It's odd but despite my protest against melodic sound, I have managed to watch almost no television this week save a portion of the State of the Union address last night.
I don't have a lot to report right now other than that I'm really busy, I'm still not sleeping enough and I have found myself mumbling/singing refrains and choruses of songs nonstop. It's also reminded me of the fact that people only remember bits of pieces of songs, relying on actually hearing them to jog their memories. I'm also thinking constantly about the fact that at night time, every public place plays music and it's difficult to avoid.
I will be home tonight to offer more thoughts, as well as fill in some details on last week's mixes. Tomorrow I will post the schedule for February.
And finally, here's a picture of Christopher Hitchens, smoking in the shower. He is speaking tonight at the 92nd St Y and I hope some of you are going to check it out.
Forecast for the Future
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
It's odd but despite my protest against melodic sound, I have managed to watch almost no television this week save a portion of the State of the Union address last night.
Posted by Nihilist Loves Hate, Hates Everything at 1/30/2008 02:51:00 AM
Monday, January 28, 2008
It's only been 44 hours and already my Last.fm looks sad and lonely.
It has become clear to me in just this brief amount of time that I need for music more instinctively and deeply than just about anything. I have been a smoker since I was 12 years old, but right now I feel like I wouldn't think twice about going a million years without a cigarette in exchange for some "Teenage FBI" or "Gouge Away." All day long my heart has panged and panged as song after song bursts into head and then I am let down upon remembering that I'm "not allowed" to put the songs on and run with them. A refrain from the Beck song "Nicotine and Gravy"--"I think I'm going crazy / Things don't even phase me / Her left eye is lazy / Nicotine & Gravy"--in particular has been stuck in my head now and is repeating non-stop, with me occasionally stopping to sing along to the melody powering itself along through my brain. Last night, when another song was stuck in my head and I started singing it out loud, I suddenly wondered if I was allowed to sing. Yes, I thought, that seems ok. Revelation! So can I bust out my guitar and start writing songs? Maybe this is the perfect time for me to begin writing the three songs to be played and recorded by The Heart Beats. But then I thought again: no, cheating. No guitar playing. No music writing.
And also, unfortunately, this means no music seeing either. Meaning, most disappointingly of all, that, in adhering to "my crazy rules," I am going to have to miss out on two exciting activities I'd previously planned for this week: Joanna Newsom's performance at BAM this Friday and the Thermals' Insound Karaoke extravaganza on Thursday. Missing the Thermals is not the end of the world, though it would have been fun and free, but the other... well, oy vey. Those of you who know me intimately understand the depth of my love for the strange elfin creature that is J. Newsom--featured in Saturday's harpsichord mix--and the thought of passing up the opportunity to see her in this elegant setting (and at a 120 min show!!) is straight up "pretty fucking depressing." Not to mention the fact that the show has been way sold out and Doorknobs had to go to strange means to acquire the tickets for us in the first place (going to the apt of a Dude he met on a music discussion group)--and so it all adds up to something just sort of soul-crushing.
Obviously none of this is really "a big deal"--humans survived just fine for thousands of years without being able to hear music on-demand. But I'm interested in the ways in which we rapidly adjust to our surroundings and situations and then get used to having things that way. I live in an environment now where I can constantly envelope--and insulate--myself within a shieldwall of music, and it's become so natural I don't even think twice about it. Being aware of that sensation though seems pretty powerful, and I'm curious if i'll still feel this way by the end of the week or if I will have already returned to the normalcy of a world without tuned sound.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
The week of silence begins. I only woke up 30 minutes ago and already I feel like I'm about to chew off my own leg. My upstairs neighbor (who reminded me earlier that it's neat that I posted my harpsichord mix yesterday because today is Mozart's birthday) is playing music loudly right now in an effort to taunt me. I also realized late last night that, after making plans for today to finally go see the Bob Dylan movie I'm Not There, I must now change them and see something else--I've been waiting forever to see this film but I guess I'll have to wait a little longer.
I am not entirely sure in what ways I will feel the impact of this week's task on my day-to-day living, but I suspect that going about my days without music is going to touch me in ways that will surprise.
Two things I do aim to accomplish over this week though is 1) a lot of writing (including going back and filling out some details on the mixes I posted this week) and 2) catching up on desperately needed sleep. The latter of these has really been affecting me as the combination of living, hyperliving, and blogging about living and hyperliving has been leaving me with only two to four hours of rest a night. It got to the point where last night while at a bar with friends, another friend slapped me across the face after I fell asleep while talking to him. Granted, it was 2:30 a.m. but still, I do not generally fall asleep while having conversations in public places.
Seriously, I fell asleep in the fucking bar.
So yes, rest and writing. Think it will be good.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
I am struggling this week. Not only have I still not completed enough mixes yet (nor all the right ones), but my friend who is in town has informed me that he is taking back his beautiful, crisp Yamaha speakers that have been powering my living rooms sound systems--and, by extension, my life--for the past three years. These speakers have pumped so much sonic blood into my ears and through my mind and heart that I'm having trouble imagining life without them. But I guess 2008 is all about new beginnings and stepping outside my comfort zone, so here goes.
Speaking of stepping outside my comfort zone, it's also a strange coincidence that my speakers are being taken away from me on the day that begins my week of "abstaining from aural pleasure." This means that finishing my last two mixes ain't gonna be happen this week. But friends, I will follow through: my remaining mixes will come to you, at some point. I received so many great ideas for mixes, but many of them should require an entire week of research and investigation unto themselves--doing them in a day would pretty much ensure that they'd be a waste of time. Which means that I can't do them now, but I will do them. Oh yes, I will do them. A list shall be posted and I obligate myself to complete them.
And now, on to today.
Today's mix features songs that utilize that great but somewhat forgotten instrument, the harpsichord. I have some things to say about the harpischord. I will say them later (tomorrow) as revisions to this post. But here's the mix for now:
The Baroque Pop of the Harpischord (click to download)
No joke, this harpsichord is constructed entirely out of Legos. Seriously.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
The man today
If I had eight seconds to name my three favorite non-friend people in the world, the first bloke off my tongue would absolutely be Brian Eno. I exaggerate not one iota when I say that I unequivocally love--no, love the shit--out of this man. I would marry him if he'd take me. Brian, you listening? I'm available with a capital J.
Yes, I love this strange bald man more than anyone in the world not named Hot Doorknobs, Lil' Beaumont, or My Mom. Through his initial work with Roxy Music, to his solo pop efforts, his late 70s Davids Bowie and Byrne collaborations, his explorations into and development of "ambient music," and, above all, his constant and nearly unwavering good taste--including producing seminal recordings by Talking Heads, Devo, U2, Television, and of course the No New York compilation--Brian Eno is a man in music like almost no other. Others like John Cale and David Bowie have had widespread impact in their trifectas of music, production, and tastemaking, but no has done in it in such an egoless fashion. This isn't to say that Eno Has No Ego, as I'm sure he does, but that he's managed to create and nurture powerful music without having an over-the-top stamp of "I Am Eno, Hear Me Roar!" Subtlety and dynamics have always been his domain and they have allowed to him to stay in the background while his 70s peers picked up the acclaim and accolades. He also created the opening theme for Microsoft Windows 95 (!!).
Because the immense diversity of his "footprint on music", it's pretty hard to pin everything down to one mix (and so I didn't). The music he has been involved with can be split into four groups: pop, ambient, collaborations, and production. The mix I am presenting today is of the first group, his poptunes. Soon (though likely not this week) I will follow-through with an ambient mix and then, for fun, a mix combing through his collaborations and production work. For now though, please enjoy the mix below.
