What follow is a transcription of a talk called “Are You Worthy – Publishing from Greeks to Geeks” at Wordcamp Whistler in 2009. Video and audio exists, as does a “round-up” of photos, tweets, artifacts, and so on. See “Consider Perusing” below.
Speaker: We really hoped you enjoyed today and I think you’re going to enjoy this last session. I’ve been looking forward to it since we started planning this. So with that I’m going to turn over to Dave Olson, he’s going to ask you, “Are you Worthy?”
Dave: So, it’s the end of the day, my brain is a little stretched — a lot of input, a lot of stuff. So, if you feel a little antsy, because frankly taking notes — I don’t know if I’m going to say anything that’s really worth taking notes.
I’m just putting this out there, if you want to come and sit down here or you want to pull your chair over, I’m an old hippie, so I was on dead tour. It’s all right you can come and sit down if you want. No big deal by the way. I’ll give you a moment to do that.
My ulterior motive for asking you to do that is that I didn’t bring anything to put on the projector. But I have lots of little odds and ends here. So, you’ll get a better view if you come and sit up front. That’s the way I like it — special shout-out to the ladies right back there.
I almost said I didn’t make any slides but I did make two slides here because people are always telling me that, “Dave, we really like your presentations, but damn it, would you give us a bulleted list?”
So, as someone who has put on a lot of these conferences and camps, I would want to echo what John said about big ups to the organizers, this is a totally fancy place. I feel a little intimidated coming in here like the security is going to be shaking me down any minute. But there were no problems out back when we had our safety meetings. So, if anyone is wondering, apparently what they say about Whistler is true.
So, today we learned a lot about how to deliver content. What I’m going to talk about is figuring out what that content is. Sometimes we think about blogging as both the delivery method and the content; “I’m making a blog post, I’m blogging.” How do we arrange these words? But really blogging and blogs is a delivery method because WordPress isn’t just a blog, as we’ve learned from the ambassador from Norway — that this is just another tool in a long lineage of methods for publishing expression. I’m going to start my story on what was in a really eventful day for me.
I was living on the island of Guam — you’ve ever seen Guam? You know anything about it? Nobody does, so I brought a picture. Here’s a picture. It serves no purpose except it’s a really cool map though, I think. But this is a little island, it’s 30 miles by 11 miles and I worked at a private beach club which if I would have been 19 and single I might have stayed at my entire life.
But you can see it was a really weird job. Here I am, you can pick me out because I’m the guy that’s white that’s not wearing a t-shirt. I worked at this beach job and everyday I’d go there and all the Japanese tourists would come to this island, I’d help them have a really good time. “All right! We’re going to go horseback riding, we’re going to play volleyball in the beach, awesome!” But it’s all in Japanese, “[foreign language 00:03:35].”
Then a significant event happened and that really changed things a lot for me, and that was Jerry Garcia dying. I know you all shed a single tear. For those of you under 30, Jerry Garcia played in a rock and roll band called the Grateful Dead. The Grateful Dead were popular in the ’60’s and he was famous enough that they made an ice cream about him.
I quit my job that day because I figured I’d go to San Francisco for the funeral because [unclear 00:04:11] and there will be party in it, celebrating but I didn’t make it because it’s really expensive to get off the island. That’s one thing if you haven’t been to islands, you should know. It’s easy to get there but really hard to get off the islands.
So, I went to an impromptu candle light vigil and I have proof of that because here is the Pacific Daily News from Guam. It says in here, “David Olson, 25 has traveled through Japan, Europe, Mexico and all over the United States, and each stop there have been Grateful Dead fans there to greet him, Hallelujah!” There’s a quote from me, “‘There is no one else that brings people together like that,’ said Olson who took the day off from work” — day off — “when he heard the news of Garcia’s death. He had a message for the people who ridicule reactions to Garcia’s death. ‘I think the people are jealous,’ he said” —he being me. They managed to spell my last name twice in the same article, too by the way. “They see people living their dreams and being free; they just want to be free themselves.” It’s moving, isn’t it?
So, I was talking to these guys in the newspaper and I was saying, “Well, I really want to go to the funeral and it’s going to be a big celebration, but I don’t know what’s going on.” They knew all the answers to what was going on and I said, “Wow, how do you know all of these?” They said, “We work for the newspaper, we have the internet.” “The internet? Tell me of this internet thing you speak of. What is this?”
They said something about computers and phone lines and they’re explaining, I didn’t really get it. Then I was like, “So, I can put words and pictures up on this thing and then people could go with their computers and they can look at it anytime, anywhere for free or cheap?” “Yes.” I was like, “Wow! I’ve got to get some of this.”
As you’re going to learn over the next little bit of time is a little interest in all these little personal publishing stuff. This map just in here, I don’t know why, it’s a whole map of Oceania so if anyone has any questions about Micronesian geography afterwards… Which brings me to the first slide. I’m going to have to put this down for a second.
