3 Days

It’s a bummer when you are not sure exactly what date to remember your deceased brother on.

On reflection, it’s probably not an uncommon dilemma. A family member is found, passed away, and the question is, did they pass away on the day they were found, or on the day prior, on which they were last seen about 1am? A coroner’s office can provide a letter with a date in it, but in a situation where they are unable to provide the cause of death, it’s easy to also assume that their guesswork includes the time of death.

So when this time of year rolls around, there are 3 days in September that feel significant in relation to my younger brother’s death 3 years ago.

One is 9th September. In 2011, 9th was a Friday, and it was the last day that John would ever get up in the morning and go to work. He did an early shift, at the residential care facility where he worked as a PSA (Personal Services Attendant), starting at 7am and finishing at 3pm. After work he travelled home on public transport, as he didn’t see the point of paying for the petrol, maintenance, registration and parking permit required to have a car in the inner Melbourne suburb where he lived. He probably arrived home and had a shower, and then relaxed, listening to Sonic Youth, or Depeche Mode, or reading, or watching TV.

As it happens, 9th September was not just any old normal working day for him, and he would very likely have been in a pretty good mood. It was his last shift before 2 weeks of annual leave he’d organised in advance. He had been thinking for a while about training to become a Registered Nurse, had recently sat the required tests, and enrolled in the course. He was about to have a rare weekend off, and start on Monday at a 2 week intensive, which would be followed by weekly evening classes. Having left school at the age of 16, he had never undertaken tertiary level study before, so it must have been an exciting time. He had a few drinks, made dinner, for himself and my youngest brother, and after hanging out until late in the night, he went to bed.

After that point, time slows down.

10th September 2011 came and went, but it sits in my mind like the twilight zone. It’s the hazy, not-quite-real, in-between date. It’s the gap in-between John last being alive, and being found, passed away, in his bed. It’s the day that seemed normal at the time, but in hindsight it’s an abomination, because it’s the day where the rest of us went about our Saturday assuming all was still right with our world, not realising there was a terrible chasm between our imagined reality and real life. In the morning, I took my daughter shopping for shoes and to the local op (thrift) shop. In the afternoon, I phoned my sister, who lives overseas, to tell her the news I’d received, that a friend of hers had passed away suddenly from an asthma attack, at the age of 39. I phoned my brother with the same news, but he didn’t pick up. I thought nothing of it, and he rarely responded to messages so I didn’t leave one.

We do not know at what time on the 10th his sleeping state was disrupted by something, perhaps, (as suggested by the coroner), a seizure, that turned out to be catastrophic. We don’t know when whatever-it-was changed sleep to something else, perhaps a coma, or perhaps death in mere moments. No detail about this was revealed by the coroner after the autopsy and I don’t spend a lot of time wondering about it because no answer to this question is any more satisfactory than any other.

I said that the 10th was the gap in the middle, but in fact, we do know that he was alive at the start of the 10th, because he was seen by our youngest brother, P. who lived with him. John got up at some time in the night, perhaps 1am, to get a drink, while P was still up watching TV. P. decided to go to bed, and that was the last time he ever saw his brother, and housemate, alive.

So this brings us to 11th September. It’s a date already loaded with images of grief and death for those of us living in Western countries where we associate the World Trade Centre attacks of a decade ago in the U.S. with that date. (Despite the telling fact that many of us could not name the dates of any other recent terrorist attacks in Western countries such as the London or Barcelona or Bali, let alone recite any details about the ongoing incidences of such terrorist activities in non-Western countries).

On 11th September 2011, the airwaves and the media were particularly heavy with collective memories as it was the 10th anniversary of the attacks. I drove to the supermarket that afternoon, listening to a radio program where people were calling up and sharing their memories of the day 10 years earlier, and for the first time, I felt my daughter was old enough to hear an edited version of what people were referring to, so I explained it to her.

11th September was to gain a much more personal significance for me an hour or two later when I was back at home, trying to think of something to write about on this blog, and the phone rang. That significant moment was drawing closer, that turning point in my life was now only minutes away. Those minutes ticked by while my youngest brother had a conversation on the phone with my partner. The last full minute of blissful unawareness that I had left, slowly disappeared as I followed my partner up the stairs because he “had to tell me something”. Now that I replay it in my mind, I hear those final seconds bang their way loudly past like a goddam drum in a symphony orchestra. They were the last few seconds of my previous life, the life where I thought everyone I loved was alive. That was 11th September.