For more reading on Eno (highly recommended) please check out the following:
- A shockingly comprenhensive Eno discography
- AWESOME AWESOME article on Eno by Lester Bangs, originally intended for a book that was never published. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
- Article on his creation of Microsoft Windows 95 theme
- Eno interview from Arthur magazine
Also, as a cute anecdote, Brian Eno is also responsible for the famous sentiment that "Only about 1,000 people ever bought a Velvet Underground album, but every one of them formed a rock 'n' roll band."
And so finally, here's the mix. I took Spiffae's suggestion and wrapped in an M3U playlist file to make life easier, but again, consult the playlist below so i don't have to toss in my sleep anxiously wondering whether or not these tunes are being "digested properly" (do the same for the other mixes if you didn't already).
Click here to download: DOWNLOAD!
The man in full
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
I should have realized that this week would be more difficult than I was letting myself think. I pretended that making mixes wasn't hard, forgetting they require a lot of time and concentration, AND that i'm obsessive compulsive about this and i usually end up spending weeks on each one.
I'm not done with the last two nights yet. Sorry. I WILL finish though, if not now then soon. But in the meantime, I will offer you the following nugget compiled by me recently and tightened a bit this week:
Favorite David Bowie, 1971-80
Click here to download: DOWNLOAD!
NOTE: YOU MUST RECONSTRUCT INTO A PLAYLIST BASED ON MY TRACKLIST BELOW.
A few thoughts--
You'll see that I don't say "Best of" for a few reasons:
1.) Bowie released so much great music in the 70s that it's incredibly difficult to encapsulate an entire career in one retrospective (even when that mix, at 143 minutes, takes up two discs). It's pretty much impossible for anyone to make a perfect selection of his work... but it's still fun to try
2.) Also, there have been many Bowie comps released over the course of his career, many of which are stellar (probably the most famous of which is Rykodisc's 1990 release Changesbowie), and so, for that reason my mix is lacking a lot of the more famous highlights that adorn those mixes. A number of the tracks i've chosen are such "classics" but there are also plenty of less familiar album cuts, and, of course, worthy b-sides.
This mix is, for me, a representative slice about what i loved about Bowie during this time period (minus his Low/Heroes instrumentals, which i've intentionally left off due to the conflicting spirit of most everything else here). Hope you enjoy.
Here's the tracklist:
Monday, January 21, 2008
Click here for the week's schedule.
One of my favorite things to do in the entire world is make mixes. Calling me a music obsessive probably understates the true intensity with which music grips me. It is no coincidence that a number of the activities on this Hyperliving calendar play with my relationship with music, because so much of what has mattered to me in life has defined by that relationship.
Part of my appreciation for music includes a slavish attention to the way it makes me feel. Certain songs pull at every string in my heart and unravel me until i am nothing but a throbbing heart. Examples? "Try a Little Tenderness." "If You Need Me." "Boys Don't Cry." "In My Life." Und so weiter. Maybe you get the point--these weary songs ache and ache and ache some more. [Some of these will be repped in the Jeffrey Beaumont Meta Mix at the end of the week.] They make me feel like, if I look hard enough, I can really discover a way in which all of life can be distilled to five minutes.
Anyway, I will write a lot more about this next week when I will not be able to listen to music at all. So, without further adieu, here are the week's first two mixes:
Futurism in Dark and Light
I began these mixes vaguely with the idea in mind that I really needed to make a mix that I could put some Pink Floyd on. Which, depending on who you are, may seem hilarious, or "Right on, man" or confused. I've sort of come full circle on the Floyd, as they were crucial to my psychedelic-explorative (but still sort of mainstreamish) development stage. However, the Floyd I was into during those times was mostly Meddle through Animals--the burgeoning "classic" era--but the music I've been into lately is all earlier and wraps up with Meddle. After years of intense love, I dismissed Pink Floyd at some point in freshman year of college, around the same time I stopped listening to Phish, the Dead and the Allman Brothers. Beyond my decreasing interest in "guitar workouts," I also disdained the folk I met who cited them as a "major life influence," and so Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and Animals all became part of a mass of my cds that never made the transition to ripped mp3.
While a lot of that change-of-heart still makes sense to me now--"Wish You Here" or, especially, "Another Brick in the Wall" seem to be particularly difficult to listen to--in the past few years I've come back to Pink Floyd as I've gone back to seeking out experimental rock and roll (as opposed to the experimental electronic music I sought out in college). It's hard to listen to Krautrock, King Crimson or Canterbury scene sounds and not want also to hear mid-early Floyd for peer context. Umm... yeah.
Anyway, since I began crafting a mix that featured mostly Floyd and Can and some prog (Gong, King Crimson), but as a began expanding it, I realized that a) i'd moved away from those genres a bit, b) had enough songs to fill up more than one disc, and c) it seemed like it would make sense to subdivide the themes into light and dark (i like ying-yang balance in art). I generally try to give no more than one song to an artist on a mix, but it made sense to me to have two each from Pink Floyd, Faust, and Can since they were centerpieces of inspiration. And so, here they are below. Let me know what you think and/or if you're interested in anything specific and would like to know more.
"Futurism in Dark"
Click here to download mix
1 David Lynch - The Ghost Of Love , 1:05
2 Amon Tobin - Bloodstone , 4:10
3 Can - Tango Whiskeyman , 4:03
4 Broadcast - DDL , 2:28
5 Portishead - Requiem for Anna , 2:39
6 Silver Apples - Ruby , 2:28
7 Cluster - Caramba , 3:57
8 Burial - In McDonalds , 2:07
9 Slint - Glenn , 6:11
10 Sixtoo - Boxcutter emporium pt. 3 , 2:58
11 Kroke - The Secret Of the life Tree , 4:29
12 Nina Simone - Sinnerman , 10:21
13 Boom Bip - Last Walk Around Mirror Lake (Boards of Canada Remix) , 4:31
14 Japan - Ghosts , 4:37
15 Air - Cemetary Party , 2:37
16 King Crimson - The Court Of The Crimson King 9:23
"Futurism in Light"
Click here to download mix
1 Gastr del Sol - Our Exquisite Replica of "Eternity" , 8:28
2 Boards of Canada - Dayvan Cowboy , 5:01
3 Pink Floyd - Fearless , 6:08
4 Faust - It's A Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl , 7:25
5 Frank Zappa - Peaches En Regalia , 3:31
6 Stereolab - Analogue Rock , 4:13
7 Sonic Youth - New Hampshire , 5:13
8 Can - I'm So Green , 3:06
9 Gong - Tried So Hard , 4:39
10 Faust - Chere chambre , 3:08
11 Psychic TV - The Orchids , 3:01
12 Grateful Dead - Beautiful Jam , 4:41
13 Tortoise - Cornpone Brunch (Mike Watt Remix), 4:18
14 Robert Wyatt - Raining In My Heart , 2:43
15 Pink Floyd - Wot's ... Uh The Deal , 5:09
Posted by Nihilist Loves Hate, Hates Everything at 1/21/2008 02:08:00 PM
Sunday, January 20, 2008
I am still in the process of finalizing my week of mixes. However, the week's schedule so far:
Sunday, Prog/Futures Mix
Monday, "Introducing Jeffrey Beaumont"
Tuesday, New Music from Doorknobs Computer
Wednesday, Songs With Harpsichord
Thursday, "As Fingerprinted By Brian Eno"
Sunday, Review of Mixes Past
I have a number of other great themes in mind but i've also received so many great suggestions that i'm still agonizing over which ones to choose. By morning I'll have the rest up (yeah, no sleep til Brooklyn).
