is definitely a case where having a design makes it way easier to know what to do.
CTA here is mobile based. So wonder if value prop should be mobile focused? or if value prop could be moved to another section maybe?
I think with FL it's more about finding the people who are already vibrating on a certain frequency vs 'converting' and so how CTAs are constructed and presented should be a reflection of that. 'conversion' isn't the right word here. which is why I think the value prop or /benefits/ of FL maybe belong somewhere else because the value of FL and the value of downloading FL to your phone are two different things (imo at least).
Phone might be things like adding posts and media from anywhere, faster tracking (for journals like water) wherever you are etc.
Second CTA area. This is the least traditional one. Wonder if having these just playing might be a more elegant solution. Or if they need more context? If I'm somebody arriving here for the first time I don't know who any of these people are so how do I choose which to click on? Are they all different videos? Do I have to watch all of them etc.
Maybe giving less choice here and not even making this a CTA might be more helpful. Feel like this would be the least acted on/most ignored part of the landing page just because it's not super clear what to do.
Maybe we can say something like see how tania uses futureland for… etc.
thinking about language on the FL landing page. for now just going to be thinking mostly about function.
the page is divided into 3 parts. for now I just want to make it clear what those 3 parts are and why.
right now it's divided basically into 3 CTAs:
2. see how people use it
3. download ios app
this first CTA is pretty clear obviously. but want to try augment the top sentence because it's not clear what "join" means in this context.
two options: augment top sentence so you know what you're "joining" or change /join/ to something that makes more sense with the top sentence.
will mess around with both. going to be spamming this feed for the next little bit.
okay so I'm going to start with sunsets. It's related to the goal for 2021 to be more aware of the sun and moon. I thought one way to do that might be to watch the sun rise and set every day for a while, or at least as much as I can. I really love sunsets. But I don't understand what they are.
When you wikipedia sunsets they make even less sense.
The tl;dr seems to be something along the lines of:
- sunlight is actually white
- light is waves?
- some of those waves get lost between the sun and our eyes
- at sunset the angle of the sun means that there's more atmosphere to go through (?) for the light to reach our eyes so more waves get lost (?) until there's only short waves left
- the short waves are red and yellow and stuff so that's what we see
The most confusing thing for me to wrap my head around is probably the difference between sunrise and sunset in terms of colours.
"Sunset colors are typically more brilliant than sunrise colors, because the evening air contains more particles than morning air."
This seems so made up to me that once I can understand that I think I'll be able to understand the whole thing.
Going to start with understanding light waves. and I guess maybe atmosphere?
I see a lot of people doing intros to journals, which is an idea I'd never really thought about before but want to try out.
The other day, on a flight from Plett to Cape Town, I flew over some mountains and found myself thinking about /what mountains are/. I started to run through everything I knew about them, trying to explain to myself what I was seeing on the ground.
The crust(?) of the earth is broken up into these pieces called plates. And when those two plates meet they push up against each other so hard, and for so long, that they crumple up into a mountain. Like pushing two pieces of paper together on a table.
But why? Uhh… because the earth's crust floats on… lava?
The lava thought was paired with another thought that I felt more confident about - that I have a three year old's understanding of what mountains are. I don't even know whether it's true or not that the crust of the earth floats around on lava.
It made me realize that there is so much that I think I know but don't really understand at all.
This, for me, isn't a new thing. In a way it's the oldest thing that I have. But the desire to understand. To really, really understand /anything/ and then /everything/ is new for me.
My goals for 2021 are to be more earnest, be more honest, and be more aware of the sun and the moon. I don't know what those goals look like in practice. But the last one made me realize that I've probably got a lot of learning to do.
This journal is going to be a place where I explain things exclusively to myself until I really know them at a deep level. That's the whole thing. I'm only doing it as a FL journal because FL is my favourite and least high stakes place to write (somehow even lower stakes than just writing on a piece of paper).
Okay so let's learn.
today I watched “don’t fuck with cats” on netflix. it’s a doc about Luka Magnotta, a Canadian murderer, and how a group of people on the internet basically tracked and solved his crimes while they were happening.
the ending isn’t a twist necessarily - but filmmakers walk you right up to the edge of a conclusion that, within the universe of the film, is both impossible to avoid and impossible to disagree with.
it’s one of those theories that wouldn’t work at all without the context of 90+ minutes of buildup and storytelling to support it. if you told it to somebody on the street they’d rightfully ask for a lot more evidence than is provided in the doc. BUT when you’re /in/ the film the conclusion seems both undeniable and entirely surprising.
that combination or surprise and certainty is interesting for its rarity in the real world. surprise and certainty exist almost in opposition to one another by definition. it’s not often that you immediately believe completely new information. you almost never go from not thinking about something as a possibility to buying into it as the only logical one.
BUT the reason it works in this film is because you’re dying for something to make sense. and so when you’re presented with any /compelling/ (note I said compelling not even plausible) evidence, your brain is ready to throw in the towel and accept it immediately.
this isn’t a strategy that’s useful or even advisable in any other context but it /is/ something that you see in documentary quite often - where a filmmaker builds you up with hours of evidence from which to draw your /own/ conclusion and then robs you, at the last minute, of the freedom to do so.
but the less logical the details, the lower the bar is for what’s considered a logical explanation. or, in other words, logic is relative. it’s the reason people believe conspiracy theories, personal mythologies, and anything at all. people want the world to make sense because it so infrequently does. one way to convince people of an idea is to convince them of the absurdity of the alternative. the alternative - to not believe it would be to believe that the world makes no sense. and there’s very few people brave enough to do that.
digging into the work of Andy Goldsworthy today (also in my tastemaking journal). the thing that's really interesting to me is that his process is kind of a proto version of FL (in terms of documentation, repetition and process).
So seeing how he shares ideas and tools in a super simple way might be a helpful place to think about how to share ideas and tools of other people.
His documentation is so simple that you can basically go out and replicate any of his artworks in the matter of a few minutes.
A supposed criticism of conceptual art is that "I could have done that" and the supposed response to that criticism is "but you didn't". Whether or not this conversation has ever actually taken place seems unlikely but also unimportant - the moral here isn't about the merit of art making but rather about gatekeeping - that some people make it and some people don't.
The fact that the line between being an artist and not being an artist is /merely doing the thing/ is a topic that is sensitive to a lot of creative people. It's the reason that most creative industries are opaque about techniques. It's the reason that magicians never tell you how it's done - the secret usually isn't that impressive.
There's a threat that, if other people knew how, that they could easily do what you do. And so many creative people preserve their techniques as a means of preserving the scarcity of their identity.
The fewer people who know how to do something, the less people there are to /merely do the thing/.
Today I discovered the art of Andy Goldsworthy. He makes beautiful visuals using nature as his medium. What he does is pretty simple. But instead of "but you didn't" Andy's specifically invites you to think "but I can".
To me, the existence of Andy's work itself feels to me like an invitation to imitate. I am going to make work like his work. And he'd probably be happy about it.
How do I know? Because archives of his work are paired with techniques, explanations and diary entries. Reading the diary entries gives you an interesting look into his process. It makes it clear that the joy is in creation. It doesn't take away the magic to know how it's done. And honestly, when you think about it, it never does.
The beauty in art - art you can make yourself and art that you can't - is that it is made. It exists. Somebody did it. That's the whole thing.
I don't think it's ever mattered how, or how hard it was to do.
To explain how is the generous thing. It's the egoless thing. It's the thing that we're all doing here.
(Super tired today and doesn't feel like I'm making any sense. Fine by me. Still doing the thing. Just trying to work it out.)
Not to get into tik tok media theory… but if there's anything you can take away from 2020 - the year we lived entirely online - it's that people /want/ to create. And they'll do it if you make it easy enough for them to do so.
One of the things that's hard to independently arrive at is format. It's a fancy word for what and why together. And one of the things tik tok does so brilliantly is generate millions of formats. Anything that can be copied easily, with little effort, is a good mass media format. And while tik tok is the first horseman of a pre-formatted world, it's not the only one.
2020 saw the shift towards formatting having a massive impact on what we share. in the sense that people who want to share things have to think less than ever about it. two examples are spotify's wrapped (which is built by spotify and shows you your most listened to music in an easily shareable format) and the more grassroots /go-through-your-camera-roll-and-post-photos-from-this-year/ phenomenon that happened on new years' ever.
A lot of people hate both of those formats. They find low effort sharing annoying instead of beautiful. I exist in direct opposition to them. I want to see people share everything they can about themselves. I want to live in a world where everyone is earnestly transparent. I /do/ care what you listened to most this year. I care what everyone listened to most this year. I care what the photo recap of your year looks like. What did you do? What moments did you capture? What kind of photos do you take with your phone? And why?
The beauty of formats is that the constraint actually allows you to see the individuality in the thing being shared. We all know what it's supposed to look like, so individual nuances are even more apparent. Not that that's the point. The point is that you should make things. Something. Anything. And we, as a society, should just keep making that easier.
These are things I know about myself as it relates to weather:
1. Being cold makes me sad
2. Anything under 12C is too cold for me
3. 24C is the temperature at which I am most stable
This last 10 days or so I exchanged winter in Lisbon for summer in South Africa. I've been back to South Africa a bunch since leaving in 2003. But this is the first time that my mind was in the headspace of really thinking deeply about where to live (as I've talked about in this journal before).
My conclusion is this: winter should be avoided at all costs. Not for temperature reasons (provided winter where you are is above 12C) but for sunlight reasons. The part that I've enjoyed most about being in South Africa is the long days, which, instead of a gradual lengthening, came all at once at the other end of a flight.
The sun sets at 8 here. And it's bright out until around 9. Thats 4 hours more sunlight than in Lisbon right now. It's a whole day of extra sunlight every week. There's more life to live in the summer. And I'm starting to think that living is pretty much the point.
Curation of images and the narratives they create is a thing that's talked about a lot. In looking back at 2020, I'm starting to feel like maybe it's not such a bad thing.
I have this thing called aphantasia which means that I can't picture things in my head. Which also means that I have almost no visual memory. Because of this, if I want to remember something visually, I have to take a picture of it.
I use my camera the way my parent's generation did - to remember things. To capture good moments. To create a permanent record of a fleeting thing. To give a memory a physical form.
So I only take pictures of things that I /want/ to remember.
In a year like 2020, that makes accurate reflection a complicated thing.
2020 was a tough year. The most prevalent memories in my head are of a year of anxiety, deep depression, a terribly sad break up etc. But my camera roll tells a story in which 2020 was filled with small moments of tender genuine joy. And a surprising amount of physical beauty.
What am I supposed to make of that? In one way, there's something in there about deception - that the camera roll is an inaccurate reflection of my life as it actually was (and on an ongoing basis - as it actually is). But the counterpoint to that big, shitty things are evidently easier to remember and recall than the little moments that make up the majority of my photos.
It's easy for me to look through my camera roll and create and image of a 2020 filled with joy and beauty and moments of a life throughly lived. Which creates a bit of a conflict. Is that how I /should/ remember 2020?
The irony is that I have no choice. 2021 will come. And so will 2022. And all that'll be left of this year will be my camera roll. All that will be left will be good memories. Tiny moments and big ones. And so eventually, I'll be forced to remember 2020 as it was - a year filled with an infinite amount of good things worth remembering.
Been thinking a lot about personal canons as a tool for learning.
I've always believed and observed that you can't actually /teach/ anybody something they don't already know. The learning has to come from them.
A personal canon allows people to learn how other people learned. It gives them a way to forge the same mental connections in their own mind or, even more exciting, to forge entirely different outputs based on the same inputs.
Personal canons also allow people to buy into a certain part of somebody's process. like maybe I don't want to do what somebody is doing but want to learn more about a certain aspect of their practice (like yoga for example). personal canons allow me to see where to start in /that/ specific space, which makes the canon a much more valuable artifact.
Using the structure that exists on the current landing page, the most simplified articulation is that
futureland is a journal for making things better
futureland is a journal for making better things
futureland is a journal for making better
futureland is a journal for better making
/this kind of word exercise is always helpful for me from a semantic angle because we project meaning only words (because they're symbols) for example /better making/ could mean 1. making things in a better way 2. making things (the world) better
/better also allows you to project your own meaning onto that. is better more consistency? with a higher degree of quality? the answer is different depending on who you are.
it's something that's frustrating in a 1:1 communication context that's actually helpful in a 1:many context.