 

The Sounds of Silence

Hello darkness my old friend

I’ve got insomnia again,

although I wish that I was sleeping,

instead my thoughts are gently seeping

and alertness has taken over my brain

and remains

within the sounds of silence

 

With restless thoughts I turn and toss,

recalling convos with my boss,

remembering the tasks I need to do,

noting most of them are overdue,

when my ears are smitten by the rumble of a garbage truck

that gets stuck

and squashes the sound of silence

 

And in the iPhone light I saw

10 000 Tweets, or maybe more

people Tweeting without speaking

people Tweeting without listening

people writing Tweets that voices never share

and no-one dared

disturb the sound of silence

 

“Fools” I said “You do not know -

Lavender oil is the way to go.

Try it now, I do beseech you.

Follow me that I might teach you”

but my Tweets like silent raindrops fell

and echoed in the wells of silence

 

And the people bowed and prayed

to the neon god they made,

and the phone flashed out its warning,

in the words that it was forming.

And the phone said the battery is low, down to only 20 percent,

nearly spent.

And beeped, in the sound of silence.

 

 

 

 

 

Controversy (The Track 6 Theory is debunked).

Welcome back, dear reader, to the third, and hopefully final, instalment in my instructional series on how to take a trivial, insignificant thought that popped into your brain for approximately 4 seconds, some 20 odd years ago, and see how many posts you can get out of it.

Market research conducted on this very blog* tells us that the maximum saturation point for audiences reading about the same topic over and over and over again is 3 posts. We don’t want to bore our readers silly, so that’s what we are aiming for. Let’s see if we can make it!

We will begin post no.3  by reviewing the ground we’ve covered already in this series (since reviewing weeks 1 and 2 is a sure fire way to fill in a word count.)

In week one, we looked at how the natural events that occur in life may occasionally result in one experiencing a thought so incredibly trivial that it’s not even worth recording on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even (for those still stuck back in the Middle Ages) in the Notes App on your iPhone.

We then saw how, after that astounding experience, life continues on, in some cases even for another 20 years or more, without any other majorly insignificant thoughts spoiling your otherwise edifying and witty stream-of-consciousness that is always worthy of posting up on the interwebs for the entire universe to read and admire.

We talked about how occasionally, the next thing you know is that you are looking for a topic for your blog, when that completely insignificant idea from 20 years earlier pops up, and for lack of any other ideas you decide to take on the challenge to actually make a post out of it.

So that was lesson one: how to have an insignificant idea, forget it, live life for 20 more years, then remember the idea and, despite it’s astounding lack of depth, manage to write a post about it.

Next we had lesson 2: how to string out your trivial idea to fill up a second post.

In this instalment we were introduced to devices that would help the blogger continue to wring content out of a completely insignificant idea. One was the device of apologising to your readers for the previous post, admitting that it had been finished off hurriedly because you were tired and had to go to bed. Another device was to add a very poorly executed graph into your post, in an attempt to give your badly executed research a bit more credibility. A third tip was to add a readers’ poll to give the post a bit more……interactivity.

And now, here we are at lesson 3.

Lesson 3 begins with an obvious fact. Naturally if, in post number 2, you have inserted a poll that requires a response, that leaves the reader, (or if you are lucky, readers) on the edge of their seat, or seats, waiting for post number 3, where you reveal the results of your poll. This then obliges you, in an almost legally binding contract, to follow up with a post revealing those results. This post is all about those results.

For anyone who did not participate in my poll, (and I estimate roughly  7 billion of you did not bother), my poll question was this: Choose an album and pick out your favourite track on the album. Is it track 6 or some other number?

Now firstly, I must give a hearty thankyou to all who did vote in the poll. All 4 of you deserve an iTunes card as a reward for your efforts. Unfortunately, an iTunes card was not on offer so you’ll have to remain content with the knowledge that you contributed to important scientific research.

The results of the poll were:

Track 6: 0 votes

Some Other Track: 3 votes

There Are No Track Numbers, Do I Have To Count Them?: 1 vote

For those who did not read the previous post on this topic, my first study in this field, consisting of 16 albums, all selected by myself, showed that Track 6 came up as favourite track at least 50% of the time. But in this second study, consisting of external subjects (4 in total),  Track 6 clearly suffered a crushing defeat, never coming up at all as a favourite track.

In keeping with the true spirit of scientific exploration, I am open to discarding an old hypothesis when it is proven to be incorrect. We are not afraid of a little controversy here at It Keeps Me Wondering Laboratories (TM). (especially not if it’s sung by Prince.) (*Controversy: Track 1, on the album Controversy, 1981).

In that spirit, I conclude that Track 6 is not the most popular track on a random selection of albums. In fact, based on this extensive survey of 4 people, I think we can conclude that Track 6 is generally a dud since not a single person chose it as their favourite. Furthermore, although this was not the subject of the study, we can also conclude that it’s really annoying when tracks are not numbered on the back of the CD and you have to actually count them if you want to know which track to skip to. Boring!

