Fiction puts you in shoes that are not comfortable. Christos Tsiolkas

The In-Between by Christos Tsiolkas captures the relationship between two middle age men, Perry and Ivan. Both are seeking love again, but also carry with them their own histories of regret that forever haunts them. Structurally, the novel is divided into a number of days spread over a several years. Through these glimpses into the everyday, we are given an insight into the challenges of balancing life in-between the past and the present.


I remember watching Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, one of the many films that makes up the Marvel universe. At the start of the film, there is a bus scene where the hero is confronted by a group of thugs. One of the things that always seems odd in this supposed ordinary situation is who are the other people in these scenes? For example, what is on the laptop sliced in half by a sword? Did it have a PhD on it in draft format? Was it backed up in the cloud? None of this is ever addressed. Ordinary people do not matter when there are superheroes around. Whereas for Christos Tsoilkas, these other people standing on the edge of the stage are often placed front and centre and given prime place with the narrative. Whether it is an old couple on a train returning from remembering a relative’s passing or a palliative nurse looking out her window after a long shift in which her patient passed away, these moments not only add perspective, but remind us that there are people who exist both in and beyond the book. This is something Michael Williams touches on in his review for the The Saturday Paper:

There’s a trick Christos Tsiolkas does in his eighth novel, The In-Between. At several points in the action, as the central drama plays out in the foreground, the focus drifts away. Tsiolkas brings our attention instead to a passing youth on the street or the gaze of another commuter.

Despite these glances away, The In-Between is an intensely interior book with Tsiolkas’s trademark unflinching intimacy and access to the thoughts, fears, rages and lusts of his characters. It makes these other moments all the more acute when they occur. They offer us an external view of proceedings, giving us the distance to see our protagonists afresh

Source: Christos Tsiolkas – The In-Between by Michael Williams

What I like about Tsiolkas’ writing is his ability to capture the seemingly everyday. In The In-Between, he manages to make reference to everything from responses to Brittany Higgins rape allegation, changes to places like Preston and Frankston, Classic FM playing Talking Heads and Split Enz, the turn away from news and talk back, or capturing a situation on a smartphone. These various choices feel less like polemical statements, than being moments for the reader to ponder. As Tsiolkas stated in an interview with Raphael Epstein:

What I want from fiction is that it sets up questions.

Source: Christos Tsiolkas’ new novel The In-Between – ABC Listen by ABC Radio Melbourne

Sean O’Beirne picks up on this in his review for The Monthly, when he talks about the unstable nature of our senses and perceptions.

Though of course plenty of writers can supply the smaller details, what makes Tsiolkas exceptional is his ability to show how excessive and unstable our senses are, how we never just enjoy our perceptions in some benign way, but find them turning continuously into greed, and then shame, and then greed again.

Source: Christos Tsiolkas’s ‘The In-Between’ (Review) by Sean O’Beirne

Although the two central characters, Perry and Ivan, are in-between in so many ways, whether it be language, place, class or age, I feel that when it comes down to it, the book highlights how we are all in-between in some respect. For example, relationships are in-between, whether it be as a friend, a parent, a sibling. We are always in-between regarding the public and private. Conversations exist in-between. Knowing someone through social media, by ghosting them, exists in-between. As an extension of all this, I feel that the author too exists in this in-between, not dead, but not defined. Caught between characters, perspectives and points of view.


In a conversation with Tsiolkas, Rafael Epstein talks about how The In-Between allows readers to walking inside someone else’s shoes and see people more clearly. I am not sure if I all of the sudden know what other people think or feel after reading it, rather for me the novel provides a deeper appreciation of the other. For example, after rain, the grass often looks greener, while the smell of eucalyptus often perfumes the air. I felt the same after reading The In-Between, my world was not magically transformed, rather I was made more conscious of the world around. In response to Epstein’s comment, Tsiolkas suggests that,

Fiction puts you in shoes that are not comfortable.

Source: Christos Tsiolkas’ new novel The In-Between – ABC Listen by ABC Radio Melbourne

I like this point. When you have uncomfortable shoes, how become aware of every step.


I saw The In-Between come up in my new releases in my local library app and decided to unwittingly dive in. I was not disappointed. I think this is one of those books that will linger with me for a long time.


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These are the ways in which the stories of women get told – in music, in art, in literature, in science. I think about the women who are silenced by encounters with disparaging, or predatory, men; the women who think they are working as equal partners only to find their names left off the credits; the women who work to their own rules and are then patronised for not knowing the real ones; and I remember how much sheer bloody determination it takes to keep forcing yourself back into the narrative, back to centre stage. Tracey Thorn ‘My Rock 'n' Roll Friend’

My Rock ‘n’ Roll Friend is the story of Lindy Morrison told by Tracey Thorn. It is compiled from a range of sources, including interviews, letters between the two artists, diary entries provided by Morrison herself, as well as existing accounts of The Go-betweens, such as an interview with Andrew Denton and Kriv Stenders’ documentary Right Here.

On the one hand Thorn goes into Morrison’s life in The Go-Betweens as you would expect. However, she goes beyond the tales told by and about Robert Forster and Grant McLennan as ‘the indie Lennon and McCartney’ to provide a different perspective on how things were with an attempt to correct the record.

I have carried with me all the way through the writing of this book this particular line from Rebecca Solnit’s essay [Grandmother Spider] as a template for what I’ve tried to do, the way in which I want to reclaim Lindy’s story, to save it before it’s too late and to add it to all the other lost stories. To spin the web and not be caught in it, to create the world, to create your own life, to rule your own fate, to name the grandmothers as well as the fathers, to draw nets and not just straight lines, to be a maker as well as a cleaner, to be able to sing and not be silenced, to take down the veil and appear: all these are the banners on the laundry line I hang out. Why does it matter that Lindy has been partly written out of the story of the band? Because it happens all the time. LOCATION 2618

Thorn makes the claim that the band were always really a classic three-piece, with other members coming and going:

It is Lindy, Robert and Grant who are the original Go-Betweens. It is their band. In the future they might get in backing singers, or keyboard players, or violinists, or sax soloists, or a full-blown bloody orchestra, but the essence remains. They are a classic trio, whatever anyone might say later. LOCATION 485

Appealing to the reality beyond the myth surrounding Forster and McLennan’s friendship, Thorn suggests that denying Morrison’s contribution is the ‘final act of self-sabotage’.

Underplaying Lindy’s contribution does not just do her a disservice: it is self-defeating. It makes them a less interesting band, saddling them with a dull identity when they had a bright and interesting one. It is their final act of self-sabotage. LOCATION 2481

Thorn, also broadens out to provide a different perspective on Morrison, one that goes beyond the ‘force of nature’:

When it comes to describing you, everyone uses the same phrase: a force of nature. I do it myself in Bedsit Disco Queen: ‘as for Lindy, well, she was a sheer force of nature, an Amazonian blonde ten years older than me, unshockable, confrontational and loud’.

Your friend Marie Ryan says in the liner notes to a Go-Betweens box set: ‘She was a force of nature, brash, opinionated and loud.’

Writer Clinton Walker says: ‘Lindy, is, as we know, this force of nature, and she’s very attractive in that, you know, and she can be a FUCKING NIGHTMARE.’

Peter Walsh doesn’t use the actual phrase, but comes close:

Lindy Morrison. Her great, upending, tumultuous, machine-gun laugh . . . SHE SPOKE, IF NOT LIVED, EXCLUSIVELY IN CAPSLOCK, a Klieg light in a roomful of 40 watt bulbs. Describing her quickly exhausted all possible weather metaphors. Gales of laughter, gusts of enthusiasm, a storm of personality that broke in every room.

