We’ve had a relatively warm autumn this year, but the leaves are finally starting to change color and drop.
We’ve had a relatively warm autumn this year, but the leaves are finally starting to change color and drop.
I have this folder I keep on my computers that I drop random notes and files in. This video was from a documentary show I was watching some time back. I don’t even remember the name of the show now. Looks like Independent Lens… anyway, I noticed this t-shirt in the background of a shot. I did a double take and rewound the show to see it again. It’s odd … take a look:
This shirt is a curiosity to me. I went looking for it online without success. Regardless, the juxtaposition of The extra-terrestrial peering out behind the woods and a big buck makes me wonder exactly who would design such a shirt and for what reason. Although I seem to remember a lot of E.T. shirts from the early eighties, I’m pretty sure this one wasn’t licensed promotional material made at a later date. I find the relationship to the big buck odd and the fact that E.T. has such an influence on popular culture.
I rewatched E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial not too long ago and I caught the second half again this week likely because of the Halloween holiday. It had been twenty some years since I’ve seen it and what I’ve noticed that I often interpret films much differently than I did watching them as a child. I’ve often run across contemporary reviews of films that I’ve seen in the past and I like the serious minded type of reviews that dig deep into the script and symbolism. Sometimes now I like to do a bit of reading before or after I watch an old film.
As things so often happen, E.T started as an personal experience. It became a film somewhat by coincidence. Melissa Mathison co-wrote the screenplay with Steven Spielberg. Mathison dropped out of Berkeley because Francis Ford Coppola, whom she babysat his children, offered her a job1.. Spielberg told her a personal story of an imaginary alien friend during the filming of Raiders of the Lost Ark. After his parents’ divorce in 1960, Spielberg filled the void with an imaginary alien companion. He had originally scripted the child as autistic and he said that the imaginary alien was “a friend who could be the brother I never had and a father that I didn’t feel I had anymore.”2. Watching it in 1982 seemed like another fictional fantastic adventure to me. I hadn’t really noticed any of the subtle themes in the film and had absolutely no idea of the personal connection with the film maker. As I watched it recently, I noticed. Elliot and E.T. are both alienated and I felt a bit more attached to the reality of the film. It is personal experience that makes compelling art. I often stumble upon contemporary media reviews that I find fascinating and nowadays I like to look for the sublime in works I had previously overlooked.
Reviews have pointing out the spiritual symbolism and compared the film to other works of mystical imagination such as Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz. E.T. cannot survive physically on Earth, as Pan could not survive emotionally in Neverland; government scientists take the place of Neverland’s pirates. Or how about E.T.’s story as religious symbolism with crucifixion by military science and resurrection by faith. Even the movie poster is a take on Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. Spielberg received the Peace Medal from the United Nations for the films message of tolerance. There is certainly a reason that it’s one of the acclaimed films of all time.
After seeing it again with a broader perspective, I’d certainly give it two thumbs up. More importantly, films like these have become a slight part of who I am. The film has become part of my pop mythology and I would cast Spielberg as the perfect suburban wizard. I’d surmise that it’s become part of the collective conscience and further emphasized the impact of personal experience in doing so. Perhaps that’s why I made the effort to keep that little video clip on my computer. The t-shirt in the video has E.T. lurking in the woods. Was the subtle intent was to portray this extra terrestrial as another creature of the forest to be hunted? Was the t-shirt artist just fascinated, like me, of the various themes involved in the film or just the idea of extra-terrestrials? Or maybe the fella just picked up the shirt because, not unlike myself, he felt fascinated by and connected to the personal message of decency in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
1. Wikipedia contributors. “Melissa Mathison.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 30 Oct. 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melissa_Mathison
2. Wikipedia contributors. “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 30 Oct. 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E.T._the_Extra-Terrestrial
The video above is a bit from Charlie Rose interviewing Louis C.K.. I really enjoyed the entire conversation and the clip really resonated with me this morning. You can watch the original show at https://charlierose.com/videos/27296
I flipped on the television last night. I fast-forwarded through the debate just looking at the facial expressions. It looked as bad as I had anticipated. I think the last time I commented on politics was in 2010, when I posted a video I had seen years ago and found again online. It’s a video of John Cleese discussing moderates and extremism taken from a political promo done in 1987. I’m finding that I have very little to say about politics these days, so I’ll just leave it at that.
