Something happened today that led me to finally write this reflection on my ‘one word‘ for 2023, I accidentally marked all my posts in Inoreader as read. This in itself might not seem like much, but for so long my RSS feeds have been the dots that have seemingly helped me make sense. I have worked tirelessly over the years to collate my list. Yet, lately, something has not quite seemed the same. Althought I had seemingly given up keeping on top of my feed, I was still going through every now and then to flick left and right. However, after clearing my lists, that is no more.

It feels like so many have spoken about quitting Twitter of late and moving to Mastodon. That is fine. However, I think there has been a bigger change in the social media space for me beyond the purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk. Although with a focus on RSS I may not be constricted by the usual templated restrictions associated with social media, I have come to feel that my habit of staying on top of my feeds has come to serve as its own sort of restriction.

For nearly seven years I have maintained my Read Write Respond newsletter. This involved reviewing all ‘my dots‘ across the month to identify the key points. This served as a regular point of reflection. Although there have been changes in that time, such as including quotes, a focused section, extending the summaries, writing a monthly update, over the time I feel that the dots and habit itself have somehow come to take more precedence than the greater purpose that they were meant to serve. I was intrigued by a comment that Ian O’Byrne wrote about his newsletter:

Each week I write a love letter to the Internet. You can subscribe here. Spoiler alert!!! It’s not all good.

Considering the Post-COVID Classroom | Dr. Ian O’Byrne

I had long described my newsletter as:

My newsletter of ideas and information associated with all things education, mined and curated for me and shared with you.

I just wondered if this really mattered anymore? A few years ago I wrote a piece on ‘becoming informed’:

I would argue then it is a constant state of becoming more informed. In an ever changing world, with goals forever moving, it is a case where we can never quite be fully informed.

Secret, Safe and Informed: A Reflection on Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and the Collection of Data | Aaron Davis

Although I still agree with this, I wonder if the real challenge is learning to live in a world where you do not and cannot know everything? I feel that my newsletter had become my means of trying to control the present, rather than admitting that it is ok to not know that latest update regarding artificial intelligence or whatever it maybe. This is not to say that artificial intelligence is not important, but that maybe in trying to stay informed about everything, you never really know anything.

So to return to the beginning of this piece, for a few years now, I have been choosing one word as a focus for the year. As the new year comes and I am not sure what the new word will be, I always feel there is something that stands out. This year, the word that stood out was ‘vulnerability’. This was solidified while reading Nick Cave’s Faith Hope and Carnage. I was struck by Cave’s discussion of vulnerability and the willingness to being open to failure:

It’s not so much the creative impulse itself that is so compelling, but rather doing something that feels challenging and vulnerable and new, whether that is ceramics or a different-sounding record or The Red Hand Files, the In Conversation events, Cave Things, this book, whatever. There is a risk involved that generates a feeling of creative terror, a vertiginous feeling that has the ability to make you feel more alive, as if you are hotwired into the job in hand, where you create, right there, on the edge of disaster. You become vulnerable because you allow yourself to be open to failure, to condemnation, to criticism, but that, as I think the Stoics said, is what gives you creative character. And that feeling of jeopardy can be very seductive.

Faith, Hope and Carnage | Nick Cave | Page 224

I think that over time I have become wedded to the present, rather than opening myself up to going deeper into various ideas. Therefore, some of the ways that I envisage being more vulnerable include:

  • Putting my newsletter on hiatus.
  • Write for myself and when I can, rather than feeling I have to.
  • Reviewing the dots and feeds that I consume, accepting that sometimes it is ok to miss out.
  • Read more books and get deeper into ideas, a return to responding.

As always, please let me know if you have any further suggestions.

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Some bands peak early. Almost all the great ones, however, take several years to hit their stride. Andrew Stafford ‘Pig City’

Andrew Stafford explores the Brisbane music scene between 1975 and 2005. The book discusses the place and politics that laid the foundation to the music scene. Stafford dives into groups such as The Saints, The Go-Betweens, The Apartments, The Riptides, Died Pretty, Kev Carmody, Tex Perkins, Screamfeeder, Custard, Regurgitator, Powderfinger and Savage Garden. This is tided together with investigations of various cultural and historical institutions that were integral to the change, such as the Curry House, Triple Zed, the Fitzgerald Inquiry, and the Livid Festival.

Although I had read David Nichols’ The Go-Betweens, Robert Forster’s Grant and I, Tracey Thorn’s My Rock n Roll Friend, and Clinton Walker’s Stranded, I did not really appreciate the politics of Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Although not quite East Berlin described in Anna Funder’s Stasiland, it certainly seems a world away from the Melbourne music scene. For me, it really put criticisms of ‘Dictator Dan‘ in perspective.

I also enjoyed Stafford’s book for the insight it provided to various artists, such as Custard and Powderfinger. For example, I was shocked at Darren Middleton’s glam metal beginnings:

Darren Middleton was recruited to add the requisite metallic flash after the band discovered him strutting his stuff in a glam-metal band called Pirate. Middleton, now probably the least showy member of Powderfinger, has never heard the end of it since.

Ian Haug: He was doing the shred thing, dancing on the tables with a wireless guitar. He was into Dokken and all those terrible bands and we thought he was just the sort of idiot we needed! He was really funny.

While I was intrigued by the endeavor of the COW (Country Or Western), Dave McCormick’s band before Custard, to be the something akin to the Wild Bunch.

Robert Moore had imagined COW as a musical collective similar to the Wild Bunch behind the first Massive Attack album, where a virtual reserve bench of musicians would be on call to play gigs or recordings. Often the band would be joined on stage by backing vocalists the Sirloin Sisters, twins Maureen and Suzie Hansen; at other times, former Go-Between John Willsteed and occasional Queensland Symphony Orchestra violinist John Bone would jump up to add their own flourishes.

All in all, Pig City is a great read that helps with appreciating some of complex the roots to Australian music.

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Basically there's night and there's day, and you try and go between that, and you find the twilight zone—and there lies the Go-Betweens. (Robert Forster) David Nichols ‘The Go-Betweens’

David Nichols’ book on The Go-Betweens was first published in 1997. Capturing their rise in the late 70’s until their initial demise in the late 80’s. I read the third revision published in 2011, which included a postscript discussing the reforming of the band in the late nineties until McLennan’s death in 2006. It often ties together original source material with more recent interview material from those in and around the band in a similar vein to Clinton Walker’s Stranded.

Although Nichols’ captures The Go-Betweens rise and fall and rise again, it is feels somewhat lopsided towards the bands initial rise. From Robert Forster and Grant McLennan meeting at university, the early desires to form a band as a flagship for other endeavors, the various local and international influences, and the roll of Lindy Morrison. Once the band started producing records, the book becomes somewhat more methodical.

In some ways I could imagine this book just being about the band’s early years. In regards to ideas, I think that this early period is often more telling. I think this is why Jarvis Cocker’s memoir Good Pop, Bad Pop works. Although as Tracey Thorn captures in her book on Lindy Morrison, this retelling can often lead to mythologising.

I remember reading an online comment left by a reader prior to starting it, criticising the fact that it did not provide anything about the band that you could not find online. This is not something Nichols’ necessarily denies. However, when it was first released in 1997, the internet was only in its infancy. As Nichols attests,

This book is largely a pre-internet work and, it turns out, one of the last of its kind. – Page 270

Additionally, I wonder how much credit needs to go to people like Nichols for the fact that you can find so much information on the band online. He talks about the fact that he actually donated his research to the National Film and Sound Archive. I feel that Kriv Stenders’ documentary Right Here would not be possible without Nichols’ work.

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