The end of poetry week is here and with it the most complicated poem of all. This is the sestina, a poem which I am destined to write badly. Here's a brief description (click here for broader description):
It consists of 39 lines divided into 6 sestets and one triplet, called the envoi. It is normally unrhymed--instead, the six end-words of the first stanza are picked up and reused as the end-words of the following stanzas in a specific order. In the envoi, one end-word is buried in each line, and one is at the end of each line. Lines can be of any single length. Each stanza repeats the end-words in the order 615243.Yeah. So here's my sestina. It's called "Saturday."
Who would have thought that a Saturday
Could turn out to be so sublime,
When all you do is drink some free beer and a shot
of something noxious called a Redheaded Slut,
and get touched by a few drips of sweat
flying off the neck of the woman next to you, stripping.
Yeah, it wasn't what she expected, the stripping
and what not; it's not how she'd usually spend her Saturday,
but sometimes when the spray of sweat
hits you in the eye you get overcome with that feeling: something sublime.
And while there is nothing remotely like that about a Redheaded Slut,
You have to give yourself a chance to live in the moment whenever you get a shot.
Now, living in the moment for her, "giving it a shot,"
does not mean that she decided to join in the stripping;
even after seven Bud Lights and a Redheaded Slut,
a girl can still hold on to her ideals late on a Saturday.
But letting go and enjoying the presence of other women in the room was sublime
and she even felt running down her neck a drip of her own sweat.
That feeling, the tickling trickle of juicy intimate human sweat,
Will raise hairs and hearts and pulses, giving a shot
of joie d'vivre to the system of anyone, anytime; again, it's sublime.
She thought about this all, as she watched the women, stripping,
wondering whether or not she would consider spending another Saturday
at Rick's Gentleman's Club drinking a Redheaded Slut.
But how can someone ever plan out a night with a Redheaded Slut?
Those are usually the sorts of nights that just happen, with sweat
and hair down--or up--and an open mind and the hope that Saturday
just might be the night where you'll get your shot
to stand up to your fears and emotions and empower yourself to start stripping
them away until you get to that precious irreplaceable understanding of the truly sublime.
All of life doesn't have to be a quest for the sublime,
and it certainly doesn't requiring spending time with a Redheaded Slut
But it is worth keeping in mind the value each day of stripping
away the things we are afraid of and keep us in place, and shed a little sweat
in the process. I think if you keep this in mind, you'll see that you'll have a shot
At imbuing every day with the same glorious possibility as you might have on Saturday.
The end (and no fucking envoi, i was given permission by someone important).
Ah yes, the pantoum. A friend of mine typed recently, "If any poem form has fans clamoring for more, it's pantoums." I have no idea whether she was being serious or facetious because it came to me via a Google Talk conversation and also I know nothing about pantoums or any other kind of poem. But I want to believe her.
A pantoum is:
A series of quatrains rhyming ABAB in which the second and fourth lines of a quatrain recur as the first and third lines in the succeeding quatrain; each quatrain introduces a new second rhyme as BCBC, CDCD. The first line of the series recurs as the last line of the closing quatrain, and third line of the poem recurs as the second line of the closing quatrain, rhyming ZAZA.And here is my pantoum:
The design is simple:
Line 5 (repeat of line 2)
Line 7 (repeat of line 4)
Continue with as many stanzas as you wish, but the ending stanza then repeats the second and fourth lines of the previous stanza (as its first and third lines), and also repeats the third line of the first stanza, as its second line, and the first line of the first stanza as its fourth. So the first line of the poem is also the last.
Line 2 of previous stanza
Line 3 of first stanza
Line 4 of previous stanza
Line 1 of first stanza
To listen to The Rachel's during winter, I am brought to heaven
And I am reminded of the truest feelings of my humanity.
I am standing outside, on a street alone, in a race
to catch snowflakes and gain understanding.
And I am reminded of the truest feelings of my humanity
When I feel my lungs fill with an inhalation of smoke, and I try
to catch snowflakes and gain understanding.
Cigarettes and winter and Rachel's are sometimes enough to make me cry.
When I feel my lungs fill with an inhalation of smoke, and I try
to focus on the sensation of my body dying slowly, I remember that
Cigarettes and winter and Rachel's are sometimes enough to make me cry.
It is not as easy to keep holding onto that thought as it is
to focus on the sensation of my body dying slowly; I remember that
I am standing outside, on a street alone, in a race.
It is not as easy to keep holding onto that thought as it is
to listen to The Rachel's during winter; I am brought to heaven.
Friday, January 18, 2008
It stands as an amusing testament to the fact that before embarking on this quest I knew so little about the Ghazal that I knew her only as "Ghazal, Is This Love Fucking Right?"
I've now learned and egregiously terrible word construction has ensued. I apologize in advance to any readers whose taste has been offended. Thanks to JK-K for cluing me in to a weird and infuriating poem form that opened my door wide open for piles of wordcrap. I'd love to read a ghazal by someone who knows how to write one, and i'd love to hear any hate or "feedback" (preferably in hate form). Without further adieu:
Kurt Vonnegut's Children
We live in the age of computer code
Where we make our own rules. Yes, So it goes.
You would have thought a name like Kilgore Trout
Would have been laughed out of town. So it goes.
It's strange, but I know a girl named Ghazal
She don't like poems, or her name. So it goes.
When I string words into "thoughts," I wonder
If I'll become a "writer." So it goes.
Just last week I remembered that ev'ry-
thing I write is Vonnegut. So it goes.
So next week is mix-a-day week and I am excited. I have a bunch of themes already picked out and set in stone, but I would still love to hear some more possibilities from those of you out there. Any ideas? If so, post as comments or email to yearofhyperlivingATgmail.com.
Hope your Friday involves merry making.
Posted by Nihilist Loves Hate, Hates Everything at 1/18/2008 02:10:00 AM
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Day 3's adolescent daydreams ain't up yet but will be tonight--still obsessing over a line or two. In the meantime, Day 4, the sound poem, is complete and so here is that for you now. But before I deliver, allow for some backstory.
Jayson G and Jeffrey Beaumont, sound recorders who enjoy fire
I got the idea for a sound poem from a wonderful man named Todd, who sent me a thoughtful email after a friend forwarded him the Hyperliving Manifesto. He wrote:
"Ben, what about making a sound poem? perhaps you know about this kind of poetry already. for this, do not use any words that are part of a language you know. instead construct a poem of sounds. this can be written, though probably best represented through an mp3. a good example is the work of kurt schwitters."This seemed like such an awesome idea that I couldn't possibly pass it up. To see and hear what Todd is talking about, do the ole "Ctrl/Apple+T" on the link above where there's some further explanations into Schwitters ideas as well as a few mp3s of his readings. Make sure to also check out a "score" here of one of his pieces as well. A sample of his work is here:
- Kurt Schwitters, "Einleitung und Erster Teil: Rondo"
For my own sound poem I wanted to do things a bit differently, as it is essential to me that Hyperliving be not a solo journey of Jeffrey Beaumont, but rather a collaborative group exploration into new activity. Therefore, to do this experience I enlisted the help of my friends Jayson Greene and Imanant to help write and record. Jay is a man of the Modern Music Renaissance [pron: "ren-NAY-sonce"]: as a violinist, music writer, blogger, and former editor at Symphony Magazine---as well as all around brainmaster---he knows a few things about the music world and then some.
Imanant graciously added support by providing equipment and knowledge, which included two microphones (ductaped to the ceiling), a mixer, and a brief tutorial in recording via the marvelously simplistic Garage Band program.
The creative process involved me sounding out a poem in my head and transcribing it, and then reading it outloud to Jay while recording it. From there I explained to him the sort of accompaniment I thought I wanted and the ways in which I hoped the music could impact and interact with the poem. After listening to the recording again, he batted back some thoughts to me and asked some questions of mood, rhythm, tempo, and loudness. Once it seemed we were on the same page, we then sat down and ran through it six or seven times before finally getting a few versions that sounded right.
