It only took a pandemic (and watching Greta Gerwig’s Little Women) to get me to start writing again. On of the key reasons I began sharing my blogging in the mid-aughts was that I had a lot of free time to explore the Internet. Having been quarantined for the past 4 days I can safely say that feeling is coming back. I have a lot of time to stop, think, and be curious.
So far, Kyle and the dogs and I are doing pretty well in isolation. Kyle has a worrisome brain, paired with his love language of “acts of service” mean that we were stockpiled and ready weeks ago. His diligence and thoughtfulness during this time has been a blessing. Growing up an only child feels like a boon right now.
Technology has been a surprising asset. Twitter has felt more like a communal space to share things, it reminds me of a decade ago. Lots of group chats, FaceTime, Slack video conferencing, VPN, Apple Watch to make me mindful of standing. Grateful I upgraded to the super fast Internet long ago.
There’s a lot going on right now so I’m going to try and find and share some of the beauty that’s out there.
A few weeks back Frank Chimero posted a piece titled Leave the Phone at Home which highlighted the idea of utilizing an Apple Watch instead of a phone as your everyday communication device. The piece resonated with me and got stuck in my craw. If an Apple Watch has cellular service, you could do a lot with a little. It’s part of the reason why I have an iPhone SE, I love it’s compact size and it’s small screen makes me want to look at my phone less. It’s less distracting. So, I bought a Watch, enabled the cellular connection, and started my experiment.
The results have been positive but not yet life-shaking. A lot of the success in disconnecting from my phone is changing ingrained behaviors. Currently, I’m writing this on my phone in IA Writer, my favorite app for writing and note taking. If I truly was “disconnected” I should have written this in my notebook with pen and paper. But then I have to transcribe this which takes additional time. Not sure there’s a right or wrong answer here, it comes down to your personal preference.
Additionally, there are things to consider like listening to music (I wish they still made dedicated iPods) which I do, basically, as much as possible. To take photos I’ve been bringing my Canon along but then I need a phone or computer to download them, I’d want to edit them in VSCO etc. More steps in my process.
I suppose my intention is to not get sucked into the black hole of my phone, so if I’m actually using it a tool, then maybe that’s not so bad? I’m being active, not passive, and maybe that’s a big difference? I’ll write about my process more in a few weeks to see how things change.
Welcome to my new blog. As you’ll see there’s lots to catch up on, I’ve been writing for weeks now in private. I can tell you that this isn’t going to be like Kitsune Noir or The Fox Is Black, but there will be shades of it. I can’t stop being me. Expect a lot more personal stuff because that’s what I need right now. Consider this blog more of a brain dump than anything. It’s kind of like my old LiveJournal, but far less dramatic.
Additionally, big thanks to Myk Tongco for all the work on developing the site. He’s extremely talented, very patient, and creates amazing websites. I chose to keep the site bare bones aesthetically, he’s a superstar and you should hire him.
Kyle sent me a fascinating article on the idea of “dopamine fasting” last week, and though it sounds, it feels kind of plausible. The idea is simple: we get hits of dopamine from our brain from things like cheeseburgers, TV, Instagram, sex, and our brain really loves them. With all this constant stimulation our modern lives our brains get a little numb, like a worn down tire. That’s the theory at least, though no one is sure how laid this claim is.
Eric Bowman, Ph.D., a neuroscience lecturer at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, hadn’t heard of dopamine fasting before Inverse reached out to him, but he grasped the concept behind it right away.
“My admittedly superficial understanding of the idea behind dopamine fasting is that modern life causes dopamine overstimulation, which in turn causes the molecular changes which ‘calm down’ dopamine neurotransmission, but that this results in dopamine transmission being too low between rewards,” he tells Inverse. “A break from the fast pace of modern-day rewards would allow the system to reset, or so the theory goes.”
Personally, I find myself needing to disconnect more and more. I’m sitting at LACMA drinking bubbly wine and writing this on an iPad, but I’m using the technology as a tool, not stuck in a black hole. My friend Lindsay recommended the book How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell (more in another post) which reaffirms a lot of the things I’m feeling lately. All of these ideas, essentially going back to simpler time (minus the racism, homophobia, misogyny, patriarchy), is having a renaissance.
Dan Graham is an American artist and curator best known for his integral role in beginnings of Conceptual Art during the 1960s. Antoine Catala is an artist who creates new and playful relations between language and reality. Together, they recently spoke in the fall issue of Bomb magazine, and this exchange about how museums have changed over the last century felt quite on the nose.
AC: And what would you say museums are now? How have they evolved?
DG: There are three stages. At first museums were historical buildings, surrounded landscape parks often from different historical periods. My work encompasses some these historical overlays. Then in the lat ‘80s, they became engaged with educational programs, because that’s how the money came in. I got interested in putting a children’s daycare center into a museum lobby, and later did a mezzanine area in London called Waterloo Sunset for the Hayward Gallery. It was free for people waling along the Thames, a place where children could watch cartoons as well as Arts Council England videos by contemporary artists, and it was also used by the museum’s educational department for children to make their own artworks–for example, Lichtensteins, if that’s what the Hayward was showing. Finally, it could be used for evening events like banquets. Now, in the third stage of this evolution, museums become about spectacle. You get a lot of people in there for the corporate funding. And it’s specifically about the high-tech spectacle. There’s this new museum in Rome, the one designed by Zaha Hadid—
AC: MAXXI, the National Museum of 21st Century Arts.
DG: Yes. It’s totally a manifestation of this, and The Shed in Manhattan is too.
AC: Well, did this all start with the Guggenheim, where the building itself is more important than the art inside?
DG: From my point of view, the turn toward spectacle began with the Tate Modern, which reassembles a corporate atrium.