Usually a presentation has to have at least one bolded list and at least one buzz word. So I thought I’ll get these both out of the way with one of my two slides here — the other one I put a chart on but that’s just a little preview. I’ll read these, one by one don’t worry, you don’t have to strain your eyes in the back.
Learning about the internet, I realized that this was the missing piece of the whole personal publishing, self publishing tensions or conundrums. I’ve called them here holistic, that’s kind of a half buzz word point, publishing paradigms — there’s your buzz word — or tensions for the academics there; tensions or syndromes perhaps.
So, the first puzzle is distribution. That’s one of the puzzles that had to be figured out. When I talk about publishing in these conundrums, this is artist making stuff, getting over here to someone who’s interested enough to read this. There’s a bunch of little steps and things that have to happen along the way.
The next one is it has to take some form; there has to be some artifact or something that people hold or look at and can consume the piece of personal publishing in. Then there’s the regulatory stuff which I’m going to get into quite a bit here in just a little bit, and this is talking about both terms of intellectual property law and censorship and a few other things like that.
Then there needs to be quality discourse. There needs to be a certain high level of writing. It has to be something that says something important and says it in an artistic way — maybe artistic is not the best word there, it’s a little bit subjective but it has to put it in a clear and a proper manner. Then finally this last ingredient is there needs to be something to express or seems like, “Well, duh.” But honestly sometimes it’s the last one to come in to the mix. There you go. I was smart enough to take my notebook, turn it sideways so it can stand up there. Look at that. PowerPoint Schmower Point, look at that.
So, let’s unpack. As conference facilitators like to say, let’s unpack those topics. I started thinking about writing and personal expression and self expression where some of the earliest forms that we have. I went to college and stuff. I studied some art stuff, I don’t have a black turtle neck or anything but I read the Greeks. Here we have some of the earliest pieces of literature that exists, and really if you read these stuff, here’s the Oresteia by Aeschylus, one of the oldest [unclear 00:09:16], the Odyssey or like the vintage things. You ever tried to read the Odyssey? You know, where they’d go from cave man, we think of grunts and groans.
But somehow the earliest written things that we have available to us are some of the most dense and tense works that have ever been produced ever and they’re some of the earliest things. Indeed our entire legal system and our whole, dare I say, moral structure of modern society of what’s right and what’s wrong, really hasn’t changed too much from the Greeks. Because I hauled all these books, if any of you follow me along on Twitter, I think they’re up to eight different buses my suitcase of books has been on. I figure, since I haul them I get to read a little bit from each one.
All right, so here’s Agamemnon, the King. Do you remember that Brad Pitt movie that was all that ancient Greek stuff? Apparently, the ancient Greeks didn’t made their stories compelling enough so Hollywood had to completely change it, so if you’ve seen that please forget all about it. Here’s King Agamemnon returning from battle, “For that, we must thank the Gods with a sacrifice. Our sons will long remember for their mad outrage of a queen, we raped their city; we were right.” This is thousands of years ago, so angry.
“The beast of Argos, foals of the wild mare, thousands massed in armor rose on the night the Pleiades went down and crashed in through their walls. Our bloody lion lapped its field gorging on the blood of kings. Our thanks to the Gods long drawn out but it’s just the prelude.”
Well, they certainly had a flare for the dramatics, those ancient Greeks. They wrote all these works that explain what we really see is the definitions and the underpinnings of our modern current system. This story goes on and kings die and it’s all this Shakespearean like drama that we see repeated throughout history in other cultures including from the Chinese. Now, right on the same time the Chinese were starting some written works.
But this work here I brought, this is the [unclear 00:11:33] by Lee Ju and here we are in 200 A.D. The Greeks had figured out all this moral underpinnings and all these grand things—what’s right and what’s wrong. Is it all right to kill people for revenge? Is revenge proper? Is that allowed? They’ve killed one of your families, an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth or should you forgive people? Meanwhile, the Chinese were saying, “How can we make the writing really pretty?”
There’s like 69-70 little stanzas about these different parts of writing. If you’re going to take the time to write about all these killing of the kings and queens and lapping on the blood of kings like a gorged lion, you should have some structure and some technique, like revision. A sentence may contradict what comes before or trespass on what follows. Sometimes the idea is good but words fail and fine words may make no sense.
In such cases, it is wise to set the two apart since they harm each other when put together. It is delicate to judge which idea or words work better. A difference finer than a wheat, ears, hairs, weigh each word on a scale, use a measuring cord to make your cuts. Now, anyone is a designer; the designer’s mantra is all about “Take out everything that doesn’t absolutely need to be there.” It’s exactly what they’re saying there; that’s 280. Have we really moved on too much from that? Has the editorial process changed dramatically? Not all that much.
I’m going to move forward to the next big technological innovation in publishing. I’m talking about the Gutenberg press. So, from the time of these books, things written down on various rags, animal skins, homemade papers and whatnot, things progressed where books were hand copy. You had to sit down, you’d assemble and people made it their life’s work.