An interview in Hero magazine says: ‘Lindy Morrison is an excitable girl. Some would say volcanic.’ LOCATION: 924

Thorn explores Morrison’s life before The Go-Betweens, her discovery of feminism, work with Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service, relationships with Denis Walker, activism in Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s Queensland, participation in the world of theatre, hitching around Europe, and playing in punk group, Xero. However, most importantly, Thorn captures a more more human fragile side to Morrison, especially when exploring Morrison’s letters she used to write to herself when growing up.

When I learn about the child and teen she used to be, they are not immediately recognisable to me as the Lindy I thought I knew. The uncertainty, the self-doubt, the miseries suffered over her appearance – they’re at odds with my image of her. I had formed a first impression of her as a textbook heroine: a bold adventurer, no one’s plaything, no one’s victim. But I created that myself, out of almost nothing. LOCATION 1607

As Kitty Empire highlights, “this is a book about more than music.” It captures identity, friendship, culture, Gina Arnold suggests that, “the book is a reminder of the present, with Thorn using Morrison’s story to show the myriad ways that women continue to be underserved in the world of rock, despite being integral to it on every level.”

Listening to The Go-Betweens albums, I have always felt that they all seemed to lead to 16 Lovers Lane. However, after reading Thorn’s account, I have been left thinking that another way of viewing the before and after 16 Lovers Lane is a story of Lindy Morrison and everything that she brought to the ‘three piece’. I was also reminded about Ann Powers’ discussion of ‘band guys‘ wondering what she might add to this conversation.


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Hope is optimism with a broken heart. Nick Cave ‘Faith, Hope and Carnage’

I stumbled upon Faith, Hope and Carnage via an interview Nick Cave did with Richard Fidler. There was a part of me that thought I knew Nick Cave. Maybe this was from following his blog, The Red Hand Files, or just the nature of him as an artist. However, there was something about the conversation with Fidler that really caught me. That lead to reading the book.

Faith, Hope and Carnage is a meandering on and off conversation between Nick Cave and journalist, Seán O’Hagan, captured on the page through fourteen chapters. Beginning at the start of the 2020 and carrying on through to the end of 2021, Cave walks through the process of creativity as it happens, as well as reflecting upon the death of his son, grieving, life and music. It is very much a pandemic project brought about by the strange times.

It really did feel like the end times had arrived, and the world had been caught sleeping. It felt as though, whatever we assumed was the story of our lives, this invisible hand had reached down and torn a great big hole in it.

Cave goes into how he wrote Ghosteen, the writing of Carnage, the creation of his ceramic figures and The Red Hand Files. He reflects upon the change to a more disruptive narrative after his son died, “narratives pushed through the meat grinder.” Cave also talks about the various inspirations, such as Stevie Smith, Elvis, Flannery O’Connor, and Rodin.

Built around conversation, the book seemingly goes where it goes. I imagine in another world, it might have been scrubbed of its contradictions, repetition and edges, but I feel that it is this disjointed nature is what makes it special. It provides an extension to Nick Cave the musician, extending the usual approach to his music to the actual text. Just as he explains that the wider “creative process is life and all it brings”, in some ways this all or nothing approach applies to the act of creativity.

Strangely, Faith, Hope and Carnage is a book that would not have worked any other way. The conversational nature allows the book to go to places and explore topics that might have otherwise be cut by the editor. It really feels like sitting in on a personal conversation. I think this is epitomised by the conversations about his mother or Anita Lane who both died midway through the project.

O’Hagan tries to structure the conversation. For example, there are times when he brings up old quotes which demonstrate this. However, as each chapter unfurls the topics stretch beyond any sense of expectation. Capturing this generosity, Richard Fidler describes the book as an ‘act of kindness’ for the reader.

Throughout, there are many themes explored:

Grief

Although grief involves ‘some kind of devastation’, Cave explains that grief often defines who we are and how we see the world. Working through this is usually about getting on top of the small things. On the flipside, grief provides a gift and opportunities, a ‘reckless’ and ‘mutinous’ energy, a sense of ‘acute vulnerability’, defined by the fact that the worst has already happened. In the end, we may not have a choice over life’s circumstances, however we do have a choice as to how we grieve.

A choice, a kind of earned and considered arrangement with the world, to be happy. No one has control over the things that happen to them, but we do have a choice as to how we respond. Page 103

Life

Like the gift of grief, for Cave, ageing is about growing into the ‘fullness of your humanity’, continuing to be engaged and respecting the ‘vast repositories of experience’. One experience that leaves its mark on us are those who die, leaving us like ‘haunted houses’.

I think these absences do something to those of us who remain behind. We are like haunted houses, in a way, and our absences can even transform us so that we feel a quiet but urgent love for those who remain, a tenderness to all of humanity, as well as an earned understanding that our time is finite. Page 148

Alongside the respect for experience, Cave suggests we need to celebrate regret as a sign of self-awareness or embracing uncertainty and the world of possibilities. We also need to be able to make mistakes and with that forgive.

We need to be able to exist beyond disagreement. Friendships have to exist beyond that. We need to be able to talk, to make mistakes, to forgive and be forgiven. As far as I can see, forgiveness is an essential component of any good, vibrant friendship – that we extend to each other the great privilege of being allowed to be wrong. One of the clear benefits of conversation is that your position on things can become more nimble and pliant. For me, conversation is also an antidote to dualistic thinking, simply because we are knocking up against another person’s points of view. Something more essential happens between people when they converse. Ultimately, we discover that disagreements frequently aren’t life- threatening, they are just differing perspectives, or, more often than that, colliding virtues. Page 246

However, the greatest challenge is to keep turning up again and again.

if I look back at my past work from the certainty and conviction of the present, it appears as if it was a series of collapsing ideas that brought me to my current position. And what’s more, the actual point I’m looking back from is no more stable than any of the previous ones – in fact, it’s being shed even as we speak. There’s a slightly sickening, vertiginous feeling in all of this. The sense that the ground is constantly moving beneath your feet? Yes, exactly. So how do you deal with that? Well, I have learned over time that the creation itself, the thing, the what, is not the essential component, really, for the artist. The what almost always seems on some level insufficient. When I look back at the work itself it mostly feels wanting, you know; it could have been better. This is not false humility but fact, and common to most artists, I suspect. Indeed, it is probably how it should be. What matters most is not so much the ‘what’ as the ‘how’ of it all, and I am heartened by the knowledge that, at the very least, I turned up for the job, no matter what was going on at the time. Even if I didn’t really understand what the job was. Page 247

This reminds me of Austin Kleon’s book Keep Going.

Religion

For Cave, religion is ‘spirituality with rigour’. With this, faith and God are the search itself, where God is both the ‘impetus and the destination’, and the question is itself the answer. He suggests that religion often serves a utility beyond sense.

Why would I deny myself something that is clearly beneficial because it doesn’t make sense? That in itself would be illogical. Page 78

For example, It provides a language of forgiveness often missing in secularism.

Challenged on his belief, Cave argues that scepticism and doubt are actually a means of strengthening belief. Interestingly, Cave talks about prayer as a form of listening.

Prayer is not so much talking to God, but rather listening for the whispers of His presence – not from outside ourselves, but within. It’s kind of the same with the questions that come in to The Red Hand Files. I think they are singularly and collectively trying to tell me something, which may just be ‘I am here’. I think they reflect my own needs. There is an exchange of a sort of essentialness, wherein we attend to each other through a sharing of our collective need to be listened to. Page 190

Music

For Cave, music is about transcendence, spiritual yearning and the sacred essence. It fills our ‘God-shaped hole’, our desire to ‘feel awed by something.’ It has the ability to ‘improve the condition of the listener’ by uniting people and ‘putting some beauty back into the work.’

