One of my heroes of the seminal business workflow books is Tim Ferris, author of the infamous Four Hour working week.
When I first read his book 3 years ago the world was not as social media saturated as it is now – no Google+, Twitter was a mere babe in arms, and the blogosphere was a teenager as opposed to fully blown mid-life crisis material.
I loved the ‘design your life and outsource it’ concept on which Ferris has based his business model. Although the extent of the myriad outsourcing methods and the labyrinthine maze of methods are too far-fetched for my particular wants and needs, there is some food for thought there. I am similarly inspired by REWORK, the book by the guys behind 37 Signals, whose insights to running a global company with remote workers in the über connected age are just a pleasure to read, absorb and ignite a creative personal reaction. Read More >
A very good friend of mine, an eminent writer and fabulous blogger is in a quandary right now.
A “publication” (and I use the term loosely as it sounds far too professional), has engaged her services and is avoiding very overdue payment. Not only this, but their Twitter timeline is full of banter with other writers engaging their services, boasts of extravagant nights out, and how a new app is being developed for their “magazine”.
Being in the zone is an amazing feeling. That moment when you are locked in a private space and flow; just being, doing, and enjoying it.
I really think these moments are the key to our happiness. Being in a flow is when you are connected to the universe, sub-consciousness, higher self or whichever way you choose to frame it. Either way, it rocks. Read More >
We share, play and listen online. We download and listen in an instant, carrying vast collections of albums in our pockets. What has been lost in the way we consume music in the social media age? Let me take you back to my childhood….
Music has always been huge in my life.
My dad, the original Papa Diva, is a self taught musician on the guitar and piano/keys. My brothers are all musicians – Matt is an Adobe Cold Fusion expert by day and an amazing singer and guitarist by night; Tim is an editor by day and multi-talented singer and guitarist, whilst Paul the baby bro is the drummer in Kill Casino. I play the violin and used to do the pub circuit in folk bands and the posh Cambridge circuit as a second violinist in a ball gown. Quite the opposite ends of the scale, both such fun. (I am rusty as a bag of old nails now, sadly but plan to get back on the bandwagon.)
Me, Matt and Paul Luc Giff
Siblings then - retro
My childhood was immersed in music – I was the coolest kid on the playschool block getting dropped off in the function band van (check me out, yo’), and the array of musician paraphernalia (amps, guitars, plectrums, sheet music) was always scattered around. When it came to music we chose to play in the house I adored those big, square, curious album sleeves. The musty, curious shelf of vinyl nestled at the bottom of the sideboard was a colourful horizon, a physical and tangible historical library of my parent’s musical tastes and their lives. Faces, colours, fashions. I loved the Steeleye Span cover with it’s optical illusion artwork, the Beatles staring at me in black and white overlooking a concrete balcony; ELO’s pop out cardboard creations and the illustrative work on the Gerry Rafferty’s Night Owl.
Cover Art for "All Around My Hat" by Steeleye Span, Chrysalis Records
I loved it.
I can mentally browse that magical shelf of sounds as I picture a Mini Me sitting on the carpet,picking my way through those sleeves of tightly packed culture. The way the albums stuck together as I prized them apart to open up the inner sleeve, slide out the satisfyingly heavy record within, and blow away the dust accumulated on it’s surface. Oh, and emptying them all over the floor to play stepping stones. Sorry Mum – but hey, I have double trouble Mini Diva’s now so I must be getting payback karma on belongings demolition
From the shared music in the parental house of Rafferty, Steeleye Span, ELO, The Beatles, The Dubliners, Rod Stewart and the like I progressed to the teenage cocoon of The Bedroom. That magical, self developmental womb wherein the teenager needs to think, to read, to have space. To just be alone and find themselves, usually to a soundtrack of music. Here I began to amass my own collection of magical vinyl squares, an act of which was integral to my teenage life. My Mum had an amazing vintage 50′s Dansette record player from her youth, and I would sit upstairs playing all her singles on it, from Floyd Kramer to George Harrison, discovering a musical heritage as well as adding my own to the pile. In snuck The Smiths, The Cure, Suede, Hothouse Flowers, Massive Attack.
Listening to music meant the act of going out to buy it. Perusing in Parrot records in Cambridge or Reckless records in London on weekends; listening in HMV and deciding which of the life soundtracks would be mine that day. As my tastes developed and I explored music more, that enjoyment of discovering new stuff and the hunting of it when pocket money and part time wages allowed was an absolutely enormous part of life.
Melody Maker and NME were bibles. I read them, inhaled them and decorated folders with the band logos. To buy an album meant to know it through and through. You read the sleeve notes, recognised the artwork, memorised lyrics if they were printed on the inner sleeve; you held the object, loved it, listened to it and lived it. If I bought maybe 2 albums a month they would be played over and over and over until I intuitively knew the next song that would come; so much so that when I hear a song know from a much loved album when it ends I imagine the start of the next track. I am sure you know what I mean.