Let’s learn about these monks. From Richard de Bury, the bishop of Durham in 1345, he talked about the joy that these monks felt. “The venerable devotion of the religious orders is want to be solicitors in the care of books and to delight in their society as if they were the only riches. For some used to write them with their own hands between the hours of prayer and gave to the making books such intervals as they could secure at the times appointed for the recreation of the body by whose labours. They are resplendent today in the monasteries. The sacred treasure is full of cherubic letters.”
Such tender sentiments, so these monks were transcribing these books. Who were they transcribing them for? Other monks? They’re the only ones who could read, right? So, it’s like it didn’t do anyone any good. So, these monks they had like their little private club where they would spend months, years writing one book, but of course they’re really transcribing one book over and over again, guess which one?
Of course everyone knows that, “I could do that little better. Who wrote this draft to this? I’m copying my own copy. There’s a little stylistic flourish there, change a little meaning here.” There’s a lot emphasis put on the physical artifact of the book. The words were complimentary to the pictures as that quote with the cherubic pages — the pages were really decorated.
Then the Gutenberg press came. Of course as you might expect there was some resistance. There are some people who said, “This new technology, you can’t just let anyone publish anything. What would happen? Good Lord!”
Then there was revulsion by the clergy and church. “What literate, decent person would ever put their hands on a printed book? What is the value of these printed books? We have handwritten books made with love.” It was an embarrassment to have a printed book; they were for the common people.
Of course there weren’t too many people that could read but, once you start making books, people go, “Hey, I have access to books, I should learn how to read. Why not? I have access to the information.” So, there began a bit of tension between the polite society and the proper society — the religious society — and people who wanted to just print anything that they wanted.
Yes, you could almost call it a revolution. Then the next revolution came which was industrial revolution and what happened is all these all Gutenberg process which didn’t really change for the first 150-200 years; these old wooden presses, they’re all decommission because there was this new awesome iron steam presses.
We can have newspapers now. Thank God for newspapers; they came around this time. What happened is all these old Gutenberg presses they were claimed by the radicals, the hippies of their day. So, begot the underground press and it was only a few short years before the underground press especially in England at this time began to have bigger circulation than the mainstream press.
So, the government stepped in this, “You know, you’re going to have to register those presses.” So, that’s why they love the wooden presses because you could just take them apart, disassemble, unassemble them and take them and move them to another clandestine location and print out your things.
This led us in to the American Revolution. For this was a big hang up with these… Sometimes I have a hard time with early American history because there are all these framers and Thomas Paine’s and all that. But then you think of all the Puritans, and then I got some issues with the Puritans, just Puritanism in general. But I’m going to just ignore them and go right to Thomas Paine and the people like them.
They started printing broad sides and these basically manifestos. When you think of manifestos we think now of the Unabomber — I almost said Unibonger but that’s another guy. Manifestos take on this like underground; we think about the Declaration of independence, its manifesto, all these documents. But they were able to disseminate that information because they had these clandestine, unregistered illegal presses.
They made tremendous sacrifices to keep the word out and keep spreading the word and so when they finally sat down and wrote the constitution they said, “Freedom of speech, freedom of all that press stuff,” but they didn’t really know what the press was. What is the press? Who is the press? I know there’s an agency and I know there are people who have like press cards and credentials. I know there are these Associated Press in the UPI and there’s people and they have this little club and they do this thing. But did the constitutional framer see it that way?
I know we’re here in Canada and all that but it just ties in better to the whole story arc if we just hum along with the American because we know the Canadian one, it wasn’t into dramatic moments. It was like a long drawn out process of careful deliberation and cautious optimism and eventually we reached a good compromise.
So, the constitutional framers said, “We got to have freedom of expression, freedom of press and all this stuff.” But then when it actually came down allowing that, “Hold on! That there is indecent, we didn’t say indecent expression was allowed.” In this book right here, this has played a huge role in opening up what we in modern liberal western civilizations are allowed to read. Let me get that, that’s older than some of the kids in here I think, that article there. The US took a really awkward stance about copyright and the early days of the federation of the country.
For the first 100 years in change, the US deliberately did not respect foreign copyrights. Unless a physical artifact was printed and bound in America, it was considered a basically public domain, pirate-able materials. So, you had this whole gray market of book legging, they called it. Cute, eh? They even had little cute plays on words back in the days, that’s historical that term “book legging.”
So, what happened is you’d have all these illegal copies of books coming in and out and meanwhile in England they were starting to adopt this early intellectual property laws in which beforehand the rights to produce a book were assumed to be hereditary and passed down. So, the works of Shakespeare for example, for hundreds of years they’re only printed and produced by this one operation.
People started to say in this age of enlightenment, “Let us democratize this information and spread it around. In order to do that, we have to loosen up these restrictions.” So they started to put limits on these rights. But then it was sort of forced into question a lot of these things like how long and what about all these old stuff and all these grandfather stuff and do the people really deserve it?
It really turned into a little bit of a class struggle. Should people be allowed access to this information? Do they know what to do with this information? It all kind of came to the head with this book by James Joyce. Does anyone ever read Ulysses? It’s amazing that this caused such a commotion because it is a dense mother fucking project to get through this book.
