Offline.

I spent today offline. I wrote something. I post it here fully recognising the irony inherent in doing so.

Offline rant 1 (see transcript below)

Offline rant 2 (see transcript below)

Offline rant 3 (see transcript below)

Transcript:

OFFLINE. Sitting on my front step in San Francisco’s Mission District. May 19th 2011. I am taking a sick day from work, and since I don’t actually have much to do at work it’s a real SICK DAY not “working from home”. I’ve resolved to stay offline til tonight. It’s sunny out and why not enjoy that? I lay in bed til early afternoon sleeping and reading a book about the history of the Riot Grrl movement. It got me thinking about zines and zine culture. I only discovered zines AFTER I got online (1993 or so) and I saw them as a dead/dying art form. Why wouldn’t you make a website or set up an email newsletter or use the internet SOMEHOW??? To me, paper zines seemed self-consciously retro, pig-headedly anti-tech, when tech and the Internet seemed like the most effective way to communicate (with certain caveats, obviously, about communities who were not online — the “yet” was implicit.) But today I am thinking about creation rather than communication. My new year’s resolution was “be an artist” and wen I set that resolution it wasn’t so much about producing artifacts (ART-ifacts?) or showing them to people as it was about a mindset. I wanted to be open to beauty and wonder and all that bullshit and while I sometimes feel it when I’m in front of a computer mostly I’m just numb, and even the truly awesome doesn’t make me stop and feel my heart and mind expand… instead I am switching windows to tweet it blog it repost it share it plus-one it so that everyone will be impressed with how cool I am to have found whatever it is or to be hanging out with the cool kids who tweet the witty one-liners or the best blog posts. Right now I’m thinking about blogging this, whether to scan or photograph the pages, I drew a copyleft symbol at the top of the page so I can say that this rant (which I’m writing on my knee in a moleskin notebook (so hip!)) is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license so you can quote it and link back to ME ME ME MY BLOG MY TWITTER. Yes, I have officially just disappeared up my own arse. But what would happen if I really went offline? If I wrote my thoughts on paper and (whoa…) didn’t post them at all? I haven’t done that, not really, since I was about thirteen, and I devised my own sad little cypher to stop anyone reading my diary. There’s always an audience, always publication, always communication. Is it communication without an audience? Would I find any point in doing it at all? I bought this Moleskine to do just that, to do “The Artist’s Way” 3 pages a day thing, and I never use it for that. I want/need an audience. ME ME ME. I want/need to connect with people. US US US. Sometimes I hate the filters I put up, the gags I speak around, online — every word an effort to make myself clearly heard, knowing people will misunderstand everything and then tell me about it again and again until I’m scared to say anything without even MORE care and drafts and beta readers and sleeping on it and WordPress sitting open in a tab saying, “Do you dare?” What if… what if I slowed the fuck down and stopped feeling like I had to post all the damn time? What if I wrote on paper where I couldn’t self-edit or hit backspace or close the browser tab because I hate my own words or I’m afraid of what people will say? And what if… what if I distributed it offline, on paper, and if you want to comment you do it the same way? Is that just pretentious? I’m shit at snail mail, how would it even work? Maybe… maybe I just need to sit on my front step in the sun with the afternoon wind off Twin Peaks blowing the page around under my pen so my writing’s a fucking mess, and be here now enjoying the daylight and the guys down the block working on their bikes and the sharpness of the shadow of my hand on the cream paper (I wish I could trace it and show you but it keeps running away) and my pasty hairy white legs stretched out on the gritty sidewalk, and not be in too much of a rush to get this online and hit reload reload reload waiting for affirmation and love and more Twitter followers. What if I started a zine like it’s 1992 and I don’t even have a blog and if you want to read my shit you send me $1 and some stamps? What if I paste screeds on walls and paint them on sidewalks and hand them to people as flyers and do it outdoors in the street face to face in the weather and the noise and the city air that smells of traffic and food and piss, instead of in front of a Macbook in the dim dull indoors? What if I quit my job (wait, I am!) and go sit on a beach (yup!) and don’t blog/tweet/give a shit? Would you still love me? Would you send me $1 and some stamps for my zine?

(end transcript)

Quick, quick, hit post before I think too hard!

Comment policy: I would like you to comment via the same medium. Get offline, write your comment or create it somehow away from your computer, then send it to me. Scans/photographs are fine. You can link them in comments below. Comments not in this format will be deleted.

The Plan (NB: use ominous voice when reading post title)

Look, I may as well post about it. I’ve been planning it for months, and a whole swag of people already know, but this’ll make it official.

Sometime around early September, I’m planning on heading back to Melbourne, Australia, whereupon I hope to spend a few months bumming around on people’s sofas/the beach/relatives’ farms/etc, before going back to school in 2012 to study sound engineering.