Something that seems really interesting and important from @ethan's notes that really resonated with me "The idea of the personal “Canon” for the books, people, films that have influenced your work".
Related to the post below - the idea that we are indebted to our influences, and that to understand how or why somebody thinks or does things the way they do you how or why they arrived at that collection of intersecting influences.
like a kind of /first principles for people/
My cousin got married last weekend. And I can objectively say that his speech was the best speech I've ever heard at a wedding. By an enormous margin.
Here's some truths about wedding speeches:
- They're an opportunity to express your love for somebody in public
- They're often highly contextual, but empathy (i.e. just seeing somebody being emotional) does a lot of the work in making them "enjoyable"
- The less context you have, the more they become an exercise in pure emotion
So if you want to make a speech that resonates with /all/ of the guests, the only way to do it is to reduce the amount of context you need to really /get/ it. To get to the personal, you have to go through the universal.
My cousins' speech was brilliant for a number of reasons. But it also had some things I'd never seen in a wedding speech before: structure, a gimmick, and a callback.
The whole conceit of the speech was that he's a man of few words, and that he often keeps his thoughts to himself, saying much less than he really feels.
Or, in his words "saying one thing, but thinking another".
The genius here isn't just that it sucks the audience in, but that it gives the audience something they can all relate to. They've (presumably) all met the groom at a wedding. And if they have, they presumably know that he's a man of few words, who says little but thinks a lot.
It takes it away from the hyper specific stories that nobody was witness to, and allows you instead to just deal with the information you have in front of you. To be sucked into the story.
The speech was bookended by two moments where Buzz (the groom) "thought one thing, but said another". The first was when he met his wife for the first time - they were young. at a shitty bar. she was wearing all black. And the last was on the wedding day - at their wedding. she was wearing all white.
The joke was that he was thinking the same thing both times.
It's hard to communicate humour. How funny the descriptions were. How well the story was told.
But it's an undeniable storytelling device.
Him saying one thing while thinking another, allowed you to hear one thing and think about another. When he tells you that he thought the same the first time he met his wife as he does standing in front of her now the conclusion is obvious - he loved her since the very first moment.
We're seeing somebody marry the love of their life. So the joke conveys the emotion because it conveys the truth.
Going to spend the morning going through @ethan's responses.
Super helpful working with @internetvin while he tries to imagine how this'll manifest.
I'm going to try work out the core of what this is, what we're asking, what we're talking about, and how we can make it a repeatable format that still /feels/ the way that it needs to feel.
Slack's also always had interesting onboarding/product explanations. Here's a landing page with that famous sandwich explainer video that explains the product in context.
Obviously Slack is a way more linear tool and the video feels sort of lame now but interesting to remember there was a time when slack was novel and wasn't obvious to explain.
@internetvin was doing some exploration with video (of a very different kind) that might be an interesting way forward.
Here's another slack example that is pretty similar to the existing FL landing page. Find it cool that they use the tool within the context of different projects like landing rovers on Mars etc.
Haven't had internet for a while. Back on it. Going through user onboarding tear downs today to get an idea of the onboarding process for tools with diverse uses and user bases.
The tumblr one has always been interesting to me:
In the world of public radio, every december is fundraising time. Public radio is entirely funded by listeners. So the money helps them continue making the shows they make with complete freedom and creative control. It’s a good model.
The thing is, fundraising sucks, and most people suck at it.
I put on an episode of radiolab - maybe one of the best podcasts ever made - and they opened the episode talking about fundraising. they said millions of
people listen to radiolab every month and less than 1% pay to support the show.
I LOVE radiolab. I should pay for it. I probably will pay for it. But even still, this fundraising spot did nothing for me. If I thought anything, I thought “who cares”.
The reason I don’t care, I think, probably has a lot to do with /when/ they ask for money. At the beginning. Before I’ve heard the episode. When I have to use my memory, instead of my emotions, to remember how good the show is.
If you want people to give you money, here’s what I’d do:
1. Schedule your /best/ work to air during the fundraising drive
2. In the middle of the episode, before the climax, when you know the audience is sucked in, that’s when you make the appeal.
3. The appeal should be something like this:
“okay so we’re in the middle of a story right now. an incredible story with incredible reporting. and telling stories like this is what we love doing. just take a second to notice how you feel right now. how stuck into the story you are. how this feeling, listening to this right now, makes you feel. How much is that feeling worth to you? If it’s zero dollars that’s cool. But if it’s more than zero, then I need you to go right now to radiolab.com and donate that amount of money so we can keep doing what we do.”
4. obviously dress that up. make it good. but focus on the way they’re feeling /now/. make it immediate. don’t make them rely on their memory.
Even at the end of the show it’s too late. I’ve already extracted all the value I’m going to get. And it was free. Why would I pay now?
Before is the same problem. You haven’t done anything for me yet. Why would I pay?
The middle is the only time that makes sense. I’m paying to continue. I’m putting a figure on how much I’d pay to feel how I feel now (alive) /all/ the time. How much would I pay for /that/? A lot .
Basic Grammar >Lesson 4: And, But, Or
Getting my ass beat by this one. Will try it again later.
Zurich's airport is one of the best I've seen in terms of visual design. Not architecture or interiors (those were nothing to write home about) but the design system in the airport was insanely beautiful.
It occurred to me that the simplicity of Swiss design (the home of Helvetica, for example) probably comes from the simplicity of the country's beauty. There are mountains. Mountains are beautiful. You don't have to do much to convince anybody of that fact. So really, when you're designing, what you're trying to do is get out of the way. To leave things as they are. To not ruin the beauty of the mountains by adding too much.
The design system in the airport is incredibly simple. It's black and white. A lot of white space. And a beautifully simple font. That's how all information in the airport is communicated. It's so good that it's the first thing I noticed.
The restraint says a lot. The Swiss flag is red and white, for example, and those colours are featured nowhere in the design system.
The other thing is that everything you see /is/ designed. I'm writing this in the Cape Town airport right now. The departure and arrival boards here look they're built in Excel. Making it beautiful wasn't something they thought of. But that's okay.
Here, the appeal of the country is the diversity. It's the rainbow nation. Let's throw shit together and see what happens. The collisions, the haphazardness, the magic that happens in the meeting of unexpected things. That's their vibe.
In Zurich. The vibe is well thought out. It's simplicity. Without even leaving the airport, I can imagine what Zurich is like. They probably have clean, uncomplicated, reliable public transport. The architecture probably isn't fancy. It's probably just trying to get out of the way so you can see the things that are beautiful without too much distraction. Without too much clutter. Without too much getting in the way.
Okay so here's basically how I usually do these things, just so you can see where my head is going.
There are a lot of things that are true about any project/company/whatever.
There are statements that are broadly true, and there are statements that are narrowly true.
The game that I'm always playing is "what is the most narrow truth that is also a broad truth?" or, in other words "how specific can you get while still being universal".
For example (these are really bad examples) a broad truth might be:
Futureland is a community where your output creates your identity.
I call this a broad truth because it's true about FL, but it's also true about many things. This statement is basically true about all visual platforms as well: DeviantArt, Instagram, etc.
A narrow truth would be:
FL is a creative community where there are no negative comments.
It's a narrow truth because, well, it doesn't apply to that many things. Maybe Behance is like this? At least from my experience. But YouTube certainly isn't. etc. etc.
The issue with words, of course, is that they're just symbols. And so even these placeholders are probably raising semantic red flags for people.
An issue that a lot of companies have when trying to come up with explainations, positioning, taglines, or whatever, is that their narrow truths aren't narrow enough.
In most cases, you'll know that you're narrow enough when superlatives like "the most" or "the only" is /implied/. If somebody hears that statement and automatically associates it with your company/project/whatever.
Basically the beginning of the process is to rack up every possible thing that Futureland /is/ and start narrowing it until we land at something that /only/ futureland is.
As an example, the existing landing page says "Tools to help you repeat and store process". Firstly, it's hard to tell what that even means (your statement should be incredibly simple and feel self evident) but also, there are other tools that do those things. Without the implied "best" or "only", that sentence is basically "Undifferentiated tools to help you repeat and store process".
[also I think all inputs are helpful. and so I'm harping on the extisting text because it's much easier to /improve/ something than it is to invent something. by identifying what's wrong, it'll likely guide me towards the right answer much faster]
But that also just solves the first part. The question, actually, is broader than just how to describe FL to people. It's a more complicated question: How should people be introduced to FL?
Implied in that question are the extants of "…in a way that makes the tools most useful for them"
FL removes the noise between wanting to do something and actually doing it.
It's not really learning by doing (although it sometimes is) it's doing by doing.
It's a place that has respect for creation, and respect process, and respect for people who are trying to do things.
Again, I've never seen a negative comment on FL.
Also, thinking about this from first principals, it's interesting that the question we always start at is "what is Futureland". A more interesting question is "who are you?" and "who are you becoming?"
I wonder how we start asking questions in that direction as a way of answering the other thing.
I've been thinking a lot about the fact that I've never seen a negative comment on a FL journal before. Which I actually think is an insane feat to accomplish when you think about it.
There's an understanding here that you're /going to be/ trash. That's the first journal entry. We know that because we've been there. It's not interesting how good you are. It's that you're doing it at all.
In every other aspect of my life (and probably in your life) people, especially those who care about you, want to stop you from doing the wrong thing. And so they often give you advice that steers you away from doing the things that you want to do.
FL feels like the antithesis to that. FL wants you to be who you're going to be. And it's a super safe space to explore that.
A conversation @internetvin always reminds me of is one that we had at House 1 back in the day. Futureland, at that point, at least in my mind, hardly existed. And we were talking about what the profiles were going to be like. Or at least that's how I remember it.
That day, we were talking about social media profiles, and how social media, in general, forces you to be one thing to one group of people. You build an audience (it's so weird to me that this is how we think about "social" media) around a single vision of yourself. It forces you to /choose/ who to be. And when you deviate from that choice, the audience is dissapointed, disinterested, or disengaged.
Which is to say that on social media you can't contain multitudes.
@internetvin talked about FL in a way that I still think about it today - a group built on output rather than identity. Or maybe where identity is a result of output. It's a place where actions speak louder than words.
It's a place that focuses not on who you were (your resume) but who you are, and who you're becoming (as evidenced by your output).
This seems like an important thing for onboarding.
Basic Grammar >Lesson 3: No and Not
Another one where my spelling slowed things down.
Basic Grammar >Lesson 2: A and An
Where to live is a question I've been thinking about alot lately. The question started broadly (what continent? what country?) And has slowly narrowed (what neighbourhood?) and finally, yesterday, it narrowed itself down to a single decision - do I want to live in /this/ apartment or not?
Of course, where to live is a question about a lot of things, but it's also quite obviously a question of taste.
Lisbon is a city of seven hills. And the apartment is in a neighbourhood at the top of the highest one.
Walking there, I had the realization that choosing to live in a particular place also means to have a lot of choices made /for/ you.
Choices about what you can and cannot do, about where you will or will not spend your time, about, in essence, who you will or will not be.
One of the things that I won't be able to do if I choose this apartment is walk fast on rainy days. Over centuries the cobblestones have been made slick and smooth. When it rains, it turns them into a hydroplane.
You can't go anywhere in a rush when it rains.
Choosing to live there would mean choosing to live slowly. To never allow myself to be in a rush. To accept the speed of life.
Only a certain kind of person would choose to live like that. It's a matter of taste.
For what it's worth, the reason I would do it is out of a preference for personal romance.
I like my life to be something that I find beautiful.
While not practical, I like the idea of walking on streets that were made hundreds of years ago.
I like the idea of living on top of a hill where you can see the whole city from a single viewpoint.
I like the idea of living in a building with a tiled exterior. I like that it's close to a dog park with a beautiful view where, on Saturday mornings, you can get coffee and listen to Brazilian jazz music.
And, perhaps more importantly, I like that it's not for everyone.
I think that's how you know that you're developing personal taste - when not everyone likes the things you like.
Having taste means that sometimes (maybe even often) other people don't get it.
