The Aura of Analog

In the Pitchfork op-ed entitled, "The New Analog," author Damon Krukowski tries to articulate the importance of analog technology in today's digital world.

Unfortunately, he ends up confusing his readers and perpetuating digital myths. Already too often people romanticize technology, especially older analog technology, imbuing it with some sort of cosmic power of nature and righteous historical lineage. Digital technology is often seen as flat, processed, and lifeless. Krukowski takes this stereotype further, applying it to the human condition. Analog, good! Digital, bad!

So what is really the difference between analog and digital? Continuity. An analog signal is continuous, and a digital one is discrete. That's it. Modern circuit design often deals with a mixture of the two, and often deals with converting back and forth. Like a lot of engineering, the choice of dealing with a signal in either domain ends up being a series of tradeoffs. A designer tries to use the best techniques available to balance parameters like efficiency, control, and accuracy within given constraints. Analog techniques are still used today - it's just no longer the *only* technique available, thanks to the transistor.

Ok - now I know people don't always use the word analog literally, but I've also heard it misused in place of words like tactile, human and organic. I think the word people actually mean to use is serendipity. A lot of the positive mental associations of analog are the result of the non-linear and unpredictable nature of older analog circuits - the happy accidents. So, what people seem to love about this gear is the serendipitous nature of them. Knowing this, why can't "serendipity" be yet another feature that a designer builds into a circuit, digital or analog?

In the midst of all the confusion, Damon Krukowski incorrectly attributes an increase in social self-isolation to the digital age. He sees current technology as dividing us, and somehow thinks older technology will reconnect us. To look to older technology as a therapy for modern social discontent is missing the mark entirely. Why can't we define the future relationship we want with technology instead of imagining it as an immutable force of nature that defines us?

Krukowski is troubled by social trends, but rather than dig deeper into the social dynamics of technology he gets lost trying to assign blame to digital design. He comes to strange conclusions (GPS and headphones "digitizing" the human experience? Audio processing and compression "removing" human elements from our communication?) and so his conclusion is that we've lost something along the way, and we must look to analog for the answers. Maybe what Krukowski really wants is more serendipity in his life.

If there is anything to take away from the piece, it's that technology has succeeded in appearing to be the root cause and cure of all human problems, cementing its permanent relevance in our lives. In doing so, technology keeps us talking about technology, preventing us from talking about anything else. This conversational roadblock is a source of excitement as well as resentment, and I believe why we feel "controlled" and trapped by technology. It is presented as a false dilemma, something we either must totally reject or accept. To get past this, we have to stop imagining technology as a force outside of human control, and realize we imagine it, we create it, and we use it - and so we are capable of redefining our relationship with it.

New EP out! Dead Reckoning by Black Tie Elephant

Whew! Despite all the delays, finally released. Really happy with how the artwork turned out.

http://blacktieelephant.bandcamp.com/

In ship navigation, "dead reckoning" is a method of determining your current position based only on your previous position. It is a calculation based on guesswork. How do you know which decision is the correct one? How do you know where it will lead you?

Dead Reckoning is a four part story about a man lost at sea. Battling the inner torment of feeling lost, he must let go of the idea of home being only in one direction, and instead find comfort in the everyday choices he must make. Instead of asking "Which way is the right way?" he begins to ask "Which way do I want to go today?", turning his unknown fate into possibility.

The front artwork, drawn by Emi Yokoshima, is a Japanese yojijukugo that consists of four characters meaning: "Favorable wind, full sails."

released 19 November 2013
All songs written and performed by Farsheed Hamidi-Toosi and Brendan Finucane.


Voyage into the unknown

Getting older is like a trip to a foreign land. There are moments of joyous celebration, moments of utter confusion, moments of boredom and despair, and at times complex and unpredictable combinations of events that lead to bizarre clarity and insight. Days can drag into months into years, never seeming to change, and then all of a sudden two weeks will pack in a lifetime of experiences.

I think to be lucky is to be open to the unexpected, new experiences, even if they may seem scary or initially unexciting.

I realize I'm being a bit cryptic here, but then again I don't really feel like I can fully articulate my experiences or express myself in a blog post. I guess I write this as a reminder to my future self, and maybe in order to spark some kind of conversation with whomever stumbles across this post.

Spinnerty - Gestures

http://recordbreakin.com/rbm041.html

"RBM followers have long known Spinnerty for his production work behind vocalists like Joy Jones, Miles Bonny, John Robinson and Replife. This time we find Spinnerty collaborating with Chicago-based drummer Farsheed Toosi to create lush jazzy instrumentals that stand alone as full compositions. They mark a giant step forward in Spinnerty's maturity as a producer and jazzer, letting the instrumentation do the talking."

