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I woke up this morning (duh-durrr-duh-durrr-dum) and I was telling myself that “it’s all about time” and I was having that pinging thing in my head which I’ve come to interpret as some sort of re-arrangement, brain banging up against skull, electric discharge through water, fat and brain tissue, whatever.
I’d been dreaming that I was on a railway station waiting to meet the Spanish ambassador to Chile, who for some reason “is based at the Court of St James”. I was early but wasn’t sure if I was late. I kept thinking about how much Spanish I could get away with when I met him. I’ve never formally learned Spanish, I can mumble ‘muchos gracias’ and “¿CÃ³mo estÃ¡s?” (unintentional, but appropriate encoding error) – that would have to be it and then I’d have to deal with whatever he said to me. Anyway then I was on the train and still late but not sure whether I might be early and missing connections and looking at timetables and *not* looking at timetables and feeling uneasy and then I woke up.
With the words “it’s all about time” bouncing around in my head.
And it set me to searching for evidence for or against this thesis – am I really obsessed with time? Is that what all this has been about, all this blogging and writing and music and running around and standing still? Is it as simple as the spirtual awakening that means you recognise time as an illusion, an abstract human-made concept which (like money) doesn’t really exist but which we use to organise our lives, until we find it is using us?
I made a list, in the order it came and fell into place
- I have a childish habit of saying “it’s XXXX time” in response to the question “what time is it?” “Sleepy time”, “Tuttle time”, “Walking time”, “Breakfast Time”, “Ukulele Time”.
- Um. Trains. In my dreams, often things are organised around a train journey, missing connections, finding a new way around that no-one else has seen.
- Trains are my favourite form of public transport – I have spent six weeks in total travelling back and forth across the USA. I’ve done a fortnight going round Europe. I spent a year “on the road” but most of the travel I did was by rail.
- My year on the road was a lot about stepping out of everyone else’s idea of time and money, seeing how far you can go, seeing when it is useful to embrace and when to let go.
- My final year project at university in 1996 was a simulation of a rail network that found optimal train timetables given a rail network and a population of passengers.
- I’m obsessed with where I am in my life. How long is it till Easter, Christmas, my birthday. How am I doing against this time last year? How am I doing against what my mother, father, uncle, grandparents, people I’ve never met, but to whom I look up – how am I doing against what all of them had achieved when they were my age.
- How far through the year are we? Is it spring yet? How do the seasons work? An awareness of working against the natural rhythm of the year, the moonth, the day. A belief that if only I was more attuned to natural rhythms (and you bastards were too) all would be well. Or weller.
- Animated GIFs are a little bit of time trapped and repeated eternally.
- Every back-burner project I have has some aspect of bringing the past into the present – archiving, talking to people before they die, understanding the context blah blah blah. The stuff people would have put on Facebook 30 years ago if they’d had Facebook then.
- Watching Classic Doctor Who with my daughter – It was also one of a few must-watch slots in my childhood – the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker years (or Three and Four as they’re known now…)
- Guardians of the Galaxy – There was a 1970s issue of The Defenders when these guys appeared and Vance Astro told the story of “his planet” (ie ours) and it all went wrong soon after 1980 when the ozone layer broke down. Aaaagh Apocalypse!
- I have a complete book-crush on Present Shock by Douglas Rushkoff – so much so that I can’t bring myself to read the whole thing.
- Finding solace in things past or future – anywhere but now where it hurts.
- Remix culture and the role of copyright and corporatism – the weirdness that this creates in the present because we can’t re-use stuff from the past without money and other resources.
- The thing about Tuttle is that it’s 10-12 on Friday. That’s the one thing that hasn’t changed a bit for six years.
- I’ve had times when I was *always* on time, when I was *always* early, or *always* late – always predictable until I switched modes (all these “always” are actually head-fictions)
- I’ve often seen myself in groups as the memory man, the one who reminds the group of where they’ve been and asking how that fits with where they’re going. I make a living doing that, it’s called facilitation. Also Knowledge Management.
- My grandfather mended watches. Whenever we went there (every week) he had a watchmaker’s loupe scrunched up to his eye like a monocle and a pair of tweezers in one hand tinkering until the clockwork worked and the watch came back to life.
