A Mainly Virtual Tweetup

I'm finishing up a buffalo burger here at Jacks Corner Cafe in Firestone, site of the first Denver Tweetup, a supposed meeting in the flesh of people using Twitter in the area. I drove a half hour north of the city, set up the MacBook Pro in a booth, hopped on the internet using their good and free wireless connection, and waited for my fellow Twitterers to show up. While I waited, I set up a Ustream broadcast.

What happened next was funny. I had five or so virtual visitors to the Tweetup from Germany, Alberta, New York City, and California, posting messages in the UStream chat room while they watched and listened to the live feed. It was very cool. Here at the restaurant, I invited three women into my booth to be on the show. They said they already spend too much time on computers, so they had no interest in signing up for Twitter, but they enjoyed seeing themselves on the live feed. Two daughters of a woman who works at the cafe sat in the booth for a while, asking questions of Mark, my internet friend from Edmonton.

Of course I could have done this from my desk at home, but I'm glad I made the drive and hosted a Tweetup, even if the only guests turned out to be virtual. The guy from Berlin was a Brit named Michael, who is a fan of One Hundred Years of Solitude and who has been pondering the addictive stimulation of Twitter. Me too, although today's little escapade has hooked me even more deeply into the amphetamine-like energy of this whole phenomenon.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Five Days of Solitude

I am adrift. Depressed, actually, although I'm not opposed to occasional depression. For a Type A guy like myself, depression is what finally says, "Stop." Or at least, "Slow down and look in another direction."

Since my gaze for a long time has been locked onto this MacBook Pro screen, I tried turning back to my first love, print on paper. I picked up a novel that's been following me around for years, unread, One Hundred Years of Solitude, a 1967 historical magic realism romp by Nobel prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I also began reading, cover to cover, the current issue of AGNI Magazine, edited at Boston University by my friends Sven Birkerts and Bill Pierce. Darlene left for St. John, USVI, the day before yesterday to visit her sister, so I've got five days of solitude before I follow her to the islands. I figure five days will be enough to look around in some new directions. To round out this morning's Sunday rumination, I've brewed a pot of Peet's House Blend, and I'm listening to a Pandora station based on the music of Dr. John.

I keep thinking of a comment that Denver painter Bruce Price made the evening Darlene left. In an artist talk at the Plus Gallery, he said,
You know, my interest is, not so much these paintings but the next paintings, how you move from one painting to the next painting to the next painting to the next painting to the next painting and how that process happens, which is why my interest in difference is how you move, how you evolve, how you change, rather than how you get your shtick and then you do your shtick, now I have my shtick and I get my brand and I put it out there and that's it.
Sven Birkerts in his Editor's Note for AGNI 65 ruminates on a photograph of Walter Benjamin and asks, "What is it that provokes my best attention?" This is another way of asking Price's question, "how you move from one painting to the next?" AGNI's art feature this issue is a weird cardboard installation of a painter's studio, created life size in intricate detail by the painter Tom Burckhardt. There's just one problem: the canvass in the studio is blank. Burckhardt in his AGNI interview explains how this work came to be. Here's a sample:
I remembered the feeling of freedom I had when I was in my twenties, that I could do anything artistically and didn't have to stick to what I "did." It occurred to me that I needed a task, one unlike the unstructured approach I had toward painting. I could be discouraged with the rut I felt myself in, or I could turn it around and use it as material. I considered the idea of constructing a painter's studio entirely in cardboard with this narrative at its heart: what happens to an artist when the inspiration evaporates?
I can feel the urge to weave these strands into A Theory of Curing Depression by Turning It Into Artistic Material. But it's too soon. I want to enjoy my time adrift and simply notice some clues. Here is another, the riveting first sentence in One Hundred Years of Solitude:
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
What will I remember in the moments before my passing? How turn my attention to it now? What's next? Twitter? Netvibes? A day of checking e-mail every 10 minutes? A return to writing poems on paper with my yellow Lamy fountain pen? Packing for the islands? Taking the Yorkie Claire for a walk? Starting an essay comparing my hyperlinked and hyperactive online life with the one I thought I'd left behind--the life of words on paper?

Here's another clue: I've been reading the Marquez novel and AGNI in the big leather chair in my library in Denver. And no matter how hard I try, I keep dozing off. I move between alert reading and an unconscious state just below wakefulness. That never happens at the computer. And I notice how refreshed I feel today after a couple of days reading/dozing in my chair. Perhaps I've simply discovered a chronic sleep deficit. Or maybe my mind online is like that anti-drugs-ad image of an egg frying in a pan, sizzling into oblivion. I do know that for all the joy I experience learning new things on the internet, connecting with new people, something in me is not fed by it. Something needs to curl up in my leather chair and follow words on paper into the restorative magic realism of dreams.

Kaziah's Tribute to Fallen Soldiers

My talk at the Mountain West Conference on the Arts Friday went very well, and I recapped it in Friday's Audio Pod Chronicles. Another highlight of the conference was a Governor's Award given to Utah artist Kaziah, who paints portraits of GIs killed in Iraq and donates the paintings to their families. NBC's Today show carried this piece from its Minnesota affiliate, and we watched it during the awards luncheon at the conference. Not a dry eye. Kaziah then took the podium and displayed the same wild and tender energy as in the video. A Utah original.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Congress 2.0

In which a Member of Congress, Ed Markey, D-Mass., makes a video from his seat during a hearing on the future of video. You can see a video made of Markey making his video by checking out Jim Long's blog entry, where I first saw this.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Power of Positive Twittering

Yesterday at the Salt Lake City airport I used my Q phone to upload a plaintive Tweet, hoping I'd make an earlier flight to Denver. Lo and behold, a seat opened up on the small SkyWest plane, and I was home in time to upload my Audio Pod Chronicles episode and get a decent night's sleep.

This morning, searching on my name at Twittermap, I found that two Twitterers had posted positive thoughts for a seat. One is a guy named Joe, Twitter name taoofjoe, a reference to his internet- and tech-savvy blog, The Tao of Joe. Like me, he divides his time between the Mountain and Eastern time zones, in his case Boulder and Nags Head, N.C. The other positive Twitterer was bowbrick, a London internet exec named Steve Bowbrick who also has a compelling blog named bowblog blah blah blah. I found Steve's post today on Tony Blair's exit fascinating, especially his suggestion that Sarkozy may be the next 21st century politician to match Blair's eerie political powers.

To me, this is Twitter at its best: 140-character connections making me feel the world is a friendlier place than I knew, leading to my discovery of two smart people writing well about topics that fascinate me. How cool is that?


James in Blue

My grandson prepares for lunch at our house, sitting in our first piece of baby furniture, a portable seat strapped to a folding chair in the kitchen.

The next two days are going to be full as I wind down a long stay in Cambridge and head west for the Mountain West Conference on the Arts in Salt Lake City, where I will give a presentation titled, "What the Heck is Web 2.0 and Can It Save the Arts?" I plan to UStream the presentation, which is scheduled for Friday, May 11, 2007 at 9:30 a.m. Mountain time, 11:30 am. Maybe James will be able to tune in over his lunch!


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

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