I was in early high school when I got my first alarm clock radio. My parents were a bit older when I was born, so the LPs in the back of our hall closet were a generation-and-a-half out-of date: I remember mostly musical soundtracks like South Pacific and West Side Story. My older brother had brought the Beatles into our house but he had moved away for college and adulthood years before and the only trace of his musical influence was a Simon & Garfunkel greatest hits 8-track tape my mom had bought for a penny from the Time-Life record club.
In my bedroom late at night in the early 80s, I explored the sounds inside my new radio. I would bury myself underneath my Star Trek sheets, pull the radio inside, and listen with volume barely perceptible. Three was no real reason for the secrecy. I’m sure my parents wouldn’t have particularly cared. But I was a private kid. I didn’t want to let on that I was curious about the adult world. Pop radio and MASH reruns were my secret.
I had had a shortwave radio in middle school and brought the thrill of long-distance discovery to my radio explorations. Geography and sound had more mystery in those days before the internet. On a cold, clear night, I could tune in AM powerhouses half a continent away.
One particularly cold night, one of these distant signals played a song I had never heard or even imagined. It was half-drowned out by static. The signal drifted in and out in waves but I listened mesmerized. To a introverted kid in a sleep Philly suburb, this song was a key to a yearned-for future. I was instantly certain that that no one around me had ever heard this song. If only I could make out some words, maybe I could spend the next year scanning the distant radio bands to hear it again. As I got older, I could go into the city to scour bins in the seediest of indie record stores. This song no one knew would be a touchstones to a new adulthood I was constructing in the secret of my bedroom.
As the fade came, I barely caught the DJ’s words through the static. “Hotel California.” I vowed to myself that someday, somehow, I would find this song and hear it again.
RIP Glenn Frey.
Loosely inspired by this article, Mothers Day Frame Tutorial — DIY, I made a framed of the kid’s handprints as a Mothers Day present.
NPR’s Planet Money recently ran an article on glass recycling, How A Used Bottle Becomes A New Bottle, In 6 Gifs. The Gif part is what intrigued me. A “gif” is a tightly-compressed image format file that web designers leaned on a lot back in the days of low bandwidth. It’s especially good for designs with a few discreet colors, such as corporate logos or simple cartoons. It also supports a kind of primitive animation that was completely overused in the late 90s to give webpages flying unicorns and spinning globes.
Animated gifs have grown up. They make up half the posts on Tumblr. They are often derived from funny scenes in movies and come with humorous captions. The Planet Money piece uses them for storytelling: text is illustrated by six gifs showing different parts of the recycling process. The movement helps tell the story – indeed most of the shots would be visually uninteresting if they were static.
The short loops reminds me of Vine, the six-second video service from Twitter which I’ve used a lot for silly kid antics. They can also tell a simple story (they’re particularly well suited to repetitive kid antics: up the steps, down the slide, up the steps, down the slide, up…).
In my work with Friends Journal I’ve done some 7 – 12 minute video interviews with off-site authors using Google Hangouts, which essentially just records the video conversation. It’s fine for what we use it for, but the quality depends a lot on the equipment on the other end. If the bandwidth is low or the webcam poor quality, it will show, and there are few options for post-production editing. But honestly, this is why I use Hangouts: a short web-only interview won’t turn into a weeklong project.
Producing high-quality video requires controlling all of the equipment, shooting ten times more footage than you think you’ll need, and then hours of work condensing and editing it down to a story. And after all this it’s possible you’ll end up with something that doesn’t get many views. Few Youtube users actually watch videos all the way through to the end, drifting away to other internet distractions in the first few minutes.
I like the combination of the simple short video clips (whether Vine or animated gif) wedded to words. My last post here was the very light-weight story about a summer afternoon project. Yesterday, I tried again, shooting a short animated gif of Tibetan monks visiting a local meetinghouse. I don’t think it really worked. They’re constructing a sand mandala grain-by-grain. The small movements of their funnel sticks as sand drops is so small that a regular static photo would suffice. But I’ll keep experimenting with the form.
One of the things I liked about my old Quaker job is that I occasionally had a moment in between all of the staff meetings (and meetings about staff meetings, and meetings about meetings about staff meetings, I kid you not) to take interesting calls and emails from Friends wanting to talk about the state of Friends in their area: how to start a worship group if no Friends existed, how to revitalize a local Meeting, how to work through some growing pains or cultural conflicts. I’ve thought about replicating that on the blog, and halfway through responding to one of tonight’s emails I realized I was practically writing a blog post. So here it is. Please feel free to add your own responses to this Friend in the comments.
I have read that Meetings that are
silent for long periods of time often wither away. But I can’t remember where I
read that, or if the observation has facts to back it up. Do you know of any
source where I can look this up?
can’t think of any specific source for that observation. It is
sometimes used as an argument against waiting worship, a prelude to the
introduction of some sort of programming. While it’s true that too much
silence can be a warning sign, I suspect that Meetings that talk too
much are probably also just as likely to wither away (at least to
Inward Christ that often seems to speak in whispers). I think the
determining factor is less decibel level but attention to the workings
of the Holy Spirit.
One of the main roles of ministry is to teach. Another is to remind
us to keep turning to God. Another is to remind us that we live by
higher standards than the default required by the secular world in
which we live. If the Friends community is fulfilling these functions
through some other channel than ministry in meeting for worship then
the Meeting’s probably healthy even if it is quiet.
Unfortunately there are plenty of Meetings are too silent on all
fronts. This means that the young and the newcomers will have a hard
time getting brought into the spiritual life of Friends. Once upon a
time the Meeting annually reviewed the state of its ministry as part of
its queries to Quarterly and Yearly Meetings, which gave neighboring
Friends opportunities to provide assistance, advise or even ministers.
The practice of written answers to queries have been dropped by most
Friends but the possibility of appealing to other Quaker bodies is
still a definite possibility.
Your Friend, Martin
A few months ago I started keeping a links blog that evolved into the “Quaker Blog Watch” (formally at home at “nonviolence.org/quaker” though included as a column elsewhere). This is my answer to the “aggregation question” that a few of us were tossing around in Sixth Month. I’ve never believed in an uberBlog that would to supercede all of our individual ones and act as gate-keeper to “proper” Quakerism. For all my Quaker Conservativism I’m still a Hicksite and we’re into a certain live-and-let live creative disorder in our religious life.
I also don’t like technical solutions. It helps to have a human doing this. And it helps (I think) if they have some opinions. When I began my list of annotated Quaker links I called it my “Subjective Guide” and these links are also somewhat subjective. I don’t include every post on Quakerism: only the ones that make me think or that challenge me in some way. Mediocrity, good intentions and a famous last name mean less to me than simple faithfulness to one’s call.
There’s no way to keep stats but it looks like the links are being used (hours after I stumble across a previously-unknown site I see comments from regular Quaker Ranter readers!). Here’s the next step: instructions on adding the “last seven entries of the Quaker blog watch to your site.” I imagine some of you might want to try it out on your sidebar. If so, let me know how it works: I’m open to tweaking it. And do remember I’ll be disappearing for a few days “sometime soon” (still waiting, that kid can’t stay in there too long.)