Music plus tech

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’ve started reading Isaac Asimov’s ‘Foundation’.

Well, sort of. I’ve actually started listening to it on audible. It’s great and very entertaining. I can see echoes of the story in more recent fiction.

Audible as a way to consume books is a revelation to me. It will help me to work my way through this great sci-fi list: link

Imagine a city which covers a whole planet…


Movies are given to us in (usually) 2 – 3 hour chunks. Designed to set aside a whole evening for your entertainment. Conversely, Entrepreneurs and influencers on Tiktok or on Instagram have mastered the quick fire clips and video messages.

Even though there are neuro-chemical tricks going on with Instagram, it is interesting to me that social media often feels like the only form of entertainment that fits into my life right now. To read a book I need to wake up at 5am when the house is quiet. The same with movies or albums. These things need concerted effort from me whereas the Instagram account goes with me wherever I go.

I know this is not revelatory in any way. Mobile phones are convenient… what? However when I look at these facts I realize two things. Firstly, I need to manage what’s appearing on my Social media feeds so that the messages I am receiving are of value and not just a trick to keep my brain’s attention. Secondly, I need to make time for books, albums and movies that I still want to have in my life while my kids are young and life is so busy.

That will go some way towards escaping the media jungle of life.

Nearly New Years! Happy Monday chimps.

Social Media Grooming

I just came across this phrase today: “Social Media Grooming”.

It is a great phrase and it captures well the systematic way in which the major social media companies entice us to believe that there is a way to win the social media game. If we just tweak this, post that, and shoot a pic at this angle then we can become famous. An influencer.

The bad thing about the social media system is that it is set up for user-distraction. You are the product and you are being manipulated if you play by their rules. If you let them groom you. Grooming….creepy word that one.

There is an alternative to play by your own rules. Focus on what you create. Focus on the content and the ideas you want people to engage with and share. Who precisely do you want to engage with? – not everybody….presuming you are not a Kardashian (thank the Gods).

Be specific. Be intentional. Be free.

Ps, (I write these sorts of posts to preach mainly to myself. I fall down the Social Media rabbit hole all to easily).

Humbled through Twitter blocks

I am learning how to use Twitter. An intimidating place sometimes, Twitter for me is a roller-coaster ride of fumbling around. Like a little kid with training wheels on a bicycle I am wobbling through it.

I get stuck wondering what I actually want to say. In real life I am not particularly outspoken which is something I want to change, but what sort of stuff should I start to be outspoken about? As you can see Twitter raises lots of questions for me to grapple with.

Finding people to follow has been relatively easy. It is creating content that is the hard part for me. I get desperate to put stuff out there into the Twitter-sphere, even if I have nothing coherent to say, and it has bad results!

Today I re-tweeted one of my favourite people on Twitter and the result was a block.

To explain, it was a very heavy tweet to re-tweet (Mau-era China resulting in deaths for millions of Chinese) and I added an extremely vague and poorly written comment, tenuously linking the story to Cape Town’s current drought. I kept the guy’s Twitter handle in there, linking him with my post. It was extremely clumsy and didn’t go down well!


I am devastated and hope he reconsiders. I have written to him to ask for forgiveness. He is one of my favourite people to follow….dammit! Twitter is not coming naturally but I see there may be huge benefits to persevering.

Trawling for peers

If I follow you on Twitter, I have been trawling through your followers and people you follow with a feverish obsession!

You see, I just re-joined twitter after a long break. Although @chimpwithcans was posting my blog posts automatically, I was not using the service actively. Now I have started actively following and posting, I am trying to find the best people to follow. Trying to find peers.

I am not interested in how many followers a person has, but I am interested in whether they are my type of person. This is hard to measure though. It involves experimentation, dedication to reading posts, trying out following people who I think may be of interest. Dropping those who are not.

I think it could be worth it. Finding a peer group and working with them, intentionally and on a regular basis, would be a great thing to get out of social media.


Writing and loyalty rewards

I have recently started to take part in a loyalty rewards program. So much so, that I am a little obsessive over the points-claiming process – it’s because if i get enough points through exercise, then I get free coffee 🙂

Gamifying a loyalty process is useful in that it can alter behaviour. What was once a chore becomes a goal and my behaviour leans towards the gaining of points. However, true loyalty still only comes from the payback meeting expectations. A free coffee a week is enough for me to go and exercise daily, along with the knowledge that I am getting fitter. If i only got a glass of water as a reward, I might not be so loyal.

When we look at writing as the process, there is no shortcut to building loyalty. As a reader I don’t know of any loyalty reward points for following one author over another, other than the promise of more material to come. As a writer, the consistent drip, drip, dripping of content will build a readership. Giving them more than expected with a purchase will build an evangelical fan.

And when in doubt, throwing in a free coffee seems to work wonders 🙂

Monday music

I have eclectic musical tastes. My father worked in the music industry for a long time in the 70’s and 80’s so I have a lot of old school rock in my collection. My mum loves classical music, and my grandma was a great pianist so I listen to some choral and baroque classical music – and my personal passion is blues and soul. Old school. I have also recently started listening to hip hop.

A look at the charts – the top ten on Google Play – is fairly meaningless to me now. Nobody is pushing the boundaries of any genre, and art is scarce when the aim is to appeal to the most number of people possible. When this is the case, inevitably the songs start to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Safe bets are placed like the countless sequels in the cinema.

That said, I like Rihanna and DJ Khaled’s song, Grateful. Also, Charlie Puth’s Attention is pretty good.

Conscious watching of TV

When I was younger (I’m still incredibly young of course, despite my grey hair, stiff back, and penchant for listening to jazz)….but when I was younGER I used to watch TV by default. I had no decision to make, I had nothing else pressing my time. I just had myself to think about. Quite recently it has become different. Others are relying on me and TV is now something to manage – just like Music, Facebook (which I eventually quit), cell phone notifications (quit) and computer games (quitting).

I need to watch TV with a little more purpose and a little more constraint. This is probably stating the obvious, but I do find it difficult not to just consume movies and series every night – especially with today’s binge watching options. I love literature and film, and I love technology so the streaming thing would take up a lot of my time if i let it. It’s not as if I don’t let myself watch anything – Film and series are fantastic and worthy art in my life. My point is simply that it is a conscious thought now to watch these things, all with the aim of productivity and creativity. Before it was just a default setting.

If you are struggling for time to be productive, start with thinking about the things you do as a default setting. In my case it started with registering Facebook, cell phone notifications and computer games. Now it is TV. Some need to be stopped, others managed, others nothing at all needs to be done – but it’s a useful exercise.