Right now the FL landing page is all steak no sizzle. Yes it /is/ those things. But is that what Futureland /is/?
I'd argue not.
Is Futureland a set of tools to help you repeat things and store process? Sure. I guess. But like I noted, the core /technical/ functionality isn't the same thing as the core /applied/ functionality.
Which is to say that I don't think that this is how most people who use FL would describe what it's for.
What do ya'll use Futureland for?
Yeah so to summarize all that…
Futureland is a lot of things to a lot of people. If somebody has no context, how do you /construct/ context in a way that leads them to a complete understanding of how FL could benefit them.
It's interesting to think about all the ways that benefits people once they use FL regularly, and how those aren't necessarily the things that you initially /join/ FL for. Which is to say that, like a journal, the benefits of FL accrue with consistent use and with context.
So what are the things that are essential to understand what FL is in a way that helps people decide whether this tool is or is not for them? It's obviously an issue of stripping away - of removing words until you arrive at a singular truth. Because FL is a lot of things. But it's also /one/ thing.
And while those two truths exist at the same time, they don't exist at the same time for all users.
Weird to hear myself thinking out loud because I do so much thinking with a keyboard. Had some thoughts that I wanted to capture before I had time to sit down.
A really cool learning tool that uses really simple tech + a really good explanation of a complicated thing.
Basic Grammar >Lesson 1: The
Lesson 8: Bye!
Romcoms are my favourite film genre.
A lot of people don't like them. And if you're one of those people, it's probably for a simple reason - they're not for you.
Romantic Comedies are a kind of mythology. What kind? Well the name gives us a lot of clues.
People hear romance and think love. But romance comes from the word romanticism. As in the historical period. The literature genre. Or the languages.
The tl;dr on romanticism is this: for 50 years between 1800 and 1850, a bunch of people started focusing, for the first time, on emotion, individualism, "as well as glorification of the past and nature". Basically, people started giving a fuck about life itself, the internal and the external, being beautiful.
Romanticism gave us (the so-called west) a lot of things. It's the reason we have beaches and national parks. It's the reason it's considered good manners to open the door for other people. It's also the reason most of us believe that you should marry somebody you love.
Then there's the word comedy. When we think of comedy, we most often think of things that make us laugh - or at least try to.
But comedy, in this context, exists as the counterpoint to tragedy.
A tragedy is a story about a fall in fortune of a sympathetic character - most often ending in people dying. And a comedy is the inverse, a story in which somebody's fortunes go from bad to good, and where they end up both alive and better than where they began.
So if we smash those two words together we get a close approximation of what a romantic comedy actually is - a story focused on emotions in which a person ends in a better place (emotionally) than they began.
Does the opposite - a romantic tragedy - exist? Of course. (See: Blue Valentine). But we don't call it that. For the most part, we just call them dramas. Because if we had to take every movie about love and put it in one pile, we'd have very few movies left to put in the other.
So, are romantic comedies about love? Yes and no. Because while romcoms (like everything else) centre themselves around love, they're not being in love. They're about falling in love.
Romcoms end where falling in love ends and being in love begins. Which, as anybody who has done both knows, are two dramatically different things.
Romcoms are, for the most part, the origin story of a couple. They are the answer to the question - so often asked of couples - "So how did you two meet?". They start where you would start the story (the meet cute) and end where you would end it (the profession of love or something close to it).
It's not any more complicated than that. People who criticize romcoms for being an inaccurate and unrealistic depiction of being in love are right for all the wrong reasons. Romcoms are actually, in my opinion, a surprisingly /accurate/ depiction of what it's like to /fall/ in love - confusion, conflicts, implausibility and all.
So, why only focus on the beginning? That's a step down the path to understanding who romcoms are a mythology for. And it's a question I'll dig into tomorrow.
also I don't always share stuff that I agree with (as maybe evidenced by this journal itself sometimes) so context is helpful in a lot of cases.
but maybe I'm the outlier in that I use things other people have made in order to explain the world.
taking a look through the "news" tab.
finding myself agreeing with a lot of the points @internetvin is making about linking journals. I clicked on a really cool link that turned out to be a scientific paper.
one thing I always ask when somebody sends a link is "why are you sending this to me?" not because I don't think I'll find value in it, but because I want to understand what my friend is trying to communicate with me /through/ this thing.
find myself wishing that this was possible with these links. obviously the person who shared this is really smart and shared this for a really good reason. I wish I could just adopt their mythology instead of having to filter these links through my own.
Lesson 7: See You Later!
okay that's it for now. até logo.
Lesson 6: Where Are You From?
kept messing up the spelling of Estados Unidos (United States)
Lesson 5: Who Are You?
Meanwhile, back at the ranch is a storytelling device (or maybe just a piece of storytelling advice) that uses the continually building of two separate storylines to keep an audience interested throughout the course of a story.
I think the basic idea is that it’s easier to build tension in two stories at the same time than it is to craft one single engaging narrative.
Basically you build one storyline up to a cliffhanger and then, right when the audience is at the height of their interest in what’s going to happen next, you go back to the other storyline.
You repeat this adfinitum until the stories eventually collide with one another. The most dramatic time for the stories to collide is at the climax. For obvious reasons.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, is a story device but also a neat little bit of mythology. That lives and the stories in them don’t happen in a vacuum may seem obvious on its face but MBATR helps us see the relationship between one thing and another.
One thing happens because of another. Or this is similar to that.
Putting two stories back to back has the inevitable side effect of making us compare one to another - an exercise that leads to observations that are often more philosophical than the storylines we’re comparing and contrasting.
It can help us see how things are the same, how things are different, how one thing causes another, how randomness or something like it impacts our lives.
p.s. this is a note to myself to actually do some romcom critical theory some time. the observation in this post came from The Holiday.
Lesson 4: How Are You?
This is less inspired than the list of podcasts I posted in this journal mostly because I don't have super strong opinions about the quality of these books. I just know that I enjoyed them.
This year, for the first time, I found myself a) reading more fiction than non-fiction and b) enjoying fiction more than I enjoy non-fiction.
Anyway, here's some stuff I read that you might want to read:
The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller) - Brilliant. Beautiful. Romantic. Historic. Extremely educational. Extremely emotional. My favourite novel of the year.
East of Eden (John Steinbeck) - The first book I read this year. Epic in the literal sense of the word. Never been into "the classics" but this was great.
The Overstory (Richard Powers) - Insanely powerful. Made me think about trees long and hard for a long time. The kind of book that completely absorbs you and changes the way you look at the world while you're reading it.
The People in the Trees (Hanya Yanagihara) - I was absolutely absorbed by this. Recently learned that it is, in lot of ways, an ode to Lolita.
Exhalation: Stories (Ted Chiang) - Read this on planes when that was still a thing earlier this year. Used to absolutely devour short story collections. This is an entertaining one by the guy who wrote the story "Arrival" was based on.
Been pulling together a list of the best podcasts individual podcast episodes I listened to this year (regardless of original release date).
These are all painfully good.
1619: The Birth of American Music - The story of American music and its relationship to Blackness. This, to me, is the perfect audio story.
Dolly Parton's America: I Will Always Leave You - The story of Dolly Parton's rise to stardom and the story behind writing hits like "I Will Always Love You" and "Jonele".
Constellation Prize: Crossing Guard - Really what I needed when I needed it. Very 2020. Loneliness. A brilliant, brave idea, and some really brilliant storytelling techniques.
Constellation Prize: Two Years with Franz - Another one from the same podcast. Created about two years before the others. Again an unbelievable premise. Took a while to get into it but undeniably brilliant by the end.
The Cut: The Joy of Sext - The pinnacle of "current event" podcasting. Insightful, well researched, and strung together by some great interview subjects.
Reply All: The Case of the Missing Hit - it was a tough choice between this and Zardulu (which originally aired in 2016). The Case of the Missing Hit is on the top of many people's best episodes of 2020 for a reason. It's just a really ambitious idea. It's proof that sometimes just doing the thing is what makes it great.
Forget every other list of "best podcasts of 2020". I've read them all. This is the one that matters most.
Will add to this list as I think of more.
The more obvious choices from some familiar names:
Radiolab: Dispatches from 1918 - Writing, podcasts, videos etc. about the pandemic never quite landed from me. It was always the last thing I wanted to hear about. This was the only one that felt entertaining and interesting to me. It showed that their contribution to the world - the thing they do consistently - was still worth doing no matter what they were doing it about.
The Anthropocene Reviewed: Mortification and Civilization - One of the best examples of what the medium can be like. Which is to say beautifully uncomplicated. Chose this episode because it covered a theme - civilization - that I often think about. But easily could have chosen any of the others.
Heavyweight: Vivian - While listening to this episode I cried because I was jealous of how meaningful making something like this must be.
@marco - I don’t know many other people that work on building something every single day including weekends etc. How did you and Lucas arrive at that schedule? Why have you stuck with it?
@internetvin - I think a generally misunderstood thing about a ‘daily cadence’ or ‘doing something every day’ is that in a lot of ways it’s easier than the alternative of doing things intermittently. There’s a lot of reasons for this and my take on it has come out of experiences after to 3-4 years of daily output.
I’m not a neuroscientist but as far as I understand this stuff; on a neurological level, when you repeat ‘something’ often your ‘brain’s wiring’ to perform that ‘something’ improves through the production of Myelin. I think the neurological expression is, “What fires together, wires together”. This Myelin is like an insulation that wraps around the ‘wires’ you need to do something and it allows your brain to send more electrical data through those wires. So repeating things often creates more Myelin and this does not cause a little improvement, but a massive one in creative performance. With ‘better wiring’ your brain can make new connections and trigger flow states faster. The book ‘Talent Code’ by Daniel Coyle expands on this subject.
I find repeating things also changes how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you. When I decided to code for 365 consecutive days, it really felt like people thought I was smarter or something (lol). And as I got better I started to wonder, “well if I can do this, what else can I do?”. There would also be interesting things like people would say,
Person: “oh I heard you’re programming now? That’s way over my head man!”
Me: “yeah I am. And I’m sure you could do it! I mean I know ya could. Have you ever written any code?”
Person: “nah. Trust me it’s way over my head man”
I had a lot of experiences like this where people had not written a single line of code yet had a really clear understanding of what they could or could not achieve in the medium. I think repeating things and not thinking expands your sense of what you think is possible.
Another kind of interesting thing is how repeating things starts to adjust and evolve your surrounding environment on every dimension. When I stated making music every day, most people had no idea what I was doing or why. I didn’t even really know why. It was this kind of nuisance initially. I would have to excuse myself after dinner to go make a song or like show up at a party late because I needed to make music. After hundreds of days my environment started to really adjust around it. We would be out and my wife would say something like, “hey we better run, you still gotta make your track and stuff too”. The next year when I started writing code, some of my family and friends started running their own experiments with daily cadence so it wasn’t just this lonely thing I was doing and now there were people to talk to. Now it’s a big part of my life, family and home. How things are organized, the design of our spaces, where our family wants to live, the kinds of discussions I have with friends and family, every thing is becoming more aligned with this daily cadence over time. It’s been interesting to observe.
The alternative of working on things intermittently creates a lot of stop and go. I find it makes things difficult if you need to keep ramping up every few days. I do not believe Futureland would be in its current state and have steady forward moving momentum (especially as a bootstrapped project) if it was not for this daily cadence.
So by working on Futureland at a daily cadence (and at any degree of quality), our minds, identities and environments are better suited for the task of serving the people who use our tools. And that ultimately makes things easier instead of harder. :)
@marco - why build it publicly in an open journal?
@internetvin - I think there’s a lot of good reasons to ‘store process’ publicly. If your experiment fails or succeeds by sharing publicly the whole thing can become a contribution to others because everyone can learn from what happens and use that to inform their own work and lives.
There’s so many little details you can pick up on by seeing how someone works, how they imagine something and then bring it into reality or how they solve a problem or run an experiment. And I think seeing how things can incrementally evolve over time can be very inspiring.
By building Futureland in a public journal we are exploring all of those things and also demonstrating what’s possible with these kinds of tools in our own way.
@marco - of all the things to work on, why futureland?