However, this post is about more than just the superficial results of a survey. It is also about how to utilise your survey results in order to pad out your post, yes, that’s right, your third goddam post on the same goddam topic, and by doing so, achieve our goal of writing three posts on a completely trivial and inconsequential topic. For no other reason than because we set ourselves that challenge.

The way to do this, dear reader, is with illustrations, or in this case, more graphs.

Firstly, we could graph the data that 75% of respondents chose a track other than track 6, 0 chose track 6, and 25% could not work out what number their favourite track was. (I feel their pain.)

Portion who like track 6

 

(As this is a pie chart, the proportion of people who chose Track 6 as their favourite (0) is represented by their glaring absence from getting any pie).

Next, we could track the popularity of track 6 over the past 2.5 decades:

 

popularity of track 6

 

(Data in the above graph may be mostly imaginary however Blue Lines is a real album that was released in 1992, and, perhaps coincidentally, around that time, my own personal track favourites were often track number 6)

 

And finally, we could represent the overlap between all the people in the world, all the albums in the world, and the instances where a person chooses track 6 on an album as their favourite album:

Graph all the people

 

(Graph is based on an estimation, as disappointingly, I have so far not had responses from all the people in the world.)

In conclusion: Personally I still have a soft spot for Track 6, and will always be disappointed when it’s not my favourite track, but looking objectively at all the scientific evidence, I can see that overall the vote for Track 6 is: meh.

 

*By “Market Research” I mean, that’s what I decided.

*Apologies for the quality of the images, my scanner has stopped working so I’ve had to use my trusty iPhone to take photographs of my drawings! 

WordPress 2-step Verification: Warning

Dear all

this is a short & out of character post from me, to complain about the “2-step verification” process I just embarked upon with WordPress, as a warning to anyone else who decides to upgrade their security.

When I logged in to write a post earlier today, I had a notice on my WordPress account saying that I needed to upgrade security and inviting me to set up “2-step” account verification.  I decided to do it, because at my previous work place, the website, hosted on WordPress, was hacked, so I thought it was probably a good idea to upgrade security. Lots of other online accounts now ask for a phone number as a back up in the case of losing your log in so that is nothing new. As with those online accounts, I thought that the “2 steps” would be required in the case of losing my log in or some unusual security breach – not every single time I log in!

However, after you go through the process and enter the security code that is sent to you, it is explained (when it’s too late to back out), that it’s not just providing a phone number for use in the case of needing to verify your account at some stage, the way you do for your eBay account, your Twitter account and a million other accounts. On WordPress, now that I’ve handed over my phone number it appears that I can no longer log in to my account without having my phone close at hand. I discovered this when I  just tried to log in again now, some hours later, and after entering my user name and password as per usual, a new log in screen popped up, asking for the verification, which instantaneously arrived on my phone at the same time.

Now some people may not care about this extra step or what it implies, but I really, really hate this, for 3 reasons.

1. it adds an extra step to logging in, so now just my user name and password are not enough, I have to type another field in before I can log in. That seems a little bit backward to me. Even my bank is happy for me to log in with just a user name and password, so why the Fort Knox-style security around my blog?

2. I’ve been deliberately forced into needing to have not one, but 2 devices with me even if I’m writing my blog on my laptop, which is where I usually write – or even if I want to do a sneaky edit on the computer at work. Why should I have to do that? As a Generation Xer, I am not surgically attached to my phone, but more to the point, I resent being forced by WordPress to have to have my phone activated when I want to write, or read other people’s blogs and comment on them. This feels a lot like Facebook trying to force us to download its new Messenger App onto our smartphone, which will apparently invade our privacy like nobody’s business. (I won’t be downloading that App so if you message me on Facebook, you’ll have to wait until I’m at my laptop before I reply.)

3. is my suspicions about the reason for this ridiculously over-the-top “security”. My blog is not quite as high a security risk as the investment account of a major oil company. I am not writing posts about matters of international security, unless eyeballs and moustaches have taken on a significant role in international espionage that I was not aware of. How on earth does WordPress justify the requirement for me to have to enter a uniquely generated security code each time I log in to write a post on my personal blog?? The other option was to download a Google app, which I avoided by having the codes sent by sms instead, but this makes me suspicious that the whole “security verification” ruse is just a set up to glean more personal information for Google.

Of course, I could try staying logged in to my blog, I guess, it’s just that I also resent being forced into doing that. In my thinking, if a program is set up to manipulate you into staying logged in (ala your Google account where it’s soooooo hard to find where to log off!!), it’s so that someone can build a consumer profile on me based on everything I click on or search while I’m logged in. Unlike most people, I still try to remember to log out of most applications when not using them, just to cut down on the amount of targeted advertising, directly related to sites I’ve look at, that pops up in sidebars on websites and serves to remind me that “free” access to websites and open source software comes at a price.

