Sunday, February 19, 2017

Local politics

Everything is political. Even not participating in politics is a political act. To me, this is an incredibly basic concept, I look on in terror at people who refuse to acknowledge this.

I'm currently in the market for a workshop. I've spent the past year or so as part of teams building large pieces of art and I've grown quite fond of having a decently kitted out workshop within a few minutes of home. The workshop that I've been using I'm stepping back from, for a number of reasons*.
There is a community workshop a few minutes walk away in a different direction that I wandered down to have a look at a couple of weeks ago. It was closed, but there was an old codger pottering around who seemed a nice enough chap for a bit. He did have a habit of talking for a bit to long - talking about houses eventually turned into a mildly racist dig at people from China buying houses here in Auckland. And comments about the construction of a table revealed a bit of old school sexism (it was built by a woman would you believe? who's also a carpenter!) that didn't sit particularly well. Friends who know people involved in the workshop/community hub tell me that even before it's all open to the public that there's internal politics at play.

All of this I have to take into account with what I'm doing over the next year or so. I'm definitely stepping back from one thing. Do I launch myself into the maelstrom of dealing with a new bunch of people with their own foibles?

Every interaction you have with other people colors how you see the world. Every time you do something, it's political. How does one deal with people when you're trying to do small things? How does that affect the world. How does one deal with people when you're trying to make the world a better place?

*There's politics for you right there. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Doing things you don't know how to do.

I was recently asked to write a post for a blog about my experiences as part of and leading crews for large art projects. Something to do with the positive experiences, the camaraderie and the learning of new skills etc, to inspire people to get off their behinds and launch themselves into new and exciting projects.

I declined. There are a number of reasons, most of which I'm having trouble articulating. One of these reasons is the fact that I launched myself into the various projects I've been involved with over the past year or so, primarily because I thought they sounded cool at the time. Not from any overwhelming desire to improve myself or overcome some hurdle that I thought was stopping me. I suspect this means that I'm not entirely comfortable exhorting people to enter into large projects for these reasons.

The one problem I have when I'm turning this over in my head is that I realize, intellectually speaking, that I have a certain amount of confidence when launching myself into things that I have no idea how to do, that I will be able to learn how to do whatever it is. Maybe not to an expert level, but at least to a moderate level of competency. It's not an explicit confidence, it's more of a ... it never occurs to me that I won't be able to learn something to a moderate (or minimally sufficient) level of skill, so I just steam roll on ahead. I also realize that not everyone has this sort of confidence. I just don't get it.

As in, I understand that not everyone has that sort of confidence, but when I try to put myself in the position of someone who thinks like that, it confuses me. I'm pretty sure most people can learn the basics of a new skill if they wanted to. Despite the fact that there are almost certainly a myriad of reasons why people shrink from tasks that they don't already know how to do, from my point of view, it feels like sheer bloody mindedness on their part holding them back.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The meaning of words

Might. As in maybe. If I say I might go to an event, don't act all surprised if I turn up, after all, I said I might be there. And don't get all disappointed if I don't turn up. After all, I only said I might be there.

I hate that people use might/maybe as a way supposedly polite way of saying no. After all, we have a number of perfectly polite ways of saying no already. Such as "no thanks" or "not today thanks"


Monday, February 29, 2016

The first line

Recently I was asked to write a post for a new blog associated with Te Punaha Matatini Whanau, being a group that I've been part of for the last year. The direction given was ... minimal, and as such, it wasn't really focused on the research I've been doing. It tended towards the more ... philosophical on the nature of getting the first sentence out. I sort of liked it though. It can be found here.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The music doesn't speak to me.

Whenever a famous musician dies - the most recent being David Bowie, we are immediately inundated with media written by people who have been touched by their music. Their music was some ethereal thing that made them see the world differently or re-evaluate their lives. It was a thing that changed them. It was the thing that got them through their teenage years. It was a huge influence when they first started "really" listening to music.

And it's not just in the media. It's in my friends. They're varying levels of distraught and nostalgic about this thing that was such a big influence.

I almost dread musicians dying. If only because the distress and the nostalgia make me feel ... out of place. Sure, there's music that I love. There's music that I reminisce over, that reminds me of the past. Never though, has a musician or a band had such an influence that I would be genuinely distraught over their loss.

Music apparently just doesn't speak to me in the same way that appears to speak to others.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Heroes don't exist.

I am of the opinion that the word hero is grossly over used. As evidence to support my idea, I offer this:

A bunch of people of the street gazing off into the distance, being billed as "our heroes" when all they've actually done is been lucky enough to land themselves a role on a TV game show that takes them around the world performing takes a distracted bonobo could probably accomplish with ease. If your society is attempting to call these people heroes then the word has been so devalued as to be meaningless. 