@internetvin - I’m still learning what Futureland is. Even in its current form there’s a lot of aspects I never imagined. And a lot of what’s built now is guided by users. For me personally, I’m really curious about the extent of what’s independently possible as an individual or a small team with just a computer and an internet connection. My own ideas for tools come out of that curiosity. I push myself to independently work on difficult things (for me) and then use that experience to make tools that would make those difficult things a little easier for anyone else (and for me) in the future. Futureland started out of that process. It’s slowly gotten a lot better than anything I could make on my own because of @lucas joining and now community guiding us. I keep pushing myself to run new independent experiments and measure the quality of FL’s tools or how they could be better by how useful they are in those independent experiments.
Thinking about resource building and how to gather and share information about what people are working on.
Going to run and experiment where I chat with @internetvin over iMessage and post the questions and answers here.
Here are the tools that I use daily:
Piezo - record any audio source on your mac with the click of a button. This is always open on my computer. Incredibly easy to record and to choose input sources.
Descript - edit audio as a text document. This is an app that works the way I always have. It automatically transcribes audio into a text document. Any changes you make to the text apply to the audio. Basically cut and paste audio editing. This is maybe my favourite app I've ever used.
Mindful (chrome extension) - A word document that lives on the "new tab" in Chrome. It's where all my ideas are. Other people use it for to-do lists and organization. I use it for little bits of text (ideas and sentences) that are still marinating.
The word detail can be either a noun or a verb. And which one it is (or should be) depends on what kind of story you're telling.
The noun is an individual fact or item.
The verb means give full information about something.
It's the choice between going deep or going wide. How many or how much.
If you're telling a story and you…
…go really deep on one thing, you don't have to go that deep on many things.
…go deep on many things, you can't afford to go deep on anything.
I just had a really interesting experience in which my uncle told me stories about his childhood that I'd already heard from my dad's perspective.
My dad tells these stories in a wide shot. My uncle tells them in a series of close ups.
My dad's stories are a documentary about WWII, my uncle's stories are Dunkirk.
I think part of me believes what they say about how self interested people are - that they only want to hear about themselves. There was something about the telling of the stories - they way they were told through his eyes - that made me feel like I was experiencing them through mine.
It was the details that mattered. Small things; the layout of a banquet hall, the tune somebody whistled, the colour of a cassette.
The Big Mac index - a simple way to understand a complex thing (the relative buying power of currencies and their relationship to one another).
It's both a collection of data and a tool for understanding and self guided exploration.
okay things are much more clear to me now that I can physically visualize a v1.
Focus is on starting to ship ASAP at any degree of quality.
Since reach out is (and always has been) a process that takes a while to ramp up, I'm working out what I can ship this weekend.
Looking forward to syncing with @internetvin
Excerpt from a paper by a CS prof at University of Toronto (from 2010) discussing some obvious, direct ways that people with coding skills etc. can contribute to climate science:
Software quality is a particular concern. Climate scientists build a variety of software tools to support their work.
At the heart of the field are the Global Circulation Models (GCMs) that simulate the atmosphere, oceans, cryosphere and biosphere, to study the processes of climate change on a global scale, and generate future projections used in the IPCC assessments .
Less glamourous, but equally important, a large number of data handling and analysis tools are used for processing the raw observational data and the results of simulation runs, and for sharing climate data with the broader scientific community.
Most of this software is built by the climate scientists themselves, who have little or no training in software engineering.
As a result the quality of this software varies tremendously: The GCMs tend to be exceptionally well engineered , while some data processing tools are barely even tested.
The knowledge gap exists not on the side of what to do (or what problems to solve) but rather on how to solve them.
Programs like drawdown
Programs like drawdown clearly outline the problems to be solved, and even suggest what the direct solution to them might be.
The lack of data and documentation is on the side of how people have either attempted to, or succeeded in, solving them.
Another issue seems to be funding. There's no shortage of good ideas to solve massive planetary problems. (Here's an example from MIT)
Again there doesn't seem to be any obvious answer for how the everyday person, with only their skills and a computer, can contribute to these problems.
Which makes me wonder, what are the characteristics of the kind of problem that can be solved that way?
I just wrote and deleted a massive post carefully outlining the current issue with the state of podcasting and how, over a span of 50 years, to make the medium as good as it can and will be.
The tl;dr is this - we are in the soap opera era of podcasting. Most all podcasts are low quality and exist to sell ads. Even some of the high effort ones.
In order to change that, a few things have to happen. Things like decoupling audio storytelling from journalism, making pro tools easier to pirate, and a lot of boring mental work to develop the "language" of the medium (just like film has a language, audio needs a highly developed one too).
The question of audio language is one I think about often.
Specifically, I think about what I call the "conceit of the microphone". Aka the fact that any story told in audio has to, in some way, address why the microphone is there and that somebody is operating it.
The conceit of the microphone exists mostly because of podcasting's journalistic roots. Podcast journalism is historically a first person endeavour. In Serial (the most popular podcast of all time) Sarah Koenig is the narrator, the storyteller, but also the main character and the person who literally holds the microphone.
The reason the conceit exists is because there is no other model. So in fiction, in documentary, in whatever, somebody, at some point, has to address the fact that they have a microphone. There are some ways to do this that are better than others. A common way is to hear the sounds of the recording beginning.
This is something that absolutely does not exist in any other medium. No other piece of equipment has to justify its presence (imagine if, in a documentary movie, every shot began with them focusing the camera for a few seconds - you'd go insane). So why does it exist in audio?
BECAUSE WE HAVE NOT ESTABLISHED THAT ANOTHER PERSON COULD POSSIBLE HOLD THE MICROPHONE.
I had this realization last night while watching No Reservations for the first time. We have no idea who is holding the camera. We know nothing about them. Their relationship to the person hosting the show is solely to document what they are doing. And it's assumed (at least I assumed) that neither of these people would be involved in editing this footage.
Which is to say that in film, the camera often isn't a character. They're there to be invisible.
From a story perspective that implication is huge.
Right now, every storytelling podcast tells the story to us. The fourth wall doesn't exist. We are an active participant. We have to be.
But the cameraperson stands in for us, the audience, what it'd actually be like to be there in the flesh. What we'd see. What we'd look at. What we'd hear. They allow us to see things through our own eyes. To be a witness. Instead of a participant.
It also opens up a whole level of artistry that doesn't currently exist in the medium. If the sound designer were the cinematographer, where would they choose to point the microphone? What sound would they collect? Who would they interview? For the most part we are letting journalists - people who tell stories with words - dictate those decisions for sound designers - people who tell story in sound.
If we decoupled the reporter and the audio recording, we'd open up a whole new world of possibility. We'd create a whole new kind of story. What would it sound like? I have no idea. But it'd certainly be something very new.
went through a long list of "environmental awards" (lol) to try get a broad idea on what people are doing to solve planetary problems.
seems like most "innovation" still happens within the context of the market. which is to say that they are possible, future, solutions that require massive collective action.
I guess the question I'm wondering is does something like something like reforestation, conservation, clean drinking water etc. have to be a collective action problem? surely this isn't true.
which is not to say that individual action should replace collective action. just that surely there's space for both?
for example if somebody right now wants to donate their time and skills to these problems, what can they do.
is it possible that one day the answer to this question will become as straightforward and widely performed as something like mining bitcoin, for example?
"…This is also a school for teaching. Every student who comes here will be asked to share their expertise with their classmates in the form of workshops and outreach.
The goal of the school is to promote completely strange, whimsical, and beautiful work – not the sorts of things useful for building a portfolio for finding a job, but the sort of things that will surprise and delight people and help you to keep creating without a job. However, employers tell us they appreciate this kind of work as well.
This is not a program to get a degree, there are large programs for that. This is not a program to go for vocational skills, there are programs for that. This is a program for self-initiated learners who want to explore new possibilities. This is a program for thinkers in search of a community to realize greater dreams."
Weeping in public is one of the greatest decadences in life. I know because I do it as often as I possibly can. Which isn't very often because it's not something you can plan for or fabricate.
Every now and then, though, I'll stumble upon some piece of magic (read: a podcast episode) that makes me sob uncontrollably and unexpectedly as I go about my day.
Weeping in public is the highest praise I can give to any creation. It means you've created something that I'm helpless in the face of. That I feel so much (awe, or sadness, or connection) that there's nothing else I can do but show my soft underbelly to the world. To cry helplessly in the street for all the world to see.
You have ruined my day. You have made my body a conduit of pure emotion. You have reached me. You have made me and you, complete strangers, into us.
Of course, being the highest praise means that I don't weep in public as often as I'd like to. I genuinely wish everything I listened to moved me to tears. But the droughts between the tears are so long that I mostly forget that it's possible.
And then, off my guard, it happens.
What will or will not make me weep in public isn't something I understand. I don't want to understand it. To know the trick would take away the magic.
But I think, on the other side of that coin, is that the person making the thing probably doesn't know either.
The first moment to make me cry in Bianca Giaever's "Two Years with Franz" was a subtle one. A tiny one. One that she couldn't have possibly known about or planned for. It was something that existed outside of the story. It was Bianca herself.
Here's the moment:
"I kept listening, and I kept listening. I told my friends about the tapes. And
then eventually, so much time passed that I stopped telling them. And they
When I came across a good tape, I would always play it for my boyfriend.
Sometimes, at night before bed, we would read Franz’s poems out loud to
Franz, and the tapes, they became part of our relationship…
my boyfriend was the only person with enough context to understand what
the tapes meant to me. What Franz meant to me."
I know that she couldn't have known I would cry there because she doesn't know I exist. (Although I emailed her once, in a past life, asking what she was working on next).
Because she doesn't know that I exist she doesn't know that what she describes is the thing I miss most right now. Somebody who has context. Who understands what anything means to me. And to whom that now has a shared meaning - mattering to them because it matters to me.
The overarching narrative is about big love. But the thing that got me was the little love. The imperceptible things you feel only in their absence.
And so what's the point? What's the lesson to be learned here. It's not about what makes people cry, but about what makes things worth doing.
She didn't have to put herself into the story. But she did. Because it was the honest thing to do. And it's also the thing that set off the waterworks. She rolled over, and showed the world her soft underbelly.
In an interview that I watched recently (that may or may not have been an episode of Hot Ones), Hasan Minhaj said that the best advice he ever received was from John Stewart, who told him to move towards his discomfort.
For me, personal writing, inserting myself (my real self) into my writing has always been something that's made me uncomfortable. Something that I thought nobody would care about. Something that has always felt, to me, as too earnest to be bearable.
And it's something that I'm trying to do more and more of.
“What is most personal is most universal.”
That's the lesson.
Reached out to the people at http://photorequestsfromsolitary.org/.
It's a project that uses technology + community to do two things:
1. Improve the lives of people in solitary confinement
2. Raise awareness about eliminating solitary confinement in prisons
It's a beautiful intersection of art, artistry, technology, community, and impact. They actually shut down the prison that the project was initially started to protest.
Feels like a step in the right direction. Not thinking about it too much just felt like the right thing to do.
Some quick thoughts I had on the way here:
There are two problems we are trying to solve. One of mythology and one of technology.
The mythology we're trying to perpetuate breaks down into two areas:
1. A person and a computer can change reality
2. With that knowledge (that a person and a computer can change reality), choosing to put those skills to something other than changing the world (i.e. working on planetary problems) is a weird decision to make
Given that the musers already believe the above, the only thing they need to work on planetary problems are:
@vin and I talked a lot yesterday about a concept he called "the black hole", which is the distance between knowing how to code (or being any kind of artist) and knowing how to apply those skills towards a planetary problem.
An example he used often was "how do you go from learning how to code to cleaning up the ocean?"
Of course, mythology is an important part of the puzzle. But if we're talking about musers, then the black hole is the more generous act.
10:57AM here in Lisbon. Just did a 2km walk (up 21 flights of elevation lol)
About to dig into Exit to Community
I consider writing in books a cardinal sin for reasons that I don't entirely understand.
Dog earing pages seems like the most logical and more humane way to go about noting things that you enjoyed for two reasons.
Dog earing makes revisiting the thing you enjoyed a kind of game between your past and present self. Sometimes you recognize what it is right away. Sometimes you don't. But either way it allows you to come to it anew, without the way you were thinking then influencing the way you think now.
Basically good realizations will survive the years between visits to the same page. Bad ones (or situational ones) won't.
