Your Blog Can Be Your Indie Band

Just in case anyone was wondering, there is in fact an Arnold Schwarzenegger themed metal band called Austrian Death Machine. That kind of shit gives me hope for the future.

Here you have a group of people who decided that not only where they going to go through all the shit it takes just to be in a band, but that they were going to do it to speak to that 80’s action movie/heavy metal cross over set that you just know is out there and untapped. And these people have three albums.

After the 70’s, the DYI movement had clearly made it’s home in the music scene and you had people not just forming their own bands, but their own labels, clubs, and distribution networks. The effect this had was groups of music fans were giving the green light to themselves. That’s why you had Punk, which gave way to Goth, then Metal.

There are hundreds of sub-genres of just Metal (Speed Metal, Doom Metal, Math Metal, Grindcore…) This is because, while Metal does have some rules that make it a genre, it creates a framework for creative decision making that pairs well with a “why not” attitude.

This is why I find the current state of the web so frustrating. I’ve talked about that recently, so I’m not going to labor the point, but I haven’t been seeing a lot of the rapid fire experimentation that makes the underground music scenes so interesting and worth a damn. There’s been some on WordPress and Tumblr, but these kind of feel like the exceptions and not the rules.

I’m probably just taking a short sighted view of the web. The creation of the internet has changed the world fundamentally like the invention of writing and printing press did before. In fact, most people don’t consider human history to have officially “started” until after the invention of the written word. If you take that kind of perspective on it, then the 40+ years we’ve had the internet isn’t that long at all. In fact, we probably aren’t finished inventing the Internet and Web. Everything is still in flux.

For the last few years, it feels like there are a lot of gatekeepers out there and it feels like there a lot of people watching every move you make online. It feels like there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” to express yourself on the web. This is a crock because that’s a social contract. Which is to say, something we are telling ourselves. The cost of doing things online is almost free, so the only gatekeepers are us.

It’s only a matter of time before everyone realizes that again. Then things are going to get really interesting. Your blog can be your indie band, so who gives a damn if you get on stage and post 500 pictures of cats or 500 unrelated posts. Who knows, you might find the next new thing for the Heavy Metal Arnold Schwarzenegger enthusiasts.

Sometimes I Don’t Like The Heat Either

It’s a boiling night here in Salem. Normally, my thin-blooded, Florida constitution can handle such a creature, but now is not one of those times. I’ve packed myself into my little bedroom with the air conditioner on full tilt. It’s one of those nights that steals your will to live and you wish you could just sleep it away because that’s the closet thing to time travel we’re likely to ever see.

But all is not lost. I gots me a brand new Kindle Thing. It’s my first. I was a hold out for a long time from the ebook craze. I do like physical books but I also like having my entire collection with me and not being crushed to death under a mass of paper. I went full digital with my music collection years ago and haven’t looked back because the alternative is slow and stupid.

It ever occurred to me that maybe this could apply to my selection of reading materials. My detective skills are not where they should be.

The plan when I got home today was to get back to work on a writing project that I’ve been picking at off and on for a while now. Finally give it a serious go. But its sweaty and everything’s sticking together in this heat. I’m gong to hole up here next to my dying AC unit with a brand new little square that is both equal parts book collection and book store.

I may never be heard from again.

Updated the site

As the long weekend comes to a close, I’ve decided that I needed to update the look of the site.  Let me know what you think in the comments.  It’s not exactly what I want it to be.  This theme has some pretty annoying defaults, but without getting into the code it’s a good as I can make it for now.

One thing I did get done was adding a bunch of my friend’s sites to the links in the side bar.  They were always there, but my old theme hided them behind menus for some reason. I’d totally suggest checking some of them out, we are trying to make the web look more like us and not the corporate feed factories.

Tweeking WordPress settings can quickly turn into your job if you let it.  It’s something best done slowly so look for more updates.  Please let me know what you think in the comments.

Three Day Weekend: Day 1

It’s early morning on Saturday. I’m almost never up at this time if I can avoid it, but I went to bed uncharacteristically early last night, so there you go. I’m currently laying on the couch, reading John Scaliz’s blog and thinking about Web Stuff. My girlfriend is sitting on our high-end beanbag chair – yes, you can get those – and showing me funny pictures and cool articles from her phone.

Somedays I stress out. Somedays I have this.

Today is probably a good day from some writing/hacking. Stay tuned.

When Did The Internet Stop Being A Work Of Art?

Is it just me or does the web feel much different than it did back in the late 90’s and early 00’s? Yes, I know I’m much older now, and no, I don’t mean in terms of graphics or what is technically capable now. I do not pine for two hour downloads of three minute videos or the return of the blink tag.

But I look at the state of the web now and it just looks like all the strip malls I had growing up. We used to create websites and build platforms so that anyone could have a presence online. People would go into chatrooms and feel a sense of community. Now I go on Facebook for hours and couldn’t tell what the hell my friends are doing.