As a musician who’s been in a number of bands and orchestras, Jay was already familiar with the give-and-take process of writing and recording sound, but it was a brand new experience for me and took a few run-throughs before I started to get a handle on the importance of “listening” as a form of interaction. Trying to make it all come together made me think a lot about how important and difficult it is to make sure, even if you are a band leader, that you and your group are listening and communicating with each other, and how that isn’t necessarily as easy as it might seem. [This will be good advice to keep in mind, by the way, for a later week of Hyperliving where I and my band The Heart Beats. (members TBD) will write and record three garage-punks songs over a week.]
And so, finally, after an hour or two of thinking, talking, reading, recording and listening to playback, we decided on the one we thought was best. Here it is:
“Pi” by Jeffrey Beaumont (click to download mp3)
As an added bonus I also spontaneously decided to record a reading of a poem given to me that day by a friend of mine in Prague, the poetess Mabel de Silentio. She told me she wrote this poem at a crazed point when life was particularly jagged. She had never shared it with anyone and had kept it buried it away in the depths of her archives to be, if not forgotten, then at least “put aside” with a good amount of permanence.
But, of course, well… it’s a really great poem. And as soon as I read it I felt like I just couldn’t stop myself from doing something to raise it from the crypt. So, really, my decision to record it last night was only spontaneous in the sense I hadn’t planned on it until the previous day—but I knew I wanted to try as soon as she gave it to me. And so, here it is:
“Untitled” by Mabel de Silentio (click to download mp3)
A few last bits of errata:
- The poem has no title but Mabel described it to me as a "'runaway sonnet'—a cross between a sonnet and a villanelle.”
- As I announce in the recording, I had mistakenly assumed Mabel was Czech, but after sending her the recording last night she wrote back to me,
hey, thanks. sounds like npr, kinder.
how strange to hear it read by a
one thing though – i’m not Czech, but i am part Danish. great niece
of johannes de silentio.
And now come the hardest parts of the week: ghazal, pantoum, and then the most feared of all, the sestina. Wish me luck.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Did I say last week that approaching strangers might be the most difficult task on my plate--and that I was even looking forward to writing poetry as a reprieve to that type of difficulty? Yeah...lies. It's easy to look ahead when you feel uncomfortable. But now that i'm here, having arrived at a week of attempting to construct short and carefully tailored word constructions, I am reminded again at the various ways in which things can be difficult. For me, attempting to write poems, let alone poems not entirely in free verse, has always been a sort of torturous experience. In prose I feel comfortable messily throwing words around as I find my way to my point; if anything, I enjoy piling them up into a skyhigh junkpile of wordcrap that, through accumulation, I am able to fashion into points and a directive, with the messy jumble helping to form an identity of tone.
Yeah, bullshit. poetry and i, we got issues. mostly probably because poetry emphasizes my laziness (or, if putting it nicely, difficulty being hyperattentive to detail) as a writer. So here's my attempt at a blank verse poem on loss. It's mediocre. There are one or two details like and the rest I'm unenamored with, so any thoughts you have on breaking this down would be appreciated. I'm still finishing my write-up last night's poem but will post tonight along with my attempt at a sound poem.
When you were here and I was here and we
Lived here together, our world was a sea.
Each day our ship set out to sail, to trawl
For oyster pearls and other things so prized.
But pearls are not what we should seek when we
Need food, when we need love, when we are cold.
Do pearls quench thirst, or hunger sate, when we
Are sick with woe or worse, in deepest need?
I wish I could trade all the pearls for you.
Sorry for the delay but there's a lot here and I've been busy. This post covers Saturday, Day 7 and concludes Week 1.
For the final day of this first full week of Hyperliving, for a task that was embarassingly difficult for me (given its non-difficulty for so many others), I decided to, in the parlance of our times, "blow this shit up." And what better way to go all stranger hunting maximalist than to participate in the seventh annual No Pants 2k8 NYC event.
No, that's not me.
The No Pants NYC event is a group participation event put on each year by the organization "Improv Everywhere," where groups of strangers meet in a specified location and descend on the MTA in pantsless-glee.
My welcome to you
Charlie Todd, No Pants 2k8 convener
Like all of these sorts of projects, the No Pants event began as just a handful of dudes freaking people out by riding the 6 train in only underwear. Over the seven annual events, however, the gig has grown to the point where over 900 people participated. There were so many people, in fact, that the group was forced to split into 3 different subway line groups (6, R, and another one). The basic premise is that all the participants gather in one place (Foley Square) and then are assigned to separate train cars on the line they're travelling on (I was on car 6 of the R line). Each car group then heads to their car, dressed, and board the train. Then, one by one, members of the group get off at each successive stop, taking their pants off immediately before exiting. Each member than waits at the platform in that exact spot to board the next R train that comes (meaning, letting the N and W trains pass). The effect is that by the time the route reaches its turnaround destination, 59th & Lexington, all now pants-less participants have rejoined each other on that second R train. After reaching 59th & Lex, everyone gets off and then walks across the train to the downtown platform and head back for Union Square where all reconvene to rejoice in their success.
Beyond the obvious fact that there would be TONS of strangers at this event, one reason why I decided to join in is because normally this is the last kind of thing I would ever think of doing. I know that I'm both melodramatic and anal expulsive, but I'm not really an exhibitionist, and I also tend to avoid participating in activities with large crowds of strangers. A big point of hyperliving is for me to try and do things that I'm uncomfortable with and/or afraid of, as well as to try and reconsider ideas that I've previously dismissed and reconsider whether or not I may have missed some value in my previous appraisals. It also seemed important that I do it on my own so that I could really be sure I'd be putting myself out there. And what I found out is that a)meeting strangers is easy in situations like this and b) it was really fun and I had a great time and would definitely consider participating in group activities like this again.
Crowd listens intently to Charlie Dodd intro (except redhead girl looking straight at me)
So all fun and games aside, I'm happy to report that, for the sake of Week 1's task, meeting strangers at No Pants Day 2k8 was easy, even for me. When I first arrived at Foley Square, I did again feel the pangs of nervousness as I surveyed the huge crowd of people, and for a minute I stood there, thinking, "Am I really gonna talk to these people?" I even saw two people I knew (both of whom acted like they'd never seen me before). But then I just took a breath and said Hello.
Stranger #1: Becca
Becca was an easy first approach because of the hilarious/ridiculous hat on her head. She was also standing alone. After "Hey, nice hat," I introduced myself and explained to her what I'm doing and we struck up a conversation. A student in Manhattan studying art and psychology, she comes from Canada and bought her hat there (she declined to get the matching mittens, which would be “a little too much”), though she said it’s also sold at the street shops in Union Square during Christmas. She heard about No Pants Day from a friend and immediately emailed the rest of her friends to come out, but only two—both males—said they'd join in. I asked her if she was surprised and she said, "Yeah, actually. I had thought, 'Who wouldn't want to take their pants off on the subway?'" Hmm…to me, this seems a little less obvious. Hilariously enough, I found out later that Becca is actually a close friend of my upstairs neighbor, who was one of the women Becca solicited to participate in the event and declined. Hyperliving has been teaching me that the world is fucking wild at heart and weird on top.
When surveying the hundreds of people in the crowd, I wondered how we'd all fit on one train--it hadn't been announced yet that they were moving to three lines—but Becca insisted that there wouldn't be a problem as it had worked for ZombieCon just fine. [though i've linked now I had no idea then what that was.]
We talked for a while longer about crowds and weird people and then went our separate ways after being sent to the R train group (as we were divided into separate cars by the last digit of our phone number, me 6 and her 3).
Soft-spoken R Train Leader instructs; no one hears.