I've only ever written in (tragically defaced) one book.
And the story goes like this:
The HotDocs theatre in Toronto was doing a live podcast event. And one of the live performances was a podcast that I actually listened to called "Science Vs".
The live episode was whatever. It was fine. It was about wine and coffee and chocolate. The premise was "are things that taste good bad for us?"
After the episode the host, Wendy Zuckerman, did a Q&A.
The questions were all entirely forgettable except for one.
Late in the game, somebody asked "If I want to make a podcast like Science Vs. what should I do".
I remember the confidence coursing through my body in the moments between the question and her answer. She's going to say (thought my body) the obvious thing. She's going to say that podcasts are the easiest medium to start. Just do it.
Except she didn't say that. She said the opposite of that. She said "Go to journalism school".
I don't know that I've ever been so offended. So disgusted. Felt such injustice, as I did on that day.
The answer was wrong. And I was determined to prove it.
I left the theatre and went directly to the second hand bookstore looking for… something. That I didn't know quite what to call yet. I was looking for something to learn from. I was looking for the best non-fiction writing out there. So I could read it all. So that I could learn from it. So that I could prove that you didn't need journalism school. That you just needed will, and dedication, and the ability to learn from people that are better than you.
The thing I was looking for was called "New Journalism" or "creative non-fiction" the thing that I found was a book called the Kings of Non Fiction - a collection of work edited by Ira Glass.
Ira Glass, I was sure, knew infinitely more than Wendy Zuckerman about how to tell a good story (a fact I believe to this day). He was the creator of This American Life. As far as I was concerned, he was the creator of podcasting. If he said something was good, it was good.
I read the book in a weekend. I wrote the lessons I'd learned in the margins of each story. It was an education of my own. The writing in the margins was physical proof that you could learn just from observing. I don't remember exactly what I wrote or learned. But I remember what it meant: fuck journalism school.
The idea that I could learn all I needed to learn about telling stories on the radio from Ira Glass isn't, I don't think, a unique concept. I think that's pretty much a forgone conclusion in podcasting. It's why everything sounds the way it does. Everyone that makes radio, at some point, passes through the school of Ira Glass either literally or spiritually.
So usually when somebody in radio is talking about, or especially to, Ira Glass, it's with a real sense of reverence.
Except for this one interview I listened today. On a podcast called Tape.
The host of the show, more than anything else, seemed entirely unphased that he was interviewing Ira Glass. Part of it was journalistic, sure, but it also seemed like he'd sent a phone call into the universe and would have happily talked to whoever picked up on the other end.
The result is an interview in which Ira is treated, in the first half of the interview, like Ira Glass, and in the second half, like just some other guy.
The dynamic was an interesting one that yielded interesting questions and interesting answers. He got Ira to say things that were so outside of the usual script. And in a way, you got to see who he was as a person because he was just being treated like one. Even one that the interviewer doesn't particularly like that much.
This technique - the one of doing away with irreverence and just approaching a subject with whatever is on your mind - might be described as the opposite of mindfulness. But it might just as easily be described as being entirely present.
Good ideas come from the collision of novel things. What happens if you let whatever is in your mind collide with everything else in your life? You're seeing things through a particular lens, sure, but at least it's a novel one. At least it's a new way of seeing.
It applies in interviews, but also in everything.
We dedicate so much mental energy to thinking about how a person should be. But what if we didn't? What would we make then?
I know that my life is out of whack when I lose the ability to read. Because to lose the ability to read, for me, means that I've lost the ability to relax. To be present. To be okay with having nothing better to do.
Or even worse, it means that I feel like reading, my one constant passion and comfort, isn't a thing worth spending time on.
In the last week or so I've gotten the ability to read again. I was inspired by a journal here (sorry I can't remember which one. But thank you, whoever you are) that described reading as a rhythm. And lately I've been in need of a rhythm. A thing by which to differentiate the passing of each day. (it's 2020. we all know the feeling. I won't go on about it.)
[I just fact checked this. It was @thedominica. and she used the word momentum - not rhythm - which actually better describes the relationship with reading that I was trying to get back to.]
The thing I decided to read was Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. It was recommended to me, multiple times, by the same person, long ago. I knew they recommended it for a reason - because they saw something in it that reminded them of me or that they thought I might see too. And so I wanted to see what that thing was.
The thing I saw was a Third Thing.
To make a long story short. A guy (who is a poet) spent his life married to a woman he loved (who was also a poet) and when she died, he wrote a piece about their life together that was published in Poetry Magazine.
It's a beautiful piece that'll make the right kind of person (me) cry on the right kind of day. But the part that matters goes like this:
"We did not spend our days gazing into each other’s eyes. We did that gazing when we made love or when one of us was in trouble, but most of the time our gazes met and entwined as they looked at a third thing. Third things are essential to marriages, objects or practices or habits or arts or institutions or games or human beings that provide a site of joint rapture or contentment. Each member of a couple is separate; the two come together in double attention."
I want to zoom in on this part:
"Third things are essential to marriages, objects or practices or habits or arts…"
Because it's the part that matters when it comes to Bourdain and, more selfishly, where Bourdain begins to matter to me.
Bourdain is a great writer. This is a fact. But he's a great writer because he's writing about food.
It's food that /allows/ him to be a great writer. The writing is in service of the love of food. The food is the third thing.
Now this realization isn't novel. Or even one that I'm learning for the first time. Like most lessons about creativity. It's one I've learned before and forgotten.
The insight here is that the relationship between a person and their thing (their craft, their art, their whatever) /is/ a relationship already.
The reason creation can feel like suffering for so many people is because the love for the craft is an unrequited one.
No matter how much you love coding, coding will never love you back. No matter how much you love writing, writing will never get any easier.
Except when it's directed at a Third Thing.
Mastery for the sake of mastery means nothing. There is a reason masterpieces exist. They're an application of skill. They're a third thing. They're mastery in service of something else.
Which is to say that passion and skill need an outlet. They need a direction. There's no masterpieces without mastery. But mastery shouldn't exist without masterpieces either.
It's the only way to have a satisfying relationship with your craft. To allow it to support you, to encourage you, to enable you. To love you back.
In Portugal there are two kinds of greetings and which one you use seems to be a generational thing.
When you greet people my age they ask “todo bem?” (everything good?) and when you greet old people they ask “como está?” (how are you?)
really really really need to start working on shorter ideas that I can try harder on.
going to do something complete new tomorrow
Tried something different. Instantly regretted it haha.
(re-uploaded because I accidentally deleted it)
The Star Spangled Banger
Check back in 363 days and see if these are any good by then.
So one of my favourite people alive gave me advice about doing this and I absolutely did not follow that advice but I absolutely plan to tomorrow.
Anyway check back in 365 days and see if it's any good by then.
you can only tell people things they already believe
In the Middle Ages, all the best selling books had been embellished or fabricated travel accounts. If you wanted a best seller, you wrote about distant parts of the world.
None of these accounts can or have ever been proven to be true or even written by people who really existed (except maybe for the exception of Marco Polo).
Myths are symbols. They are stories with universally recognized meanings.
Achilles’ Heel is a story and a symbol.
There’s a high likelihood that in listening to or reading the final pieces it’ll come off to people as an unnuanced and unnecessary retelling of Euro-centric history. Of course it runs the risk because I won’t bother to explain what it is or isn’t aside from the title.
It’s important to me, and always has been, that each part of the story feels both confidently true and irrefutable. Which is to say that it needs to be so wholly mythological that people who aren’t aware of their own lack of distinction between history and story will think it’s an attempt at a telling of history.
For me the difference has always been obvious - there are no heroes in history. So anything with a hero is automatically a story. Once to start looking into it you learn that it’s almost impossible to tell the truth when you’re talking about history. There’s a research paper proving every point. You’re always choosing what to believe.
So how do you make things feel irrefutable? By starting with things that people already believe are true. You tell a story using myths and characters they already believe in. You use their own beliefs to construct the truth.
I worked so long on what the beginning should be. And then yesterday it poured out. And now that I’m looking at it the answer is obvious - to tell the mythology about America you start at it’s most persistent myth. Which in this case is the American Dream.
You don’t even have to say that’s what you’re doing. This is the basic premise of the opening:
If you wanted to be rich in the 14th century, you needed gold, silk, or spices. Generally, the closer you were to the source of those three things, the richer you were and the further away you were from them the poorer you were.
And in Europe, there was no place further from those things than the tiny Kingdom of Portugal.
In a way you already know what the story is going to be about. I never said that Portugal had dreams of being rich. But if you’ve heard the myth of the American Dream, your brain automatically says “so this is a story about a poor kingdom that’s going to try and become rich”.
a good proxy for my mental health is how many times I am willing to attempt a parallel park
the morals of the story:
- no one person is really that important
- who gets recognized for an accomplishment is mostly arbitrary
- who gets remembered is not based on merit
- we operate in the world as if the things that matter to us matter to other people
- to that end, people that violate our values should feel bad about violating our values, even though they never agreed to uphold them or are aware of their existence
Coming up on the first draft of the first episode.
I think, as a creator, I'm always trying to work towards being more and more earnest.
As a storyteller, I think that manifests itself as being more and more honest with the things that are interesting to you.
I think the reason that I write is to try create "a way to think about things". I'm terrible at remembering facts. But I do remember stories. And the works that inspire me most are the ones that give me a "way to think about things" that is close to, parallel to, or at least in the same direction as, the truth.
I used to think that the title "American Mythology" represented one thing - trying to expose the "truth" behind the "fictions" of mythology.
Now I'm realizing that the thing I enjoy the most is creating a counter mythology. One that doesn't erase the existing one but that competes with it directly.
Which doesn't mean that I'm not focused on being factual. I am. Fact checking and research has made up for like 80% of the time I've spent on this project. But it just means remembering that people believe myths because they're a good story that gives us "a way to think about things" we already believe.
Starting production in earnest now. Still a bit of writing to do but doing some proof of concepts for tone, pacing, sound design and all that.
fwiw I don't think this'll end up being the tone that I actually end up delivering in but testing a couple variations out.
a bit of a dump here just for my own memory. here’s a spot I surfed at twice. the day before this the waves were really big and powerful. this day they were small and so you needed to paddle way harder to catch anything.
Today I swam around for a while at Lisa’s favourite spot. Last time we swam in this spot I was pretty terrified of open water. I’ve managed to overcome that to some degree during this trip.
Today in the same spot as yesterday. Was high tide and absolutely cooking outside. Probably going to go for another swim this afternoon.
Ended up swimming a couple hundred meters in the ocean today after seeing a woman doing laps in this spot. Went back in with my GoPro just to show the swimming spot for those that are curious.
Don't think the camera does a great job of portraying the space here but still cool to get used to trying to document this kind of thing.
These 14 pages (7*2) make up the last section of the outline for episode 1. I spent the last two days chasing down references and making sure I understand all the perspectives and facts about the naming of America. There’s only one primary source (a letter Amerigo Vespucci wrote from Cape Verde in 1501) that I wasn’t able to find.
When I talked to a friend the contents of that letter was the part of the story he reacted to most (I think) and so I’m finding a way to tell the story that contains both the truth and the things that people believe to be the truth. I don’t think it’s a style I could sustain for long but it might be a really interesting way to tell the story in this case.
Spent two hours surfing this morning. Being in the ocean more has evolved the way I think about my “swimming” practice. Both what it means and what it means to me.
another workout where I’ve had to stop early to accommodate for other people. not about it.
The outline so far is about 6 double sided pages. I think it’ll be about 10 by the time I’m ready to start writing. A lot of fact checking now to avoid running in to narrative issues later.
Outline for episode 1 about how America got its name.
Trying to set a new normal distance that has significance outside of my workouts (1500m is both an olympic distance and the olympic triathlon distance for swimming).
Also noticed something about motivation. Because of the layout of the pool I only have the opportunity to stop once every two laps (once every 50m). In order to continue you don’t need to feel motivated for 50m, just the 2m before the turn. Once you’ve turned you lose the opportunity to choose for another 50m and so the cycle continues.
tweaked my shoulder + frustration and anxiety over sharing a lane. honestly just think the shoulder injury was a physical manifestation of the emotional reaction to having my ritual interrupted.
today was more evidence in favour of open water swimming which would increase control over my workout by giving me more independence. availability of pools, pool hours, other people in that pool etc are unnecessary barriers.