- I’m quite aware of the different timezones around the world. I often find myself thinking, what time is it now, there.
- I’ve had periods of vintage obsession, wearing old clothes, using old machines, playing with aspects of the everyday past.
- Photography is (just) the capturing of a moment in space and time.
- As a teenage photographer I could play my way through several sets of batteries with a flashgun, seeing odd moments captured in the darkness, freezing water as it goes down the plughole.
Y’know? IDK. Something.
I’m really pleased and excited to see how the #AmtrakLIVE experience works out for you over the next few days.
I’ve travelled to (and from) SXSWi twice now on Amtrak and loved every minute of it. I’m only sorry that I’m not doing it again this year.
In March 2010, Brian Condon, Heather Taylor and I flew from the UK to start our journey in Boston holding meetups there, in NYC, DC, Atlanta and New Orleans travelling by train all the way, but because of the schedule found we needed to drive (boo!) over to Austin from NOLA in order to be there for the best of the festival. After the usual mad few days I took the Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited over to LA doing the return journey of #AmtrakLIVE. It was a fantastic way to relax and reflect on the whole experience, get to know other passengers and make some video.
In March 2011 I travelled alone for a project I called “Please Look After This Englishman”. I started in San Francisco on March 1st with no firm plans about who to see other than to visit SXSWi and to get my plane back from JFK on March 31st. I used my blog, twitter and facebook to explore the edges of my social network to find people to go and visit and stay with along the way. I reckon I totalled just over 8,000 miles on your network using a 30-day, 12-segment pass – what a bargain! That year I got the Texas Eagle down from Chicago to get to Austin.
Of course I blogged and tweeted, took photos and video all the way on both trips (although the lack of T-mobile data connectivity while on the Empire Builder going through the more frozen parts of Montana & N Dakota meant I had a little off-line time!) I was surprised during both trips to find so many people who’d never been on a train, nor thought of travelling on one.
So I’m thrilled to see you giving the same opportunity to a bunch of people this year and to see all the talk of writers residencies. Well done!
I’m only sorry that you and your team weren’t around 3 or four year ago, we could have had some fun!
If my experience can help with your thinking around writers residencies or any other projects you have coming up, please do let me know. I’m currently working on pulling the material I have into some form of web experience or e-book, there’s just *so* much material! I’m based in London so I can’t hop on a train to see you, but we have the internet!
All the best for South By, I’m sure you’ll have a scream there and back again!
I woke this morning to a tweet from Joanna Geary suggesting that I “might dispute your first status” – huh? It turns out Desi Velikova is starting an event next month called “London Social Media Cafe” and was tweeting to people: “We’re organising the first London Social Media Cafe and thought you might be interested” – the site refers to the Birmingham and Toronto SMCs as inspiration but makes no direct reference to our work.
Although I was initially riled, once I’d had a coffee and looked through it all again, I saw there was nothing to get hung-up about. As I said, nearly 5 years ago, “I own nothing here”.
Just to set the record straight so no-one has to dig through blogs and wikis or actually talk to someone to find out the answer – the thing that we now call Tuttle or the Tuttle Club started out as the London Social Media Cafe. I wrote about it first on 8th August 2007. In the early days we used a wiki at londonsocialmediacafe.pbworks.com Soon after people found that #tuttle was much less of a mouthful than #LondonSMC and we got on with the important business of talking to each other, building relationships and having a laugh rather than worrying about what we were called.
Good Luck with it, Desi!
I’ve been playing with the new, shiny, social, work-oriented, doo-dah at somewhere.com and I really like it.
The good thing for me is that it accepts me the way I am. It doesn’t try to put me in any pigeon-holes, there are no drop-down boxes or categories for me to fill in, I don’t have to make up a job description or deal with out-dated assumptions about how work works.
It’s a kind of microblog about my work. I post (create “sparks” in the lingo) either to “Share Your Work” – which asks me “What are you working on right now?” or else I can answer a seemingly endless stream of questions such as “How do you communicate with your team?” or “Where would you love to work?”.
A spark has a maximum of 250 characters and it *must* also contain an image (from your HD, flickr, instagram or FB).