We had been standing around waiting at this point for about 40 minutes already, so I was glad to start moving forward. We formed into smaller groups of about 10-15 representing our individual cars and then strained to hear a short redheaded man gave instructions which were almost completely inaudible, even after I told off a gaggle of loud women like I was a 4th Grade Hall Monitor. After repeating himself about five times, we finally heard what he had to say--each group was to walk to their respective car, clothed, and board the next R train. Then, one by one we would each get off and wait at the platform for the next R; however, before exiting the train we were to take our pants off so as to hit the triple whammo of 1) taking your pants off on a subway car, 2) standing on a platform waiting for a train in only underpants, and 3) boarding a train in that same fashion.
After the red-headed man finished his instruction, I introduced myself to the Car 6 group and immediately began saying hello to people to find out their situations. Oddly enough, the first three people I said hello to were all named Brian.
Brian, Brian, and yes, Brian
Two of the Brians (the two on the ends) knew each other vaguely from past group participation events, though they realized they'd never formally met before. The Brian on the far left had most recently taken part in the Improv Everywhere Abercrombie "No Shirt" event, which seemed to make sense to me.
As I chatted with them, a girl walked over to us and tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to her and she said opened her mouth and then paused. "Oh," she said plaintively, "I thought you were a guy I went to high school with named Brian."
I swear that I am not joking. And she wasn't even standing anywhere near us when each Brian introduced themself to me!
I introduced myself to her and then to the man standing next to her. Her name was Kate and his was Aaron. We then began walking toward the City Hall subway stop together and began chatting about whatever kind of silliness we thought was going to ensue over the next few hours.
Aaron said that he was a student from RISD (Rhode Island School of Design), down for the day to have a good time and take a photo for his Photo 365 Flickr project. Like many of the others, he hadn’t been able to get any of his friends to join him, but he came down by himself to have a good time and see what the fun was all about. He reminded me of someone I’d known in a past life but I couldn’t really place my finger on where, when or who.
When we got underground we found a place on the platform where it seemed our assigned car would be stop. Everyone got in a position and we waited for the signal to get onboard. After one N train went by, we hopped on and the games began.
The train we all boarded was about half-full. Everyone sat down, many of us either looking somewhat nervous or else suppressing silly smiles that might give us away. I was to disembark at the third stop, 8th Street, and I fidgeted nervously with my bag and my magazine as I sat there waiting for the moment I would "drop trou'."
Finally, it was nearly my stop and time to drop. I hadn't been able to see first two participants from where I had been sitting so as far as I know, the sight of me then standing up non-chalantly and unbuckling my belt and pulling my pants off my legs must have been weird and ridiculous to those sitting around me not planning to do the same. Swiftly I moved and by the time I'd folded my pants neatly and placed them in my shoulder bag, the train had stopped and I got off, about to become a lone man standing on a platform in his boxer briefs.
My, Grandmother! And what white legs you have!
But I wasn't the only one. About five others from my car got off at my stop and there were others milling about further up the platform. Still, it didn't really make much difference that I wasn't the only one standing there in my underwear because, well, I was standing there in my underwear. I shifted about on the platform, waiting for the next R train to arrive. I let an N train pass and got ready to get on the next train. It pulled up a few minutes later and I got on.
Blurry camera phone shot of others waiting on 8th St platform
I boarded the mostly-filled train and sat down next to an older woman, pulling out my Moleskine to jot some notes down. I looked around to see if I could glean some reactions and was immediately reminded that New York is the brassiest place on earth: people really know how to look like they don't give a SHIT here. There were one or two faces of surprise or interest, but by and large the other 25 people in car didn't even stir. And not like they should--I guess a point that could be emphasized from this exercise is that it's cool to just let people do their thing and not worry about them, but seriously!! No pants, people!! I posit, perhaps wrongly, that it would have been different if I'd been in Dallas or Minneapolis, but what the fuck do i know.
After hastily scribbling down my thoughts on the matter a realization dawned on me: there were no other pantless riders on my train. And when we pulled away from the 14th St stop, none of the pantless riders on the platform got on the train. Which meant that... I was not on the R at all... I was on the... N?
For a second I freaked out thinking that I was suddenly Bronx bound and destined to be bare-legged and alone for the rest of the day, but then i realized that my N was in front of the correct R and all I had to do was get off at the next stop and wait til it came.
The rest of the ride was fun but uneventful--despite the excitement generated by such a playful exercise, the fact we were strongly discouraged to take photos, talk to each other, or even smile meant that anyone committed to "following the rules" was practicing an exercise in stoically-driven inward meditation. The one moment for me to cut the air was when a Caribbean woman got on at 28th St, sat down next to me and then asked me how she could get to Queensboro Plaza from there--she didn't even bat an eye that I wasn't wearing pants before speaking to me, while the look of curiosity and awkwardness on the face of another woman next to us was precious and priceless; I tried my best to speak calmly, clearly, and politely to maximize the weirdness effect.
When we finally arrived at Union Square it seemed hard to believe the trip was over already--weren't we going to transfer to Metro North to make our way to Westport or something? Everyone got off the train and milled about the platform for about 13 seconds before heading up the stairs to the sublevel above.
Taken from "Chad"--click photo for link to his Flickr
This dude had definitely been looking forward to this day.
The scene was basically a participant/tourist photo session as a reward to all the riders who'd refrained from taking pictures all night and a meat market for the tourists and bystanders who were just there for a good time. Aaron, Kate and I hung there for a few before heading up above ground to see how long we could stand being outside in the night air with bare legs.
It was mayhem--hundred of satisfied people in skivvies shouting and chanting to delight of each other and the many onlookers already in Union Square. People handed out "Pro-pants" and "No-pants" flyers and stickers, photographers and cameramen snapped photos and shot video, and a man there protesting on behalf of Dennis Kucinich submitted to the pleas of the coterie to show he believed in the notion of "No Pants for Kucinich" by dropping his own and dancing in a circle.
I asked Andrew and Kate if they wanted to get a drink to celebrate at a bar nearby, which Kate ratified but Andrew could not as he had to leave to catch a bus home. We gave him instructions to get to Port Authority and then we walked off into the sunset, pants-less and pleased, toward the Old Town Bar and Restaurant for pants-on drink to finish a great and silly day and week of strangers and strangeness.
And I'll close with some more No Pants ephemera--another video and some more photos I took (including some crappy camera phoners):
Monday, January 14, 2008
I am still in the middle of recapping my end of Week 1 and I apologize for not having it up yet, but I'll get it up tomorrow evening. The past few days ended up being very busy and eventful, and while they contained plenty of hyperliving, there has been not much time for me to get down my experiences down.
I am also going to make this Poetry Week intro post brief due to time, but I promise to post the full extended offering tomorrow evening as well.
Week 2 Schedule of Poems (click poem type for more info on poem):
Monday, Blank Verse, theme: Loss
Tuesday, Theme: 1 poem written 3 times (at the age of 12, 16, and 25)
Wednesday, Sound Poem
I would really love to read anything written by any of you, either playing along with the themes above or else making up your own. Post them as comments or else email to me at yearofhyperlivingATgmail.com.
Day 1, Haiku
Like I said, it's been a crazy past few days (and continuing so tomorrow), so today I'm beginning the week lightly with a little Haiku. I feel ok about this because I have never in my life written a Ghazal, Pantoum, or Sestina, and my efforts to write not completely unreadable versions may inadvertently kill me.
One thing I considered when writing this Haiku is the following passage from the link above:
"Today, many bilingual poets and translators in the mainstream North American haiku scene agree that something in the vicinity of 11 English syllables is a suitable approximation of 17 Japanese syllables, in order to convey about the same amount of information as well as the brevity and the fragmented quality found in Japanese haiku. As to the form, some American poets advocate writing in 3-5-3 syllables."