I’ll talk about it from a literary standpoint here briefly but first it took about 20 years from when James Joyce first published this to when it was first available legally in the United States. They would not allow it in the United States because it was indecent. He talked about terrible things; he was disrespectful to the royalty. There were allusions to masturbation in it. There were sexual thoughts and content.
But you got to be a pretty good reader to actually find that to get through the first couple of pages to even get to that. So, anyone who is complaining about it, you almost got to tip your hat a little bit because they invested some time in their argument, but still their argument was bullshit.
The United States government used the customs service and the postal service to stop these works from coming and they were destroyed at the docks every time they tried to come in. Then a nice lady from Shakespeare and Company — book company — took the case to court saying, “I want to import this book legally.” By then, the book had reached this —you know what happens when they make something illegal, right? People find a way to get it. Can you think of any examples of that today? So, Ulysses was all over the mother fucking bit torn, right? People were scavenging in all these illegal copies of it and spreading around.
James Joyce was getting a little ticked because he’s unhealthy, he’s living in Switzerland. He just wants a little bit of love from his book. The people, the literary establishment want it. So, it finally came down to a court case. Can I read you a bit of that? This edition that I have here which I hauled on eight buses includes a preface where it actually has the US court decision that still stands to this day and is still often reference in cases such as this.
I used some of the Fairmont paper here as bookmarks. I want to acknowledge the good people at the hotel. I’m going to sip water, pardon me. It’s a legal proceeding; I should take the time to have a sip of water.
“All right, I have read Ulysses once in its entirety.” Woot! Good work judge. “I’ve read those passages of which the government particularly complained several times.” Sounds scandalous doesn’t it? “In fact for many weeks, my spare time has been devoted to the consideration of the decision which my duty would require me to make in this matter. Ulysses is not an easy book to read or to understand. But there has been much written about it and in order to properly approach the consideration of it, it is advisable to read a number of other books which have now become its satellites. The study of Ulysses is therefore a heavy task.”
“The reputation of Ulysses in the literary world however warranted my taking such time as was necessary to enable me to satisfy myself as to the intent with which the book was written,” intent, very important word in there, “For of course in any case where a book is claimed to be obscene it must first be determined whether the intent with which it was written was what is called according to the usual phrase, pornographic, that is written for the purpose of exploding obscenity. If the conclusion that the book is pornographic, that is the end of the inquiry and the forfeiture must follow.” Here’s the best part, “But in Ulysses in spite of its unusual frankness, I do not detect anywhere the leer of a sensualist.” That’s a good word, sensualist. “I hold therefore that it is not pornographic.”
With that, this book opened up the floodgates to both importing of this book by then James Joyce was almost a ruined man and quite downtrodden and died shortly thereafter blah, blah, blah. It happens to the best of them. But this stands up as a court case, it says, “Literally works have merit.” Now, this also meant that by importing it, by being legally admissible it could be produced in the United States which it could be copyrighted within the United States. But there was this whole other gray mark of all these other books and all these other copies. So this book really started a lot of the conundrum about the modern intellectual property law, grandfathering and the international laws and really sort of forced United States to come in to the modern time.
Now, there’s one other book I was going to show you, I got a tiny bit out of sequence here. This is so exciting; it’s hard to keep them organized in that suitcase. Here is another one that I brought that kind of show the marriage of form and function in late 1800’s. Book binding and book publishing had kind of met that point where it could be done in a mass produced manner, but they were still doing it old school and the pictures were still really important. So, I brought as an example of that, this is Don Quixote. This is considered really the first really modern novel, and this edition here is from 1891. It’s a four part series, but it’s really cool inside.
The pages are all hand-cut, can you see from the side there? So, each page was lovingly hand-cut. This is as old of monks style as I personally have come across and considering the books, well quite all of that, I should probably be a little bit more gentle. Look at the visual aids here. It has these little nice tissue papers covering these nice etchings within the thing and it goes throughout the story which all the texts are all hand laid and actually there’s tactility to it. You can hold, rub your hand against the print of it and it has texture and it’s got this beautiful illustrations in. This was kind of the marriage of the high point of what I think is of the form and the function.
You have this classic piece of literature presented in this beautiful volume that was production made but still within artistic flare in a sense of purpose to the book that the artifact was important — which I’m going to get to that a little bit more. The other thing that was important about Ulysses I was going to mention from a literary standpoint is this really opened up stream of consciousness as a writing style. Stream of consciousness in first person’s narrative seems pretty natural to us. Live blogging? What’s that? Stream of consciousness? Yes? Anyone thinks so? Yes?
First person using all the old classics, you noticed that it is all written in the third person literally wasn’t until the Confessions of Saint Augustine, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and some of these guys that they’re really talkative, first person like, “This is me, not me being someone else but this is me, damn it. This is me telling everything that’s inside of me as myself rather than a character.” James Joyce took this a step further and he put himself in the character but included everything about it.