AC: Indeed, I was there when it was being built. There were throwing parties already.
It felt like the Louvre was in that first phase still which is what made it feel static and uninteresting. Museums like LACMA are actively heading toward the third phase. It’ll be interesting to look at museums through this lens from now on.
I’m sitting in a coffee shop near my apartment in the middle of Los Angeles. It’s one of those very photogenic places, baby pink walls, a rough hewn wooden table, a brass backsplash where baristas do their work. Four people are sitting at the table with me, each with phone in hand, lost in the black hole, as Tavi Gevinson puts it.
“For all my years growing up online, I am still unable to both rapidly and accurately manage so many realities at once: to account for hundreds of people’s feedback in a matter of minutes; to know what to give weight to and what to let go of, what to take at face value and what to read into, what strikes a chord because of a real insecurity I have and what strikes a chord because of a silly insecurity I’ve learned to have, what of other people is authentic or performance or both or neither, and how to catch my brain when it goes to this place. This cycle of judging and being judged is a black hole in which time disappears, in which I and the people I encounter are all frozen in our profiles.”
Ugh. Over the past few years my relationship with technology has changed dramatically. I’m constantly looking for different ways of connecting with people while not becoming a total Luddite. In her essay she writes a lot about how the web was different before Instagram, which I wholeheartedly agree with. It was simple to meet people, there was time to disconnect, we all didn’t have a personal brand. That’s a big part of why I’ve decided to start blogging again. This is my place for me and my thoughts and my feelings without the pressures of likes and view counts.
I’ve now heard my fair share of stories about people becoming an “influencer”, trying to build a business off of their “personal brand” and ending up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Because of an app. I always wonder if people in these situations could see the forest through the trees? Does anyone have a plan when it comes to social media? Or is everyone so addicted that the high is enough?
Tavi’s essay definitely hits a lot of nerves for me. I think most of it all it’s helped me to understand that Instagram isn’t a place for me, as a human, anymore. It’s a tool for marketing. I don’t need to be marketed.
Kyle and I have been watching a lot of sports here in Paris, which we never do. Sports like horseback riding, power walking, pool, cycling and more are activities you don’t often (ever?) see on American television (not that I’ve had cable since 2005) or hear about in the news. At least in the places we’re looking.
In American sports, there are only three major sports: baseball, basketball, and football. Because of the monolithic hold the Big 3 have on major media here in the U.S. it’s nearly impossible to for other sports to thrive. Hell, we barely have a soccer culture in the mainstream. It’s all ad-fueled aggression.
With these other sports there’s a simplicity. Can this human possibly power walk for 4 hours? Will that horse and jockey be able to clear this course without knocking over a rail? Can this person possibly bank that trick shot in the corner pocket? These simple human achievements are a breath of fresh air I didn’t know I needed.
For whatever reason, “talks” keep popping up for me.
“I’ve just finished writing a talk, anyone interested?” “Working on a talk, excited to share.”
At this point the word talk couldn’t feel any more useless. I’ve given my fair share of talks and listened to 10x times as many over the years. I value the idea of someone sharing their experiences, their values, and hopefully teaching inspiring someone along the way. A lot of people need guidance or are seeking someone who is like them. Finding someone who gets you and your situation creates powerful connections. What makes a talk powerful though should be it’s authenticity, and I think that’s where this talk obsession is rubbing me the wrong way.
I think it’s the idea of someone actively working on “a talk” which feels contradictory to me. If you’ve been asked to speak about your experiences at a small gathering or local event because you are an interesting person who’s doing interesting things, then by all means, write that talk. But the energy I get from a lot of these is an “I have important things you need to hear, you’re missing out” which feels all wrong. This makes me think of something I saw recently. Hassan Rahim, one of my favorite graphic designer, was asked to speak at the Us by Night festival in Antwerp. He’d never spoken on stage before, and based on what he wrote on his Twitter, it was a big challenge. But people loved his talk. It was a journey through his life, his struggles as a creative and a human, and a brilliant showcase of his incredible work. As he says, the outpouring was overwhelming. That’s because he gave the people in that auditorium something authentic and real, which is something we need more of these days.
Despite my initial impressions, Marseille ended up being a very cute and relaxing place to have an “away from Paris” adventure. When we visit Paris, Kyle and I look for a location outside of Paris to visit in France so we can experience cultures outside of the city. To date, we’ve been to the north coast, Deauville and Trouville, to Reims, in the Champagne region, as well as the Joigny region for an arts festival, which was on this trip.
In Marseille, we spent most of our time at the beach, both in town and south in the Calanques. We visited the Calanque de Sormiou, which was tucked away in a grotto down a steep hill, featuring crystal green waters that were extremely chilly, but warmed up once we started swimming. It ended up being quite a long trek which I’d now say was worth the effort. I also found what looks to be like a half of a bell or something while I was laying in the sand. It’s metal, quite patinated, and is a lovely little thing. This is my keepsake from our trip to Marseille.
Good food and wine was found thanks to a mix of tips from people in Paris and our own handy footwork. The only thing we missed was the Zaha Hadid designed MuCEM, which looked quite stunning. I plan on creating a city guide for Marseille soon and will update once I do.
Now we’re on the SNCF, hurtling back to Paris for a few more days in the city. It feels like proper fall there which is a nice change of pace from LA. On our list of possible things to do is visit d’Orsay, Pompidou, and Brancusi’s studio. There’s a Diptyque pop-up as well as a Clare V. event that could be fun. Perhaps we’ll try to get a table at Septime, Clamato, Chambre Noire, or some other spot that has great natty wine. We’re also staying on a boat in the Seine, so I’m sure it’ll be exciting. More on that soon as well.