Music is one of the last great spiritual gifts we have that can bring solace to the world.Page 204

Reflecting upon his current process of writing music, Cave discusses the way in which he makes music from the disparate parts found through improvising.

The nature of improvisation is the coming together of two people, with love – and a certain dissonance. Page 57

Associated with this, Cave talks about the ‘ruthless relationship’ he has with his initial ideas and his willingness to discard words.

the lyrics lose their concrete value and become things to play with, dismember and reorganise. I’m actually very happy to have arrived at a place where I now have an utterly ruthless relationship to my words. Page 15

He actually suggests that he has a physical relationship with his words and knowing what is right. This all reminds me Jon Hopkins’ process of building something to destroy it.

Surprisingly, writing music for Cave is not continual, but a deliberate time-based process. Something that reminds me of Mark Ronson who I vaguely remember suggesting that it was time to write a new album regarding Uptown Special. With this, the challenge with a new project is getting beyond the easy residual ‘deceiving ideas’, to “write away from the known and familiar”.

I tend to find that when I first sit down to write new songs there is a kind of initial flurry of words that appears quite effortlessly. They seem to be right there, at hand, so there is a cosiness about them, a comfortableness. And because they aren’t too bad, really, you immediately start thinking, this is all going to be easy. But these are the deceiving ideas, the residual ideas, the unused remnants of the last record that are still lurking about. They’re like the muck in the pipes, and they have to be flushed out to make room for the new idea, the astonishing idea. I think a lot of musicians deal in residual ideas, because they’re seduced by the comfortable and the familiar. For me, that’s a big mistake, although I can understand the temptation to create something reassuringly familiar. And, in a way, the whole industry is set up to cater to that – to the well-known or second-hand idea. Page 144

All in all though, Cave explains that songs change when played live, it is when the fullness presents itself. A record is only ever one part of that journey.

Creativity

Cave talks about the way different mediums, such as The Red Hand Files or The Devil – A Life series of ceramic figures, allow him to step outside of his expectations.

My best ideas are accidents within a controlled context. You could call them informed accidents. Page 23

He explains that it is important to have an element of risk, such as taking on new and challenging projects or just being naïve, to produce creative terror that helps drive things forward.

I think to be truly vulnerable is to exist adjacent to collapse or obliteration. Page 45

The problem is that ideas often slowly rise and hold hands, with the gap between boredom and epiphany being very close. Astonishing ideas usually require faith and and patience. Sometimes ideas just need air in order to prove their validity. This is why conversation is so important. In the end though, although writing music may start with a ‘date in the diary’, Cave explains that the wider creative process is life and all it brings.

I really don’t think we can not talk about it if we are talking about the creative process. It’s simply part of the whole thing. The creative process is not a part of one’s life but life itself and all that it throws at you. For me, it was like the creative process, if we want to call it that, found its real purpose. Page 104

This reminded me of Damon Albarn’s description of ‘creativity as a condition.’


What I liked about the book is that in itself it felt like a form of conversation with the reader. With Cave seemingly changing stride mid-sentance, the reader is invited in almost as an equal. This had me thinking myself about grief and the importance of being vulnerable.

Additionally, I appreciated seeing a different side to Cave, not a real side, but a different presentation of ideas and thought. I think that this is also captured by the Cave and O’Hagan in the epilogue:

O’Hagan: I thought I kne you

Cave: I didn’t know that either until I opened my mouth.

I had a similar experience with Damian Cowell’s Only the Shit You Love podcast and Jarvis Cocker’s Good Pop, Bad Pop.

Written during lockdown, it also provides a reflection on life lockdown during lockdown as it happened, not as some retrospective. The initial positive potential to be able to do nothing, to put aside our issues, but then the growing frustration of such strange times.

We blew it. We squandered it. Early on, many of us felt that a chance was presented to us, as a civilisation, to put aside our vanities, grievances and divisions, our hubris, our callous disregard for each other, and come together around a common enemy. Our shared predicament was a gift that could potentially have transformed the world into something extraordinary. To our shame this didn’t happen. The Right got scarier, the Left got crazier, and our already fractured civilisation atomised into something that resembled a collective lunacy. For many, this has been followed by a weariness, an ebbing away of our strength and resolve and a dwindling belief in the common good. Many people’s mental health has suffered as a consequence. Page 154

I cannot remember the last time I read a book where I wanted to begin again as soon as I had finished it. I wonder if this says as much about me as it does about the book and Nick Cave.


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The actions that define culture are rarely deliberate. Culture is, in many ways, an accumulation of accidents, small gestures and stumbles that somehow end up sticking together like a giant snowball rolling down a hill. Every successful band has the moment when they almost gave up just before their breakthrough; every artistic movement has its rejections, arguments, and fistfights; every book has a graveyard of characters and scenes that were killed to make way for the story. The end result may look neat — libraries of books ordered alphabetically, artworks organized into linear chronologies — but the process of making culture is anything but. - Matt Locke ‘The Hot List: The Rise and Fall of the Singles Chart’

I was recently inspired to read Clinton Walker’s Stranded – The Secret History Of Australian Independent Music by the deaths of Ken West and Chris Bailey. Over the years I have watched various music documentaries exploring Australian music over the years, including Autoluminescent, Something In the Water), Midnight Oil 1984 and The Go-Betweens: Right Here, as well as listened to Damian Cowell’s Only The Shit You Love podcast and Double J’s series on the Big Day Out. However, it occurred to me that although I might have heard many of the names, my understanding of the history of Australian independent music is rather patchy.

My introduction in the 90’s to artists like Tex Perkins, Dave Graney and TISM primarily came via Triple J, Rage and the annual ARIA awards. Although there were programs like The J Files which would provide some of the back stories to artists and their music, for whatever reason, I do not remember these retrospectives addressing the history. For example, it would seem that Perkins giving the bird to Scott Morrison was pretty timid to some of the things he did in the past.

Walker’s book provides something of a ‘thick description‘ of the Australian music scene between 1972 – 1992, the bedrock of much of the music I grew up with.

It took time before my analysis of grunge came together, before I could see what had been under my nose all along—that its roots were Australian as much as anything! That’s perhaps why it never did much for me, because I’d sort of heard it all already. Grunge, the defining Sub Pop/Seattle Sound of Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, was basically the sound of Australia’s ’80s underground—the Scientists, the Cosmic Psychos, even the Birthday Party, and bands like Feedtime, Grong Grong, Lubricated Goat and Bloodloss—mixed up with classic early metal, classic early punk and, I’d now add, AC/DC and Neil Young’s Crazy Horse.

Not only was Walker there for much of it, but he was a part of it as well.

Stranded is, for better or worse, simply my version of a history.

It goes beyond the world of Countdown, Farnsey and Barnsey, Michael Gudinski and the pub rock scene. Instead, it captures the rise of bands such as The Birthday Party, The Saints, The Triffids, The Hard Ons, The Beasts of Bourbon and The Go-Betweens. As well as the many other bands and artists who seemingly came and went.