Usually, we’d like to include the interest and bits of our lives in our anecdotes don’t we? The high points and the low points. He put in all those points in between. The ones that usually aren’t very interesting, they are all in here. This book you see, that’s one day in Dublin. So, the funny thing is one day it takes you about three months to read.
So, censorship, censorship is over and American Print is free unless those words — but they’re turned into a different kind of censorship — economic censorship. You heard about the McCarthy times back there in the 50’s in America where it just became un-American to do things that were un-American, and if you were an American well you’re just going to be ostracized and not allowed to be American anymore because you’ve been branded with the un-American-ness.
Here’s a little something that I came across. It’s Vladimir Lenin’s remarks about War and Peace, the book there by Leo Tolstoy. This struck me when I first pulled it off the shelf, it’s like, wow, that’s remarkable that literature can be so powerful that it causes massive political figures who had a huge impact in the world to feel like they have to do a response to address the topics raised in…
Actually, I guess I suppose you could imagine Barack, a little essay about something, Stephen Harper not so much; Stephane Dion; you’ve written something down but no one really understand what you’re saying. War and Peace is a fantastic piece of literature that I always remember, Condoleezza Rice, they’d always say in her little [00:30:14.05], “Yes, she’s read War and Peace in original Russian.” I’m like, “Well, she clearly missed the point of it, so maybe she should go back and read it in English.”
But the remarkable thing about this book was where it was published. It was published in — remember what we used to call Beijing — Peking, China. They printed these little bootleg copies, well, clandestine copies of Lenin’s remarks in China in English, just to ship there; just to get to America for propaganda purposes. But I think it’s important that things like these are allowed to circulate freely and live in libraries.
So, I’ve really learned the importance of that; I did some times in Utah in high school and I went to the same high school for a year and a half where the Osmonds had gone. It was pretty weird because I grew up in Surrey and so it was really different. I knew there was something really important about literature, when in the 11th grade we were like, “Okay, in English class you can pick any book you want to read.”
So, I brought in Catcher in the Rye and it was like, Oh my God. I had to get a note from my mom to say that I can read Catcher in the Rye. I was like, “Wow! Literature has the power to freak people out like this.” Then when we had to do a little book report, the teacher went up before [00:31:38.17], “Dave’s read a really controversial book.”
It turns out the teacher had no idea what it was about and I said, “It was this guy, he runs away from school and he kind of starts the shit out while he’s staying at cheap hotels,” and she didn’t believe me. She thought I was lying about the book. But anyway, continuing on from James Joyce, my next stop in the literary tradition of that I’m going to point out is Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Anyone read this one?
This one’s a need edition and I just picked this up. The story about Kerouac writing On the Road was that he wrote it in one big, long scroll. He was high on Benzedrine the whole time. He tells about that and writes about, “I’m running out to get Benzedrine and I’m right back and I’m here typing.” But you don’t really understand the majesty of his typing work until you see it all in one block. May I show you?
Within this mighty tone, there’s not a single paragraph break; there’s not a single line break. Transcribe his birthday [unclear 00:32:43] original scroll and like I was, “Awesome typing, he just walked the typewriter.” But there not one break in the action here. So, I’ll spare you from reading a paragraph because it would take like whole day.
This was a really critical period because all of a sudden, literature and there was this high-mindedness about it. It was Dickinson, Chaucer and there have been this modernist movement with Joyce and Ezra Pound and D.H. Lawrence and all these writers. But really, this was what took it and spun it all out of control and all of a sudden, wow! Anyone who has a story can tell should be telling it. So, I think this was a critical stop along and a huge inspiration on me.
Now, I’m going to have to skip some of the stuff because of the time, but I’m going to give you a quick choice. I can give you a list of how to make awesome stuff or I can show you awesome stuff I have made that has influenced my social media production thing. Preferences?
So, there I was in Guam. I had realized that the form that had been perfected, case in point that lovely Don Quixote, that’s an awesome form of a thing, right? Then there’s the regulatory shit that have been sorted up by James Joyce; censorship, copyright, we kind of handled on that.
Quality discourse; the Greeks, we’ve never really been able to improve on that and as far as I’m concerned and this internet stuff — this could solve that distribution puzzle, and it did sort-ish right there in the ’90s. You guys were there in the ’90s using the internet. It just wasn’t as needed as it is now.
But, the last thing I had something to express, I had some of that. Let’s explore some of those things. Here is the oldest thing in my social media artifact. This is from March 10th, 1979, this is the Pig Express. For those of you who don’t recognize this kind of purple fuzzy letters, this was called a Ditto Machine.
You’d put those liquid stuff that kind of smelled like paint thinner in this little container and had this reel that go around and I made my little newsletters. This one here, I’m talking about the Canucks, the prospect that they might build a 62,000 seat stadium. They had originally planned to do that in Syria in a busy place — imagine that, more truck and tractor poles I think if it was in Surrey.
The PNE coming up but in this case Jake Milford was getting ready to fly to Sweden, go recruit Swedish Hockey players. Can you imagine Swedish Hockey players on our Canucks? But this was my first little thing; I had a subscriber base of 35 which is about what I have now.