I guess to some extent if I want to use the internet I have to accept that I’m being profiled and that targeted advertising will happen, but I resent WordPress introducing this extra step required to log in, that comes under the pretence of being required for security, makes it more tedious for me, and sounds likely to create a problem if/when I lose my phone.

Discerning readers will probably be asking a pertinent question at this point: if I need my phone in order to log into my blog, what am I supposed to do if I lose my phone? Good question, discerning reader. Well never fear, because in an astoundingly complicated system designed to alleviate any such concerns, WordPress have sent me a list of 10 “backup codes” that I need to “print out and save” and can use if I lose my phone. What I do after I’ve logged in 10 times (you need a new code each time) is not clear, and I know it can be frustrating waiting for a response from Wordpress Support, so I don’t look forward to that scenario.

So in brief, assuming I’m not the very last person to do so, I suggest that if you are as protective about your privacy as I am, you should consider holding off on upgrading your security to “2-step verification”. I’d genuinely love to hear from WordPress why that is required, and until I do, I remain unconvinced that it IS actually about security.

I’d also love to hear from any readers with advice about this 2-step verification process. What do you think? Have you found it a pain? Am I being an obstinate old goat by refusing to just stay logged in on my computer and allow Google to track the fact that every third post I write features the word moustaches?

As Goldfish said in a recent post, I’ve always been pretty happy with WordPress, and recommended WordPress to others for blog hosting until recently. Some of the changes they make to functionality are irritating, but this new 2-step security verification is too over the top for me.  I kinda thought WordPress had a community ethos, but suddenly I feel like a pawn in a deliberate information-gathering ploy which is only for the benefit of WordPress – or possibly some other large multinational business partner – but not me. Dislike.

 

*

 **Update: (about an hour after writing this post). Yes! Just what I was hoping for  – the lovely Draliman responded almost immediately with advice on how to turn the 2-step verification off – something that I couldn’t find by searching the WordPress Support page or help forums. I knew it would take days to get a response from WordPress if I posted a question on the support page, so in the heat of the moment, I thought I’d try my luck with putting it out to all you lovely readers. For anyone else who doesn’t like 2-step verification, check out Draliman’s comment below to find out how to turn the pesky thing off.  

Unfinished Sympathy, or, more on the Track 6 Theory

Last week I wrote a post that purported to be about how to write a post.

That was really a fudge. In reality, it wasn’t a guide to writing a post, or not in a step-by-step manner, anyway. It was about how a completely trivial idea can sit with you for years, floating around in the muddle of thoughts and ideas in your brain, and then pop up one day in the form of something that you decide to try and write about. That is often true of a meaningful idea, sure, but hopefully I illustrated that it can also be true for a silly, inconsequential thought that you should have forgotten about 20 years ago.

The idea I wrote about was, that on many of my albums, track number 6 seems to be my favourite track. That thought came to me in about 1992, around the time I was listening to Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack, from their album Blue Lines.

As I said, not a meaningful thought by any stretch of the imagination. However I did my best to stretch this banal thought into an amusing piece of writing by using the model of a scientific study, although that in itself turned out to be inconclusive due to the size of the data.

But I’ve been bothered by aspects of this post, and today, I feel that I have to write a follow up post, to apologise to all the scientists that closely follow this blog, for the sloppiness of my scientific methodology.

It’s no excuse, I know, but as often happens, I’d spent a few hours on that post, it was 11.30pm as I was finishing it up, I was aware that it was becoming way too long, and I needed to round it off. My friends, in these circumstances, who among us does not occasionally wrap up a post as quickly as possible without due rigour to scientific process or any other process? But even as I was writing the final sentences in that post, all the flaws in my “scientific study” were making themselves apparent to me. At that point, though, I just wanted to publish the damn thing and go to bed, and to hell with how accurate it was, a sentiment that I’m sure investigative journalists working for the BBC can sympathise with.

Now, by “flaws,” I don’t mean the central fact that my “scientific study” was an examination into the frequency of track number 6 being my favourite track on a random selection of albums. I was aware that my “study” was of no significance to society. I was quite prepared to accept that it would NOT be written up in New Scientist magazine, or even in Smash Hits magazine, any time soon.

What I mean by “flaws,” is that I’m aware that the best creative writing is rigorous in its process – for example, if putting together a parody of a scientific study, a good writer would probably research scientific methodology  and make sure that the study followed that process as much as possible. Mine was written up lazily, without even peeking into my daughter’s year 9 science textbooks for help.