Some of things that stood out to me were:

  1. How fluid, volatile and connected tge scene seemed to be. Often one band would demise only to have members pop-up in another band, if they were not already in more than one band.
  2. Hearing some of this music was incredibly hard. Whereas these days we might go online to listen or purchase new music, finding some of these pressings would have involved going to a handful of niche record stores.
  3. Place of covers. With so many bands forming on a whim, covers seem to play an important role in filling out a set or helping to define a bands sound. I feel that Walker’s latest book, Suburban Songbook, might have more to say on this.
  4. How many moving parts there were and are. It can be easy to think that success is all just about the music, but there are so many other parts at play. Whether it be the labels, the record stores, the local radio stations, the magazines, the venues, the promoters, the managers, the producers. Each play their own particular part in the rise and fall.

What amazes me about this book is that Walker was able to remember what he did. As he posits:

They say that if you remember the ’60s you can’t have been there. So much about the ’80s I can’t remember either. My journalism brings a lot back; I can’t help wondering if the rest isn’t best forgotten.

I guess the task of remembering is often ruefully aided with snipets from the artists in question that help provide further perspective and fill out some of the gaps.

There is so much more that I would love to know. This was the feeling I had after listening to Damian Cowell too. However, as Walker suggests, maybe sometimes it is best left forgotten.


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I am blood in the streets, the catastrophe you can never forget. I am the tide running under the world that no one sees or feels. I happen in the present but am told only in the future, and then they think they speak of the past, but really they are always speaking about the present. I do not exist and yet I am everything. You know what I am. I am History. Now make me good.

There are some novels where you get to the end and are left thinking more about yourself and the world you live in than the actual plot of the story or the characters. The Ministry for the Future is one of those novels. Kim Stanley Robinson imagines how we might save ourselves and the planet from the perils of global warming. This is not a blueprint with all the answers laid out neatly, but rather a provocation that asks many questions that need to be considered.

The story itself is loosely tied together by Mary Murphy, head of the UN Ministry for the Future, a group set up in accordance with Article 14 of the Paris Agreement.

The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Agreement shall keep under regular review the implementation of this Agreement and shall make, within its mandate, the decisions necessary to promote its effective implementation. It shall perform the functions assigned to it by this Agreement and shall: (a) Establish such subsidiary bodies as deemed necessary for the implementation of this Agreement

It follows her journey in putting in place a number of steps and strategies to turn the tide on climate change. Associated with this is Murphy’s relationship with Frank May, a survivor from the extreme heatwave in Uttar Pradesh, the event which dictates the necessity for change. 

However, The Ministry for the Future is really a bricolage of many different voices captured through various texts, whether it be riddles, meeting notes, interviews and accounts. A kind of docudrama. These all combine to provide different perspectives for how things could get done. The reality confronted throughout is that global warming is bigger than a single person or a particular place. It is everywhere and a problem that never really settles. Something Timothy Morton has described elsewhere as a hyperobject.

Global warming is perhaps the most dramatic example of what Timothy Morton calls “hyperobjects”—entities of such vast temporal and spatial dimensions that they defeat traditional ideas about what a thing is in the first place.

In an interview on the Marooned! on Mars podcast, Robinson describes The Ministry for the Future as a novella between Frank and Mary with everything else hanging off it. Therefore, as a structure, it challenges the conventions of the realist novel as it can never really be folded into a particular character. Instead it provides a perspective about how things could get done collectively from a number of perspectives and voices.

In the end, The Ministry for the Future is an example of near-future anti-dystopian science fiction, what Robinson has described as a shot ahead of a moving object that is the ever present. It is therefore an urgent book for now. A piece of modal schizophrenia that challenges the reader to consider what is and what ought to be. It raises many questions about topics such as violence, sacrifice, wealth, responsibility and what is actually possible. This challenge not only comes through the content grappled, which even at the end of the novel nearing the year 2050, still seems present, but also through the structure of the writing, whether it be the use of riddles to aid in thinking and reflecting or the fractured nature of the narrative that requires the reader to fill in the gaps as they go. I guess this is why Barack Obama included it in his books for 2020?

For a different and shorter perspective on the novel and the challenge of global warming, Kim Stanley Robinson presented a TED video recounting the story from the year 2071.


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If I can't quite be my own good mother, Ill find one in music. Her name is Enya. Chilly Gonzales ‘Enya: A Treatise on Unguilty Pleasures’

I have long been encapsulated by Chilly Gonzales and his ‘musical genius’. Whether it be his work with various artists, pop music masterclasses and minor christmas album, I have been enamoured with the way in which he manages to break music down to capture what is essential. I was therefore intrigued by a book on Enya.

I purchased the Enya: A Treatise on Unguilty Pleasures in good faith with little idea what to expect. I thought it might be some sort of technical breakdown of Enya’s work. Although I am always interested in what Chilly Gonzales has to say about any sort of music, I was not sure how interesting an extended breakdown of Enya’s music would actually be. What I had not expected was the way in which Gozanales used Enya and her music as a frame for his own memoir on music.

It was almost a joke that rose up from my unconscious. But it was my way in. With Enya as a constraint, I could finally write a musical memoir, the very book the publisher had asked for years ago.

Fine Gonzalas spoke about the Enya’s lullaby quality, the guilt often associated with liking such music, her use of the pizzicato strings on the Roland D-50 synthesiser in lieu of a rhythm track and the way in which she has managed her career by continually say no. However, often these references are merely jumping off points for Gonzales to reflect upon his own memories and experiences with music. Whether it be the relationship between harmony and melody:

Harmony is melody’s bitch, with no life of it’s own.

His desire for music that can be both serious and drop into the background:

This is what my Enya book is about. This idea of music that sounds good while you eat or party or take a bath, versus music that you give your full attention to. And you guys are having the wrong argument. It’s not that all music falls into these two categories. The goal of music should be to function on both levels. It’s like with people.

Disdain for loud voices:

Vibrato is a bit like my formerly beloved jazz fusion: technically very difficult to learn but even more difficult to listen to. But to sign with no vibrato at ll, to let the music itself do the emotional work is the purist’s choice.

And his preference for the music over lyrics:

Wordlessness works for me. I was never a lyrics junkie outside of my affection for listening to rap. Rap lyrics are direct, playful and journalistic, standing in contrast to the impressionistic, poetic style of singer songwriters. With some exceptions I listen to music where the lyrics are in the passenger seat. No one really hears or cares what the Bee Gees are singing about, and I doubt that a single Bee Gee would even dispute that.

In some ways Gonzales’ reflection on Enya reminds me of Damian Cowell’s Only the Shit You Love podcast. Like Gonzalas’ constraint as a guide, Cowell uses his video series as a starting point from which to reflect upon music past and present. They are both musical memoirs of artists engaging in artifice. Maybe the real purpose of such texts is not to uncover the author but to provoke the reader (or listener) into considering their own thoughts and finding their own good mother in music.


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A quote about the power of music from Dan Condon

A reflection on the music that represented my soundtrack for 2019.


I enjoy the exercise of looking back at the music that stood out to me across the year. Here then are my thoughts on 2019.

Better in Blak (Thelma Plum)

Produced by Alex Burnett and David Kahne, Better in Blak has the pop hooks and melodies to quickly drag you in. However, once there Plum users this platform to challenges the listener. In songs such as Better in Blak, Homecoming Queen and Woke Blokes, she opens up about race, gender and identity. Although she tells many stories of injustice and heartbreak, the album always manages to remains positive. As Caitlin Walsh explains,

If there’s a connecting thread through the songs, it’s that you don’t need to reject the various people you used to be on your way to loving who you are now; that the ugliness, whether it’s social injustice or trolls or crushing heartbreak, can create beauty and growth if you pick them up and use them as tools, and then moving past them.

Additionally, Cyclone Wehner captures Plum’s style suggesting that,

Regardless, whether her songs are critical or confessional, she conveys, if not levity, then wry humour.