Swimming through time

The perception of time feels elusive. It is probably the strangest part of having a consciousness. How do other animals perceive time? Do they understand the notion of past, present, future? Why do we have this ability?

Launched Zirafaworks.com

I launched zirafaworks.com a couple weeks ago. This past year has been an interesting journey as I started freelancing more regularly, and realized the challenges I face are very different than working a regular gig. The downside to a regular gig is feeling trapped, working on the same thing every day. This is the opposite problem when you freelance, where you have no idea what you will be working on, or if you will able to find a gig fast enough to keep things going.

Applying for jobs, gigs, and generally representing myself has been difficult when dealing with potential folks (especially over the web) because I haven't had a public portfolio site that can complement an initial conversation and a traditional resume. I also feel like I need an outlet for blogging about work things, and I've tried to write a few on this blog but it feels awkward to mix personal and work blog posts. Lastly, I would like to pursue new and more creative opportunities, not just related to web development - things like audio engineering, research, instrument building.

I realize that there is a constant anxiety with freelancing which I have to face everyday. But it is forcing me to make different decisions and be a better advocate for myself, and to accept responsibility for how things pan out, for better or for worse. I am still figuring it all out. Having an official work presence on the web will hopefully allow me to better represent myself when applying for work and land better gigs.

So now I have zirafaworks.com, zirafamusic.com and midnightparking.com. I still plan on meeting my 2 post-per-year quota here and treating it as a journal, but like I said - I'm still figuring things out. :)

Developing habits & questions about spirituality

I've always worked best in short bursts of energy, usually (but not always) accompanied by late nights. I don't think much has changed, but I'm realizing I also need to understand how to do things in a "long haul" sort of way. Not thinking about it as a project or goal with a deadline, but more like learning how to develop a habit. People talk about dropping bad habits all the time, but we don't really talk about how to learn habits, habits we want to keep for life. Well, we sort of do, I think we call it scheduling or time management or something, but that still requires some level of groaning and some sort of reminder or calendar. A habit is an unconscious thing, a compulsion that you only notice when you *don't* do it. Developing life habits can't be a sometimes thing, you really gotta love the habit slowly over time and be patient until it becomes a part of you, establishing a positive feedback cycle that takes place over a few years and continues way beyond.

winter in chicago is a mental game

You are probably thinking - this blog is dead. Blogs are dead. "Where's your twitter fool?" "OMG LOL TWEET DAT!" As much as I try, I can't get into a flow with the twitter/facebook thang. If anything recently I've been trying to restrain myself from posting or commenting on Facebook. Does anybody else do that? I swear I'll have a whole comment all typed out, sometimes even researched and I'll pause for a moment, then close the window. Other times I might post the comment and get all self conscious about it five seconds later and delete it. And then worry that people saw I deleted it. Gawd.

It's similar to when I first got an iPod and despite thinking how awesome it was i never fully embraced it or got into the rhythm of it. It was kinda overwhelming and I didn't like having to interface it with my computer via a dongle (dongle IS as dongle doOooees...). In the end I think I used it a total of 5 times. It's now somewhere in the bottom of a drawer in my room...say anyone want to buy a used iPod Classic Gen 5?

What was I trying to write about here? Oh yea. Winter in Chicago is a mental game. Chicago won the first few years winters when I moved here. These last couple years I developed a strategy and came back. So far this year feels like a tie...but I've got some tricks up my sleeve.

Hello!

This site is due for a refresh soon...

Emerging solutions for decentralized data storage

Just as a follow up to my previous post. Came across some very interesting projects:

Owncloud
A locally installable intelligent storage server with software to handle sharing your documents, music, and other media with others. Imagine Google's suite of services and more (email, photo sharing, document editing, calendars, music streaming, remote file access) but you can choose how the software runs and how the data is stored and shared with others. I'm still a little fuzzy on how the notion of "identity" and privacy would work with a system like this, but it's very interesting as a local solution.

Unhosted
This project aims to give users the right and freedom to choose where their data is stored when used by SaaS/cloud apps. Right now companies that run apps force you to store data with them. For instance, if this project succeeds you could still use Gmail's interface but choose between hosting your data on their servers, or specify your own.

Freedom Box
Columbia law professor's Eben Moglen's project. The goal is to decentralize the net by creating small, low energy, portable plug in servers that anybody can install anywhere that encrypts all incoming/outgoing web traffic. The long term vision hints at removing the power of client/server architecture of the web and replacing it with a peer-to-peer internet. His ideas also inspired 4 kids who went and started Diaspora.
More: freedomboxfoundation.org