Sometime ago when I was a teen I remember riding in the boat late one evening while camping on an island with friends and toasting the start of my own secret society. We called it the ‘No Bullshit Club’. I think the title pretty much summarized the motive behind the club. Maybe we called the group to order twice. I might start it back up sometime soon though to address our current political climate. I thought about it recently though and wondered about the origin of the term. So the first cited etymology reference is to T. S. Eliot, who between 1910 and 1916 wrote a poem entitled “The Triumph of Bullshit”. Although it likely had been in the vernacular before then. Pound, Eliot and Joyce all lexicographically implicated in the origins of bullshit.2 This video was based on the essay written by Harry G. Frankfurt.3
It struck a chord with me. The notion that “you can’t bullshit and bullshit artist” seems to cross my mind, implicating my expertise when it comes to bullshit. I’d certainly consider it a tool in my belt and I might have inherited it honestly as it seems my family has it’s fair share of excrement artists. I used to use the word raconteur to describe myself because it seemed to fit a skill that others always seem to mention that I’m particularly good at. Owning up to said artistry, I certainly agree with Harry Frankfurt on the subject and I’ll be sending out invitations to the original club members sometime soon.
1.) Bullshit – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullshit
2.) Language Log – University of Pennsylvania Language Log
3.) On Bullshit – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Bullshit
4.) Harry Frankfurt – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Frankfurt
I had a little break in my schedule this last week. Amongst other things, I have a new address. We moved into a new house last month and I jinxed it by saying it would be ‘the easiest move ever’. Moving is a pain in the arse regardless of distance. My new address is listed on my contact page. With the break in schedule, I had a chance to tinker with the house, this site, and think about some things I feel as if I should note to myself.
Several years ago, I had set up a streaming to play around with and share my music library with myself on the road. Then one day I caught my father in the car and asked him to tune in while he was out. I had mentioned online streaming to him for years and soon thereafter, he was asking me and my brother to set him up to stream music. One thing led to another and now he and my uncle stream a live show every weekday morning from Windhams Crossroads. You can listen via webpage or apps at windhambrothers.com. Here’s the Github repo: https://github.com/windhamdavid/windham-brothers. I like to listen to them in the mornings, they’re funny, and they seem to be enjoying themselves. On occasion, my brother and I will sneak in a show together.
I built the page at https://davidawindham.com/studio/music/ to keep tab of my own listening habits.
I built this page http://radio.davidawindham.com last year. It’s a streaming media player, charts, and audio/video chat powered by Node.js, Express, Socket.io, WebRTC, and Redis. Here’s the Github repo: https://github.com/windhamdavid/radio
Although I track most listening, I also tune into online streaming which don’t get recorded. I keep a list of my favorite stations at https://davidawindham.com/list. I just started listening to the streams at Magic Transistor. I’m hooked. This fella named Ben Ruhe started it and I must say that it’s a great recipe of music. I’m particularly fond of channel 8.
Linear thinking and publishing seems to not only persist, but have a strangle hold in the information age. The timeline of information is dominated by the most recent and not necessarily the most pertinent information. I believe that we tend to think linearly as well. It’s amazing to me to think that while humans had invented fantastical answers to our before and after life, but until the discovery that the world was not flat, just assumed you fall off at the edges. While I love to wax philosophical on how we think, for the sake of conciseness, I’ll just focus on how we publish and consume information online.