Of course one of those flaws was the tiny sample size of 16 albums, but that was a creative decision. I restricted the sample for the sake of the post, because I was presenting it as a list, and there were limits to how much interest a list of songs was going to retain if it got much longer. It was also time consuming, as, in some cases, I had to put albums on to decide between tracks that were competing for favourite.

Another flaw I became aware of was that I should have noted the number of my favourite track when it wasn’t track 6. That way, the study would have recorded whether any other track numbers were favourites more often than track 6. Mathematically, (could there be any other way?) the odds of that seem unlikely. So the study seems to suggest that track 6 could well be most often my favourite track, however with a sample size of only 16 albums I had to determine that this was inconclusive.

graph track 6

Some scientific rigour: a graph representing the instances of track 6 being favoured, or “other” track being favoured.

Another of the flaws in my study, which I only realised afterwards, was subjectivity. Of course, the question of a “favourite” track is entirely subjective. My favourite track is, of course, not necessarily your favourite track, dear reader. I am not sure what the scientific process is around accounting for, or trying to mitigate against, subjectivity, but I figure that one way to counter the subjectivity of a survey like this would be to have a much larger sample of respondents (ie,more than 1 person.)

With this intention, I have (I think) created a poll, for anyone who is interested in contributing to this important study. Select an album from your shelves, or from your iPhone – randomly or not, it doesn’t matter. Select your favourite track on that album. Check the track number. Is it number 6? Either way, please respond accordingly. The poll didn’t seem to allow me to create a field where you can write in the track number that is your favourite, so I’ve had to simply create the alternatives of Track 6, or Other, but I did also add a freeform field so you can tell me what the track number is if you’d like to. You can also tell me what the album and song were if you’d like to. I’ve never done a poll before so I have no idea in what format your answers will be revealed to me but I look forward to finding out.

So dear readers, let’s rally together in the interests of solving a very significant question that has kept the entire scientific world, or at the very least, me, busy for something akin to 3 full hours now. Let’s see if track 6 really is, overall, the most popular track on albums across the board, or whether there is no pattern at all to favourite tracks. As part of the same research, we may even find out if I can squeeze a third post out of this topic!!?

And finally, thank you all for your contribution to science.

 

 

Four and Three and Two and One

Here is one way to write a post.

Make a small observation to yourself. I don’t mean a momentous observation, a significant observation, or a worthy observation of any sort. I’m talking about an observation so insignificant that you consider it unworthy even of recording in your personal diary, where you note all kinds of trivial minutae. Oh, also – and this is critical – make this observation back in 1992. (at which time, your journal was a hardbound notebook that you wrote in with an actual pen. I get writer’s cramp just thinking about it).

My friends, the kind of observation I’m talking about is the sort of trivial observation that skits through your brain in a millisecond and is gone, and usually never troubles you again. But in this case, this ridiculously inconsequential observation continues to pop up occasionally, when you observe that your original idea is reinforced. Despite it being reinforced, it is still without doubt, an idea so utterly trivial that is not worthy of noting anywhere, for any reason. Declaring your observation to the world will make no impact, lasting or otherwise, on the history of humankind. No-one will, upon reading of your pronouncement, sit down and reconsider the choices they’ve made in their lives, and vow to make a change. No breakthroughs in medicine will be made, no children will be saved, in fact I’d go so far as to say that not even a single reality TV show will be created around your theory.

In the time since you originally made this trivial observation, the world continues to turn with regularity, the seasons come and go, the universe continues to slowly expand, you get older, perhaps you finish a visual arts degree and get a job answering the phone at a bank.

Soon, people who are not computer boffins are talking about the world wide web. More time passes, and you create an email account and start writing electronic communications to people, increasingly in place of phoning or speaking to them in person. You eventually lash out and buy a second hand laptop with a dial-up internet connection. At times, when the connection does not drop out, you perceive with some excitement that the internet appears to open up new avenues for writing. You learn about about web logs. You start to read other people’s web logs – or, blogs – and toy with the idea of writing one yourself.  But what can you write about?

You procrastinate. Instead of starting a blog, you read other people’s blogs, and notice that people are writing engaging blogs about food, about parenting, about books, or about building their own house out of egg cartons, but you are not a food expert, don’t wish to write about parenting, don’t have the confidence to write book reviews, and don’t have a lot of egg cartons lying around.

You read more blogs, and try to hone in on some that you really like. Based on these blogs you decide that your blog is not going to be “about” anything. It will be a blog of observations, reflections, ramblings about anything. (Later on, you will wish you had thought more carefully about the name and url because if you had, it would be, in an homage to Waiting for Godot, located at blatheringaboutnothing.wordpress.com, but changing the address once the blog is established sounds too fraught with difficulty to contemplate.)