The artwork bought so much joy and it was easy to search for an album by the style. If you mention a key seminal album you think of the aesthetic; Nirvana’s Never Mind, Sergeant Pepper by The Beatles. We have lost that visual connection between art and music.
The way we consume music has changed so dramatically I can barely recognise the landscape. I chatted this over with Papa Diva Miles and one of my bro Tim over brews this weekend. The concept of Zane Lowe’s Masterpieces on Radio 1, which returns this week, has such an interesting and vital place in our culture because we so rarely now listen to a whole album, love it, connect with it, touch it, feel it and live it as we used to in the past. What Zane is doing to reconnect his audience with seminal albums is a genius idea, and I love the way that vox pops and commentary give context to the pieces of work.
So, how is the way we consume music different in the social media digital age? Since my first iPod 8 years ago music has been more accessible. The ability to download an entire album on my phone within minutes is just incredible, and a space age concept to the teenage me upstairs with that Dansette. We can share our tastes on Last Fm, Spotify and iTunes, discover new music by following lists of our friends and peers, and carry whole shelves of those dusty, musty album equivalents in one tiny device.
Do you still know the artwork which goes with your album? Do you still listen to an album in full, over and over and over; do you know who produced it, who the band would like to thank?
Mini Diva - the next generation
This act of tactile engagement with music is something my daughters won’t know. Even my younger sister, Faith will have a vastly different experience of her music compilation and consumption; 16 years junior to me (and still, therefore annoyingly young and beautiful;0), she was a child in the CD era, the stacks of plastic square boxes on the shelf age, when musical taste could be visually read like an index, a barometer of “you” displayed for anyone stepping into your space.
We can still share our idenity and musical tastes in the social media era by displaying our #nowplaying ear worm streams on our socal media sites, but the physical connection is lost. A binary code of music in cyber space will never, for me, have the same meaning of an album. The music will still impact my life and be a soundtrack to it, but the personal relationship with that piece of work just is not the same. My collection of CD’s pretty much stops in 2004, when MP3′s took over and my CD collection began to be cumbersome and space hungry. The soundtrack to my life from my early 20′s is still visual, but that of my late 20′s and 30′s so far is an online archive.
The love and dedication that went into pre-internet musical consumption was immense. Making a mix tape for a friend or love interest was a real undertaking; to press play/record at EXACTLY the same time and attempt to not to do a clunky needle drop. As a dedicated DJ time was the gift, and to curate personal streams of music was an act of creation and pure love.
Dragging and dropping in a playlist just isn’t the same.
You can’t email someone a playlist with anywhere near as much love and warmth as mix tape. The smudged writing on the slightly wonky inner adhesive labels you stuck on, the track list so lovingly transcribed, a personal note folded into the case of the cassette tape just slightly cracking the plastic as it closed. My besties and I have supposted each other’s rocky times in life with mix tapes, and of course whole relationships have been courted with King Crimson, Revolver and Ride in a lovingly prepared sequence.
In this day and age a tape doesnt get chewed. You would not go the to lengths I did to save my Radio 1 recording of Eric Clapton at the Albert Hall with the Royal Phil by dissecting spools of tape and splicing with sellotape. I am terrible at backing up all my music so my downloads often end up lost if (when) my Macs expire, but nothing is totally fatal – they can be re-downloaded in an instant. Not so my archives of mix tapes meeting their sad, slippery tape end despite multiple patch-ups of splicing.
To me, we consume music in the way we live our daily lives. Quickly, instantly, and on multiple platforms as we multi-task.
We share it, talk about it, but engage less with each purchase on an individual level.
This week I will be taking some time out with Zane to plug into some amazing pieces of work and listen. Really, really listen.
So what about you? Has your relationship with music changed in the digital age, or maybe you have never known any different.
I finally took the plunge last month after 15 years of trying to avoid it; previously, I had been concerned about preserving my fertility. In some cases there is a risk of not coming back out of the menopause when you finish the 6 month course of injections. Also, the side effects of combined Zoladex and the HRT add-back hormone (I am on Livial) read like a who’s who of No Thank-You’s. Read More >
Dear Endometriosis,It’s late at night and I can’t sleep. I am in pain from our operation 2 days ago. Apparently you have gone and I want to say goodbye.
We first met 14 years ago, didn’t we. I was 19, full of energy and life but this pain you caused kept dragging me down. I was so tired wasn’t I, bloated, and sore. They checked for gall stones and thyroid problems before giving up on us, but I knew you were there. I just didn’t know your name.
I found a Chinese Doctor, do you remember? He was the only one who understood there was something wrong, he knew there was “stagnation” of some kind, and we had some sessions of acupuncture. I loved those, it was amazing to find that cures can come in many different ways, and for some time you didn’t give me too much pain.