While I had something to say and I was able to produce the contents, still the distribution was a drag. You know I had to physically create the artifact and spread it around. So, after about three-four issues, it tailed off, because I really wanted to work in Color. Here’s a little something for the ambassador back there, as soon as I saw you up there I was like, “I have a surprise for you.”
In fourth grade or so, I really like book reports for my favorite part — having to produce a report. When I look at this I was like, “Damn, this is like a little webpage. It’s like a little slideshow presentation except instead of HTML markup, I was using scissors and glue.”
So, it’s the same way I make a blog post now, if I had to do a little something about Norway, I’d put in some pictures and a little bit of text there. But alas, this is really hard to mass produce because each one of them, I had to cut up a magazine for the pictures, so this is it. I didn’t think it was like it would get picked up by National Geographic or something so, it sort of like an end life of this project.
If you missed the last part, do you want me to recap the last minute and a half? It was really good. So, then I started writing a book report on Norway, isn’t really my life calling but punk rock is. The ’80s to me were a golden period of self publishing and grass roots publishing because of the humble Xerox machine, or the photocopier made by whatever brand that you have. My parents were in real estate, and they have Xerox copiers there at the real estate offices. It turns out they’re not free. But these were lovingly produced at various real estate offices in Surrey and that’s the [unclear 00:37:25] there.
In here, it’s starting to see like it’s kind of closing the loop a little bit. Here, “Well that’s about it, I hope you enjoyed it. Please send any comments or complaints about this ‘zine. Once again contributions will be used and you’ll get a free ‘zine as well. But the reason I was doing this because I’ve realized that you can be an expert as long as you write something that kind of backs you up. I realized if you’re an expert at a media outlet, then you get free ship. So, this is how I got free records, just add right here paid for, box of records, done and done.
But it was still a little bit of a tricky distribution scheme because every once and a while someone would send some stamps in two boxes and request a copy, I don’t have to put it in an envelope and put stamps on it. But it was a great way to start collecting and exchanging and most of the zine readers were other zine writers. Does that sound familiar? Blog readers, blog writers?
That’s why I love retweet so much; someone puts out a message and then everyone else puts out the exact same message, I got 12 copies the same thing, all people reading the same thing. So, this also gave me an opportunity to collaborate and give a little shout out to Bev Davis who I’ll be talking to at Northern Voice. Bev Davis was a huge influence on my young life as a social media maker — although we didn’t call it that — because she would go take pictures at the punk rock shows and she will let fan-zines use them. Wow!
So, at Northern Voice I’m going to ask her all the reasons about that but for me it was a really huge deal because you could start to see how people would exchange things and then bands would take those and build up their reputations and then you start going and start making friends; you start meeting people through your fan-zine, and before you know it, you’ve built up a culture.
While I was digging through, I’m going to show you that it wasn’t just me doing all these crazy stuff. This here is the DOA and friends coloring book. Anyone know the punk band DOA, in Vancouver? All right. They made a coloring book. I should be really gentle with that, here hold it up for me John and you can show a couple of the pages, you can take it out and show a couple of pages, I just don’t want to mess it up.
But isn’t that cute? A punk rock band would say, “We’ll make a little coloring book, we’ll staple it together and we’ll call it a publication.” Then I started travelling a little bit farther field and I would always put my notebook in here. I went to Europe with a one way ticket and a $100 Canadian tucked to my shoe and a backpack.
I ended up traipsing around for about three months picking grapes and stuff like that, but doing it instead of taking a camera because I didn’t have one and I thought sometimes you can hide behind the camera, it’s like you’ll enjoy shit later if you take a picture of it now, and I want a little bit more immediacy and feel like going to Europe wasn’t that big of a deal anymore. There’s still borders and that’s before ATMs in different currencies.
It’s a little bit of adventure but I said, “I’m going to go with no prior knowledge, I read a 1972 guide book to hitch hiking through Europe just so I could not really have any real contacts and I took a notebook and some paint. So, I made some little sketches along the way; there’s a guy that picked me up and started smoking heroine off some aluminum foil and drove me into Germany. He looked just like that, too.
There’s the guys smoking in the huge joints at the Turkish Music Festival, some people picked me up and took me to. Then I did quite a bit of writing on that, too, and when I finally came across this notebook again not too long ago I said, “Well, what will I do with this stuff?” Guess what? Start a WordPress blog. I started transcribing all that stuff in there.
Then I was digging through here and I was going to tell you the importance, and this was a tip that was going to go on the list about how to make cool stuff which is always have a notebook with you. Notebooks are really handy for writing poetry but also when you’re hitch hiking, you can make your hitch hiking signs.
I thought of it when I went to Europe as a Canadian, so people didn’t mix me up with American, using some other hitchhiking school notebook. But these are kind of cool mementos of the trip — all my little hitch hiking signs. But this kind of stuff, it’s part of your personal story and your personal stuff and it goes in a pile of having something to talk about.