So, you start to write a blog. Writing the first few posts is fun but then you realise that you have to come up with observations, reflections, ideas and ramblings worth writing about with some kind of regularity. Oh dear. What a predicament you have put yourself in!

Lacking the time to work on ideas for blog topics other than when you sit down to write, you find it difficult to post frequently and consistently about highbrow ideas such as the nature of human existence, whether there is life after death, or whether painting really is dead. Your blog rapidly begins to be filled with writing about eyeballs, moustaches, rhinos, and the weather. In your credit, you do manage a few posts about Nietzsche, but unfortunately you are no scholar of existentialism and your explorations of the philosopher’s ideas remain sadly inept and superficial, and focussed mostly on his repugnant facial hair. Time goes by, and you reach a point where one day, that trivial observation from 20 years ago pokes its head up and says, just like the Labour Party did in 1972, It’s time.

You decide to accept the challenge and write a post about your frivolous observation, made 20 years earlier. Thinking about how to turn such a trivial idea into an entire post, you decide the best approach will be to write an amusing piece, covering the lengthy research undertaken to come up with your theory, and then present the evidence for and against. It seems possible that you might be able to cobble together something amusing. You sit down to write it.

Cue the present, and a first person narrative.

Here is my observation, made some 2 decades ago: I notice that on many of my albums, my favourite track is track number 6.

Trivial? Certainly. Banal? Exquisitely. Not worthy of being recorded in writing? Undoubtedly.

In the real world, the one that exists outside the world wide web, would I attempt to craft an interesting piece of writing based on such a completely trivial thought? Probably not. But this is the blogosphere, so let’s press on, sticking to the challenge at hand.

The Hypothesis: that on a random selection of albums, Track 6 will most often be a “favourite” track.

Definitions: For the purposes of this experiment, I have defined “favourite” as the outstanding favourite. If there are many tracks on an album considered to be equal favourites, then the answer to whether the song is a favourite is “no”. For the purposes of scientific rigour, I am being very tough on myself! (Eeek!)

Method: my research, conducted over the past 20 years on this topic, has consisted of listening to a lot of albums. Data has been inconsistent, and record keeping has been poor, to say the least. Analysis of anecdotal data indicates that on some albums, track 6 was my favourite track and on others, it was not.

Today, in the interests of proving or refuting the original hypothesis once and for all, I have selected a sample of albums to check. This sample consists of two sub categories: albums I was listening to in 1992, at the time that I developed this theory, as well as a random selection of more recent albums, for comparison, in case for some reason 1992 had a strong bias towards putting the best track at number 6.

Data:

Albums I was listening to in 1992:

Massive Attack, Blue Lines. Track 6: Unfinished Sympathy. Favourite track? Yes.

Not Drowning Waving, The Cold and The Crackle. Track 6: Little King. Favourite Track? No.

The Velvet Underground, V.U. Track 6: Foggy Notion. Favourite track? Yes.

Primal Scream, Screamadelica. Track 6: Come Together. Favourite track? No

Tom Waits, Bone Machine. Track 6: The Ocean Doesn’t Want Me Today. Favourite Track? No

The Clouds, Penny Century. Track 6: Too Cool. Favourite Track? No

R.E.M.  Automatic For The People. Track 6: Sweetness Follows. Favourite track? Yes

Leonard Cohen, So Long Marianne. Track 6: Bird On A Wire. Favourite track? No

 

Random* selection of other albums :

 

Sonic Youth, Goo. Track 6: My Friend Goo. Favourite track? No

Kim Salmon and The Surrealists, Sin Factory. Track 6: Come On Baby. Favourite Track? No

Beastie Boys, Ill Communication. Track 6: Sabotage. Favourite Track? No

Radiohead, Kid A. Track 6: Optimistic. Favourite Track? No

The Rapture, Echoes. Track 6: House of Jealous Lovers. Favourite Track? Yes

LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver. Track 6: Us V Them. Favourite Track? No

Grinderman, Grinderman 2. Track 6: Evil. Favourite Track? Yes.

The National, High Violet. Track 6: Bloodbuzz Ohio. Favourite Track? Yes

 

Analysis:

Out of 16 albums, track number 6 is my favourite track on 6. Track 6 does not rate significantly higher on albums from 1992, so I can’t even try to claim that there was a conspiracy in 1992 to always put the best track at number 6.

Conclusion:

Analysis proves that track 6 is not always my favourite track. However, what this analysis does not prove, is, whether track 6 is my favourite track more often than any other number? Track 6 has come up strongly, but in a sample of only 16 albums, I can only conclude that the sample is too small and therefore the data is inconclusive. Damn.

