Basically everything in my life boils down to lists these days. My grocery list. What I’m cooking for dinners next week. My Target list. The things I want to do today/this week. People I should touch base with b/c I haven’t talked to them in a while. New episodes of TV shows I’m current watching. Bourne movies, favorite to least favorite. Stuff to mention at my next physical. Medicines I see advertised online. Schools to visit with K. 

We drove up to one of those schools and stayed in a hotel for one night. I kept a list of all the things I didn’t like about the room. (No Hallmark channel, creepy lighting in bathroom, no towel bar, 8 other things). 

I also had a list of potential places for us to eat dinner while we were there. 

When I think about who I am/how I am, it’s a list of things I’m doing/not doing // interested in/not interested in. 

The list of My Life Lately is:

  • learning morse code (I wondered how hard it could be, it’s not)
  • learning backgammon (same)
  • sort of working on music but not much (I have a list of ideas I will pursue at some point)
  • thinking about whether I want to/can/could learn how to rollerblade
  • looking for places to volunteer
  • the list of meds I need to give my cat every day to try to maintain his quality of life
  • God Andor is so good
  • Semi-stressed about work/tech/career stuff but fine for now
  • occasional runs & bike rides
  • slowly getting back into reading

There’s a couple of other things I’m up to lately and I meant to write them all in a list so I would have them handy when I wrote this post, but I didn’t. So in a sense those things do not exist.

I wonder how I would summarize my life to someone who knew me in high school. Not that I would need to, but like what would they learn from my online breadcrumbs, which are fairly few & far between since social media collapsed. I do not remember keeping lists in high school, if that helps. 

Actually not true I just remembered 1 list from high school. I had to write something for an English class and had decided to write a story and then when I realized how difficult that would be it was too late to back out. I was extremely stressed out and didn’t know where to start so I just wrote a list of all the things I needed to figure out in order to be able to finish the story. So I did and then I did. Vague memory, potentially heavily edited by time, of my teacher being more genuinely interested in the list than the story itself. Really makes you think.

I’m getting dumber as I get older

but I’m sort of leaning into it. It’s been a gradual process. I’ve had time to adjust.

My commute to my first real office job involved a 20-minute walk through Harvard Square. With one of my first paychecks I bought a DISCMAN (!) so I could listen to music on my walk. (Discmans had existed for a while by then but I had never owned one. MP3s and MP3 players and portable cellular devices were still a few years away.) I remember emailing my friend Cheryl about a week later and telling her my fear that this was going to make me dumber. What if listening to music while I walked wasn’t giving my life a soundtrack so much as it was drowning out my thoughts. Like was there some under-appreciated value to being along with my thoughts. She was like “…Listening to music does not make you dumber.”

Anyways it’s 20+ years later and by just about any objective measure I am dumber now than I was then. But yeah it wasn’t “listening to music on my walk to work” as much as it was “years of drowning my brain in things happening online.” And partially this (like everything) is glazed in a post-pandemic uncertainty. A vague sense that since quarantine my brain just doesn’t work like it used to. Not that I was ever Joe Brainiac but didn’t I feel sharper, quicker, more astute, at one point? The references and connections I needed to make, the memories, the faces, the names, seemed a littler closer to the edge of my fingertips. Now I can barely finish this thought. Have I written enough for this to be relatable to someone or do I have to keep typing about this.

Marie Howe: Even as I write these words I am planning / to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.

I’m trying to experiment with what I need or don’t need, online, on my phone, in my day/life/whatever. Deleting apps, noticing the muscle memory of my search for them. A working hypothesis: having every bit of information so easily searchable means I retain none of it. There’s no reason to! I can look it up again later. Someone on a show said a word I didn’t know and I knew as soon as I read the definition it would never stick in my head. And the fact that I can’t even remember what the word was, what the show was, how many days ago this happened, does any of that matter?

Same with youtube, same with podcasts. What if I go on my dumb little walks and DON’T listen to a podcast. Will my life be objectively better? Will I gain back a few IQ points? Are there thoughts, ideas, connections in my brain just waiting to rush back? I mean 20 years of this website suggest probably not.

Mary-Kim Arnold: It’s been difficult to sustain a thought for very long.

Me: why would you even want to sustain a thought? PASS

Anyways. No point here, big shocker. I’m not going to turn into an Internet Bad person. Realistically no one I’m close to would even notice my dropping a few IQ points. I’m just trying to engage with it. Being mindful of the things that keep me alive: antidepressants, meditation, love, exercise, writing, making music, my cat. Being just online enough to connect with friends, be in community with others, but not so online that I lose track of…something. Me. A way back. Fine fucking line. Almost invisible.

orphan status & The First Thing

I have a new EP on all the usual music streaming sites. It’s 5 songs of what sounds to me like lo-fi adult contemporary.

I guess that’s the whole update, but here are some process notes for anyone who might be interested!!!

➡️ I’m still using GarageBand. I understand that there’s other professional music software packages that are “better” or “do more” but “free” remains a big thing with me. And anyways I still have plenty to learn about it. I watch YouTube videos to learn how to do whatever thing I can’t figure out, and otherwise just poke around and experiment a bunch. I don’t feel like I’m done learning how to get it to do things, and I definitely don’t feel like the reach of my musical ambitions (lmao) exceeds Garageband’s grasp.

➡️ I am obsessive about capturing ideas in the voice memos app on my phone. I keep it on my home screen and any time I am humming a random tune/idea I sing it into the app. (For those of you who have not shared significant space with me IRL, I am continually humming/singing/whistling something and it is VERY annoying to those around me. I have been like this my whole life. I remember my best friend in 1st grade saying to me You sure always got a tune going, don’t you.)

