Monthly Archives: December 2007

Commuter Stories

I love “The Commute” and hate it all at the same time. I don’t do it anymore, at least at the moment, but when I did I saw the daily monotony as a horrible chore but also recognised some kind of beauty in it. To explain; despite the abject terror it sometimes creates, not to mention to terrible frustration, it does signify “our” (the West, I guess) amazing talent for organising things and “progress” (whatever that means).

As well as the symbolism of what the commute represents, I love the patterns. The same as the cycles of the moon, the seasons, the tides (which are of course linked to the moon and the seasons) – almost everything in the natural world operates in patterns and cycles of some kind. We have created our own similar patterns. Of course they don’t just exist with the daily commute but that is the particular example I’m interested in.

There are many different ways I could take my interest in the subject, but the thing that really interests me is how if you embark on a regular daily commute everything is almost always exactly the same, but it is always a little bit different. Subtle change is constant, but virtual-constancy is permanent regardless. NB sounds like another Dylan lyric, it is brilliant:

Talkin’ World War III Blues, last verse:

Well, now time passed and now it seems
Everybody’s having them dreams.
Everybody sees themselves walkin’ around with no one else.
Half of the people can be part right all of the time,
Some of the people can be all right part of the time,
But all of the people can’t be all right all of the time.
I think Abraham Lincoln said that.
“I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours.”
I said that.

I’d like to explore this with a documentary film, taking the same route each day; to notice and remark on the things that stay the same, the things that change and document encounters.

My problem with this, is that I don’t think I have the guts to actually do it. I’m quite shy around most people. Maybe I require a bolshy partner.

Anyhow, plenty of other things to be on with for the time being….

Prayer 2.0; Reference Points

This is essentially a webliography of sites that I came across whilst researching things to do with Prayer.

http://truthseekingsouls.org/ is an interesting site with loads of information on all kinds of things to do with spirituality, this article; http://truthseekingsouls.org/2007/03/29/prayer.aspx has some nice extracts from Wikipedia. Also I liked this on “Dharma”

“Dharma” means “protection”. By practising Buddha’s teachings we protect ourself from suffering and problems. All the problems we experience during daily life originate in ignorance, and the method for eliminating ignorance is to practise Dharma.

Practising Dharma is the supreme method for improving the quality of our human life. The quality of life depends not upon external development or material progress, but upon the inner development of peace and happiness. For example, in the past many Buddhists lived in poor and underdeveloped countries, but they were able to find pure, lasting happiness by practising what Buddha had taught.

Iann Schonken is an evangelist blogger. This article begins with;

What is Prayer?

(a) A reverent petition made to God
(b) An act of communion with God
(c) Communication with an all-knowing, ever-present, almighty and loving God
(d) Adoration; Confession; Thanksgiving; Supplication (earnest petition)

It seems strange to me that it is a “reverent” petition – the definition of reverent appears to be Godly, so that makes it a Godly petition made to God. English I guess.

This one is a comic site, the commandments 2.0, the first three;

  1. I am the LORD2.0 your God who brought you out of the land of web1.0, from normal colours and no tags
  2. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me (except good friend – Google)
  3. Thou shalt use “2.0” or “beta” and pastels colours on your every new website project

http://cauley.preachersfiles.com/prayer/ has bible lessons and a wealth of in-depth information on the how the Church of Christ view prayer. Not exactly for me, but certainly interesting.

Yeshuablog says;

Many people question what is prayer because they desire to pray, but don’t know how. Consider these tips:
Praying is like talking to your best friend! It’s easy to talk to someone when you know they love you unconditionally!

This is taken from www.prayingconstantly.com;

Different faiths number them different. We base many of our laws on them, yet won’t display them in a public setting. If you can only learn one, learn the first one and the others will never be a problem.

The sections on manhood and adultery seem especially confusing!

Displacement

I have neglected to organise my placement for this year. Once again the best intentions fall by the wayside of more important worries, until the previously ignored becomes the important worry. At least one of them anyway.

I have at some points of intertia over the last few months scribbled down some notes of places that would be good- plans have been hatched just not put into practice. Last year, my aim was to figure out a way of making money, and that would be my placement. I think because of preoccupation with concepts and “work” its probable that this will not happen. Lottery art maybe a route forward?

I had the brain wave last week of asking my brother if he could be of assistance. He works for the school of informatics at Edinburgh University; and hopefully will have access to some interesting contacts that could bear fruit with regard to my placement or other collaborations outside of that. Ahhhh. Things, things, things.

Short-sharp; Shock

My dreams of making spArt into a gallery-based work, and managing to cultivate the constant evolution, input then feedback – like ouruboros; its all but dead.

Legitimacy is the problem. I can do everything thats required, I have all the tools, but the problem is that it is technically (and non-technically) illegal. Personally, this didn’t bother me, and as this person explains sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind;

Hello Joe, Interesting project. I am not entirely sure how spam can become art, but I suppose everything is art in it’s own right. There is also such a thing as “good spam”, as you mentioned. As someone actively seeking funding for a very unconventional (but VERY worthwhile) project, I have had to make use of mass email and spam, and don’t see it as an entirely bad thing at this point. Looking forward to seeing what comes out of this project!

I think its probably something of an eternal catch-22. Spam, by definition, is bad. But there are legitimate, good causes that piggy-back on to it. But then, if the spammers hadn’t “made it ok” to spam, by aclimatising us to it; then we might be even more spiteful of the good spammers.