It’s all just marketing posts either from the companies themselves or people you know reposting them. And if you do get some original content, it’s people just marketing themselves. “Look at this picture from that beach I went to six months back. I work a soul crushing job and desperately need someone to talk to. But look at the picture!”

The state of the web is there are either social media sites, professional news blogs, or start up apps. And that’s it. There seems like there’s nowhere for people to get together and express themselves.

Remember forums? What happened to those? Well sites like Facebook replaced them. Okay, but why? The only feature that really replicates it is Facebook Groups and it’s not as feature filled. You can’t, for instance, create a group that has rooms for different topics. You have to create a group for each topic, thus fractioning your user base.

So how is this a replacement? Because it’s better technology and better design. Forums are still around. Are you going to set one up? No of course not because the thing is going to look like it was an artifact from the 1900’s. No one’s updating the software or design concepts even though the core idea “people coming to a centralized space to talk about similar interests” is still a good idea.

Don’t get me wrong. I love social media and I think it has a place but if you’re on there, then you are have a conversations on a large company’s terms. Twitter limits you to 140 characters, Facebook organizes your incoming feed for you, Instagram pushes you to talk only in pictures, and Snapchat forces content impermanence.

They aren’t doing this to hurt or help you. They are doing this to differentiate their products in a crowded marketplace. If you give them your content, it’s going to be to help them achieve their goals first, yours second. And that’s totally fine as long as you go into that with both eyes open.

But I don’t think that’s what’s happening.

Most people are adding their content to the web either because they want a voice or they want to see what the people they care around are up to. They end up either becoming a platform creator’s product or a small cog in company’s website/logo because the tools to do it themselves are either too difficult to use or have a steep learning curve. People what to express themselves, not worry about how to speak.

Here’s a perfect example: I recently read an article about Joss Whedon’s best tweets. If you don’t know who Joss Whedon is, he’s the writer/director behind Buffy, Firefly, and The Avengers. Nobody is going to argue that Joss doesn’t know how to write. But what was striking about his tweets was that he didn’t use punctuation, making what he was writing kind of hard to read. It wasn’t that he didn’t know to use those things or that this was his “normal writing style,” he simply couldn’t use them because they would eat up precious characters from Twitter’s arbitrary 140 character post limit.

You have arguably one of the best writers of his generation purposefully adding ambiguity to his own self-expression because he has something to say and is making the best choice of limited options.

There really aren’t any rules for the web so why does everything feel so consistent and homogeneous? Where are the people doing things their own way. It doesn’t feel like anyone is figuring anything out anymore. Where are all the experiments? Where are my art projects?

Don’t worry, Weary Traveler. Old Man Evans does have a few tricks up his sleeve, and yes, I am planning a few interesting web projects.

Stay tuned.

…or don’t. Start your own thing. I’m not the boss of you.

Image: Internet by James Cridland, CC-BY-2.0

Go Make Something Awesome

Sometimes things are pretty good. I’m not always the best at taking stock of that. I haven’t written in this blog much. Things have been pretty stressful at work and it’s not always the easiest thing to come home and make things. Even if those things are “just” blog posts. So I’ve been a little out of sorts with my art.

But right now, I’m sitting in my awesome, high end beanbag chair. (Yes, there is such a thing.) Listening to old school ska punk on my wireless Sonos system. There may be a lot of stress going on about me, but for right now, life is really good. And I thought I would “make a thing” as Wil Wheaton puts it.

This isn’t going to be a great thing, but you have to give yourself permission to fail. Really, you just have to give yourself permission to come out and do anything. A main point of stress for me is that I haven’t been making anything. I’m a really creative person and I’ve been find a lot of excuses for not making art.

(And yes, I can call blogging an art. It’s self-expression, which is the goal of any art form.)

So this is just a short post to say, “I’m back again.” Hopefully it will be for a while. I think I’m going to dig into different post types and ideas, so stay tuned for that. As for what I’m really trying to get across with this post: no matter what’s going on in your life, everyone has a creative force inside them and they only way to find balance is to find an outlet for it. And if you need some random guy on the Internet to tell to go make something, then I’m more than happy to be him.

Go make something awesome.

Adventures In God Damn Air Travel

Hello Blog.  It’s been a while since I’ve written in you.  

Last week I was in Ethiopia and the week before that I was packing for my trip and in no mood to write.  In fact, I’m not really in a mood to write now but I need to get my post back up to where it should be.

The trip out there was pretty good.  It was my first flight out of the country and the longest I’ve been in a plane by a factor of four.  It was a 12 hour flight there from Toronto.  (On a side note, Canada is awesome.)  I didn’t freak out being in a sky tube for that long like I thought I would.  I have a serious problem with heights.

The airline I took was Ethiopia Air, which I thought was the shit because I got free food, free beer, and free movies.  What I did not know was that every international flight does this to mollify it’s passengers into a comatose state so the over worked cabin crew don’t have to fucking deal with them.

So while I was in Ethiopia, I was telling everyone who awesome the airline was and how I couldn’t wait to use them again on the trip back.  The response I got from this was a sad smile and eyes that said, “you’ll know better soon.”  I’m not completely social inept so I did pick up on those cues, but I shrugged it off.  

