Archive for April, 2008
It’s Sunday, and I’m praying at the church of the ‘latter-day beatnik’ and ‘gravel-voiced, beer-stained bard of the barstool’ Tom Waits. He is one of life’s artistic spectacles, a pure visionary. Nobody does it like Tom Waits.
As described and describing in an Observer piece from 2006:
“Around the back of Little Amsterdam, near the ancient rubbish bins and the furniture that has died from overuse, we are seated at a rickety table, beside on old broken-down, rain-warped piano. Waits is drinking black coffee from a paper cup, wearing a suit at least one size too small, scuffed biker boots and a wether-beaten look that says, ‘I’ve seen it all.’ His hair is thinner now, but still has a mind of its own. His guitar is nestling in a case on the tarmac, on which rests a well-work porkpie hat. He could have stepped out of one of his own songs.
“‘Writing songs is like capturing birds without killing them,’ he quips. ‘Sometimes you end up with nothing but a mouthful of feathers.’”
‘It’s all in there,’ he smiles. ‘Crop failures, Dad dying, train wrecks. It all gets handed down, and everything you absorb you’re going to secrete. A lot of those old songs stick to you, and others blow right through you, and some of them get trapped in there. You keep hearing them every time you sit down at the piano.’
On booze: “One is never completely certain when you drink and do drugs whether the spirits that are moving through you are from the bottle or your own. And, at a certain point, you become afraid of the answer. That’s one of the biggest things that keep people from getting sober, they’re afraid to find out that it was liquor talking all along.”
On Leadbelly: “He died the day after I was born – 8 December 1949. I always felt connected with him somehow. He was going out as I was coming in. And, maybe we passed in the hall.”
“Someday I’m gonna be gone and people will be listening to my songs and conjuring me up. In order for that to happen, you gotta put something of yourself in it. Kinda like a time capsule. Or making a voodoo doll. You gotta wrap it with thread, put a rock inside the head, then use tow sticks and something from a spider web. You gotta put it all in there to make a song survive.”
Twitter made it to the hallowed halls of the Today programme this morning, and I managed to get a word in. These kind of ‘Twitter for the masses’ explainers can only ever really skim the surface, but one day some form of grown-up Twitter will be ubiquitous and then we’ll have the last laugh.
As I’ve said before, the two main barriers to Twitter take-up are 1) that it is hard to explain what it is and 2) that it takes along time to curate a manageable and useful group of friends. If you’re into technology it’s much easier because that’s where most of the users are now, but it is opening out slowly.
My tips for starting out are:
- Get an account at twitter.com, dig around a bit to see who looks interesting and follow a few people. Others will come and follow you eventually, but persuade a friend to start at the same time. You can’t just sign up and wait for Twitter to happen – you have to push it forward, as Salt’n'Pepa once sort of said.
- Think of Twitter messages in three ways: functional messages (‘Does anyone know a good site for cheap flights?’), discussion (‘Can someone give me feedback on these photos?’) or, for the more poetically inclined, haiku-style notes about your day or observations on life. These are fascinating mini-insights into fleeting moments in our life that we may not remember otherwise and become quite special, in retrospect. (‘Beautiful day, and walking with Mum by the river. Hoping the apple crumble doesn’t burn while we’re out!’)
- Having to pop back to a web page every time you want to check Twitter or send a message is a bit of a pain – hence some lovely techies setting up services like Twhirl or Twitterrific that you can download and use just like an instant messenger service. It will make all the difference. I’d advise that you set up your mobile with Twitter (see the instructions under the settings tab) but set it to only receive direct messages. These are private messages between you and other people, sort of a Twitter back channel. That way when you’re out you can skip the ambient chatter but still get direct messages. I was stuck in a cab once and neither the driver or me had the correct address – Twitterers came to the rescue!
- There are so many possible uses for Twitter. It’s a very functional group messaging service – if your ten closest mates were signed up you could say ‘I’m in the pub’ and would only have to send one message instead of paying for ten. And you could also use it for more creative projects, something I’d like to explore when I clone myself and have some time to do ‘art’ outside of all-consuming work time.
The real point, though, is that we should all be a little more willing to explore these tools without feeling the need to classify it or nail it down to some definite function when it is still so young. So many inventions were born out of a completely different idea; vinyl records were a spin-off (no pun intended) from a project for talking dolls or some such… It’s far easier to dismiss something out of hand than to be open-minded, creative and playful.
See you on Twitter!
Technorati Tags: Twitter
I’m running again. It’s 5km, at the Eden Project, on 15 June. If you’re reading this, you now know that I’m running and therefore have to sponsor me immediately before the guilt becomes unbearable.
Please, please sponsor me today. Just £1 from all my Twitter followers would more than meet my modest target.