*

So finally, dear reader,  you reach the end of your post. You have learned how to let an idea, first thought of as completely insignificant 20 years earlier, stew away in the back of your mind for 2 decades. You’ve learned how to take that totally frivolous thought, and milk it for all it’s worth when you need a topic to write about on your blog 20 years later. Here we can see the end product of this creative process: a post that is an odd mixture of a “how-to” style guide to writing a post, combined with a research experiment into whether or not track 6 is always the best track on an album. This is what the internet has done to us.

 *

*As this is a personal blog, and not a scientific journal, I will admit that there was some licence taken with the “randomness” of albums selected in the second section. The prompt for this post was in fact when I put on Ill Communication today, and noted that Sabotage, the biggest hit from that album, but not my clear favourite on the album, was track number 6. I decided to get my “track 6″ theory sorted out for once and for all, however in that endeavour I have dismally failed. Research continues.

 

2. Shy, Shy (a second try)

A few weeks ago, I sat down to write a post about shyness, but, as often happens to me, I was immediately distracted by a small bit of trivia that should have been a mere footnote, and ended up heading off on a tangent that finally took up the entire post.

What happened was this. I sat down to write my post with a topic in mind, (a better start than some posts have had!), and as usual, hoped that a title would suggest itself. On this occasion, the title popped into my head the instant I sat down. It was a lyric (and song title) from a silly 80’s pop song: Too shy shy, hush hush, eye to eye, by a band aptly titled Kajagoogoo.

But as soon as I’d inserted this idiotic title into the title field, I felt as if I couldn’t just move on and talk about the topic of shyness, leaving those ridiculous lyrics hanging there unexplained. For a start, anyone born after about 1984 would have no clue as to the origins of the title, and I’d be forever misconstrued as a terrible poet.* It seemed that the lyrics were too incredibly stupid NOT to focus on.

But I won’t dwell any further on this lame pop song. Rather than divert another post right off track, let’s move on. This post is attempt number 2: Shyness.

A few weeks ago I attended a talk about shyness, by an Australian writer and broadcaster, Sian Prior, whose memoir, Shy had just been published. No doubt like many others in the audience, I attended the talk because I consider myself a shy person, and felt a jealous curiosity to hear how someone else who describes herself as shy, has made a career out of doing things I self-selected out of  – radio broadcasting, arts journalism, writing reviews – and developed a high public profile in the process.

The main two questions that come up for me, after attending this talk and then reading other people’s blogs on the topic, are: what is the difference between being an introvert and being shy? – and, how do you differentiate between shyness, introversion, and low self-esteem?

I know that shyness and introversion are not the same as one another, nor the same as having low self-esteem, but in my own case at least, I feel that my shyness is a product of having two very shy parents, as well as having had very low self-esteem as a child.

One of the posts I read while researching was this great post about being an introvert, by dorkymum. As she mentions, “introversion” means a tendency to need time away from others in order to re-energise, (as opposed to the olden-day perception of introverts as people with no self-confidence) and I completely relate to that. Dorkymum also described introverts as being stressed out by having too many things crammed into a day. I was not aware that was a trait of introverts, but I was certainly aware that was my own response to my time being too full! Having to go straight from an appointment, to work, to a dinner with friends feels like too much to me. Occasionally I have to turn down dinner invitations from an extraverted friend of mine because to cram in another social function on my weekend won’t leave me enough time for some quiet reflective activity – like reading, or writing this post. However, in a small group of well-known people I can come across as extraverted, and I arrive home after a good night out feeling energised by the socialising I’ve just done. So I’m not sure whether I am an introvert, or the term that Sian Prior uses for herself: a “shy extrovert”. But my interest in this topic goes beyond trying to work out how to classify myself.

One of the reasons I’ve thought about shyness, and/or introversion, for a while was that I was looking to change jobs, and in the arts industry, at least, it seems to be hard to find any Position Description that does not, between the lines, require you to be an extraverted, confident, high-achieving go-getter, prepared to try anything, and to spend your free time networking for the organisation. Now I love working in the arts, don’t get me wrong, clearly that’s why I stick with it. The trouble was that on paper I met the criteria for a lot of jobs, and made it to interviews for a high percentage of those I applied for, but after being told about 10 times over 3 years that I was “only just missed out, you were our second choice”, I couldn’t help but suspect that what let me down was my natural shyness and/or introversion.