For me, Better in Blak is an example of what Damian Cowell describes as treating the listener to an anchovy. Maybe this is why she abandoned her original album? There were quite a few albums of this ilk that caught my attention in 2019. That is, they hooked in the listener, while also serving up some deep questions.They included Monaigne’s Complex, King Princess’ Cheap Queen and Banks’ III.

Lost Girls (Bat for Lashes)

Lost Girls is a soundtrack that stemmed from a script that Natasha Khan was/is writing telling the story of a vampire girl-gang chasing a mortal protagonist in Los Angeles. It is loosely based on the 80’s film, Lost Boys. Andrew Trendell explained that,

[Khan] wrote a screenplay about a girl called Nikki who becomes obsessed with alien sightings and befriends a local lad whose town is being terrorised by some ghostly girls on bikes. Together, they set out to solve the mystery before finding themselves in the captivity of the spooky cyclists. Sounds like the perfect John Hughes’ script, eh? Well, it started out as something for the big screen before the soundtrack took hold and the album ran away with itself .

With these cultural references, the album’s palette of rich synth sounds is also deeply based upon the past. This can be interpreted as a case of using the past and nostalgia to make comment on the present. As Ryan Leas suggests

The sound of Lost Girls isn’t just exhuming certain synth tones. It’s exhuming a past to try and clarify today, to clarify aging, to clarify how our memories and upbringings shift in and out of focus, eventually rewritten into the kind of filmic adventures we might’ve escaped through when we were actually living through those years.

I think that Joe Goggins summarises the album best when he describes it as, ‘doomy disco for dark times.’

About Us (G Flip)

I remember first hearing (and seeing) G Flip (or Geor Flipiano) as a part of the the ABC’s ‘The Night is Yours Concert‘. She played with so much energy, I was hooked. I was also intrigued when her EP came out a few months later. Although the drums were present, the power and punch was made way for the emotion of the songs. The album continues with this balance. She could easily have gone overboard with the production, but instead holds back, providing what feels like enough of everything. Overall, it carries a certain pop subtlety. As Simone Ziaziaris describes:

Her energetic tunes are packed with electric baselines, catchy synth-pop melodies and of course, vibrant punches from the drum kit. Flipo has mastered the art of pairing vulnerable lyrics about loss and yearning for love with confident (and catchy) multi-layered pop beats.

Similar to how Lorde’s Melodrama captures a particular period of her life, many of the songs document a time in Flipiano’s life when she was falling in and out of love with her girl friend. She also received help from some big names, including Ariel Rechtshaid (‘I Am Not Afraid’), Justin Tranter (‘Stupid’) and Scott Hoffman (‘Two Million’). This reminds me of Missy Higgins talking about her experience of working with different writers on the Inspired podcast. I am going to assume that is how the music industry works?

Norman Fucking Rockwell (Lana Del Rey)

Rather than hooking the listener in with sweet choruses and succinct pop songs, Norman Fucking Rockwell is an album which washes over like waves lapping on a beach. Before long, you are lost within a world. I think Sam Sodomsky sums it up best, saying,

The album weaves love songs for self-destructive poets, psychedelic jam sessions, and even a cover of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time” through arrangements that harken back to the Laurel Canyon pop of the ’60s and ’70s. Throughout, Lana has never sounded more in tune to her own muse—or less interested in appealing to the masses.

In an interview with Joe Coscarelli, Del Rey provides some insights into the choice of Jack Antonoff as producer and why it is time for protest songs. There is something ironic about Antonoff’s inclusion. Some may call out another failure to present anything original, yet Del Rey’s attempt at raw honesty seems prime for collaboration with the ‘superproducer’ (what is a superproducer?) As Antonoff once stated in an interview with Zane Lowe:

I want to work with people because they think that they are geniuses, not because I want make the albums that they have already made

Although Ann Powers questions her reference to noir and where Del Rey sits within the panteon of other female artists, such as Joni Mitchell, Fiona Apple and Tori Amos, I think the success of the way in which is drags you into a world. As Powers’ describes,

The sensitivity and compassion Del Rey expresses in these songs really resonates not in its straightforwardness, but because of all the pings it sets off in the listener’s brain, each one hitting like a nearly-erased memory. In “Mariners,” she deflects the Elton John comparison its piano part demands (“I ain’t your candle in the wind”), only to build to a chorus that seemingly echoes the Oscar-winning theme from a classic 1970s disaster movie (Maureen McGovern’s magisterial “The Morning After”) and, in its warm but uncanny multi-tracked vocal hook, the synth-kissed love songs that brought Leonard Cohen back from obscurity in the 1980s.

Coming back to Antonoff, it is also interesting to consider that this album was released a week after his other significant production effort for 2019, Taylor Swift’s “evolutionary rather than revolutionaryLover.

Late Night Feelings (Mark Ronson)

Mark Ronson’s Late Night Feelings has the usual polished rhythm and feel that you would expect from Ronson, however gone is the sense of fun present in past tracks such as Bike Song and Uptown Funk. Instead we are left with a collection of ‘sad bangers’. As he explained in an interview with Jordan Bassett,

Ronson and the Parisian actor Joséphine de La Baume divorced in 2018 after five-and-half years of marriage. “The entire period of a year – a year-and-a-half, maybe two years – was kinda like… it was just a bit covered with this grey cloud over it,” he says. “Some days it’s fine, some days it’s better – and there’s still good shit that happens. It’s the first time I ever put my own emotions, or what I’ve been going through, out there in a record. I almost didn’t have a choice not to make a personal album because it was so all-consuming going to the studio and trying to make something fun or groovy. As nice as it might have felt in the moment, the next day I’d listen to it and it would feel completely inauthentic.”

For Ronson, the contrast of the upbeat nature of the music with the melancholy of the lyrics is something that harks back to the blues.

“I think it’s the combination of being able to move to something that’s melancholy,” he explains. “Obviously having a dance beat and a really relentlessly upbeat song is kind of fun, but then you’ve got everything firing in the same direction. I like the rub between the upbeat rhythm section and the longing in the vocal. All American music, really – all soul, American R&B, everything – comes from the blues. And the blues was invented to express dissatisfaction, heartache and lament, so it makes sense that it would work in, like, a disco. There’s a sadness and melancholy in a lot of my favourite dance records.”

Peyton Thomas also places it within the tradition of ‘Sad Girl‘ genre,  where the portrayal of female sadness is actually a strength to be recognised.

Late Night Feelings is not the first recent record to treat the sadness of women as a healthy response to all manner of hurt. It is, however, a worthy entry in this still-developing pop pantheon, authentic and honest in its rendering of many shades of feminine sorrow.

Some critics have questioned the seemingly hit and miss nature of the album, however I feel it is one of those albums where the whole is greater than the parts. It can be easy to get confused at supposed fillers like Knock Knock Knock, but like Fitter Happier on Radiohead’s OK Computer, such tracks serve a wider purpose in creating a particular world.

I think this also touches on the reality that Ronson is first and fore-mostly a DJ. When discussing the making of Covers, Ronson once stated that his intent was to make music to DJ to. This album is a continuation of that. In some ways it can be heard as a set in its own right. Although it isn’t as blended as something like Madonna’s Confessions on a Dancefloor, moments like the bridge in Late Night Feeling or the constant of the bass throughout give it that feel.


I have completed this activity for a few years now. What is interesting is that a theme always seems to present itself. 2017 was Jack Antonoff, 2018 was musical reimaginings. This year it was about the female voice. Each of the album’s was driven by a strong female presence. What is intriguing though is when you dig into each of the album’s, there are still a plethora of men producing? Alex Burnett, Charles Scott IV, Jack Antonoff and Mark Ronson. Other than those who self produce, where are the female producers?