You can follow people and “like” sparks. You can include @users and #tags and hyperlinks in a spark if you’ve enough room.
It’s building up an interesting portfolio of the stuff I do and most importantly it helps me share my process as much as my products – which is great for those times when there’s a whole load of process going on, but seemingly no product. That helps me remember that I am still working, and it keeps others aware of the things that go on in the background, things that I might not normally share because they’re not “ready” or “finished”.
So I commend it to you. Have a look at my profile to see the sorts of things I’ve done with it. I’m a big fan of Austin Kleon’s work too and he has a page here. You’ll need to join in order to follow and like and post yourself, but it’s invite-only (I have some invite codes, so drop me a line if you can’t wait to jump in there).
I’m still playing with animations. There are a bunch directly from London Terminus and other British Council Films including some tracings.
Then there are the things like the one above which is a single image repeated several times with minor amendments and then looped. It’s called “boiling” apparently.
Iterations, circles, going round again just with a little difference. If you haven’t seen “Inside Llewyn Davis” yet, please do.
I showed today’s batch to a friend and she said “It looks like something’s going to happen”. And yes it does, there’s a kind of constant winding up of potential. But nothing ever does. It just keeps going round in circles. Or something.
I learned a new word today.
A cartomiser is a blend of “cartridge” and “atomiser”.
And each of these ones give you 200 puffs.
I have no idea how many puffs you need to feel like you’ve smoked a whole cigarette. If indeed that’s what people do.
Today I mark twelve years since I last had any alcohol.
To people who drink normally or excessively that sounds like an awfully long time and a great achievement. But it’s not, it doesn’t feel like that to me. I guess because I got to a point where I knew that what had formerly been an obsession, a compulsion for me, had lifted and that I would have to go out of my way to have a drink – that there’d need to be a really good reason for it, and I didn’t have any reasons left. It also doesn’t feel like *my* achievement, I did it together with some amazing, generous, funny, sometimes infuriating, but always loving friends.
I had my first drink at around 13 or 14. I had a traditionally blurry British teenhood and twenties but by my thirties it was becoming boring. My alcoholism wasn’t particularly spectacular or dramatic or obvious to everyone around me. Though I had my moments. It was more that I used it to deal with feeling uncomfortable in life, uncomfortable with people, uncomfortable being me. Also, I had a great physical capacity for drinking and thought that because I could drink right up till closing time, then I should. And when I tried to moderate it or stop completely on my own, I was horrified to find that I couldn’t. I had to find a way of living with and overcoming the discomfort rather than anaesthetising it with booze.
Early in 2002, I thought that being sober would make my life boring, but life actually got much bigger – most people reading this have only got to know me since that time. It would be nice to think that I was a pain in the neck to people when I was drinking but when I stopped that stopped too, but it hasn’t been quite that simple.
If you’re struggling with drinking too much or too often or you just don’t like the person you become when you drink, you might find that total abstinence is the best route for you too. I wasn’t able to do it alone. Living in London, it wasn’t hard to find help in the company of the fine men and women of Alcoholics Anonymous. I’ve seen the Twelve Steps work miracles for people who were otherwise hopeless, but there are lots of ways of achieving this, don’t let anyone tell you that there’s only one path to recovery.
I sat down to do some more tracing tonight and thought I’d talk to the voice recorder while I did it. Just a few reflections on what’s going on and how it all works for me. Beware of the false ending just before 33 minutes.
Download: Tracing (36MB)
Here’s the first frame that I refer to, I’ll post the animation when it’s finished.
I don’t know what I’m trying to do!
I’m just playing really, but I think there’s something in here – look at how current popular media gets scrunched into little animated GIFs – does that only work for stuff that’s around now or that we’ve some connection to? Isn’t there still some fun in seeing loops of little scenes that we’re not so familiar with? I’ve been looking through the stuff in the British Council Collection which is all BY-NC licenced
So far I’ve just picked out scenes that I think would look good as a loop. But there’s also that gifset thing where you can sum up a sequence made up of little bits (often with subtitles for the key dialogue) I may try that sometime.
Today I also had a go at making something else: a loop of tracings from a scene
I should write up a bit more about how I did that, but if you’re interested there’s more of this spilling out into my tumblr all the time.