All of you have done some kind of a trip or some kind of an adventure that had taken you out of your comfort zone, and that’s the kind of stuff you should write about — good times. You’ll probably noticed that there are not too many signs after hauling because once you get to Amsterdam, it’s really hard to leave.
So, I made some paintings there in Europe, we’ll look at them later. Then I discovered computers and I thought, “I could take all these short stories and poetry I’ve been writing in all my trips and I can put them on this thing but the problem is it’s usually computers with this dot matrix printers, it’s fucking ugly man.
I don’t want this; I don’t want to distribute this, I want a beautiful book. I want something that you can hold and go, “Oh, it’s lovely. Look at these lovely images and I can feel the…” Instead it looks like some tax form or something like that. It just wasn’t a very fun way to distribute my work.
So, it wasn’t long after that that I decided I learn about those colored copiers that had just come out like years ago, and I got a job at Kinkles. I’d let you think about that for a second. I did three months hard time at Kinkles just so I could use their colored copier after hours because I thought I can make a nicer looking little book.
So, I decided to take the influence of European post-impressionist painting and Japanese Haiku and sort of mash them together. Apparently, there’s not a big demand for this but I thought they were really cute. I made some little chat books as they call them. Look at that, a colored cover, pretty nice right?
Then I went black and white inside, you know, both for aesthetic and financial purposes because I kind of just jammed these in, it’s not sewn together. The ones I sent around, I got some nice thread and I sew them up and hand-bound them. But that was quite a project, right? I maybe made 50 copies of them, and I’m not stupid I know 40 of the people that I sent them to they’re all like, “Great, Dave’s got some stuff, awesome! I will totally read that later.” So, undaunted I carry on with my projects, but in these projects I’ve tried to figure out how to take this analogue workmanship in this analogue creative process and couple it with the internet.
So, I did all these internet businesses in the ’90s and I started with Notepad and angle-y bracket / html / closing bracket and all those kind of stuff. But it’s still a drag because you have all these websites. My first webpage I made was about the history of Hampton Japan, and I learned how to make a webpage but I didn’t know how to make webpages, really connected them together.
So, my first webpage is like a zen cone — how long can a webpage be until you hit save? It could be as long as you want. You can continually make a page — it turns out that’s not the best way to make a page. But then lo and behold, the final little piece of the puzzle, the find-ability came about with RSS.
So, I met Dave Winer at Gnomadesk a couple of years ago. He’s like a [unclear 00:45:04] professor, computer geek that invented RSS. I’m like, “Wow! Hey, Dave Winer nice to meet you. My name is Dave. Thanks for inventing RSS.” Most guys named Dave are pretty friendly, so I was a little, “Wow…” It’s true isn’t it, most guys named Dave. You know many jerks named Dave? I don’t think so.
I said, “Dave, can I take your picture? Put it on the Flickr?” “I wish digital cameras had never been invented. Grumble, grumble.” What a sweetheart, well thanks anyway for making the RSS dude. A lot of people have different objectives and different reasons why they even care that the stuff exists. Some people see it really for financial purposes and a means to an end, to make some money.
Some people see it as a better way to promote and market, and I know that, I do marketing gig as a day job. I make a paycheck, “Rah-rah! Come see this awesome compelling content and how it works.” But there’s really something to be said for looking beyond this immediate short term future, and even beyond looking in terms of it as a blog and saying that all these puzzles of the publishing tension, the conundrums have been solved.
We now have a distribution to all that, can indeed publish for free or cheap anywhere, anyhow and the steps now to take that and use that as a collaborative tool to build something that can then come full circle and turn into an analogue artifact that people can enjoy sitting by the fire.
But you’re building something online and then the content and the delivery method have really been completely separated where they can be anyway that you want. The trick is thinking of something that you have the ability to share, that not everyone else does.
Now, some people say that not everyone has that artistic spark; not everyone’s a Van Gogh. Well no one thought Van Gogh was either, right? Not everyone is Henry David Thoreau — no one thought Henry David Thoreau was anything when Henry David Thoreau was writing. He died penniless at 37 then 100 years later changed the world.
Civil disobedience, non-violence, suits; I think there’s something to be said for looking beyond the immediate benefit and really looking and saying we have this opportunity with these tools, we have the ability to communicate at a high level—there are rules and structure around editing and writing of what makes things good that you can learn about. So, it’s up to you; it’s that bottom one, if you can’t read it, it says “something to express”. Then I’m going to go to the next one, that’s my chart. I think it’s called a Venn diagram, but I don’t know much…
It used to be the end goal of making something was to find a publisher, find a record deal, get that contract, the big executive comes and tell us your work is worthy. I’m going to have to sign you to a contract. We don’t need them anymore, the gate keepers have fallen. We can create and interact with our own community and we can build a culture around our way of thinking.
Whatever you’re into, you can build things around that and you can interact. Then you can end up right here in this awesome middle space. Is this a Venn Diagram? Anyone know about charts? Hold on, we can add one, I got a sharpie.