Somehow I feel sure those jobs all went to extraverted, high-achieving, twenty-something go-getters that bounced into the interview oozing with so much confidence that the panel hired them on the spot. Maybe I’m displaying a soon-to-be totally outmoded Generation X way of thinking, but I find the idea that one person can be just amazing at everything from managing the finances and running payroll, to creating the artwork for marketing, to building the website, booking the tickets, working at reception, setting up the AV, managing the casual staff, ensuring all legal compliance is covered, and bringing in sponsors and donors, as well as the bins at night*, a little bit unrealistic. Whether people are shy, introverted, or extraverted is only one of the factors that make them the right person for the job, but I feel as if PDs in the artworld are all written with confident extraverts in mind.

Isn’t it just common sense to play to people’s strengths? The shy amongst us often make great people to do your administration, your graphic design, your contracts, your databases, your IT, or your back of house technical and stage set up – because we like to do the essential work in the background that keeps projects running. We may not want frontline roles. We may not be the best person to manage your Front of House, your Publicity Campaign, or to represent your company at the industry trade show. That’s not to say that shy, or introverted people, can’t do these things well, but that in general, most prefer not to. Shy, or introverted people can be creators of cultural products (or other kinds of products). For goodness sakes, writers are the epitomy of introverts, aren’t they? A preference for solitary activity – tick! Reenergise by spending time alone? Tick! Enjoy reflective thought? Tick! Sian Prior is only one example in a long line of shy or introverted people who are also writers.

I think our self-image as shy or introverted allows the shy amongst us to self-select out of certain careers without realising what a limited picture we have of the career, and of ourselves. When I was at school, I contemplated journalism as a career, for about 10 minutes. Based on what I’d seen on TV, all I knew about being a journalist back then was that I’d need to be able to push my way through a scrum of other media to get to the front at a press conference and yell out questions, something which I could do about as comfortably as I could nominate myself to become Prime Minister of Australia*. No other kind of writing-based career occurred to me way back then (there were probably no other examples supplied in the Year 10 Job Guide). Now, I think that public radio would have  suited me, because of my love of music and ability to amuse myself and sometimes others with my scintillating verbal repartee, but back then I’d never heard of public radio, and I was probably correct in assuming that to be an announce on commercial radio would have required me to be not only extraverted but pretty much cut-throat competitive. That definitely ruled me out!)

But was it shyness, introversion, or a lack of self-esteem, that caused me not to pursue those things? In my case I think a lack of self-esteem. That was a distinction I would have been interested to hear Prior talk about. Prior talked about feeling anxious knowing she had to go to a party, and called that shyness, which it is. But I wonder, of myself, what lies even deeper. What causes my “shyness”. Isn’t it a sense of not being good enough to command others’ attention? I know that feeling. I always expect people will forget my name. (Invariably I’m correct, because my name belongs to a dark haired, olive skinned woman, not a freckled, fair-skinned and sandy-blonde one, but these days I don’t take it personally since I forget everyone else’s names too.)

After years of bad publicity, “introversion” and “shyness” are finally traits we can admit to without shame, but “low self-esteem” is still not kosher to admit to, certainly not as a current personality trait. “Hi there, boy- that-I-kissed when I was 17! Sorry I never called you back all those years ago, I had low self-esteem, so when you said I should get your number from our mutual friend and give you a call, I assumed you were just saying that to be nice.”*

I think my confidence has improved with age. Compared to my childhood self, I am an outgoing extravert! Compared to my teenage self, I’m socially at ease in a room full of slightly-known people! But I could still improve. Even my writing betrays my lack of confidence in myself.

I mentioned earlier that Prior writes reviews, another activity that I’m a bit jealous of. The difficulty for me is that writing reviews requires a decent amount of self-esteem, because you need to form a strong opinion and have the confidence to feel that opinion is correct, before you put it out there for the world to read. I write a blog, and a lot of posts on my blog reference books and music, and, to a lesser extent, theatre and visual art, but I deliberately avoid writing anything that could be formally called a “review.” That’s because I don’t have the confidence to do that. And that’s not shyness or introversion, is it?

 *

Links to other posts on this topic:

Living and Loving As an Introvert

sianprior.com

- I saw an interestingly titled post about Famous Introverts on the Huffington Post but every time I try to load a page of the Huffington Post, my browser crashes – I lost a paragraph of this post as a result. So search and click at your own risk – but save your work first!

 

*I AM a terrible poet, if we can go by that poem I spent most of my first year psychology tutorials writing.

*that mix of tasks was pretty much covered in a PD I recently looked at, with the exception perhaps of putting out the bins.

*We are looking for new nominations for Prime Minister of Australia, as the current one seems to be broken and continuing to use him is causing irreparable damage. Alternatively we are willing to trade him for an incomplete set of Star Wars cards or an old pair of socks.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,256 other followers

%d bloggers like this: