The internet is full of rubbish. We cannot trust most of it, cannot filter all of it, and at the same time we cannot take our eyes off of it.
The following links are for good things I have read / listened to recently. I’m going to call them “resonations”:
Tim Ferris interviews Mark Zuckerberg – Zuck is obviously a tech nerd – but he’s also a sporty, musical, family man. No hint of lizard origins here. link
The symbolism of ESG – My background as a “sustainability professional” means that this resonates. Are we guilty of searching for too much meaning in finance? A separation of God and mammon required? link
Extraordinary men – The Big Red Car is at his best when talking military history. Something that Europe and Ukraine are in the midst of. link
Where do symbols live – Seth Godin as the liberal antidote to the conservative BRC and ESG articles: link
This will sync with the Spotify playlist when I update it each week. Something that’s not so easy to do…. But for you dear readers/listeners, anything…. Actually I did this four my mum who can’t get Spotify in Kenya, but that’s another story.
Every week I add a few new songs to my playlist on Spotify (See the link to the playlist here: link).
Choosing the songs is the end of a rather convoluted process:
On Spotify, I ‘Like’ all songs and albums (I’m about half way through) included in the following book: link
I listen to the resulting recommendations from Spotify in my ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist.
I Pick a few standout songs and add them to my chimpwithcans playlist (link here).
The results are broad in their musical genre. It has turned into a pretty chilled playlist and I really enjoy pressing shuffle now. It has so many songs I never would have heard. Importantly I feel like I have had a say in training and filtering the Spotify algorithm to spit out something interesting.
This week, my Discover Weekly gave me the following standout tracks:
Fela Kuti – “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am”. Below is a great review of the song:
Released as part of a quartet of albums from the most productive year of Fela’s career, “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am” has all the hallmarks of a classic Fela single, a languid, self determined instrumental warm up that goes on for several minutes, putting the listener in the right frame of mind, and setting up a tonal theme for the rest of the performance, a choral style, call and response chorus in conjunction with Fela’s omnipresent band, and long winding verse that defy the laws of composition and march at a tempo that only Fela decides. But what really distinguishes this song from the rest of the master’s oeuvre, is the masterful storytelling that Fela employs. Fela had always understood that at the core of his sway over his fans was his ability to empathize with their terribly oppressed lives, and the skill with which he consumed their stories, ruminated on them and regurgitated them back, defiance milled into the broth.
“Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am” is brimming with defiance, delivered subtly as an exchange, reflected through a lens of righteous justice. Fela sings of the oppressed, and personifies the oppression of Nigerian people. He asks through a direct chorus and series of vignettes, that the suffering of oppressed be respected and that if it is not, then the oppressed is justified in their decision to revolt, to take arms against the persons who mock their suffering and remain unempathetic to their oppression. He substitutes the government for smaller, more relatable avatars of power, like the landlord who wields the power to deny shelter, or the policeman who can take away a man’s freedom, or even closer. Never to look away from intrigue when the opportunity presents itself, Fela subverts his own theme in the third vignette about a husband, citing that sometimes it is our own avarice and pride, not an external agitator that puts us in trouble.
Sidney Bechet – “Blue Horizon”. Holy moly please listen to this man play a clarinet! I remember when I was about 11years old my Mum tried to get me to play an instrument and I tried clarinet. I had zero idea it could sound like this. My efforts sounded more like a strangled ibis making an escape from the torture chamber…..But this man…..The control, the wary tension of the small group surrounding him. The sharp tone, a vigorous vibrato. This is an absolute master and I had NEVER heard of him until today. More fool me. Have a listen, just beautiful.
I have a sort of long-running experiment with the internet. It plays out in real time. It is not clear to me, nor was it ever taught to me, what to publish on the net and why. And when I do post something on there (on here?), how much of it is really a part of my life? My work? My community? My identity? What exactly is the impact?
The calculation baffles me to be honest (I am an over-thinker!) but I can see people who have it under control. They harness the power of the net to their advantage. They are comfortable with the online self versus the offline self.
When I first created a Facebook account it was all a bit of a joke – in my eyes it wasn’t really me. But now i’m not so sure. The internet is a powerful sandbox, where we must draw our own lines. Limitations are our friends. Intention is our friend.
Some lines and decisions to consider for the internet:
Are you on Apple devices, or Android?
Do you read or write? Consume or create?
Is it free or are you paying?
Are you using a pseudonym or your real name?
That last point is topical for me. I tried to create something with the chimpwithcans.com domain but it never really took. I love and identify with the image of the chimp (ha!) but I couldn’t figure out what to do with the domain name. I felt pressurised to build something other than my own thoughts and identity. A business or a following perhaps – but I didn’t have anything clear in my head. That lack of authenticity and pandering to others is for the birds.
All of this is to say I have changed the name and address of this blog. No more hiding behind a chimpanzee.
As a teenager I used to think I would listen to my walkman for the rest of my life. It was so essential to me – the cassette tapes I had painstakingly curated, the stock of fresh AA-size batteries, the headphones I found in an airport in England. The ritual of plugging it all in and pushing play. It just didn’t get any better.
One day in my early 20s I found my dad’s LP collection and an old hifi setup. I heard classics like Otis Redding and Springsteen in such clarity and power. Besides the fidelity, there was the long beautiful process of choosing the record, cleaning it, playing one side through and flipping it over, reading the liner notes, poring over the album covers, adjusting the needle and the audio settings. A new ritual was born. My life changed.
Now in my 30s I have my iPhone and an Apple watch. New tech, new ritual. I can call up any song I want no matter where I am. The digital liner notes are getting better every day and the sheer convenience of Bluetooth and music on the go is changing my life again. Don’t even get me started on Spotify’s daily mix and discover weekly playlists. That revolution in curation is a topic for another post.
Older forms of technology can all still be used of course. And often they retain their original power even though the convenience factor is low. Vinyl has made a come back. Audiophiles also tout the benefits of CDs and cassettes. For me this means I now have an arsenal of ways to access the Music drug. The music is the constant, Platonic form while the tech revolves and morphs around it in a clumsy, circular dance.
Perhaps one day the headphones will be nothing more than chips in our brains. A neuralink device Elon Musk sells for a fee. What might a music listening ritual look like for this scenario?
I get comfort from the fact that the music never changes. Taste and quality may vary, but a song is a song no matter what. The catalogue keeps on growing, but the essential form and function of a song is set. It is information in the form of a sound wave being received by the brain. Only the tech for delivery varies.
I like the idea of being your own personal librarian. Information flows around us. The silent and invisible nature of these rivers of information mean they are easily missed. Software ate the world and sent everything online, so I believe It’s a sign of maturity to handle your information online and that this covers everything from social media, to pay tv to paying your taxes.
This problem is new in its scope and digital nature, but there is an arc leading from the Gutenberg press. When a book used to cost as much as a small house, people started sharing them. Then public libraries were born to share the expensive books to the wider public and for years librarians have been the guides, sherpas, educators helping us navigate the reams of data available.
Nowadays the information is cheap. We each generate libraries worth of information in a single day, and it’s all connected. I think we need to gather some librarian skills to handle this revolution.
Today was a sunny winter day. We spent most of the day outdoors with our children. Hiking, playing tennis, playgrounds, trampolines.
Days like these are special because of all the obvious family bonding. However, in this moment, during lockdown and the digital revolution, today was especially rare because there was no logging on, no email. No zoom, no WhatsApp. At all.
It’s a small thing but it feels like it’s getting rarer every day.
I have a growing family. It also happens to be growing in the middle of a revolution. As phone carrying members of the digital revolution, the information we generate each and every day is becoming a problem. Before the digital age, there was not much to worry about. Even the most prolific writer, businessman, operator could only create so much hard copy. The files containing our inner most secrets could only get so big before storage and weight became an issue. Now though, the information we gather on purpose, by mistake and through third parties multiplies each day. And it’s all kept on some drive or server somewhere. Privacy is dead, but there is a lot of value and power in consolidating and managing this sprawl to maintain sanity, manage risk, and coordinate your…well….life!
Perhaps step one is to define what is being generated, exactly. This is probably impossible to detail completely, but a good list might cover ~90% of the problem like a good wetsuit covers 90% of the body. Here is where I would start:
Look at the hardware in your life – This includes all PC’s, laptops, phones, watches, TV’s, gaming consoles, and other smart devices.
What property do you own which could generate information (cars and speeding fines, for example)
Look at the software in your life – This includes email accounts, social media accounts, app subscriptions, password management, browsers you use, tracking and privacy settings.
Look at your financial/work situation – credit cards, bank accounts, trading accounts, tax responsibilities, insurance premiums, salaries coming in, work projects, monthly expenses.
Look at your healthcare situation – memberships, premiums, chronic illnesses, children related health information, rewards programs.
If we manage to gather this list of ‘info generating stuff’ then we can work on each of the sections individually. Sound good? Good.
This is probably time consuming at first, but it is also probably very useful. Like tidying your bedroom, i think it will have obvious elements (listing your cellphones would be like the duvet on the floor which goes back on the bed) and then more detailed, less obvious stuff (delving into the direct debits from your bank account, or the points available on rewards schemes is a bit like pulling the bed from the wall and vacuuming up the dirt on the floor which is usually unseen).
Like a nuclear chain reaction (terrible Keanu Reaves movie btw!) each of these sections can probably lead down its own information rabbit hole. Just start thinking about your online passwords for example!
This concept is a work in progress – I think the trick is to make a start and treat it as a process.
I’ve had to buy a new iPhone. The old one died in a fit of convulsions. Dead battery, slow performance and broken screen – after four years it all seems to happen at once.
In setting up the new Beast, I’ve become interested in the layout and settings on my phone. In particular I’m concerned about how the default settings on an iPhone drive certain behaviours. Notifications, constant sharing of information and confinement to the Apple ecosystem are all worth considering, I feel.
“Exhaustive” is the word I’d use for the article, but I also found it fascinating. It has resulted in the below home screen for my phone which I am liking very much.
These phones are running our lives more and more. From work to social interactions. As Ben Evans says, The smartphone is the Sun in our digital solar system. Everything else revolves around the phone. This being the case, it’s worth thinking about how we set up the phone and interact with it.
I’m very easily hooked into social media Buti am trying to set up the phone to make it easier to drive more productive and healthier habits than scrolling Instagram, Twitter or WhatsApp all day.
The addition of ‘escape the jungle’ to my blog’s main menu is taking shape. I plan to add a few sub menus to cater for all the things in life that help me to escape the jungle – to be less chimp and more rational being. Less anxious and more free.
So far I have art, design, productivity and psychology.
Within these categories I will post my favorite stuff. There will be subcategories too I guess…sport goes somewhere. This is the stuff I love and enjoy. The stuff that makes my life better.