Ever since rockstar boot camp, they told me to keep a sharpie with me all the time, just in case I have to modify my Venn Diagrams. This particular Venn Diagram, the circle one that says awesomeness. Charts always seem to have some little variable symbols so I put an X on it, it doesn’t actually mean anything. Actually the X stands for color one, this circle should be a different color than this circle which is color Y. It represents audience. So, you can be making awesome stuff and not have an audience and you can have an audience and not be making awesome stuff. Your goal is to end up here in the middle, designated here with the kind of modified diagonal hash marks.
In this area of the hash marks is where you want to hang. This is the area where your awesomeness and your audience come together and you would breathe life into a project because you have put your soul into something; you put in the log back in the blog. The blog is to talk about this awesomeness that you’re doing here. Perhaps you’re making a series of discourse about some topic that is incredibly compelling to you. Perhaps you’re engaging like many of you do with various charitable organizations; and not just helping for a one time but helping change the culture and helping educate other people about how to do the same thing.
When you can think of projects in a longer term; that might stretch over five years and separate them from the delivery method, you can really let yourself engage in some bigger things. Now, before I totally start segue-ing to party time because anyone who knows me knows I don’t want to interrupt any pure drinking time, I’m going to show you just two more last things that show me trying to close the loop on some of these big projects. I’ve kind of talked about these large story arcs. So, I have all these poetry that I’ve been collecting. Anyone else like write a little poetry and have notebooks in your drawer and you’re like, “One of these days I’m totally going to do something with these.”
So, here’s what I did: I started taking all the notebooks and whenever I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired to write per se, I would put a little LP on the record player, smoke a little reefer, crack open a few beers and I’ll start transcribing. In doing the transcribing from my original journals, I shut down myself editing voice. This is an imperative step because as soon as you start reading your stuff, that was awesome when you wrote it you’ll go, “Oh my God. Douchebaggery! Who said this?” I know this because I totally do it, I mean I record my little podcast. If I listen back to them I’m like, “Self important douchebag. Who was it?”
So, put on your editing toque, I’m wearing my editing toque here and transcribe this, my easiest way to do it was just to plop it into a WordPress.com blog because I’m not very quotey or crafty on that kind of stuff, so I have a writer’s notebook blog. It’s public and people can see it, although I don’t think people really do. They’re welcome to. But I look at it more as a workbook and where I could start to transcribe and ensemble all these things. Then this summer when I went through, I started breaking — how can I turn these into collections? How can I put some sort of thematic thread? Should I arrange them chronologically? Should I arrange them by theme? What should I do?
So, one day I got this printer that I was a tester of, it was a print tester, blog program something — I wrote a review about it sometime — but it was really handy because I printed out the whole blog. Isn’t that funny? One of those people that printed a blog. I went down to Ambleside Beach and I started dividing all the poetry into four piles. I started to notice some common threads, “I got something common together here.” They spend years and locations but there are sort of common themes throughout them, so I started to assemble them and I said, “Great, now I got four piles of of shit that I’m not going to do anything with.
So, then I fussed around and thought about it for a little bit and I said, “Yes, I should just make in to a little something,” because I didn’t want to print out a bunch of things and sew them together because I got other shit to do on my weekends. So, I said, “I’ll make them a make-your-own book. I will take the poetry from the blog, put in the document, make it to a PDF and then publish it as a PDF and then let people print it out and chop it up into whatever they want.
So, I have one draft of it. Now the one mistake I made is I didn’t put those crop marks on it, but that’s cool because it can be more like that Don Quixote, all the pages are all kind of like messed up and different sizes, like more artsy-craftsy. You get to do it on whatever paper you want because it’s your printer.
So, in closing I would like to offer you in a manner of breathing life into my own projects and encouraging the culture around this stuff that I hope will last beyond six months. Here it is, this is Depth Perception, a little PDF if you want it.
DM me @UncleWeed on Twitter, and I’ll send you a link and you can get it because it will take me six months to actually post a link to it anywhere so you better just send me message and I’ll send you where it is.
I could go on, there are more tricks in the briefcase but I think I should kill it there and say that many people in here that I know that even inspired me tremendously over the years of the stuff that you are creating, and this message is dedicated to the people that I know are awesomely smart and have this vast potential.
With humility and respect, I say continue kicking ass and do something awesome so in the future generations like “Barack in the other day from the pulpit, we have carried this gift of freedom forward and passed it safely to other generations.”
We have this culture available to us, we’re the curators of it so let’s do something awesome with it. That’s what I got for you.
Speaker: Yes, we need to collect Dave’s stuff. Now, we know what Dave’s mom felt like.
Dave: What’s that?
Speaker: Now, we know what your mom felt like. You got to pick after yourself. Do anyone would come on up with quick closing thoughts; we’ll go some details here and what’s going to be happening this evening and different things. So, we have three copies of Morton’s book…
Dave: It’s an ancient binding technique; you can put your own staple.
END OF AUDIO
Duration: 55 minutes 42 seconds