And so, without further adieu:
Brings you to me. But
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Ok, so I have a lot to catch you up with.
Day 5 was pretty weak. I talked to a stranger briefly but not at liberty to say yet who it was. I will share in the eventual BOOK THAT I PUBLISH THROUGH RANDOM HOUSE IN JUNE 2009 (THEY HAVE ALREADY GIVEN ME A $754,000 ADVANCE).
So moving on.
Day 6 - The New Museum of Paper Radical
Friday was a pretty overall awesome day for me. Nearly one million excellent things happened to me, and, as Trey said at Clifford Ball on August 16, 1996, "They're not all happening on one stage!" Some of the details I will again share at a later time, but they involve me talking to strangers who seem to actively want to help me improve me life.
The stranger I can talk about though is a raderiffic woman named Marisa Olson. But first I will explain how we met.
After work, I went to meet my maximum bro Hot Doorknobs at the new New Museum on the Bowery for a special bi-monthly event put on by their subgroup Rhizome. The New Museum is all about contemporary art, but Rhizome focuses specifically on new media art.
Last night's showing was the debut of some new films by the Providence/Pittsburgh art collective known as Paper Rad. Paper Rad are some crazy awesome dudes who celebrate the joyousness of growing up in America between 1984 and 1996: Lisa Frank, Trolls, Garfield and bad cartoons are all staples of their work, with midis and crunchy southern booty bass as the backdrop.
I first heard about Paper Rad a few weeks ago when Doorknobs bought their most recent DVD, Trash Talking, and I was pretty much consumed by the rad action. Here are some excerpts:
"The Internet is broke"
The exhibition was the debut of a few new Paper Rad films and a film by related-artist Ben Coonley, followed by a performance by the duo Wizzards (featuring mental keyboards and Lightning Bolt bass player Brian Gibson on drums).
Problem Solvers and Wizzards:
The show was packed and the whole thing lasted about two hours. After the show I met Rhizome curator Lauren Cornell and introduced myself and explained what I am doing and that I was looking for an interesting stranger to talk to. She offered to introduce me to the Paper Radders but warned me that they were exhausted and stressed and might not be all that fun. "But I have just the person for you" she said, and asked me to wait there before she returned with my stranger.
A minute later she returned with the woman above, the blond haired and blue-eyed German-born artist, thinker and co-Rhizome curator Marisa Olson, a woman whom the New York Times has called "anything but stupid" (umm...). Olson, like the members of Paper Rad, is a proponent of explorations what she calls "the crappiness of culture," though unlike Paper Rad's joyous celebrations of junk, Olson prefers to cast a more critical lens on crap and what it signifies.
Excerpts from the Marisa Olson exhibition "Break Up Album (Demo)"
After being introduced, Marisa and I spoke at length about her work and her thoughts on junkiness, Paper Rad, American Idol, and America's binary reductionism of success and failure.
"A key point of my work," she said, "Is something I call 'the aesthetics of failure.'" Through this point Marisa introduced her idea about bringing out the junkiness or crappiness of culture in her work, and also the point that failure is a learning exercise that in our culture today can provide more knowledge and wisdom than success. I didn't realize it at the time, but her ideas are also directly correlated to those posited by Kim Cascone, as featured in his article "The Aesthetics of Failure:'Post-Digital' Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music"... which oddly enough was just emailed to me last week by a friend in Chicago who I haven't seen in over 3 years. This quote offered by Cascone best highlights the underlying concept:
"It is failure that guides evolution; perfection offers no incentive for improvement."
-- Colson Whitehead (1999)
Marisa and I talked about how we have reached a point in America where, despite all of the ways in which our world begs for nuance and ambiguity, we now search more than ever for black and white epistemologies--namely of success and failure. She mentioned that the phrase 'Mission Accomplished' has particular currency now, particularly in these 2k days of the oddest and most ambiguous (though least publicly acknowledged) war since Vietnam. And really, using a term like "failure" is almost a cute joke, because those like Marisa are trying to get away from the "0" as much as they are from the "1"; however, using it serves the point of shaking up expectations and hopefully opening up the mind to enough possibility of reconsideration (and therefore, polytruths) that it works.
Overall, it was a pretty great night and a nice notch to add to the stranger belt. Onward march.
Friday, January 11, 2008
A number have folks have been wondering either "Who is Jeffrey Beaumont?" or "Why do you write under that retarded pseudonym, dude?"
Allow me to explain. My real name, if you didn't already know, is Benjamin Scheim. I was born in Oneonta, NY, in 1982. In April 1990, I fell in love with the creepy dreams of a man named David Lynch. The rest is history.
Top: Kyle MacLachlan as Jeffrey Beaumont
Bottom: Benjamin Scheim as Jeffrey Beaumont
Jeffrey Beaumont is the pen name that I have written under for many years now. I, like Dennis Coles aka the Ghostface Killah when referring to himself as Iron Man, do not mean to suggest that I think of myself as Jeffrey Beaumont or as a character within a David Lynch movie. It's just a name, a name that I like and which holds meaning to me, and writing as Jeffrey Beaumont is a way for me to reflect upon how we are able to go in and out of ourselves.
And so for the sake of James Frey and "corporate governance", my nearly translucent mask is removed.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Tuesday morning, score for the week so far (were I keeping score), with a 1 point per day scale:
- Sunday: dancing Japanese man, . 61 points
- Monday: Dave Zach, internet hyperliving guru, .92 points (.08 docked for internet-only)
- Tuesday: NOBODY. .00000000000000000000 POINTS. I LOSE.
Which basically means I have some work to do.
One of the things of which I've been most surprised by this week is the number of people that have reacted with surprise or even disappointment over my choice of challenges for this week. "Talk to strangers? I do that shit everyday!" I've heard. Today it even went as far as, "At first it seemed like you were gonna start with all sorts of crazy things, but then this??" What's surprised me most about these reactions is that, honestly, not even for a heartbeat second was I considering that other people would feel this way, because right now I'm feeling like I've chosen one of the hardest challenges I could have possibly imagined.
Ok, some hyperbole. But.
I know it should be, "How hard is it to just come up to a person and say, 'Hey, how's it going? I'm ______. What's going on?'" It seems like it shouldn't be hard at all, but every time ths week I've stood around folks I don't know, I've been reminded that for me it's absolutely deep-pit-in-stomach tough. I just do not feel comfortable walking up to random strangers and putting myself out there. To put it in context, normally if you asked me, attempting to write poetry would be one of the least comfortable things I could imagine doing. I will explain all about this on Sunday, but for now just take my word for it. However, last night I was dying for Sunday to come, when my only obligation for the week would be to try and string words together in an a slightly erudite fashion. [Another weird reminder of the power of the mind to scale everything in context.] Again, it all harkens back to weird, mythically "crippling" insecurities that are a part of me and which I have allowed to stand in my way of accomplishing goals over the years. Because the truth is that writing good poetry should be much harder than talking to (not befriending, deceiving, or beating at gambling) strangers. At worst, they act annoyed that I've spoken to them and they walk away from me, but big deal. Right?
I tried to keep this in mind last night as I left the house looking for blood, determined to overcome the feelings of humiliation and self-doubt that had swarmed me all day as I took time to reflect upon the fact that already, in week 1, I had failed to uphold the mission I'd sworn to accomplish. My failure ate me alive, but I tried to keep in mind points 2-4 of the manifesto:
- I shall do these tasks as best I can, and when I cannot succeed, I will reflect to the point of consideration and then continue moving forward to the next task.
- I shall not be tripped up by fear or uncertainty.
- I shall not be deterred by failure, because the only failure in this game is giving up.
So I held on and I was lead to Wednesday, victory.
