A couple of days ago was Paul Miller's first day back on the Internet after being off it for one whole year. Miller is a tech writer and senior editor at a hip web site called The Verge (which I'd only just barely heard of and purports to cover "the intersection of tech, science, arts, and culture."). A year ago he was fed up and decided to quit, and quit the internet, but his boss said don't quit your job too, just go offline, and write for us about what it's like being offline.
The other day he wrote a piece summing it all up. It's pretty interesting, though not, IMHO, fascinating. There's a difference. But if you find the idea interesting, I'd recommend reading the article, and also, if you're a meta type, or a film/media type, watching at least the first 5 minutes of the 15-minute mini-doc about his experience (at the top of the page).
Now here are some of my thoughts about Miller's actual article and year offline:
- A lot things he writes about I am totally on board with. Most importantly, he realized that a lot of his problems or flaws in his personality or life were not caused by him being on the Internet. He didn't fix them just by going offline. He was and is still a depressed, kind of unsatisfied, restless 20-something, adrift in the modern world.
- Still, I would argue that some of his problems ARE indirectly and partially a result of the Internet - not so much him being on it, but the whole society being on it. These things stack up and are compounded by the whole culture, so just taking himself off it doesn't fix it.
- And yet, there's a lot of good things in the Internet, especially about connectedness, that he observes and that I agree with.
- All in all, I take the stunt and his writing to have one central lesson: You don't fix things by radical and sudden cold-turkey removals of one narrow aspect of your life. Moderation in all things, as some Greek philosophers once said. If you think you need to totally quit the Internet, you probably don't. If you think you don't need to quit the Internet, you probably need to at least reduce your use of it to some degree. And you probably have other things to work on too.
- Miller's only 27! So young. When the web began, he was about 7 years old. He likely doesn't remember a time when there was no Internet. I put to you that that is one of the most important things to think about regarding his stunt - he didn't "have a real life", because he had never had one (To some extent - though I agree with him that the Internet IS part of our real lives, and our life starts getting "unreal" when we forcibly remove ourselves from it, but that's only because we're part of a whole society that's on it, as I said above. I think that what we really mean when we say "unreal" is that we feel our life has lost its balance - which gets back to moderation). On the other hand, if you're about my age, you'd lived til you were about the age he is now before the Internet began to completely take over all of life. When I was 27, there was no Google, people were just barely starting to buy stuff online, almost nobody had a blog and nobody called them blogs, there was no "social networking" other than the primitive bulletin boards and IRC chat rooms that a few geeks used. We'd lived somewhat full, interesting lives without ever "checking in" or "tweeting" or "yelping" or snapping any Instagrams. EVER.(and yet, also, we were still fucked up people, for other reasons.)
- Depression and the ennui of modern life and the problem of the many ways in which you can fail at being a decent and good human is much deeper than the specifics of which alienating technology is running our lives. People wrote disturbed diatribes about the pernicious effects of television 50 years ago. It's all part of a general, steady trend that's much bigger than "the Internet".
Well, that's about it. I gotta get off my blog and go run some errands in "the real world". Read more>>>
An edit of footage from the first Bring Your Own Beamer Tucson on April 20 2013, an instance of a globally happening event now and then in which various video artists do their thing all at once in one room. This focuses on the live video manipulation piece that I performed. When shown in the context of the other 3 projections on the wall, mine is the lower right one. Music by Los Macuanos, as DJ'd by Adam Cooper-Teran.
More info about BYOB: byobworldwide.com/
Cast: steev hise
Ten years ago today was the first morning of the Iraq War, after the "shock and awe" kickoff the night before with bombs and cruise missiles raining down on Baghdad. Remember that? On this special occasion it's appropriate for me to look back on what that time meant for me (It's kind of astounding how little attention this anniversary has received, both in the media and amongst friends' social media posts. I may be just too busy this week to look hard enough, or maybe there's a lot of collective amnesia).
The importance of that time as a turning point in my life really can't be overstated - and I don't mean this simply as a sort of standard, progressive narrative, in an anti-war activist hand-wringing way, lamenting the many ways in which the Iraq War and the Bush Administration were a terrible move for the worse for the U.S. and for the world (of which I agree there are many of those ways). What I have in mind is more personal: simply put, the leadup to the war in early 2003 was a profoundly radicalizing experience for me, which led me for the first time to really get involved with Indymedia, and also led to me starting to see myself, and act as, a citizen journalist, and perhaps most important Read more>>>
I'm a little late to the game on this little online kerfuffle, but it's still worth me weighing in. A week ago, Nate Thayer, a freelance journalist/writer with a long and distinguished career on his vita, posted to his blog complaining about being asked to do some work for free by The Atlantic. They wanted him to re-write and summarize a piece that he had done previously for another site, and then they wanted to put it on the Atlantic's website. He declined, and then publicised the incident.