Our mailbox, the analog one out at the end of the driveway, started filling up with the awkward family photo Christmas cards over the last week and I figured I’d do my part to reconnect with some family and friends on Facebook. In doing so and trying to be clever, I just thought that I would go in and ‘like’ one thing from each of my ‘friends’ over the last year. Since I hadn’t been following along, I felt like maybe I missed some things like when people die, kids are born, people marry, change jobs, move, and whatnot. I noticed several things while digging back in peoples’ timelines. Firstly, it seems that the average user is publishing a ton of posts. On some peoples’ pages, I couldn’t even hardly scroll back two months prior because of the amount of postings, so I have no idea what might have happened with them in the first ten months of the year. It’s meaningless to me to know that you might have posted about a highway closing sometime in the past. My point is that the meaningful information is buried amongst a pile of random repostings of animals and humans doing silly things. While I certainly respect the ever important funny clip as the backbone of the internet, I would have loved to been able to see just the important stuff and in this vein, it makes Facebook pretty useless.
The idea for the critique of linear publishing first occurred to me a couple years ago while I was working in a local school district as a data manager. In an effort to ‘modernize’ and bring the school into the digital age, the district hired a ‘technology’ liaison who proceeded to emphasize the importance of communicating online. The first workshops given district wide instructed teachers and administrators to join Twitter and learn to use it. I proceeded to build a Twitter bot to follow all of the in district employee accounts and archive their tweets. Having been on Twitter since its early days as a platform, I watched as the ‘non digital natives’ flocked to the medium to try it out. What really stuck out over the next year of them doing this was that information was being traded so rapidly in a format that was extremely difficult to follow. The liaison proceeded to give instructional tips over twitter at a rate of ten to twenty a day and the Tweet counts racked up so rapidly that my bot begin archiving thousands a week. I kept thinking to myself, why don’t they just publish one website that organizes all of this information in a manner that’s easy to digest. It would be so much easier on teachers and students to learn than trying to follow along through thousands of tweets a week. The district technology liaison did keep a blogspot account where in one year, there was exactly one post about how to use Twitter. I was appalled and thinking this is not how to use online communications and hoping they would eventually teach those non-digital natives to use other online mediums that aren’t so linear.
News publishing has been traditionally timeline based, but they are quietly starting to branch out from linear publishing with topical micro sites on relevant subjects. I don’t read the news, but I do keep a collection of curated syndication sources that I check every so often to keep informed and level up water cooler conversations. I worked as a developer for a newspaper publisher in the mid 2000’s right before the internet started taking them out. This was just prior to the flock to social media online. We had meetings about how to engage these folks, we added widgets to share, we built social media profiles for each property and built in user profiles, but for the most part traffic wained as folks began depending on their peers for news information. New publishing has changed dramatically in the last ten years due to financial constraints on publishers from the internet. The primary sources of revenue have been taken away. Classifieds, car dealers, and real estate all use other online platforms as primary marketing tools. The publishers, like about every other business now all have social media liaisons on staff. The verbosity of this type of shameless self promotion on social media is what initially led me to abandon it. But perhaps I’ve failed to consider that, not unlike news publishing, it’s most profitable to keep those audiences engaged now and tomorrow. What gain is it for Facebook advertisers if I only log in a couple times a year? And while I know that publishers have made a push to do so, I think it might be a great financial asset for them to republish archived materials that were not as influenced by the current real time news cycle.
Having access to a tremendous amount of information has given rise to the idea of information architecture. The notion that this information needs to be organized in a meaningful way is important and it’s no different than the way I wrote this essay, which is composed of an opening statement, four supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion. Self publishing platforms have, by necessity, added the ability to architect the flow of information. The pinned post, block, filter, group, tag, and archive features of these platforms are tools to help us organize the information in an effort to make it more meaningful. Even this personal website has fallen privy to linear organization because of the way it’s designed. When I started it in 2004, I just published whatever I was thinking about or had discovered. With the rise of social media platforms, I just started posting random videos and images without any contextual information whatsoever. Eventually, after the thrill of online publishing diminished, I just let it go dormant in the ever increasing flood of others publishing information online. In an effort to revive the site, I’ve put more emphasis on pages in a basic site structure and less on the linear postings I’ve made over the years. I think that eventually we’ll all realize the importance of this type of information architecture and forgo some of the current linear approaches to publishing.