200m breast (70-80%)
50m free sprint
50m free easy
First 20 laps of 1000m breathing was strong and slow. Second half was consistent but faster. No feeling of being out of breath which could either be a function of form (longer strokes) or fitness (more endurance). Do think it was slightly slower than usual but that could just be my perception. The long strokes definitely got more into my shoulders.
400m arms only (paddles and buoy)
50m free sprint
Was at my old high school pool today. 1000m felt strong. ~ 15 mins (± 2) breathing was steady but still rushed. learned during paddles that longer strokes = more time to draw longer breaths so going to work on keeping strokes longer during 1000m going forward.
100m breast easy
50m free sprint
no watch today. felt good on the 1000m but want to get my breathing more consistent. sprint felt strong.
draft after 2 days.
the intro's clunky but everything else is starting to feel nice :)
I’ve been obsessed with Westerns my whole life. There’s just something about them that’s so alluring to me. The setting, the characters, the dream of a simpler time, where good was good and evil was evil and there was no grey area between them.
But I’d never actually thought about whether cowboys were real or not.
And then I went to Utah for the first time. And I saw the landscapes that I’d seen cowboys crossing in movies. And I realized that if this place was real. Then cowboys, these characters from the movies I loved, had to be real too.
So I became obsessed with them. I read everything I could. Learned everything I could about the real American cowboy. And the more I read about the real historical characters, the more another truth started to solidify.
Cowboys are entirely made up. It’s not that they didn’t exist. Because they did. But it’s just that two versions of the cowboy exist - one that was a very real labourer in the last half of the 19th century. And another one - the one we know - that’s entirely a fabrication of mythology.
Which got me wondering. How did the cowboy become an American hero? And what does it mean that it did?
The story of the cowboy starts with the cow.
In 1492 Christopher Columbus is the first white guy to make contact with Haiti (I cannot explain the extent to which Columbus definitely did not discover America). He decides it’d make a good Spanish colony, so he comes back again the next year, in 1493, and this time he brings along colonists, disease, and some cows.
As the Spanish colonize other parts of the Caribbean and South America they bring those cows along with them. So those cows end up going from Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) to Cuba and from Cuba to Mexico.
Mexico turns out to be the perfect place for cattle ranching. And the Mexicans turn out to be incredibly good at it. And they basically develop all the tools, tricks, and lingo that we’d come to associate with the work of cowboys.
The Mexicans do the same thing the Spanish did — basically bringing these cattle with them everywhere they went. And that’s how, in 1680, you end up with 9,000 head of cattle grazing along the Rio Grande in the Northeast corner of Mexico. In a state called Coahuila y Tejas.
150 years later a chunk of that state would declare independence from Mexico and make their own country called the Republic of Texas. And that that country would become the 28th U.S. State — a slave state — 9 years later. And that not long after that it would become the Confederate State of Texas.
Now, when the Civil War breaks out in 1860 there’s only 600,000 people living in Texas. And Texas is huge. So, in the grand scheme of things, Texas is basically too rural to care about. It’s so far out of the way that slave owners actually went there to try and avoid the inevitable implications of the Emancipation Proclamation. And in a way they were partially successful — the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1st, 1863, and the enslaved people in Texas only heard about it on June 19th, 1865.
So if you were a white guy in Texas and wanted to fight for the confederacy, you actually had to leave your home behind and travel to other parts of the country to do so. And once the war was over, and the confederacy lost, the soldiers coming home to Texas found that life there had changed pretty dramatically in their absence.
For one thing they left one country and literally came back to another one. After being on the losing side of the war, Texas was one again part of the United States. Which means that they lived in a country that used U.S. currency, but all the money they’d made and saved in the last five years was confederate currency. The Texans basically got home to find their bank accounts full of Monopoly money.
The Southern economy (and, honestly, the entire U.S. economy) had relied heavily on unpaid slave labour, and so the emancipation of the enslaved people in Texas meant that the workforce driving the South had disappeared too.
Which meant that many Texans found themselves without any money. And without any way to make any more in the immediate future.
But at least they didn’t have to worry about starving. Ranches across the state had fallen into disrepair while their owners were away fighting the war. With nobody to feed or look after them, cattle broke free from the ranches in favour of plains that supplied an endless amount of food. Those cattle mixed with the feral cattle that already called Texas home and by the end of 1865 there was a veritable infestation of feral cattle in the Lone Star State.
Which was great for suddenly impoverished families who could go into the brush and capture and slaughter a cow if you had to feed your family. Which isn’t to say that it was easy - only that it was possible if you really wanted to.
But it also meant that if you were a rancher — if selling cattle was how you made money — you were suddenly selling something that there was no market for. In the unlikely event that you could find somebody who wanted to buy a cow, you’d only get between $2 and $4 a head for them.
Meanwhile, in the North, in places like New York, they’re seeing basically the exact opposite effect. They’d just won a war. The economy is booming. More people are making more money. And so peoples’ taste starts to change. Quite literally.
Pork had always been the cheap American staple. But as folks became more affluent, and thanks in part to a new meat processing plant in Chicago, they were developing a taste for beef. Which was hard to come by in the North. So hard to come by that cattle would sell for $40 a head in Northern markets.
So some entrepreneurial Southerners put together the pieces that you just did.
The feral Texas Longhorns wasn’t great meat. They were too strong and too muscly for most peoples’ tastes. Which is why they’d never been eaten much in the South. But if the North was starved for beef they likely wouldn’t be too picky about what kind of beef it was.
And if you knew what you were doing, there was good money to be made by going out into the thorny brush, catching and castrating a couple thousand mustangs, and delivering them to the Northern meat markets.
Except the size of your pretty big country made for a pretty big issue: the meat markets were in the North — thousands of miles away — and the only way to get to them was by railroad. But the nearest railheads were hundreds of miles away — in Kansas and Missouri. And the only way to get the cattle there would be to walk them. 15 miles a day. For 5 months.
And that’s how America’s most legendary occupation began.
Now seems like a good point in the story to emphasize that the job of the cowboys was literally to make sure that the cows escort cows from one place to another. And that the dangers involved in doing that, for both humans and cattle, were mostly natural — floods, droughts, thunderstorms, predators and stampedes. The sort of things you’d expect there to be when you’re camping outside for half a year.
And the people who did the work probably weren’t the people that you’re imagining either. They weren’t strong, rugged men. They were mostly young boys who were good on horseback. And boys of all races. A quarter of cowboys were black. 1 in 4 of them. And 13% were Mexican.
But of course nobody knows that. Because the veneration of cowboys as an American icon has nothing to do with who they actually were and everything to do with who America wanted them to be. Who they needed them to be.
The story of how the cowboy became a hero isn’t one of American history. It’s a story about American mythology.
these 170 words are 10x better than all 14,000 in the first draft
erasing the history of hard working black and mexican folks and attributing them to some white guy is about the most american thing possible…
there’s any number of reasons the cowboy makes sense as the ultimate american hero. they worked a tireless blue collar job without complaining (but then again so did the miners and the railroad workers). they pulled themselves up by the bootstraps and took natural resources that didn’t belong to them and sold them at a massive markup. they’re basically the embodiment of the myth of american free market capitalism.
but those aren’t any of the reasons the cowboy actually became the american hero. because, you may have noticed, the american hero we call a cowboy wasn’t a cowboy at all.
when you start learning about cowboys some things start making a lot more sense and some things start making a lot less.
the job cowboys actually did was called cattle driving. and basically two things happened in texas that directly created the entire industry. the first was that the south went to war with the union and lost. and that losing a war meant that suddenly not only did you have no savings or money (because the currency you were using for the last five years suddenly didn’t exist anymore) but you didn’t have any way of making any more. because the south relied almost exclusively on the labour of enslaved people. and after june 19th 1865 those officially didn’t exist in texas either.
the second thing that while the ranchers were away fighting this war nobody was looking after their animals. so the cattle broke free and their population exploded.
(that’s another thing you learn - cows aren’t cows. they’re cattle. the females are called heifers until they have their first calf. then they become a cow. the males come in two varieties: the ones that are used for breeding are called bulls. and all the rest are castrated and called steers.)
so anyway now folks in texas have no money and no jobs. in fact they have nothing but a country overrun by wild cattle. there’s so many cattle in texas that you basically can’t but it sell them. and if you could you’d get $2 a head at most.
meanwhile in the north, where they didn’t lose a war…
some tomatoes are starting to grow. I heard in a youtube video that their size is basically directly related to how much water they get (they’re mostly water) so definitely keeping an eye on that.
ate some chard today. first time I really thought about the stuff I’m growing as food. I have no idea if influencing the flavour is possible aside from healthier plants = better taste but it’s something I’m thinking about now.
first movement test before my computer crashed
lol writing is always really embarrassing
if somebody were to ask me what the most enjoyable thing to grow is (weird that nobody has asked that yet) the answer would be swiss chard.
okay so here's the new look. it's ugly (and actually I've realized that aesthetics are a massive part of what brings my joy in growing things) but it is more functional.
here are some changes I made and why:
- pulled out the broccoli plants. since they weren't edible anymore they were just there for aesthetics. they were sucking up resources like water and space for roots and making it hard for other plants to get sun.
- pulled out 90% of the kale. giving the kale more space will allow them to get more sun and more water. basically I expect these to start growing very well now that there's so little competition for resources.
- put in those ugly green poles to hold up the tomatoes. again this is something that doesn't look great but optimizing for yield especially since they're the only fruit I'm growing.
now watering is so much easier because I can get directly to the root of the plants. will keep you posted on the changes.
okay futureland let's talk about spacing.
at the beginning of this experiment there was a lot to learn so I was really just trying to follow my instincts and do what felt right to me.
the garden above looks dope as fuck, I'll admit, but there's actually a lot going wrong here. but that's exciting because it also means that I learned a lot.
those really long things that I was super proud of (lol) are broccoli flowers. broccoli isn't supposed to flower. or at least you're supposed to harvest it before it does. broccoli flowers when it is too hot or doesn't have enough water. I went away for like 4 days without watering these plants during a heatwave and I came back to these huge flowers that were really beautiful. lesson learned.
the other thing here is that kale jungle at the bottom of the photo is basically the opposite of the conditions that kale are supposed to grow in. my partner didn't like the idea of cutting out plants that were already growing so I agreed to see what would happen if we just let them grow wild. it sucked. each of those kale plants has about two viable leaves on them. they're very sick and not doing well because they're competing for light.
plants need sun and water. that's basically what I've learned. check the next post for adjustments that I made.
guys here's the breakthrough: it was always a story about me. and it always should be.
somebody once taught me that copying things you like can be a really liberating way of creating. going through direct inspirations today to see if there's anything I can borrow for the structure of this essay.
Day 1. Recorded 10 minutes of garbage lol. Trying my best.
hey futureland. we made it.
Creation is a run on sentence the exact length of a life and each individual act of creation is simply another comma,
documentation is becoming its own source of creation
had to build a cover for these vegetables to keep the squirrels out. going to give it some vertical height soon.
testing time lapse
this is one of the vines growing behind the sign. the next opportunity for sunlight will be just below the first panel and then again above it. interested to see what the plants choose.
changed the camera angle and testing time lapse overnight tonight. really interested in finding a way to bring the actual experience of taking the time to watch these plants with more people.
to this point people have most been interested in the sign. I see people taking pictures of it once in a while and the pictures are always framing the text only.
we’re reaching a point in the project where the plants are going to start taking centre stage and causing and evolution in the way the sign exists in and interacts with the world.
documentation of this project is something I spend a lot of time thinking about. I think it's always been my style to work things out as I go along but I find myself worried that one day it'll be too late to get good documentation of the process. Today I installed this camera so that I can record a few seconds of video from the same position each day to get a good sense of the progress of the project.
I also think about these plants and their growth almost constantly so it'll take some mental load off to be able to watch them remotely whenever I miss them too much.
