David Lynch said that sound is at least 50% of film. I’d say that—for me at least—the same can be said for my day. Different periods of time, of life, have different soundscapes that become part and parce of the memory. Sometimes sound can add calm, excitement or some other enhancement to an experience. Other times, it can be intrusive, interupting our thoughts.
When I was small, I had a toy accordian. Like this one (given to my own kids by a friend), it was more like a miniature accordian than a toy.
The silence of nature is full. Whether you are by the sea-side or on a forrest path in the prairies, the quiet of nature feels exactly right. It flows like thought and feels like the provision of some kind of framework to my often busy mind.
Like a lot of people, puberty brought a whole new soundscape. For me, it included an ecclectic mix of sounds and an appreciation for a wide range of genres that continue to follow me. Vinyl 7″s started to become small treasures in late high-school—just about the same time cassette tapes were dying their slow death.
Roughly a hudred years ago, we started recording sound on physical objects and shipping them around the world to be bought and sold. Over the past 15 years or so, a whole industry made possible by that bit of technology is unravelling—made obsolete by it’s dependance on discrete physical objects. We don’t even need physical cables to connect our speakers anymore. Think of that. This blue box plays music from my phone or from my computer without any cables at all.
Somewhere along the way, I started noticing keychains. Keychains are necessary. Without them, you wind up with a bunch of large, oddly shaped, stabby change-like objects in your pockets. Or your keys slide to the bottom of your bag where you can’t get at them easily. Keychains help us make sense of which key opens this door from that one and they keep things neat and tidy.
As much as they are utilitarian objects, keychains are highly personal. We don’t give them too much thought, but at the same time, we won’t use just any old keychain. It can’t be too big or too ugly, and while they aren’t a huge part of your image, they still can’t be wildly different from what you normally wear or carry around with you. Think of the times you’ve been given someone’s set of keys for some reason. I bet there’s been one or two times you’ve felt embarrassed to have that thing dangling from your hand.
I don’t go out of my way to collect them, and I don’t think I’ve ever bought a single keychain, but when I come across an interesting, unused keychain, I don’t hesitate to ask if I can have it. Mostly, people are happy to part with them. They’re kind of like paper-clips that way.
I often collect things that are in this strange space between amusement and inspiration.
This handset, modelled after the type of phone that I watched fade out of common use throughout my childhood and adolescence is cordless and connects to my smart-phone via blue-tooth. The thing that’s fascinating about it is that using it feels right. The weight, the way one side sits on your ear while the other is directly in front of your mouth like a microphone—this is the form factor that makes sense for talking on the phone! I actually wonder if the reason phone usage is dropping has less to do with replacement technology and more to do with discomfort. I can imagine talking on the phone for hours with this thing. Can you say the same about any cell phone on the market?
What can I say about the TRODAT typo160? Typesetting with rubber stamps! It’s fun to have around, and though I rarely use it, it’s exactly the kind of object that provides a productive mental break from intensive brainstorming or writing. Open up the box and arrange letters on strips for a while. It’s really amazing what that kind of thing can do for the subconscious.
I have thousands of images on my computer. Some that I’ve made and others that I’ve found online and wanted to just file away for some future inspiration or reference. I liked the idea of framing a picture of an old commodore 64 floppy disk. I find it aesthetically pleasing, and there’s something about an image of a disk printed from a diskless computer that just tickles a part of my brain.
Finally, the game Set seems an excellent end note here. Each card has a variation of four elements: colour, symbol, number and shading. Twelve cards are laid out, and you have to identify a three card set, defined as either having complete variation in all elements or complete commonality in one: all unique, or all with a common element. You can read more about it here. It’s a good game to play to prime the mental pump, both in collaborations and solo. It’s a game entirely and purely about pattern recognition, and that seems to fit nicely with what’s going on here.
So lately, I’ve been using a glass bottle with a sealable lid. It used to hold apple cider.
A couple of years ago, I found these cool little beer glasses at a vintage sale. They feature logos of mostly defunct Canadian beers. With each glass holding about half a beer, they’re great for picking up a wide variety and sampling with a friend.
Though I don’t drink it much these days, my Argentinian background dictates that I own a bombilla for drinking maté.
This Muppets tumbler, a gift from friends who know me well always makes me smile. As do the Muppets.
I might be exagerating, but I sometimes have hundreds of ideas a day. I have ADHD which might have something to do with it.
Only a few of those compel me to follow up on them.
They often wind up as fragments in notebooks, bits of paper, snapshots, plain text documents, emails to myself.
I collect them. I go back to them. A small number of them get absorbed into bigger ideas. An even smaller number
I have collected a good number of collection receptacles over the years.
I need a bag for carrying objects that I collect—things gathered at the beach or picked up off the ground or purchased. I take an odd pleasure in the design of a well designed and made bag. Mostly, all I do is look at them these days having become a bit more pragmatic recently, but I have had many. At the moment 3 are in active use and another 3 or 4 are in storage somewhere.
Boxes and storage containers beckon me whenever I see them: Look! I would be perfect for holding this or that thing you’re not sure where to put! I’m stackable! Group me with my siblings, and we will organize everything. Some of these containers come from second-hand shops and are interesting in themselves, others are simply perfect vessels in plastic, cardboard metal and wood.
Notebooks are another collectible for collecting. I have many. Some are full. Some are empty. The majority are in various states of completion. I use them for collecting thoughts, ideas, phone numbers, names and dates, images. I’m sure you have a few kicking around, so you know what I mean.
What are computers? They are communication devices now, but they are also storage and retrieval devices. Computers are machines for collecting ephemera. We collect images. Links. Articles. Friends. Blogs like this one curate our electronic collections. In the interactive age, we collect collaboratively, fusing both primary functions of our computers as storage and communication devices. On social media, we collect friends, ideas, links and followers while the social media platforms themselves collect us.
I really like framework concepts—ideas that create a framework for understanding (or for shifting our perspective on) the world. Books remain the best and most comprehensive way of communicating those types of concepts (which is partly why I continue to scoff when people suggest that books are soon to be done away with).
Recently, I’ve been considering that as we shift from the Television to the Interactive Age, the whole set of metaphors we use to discus and engage in public discourse are also transforming. One of our new major operating metaphors is “the network.”Connected is an excellent introduction to the concept of Social Networks—the real life connections and interactions that we are involved with, not the mere platforms that seek to transform our interpersonal interactions into products that can be sold to advertisers.
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman is one of the most cogent books in the tradition of orality-literacy communications theorists (others include McLuhan, Ong and Paglia). I first read this book when I was 16 and have returned to it repeatedly. Together with another of Postman’s books, Technopoly, the concepts put forward in discussing “The Age of Show Business” continue to be highly useful in understanding many of the shifts taking place in our world—particularly as we are in the midst of moving to a new dominant mode of public discourse.
It’s easy to discount the modernist obsession with trying to develop universal grammars for everything. That’s not a debate I’m interested in anymore. That said, I do think that such frameworks do at least provide us with a way to look at, examine and make sense of various modes of communication or expression. Kandinsky’s Point and Line to Plane may have over reached its thesis. Nevertheless, the parsing, chronicling and examining of various parts of visual expression make it possible to discuss and make sense of things in a particular way.
Kress and Van Leeuwen’s Reading Images is a more contemporary approach to examining visual media, looking at it as a cultural artifact and without the pretence of universality that Kandinsky holds.