There have been some platform changes in recent years to try and adjust away from the linear publishing. The Medium platform by Twitter is a well thought out response to Twitter’s linear approach. Many non-linear publishing platforms still contain relevant timeline based information. For example, lets say one of our current presidential candidates gets caught up in a email scandal, the Wikipedia page is updated in near real time with the recent information. So what I’d like to see is information online organized in a more meaningful way with less emphasis on timeline based models. My effort to do so involves only publishing a limited amount of information, following the idiom that ‘Less is more’ in the digital age, that is concise, original, and contextually relevant. The wasteland of online publishing is just a reflection on the ease at which it has become for anyone to publish and republish anything. In the same way that I’m conscious of what sort of my environmental impact, I’d also like to reduce my digital footprint in such a way that I only contribute to a more organized and meaningful web. It kinda feels like the same campaign against spam emails and I hope we can architect ourselves away from the ‘more now, schedule tomorrow’ style of publishing online.
Update: 1/4/2016 – I read this article over the holiday which echoed my sentiments pretty accurately.
Derakhshan, Hossein (Dec 29, 2015). “Iran’s blogfather: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are killing the web”. The Guardian.
I think people are too competitive and not collaborative enough. Sometimes, after I’ve repetitively thought about it numerous times, I find that an idea just resonates and I find myself referencing it again and again. I like to reference this idea with this quote: “I think one of the major mistakes of education is teaching children that everything is a competition instead of a collaboration.” And since I rarely I have time to expand upon or defend this idea in conversation I’d like to try and do so in this quick essay.
I play quite a bit of tennis and golf nowadays. If you ever want to see grown adults acting like children, just try getting involved in one of those sports at an amateur tournament. In the picture above, it looks like I’m asking about a line call during a local tennis round robin. Since the line calls are made by the players in amateur tennis, it’s easy to make both honest and dishonest mistakes when a tennis ball is moving at eighty plus miles per hour. Likewise, aside from the knock of a bad ball lie, amateur golf involves a handicap rating set by the scores turned in by the players which are often ‘cherry picked’ to benefit the players handicap. Anytime I travel to a tournament, I’m inevitably confronted by some of this behavior. I’ve found that competition in business is no different a scenario excepting that the conflict of business competition can be litigious rather than just bad sportsmanship. The field in which I work is one in which collaboration is typically exemplified and competition is only more subtlety built into the codebase of the software. I got an email from a fella in Belarus the other day asking to help fix an issue with a project I’d built. This fella could have just copied it and republished it as his own, but he understood the value of collaboration and offered to assist my project in fixing bugs. Many times I’ve had a business and another developer simultaneously contact me about working on the same project. I prefer not to see other developers as competition since each of us usually has our own strengths and over the years, I’ve learned that it’s unwise to create more competitors than cohorts. I always try to offer to assistance with projects in such a way that everyone wins. And while I don’t always pocket the majority of the money, I let the other businesses play to their strengths and I get to keep to mine while building alliances and not enemies.
I believe the only way to undo this sorta competitive mentality is with education. I’ve worked for both a school district and university where I could witness this first hand. The university banners around campus spoke much louder than the actions of the academic committees on which I served. Whoever the printing company that handled the football merchandising was making a mint. In the primary school district, I think there is definitely an effort to teach collaboration between students. But while collaboration is being taught, I think the overall lesson that seeps through to the students is that of test scores, athletic performance, and college acceptance rates… kinda the ‘real world’ is tough and life’s not fair mentality. And while I agree partially with the mentality and I and can see where it might help others succeed, I found that it’s a finite balancing act in which the majority of my successes in the ‘real world’ have been through collaborations and not competitions. I recently saw some sort of sports is life metaphor poster. I don’t even remember where it was or what sport because I’ve seen so many and there are literally thousands of sports life metaphors out there. Regardless, it always reminds me how much people tend to lean towards the life is competitive notion. And as much truth is in them, I think competing just to survive is something that no human should have to endure since we have the resources capable of sustaining the existing life on this planet. I think most modern democratic societies try to echo this same opinion in their laws. However, it’s entirely evident that in our current political climate, these polarized competitive opinions are being exemplified by many of our candidates and I think that’s merely a reflection of the general population. I believe it’s ever so important that this atmosphere of competition is quieted down a bit and I can’t help but reflect on the fall of the Roman Empire and this same gushing glorification of competition.
