Tuesday I took the afternoon off from work, took a long nap, and then headed out to see Jacob Collier in concert.
I came in with only vague expectations, but he met and exceeded them. He was creative, energetic, and uplifting, and he got the audience singing. For “In My Room,” he even had us sit on the floor (the lower level had no chairs) and sing along while the band sat on the edge of the stage, like we were at a big campfire. Like this but in Chicago:
When I think “live version” of a song, I think of just a messier rendition of the studio recording. But that wouldn’t do for Jacob Collier. No, his live versions are completely different arrangements. For example, here’s the album version of “In the Real Early Morning.” And here’s someone’s video of the live version. I wouldn’t be surprised if he improvised it on the spot. Here are some other clips to give you the flavor of the rest of the show.
It was a good experience, and Lincoln Hall did a good job of advertising their other artists. I’m thinking of looking them up to see who might bring me back.
I didn’t really do anything else for my birthday, which was on Thursday, except for getting a bunch of nice birthday messages (thank you!). But I’m considering the concert my celebration, and it was plenty!
To get me through the drive to the concert, I started the audiobook of Nicholas Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile. Antifragility is the property of benefiting from disorder, as opposed to being damaged by it (fragility) or simply being resistant to it (robustness). I finished the book on Saturday.
It was good, but I wouldn’t say great. I enjoyed his opinionated, gratuitously insulting style in Black Swan, but in Antifragile it seemed extra gratuitous, and I got tired of it quickly. And a lot of his supporting examples sounded like matters of personal preference. A lot of others were based merely on his rules of thumb, which doesn’t count as evidence. But the general idea of antifragility seems like an important one, so I’d like to look into it further.
Despite his snark and combativeness, I did find some personal qualities to admire. He comes across as having a strong sense of ethics. Practicing what you preach (having “skin in the game”) is a key part of his message, he feels it his duty to call out fraud, and he values helping the weak. With all that, I felt more inspired to act with integrity and generosity.
I’m not doing a great job at keeping up with the liturgical year like I intended, so I’m downgrading that project to my usual level of inattention. Maybe I’ll try again next year.
Lent crept up on me, and I didn’t realize it was Ash Wednesday till my coworker walked in with ashes on his forehead. I hadn’t planned any Lent practices, but I decided it’d be a good time to listen to the audio Bible my brother gave me for Christmas, The Message Remix. It’s The Message read by Kelly Ryan Dolan but with certain sections read by different Christian celebrities. I requested that version so the reading would have some variety.
I’m going to try my high intensity listening pace with this Bible. That amounts to two hours a day, spread over my commutes and meals plus a little extra. At 2x speed The Message Remix is about 40 hours, so it should take me three weeks to get through it. That fits into Lent nicely.
The quickest I’ve gotten through an audio Bible in the past is 90 days. Here are some reflections from one of those listens. I’m curious to see how my impressions this time compare.
I finished Refactoring Databases. I love databases as a programming tool, but I don’t know enough about them to evaluate this book fairly, so I’m taking other people’s word for it that it’s great. If nothing else, this one and the other books in the evolutionary distributed software architecture family give me a starting point for learning more about these topics.
Coding project generator
Not only did I put this project on hold to get through House of Leaves, I’ve taken it off this month’s agenda altogether in favor of a different project, which I’ll tell you about in the Fiction section. And then I have another project in mind for April, so I’m planning to get back to the project generator in May.
House of Leaves
Last week I pushed myself through reading the 700-page novel House of Leaves. It’s a classic of the found footage horror genre. I read it for a challenge posed by a YouTuber named Nick Nocturne, a lead-up to the first in his series of videos analyzing the book. It’s definitely an R-rated book, but if you don’t mind that and you like having your mind twisted in metafictional knots, it’s a good one. According to Nick, it has inspired and shaped a lot of creative work in the genre.
If this had been an audiobook, reading it in nine days would’ve been no problem. But print reading is difficult for me because I’m so easily sidetracked, and I slow way down when I’m bored. But I remembered I have a trick–I time each page with the stopwatch on my phone, and that keeps me focused enough to maintain a nice pace. After a while of that at the beginning, I realized the story was carrying me along on its own, so then I read normally, and I only had to use the trick a couple of times after that.
The other trouble was setting aside the time to read. I haven’t really solved that yet. But somehow despite days of very little reading mixed with a few multi-hour sessions, I got through the whole thing by Saturday evening.
The dark ambient music from my Pandora station was a fitting backdrop to the novel. I ended up mostly listening to a playlist on my phone that was derived from the station.
That leads me to my project for the rest of this month. Nick has been very involved in the House of Leaves Challenge, retweeting the participants and putting their book photos in his video. He even retweeted my link to my dark ambient station.
So I was thinking my fellow House of Leaves readers might like some pointers to more experimental literature, and this would be a perfect opportunity to finish a project I started two years ago to collect such a list. My starting point is The Routledge Companion to Experimental Literature. It should be easy enough to finish the project in the next couple of weeks. I don’t know how much attention it’ll get, but it’ll at least be worth it for my own reading.