Q&A time…

So I’m leaving Google, then? Yup, that’s the plan. I’ll have done a year there since Metaweb’s acquisition, and I’ve got a lovely new replacement, Shawn, who started a couple of weeks ago and who’ll be supporting the Freebase developer community going forward.

Why sound engineering? Because it gets me away from the tech industry, from sitting in an office all the time, and from the mind-boggling ennui that’s started to attack me whenever I think about software and the development thereof. It’s well past time for a change. And I’ve been enjoying myself so much volunteering at Gilman St that it seemed like something I’d like to pursue more seriously. Plus, it’s a field that’s at the intersection of technical/creative that really works for me, and I suspect that with the increasing digitisation of sound production my computing background will serve me well.

What sort of work do I want to do, then? I’m not going to commit to anything at this point, but stuff with a “startup” feel to it (to use the tech industry term), that harnesses grassroots participation and encourages disintermediation between artists and fans really appeals to me. You know the stuff I like — open culture, remix and transformative works, online collaboration and crowdsourcing, micro-entrepreneurism, activism, connecting people together. If I can’t find a way to mix that stuff with a background in Internet technologies and a fresh education in the tech side of music production, I’ll be very surprised.

Why Australia? Why not go to school in the US? Short answer: tuition in Australia is about 5% of what it is in the US for similar sorts of courses, and I won’t need a visa for it.

What school? What program/course? I’m looking at a Certificate IV and Advanced Diploma in Sound Production, which is a 2 year course offered by various TAFEs (Technical and Further Education institutions — UK readers please think “Polytechnic”, US readers please think of a cross between a community college and DeVry). RMIT’s course description gives a pretty good overview of the program. I’m also considering NMIT. If anyone happens to know anything about those two institutions/courses and can offer advice or opinions, they’d be very much appreciated. (Yes, I’ve emailed the faculty/admissions for both; no, I can’t make it to Open Day at either.)

Will I be doing X before I leave? (For values of X usually including certain conferences or places to visit.) I’m attending WisCon in Madison, WI in just over a week, and will probably be in Portland in late July during OSCON though not attending (I do hope to catch up with a bunch of my friends there, though). I am not planning to attend any other conferences/events between now and when I leave, nor do I have plans, or much time, for other travel at this point.

Will I be coming back to the US after completing my study? Maybe. The sort of work I want to do (see above) may lead me back to the Bay Area, if the visa-granting gods smile on me. Who knows? It’s also likely that even if I don’t move back here, I will visit occasionally if my budget allows.

And this is definitely definite? Well, it’s about 90% definite at this point. It’s possible that something might happen to completely change my mind in the next couple of months, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for it.

So here’s where I ask you for stuff.

  • If you read this and thought, “ooh, that reminds me of $person who works in that field” or “I know a startup that’s doing stuff like that” or “I bet Skud would love to hear about $project”, I would love an introduction. That goes double for anyone/anything in Australia.
  • The courses I’m applying for are quite competitive and have an application/interview process where they want to know about your previous experience in the field. So I’m interested in picking up any related work I can between now and the end of the year. Do you know anyone who needs a hand or wouldn’t mind me tagging along while they work live shows, record demos, go into the studio, or whatever? Any kind of live or recorded sound work would be of interest. Volunteer/unpaid would be preferred for now — I can’t do paid work in the US outside of my primary employment, though of course I wouldn’t turn down paying gigs once I’m back in Australia.
  • Know anyone who’s looking for a housemate in Melbourne later this year? I’m thinking of splitting a 3br house in Melbourne’s inner north (Preston?) with one other person, but I’m open to other suggestions too. Looking for a grownup who pays their bills on time, but who’s also fun to hang out with. I keep odd hours and am a bit strange, but I’m pretty considerate and reliable as a housemate, as well as being a good cook.
  • Got a spare room or need a housesitter between September and, say, Decemberish? Mostly thinking Melbourne here, and more “need someone to feed the cats for 2 weeks” than “you can crash on my sofa for a night or two”, but any and all offers would be welcome.

Please feel free to email me (skud@infotrope.net) if you can help me out with any of the above!

Mural showing a car driving on a highway, about to pick up a hitchhiker carrying a guitar.

Mural, on Treat St near 24th, in San Francisco's Mission District.

Youtubery

I keep meaning to post these things as I find them, so here ya go.

A fugue based on Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”. The creator says, “This should show how counterpoint can be fun and up to date.” I’m not sure if it quite succeeds at that, but it is rather good.

While we’re at it, I love this cello cover of “Final Countdown”. In fact it has supplanted my previous favourite cover of that song, it’s just that good:

Rock out, Latvian cello dudes! m/ m/