At this point, you might want to pigeonhole my thinking, but I do believe that competition is an important and healthy aspect of not only our society as a whole, but of our personalities and not just in a Darwinian sense. And while I cannot help but notice in conversation the one-upmanship of our competitive nature, I also try to recognize our compassionate and caring nature. Just this week, I had a conversation with my wife about medical responsibility in which I defended the rights of hospitals and doctors to compete and set their own rates because I believe that competition increases the levels their services. This same argument can apply to any number of differing practices and scenarios. Personally I’ve found that I like to challenge myself to little competitions to see if I can accomplish tasks and I’ve found this greatly increases the likelihood of doing so. It’s not different in any other arena and I believe it’s healthy to challenge one another in that same sense. Some of the greatest accomplishments of mankind have occurred under the guise of friendly competition.
But what are the consequences of competition and why do I think that collaboration more important than ever? We are living with an ever increasing population in an ever shrinking world. And while war and conflict are sometimes relevant competing forces, the consequences of global concerns, like climate change, are shared responsibilities that will no longer pit the competition of one country versus another. Likewise, our economies are so intertwined as to merit cooperation on the part of nations. The divides between us are getting smaller in the sense that information, and thus money and resources, travel at the speed of light. So what is an appropriate balance? I believe that there are certain aspects of our cultures that could simply forgo the competition. I don’t believe we should be an arms race with medicines and genetics. I don’t believe that any nation or corporation should be competing to acquire any of the finite resources of this planet. I might suggest that in some areas we should drop our competitive nature and start thinking more collaboratively. And as for now, I’d like to try and keep most of my competition confined to sport on the court and courses and do my best to act like a gentleman while doing so.
It’s been almost three years now since I’ve used Facebook. Oh, I’ve logged in to get developer keys tune up other folks business accounts, but otherwise I turned off all notifications and left my personal account untouched. I had started out back in 2007 when I received an invite from an old friend and had previously somewhat enthusiastically written in 2008 about it’s potential. Although it took me five years to quit, the enthusiasm began to wane within a year and half. The primary reason I quit is that I did not want to support Facebook policies or practices as an online medium and I wanted to lead by example. Another reason, perhaps the more central issue, I quit is that I felt as if it had started to creep into my life too much. I started having people I really didn’t care about in my dreams. Aside from the basic psychological perspective that folks were curating their online identities which in no way represented their real lives, I started to find that my real life conversations were beginning to revolve around Facebook posts. It took a while to come to that decision because I tried other methods first. I deleted half my so called friends. Mind you this was before the unfollow feature which allows you to sort them out but not unfriend them. I worked with the Facebook granular controls for privacy and created lists/groups. I stopped accepting friend requests of folks I really didn’t know. I blocked relatives so I didn’t have to answer Facebook related questions during the holidays. I bemoaned the Facebook invasion into my privacy every time they reset some setting to public or added a new feature. So I made a conscious effort to stay logged out.