I met Wednesday night's stranger standing outside a bar near my neighborhood. I had decided I'd go out and get a drink and then wander the streets of Williamsburg until I found someone that looked worth pestering. As I was about to walk into the bar, I was approached by an Eastern European man. "Hey guy," he said, "Can I have $2? I wanna get a beer for me and my friend to split and I only have $2." It was a little odd because though I have been approached for money in New York many times, it's not usually regular seeming 20somethings asking for money, and never does the asker reveal that the purpose of the money would be for alcohol. I balked for a second and he repeated his request, this time a little more pleadingly. "I'll get you back next time, of course." I thought for another minute and then said, "Fuck it. Ok," and handed him $2 and then started to open the door to head inside.
As I stepped one foot inside the bar, I realized that I was literally walking away from my goals. I stopped, turned around and began to speak. "What's your name?" I asked. "Michael," he said, adding, "Thanks so much man, you are great." And then, turning to his friend, he said, "I'm going inside to get the beer now, see you in a minute." I felt crestfallen for a second, but his friend was still standing there, smoking a cigarette. I pulled out one of my own and reintroduced myself.
What followed was not what I'd expected: the man, another Pole named Andrew, immediately began apologizing for his friend. "You're probably looking at me now and thinking, 'Oh he's a bum, he doesn't have a job and he ain't got no money.' But that's not true, I have money. I just can't tell him I have any or else he'll never stop asking for more."
Andrew, shadow in the night
He told me about how he had only met the guy a week before and they were working on a construction job together in the neighborhood (he continued to reference this over the course of our conversation). After I reassured him that I didn't think he was a bum and that I hadn't been judging him, he opened up a bit more. He grew up 6 kilometers outside of Warsaw. He moved to America ten years ago with parents, but not his sister who lives in Russia (his mother is Polish but his father is Russian). They live in Ridgewood, which he likes but which is also far out of the way and lacking attractive women ("Man, the girls on Bedford Avenue--you must go and see the girls on Bedford Avenue! They are just standing there and it is so much!"). Though he loves Poland, he said he moved here to have a better life and it is (though “Now of course you can for example have a very good life in England or Ireland or even Czech, but I have been here ten years so that is that”). He asked me where I was from and what I was doing here. He then looked over at my friend and said, "You are Arabic, yes?" and looking at me, "After many years of seeing people, you get to know these things." (My friend is not Arabic.)
I then noticed a scar running down his face, beginning immediately below his eye and continuing downward until disappearing into his jacket. "Is there an interesting story behind that scar?" I asked. He stopped inhaling his cigarette and looked me in the eye quizzically, before then smiling and saying, "Yes, there is always a story. And you would like to know?"
He then proceeded to tell me about a summer afternoon spent in a park in Ridgewood:
“There were all these people outside, drinking beer, and music was playing. And this one guy says somethings do another guy, and they aren’t so ok. But the other guy just goes and punches him and he falls down. I want to help and so I step in and say, ‘Hey, you can’t do that’—but the next thing I know, the guy pulls out a knife and cuts my face,” Andrew says, gesturing by running his hand down his face. “And then he takes the knife and stabs it at my chest from here to here,” he says, pointing a huge area on the right side of his upper body.
“Blood was pouring all over me, and I started running, but I was getting sick and dizzy. And then I feel hands on my shoulders and it’s cops—‘You’re under arrest,’ they say. What the fuck? I am innocent but they are trying to arrest me. Sometimes life is crazy.”
A minute later, Michael returns from inside the bar. “Linus!” Andrew exclaims. ??? Michael/Linus speaks: “Those fucks. No beer. They would not sell to me because I have no ID.” He then looks over at me and says, “Thanks man,” and turns to Andrew and says, “Let’s go get some beer, man.” And Andrew says goodbye, and they depart off down the street. Michael/Linus does not offer to return the $2 I gave him to buy a beer from the bar.
I thought to myself that I had no idea which, if any, of the pieces of information I had just been told were true or not. It didn’t really seem to matter though.
- Wednesday: Andrew and Michael/Linus, 1 point, winning again. Forward march.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
"All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town."
- Leo Tolstoy
"Talking to strangers is one of the essential ingredients to the development of great stories."
- David Zach, Futurist
Someone asked me recently whether or not I would be undertaking this exercise of Hyperliving were it not today, were it sometime in the recent or less recent past. The short answer is "no."
It's not to say that I couldn't have decided to take on a project like this is in 1995, or 1985, but it's certainly true that the entire experience is intrinsically tied to the changes the world has been undergoing over the past ten years and the ways in which all of life is slowly (or rapidly) intertwining into one throbbing, overlarged fiber of beats and pulses.
The idea of "Strangers on a Train," of meeting someone being able to come into and out of your life without leaving a trace, is one of the past. In 1951, if I leave my leather bag on a train and there's no easy markings identifying that it belongs to me, it means someone somewhere has a nice new leather bag. In 2006, if I leave my computer bag on the train and there's no easy markings identifying that it belongs to me, a Japanese man with the email address "hateyoubush@XXX.co.jp" opens it up, hacks into my email and sends me a cryptic email saying, "Hey, did you lost your powerbook on subway? you must be freaking out about it right?, but its safe. you might not be able to see this e-mail, but hope you will see this one soon so i can give you your computer back." [Thank you again, Kayuza, wherever you are, for making
my life again ok.]
The very concept of "strangers" is now something else. Obviously people may still be new to you, but it is no longer necessary for them to retain an air of strangeness. In a minute, I can get your cell phone number, email address, IM screenname and any host of other information that will allow me to track you until you actively choose to hide from me. And it's not creepy, it's just how it is. The terms of invisibility and strangeness have changed.
This brings me to today's stranger
As I mentioned earlier, I first brewed my plans for hyperliving over some beers in a bar last summer. When trying to think of a word or term that would encapsulate my ideas into a neat package, the word "hyperliving" immediately came to mind. I went home later and dictionary.com'd it and confirmed it wasn't a "real word," but that only made it seem more perfect for my purposes.
I didn't think of researching the term any further until last week, after registering the domain name hyperliving.net (which is STILL not operational--damn you, Fortune City!!) and was surprised to come across hardly any hits at all. None of them seemed particularly germane to my pursuits except this one, by a futurist named David Zach. What I read astonished me:
"In my talks, I explain the notion of hyperliving, where we just seem to skim along the surface of life and are so busy with all the temporary things that distract us that we don't have time to stop and think about what we're doing, let alone trying to think about it while we're doing it. All we seem to have time for is finishing the one thing so we can get on to the next thing."
I hadn't been sure whether or not I had coined the term hyperliving myself, but I had been fairly sure that no one else had bothered to define it. (It's not even in the dictionary!!) Far more surprising than that though was the way in which David's definition of the term so closely approached my own. In this week of contacting strangers, who more should I reach out to than this man?
We don't know each other (I found you on the Internet). I have an odd note I'd like to relate to you and hope you might take the time to read.
This summer I came up with the idea that I was going to embark upon a year of what I wanted to call "hyperliving"--the idea that I would take on 52 consecutive one week commitments to "living a certain way" with the idea that it might bring me somewhere new (i'm a smart 25 yr old dude who's constantly struggled with discipline and am currently searching for some answers to the world at large). If you'd like to check out what i'm talking about, I've just launched my website at hyperliving.blogspot.com
Anyway, the reason i'm writing you is because i was googling "hyperliving" to see what else the Internet had to say about the term (and to consider whether or not it might even be a real word). I didn't find much out there but I did stumble across this blog entry you wrote in July where you define hyperliving as:
"We just seem to skim along the surface of life and are so busy with all the temporary things that distract us that we don't have time to stop and think about what we're doing, let alone trying to think about it while we're doing it. All we seem to have time for is finishing the one thing so we can get on to the next thing."