So these are my highlights for 2019, what about you? What were the albums that stuck with you? As always, comments welcome.

 


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Chilly Gonzales on the future of music

A reflection on the music that represented my soundtrack for 2018.


Depth of Field (Sarah Blasko)

Although Blasko’s use of synth bass and programmed beats with this album leads to comparisons with artists like Goldfrapp, Depth of Field never quite reaches the same dancefloor intensity. Instead the mix often creates a feeling of fragility. In listening I was reminded in part of LCD Soundsystem’s american dreams, as the more I listened, the more the choice to hold back on certain elements seemed to make more sense. Overall, I found it one of those albums that never seems settled and subsequently hooks you in because of it.

I would place this album between Goldfrapp and Lamb.

Lilac Everything (Emma Louise)

Lilac Everything is a captivating album. The decision of Emma Louise to definitively augment her voice makes for an intriguing listening experience. Where some may be critical of the artificial nature of pitch correction, the use in this circumstance is novel and critically challenges the notion of identity and belonging. There is just something uncanny about listening to a female artist taking on a male voice.

I would place this album between Father John Misty and Jeff Buckley.

 

Isaac Gracie (Isaac Gracie)

The strength of Isaac Gracie’s self titled album is the rawness of his voice. In a world of lush productions, this album cuts things back to basics. Many of the tracks consist of drums, bass and guitar. This simplicity allows Gracie to stand out. In some ways this reminds me of acts like Beach House and London Grammar, who fill out their sound with less rather than more.

I would place this album between Art of Fighting and London Grammar.

Wildness (Snow Patrol)

It is interesting listening to artists who I grew up with, but have not necessarily listened to lately. They change, the world changes, music changes, I changed. The one thing that remains the same with Snow Patrol is Gary Lightbody’s distinctive voice. There is nuance with this album with a continual battle between acoustic and electric. Although some have argued that Jacknife Lee’s polished production is to the detriment of the album, I found that once I stopped comparing the album with the past it grew on me.

I would place this between Radiohead and Collective Soul

MassEducation (St. Vincent)

I loved last year’s MassEduction, but the rawness of Annie Clark’s voice accompanied by Thomas Bartlett on piano takes the music to a whole new level for me. Even though her music is relatively structured she manages to find creativity within constraint in this reworking. This is epitomised by a track like Slow Disco, which she has played supported by Bartlett’s piano, strings on the album, acoustically for NPR Tiny Desk and electroically in the Taylor Swift inspired reworking as Slow Fast Disco. Other artists to peel the layers back this year were Kimbra and Chilly Gonzales.

I would place this between MTV Unplugged and Chilly Gonzales

BONUS: Beckstrom Holiday Extravaganza Volume X (Chris Beckstrom)

Christmas is always an interesting time of year when it comes to music. There are those like Michael Buble that have carved out a niche. Last year Sia created an interesting album of original music. With all this said there is something truly joyful about Chris Beckstrom’s ‘Holiday Extravaganzas’, where each year he electronically reimagines a collection of Christmas classics. The pictures are also a useful reflection of the effort involved.

I would place this between Daft Punk and Aphex Twin


Some of the artists that stood out for me this year, but did not make the cut include The Presets, Amy Shark, Guy Pearce, The Wombats, Nils Frahm, Missy Higgins, Dreams and Aphex Twin.


Looking back it feels like the year of imagining, whether it be different versions (St Vincent) or new ground (Emma Louise). So what about you? What music has caught your attention this year? What albums and artists have you had on high rotation? Is there something that seems to tie your year together? As always, comments welcome.


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James Bridle’s book shines a light into the New Dark Age


Have you ever been to a movie that surprised you? Having seen the trailer and watched past movies from the same producer, you assumed that you knew what was going to happen. That is the experience I had with James Bridle’s new book New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future
.

When I read the title, I expected a book describing the coming collapse of Western civilisation. The problem is that this crash is already upon us. Whether it be the breakdown of infrastructure, Eroom’s Law, the unreliability of images and the rise of machine learning algorithms, the darkness is already here.

This book is less about the actual technologies at play and more about their impact on society. It is what Ursula Franklin describes as ‘technology as a system.’ Bridle’s focus is on new ways of thinking about, through and with technology.

In light of the recent revelations around Cambridge Analytica and GDPR, I recently reflected upon the importance of informed consent. I argued that we have a responsibility to:

  • Critically reflect and ask questions
  • Learn from and through others
  • Engage in new challenges

Bridle’s book starts this journey by actively informing us. He then puts forward the challenge of what next.

There is a kind of shame in speaking about the exigencies of the present, and a deep vulnerability, but it must not stop us thinking. We cannot fail each other now.

Although the book offers more questions than answers, it does it in a way that left me feeling somehow hopeful. Whether you are coming from the perspective of culture, education or politics, this book is a must read for anyone feeling at all dissatisfied with the current state of the world today.


For a different introduction, listen to an interview with Bridle on The Guardian:


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Read Write Respond

Maybe there were some things that I would have changed, however considering the current state of things, I was again pretty lucky this year.

Personally, our children have continued to grow up. The youngest has progressed from learning how to climb the ladder to get on the trampoline to now utilising a range of objects to seemingly climb anything. Nothing is out reach as I learnt when she poured my coffee all over her resulting in an ambulance trip. Our eldest also had a trip to the emergency after standing on glass. It is moments like this that I am reminded how lucky I am living in Australia to have access to a quality public health system (although we do have private cover as well.) We also went on a couple of trips, including a couple of weeks in New Zealand and a weekend in Warrnambool.

At work, I saw my role change from that of a technology coach to becoming a ‘subject matter expert’. I think when you are working within an agile project you do what needs to get done. This has included:

  • Working collaboratively in the creation of a series of online modules
  • Exploring ways to automate the creation of school timetables
  • Leading the deverlopment of a biannual reporting solution with the help of Tom Halbert
  • Comparing different models for online learning hubs
  • Increase understanding data literacy

I have enjoyed the challenges associated with my job this year, however I must say that I miss working with students and teachers. Being removed from the school environment, it can be strange telling people that I am an educator.

With my learning, I presented at two EdTechTeam Summits, the National Coaching Conference and EduChange17. I was lucky enough to be invited to present on flipped learning.I also met a few more connected educators in real life, such as Darrel Branson, Alan Levine, Richard Wells and Andrea Stringer.

In regards to my writing and thinking, I would saying that there are three themes that have existed across my posts this year:

TRANSFORMATION

I have wondered a lot about the complexities and parts associated with change and transformation in Education. Whether it be the conditions that are created or the questions we ask.

WORKFLOWS

I have explored different ways of working and improving digital workflows, whether it be automating the creation of timetables and the summary of data. smartphone. I have tinkered with a better web. This included spending a month in Google+, participating in #DigCiz and exploring some of the obstacles associated with blogging. I have also developed new spaces, such as Wikity and a site for re-claiming my online presence.

APPLICATIONS

I continued to reflect on the feautres and affordances of various applications, such as Google Drawings, Google Sheets, Facebook Pages, Google’s Explore Tool, YouTube and Global2 . I also wrote some curated posts on portfolio platforms and ongoing reporting.


In regards to my newsletter, here are some of the posts that left me thinking this year:

Learning and Teaching

Establishing a culture of inquiry through inquiry – Kath Murdoch encourages teachers to begin the year with questions that can then be the start of a short inquiry, rather than the usual regimented style. For Edna Sackson this involves starting with the child. Sometimes the challenge with inquiry, as Sam Sherratt points out, is having permission.