For me, It still feels like a family or high school reunion that you can never leave. When I quit It wasn’t just family or old friends anymore, it was now colleagues, coworkers, and random people that I had no idea if I knew them or not. I had too much trouble filtering out the folks I actually care about from the mild acquaintances. It wasn’t really building the app that logged me off for good. The final straw for me was when my parents joined and I think that’s why the curve of Facebook users has continually trended up in age as young users depart. When my parents joined Facebook, they suddenly decided that this new medium was the way to communicate all the time. It was enough that they had learned how to send text messages. I’d call and they’d say “hey, did you see my Facebook post” or “did you see what x posted”. Now Facebook was really invading my personal space in that I can no longer carry on a conversation with my own family. I still call my parents about every other week, just to chat and check in on everything. And now they have to ask “how are things”, “whatcha been up to” and the like. It’s nice. The same thing almost anyone has to ask me in person when I see them. I logged in a couple days ago and dug around a bit. I noticed that not much has changed. It still a wasteland of communication for the most part. The subtleties of question and response are gone. It’s wide open nonsensical, non-linear, self-promotion, copyright violations, and mostly just plain crap sprinkled in with some personal copy and photographs. I don’t suspect it’s the medium, but rather the users… or possibly just my friends. Although I really believe that you can get whatever you want out of it. I’ve worked online for over ten years now and I know damn well that the medium is rather indicative of internet communications and possibly even human communication as a whole. But for some reason, regardless of what I know, I still am still trying to see the bright side of it all.
So maybe I’m doing it wrong. Maybe I’m lumping this medium in with the ideal communication I’d like to have from my friends and family. Maybe it’s that I’ve confused the word friend with what Facebook calls a friend. A true friend recently emailed me to check in. However, instead of calling or starting a series of emails, I logged into Facebook to see what’s going on with him. And I said to myself, now this is a decent use case scenario. He then proceeded to post what I sent to him on Facebook. I checked in again after I notice traffic coming here from the link I had sent. Since I’ve turned off all personal notifications I generally have some outstanding tags and whatnot that I tend to ignore when I log in. I don’t feel bad about it and I generally feel more connected to the folks that I actually keep in touch with. My email and website is listed and I even list a phone number on the homepage of my site that you could text or call anytime. I do, however feel non-supportive to these acquaintances at times. When I accept friend requests, I have a generic message I send back to friend requests informing them of my lack of participation. And although I hope they respect my opinion, they seem to forget because when I’m out and about, they always ask “did you see blank on Facebook?” like they expect everyone to be there regardless. It’s still so weird to me. I’m unsure that some of these folks know of any other way to communicate online. I recently started going back through this old site of mine and I realized that it’s mostly junk too, so who am I to critique the online communication of anyone else. And in that way I am doing it wrong. So now, I think I might log into Facebook and post this post, maybe try and whip up some new people lists that I might enjoy …and then try to shake the weirdness off when I log out. Or the more likely scenario… I’ll log in, confirm some requests, send em a blanket statement and quickly get out of there before any weirdness sets in.
I’m not exactly sure why I do it, but I’ve acquired the peculiar habit of naming things over the years. I think that perhaps it’s a lot like the idea of a fisherman naming his boat for good luck. I’ve had names for not only automobiles, but household appliances like the coffee maker. I remember we had one that we called Malita… it was a piece of junk. The reason I’m writing this is that my wife and I were on the couch last night setting up a new hard drive under the television for storing music, movies, and Tivo recordings on, when I paused and said “what should we name it”. We spent the better part of the next twenty minutes discussing it. And while it’s a given that we name drives, servers and computers, I’ve actually put some thought into it in the past ( e.g. tweet ) and I tend to try and make the names meaningful. I’m pretty sure that while I anthropomorphize objects, I also lean toward mechanomorphism to explain the world around me as well. I don’t think it’s just me. I think we all tend to and others have suggested the same. Here is a research paper on the topic if you’re in for some dry reading.
More recently, I’ve been naming the last couple machines after my deceased pets. I logged into and lined up my list of current computers and servers to the right. The last two names are my former pets. Macs was our family dog who died in the mid 90’s. He was a black colored pug and quite the character. I named my working laptop after him. I think it started as a play on the word Macintosh, but I only think about the dog now. Sometimes when I’m working, I’ll say “come on macs, what are doing?” I named my most recent server Woozer. I named it after my dog of 14 years that died earlier this year. Her name was Boozie, but we called her Woozie and Woozer. She was spunky, kind, and smart… just a great dog in every respect. Aside from it making talking to the computers easier, which I tend to do a good bit, I’m not exactly sure why I’ve been naming them. However, I can tell you that in this case it gives me a little smile every time I log into a machine that spits out my former pet’s name.