➡️ Through this process I’ve learned that the tunes I have running through my mind translate very poorly to musical themes. I invariably have to scale them back, simplify them, make them less “note-y” in order for them to make sense in the context of this chill understated music I’m trying (failing?) to create

➡️ Combining chords from different songs I learn online (via Domi & Dilla transcriptions on YouTube, for instance) + melodies I wake up humming + found sounds I record into my phone (a weird voicemail; a scene from a movie) = a very satisfying process for making music.

➡️ A few months ago I watched S1 of Painting with John and he threw away one line in the midst of an unrelate anecdote that really stuck with me: “I don’t know where this came from but I always try to go with the first thing – with the paintings, with everything else.” He doesn’t explore or unpack this idea any further but to me it speaks to something in the moody dreaminess of his art – not overthinking things, not letting reason overpower emotion, just letting ideas sit and exist in order to see where they take you. I applied the idea of the first thing to this album to prevent a lot of unnecessary decision making (should this be longer; should this have another section; why are the songs named after fake pharmaceuticals; etc etc). Creative constraints continue to be essential to my ever actually finishing anything.

➡️ (I always think of Chinese Democracy as the ultimate example of trying to create something with absolutely no constraints. No offense.)

➡️ Here’s a picture Anil sent me from when he made his family listen to this album on a car trip:

Nice vibe

Day 817 (a complete list of things that have happened)

People keep saying time is meaningless now and I guess what they are talking about is the flattening of experience. I think about the details of my day, the things that I could write about and there are no big stories, just things that happened or keep happening, at some point in the recent or distant past, any of which may or may not be worth mentioning or remembering.

I hurt my back, pulled something on a bike ride, and then couldn’t walk for almost two weeks. But yesterday I went for a bike ride and marveled at how much stronger I feel recently. I spoke to an old old friend last week and she sent me her resume to review. Yesterday at work a coworker who I have never met asked if he could send me his resume to review. I liked a recent episode of Strange New Worlds so much I watched it twice and disliked a Tom Cruise movie so much I fast forwarded through it, essentially watching it at 2x, determined to get to the end only to verify its badness.

I texted in all caps and exclamation points with a former coworker now friend. I texted in emoji hearts with a different former coworker now friend. I talked about the emoji differences between Teams and Slack with a third former coworker now friend. I made a new recipe for dinner that came out really well and another one that came out not great but not as memorably terrible as another one I made, and I don’t remember the order these things happened in.

I keep lists of things that I want to do at some point, and it’s things like “go to Uniqlo” and it just stays there on the list in my phone, for weeks, a thing I don’t do. And then one day I go to Uniqlo and wander around for 6 minutes and leave wondering why I thought I needed to go there. We went to the Paul McCartney concert and parts of it were so fun, life long memory-making in real time, and parts of it were so un-fun that we wonder if we shouldn’t have gone at all. The things I end up liking the most (the fireworks and pyrotechnics, the friend of a friend who told us about a secret parking spot close to Fenway, the people in the row in front of us having the best time of their lives) have nothing to do with whatever was happening on stage.

And: we went to an art show a few weeks ago and more than the art for sale I remember the setting, the weather, the people’s outfits, certain families. One of the artists asked very politely if he could ask me about one of my tattoos. We went to another art show the following weekend and another artist wanted to talk about the same tattoo. While we were there I thought I saw someone I knew in the crowd, and it reminded me that the last time we went to this same art show, 4 years ago, pre-pandemic, I saw someone I thought I knew in the crowd. Both times I made no attempt to talk to the person. And, one time, deep in the first winter of the pandemic, I went to Target, and saw someone I knew there and didn’t say anything. I was likely completely unrecognizable in a hat & mask. We stood in the men’s section, side by side, looking at mittens. This is someone I text with, someone I have hung out with socially on multiple occasions, someone I have selfies with on my phone. They didn’t recognize me and I was not moved to say anything to them. I also remember not finding the mittens I wanted. Other times I have been to Target and found exactly what what I was looking for, and stopped to say hi to people I only vaguely recognize. Sometimes after I go to Target I get emails asking me to review my experience and I enjoy filling them out.

Every night at dinner I ask my younger son about the highlights and lowlights of his day and he says, Eh, nothing. I ask him for 2-3 details about his day, big or small, important or not important, and he says, Eh, nothing. I ask him if he saw anything cool or interesting or different or weird on his walk to or from school. I lean towards him and say: I demand to hear about the poetry of your day, and mean it.

I find a screenshot on my phone of Lindsey’s idea for a tattoo that just says “the first verse of coyote” and then I think “No regerts Coyote” and can’t stop thinking about it. I almost use it as the title for this post but decide I want to keep it buried in here.

Every morning I write down my dreams and wonder how much of them I am forgetting. As if it matters on some level that I am otherwise working hard to avoid. So there.

Opsec Nightmares

We all know how brands track and follow us around online so they can target us with timely and effectively advertisements. But is that enough? Can’t other parts of our lives be better leveraged by corporations? We do so many little things every day that don’t benefit marketers, it’s a huge lost opportunity.

Here’s a 1-page zine called Opsec Nightmares. It’s a few little stories containing some ideas for how brands might better market to us in the very near future.

a picture of the zine Opsec Nightmares
Click this image to download the PDF

Once you’ve downloaded and printed the file, here’s Austin Kleon explaining how to fold and cut and fold it into a book.

The story is that we’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek lately and I was thinking about how teleportation would actually work and the phrase “teleportation would be an opsec nightmare” came into my head and then the rest of it just came together.