I suppose most logical people would just say this is why we have opt-in mailing lists, allowing bulk email to be sent but only to those who expressly asked to receive it. Its not a perfect solution though, by any means. I seem to be signed up to about 50 bulk mailing lists, most of which I have no interest in, and that also seem incredibly difficult to unsubscribe from. Furthermore I can’t remember signing up for a single one of them! I suspect that they were all in the small print of websites that I’ve signed up to. The other problem with opt-in lists, especially within the context of what I was trying to do with spArt, is that underlying the spam problem (but real world junk mail, and electronic mail) I actually really like receiving messages things from strangers. Be it in the post, be it in my inbox; it often cheers me up.

Alas, not everyone feels the same way.

BlogCrossing; Isnternet; Anti-Blogs; Liberation

Since I discovered it was possible, I’ve been yearning to make something out of the Webserver on a Stick project (WOS). Components that make WOS are:

  • A web server; Apache
  • A database server; MySQL
  • A scripting language; PHP

For one, I love all the recursive acronyms. GNU, stands for GNU is not UNIX. Witty! And PHP stands for PHP Hypertext Preprocessor. I suppose this is why I get called a geek. Not just for knowing the acronyms – necessarily – but that I find them funny.

Anyway, the case in point is that these three pieces of software, three giants of the software world; can all be crammed onto a USB memory stick. The “AMP” combination (Apache, MySQL, PHP) is such a powerful combination, although rarely seen by end-users directly, it sits behind hundreds of millions of websites, not to mention the hundreds of famous companies that use software like MySQL. Most amazingly something that warms by heart and opens my mind is that it is all distributed for free and with freedom. Their mission statement is this:

[it is our] mission to preserve, protect and promote the freedom to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer software, and to defend the rights of all free software users

It is also, from what I can tell, a mostly pointless exercise. There is very little point in having these three incredibly powerful pieces of software on a memory stick; it is more a showcase of possibilities. The power of the software, and the millions of man-hours of work that has gone into the software development, is encapsulated in an extremely small artifact. Its almost like having an all knowing guru, who could have memorised all of human history, but they are unable to write, talk or communicate in any other way. The strength and power of the software is somehow “trapped”.

BlogCrossing Concept

You may have heard of BookCrossing (“bookcrossing” is now included in the Oxford Concise Dictionary). BookCrossing is defined as;

“the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise”

Although I have significantly different aims, I have transferred the same functional structure, which resonates well with my other audience collaboration oriented work, to work with the “Webserver of a Stick” technology.

Rather than leaving a book in a public place, I am leaving USB memory sticks. Each stick has installed on it Apache, MySQL and PHP and blogging system WordPress (also the system behind this blog!). Anyone who plugs in a memory stick they have found is invited to make a blog entry and then pass the memory stick on to another person, who will then pass it on to another, and so on. I want to this to continue until each stick’s memory is full, when they will all be sent back to me.

Isnternet; although it is all web and internet based technology, BlogCrossing works in a completely “disconnected” manner. The network is made by the people rather than the telephony and internet networks that we are more often a part of.

Anti-Blogs; traditionally a blog resides on the web, and can be accessed by any number of visitors, search engines, news aggregators and so on. Also, most blogs are maintained by an individual, they’re often diaries and journals (like this one!). BlogCrossing is neither of these things, and in fact it is in the inverse. Maintained and written by many individuals, accessible by only one person at a time.

BlogCrossing; a tribute to the brilliance and success of BookCrossing.

I’ve released three BlogCrossings so far.. I hope they’re doing well.

My one misgiving is also the strongest part of the project. I’m worried that the network of people will break down. Somebody might loose the memory stick, they might steal the memory stick, they might accidentally delete all the data on it, anyone of these things would just ruin it. However if those things don’t happen, it proves a mass-understanding, a connectedness (even in anonymity); for me a pleasurable outcome. The aim, is that each person that takes part, and in the future people who see the fruits of the project will feel that pleasure too.

NB, I just spell checked, misread something that I thought I’d written, then thought of the word “witticism”, checked it and it exists – Cool!

“Witty remark. Blend of witty and criticism.”

December Work Plan

Looking Back

Its been two months since my last plan, which was broadly to research two areas for potential to work with for creative means:

  • Spam
  • Blogs

On the spam front, I went full circle with spArt. Looking back it was brilliant because of its subversiveness and despite it being a common criticism of the work I really like the fact it was “formless”. However it doesn’t matter how I look at it, spam is illegal, so I can’t do it….. unless I get even more subversive and start using distributed machines to do the emailing for me (rather than my own ISP). I think I will avoid that one. Pandora and all that. On the plus side, this background led me on to Prayer 2.0, which is now up and running.

I came up with two ideas for utilising blog technology:

  1. Loves & Hates
  2. BlogCrossing

Loves & Hates, I haven’t made this into a tangible piece of work, but the idea works great. I wondered how often people writing blogs wrote that they loved something, and likewise hate something. Using blog alerts, I had emailed to me all the references to the words “I love my” and “I hate my” from all the blogs that Google indexes (many millions). I will use this as the dataset for a piece of work.

BlogCrossing, referencing the website BookCrossing, BlogCrossings are individual USB memory sticks. Each one contains a fully working blog and the bearer is asked to make a contribution and then pass it on to someone else. The only difference is that a BlogCrossing can only be accessed by the person who has the USB memory stick. Blogging is traditionally a one writer to many reader type of relationship, this forces a one reader to many writer relationship.

Looking Forward

  • Music! I’ve been recording an album since the summer. I need to get it done for my agreement with Creaked Records.
  • Push Prayer 2.0, I need to go on a “recruitment drive” for Prayer 2.0 users. This will involve web promotion and producing fliers and so on. Potentially “installing” Prayer 2.0 on computers at University to encourage students to use it.
  • Purchase and release BlogCrossings – I need to purchase and prepare several USB memory sticks for BlogCrossing.
  • Photobombing development, dedicate time to improving and developing my Photobombing website so that it can be relaunched next year.