I planted onions specifically to keep the squirrels away. Last night patches ate the onion seedlings that had just sprouted. So now this is what the raised bed looks like. Interestingly enough there’s been no issue on the front patio. Thinking maybe the mint (which I also planted up here) has something to do with it.
things are happening fast
my favourite part of this project so far is how easy it’s been to experience it “as the audience”.
this is something that I find especially difficult in the other mediums I’ve worked in (writing and especially film).
part of the design is that it’s always changing and nobody knows what it’ll look like the next time they see it. some elements of “randomness” are designed (like the sign being on a timer) but most are completely naturally occurring.
getting to see this project every day I find myself genuinely surprised by the differences I see. I really don’t know what to expect. I really don’t know what it’ll end up looking like.I don’t know how fast these plants grow.
There are so many variables I don’t know or understand. It is art for other people but this is maybe the first time I’ve made something that feels like it’s really appealing to
me as well. It feels like something worth chasing.
maybe the thing I enjoy is that instead of being the one with the answers I am the one with the questions for once.
this little one managed to find the fishing line overnight. put in a couple more lines and a few more seedlings I had growing just to make sure there’s enough coverage going up the trellis.
lettuce coming up. going to be really tough to thin these but wanted to see if there was anything to be learned from broadcast planting the seeds instead of spacing them.
put some chicken wire over the bed last night to keep patches (our squirrel) from eating the crops. got our first seedlings popping through the soil this afternoon.
went in today to put some fishing line for the plants to start vining up. on the left you can see the tendril searching for something to climb up. they spin counter clockwise until they find something to grab on to.
this happened yesterday. weird that seeds are a miracle that I've stopped celebrating on a conscious level but that the anticipation of germination is still as intense as it ever was.
on another note the size of this garden seems huge when you're actually sewing seeds so I hope it feels that way when it comes to harvest.
an almost hilarious amount of work went into this. it feels like it's finally over but it's really just beginning. all I can say is that I really hope these seedlings grow.
the signs in the print shop. ricky decided to use black blockout vinyl so that there’s zero translucency on the text. so pumped with how it looks.
getting ready to install. once the LED signs come back from printing I'm going to pull down the wheat paste in the window, mount the LEDs on the rack, get the seedlings in a dirt mound and then turn it all on.
this really beautiful thing is the first flower from my tomato plant. I'm not sure how to hyperlink but if you scroll down you'll see how tiny this huge thing once was. I didn't plant the seed potato deep enough to get actual good potatoes from this but it's still my favourite plant in the house.
Finally got some seedlings outside now that the last frost of the year seems to be behind us. These are bush tomatoes that need to be 24" away from one another but I only realized that after planting them 3" apart from one another.
Going to see which ones do best out there in the rain tonight and will thin tomorrow.
looking for opinions on which you prefer.
proof of concept v2
proof of concept v1
a long overdue update. planning on getting these seedlings outside this weekend after the last frost. lost a lot of seedling and learned a lot. I've now become pretty decent at growing healthy seedlings from seed.
one of the most interesting/important elements of growing healthy seedlings is having them in full light the moment the seed cracks open. the seedling uses the amount of light it's getting to estimate how far under the soil it is and how tall it has to grow to reach sunlight.
really excited to start growing some things from seed outdoors and seeing how natural lighting conditions change the way that things grow.
here's an idea of the way that the signs will hang in the space.
damn so much has happened since last I posted here. this is a very rough mockup of the newest concept. two hanging LED signs that will become overgrown as the summer (and likely the current moment we're living through) passes.
thinking of calling the piece self fulfilling prophecy. the yes/no binary is admittedly a much more novel and interesting idea but this didn't feel like the right incarnation of it.
doing some garden planning. trying to use more rounded, natural shapes and mixed planting to make the garden somewhere that feels more alive.
also considering just making the whole thing wildflowers. who knows.
did an exercise that gave me a lot of clues into how the clock will end up working. computers are so cool.
have been digging into the research of what vine to use for the project. reached out to the gardening community on reddit looking for some answers on stuff that didn't come up elsewhere on the internet.
being able to get the answer to any question is probably the best part of the internet.
started using the other side of the breadboard. has liberated me from relying on the images so much and is forcing me to trust my intuition a bit more about what/how wiring will work.
wow technology is wild. this little greenhouse has sprouted seedlings way ahead of schedule. the seed packets said 7-10 days for these seeds to germinate and now, 3 days later, there's already a crazy amount of growth happening.
in the last test I did the broccoli (labelled BR here) took 5 days to sprout and even it was a pretty precious but pathetic performance.
the main difference here is that these seedlings really feel like they have conviction. they're bursting with life instead of fighting for it. they're also much more erect and make me realize that round 1 really stood no chance.
the main issues with the previous batch were humidity, moisture, and light - all of which were much too low in the first test.
once all the seedlings come up I'll remove the top off the container, drop the room temp to 16c, give them 10 hours of LED light a day, and use a fan to give them some gentle air circulation that'll make them stronger and more ready to survive when they're transplanted outside.
working through the exercises in the book. also found a YT video today of a functionally similar project that answered a lot of the more mechanical questions I had about making the hands move.
doing some research about this little potato plant (left) which is growing incredibly well. turns out potatoes grow at the root of the plant so you have to pull the whole thing up to get them when it's time to harvest.
in other news we've started to see some germination on the seeds we started the other day - should be another 3 days or so before we're ready to pop the top and let them receive light.
worried about the weather implications on the growing season but also aware that this is probably the first time that I've really thought about what the weather is doing this time of year.
plans for the invisible trellis to create the architecture for the experiment and have it look like the plant is moving freely through open space.
a black version (w/ a black background) is also possible but would look better in photos than it would in real life.
ordered the arduino starter kit as per @emu's suggestion.
I broke a nail but working through this first exercise and making this light turn on was the most magical thing I've experience in a long time.
really rough mockup of a new installation called "natural selection" where people allow a plant to make a decision for them by choosing one of two paths.
was thinking of a version like this (with a single plant choosing a path) or with two plants growing side by side (each one representing a choice) but this one seems more appealing and random to me.
planning to write more about this later. thanks to the futureland log feature for the push.
spent some time outside today weeding and clearing part of a bed for wildflowers while waiting for the seeds to germinate.
not exactly farming but cool to be more involved with soil and to get a better look at roots (while pulling up weeds). Always felt like our front hard was wasted potential so I'm looking forward to using this as another avenue to test and learn about growing things.
Pour one out for the dead homies.
One of the cool things about this project is how quickly you can learn even though the timescales for things are quite long.
Starting a new, more modern method of farming today after the passing of the v1 seedlings. Planted in these jiffy starters, they're now germinating in a small greenhouse and will be grown with a grow light once they sprout.
Also tossed in some non-edible plants in there for the garden.
started culling some of the dead seedlings and thinning away some of the weaker ones to allow for strongest ones to survive.
I'm going to be experimenting with more artificial methods of germinating seeds and growing seedlings.
I want to experience as much poetry as possible without letting romanticism about an idealized process get in the way.
I'm not sure if death swept through or if life just never took hold but as the population of seedlings has grown so has the number of things that have lived a life so short that there should probably be another word for it.
anyway youtube doesn't care that I brought to life and was directly responsible for the death of another living thing and so I found a bunch of other experiments I can be doing to explore ways that are going to make my seeds more successful.
one of the things I'm going to test immediately is a method of germination that uses damp paper towels instead of actual soil. supposedly nature isn't very fooled by our attempts to trick it into thinking soil is the same thing as their natural habitat and so you may as well go all the way on artifice.
the second point is related to the first - that we need to do what fooling we can because simulation of nature (or some idealized version of it) actually does lead to better, more successful, and stronger seedlings.
I'm going to try using a grow light to give a new batch of seedlings 12 hours of artificial light and a few hours a day of an artificial breeze, which supposedly (and quite logically) helps the roots become stronger and more sturdy.
if anything I think one of the things I learned through planning these next experiments is that getting strong seedlings into the ground, I can only imagine, is just the beginning of the challenges.
I'm going to take my time to enjoy living in each moment of awe, learning, and ignorance. I want to keep a forcefield of magic around the process. I want to experience it on a floral timescale.
still super early in experimenting with sun orientation but my guess from the results so far would be that there's a period early in the life cycle of the seedlings where the direction of the sun strongly influences the angle of growth and once they're past that stage the effects are pretty irreversible or, at least, harder to change.
the sun is at the bottom of this photo and as a result most of the seedlings are leaning heavily in that direction. the seedlings in the top left corner aged with the sun in the other direction and seemed pretty unaffected by the directional change - which is to say that they're still leaning at an extreme angle.
leaning in any direction at an extreme angle isn't something I want to encourage (and is probably why professional growers have lamps directly above their seedlings to ensure that they grow strong and straight during the early stages of their lives). leaning too much in any direction is probably a waste of good energy and is probably going to have negative long term effects on the overall strength of the plant.
for now I'm going to rotate the seed tray every day and see if that can correct some of the lean.
also crazy to look back to three days ago when there were almost no seedlings in this tray. nature is wild.
okay so now that the seedlings are growing fairly well (only one has died that I know of) there's the issue of which ones to keep. you only get to keep one per square pod. which is obviously complicated considering that many of the pods have three or more perfectly good seedlings in them.
so first, why are there so many? honestly I was under the impression that seeds were much less successful than they've turned out to be. I thought seeds were more of a numbers game. and that's turned out to be both true and false. the germinating (sprouting) seeds battle one another for resources like water and nutrients in the soil so it's theoretically unlikely that more than one per pod makes it above ground. I was almost sure that I'd sewed no more than 3 seeds in each pod but it turns out that a) I was wrong - a lot of pods have 4 seedlings in them and b) the success rate of these seeds has been so high that any more than two would have been overkill.
*an interesting note: it seems that the lettuce acted pretty much as I expected, with only one seed becoming a seedling, where almost every seed has germinated successfully. not sure yet if that's a result of the seeds or the plant itself.
anyway, now that we have all these seedlings we have to thin them (i.e. kill some of them) so that we're left with only one per pod. to be honest it's pretty upsetting that this is the way it works but I guess when it comes to crops you don't get to be that precious about life. either way I'm going to try my best to avoid this kind of waste going forward.
so how do you decide who stays and who goes? how do you tell who the most viable candidate is?
well here's another thing that doesn't work the way I would have expected. I would have thought that the tallest seedlings are the most successful. but those actually aren't the ones that you want.
imagine it like creating a video game character. you have 10 points to spend on attributes. the attributes you can choose are height and resourcefulness.
now imagine that resourcefulness is the only quality that you want from a seedling and you have a lineup of 10 of them. how will you tell who's the most resourceful one? well resourcefulness isn't a visual characteristic like height is, but you can use some pretty simple deductive reasoning to work out where the seedlings spent their points. which is to say that if a seedling spent all its points becoming tall, you know that it's not very resourceful.
the way that this actually translates to real life is that seedlings that are suffering to gather nutrients underground, at the root level, spend all their energy growing tall to compete for sunlight above ground. so they're spending all their energy in the short term trying to survive rather than spending it becoming a stronger seedling that's more likely to survive outside.
so the tall ones go. you just cut them right out of the soil. and you keep the ones that are the most compact viable seedlings (where viable just means not dead looking).
the issue that I have right now is that I have no baseline for how tall a seedling of this age should be. so the seedlings that are most compact (in comparison) now might just be runts and the ones that are tallest might not necessarily be struggling - they might just be earlier growers.
I'm going to need to wait a couple more days until I can get a good idea of what the actual situation is in each pod.
for now I'm working on solving the other issue visible in the photo - the fact that the seedlings are leaning so heavily towards the sun. I've rotated them 180 degrees so hopefully they grow in the other direction - eventually leading to straight, strong seedlings. I imagine that the rotation will also give me a good idea of which ones grew too tall too quickly as they'll probably have a hard time growing in the other direction if they're already spent all their energy.
a huge day of growth here on the farm. yesterday only one of these pods had seedlings in it. now there are 13 pods that have seedlings in them.
I did the planting in a bit of a haphazard way so it's tough to see patterns but the most developed seedlings are the broccoli, followed by two iceberg lettuce (which have just started to come to the surface). I think tomorrow or the next day we can expect to see a few more lettuce come through and the broccoli rows fill out.
learning a lot about seedlings, how to tell how healthy they are etc. so that I can prepare to thin them out before they start to compete too much with one another.