“You just don’t know Ethiopia Air like I do.  Our love is pure.”

The return trip liked to fucking kill me.  First off it went from being a 15 hour flight to about a 17 hour flight.  That’s a long time to be stuck anywhere.  Especially when your seat breaks and can’t recline forcing you to stay awake for the entire thing.  It wasn’t like I was going to be getting much sleep with the 16 crying kids all around me.  Maybe I’m miss-counting that.  It is possible that it was one baby that got passed around the entire cabin.  I had my eyes forced shut while I desperately tried to hate-fuck some sleep, so anything is possible.

But the children weren’t really the problem.

It was the guy at the front of my section who would angrily scream every 20 – 60 minutes for the entire flight.  It seemed like it was triggered by something.  Guy starts the sneeze. “AAAHHH!” Guy coughs. “AAAHHH!” Guy wakes up from a nap. “AAHHH!” Guy thinks I might be taking a nap. “AAAHHH!”

I wasn’t able to take a nap so that’ll show him.

You’ll also notice that I said the the flight was supposed to be 15 hours but it went over by two.  What does that mean for my connecting flight, you might ask?  It means I missed it by an hour helpful, question asking reader.  

Thank god for Air Canada is all I’ll say.  They got be on a plane back to Boston about two hours after I landed.  I did have to pay for my beer on that flight, but I’ll take it as a net gain for nobody randomly screaming.

Image via – Flickr

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas Rewatch

I’ve been thinking a lot about Hunter S. Thompson lately.  We’re coming up on the anniversary of his death and that always gets me thinking about artists, art, and writing.  So I had a couple beers and watch Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas again.  I was actually going to do a review of drunk, in true Gonzo style, but I didn’t because… well… I was drunk.

The movie still holds up and is a great love letter to the book.  I still don’t know how the hell that thing got made.  I mean, can you actually tell me the plot of that Fear and Loathing?  Two guys get high and trash a hotel room, and then get high and trash another hotel room.  I know I’m not being fair to the book but this did get green lit for a movie that’s about all the more action is in the flick.  You could make the argument that Duke tweaks to the fact that their bender – and by extension their lives – has gone too far, but I think he had a pretty strong suspicion that was going to happen even before they got to Vegas.

Do not think for one second I’m bagging on that book or the movie.  The novel is probably my second favorite book of all time.  It’s just not something that would lend itself to being made into a movie, which I guess is why they made it.  And good for them.  Filming the unfilmable movie is Punk Rock filmmaking at its finest.

Plus, there is something really magical about Johnny Depp reading Hunters word’s out loud. I’m so glad there are so many moments in the film where it’s really just you, Depp, and the words.

Not many people can write like Hunter when he’s on top of his game.  There’s just something about the words he chooses to use and have such a presence and voracity.  I’ve always wanted to be that deft with wordplay, but I’ve always felt my vocabulary to be a little thin.  It’s something that happens when you are such a crap speller like I am.  You stick to the nine words you know.

But hey, I’m writing a lot more now so maybe I’ll add a tenth word.

Edit: totally misspelled Vegas every time I used it in this post. But I’ve corrected it and you’ll never know I screwed up unless I write something on here about it.  But what are the chances of that happening?

Interuption in Blogging due to Snow Storm

I’m throwing something up here today so that I don’t break my chain and lose the challenge, but I’m going to give myself permission to not do my best work this time.  It’s not that I’m not inspired, it’s that I’m just tired.

I’ve spent the last week in Florida.  It was just supposed to be a long weekend, but the snow storm here in Boston extended it by two days.  And I cried about that all into my chilled beer while I sat on the beach in my home town.  Being back home during the dead of winter was surprisingly awesome.  Not because it was warm but because everything was super laid back.  I forgot how different the pacing can be from up in Boston, where everything is life and death.  “Hey asshole, this is my section of the sidewalk!  Drive somewhere else!”

The reason I’m kind of phoning it in today is that I have had the longest teak back I think I’ve ever had.  I had a layover in Buffalo for some reason.  I swear to God that is a made up place.  There’s nothing their and my southerner brain believed that everywhere in the north was super amazing and not near as desolate as all of our home towns.

And, because layovers are awesome, my four hour layover was extended to five and half.  Fun!  This is where I should tell you I’ve been running on five hours of sleep.

“But you could sleep on the plane.”  No. Fuck you, person I just invented to make a point. I can’t sleep on planes because my lizard brain is convinced I’m going to fall out of the sky.  Even though I’ve had to do it twice today, I couldn’t relax enough to go to sleep.

I did however relax enough to work on a fiction project that I’ve been meaning to get back to for a while now, which is why I didn’t write this post on the plane.

So here I am.  What is normally a three hour flight took me nine hours and then I had a late train getting back to my house.  But I got back to work on a project I haven’t written on a while, and, as I am now well over 300 words, I didn’t break my chain on this blog.  The challenge continues.