I thought your definition was fascinating because a) I had naively considered that I may have invented the term hyperliving on my own, or at least that no one else had bothered to define it, and b) I am surprised at how directly your definition is related to mine, and that stands in almost direct contrast. I would be very interested if you know of any specific historical etymlogy to this term or if you to just sort of put the word together and applied your own understanding. I'd also be interested in any thoughts you have on my own ideas and how you would consider them to work with or against your own.
Ok then. Hope this email reaches you and that you have a minute or two to say hello.
And this afternoon he wrote back:
date Jan 7, 2008 12:18 PM
subject: Re: Hyperliving
I don't quite know how I came up with this, which may in fact mean that I read it someplace, played with the idea and now I get the credit for it.
Your idea has some merit, but it sounds a bit disconnected and well, youthful to me. Meaning that you're probably in your twenties and have the energy to do what you're saying. I'm 50 and it sounds like it's too frenetic for me. Then again, the merit part of it is to delve deeply into each thing (some deep delving may take longer than a week) but what you seem to be doing is paying attention to each thing that you're doing. With my sense of hyperliving, the person can't really pay attention because there's just too many things on the agenda.
Here's the exact "mantra" or phrase that I use in my talks: Hyperliving is where you're skimming along the surface of life and the whole goal is not to enjoy what you're doing but to simply finish what you're doing so you can go and do the next thing that's on your list. Then I ask the audience, "does that sound familiar?" and when I get the yeses from the audience, then I explain that now that they have a word for it, they should start using it.
A lot of this stems from the modern notion that attention is the most valuable resource you own - because wherever your attention is, your time and money follow. The avg. American is confronted with somewhere between 3000 to 5000 advertising messages a day. All trying to take and hold your attention.
You might want to check the life hacker website and also read an article that was in the NY Times back in 10-15-05 or so - Meet the Life Hackers - all about how frenetic we are at work in terms of constant interruptions.
I'd be happy to correspond a little bit on this topic, so feel free to respond back with counter notions or questions.
I need to learn more about David's theories to make sure I understand the nuances he's trying to convey, but it seems that here's the $20 sack pyramid question: David says that, "With my sense of hyperliving, the person can't really pay attention because there's just too many things on the agenda"--is he right?
I do not, at all, have the answer right now; however, I do I know that I am on this journey to find out. My quest did not, for once in my lifelong stretch of knowledge seeking, begin with a hypothesis, or at least not one that says, "Hyperliving will bring me to the Golden Lifestyle". It is entirely possible that David has hit the nail on the head, that focused but fragmented, short-spurt living will have "frightful consequences", but perhaps it's not the case and a new generation of minds will be able to understand how hyperliving is instead a way to compartmentalize the wondrous amount of stimuli that bombard our senses daily. Maybe we really can take it all in, holding on to what we've moved beyond after we're on to the next thing.
I guess I'll just have to wait and see.
To be continued.
[Tolstoy quote provided by David Zach. Check him out at http://davidzach.typepad.com/]
Monday, January 7, 2008
That's pretty much my take on things this week.
One of the exciting and scary things for me about Hyperliving is the way that many of the activities highlight the weird contradictions in the way we exist. This week's challenge is a great example. Most people who know me probably think of me as someone who has trouble keeping his mouth shut. I yap, therefore I am. Among friends and colleagues, I debate, dialogue, and pontificate to no end, my machine-like brain rapidly processing one thought after another in an attempt to turn an entire evening into one lilting, ceaseless thread of discussion. But with strangers, folks I don't know, it's all different. It's not just that I clam up when I'm around them, but I do so before I even get any further than seeing them from across the room--Yeah, I'll just stand here nursing this drink. I know that probably at all times half the people in any room would feel exactly the same, but for me, someone who in certain situations feels very comfortable and confident unzipping my metaphorical pants, I feel disappointed with myself that I have trouble translating that confidence to approaching and speaking to strangers.
And it's pretty much all about insecurity. I know, I know, "Hey, What's the worst thing that can happen? They don't wanna talk to you"--but really, it feels so much worse than that, like there are much worse things that can happen. The experience of approaching a stranger and not feeling confident that they will have any interest in acknowledging my existence, let alone ratifying that I might present any value to them, gives me terrifying sensation of negative self-realization that I do not actually feel confident in myself enough to not give a shit where I stand in the mind's of others.
The moral of the story is that I have chosen one of the most personally difficult challenges for my first full week of hyperliving. Making mixes or not listening to music, or even attempting to write complicated poems I have no business writing all seems so easy compared to the fear I get in walking up to strangers to talk to them. But Hyperliving I am and Hyperliving I must, and so out I go.
Sunday Night, Jan. 6 -- Nearby bar, random Japanese man
Tonight my stranger was named Hirashi (??? no idea what his actual name is, something that I think begins with an "H"), and I met him at a nearby bar and knew right away that he was the dude I needed to talk to. I found him in the back as the only standing spectator taking in a jazzy jamband (read: dudes who hold their drummers up at knifepoint insisting that they must continue playing the same downbeat forever so that every band member, including Horace the Bass Player, can take a mean "facemelting 6 minute solo"). At first he was just swaying and rocking back and forth, but then, suddenly and unexpectedly, he began to bust out serious dance moves like the one above. Headspinning, knuckle dragging, the tipsy sway--all were part of his repertoire of groove. I've seen dudes get down before, but never before during a clarinet solo on a jazzfunk version of "Well You Needn't".
Sight unseen: There were two men playing "Big Buck Hunter" only two feet to the right.
When he finally slowed down to catch his breath, I approached him. I asked him what the band was called and, with a look of confusion, he said he only knew the bass player (which seemed confusing to me because it appeared that the trumpet player had been gesturing for him to come up on stage). We spoke for another five minutes or so, or rather, I asked him questions of himself and jambands and, of course, his dancing. Our conversation was somewhat held back by his limited comfort with English and his inability (or disinterest) in looking me in the eye while he spoke.
"I really dig your dance moves, dude. How do you know what moves to do when the music starts playing?" I asked.
"Oh yes. I just hear rhythms and then my heart tells me to move [gesturing]. It is like music in my rhythm soul."
Yes, this challenge is going to be difficult. Tomorrow I am going to have a work a little harder if I am going to have any kind of conversation that lasts more than five words. I am already beginning to think about what words I am going to use in my sestina next week.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
Ok, first things first: as Week O winds to a close, I will now post the Hyperliving schedule for the next four weeks.
Week 1, Jan 6-12: Talk to a stranger and try to have a meaningful conversation
Week 2, Jan 13-19**: Write a different type of poem each day (suggestions requested)
Week 3, Jan 20-26**: Make a different themed 60 min. cd mix each day (themes requested)
Week 4, Jan 26-Feb 2: No music listening for the week
Week 2 -- There aren't a million types of poems out there, but there are many. I'd love some suggestions from folks about which I should choose among the sestinas, sonnets, limericks, villanelles, odes, et al. This is also a great project for others to take part in, especially since I never write poetry while many of you actually do.
Week 3 -- This might be the most fun/punishing week for me of them all as making mixes is one of my favorite things to do, but I like slaving and obsessing over the details. Would love it if anyone wanted to submit to me via email/comments any particular themes you would like me cover (anger, love, cities of the world, things Brian Eno has been associated with, quiet sounds, etc). When I'm done I'll post the tracklisting and a zip file of the mix.
Secondly, I've gotten some great suggestions from folks about possible weeks, so keep them coming. I've had a few different thoughts since posting that initial sample of 25 (i've changed a few since then so check it again now) and it's become clear to me that, as much as possible, I want each of these weeks to be meaningful in a certain way and give me something interesting to say. I welcome any thoughts you have.