I'll talk more about thinning tomorrow, as well as some experiments that I'm going to conduct around having a couple "wild" pods that are allowed to compete with one another the whole season to see how that impacts the resulting vegetables.
more exciting news from around the farm (and the least expected of all). I've started planting vegetables we meant to eat that have "gone bad" - ones that have continued on the natural course of their life before we could eat them.
this is a potato that we found at the back of our cupboards at the beginning of quarantine. potatoes, strangely enough, can grow without soil. this one had some pretty impressively long roots so I decided to plant it instead of tossing it out. knowing nothing about potatoes I assumed we'd passed the point where it could grow into a plant. I don't think I'd even remembered to water it.
And then today my eye caught this little fleck of green coming out from the dirt. To be honest I'm not sure if this is a new thing or if I only noticed it today. I'm going to have to get much better at documentation if I'm going to learn and pass on any meaningful knowledge.
woke up to a common miracle this morning. 5 days after they were planted these little broccoli seedlings reached out of the soil and into the sunlight.
I really can't explain how happy this made me.
there were a whole bunch of seedlings pushed through on the same day and it's incredible to see the different paths they all took to the same destination.
this picture is from a cluster of three seeds that somehow all survived. most pods have only one seedling in them (but they might be joined by their slower siblings very soon for all I know).
broccoli is the only seedling that's made it above ground so far but hopefully that bodes well for the other crops.
today I started to plan the layouts of the garden. For some reason that seems impossible now, I thought the only consideration would be the layout.
The method of farming I'm using is called squarefoot gardening. Basically just farming in small, planned out grid instead of the rows that big farms use.
There's an app (pictured above) that tells you how many of each plant you can plant in a single square foot. The moment I saw those numbers was the moment I realized just how hasty I was in jumping into this project. Which is to say that I hadn't given any thought to the amount of food that I actually wanted to get out of my crops - I just wanted to farm.
Here's the 100% true story. I was eating a caprese sandwich and I had this thought: everyone we know is making their own bread. If we could make our own cucumbers and tomatoes then we'd be able to make our own caprese sandwhiches. I honestly a caprese sand which once every three years at most. But the idea stuck.
It's an oversimplification to say that I started farming because I wanted a caprese sandwich in the same way to say that WWI was started by an assassination. 2020, even before it got weird, had been filled with thoughts about our collective relationship with nature as well as my own personal one.
Which is all to say that farming, like everything else in life, has been imbued with so much meaning that it didn't start with or ask for that it's more a symbol than anything else. It's been almost exclusively an emotional, physical, poetic pursuit. And it feels like pendulum is starting to swing.
Planting cucumbers and tomatoes, as was the initial plan, doesn't make much sense when you consider the opportunity cost. If meaningfully providing food for our household was the starting objective then I'd have a 4' monoculture of onions and garlic - our two most frequently used ingredients. My intuition says that yields for the sake of sustenance shouldn't be an objective for the first year of this journey.
Now I understand how menacing and foreboding the saying "you reap what you sow" really is. I'm running out of time to find and plant seeds so I need to come up with a plan over the next couple of days.
half researching half writing today.
evolving and expanding on a theme of 2020 about the relationship between humans and plants. the idea that farming is framed from a human perspective (we sow the seeds, we harvest the crops) when the plants are actually the ones that dictate most of the relationship.
again not sure what the outcome of this will be (if only a philosophy about farming itself) but trying not to be prescriptive about it.
also I planted an onion today.
(posting this late)
today was a little different. I planted some seeds. It was a huge moment on the path towards actually growing something - to actually creating something living - but on camera it didn't look like anything at all.
I was surprised by the way that industrialization has divorced us so far from the actual magic of what farming is that most content on youtube etc. doesn't actually talk about what is happening when we're planting seeds.
I started writing about seeds themselves and how they relate to and embody all the most interesting parts of growing your own food in 2020. Half of it was answering the questions about the process of growing seeds that most people seem to gloss over and the other half was putting some of my own interest into words in a way that helps other people understand what's so appealing about the process.
I'm not sure what the end result or output is going to be but I know that I'm going to focus on seeds this week and see what I can do to spread some marvel in the world.
Things I did today:
Added the wire support to the bottom of the box so that the soil can't sag through. Added the landscaping fabric to contain the soil. Added the soil only to realize that I only have about 1/4 of the amount that I need.
I find leaving the house pretty anxiety inducing these days so it's a bummer to have done so only to have to do it again tomorrow. On the positive side of things I was able to pick up some organic seeds for broccoli, dill, cucumbers, romaine lettuce, and basil. So I'll be able to start some of those inside tomorrow.
Bringing things to life is what I'm really excited about so it'll be nice to take a break from construction for a little while.
A lot of slow tedious stuff today that isn't sexy on camera so don't really love this film but documentation is documentation.
Time and lack of tools got in the way a bit today. Finished up the bottom of the box.
The only thing remaining is to use wire mesh on inside of the bottom (so that the soil doesn't sag through the wood slats), add the landscaping fabric, and fill it with soil.
Doesn't look like my seeds are arriving any time soon so I might build a separate test environment to try planting existing vegetables and see if they take.
Day one: construction.
Today I started building a raised bed to grow vegetables on my patio. This is the first time I've ever built anything with my own two hands. Still need to finish up a few details tomorrow.
The premise of this project is not really to learn how to be good at farming but to see what I can learn about growing living things and what observations there are to be made through the scope of my own experience. That means I'm using google as little as possible and just trying to see what results I find.
The future will undoubtably involve more self-sustainability so now seems like a good time to get started.
Woke up yesterday morning and started doing some stuff based on the UN's open creative brief for fighting COVID-19. I recently wrote an essay about the communication failure involved with the term social distancing so it's cool to see that people realize that creatives are the way to solve a problem like this.
Anyway, pulled out this evolution of an old style of mine that plays with meanings we associate with words (I don't believe words contain any inherent meaning) to create something that re-frames the conversation around social distancing.
The work plays with an idea that I've always believed to be true - that words are a way of pointing to information that already exists inside somebody's head. People inherently know that distance can't cure a virus. People need to stop fucking around and just stay inside. Time, not distance, is what heals all. Or, less pessimistically, time and distance heal all. The point, as it always is with this format, is to arrive at a meaning based on experimentation. If you try out all the possible combinations, you'll arrive at the truth - that "distance heals all" feels wrong. Because it is.
I started reading "how to be an artist" by Jerry Saltz and in it he said that a lot of artists have ideas come to them in a dream. I'd never had that experience before until this morning when I woke up with this idea in my head.
quarantine postcard series. this is the first in the series. I also made a bathroom and guest bedroom edition but ran out of good paper to print them on. stay tuned for the rest.
was supposed to be doing stuff for the flower project but ended up playing around with newsprint paper instead. typeface is a version of News Gothic that I scanned from a vintage book of typefaces. love how unpolished it ends up looking.
this feels like the aesthetic I've been working towards in a round about way for the last 6 months or so. happy to have landed on it. now to see how it informs the work.
A couple days worth of decay on the flower. learning over the past couple days probably aren't as super exciting for most people but still interesting to discover new things:
1) this flower is going to live a long time before petals start falling off. It is currently in a single vase without water and is only showing signs of drooping not of drying out.
2) learning a lot about how to photograph the process. as the petals droop away from the centre I've had to adjust the camera settings to allow the entire flower to remain in focus. this is going to become increasingly important as petals start falling as I want the whole image to be in focus. mostly just working with F-stop and some ISO as the lighting environment is very controlled and consistent.
going to start the other flowers and come up with some concepts for the printed matter piece over the next couple days.
pretty happy with how these photos are turning out. the flowers decay pretty quickly so hoping that there's interesting visual changes at regular intervals.
next going to work on the cover for the project. not sharing too many details on what the final form will be but I can say that it's going to be printed matter.
for the record I also tried white background but it wasn't as exciting visually.
okay here's the first prototype. it actually looks very beautiful in person. I'm going to set up the backdrop tomorrow morning I can start documenting for the actual piece.
luckily my partner has incredible taste so we have a few of these single flower vases around the house from Nalata Nalata that are going to come in handy. she also said she loves the project so that's the first piece of really exciting feedback.
alright so new plan
1) don't actually use the "punch" function of the stamp. set up and ink the stamp upside down. (this also allows me to put two messages on the same stamp at the same time. I've used "yes" and "no" here for simplicity)
2) take the flower, turn it upside down, and push an individual petal against the message you're trying to imprint on it. (hard to show this one but basically just apply pressure on the back of the petal)
3) the result. the issue is it's ugly and messy and feels further from the end product I'm hoping for than the first test did. but I think that's just a matter of inexperience with the stamp and hastiness with the process. right now I'm waiting to see how long the ink takes to dry and will apply messages on at a time in the next test. If I have to apply a single message an hour then so be it.
the good news:
I think I've worked out what I want the final form of the project to be. I was thinking about the way that I could make this the most accessible and the most personal to the person using it while at the same time making it impossible to know what the answer will be before actually getting to the end. sometimes the lowest tech answer is the best one. but more on that later…
1st attempt at stamping directly onto petals. Both techniques I tried up to this point were unsatisfactory. The one to the right of the flower was the most clear but caused damage to the centre of the flower, causing it to fall apart.
Applying the stamp to the ink pad manually and then imprinting in the flower also didn't work. Next attempt will likely involve creating a manual hand stamp using the existing letters to try and provide a bit more control over the application.
Worth noting: the idea of putting the stem through a hole in a piece of cardboard did work but it turns out that's not really a huge problem in comparison to some of the other issues to be overcome with this project.
First test of getting the print onto the petals of the flowers.
a) obviously getting the "loves me not" on the petals is going to be more difficult. I assumed that much would be true. As you can see on the right column I was able to print with more accuracy by adjusting the position of the text on the stamp itself to accommodate for the text spanning two lines instead of one.
b) the ink doesn't bond well to the petals. there's going to have to be an incubation period between petals while I wait for the ink to dry. Another solve might be to use organic ink but the foraged ink (from the Toronto Ink Company) that I tried didn't bond well to the rubber of the stamp itself. Might be a trade off worth exploring though.
c) there are a lot of petals on the actual flower. I'm not sure how many I was imagining (maybe 10 or so) but there are at least 16 and they are in two overlapping rows. Was thinking about maybe removing the second row of petals but don't like the idea of intervening too much with the natural form of the flower itself.
d) the amount of pressure necessary is going to make it difficult to do individual petals that are still attached to flowers but I don't think there's really a way around this.
e) might be worth looking in to ways to convey the same information in a smaller surface area. For example using "<3" and "x" to represent the two options. I'll give this a shot and see if it feels like it communicates the same message. If I end up going with this route I'll likely have to order red ink for the stamp in order to create some visual variety between negative and positive outcomes.
He loves me, he loves me not or She loves me, she loves me not (originally effeuiller la marguerite in French) is a game of French origin, in which one person seeks to determine whether the object of their affection returns that affection.
I saw a version of this on @stoppingoffplace's instagram and it reminded me of the times I'd actually done this as a kid. I don't remember where I learned it from or when I did it, only that I was fairly sure that intentionally cheating (starting on loves me or loves me not based on whether there was an even or odd number of petals on the flower) was part of the game.
The issue, in terms of being a tool for prophecy, is that it doesn't replicate the natural course of answering the question. There isn't a real sense of finding out something that you didn't know before. No reward. No joy or suffering. Only longing in place of anxiety and mystery.
Wouldn't it be more interesting, poetic, and perhaps more authentic, to create a more capricious, adult version of the game that makes the answer more satisfying by making it more accurately approximate prophecy?
The idea is to create a real version of the game based on a natural occurrence rather than a manufactured one. What would happen if you used the natural falling (death) of the petals to dictate the answer to your question?
I intend to use a stamp to stamp individual petals with "loves me" or "loves me not" (because any pronoun would take up too much space) and see what the result is after allowing the flower to naturally dry out and die.
I am thinking about how to make this a piece of art that other people can interact with, or that can answer questions for them in a more interesting way. So I'm thinking about perhaps live streaming (or at least doing a series of photos) and allowing people to choose a flower (maybe of multiple) in real time and allow them to follow along.
Photos seem easier than livestream but maybe not as interesting.