I left uni and started my career with lots of energy, behaving like any other young woman living in the city. I enjoyed life, my friends, my career and a lot of nights out. Now, I may not have looked after my health very well at that stage, did that give you a chance to come back?
When you did, I really knew about it this time didn’t I? From pain which started as niggling to aching to constant crippling whit hot agony, I knew something was wrong. I had to get someone to believe me again.
Another year of blood tests, elimination of other conditions from the list, and back and forth to my doctor. I would not give up. I could feel something growing, and that was the only way I could describe it. They mentioned your name for the first time. Endometriosis. I had never heard of you. I looked you up online and I didn’t do me any favours; you seemed scary, like you wanted to take my fertility and my happiness. We had a a date set to find out if you were there, and I longed just to know as thoes long days of painkillers and struggling to work were becoming difficult.
They found you. At least I now knew why my body was in pain. It took 8 years. They took your out with diathermy, burning you away, and for a year I felt a little better. Then you came back. I had another attempt to burn you out and this time I armed myself with knowledge. I had changed the lifestyle of my younger years and wanted you to be gone by fighting from all fronts. I learnt about wheat and dairy and the effect they have on you. I had acupuncture, cupping, and reflexology. I ate mainly an organic diet and was very very active, running and cycling every day – I even managed to run a 10k, which was something I never thought I could do with you causing me mayhem, but I showed you. I even enjoyed learning about all the holistic medicine and nutrition, so thanks for adding that to my life.
My partner at the time didn’t believe you were real, did he. He thought you were a symptom of my stress. Well, you do flare up if I get angry or upset, but I think is main problem was the bedroom was’t it. Funnily enough when I am in pain the idea of sex just isn’t appealing. What man would want to have sex if his penis felt like it had white hot needles in it? Ah well, he wasn’t sticking around anyway, not worth bothering about was he, endo.
Well you came back again but this time I had moved house, and I had to start again explaining who you were. It took another 3 years until they finally believed me and went to have a look. By this time I was once again spending days depressed on strong painkillers, same old story, but this time we had a new man on the scene. This one undertstood, loved me and completely knew what and who you were.We knew you might stop us from having children and we were prepared to look at life down a different path. We took nothing for granted. So once they took you out again as best they could, burning you away and letting me recover.
A few months later we tried for children, never believing it was possible as you had laid your claim to my organs, fusing them together and scarring them inside. Well we proved you wrong, and how amazed was I to fall pregnant with Eva and Mia, my little miracle twins! They weren’t going to be held back by you.
So they are 17 months old now and you came back quickly. I have spent the last year in pain, depressed and getting more and more so as once again I had to fight to be believed that you were in there – so many people think you go after pregnancy but one thing I have learnt since knowing you is to be informed. I knew you could come back and I knew you had. We got there is the end, we found the right doctor, finally, and he got to you 2 days ago.
I don’t know if you will come back again, dear endo, but I am onto you now.
I feel bad, sometimes, for hating you so much when I probably made things easy for you to grow in there. My hormones are out of balance and I have learnt so much about nutrition and exercise to combat it, but its such a hard, expensive way to eat that with a young family you just cant do it. I believe regular massage, yoga and exercise help me. I believe in a mainly raw, vegan diet. I don’t do these things, I cannot afford to live like that, but I would tell others to try it.
I have met so many lovely people as a result of having you. You have taken away a lot of my life, you stop me from being active when I am in pain, I have missed countless events because you kept me at home on the sofa but I have also gained a lot of self awareness. I have empathy for people in chronic pain, and you gave me that. I am incredibly grateful for my beautiful daughters, and the uncertainty of their existance was down to you. You made sure I didn’t assume they would be here, you made me take the leap to motherhood earlier than I may have done otherwise. Thank you for that.
You make me aware of limitations. When I am tired, I know you so well I know how to look after myself. You have made me acutely aware of every part of my cycle so I know my body and the rhythm it works to.
I don’t know if we will part ways here, Endo. It has been our 5th operation together and for now, you are gone. If you come back, I know how to deal with you – we have got the right team in place this time. It took me long enough to get here. If you come for my daughters I will know as soon as you start and I will be onto you. We won’t wait as long as we did for me to get you out, I have awareness on my side.
I will fight now to tell other people about you. They need to know they are not imagining it, and where to go for help. We need to find out more about you too, so we know how to banish you for good and all I can do to raise money to find out about you I will.
I am volunteering to be a local group leader to support other ladies whose lives you are affecting. I know how much you hurt me, and I can give some support to others. You have given me empathy.
For all you have taken, dear Endo, you gave me a lot.
I don’t wish to see you again, but I know your face and where you lurk. If you come to find me again I will be ready for you.