a method for learning about new things


a method for learning about new things

a little experiment that i run from time to time involves asking five or ten friends, to make a list of three new things they are into. it's a very interesting thing to try.

i run this gambit about every couple of years or so, sometimes more often, or whenever, to find out what people are currently digging. to see what i'm missing. there so much going on, yikes! and word of mouth is really my favorite way of learning. especially if there's a group of folks around you that you look up to and respect in regard to what they have to say. in today's world we have to filter out an amazing amount of dross, and it's sometimes easy to just tune everything out and do our thing. when i catch myself in that groove, i might seek out some good minds and put the quiz on 'em.

i recently posited this question, "what are three new things you are into?" to several of my acquaintances, mentors, friends and the like. or folks i thought would give me a response worth looking into. the answers were notable in several respects:

one thing i noticed was that, in days past, most of the time folks would be all excited about a band, record, or artist, or a play, or a movie or a book or something like that. i found it interesting that more than half of the responses i received in my recent query were about products instead. in years past, where someone would be jazzed about a poet or a band or something, today they were on about software or a gadget. at least half of the responses. i found that remarkable.

the other thing i noticed was, no one asked me what i was digging myself. which is fine and not a point of the exercise so to speak, but still worth noting. they were off in their own worlds.

============ an interpretation of this experiment

this exchange got me thinking about some of the books i've been reading lately about the isolationist trends of techno-capitalism, and the post-modern condition, and structuralism, semiotics. subsequently bringing to mind a narrative i've seen bandied about recently, the whole "death of the mainstream" plot. (this has no bearing on me personally, and i watch it with about as much interest as a baseball trade, which is to say slight interest. slight, but interest nonetheless.) most of the folks around me have their own little unique weird world they live in. strange jobs, hobbies, diverse interests.

i must confess, that i like my own context that i have created for myself and don't mind saying so, and enjoy myself therewith. i make my own meanings out of headlines and advertising slogans. the older i get, the less inclined i am to subscribe to these other outside narratives. however, the particular story line about the disappearance of the mainstream intrigues me to some extent. mainstream sales are down, yet there is more great new music out there than a person could keep up with. i read somewhere that amazon sells more strange off the beaten path type books in the aggregate than they do the bestsellers. in other words they make more money off of selling fewer copies of more titles. if this is true, i think this is a good trend.

the direction that data is heading, and the new delivery mediums, are all fascinating to observe. i read with some interest the articles and books on the tail of the comet, so to speak, and the tipping points and so on. however i question anybody's ability or right to be able to explain any of this shit. it seems that things exist only in their particulars. (thank you george berkeley)

it actually is possible to find something to watch on cable teevee, if you can believe that. you have to know where to look, and time it just right, and be ready with the flipper so you never have to watch a commercial, which is hard because the whole things are commercials for other products and concepts and narratives, but it is possible to enjoy oneself for a time. lowering your standards also helps. i don't mess with a tivo because i don't find very much of the data involved worth keeping.

the story arc of whats going on in the business of newspapers, and music, politics, is very fun to watch.

jean-francois lyotard writes:
"eclecticism is the degree zero of contemporary culture: you listen to reggae; you watch a western; you eat at mcdonald's at midday and local cuisine at night; you wear paris perfume in tokyo and dress retro in hong kong; knowledge is the stuff of tv game shows."

that was written in 1982. it is exponentially easier and more typical to behave in this way today, twenty six years later. now this concept/machine is all rapped out in overdrive and someone is dangling from a helicopter and is bolting a jet engine onto it, and another person is shooting at them with a laser beam trying to kill them so they can install a time warp mechanism.

another interesting event is that my acquaintances likely to complain loudly about post-modernism, and are apt to use the phrase as a derogative term for art they don't like or care to understand, are frequently the most shining examples of the term. often bringing together a whole pastiche of differing disjointed concepts to create an interesting life that is not like anyone else's and then being able to afford to buy property with very strange jobs based on niche marketing. sub-genres of sub-genres. i read somewhere that modernists are angst ridden because nothing is the way it used to be....cars, going to the bank, television, going to the grocery store, jobs, houses, life, nothing is materially like it used to be. i like the way it is now better myself because of access to ideas. in addition, what can you do other than take an assessment of what is, adapt and keep moving forward? complaining and negativity is a drag for everybody, the complainer and the giver of solace or deaf ear.

i gotta say, it's pretty hep to be able to listen to almost any recorded music so easily. to be able to have access to almost any movie and have it delivered to my door tomorrow. and be able to copy everything for later use and research. that part of the whole thing i enjoy. i really love making my own world of ideas and books and music. my father was that way, and my brothers also, so i come by that honest. with today's data delivery systems, we are totally loaded for bear vis-a-vis this behavior.

i digress. if anyone would have thought to ask, one of the new things i'm excited about is a software also.
by whatever mode of analysis applied, last year was my best year ever and the year before that was up until that point also. so whatever is happening is very good for my own art/business model. cheap plane tickets, the dis-intermediation of my industry, the staggering amount of music being reissued for my research applications, and the interest that people in general have in strange music, because strange music is so easy to obtain, interesting cheap gear, open source software, free distribution mediums, ipods that have re-invigorated folks' interest in music because it's so easy to turn off the knuckleheads and juke out on exactly what you want to hear......"what was that song by that band back in?............BAM got it............so and so was telling me about this new band?..........BAM got it.......hey pretty cool, i'll email my friend that i think would like this," all this works together to create a happy working and learning environment for cats like me. and they still make certain things on vinyl. which sounds so good.

i think music is the most badass thing ever, and no matter what happens in our lives it still sounds killer.
thanks for reading and listening.