Inquiry into Inquiry by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Why I Hate Classroom Themes – Emily Fintelman reflects on classroom themes and wonders what impact they are really having on learning. She suggests that our focus should be on how spaces are structured and strategies that can be used to give students more voice.


Classroom Themes by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

The skill, will, and thrill of Project Based Learning – Bianca Hewes reflects on here experiences with Visible Learning and Project Based Learning. She highlights the similarities, such as a focus on stages and structure. The post finishes with a call to work together to strive for a better education for all. It is interesting reading this alongside the David Price’s analyses and a useful introduction to Project Based Learning.


PBL vs VL by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Why Journalism Might Actually Be the Class of the Future – John Spencer suggests that the true makerspaces are found in creating texts, an activity best captured by journalism. To support this, Spencer provides a range of practical suggestions to turn every student into a budding journalist. This reminds me of Michael Caulfield’s writing about creating the web and connecting ideas. I wonder how it fits with the Digipo project and whether domain of one’s own is the greatest form of journalism?


Journalism by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

This free course can teach you music programming basics in less than an hour – Quincy Larson discusses Ableton’s free interactive music course that runs right in your browser. Having taught music a few years ago, I found this as a much more engaging method of grappling with the different principles of music in an interactive way.

If you enjoy listening to music, but don’t know much about how it all works on a structural level, this course is for you. It will teach you some of the principles at work in popular songs like Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and Björk’s “Army of Me”.

Catch the Flipgrid fever! 15+ ways to use Flipgrid in your class – Kayla Moura provides an introduction to Flipgrid, an application for visual feedback. To support this, she lists some potential uses, such as a debate, an exit ticket or a book report. In some ways it reminds me of Verso and the way that users can share and respond in a centrally managed space. The main difference is that Flipgrid is built around video.


Catch the Flipgrid Fever by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Here (with 2 Years of Exhausting Photographic Detail) Is How To Write A Book – Ryan Holiday unpacks the process involved in developing a book, from the initial proposal to the published copy. This lengthy reflection is a great example of ‘showing your work’. Holiday shares a number of tips, such as recording quotes and ideas on notecards, as well as breaking the book into smaller chunks. It is a reminder of the time and effort involved in developing quality writing, something Mike Caulfield touched on.


Ryan Holiday ‘Here (with 2 Years of Exhausting Photographic Detail) Is How To Write A Book’ by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Using ‘Visitors and Residents’ to visualise digital practices – David White and Alison Le Cornu have published a paper continuing their exploration of digital belonging and the problems with age-based categorisations. One interesting point made was the blur that has come to the fore between organisations and individuals. It is interesting to consider this model next to White’s work in regards to lurkers, as well as the ability to ‘return the tools’ without inadvertently leaving some sort of trace.


‘Using Visitors and Residents to visualise digital practices’ by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Asking the right questions – Alice Leung unpacks a range of question types and their place in the classroom, including no hands up and higher order. I have written about questions in the past, while Warren Berger’s book A More Beautiful Question is also an interesting provocation.


Asking the Right Question by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Twist Fate – The Connected Learning Alliance challenged teens to pick a classic story and create an alternate scenario through art or story where a famous hero is the villain or an infamous villain, the hero, with the finalists collated in a book. For further insight into the project, Sara Ryan and Antero Garcia provide a reflection on the some of the stories and the project.


Twist Fate @mizuko ‏ by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

How colonial violence came home: the ugly truth of the first world war – Pankaj Mishra pushes back on the myth that World War I was largely a white European affair, instead suggesting that it was the moment when violent imperial legacies returned home. Along with Nafeez Ahmed’s reflection on Thanksgiving, these critiques remind us of the many forgotten voices during memorial days and national celebrations. Interestingly, TripleJ have decided to move the Hottest 100 Count from Australia Day, ‘a very apprehensive day’ for the Indigenous people of Australia. This is all a part of what Quinn Norton describes as ‘speaking truth’ against racism.


How colonial violence came home: the ugly truth of the first world war by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Use Maps & Mapmaking in Your ELA Classroom – Kevin Hodgson discusses the power and potential of maps in extending comprehension and representing understanding. I have written before about visualisation before, however Hodgson’s post provides a range of ideas I had not considered.


@Dogtrax on Maps by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Edtech

Don’t Blame the Tools – Jose Picardo points out that blaming technology overlooks that the tool is only one part of the pedagogical canvas. I think things like SAMR can confuse the conversation. Instead, we need to start with a wider discussion of education.


‘Don’t Blame the Tools by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Against Expressive Social Media – Mike Caulfield makes the case to break with our dependence on the social media generated dopamine hits to develop the type of critical collaboration needed for the future. Reflecting on his own history of the web, Caulfield suggests that we need new ways of working that challenge our collective thinking, not just confirm our biases. Along with Audrey Watters’ post on edtech in the time of Trump, these posts ask many questions to address for a different imagining of educational technology and a democratic society. It also provides a useful background to the intent beyond such tools and technology as Hypothes.is, Wikity and Smallest Federated Wiki.


Against Expressive Social Media by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Dear Twitter. It’s not me, it’s you – David Hopkins reflects on some of the changes that have occurred lately within Twitter, both socially and technically. There seems to be a lot of talk around Twitter of late, whether it be around alternatives, possible changes or how it is being unbundled.


On Twitter by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Reconceptualising Online Spaces To Build Digital Capacity – In notes from a webinar Naomi Barnes presented, she explores the question of integrating digital technologies. Building on the work of Marshall McLuhan, she discusses the idea of dialectics. This reminds me of Belshaw’s eight elements of digital literacies. Along with Jonathan Wylie’s presentation on good technology integration, these posts offer some alternatives to the usual reference to the SAMR model as the solution to talking about technology.


Technology by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

What should teachers understand about the snapchat back-channel? – Benjamin Doxtdater questions the place of Snapchat and other such backchannels in the classroom. Sachin Maharaj goes a step further to calling for it to be actively banned. For Steve Brophy, this is about waterholes. This takes me back to the question about what sort of teacher you are: limiters, enablers and mentors. However, as Bill Fitzgerald’s investigation into Edmodo demonstrates, there is also an ethical side to be considered. This was also highlighted by Twitter’s changes to privacy.


Benjamin Doxtdater ‘What should teachers understand about the snapchat back-channel?’ by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

A Sociology of the Smartphone – Adam Greenfield shares a portion of his new book, Radical Technologies, unpacking smartphones. In this assemblage of parts he looks at what actually makes smartphones work, the changes they have brought to our habits and the impact on our environment. On this matter, Kin Lane documents the valuable bits in a smartphone that everyone wants, Doug Belshaw discusses email and notification literacy, Aral Balkan asks who owns the data, while Mike Caulfield rues the impact smartphones have had on research. Greenfield’s essay also serves as an example of how technology can construct a ‘templated self’. This is timely with the tenth anniversary of the iPhone. In another extract from Greenfield’s book, he reflects on the internet of things.


A Sociology of the Smartphone by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

I Deleted All But The Last Six Months Of My Gmail – Kin Lane describes his process of taking back control of his digital bits from the algorithms. He is doing this by deleting archived data often used to develop marketing profiles. In addition to Gmail, he has documented cleaning up Facebook and Twitter. Lane and Audrey Watters also discuss this further on Episode 62 of the Contrafabulists podcast. Coming at the problem from a different perspective, the Guardian Tech Podcast discussed the new movement of platforms designed to support people in archiving their digital memories and moments.