We have sporting heroes. In New Zealand, the All Blacks are regularly billed as sporting heroes.  What have they done to achieve this lofty pinnacle? They have worked hard to gain the opportunity to be played large amounts of money so that other people with more money can sell the spectacle and make some more money. That's all it is, selling the spectacle. We are sold heroes and as soon as we have bought one, another is rolled out to tempt us into buying that one as well.

Business heroes, sporting heroes, community heroes. The list goes on. Some of these people (probably not the business heroes) are undoubtedly worthy of respect for the hard work they put in and the good work that they do for the community. In the case of those who win renown saving the lives of their comrades on the battlefield in times of war or those who endanger their own lives in save others in times of disaster, heroic actions are no doubt performed. 

I don't believe heroic acts make the hero though. To declare someone a hero is to blind yourself to their flaws. And if they're human, they have flaws. Richard Feynman, world renowned physicist, Nobel prize winner, hero of physics, casual (and quite horrible sometimes) sexist1. We've had cricketing "heroes" that have been roundly condemned in the media for their off field behaviour.

Heroes are made to be looked up to, to exhibit behaviour that we can aspire to. Which is easy enough to do when you look at a single, specific behaviour of someone who has put themselves in harms way for the betterment of their fellows or excelled in some noble endeavour. Or it can be impossible to do as in the case of the heroes from the amazing race. The idea that we are going to find someone who is universally laudable in all aspects of their behaviour though, is ridiculous.

So the only place that we can find true heroes are in works of fiction. Only in fiction were all aspects of a person that aren't described don't exist. It is only in fiction where all the flaws can be removed. 

Then again, maybe I've just read to many comic books.

1. Yes there are arguments about context, i.e. his behaviour wasn't necessarily out of the ordinary for any men at the time. Doesn't mean it wasn't awful though. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Things change.

Last night twitter delivered to me this gem : Inside The Barista Class. It's worth a read, especially for those of us who have spent some time in hospo. Near the end, it begins to talk of the relationship between hospo staff and the customers. Or rather, of the interactions between hospo staff and hospo staff and between hospo staff and various groups of customers.When the neighborhood is still rough around the edges it feels like there is a certain amount of camaraderie amongst the staff and the customers - everyone's broke, everyone is trying to get something to work, somehow. 

Rarely spoken aloud, the tendency of Greenpoint’s service class to take care of its own was one of the only outright gestures of solidarity I witnessed, the only place where a distinction was made between the server and the served
Checks for Negronis, artisanal spicy pickles, hand-roasted coffee beans, and sometimes entire locally sourced meals disappeared with a wink and a nudge reminiscent of Fight Club’s ominous waiter scene.  
I've experienced that feeling of community, something I am immensely grateful form, but as a customer and a staff member. Strangely enough it makes me wary of being overly friendly with staff of somewhere that I'm newly venturing to I think.

As the neighborhood transitions and you get new types of customers slowly appearing, things change though. I used to live, many years ago in Shoreditch in London. At the time everyone thought it was in the process of gentrification. Even then though it took me a while to figure out that the backfiring car that I heard at least once a week were actually gunshots. Last year I got the opportunity to have a wander through the old neighborhood 10 years on. It was recognizable in terms of physical structure, they way that it felt though was just ... worlds apart. The area had become affluent.

There are some who are making similar observations. In my absence the area rose as an area of start-ups bringing with them new and crazy ideas. The writer, Cory Doctorow, I think gets it right when he describes start-ups, the ideas are crazy and most of them fail, those that don't often succeeding not because of their original idea but because they've learnt something from the failure of their first idea and come up with something new. The new Shoreditch started out as a churn of ideas and people some of which ended up succeeding, most of which didn't. As it became successful though, as in Greenpoint, the area becomes a little more polish, the mainstream begins to takes notice and almost by osmosis, moves in.

I think the first time I saw this phenomenon described was in William Gibson's Bridge trilogy where the San Francisco Bay bridge had been damaged, closed and then occupied by an interstitial community - a wild, unregulated place that new ideas come from. They are, almost by definition unstable - eventually either dieing or more likely producing sufficient success stories that they get taken over. Strangely enough - there is also a school of thought that maintains that areas like these are necessary, it's where new ideas that the mainstream either can't conceive of  or would have great difficulty in passing through entrenched power structures are conceived of.

It's sort of sad really. It means that I'll have to keep moving because these sorts of areas are, for me at least, the best places to live in.