A couple days later Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor of The Atlantic, responded on his blog to Thayer. They both have some good points, but they're both also guilty of representing their end of the debate with their own particular slants (of course).
I think the original reporter, Nate Thayer, is speaking in his original post and other comments he had made, from a place of pain and hardship. He clearly is having a hard time making ends meet, and his frustration Read more>>>
I think reading and books has been just about my longest-running vice. I've been into reading every since I actually learned how as a child. It's one of my few weaknesses as a consumer, although I have learned to resist a little better the impulse to keep buying books.
I definitely need to spend more time reading the ones I have already bought.
A while back I got into this site Goodreads, and if you've been reading my blog for the last couple years you've seen my reviews there get auto-posted here. I'm trying to decide if I should add this goodreads recent updates widget to the sidebar of my blog. That way people can see not only the occasional book that I finish reading, but also the endless flood of books I desire. I probably add one to my "to-read shelf" once a day or so.
In this modern age of economic tightness and shifting paradigms of distribution and funding, cultural workers of all kinds have been somewhat adrift for awhile now. At this point in history and in my career, monetization and promotion is still an ongoing challenge. Crowdsourcing such as Kickstarter seems promising. Grants are out there but have always been hit-or-miss, especially in the U.S. amidst its current anti-art climate. Today I want to just take a moment to tip my hat to one general model, and one specific instance of it: the small independent "record label" has been an important type of patron for musical and other artists for years. (The quotes are because both words are somewhat anachronistic, aren't they?) These little companies have been changing the landscape for decades in a variety of ways, and even as the "diy" way of doing things continues to grow in viability, there's still recently been, and will continue to be, an important role and need for the small, focused, dedicated outlets that nurture and curate the creations that are too under-the-radar or off-the-map for mass corporate attention.
In 1997 I found out about a new label starting up that seemed to be perfectly matched to my interests as a sample-based composer. It was called Illegal Art. At that first moment I actually suspected their initial call for submissions to be spam, or a prank, but they went on to be very important and a huge boon to me over the next decade and a half. Now they're going on indefinite hiatus.
IA specialized in music (or "audio art") made from found sonic materials. The first thing they put out was a compilation called Deconstructing Beck, which had a track of mine on it and which almost got us all sued by Beck's label, Geffen. (a few days ago was the 15th Anniversary of that disc's release.) A couple of years later they released a CD of my work, Original, the first disc by a single artist that they ever put out. I'd been ready to self-distribute, burning CD-Rs myself and stuffing them in envelopes, but they saved me from this and got my work into stores as far away as the Tower Records in Tokyo. Because of this first solo CD, and the closeness in aesthetic focus between Illegal Art and my website, Detritus, for some time I would hear the rumor that myself and Philo T.Farnsworth, the label's head, were the same person. This amused both of us and we didn't spend a whole lot of energy trying to prove it was false. Soon the label went on to publish a long list of other, amazing releases by artists far more accomplished and skilled than I, including Girl Talk, Steinski, Wobbly, and People Like Us.
Seven years ago, after a gradual turn from experimental music to socially-conscious filmmaking, I was just finishing up my first full-length documentary, On The Edge: The Femicide in Ciudad Juarez. Philo was impressed enough with it that he decided to take a significant step outside of Illegal Art's usual wheelhouse, and offered to release the film on DVD. Once again, for something that I was going to just go small-scale and DIY on, suddenly Philo gave me the rare and pleasureable experience of seeing something I made show up in stores and on Amazon and get reviewed in magazines, without that being because of my own legwork - something I, like many artists, am pretty bad at and have trouble getting motivated to do.
Illegal Art never had a lot of cash, and though they secured pretty good distribution deals, being an artist on their roster was not a huge financial windfall or star-making machine (Girl Talk is the exception, one HUGE star to come out of their stable. However, a few months after my DVD came out, I was still getting mucho disrespect from festivals and other institutions, including one conference in Juarez itself that cared so little about my film that I had to put up my own hand-written posters at the last minute to advertise a screening there - see the above photo).
But there was a certain cachet to the label, and I was proud to be a part of it. They never went on to put out any more DVDs, and I think mine was not a financial success, although they did do two pressings of the disc. But the film is still available from their website, along with most of the rest of their catalog (and they're working on providing the older releases), on a pay-what-you-wish (even zero!) basis. I can't really begin to put into eloquent words how important it is, what a rare treat it is, as a creative person, to have someone else, someone that's not only an individual but a business, put trust and interest and work and money into something in a way that not only shows their approval, but that assists in getting that something further along and out into the world (and in a way that clearly is not exploitation, as so many other record labels or film distributors are gulity of).
So: thank you, Philo. Thank you, Illegal Art. You've done well. Read more>>>
The United States Border Patrol is damaging our public lands by running roughshod over environmental regulations. This short video explains what's happening on two unique federal lands adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico Border. Produced for Sierra Club Borderlands.
Cast: steev hise