Kin Lane ‘I Deleted All But The Last Six Months Of My Gmail’ by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

What Do You Want to Know about Blogging? – Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano responds to number of questions about blogging, such as how to start out in the classroom, setup precautions, develop a habit and extend your thinking beyond the simple view of blogging. Kathleen Morris’ post on why every educator should blog, Marina Rodriguez’ tips for student blogging and Doug Belshaw’s guide how to write a blog post add to this discussion.


What Do You Want to Know about Blogging? by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Why RSS Still Beats Facebook and Twitter for Tracking News – David Nield provides an introduction to RSS and why it can be better than social media for consuming content. One of biggest benefits is that it is unfiltered by the stacks. Nield provides some strategies for working with RSS, such as IFTTT and feed readers. Alan Levine lifts the hood on RSS, explaining how it works and what OPML is, while Bryan Alexander states why he decided to rededicate himself to RSS reading. In the end, it comes back to Doug Belshaw’s question of curating or being curated?


RSS Still Beats FB by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

We Are All Using APIs – Kin Lane explains how APIs are a part of our daily existence. Although we may not be able to do APIs, we need to be aware that they are there and what that might mean. This focus on the ethical as much as the technical relates to Maha Bali’s post about adding humanity back to computer science and Ben Williamson’s call to explore the social consequences associated with coding. Providing a different take on the ‘Hour of Code’, Gary Stager explains that the epistemological benefit of programming comes over time as we build fluency.


We Are All Using APIs @APIEvangelist by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Learning Machines – Ben Williamson takes a dive into machine learning. He breaks his discussion down into three key areas: algorithms, hypernudges and personalised learning. Associated with this, Williamson also wrote about wearable brainwave training. Approaching this from the perspective of automating education, Naomi Barnes provides her own thoughts and reflections.


Learning Machines by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Storify Bites the Dust. If You Have WordPress, You Don’t Need Another Third Party Clown Service – Alan Levine reflects on Storify’s announcement that it will be shutting down. He provides a number of options of what to do, including downloading the HTML content and stripping the links from it. This is a reminder why #IndieWeb and owning your content is so important


Storifried by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Storytelling and Reflection

Media, Technology, Politics – Data & Society: Points – In light of technology, fake news and democracy, a group of researchers led by danah boyd have applied their thinking to a range of issues with some attempt to make sense of the current state of being in the US (and the world at large).


‘Did Media Literacy Backfire? by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Will the AFLW herald changing times for gay players in the men’s game? – Kate O’Halloran reflects on first openly gay AFL players and wonders whether this will bring about a change in the men’s game. I have been left wondering what other impacts that the women’s competition might have on AFL and women’s sport in Australia in general. All of the sudden women are not only playing prime time, but also getting involved off the field in areas such as commentary as experts. In a sport that has seemingly pushed women to the margins, I am left wondering what impact AFLW will have on such jocular institutions as The Footy Show? As a father of two daughters it leaves me with hope.


Changing Times by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Clash Of Ideas: The Tension Of Innovation – David Culberhouse outlines the importance of tension to foster innovation. Coming back to the ‘learning well’, he highlights the importance of difference and the way in which heavily managed environments undermine this.


Clash of Ideas @dculberhouse by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Collaboration – Gary Stager considers all the hype surrounding Google Docs and it’s collaborative edge. In discussing his decades of experience, he suggests that writing is selfish and collaboration should not be forced, rather it needs to be natural. Along with Peter Skillen’s reflections on technology, these posts offer a useful provocation in thinking about modern learning.


Collaboration by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

No Me Without Us: Reflections After the UNIR #SelfOER #OpenTuesday Webinar – Reflecting on the call in regards to OER, Maha Bali discusses some of the challenges associated with the privilege around sharing. This is a continuation of a discussion around OER as a way of being.


@BaliMaha ‘No Me Without Us’ by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Tweeting and blogging: Selfish, self-serving indulgences? – Responding to Clare Narayanan and her critique of the guru teachers who spend their time at Teachmeets and on Twitter, Deb Netolicky discusses finding balance between self care, family time and service to the profession. This is a reminder that being online is a choice with consequences. Something Claire Amos touches upon. Benjamin Doxtdater also suggests, maybe our primary focus should be on self-care and private journals.

Tweeting and blogging: Selfish, self-serving indulgences? by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Competition – Dale Pearce highlights three key factors involved in creating a culture of competition in Australian schools: increased funding to non-government schools, public reporting to celebrate ‘winners’ and residualisation of public education. None of these aspects have been addressed with Gonski 2.0, (although Gonski has been brought on to help identify what practice works best.) To me, this is a part of a wider conversation about education, involving issues such as managing stress, providing the appropriate support, dealing with the rise of digital abuse, working together as a system and engaging with what it actually means to be a teacher.


Competition in Education by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

#rawthought: On Ditching the (Dangerous) Dichotomy Between Content Knowledge and Creativity – Amy Burvall explains that the key to joining the dots is having dots to join in the first place. Reflecting on the dichotomy between creativity and critical thinking, Burvall illustrates arts dependency on knowledge and skills. The challenge is supporting students in making this learning experience stick. Deb Netolicky also discusses some of these points in here discussion of ‘21st Century Learning’, while Bill Ferriter questions what comes first.


On Ditching the (Dangerous) Dichotomy Between Content Knowledge and Creativity @amyburvall by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Tackle Workload. This bandwagon actually matters – Tom Sherrington discusses the problem of workload piled on the modern teacher. He highlights a number of elements to reconsider, such as report comments and pointless assessment. Considering the problem from the perspective of the teacher, Jamie Thom advocates becoming a minimalist and cutting back. Steve Brophy suggests looking after our own wellbeing by putting on your oxygen mask first. One thing that matters is our own development.


Tackle Workload by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Should men or society stop the Harvey Weinstein’s of this world – Marten Koomen explores where to now with Harvey Weinstein and the way women are treated in society. He suggests that we need a collective effort by government to develop legislation and policy. Along with Rebecca Solnit’s post on blaming women for men’s actions and Julian Stodd’s investigation of the wider cultural problem brought out in the #MeToo movement, they touch on a wider problem around gender and inequality. On the Gist podcast, Mike Pesca discusses the challenges associated with reporting such topics. Jenny Listman adds a reminder that such power is abused by regular people too.


Should men or society stop the Harvey Weinstein’s of this world @Tulip_education by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Bias Thwarts Innovation – Harold Jarsche explains why gender equity is so important when fostering a culture of innovation as it provides more dots to connect. This is a clarification of an initial post Jarsche wrote about our networked future. I have touched on the importance of gender equity before. Julian Stodd also wrote a useful post that breaks innovation down into six ‘thoughts’.


Bias Thwarts Innovation by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Excuse Me While I “Just” Go Innovate – Pernille Ripp pushes back on continual call to just innovate, arguing that she innovates every day when she teachers, plans and contacts home. The problem is that these things do not count as innovative in many experts eyes. Bill Ferriter adds his own take on the reality of the classroom teacher, explaining that he does not check his emails during the day, that he is responsible for a range of people and that working with children is his number one priority. It is interesting to compare this with the discussion between Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon on the Modern Learners podcast in regards to the failure of teachers to engage with learning how to learn, as well as Richardson’s call from a few years back that the system is broken. For more on Ripp’s work, read Jennifer Gonzalez’s profile.


Just Innovate by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

FOCUS ON … Books

I did not read as many books this year, but here those that I did:


So that was 2017 for me, what about you? Who have been the voices that have stood out for you this year? As always, comments welcome.


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