EXERCISE SO HARD YOU CAN’T THINK DURING IT

The subject line above is from John Durham Peters, as quoted from this post ‘Research Techniques.’

Running is my exercise of choice. I warm up very slowly, to the point where the first 20 minutes always feels like a mistake, and I should be doing something else. But then I’m four miles into a run and start thinking “maybe I should do eight miles today!”

But really, the joy of running for me is not thinking, or at least, not fretting. Not worrying.

There’s taxes to be paid, deadlines to meet, tasks to complete, sure. Those will always be there.

But when running, and when I’m truly present, I notice just the important things – the ground below, the sweat on my arms, watching my breath, keeping my heart rate in check.

In that moment, at mile one or eleven, they’re the most important things in my life. If I don’t pay full attention, and stay clear minded about such matters, it could be trouble.

So running forces me to be present, which really makes you wonder what’s important in life. Like I said, the taxes, the deadlines, yep… those will never end.

But someday I will run my last mile.
Someday I’ll run up a favorite hill one last time.
They’ll be a time when I can’t just walk out the door and stroll around the block.

That’s why I keep moving, and spending money (ooops) on things that keep moving, like ultralight backpacks and tents so I can be in the woods more, or another pair of trail shoes because I use them enough that they fall apart.

So I wouldn’t say I exercise that hard, but I flirt with that level of pain. I get close enough. It’s a challenge, but not impossible.

A few months ago I started running up this road that leads to the Appalachian Trail, and it used to take me 30 minutes, from the parking lot to the peak.

Back in April it took me about 45 minutes. I gained some weight, hadn’t been running so much.

It’s June and I’m at about 34 minutes, which is 34 minutes of not thinking about a fucking thing in the world except reaching the top and not dying.

CREATED WITH HUMAN INTELLIGENCE

This was created with human intelligence (if it wasn’t painfully obvious).

Thanks to Beth Spencer and her ‘Human Intelligence Badge‘ post, for the kick in the pants to get off my laptop for a minute and just do something with a pencil and some paper.

I’ve used chatGPT in the past to help generate ideas, which I wrote about last March, about using it like a one person writing room.

However, Sam Altman’s handling of the Scarlett Johansson situation was crap. The ultimate display of the “I can do whatever I want” techbro attitude that disgusts me. And if he can behave that way with one of the biggest movie stars, how does he treat everyone else?

Then recently former head of the NSA Paul M. Nakasone will “join the company’s Sam Altman-led safety team.”

Crumple all of this garbage together with Apple’s recent announcement of their partnership with OpenAI:

“Apple is integrating ChatGPT access into experiences within iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS Sequoia, allowing users to access its expertise — as well as its image- and document-understanding capabilities — without needing to jump between tools.”

Like, guys… I’m just done with all this shit.

I want to write a blog post, send an email, publish a newsletter once a week, do some work until it’s done, and then hit the trails.

I don’t need more things pulling me to my phone.

I mean, I get it… Apple has to appease shareholders and sell more iPhones. I’m not saying making emojis with cucumbers for eyes isn’t fun.

But it’s not my fun anymore, that’s all.

Fun for me is less computing. Less apps. Fewer low-quality voice interactions with my phone and more real conversations with friends.

So yeah, all this was written with human intelligence, intended for a human audience.

PROTECT THE NETWORK

Photo by Noah Kalina

Noah Kalina has a new zine out called ‘Protect the Network,’ all about how trees and branches are pruned so that the wires can safely pass, allowing for the network to be protected.

“I think we all have a fundamental understanding that what these lines of cable are doing is providing us with essential services. Power is essential. Phones, sure, for a few people. I might even argue the internet is more important than power. Either way, we depend on the network, and so we need to protect it.”

More info here, buy it here (limited to 100 copies).

NO ACCIDENT

Photograph by Seth Werkheiser

Thinking a lot about the old web, and world building. Our blogs used to be an extension of who we were, and how we operated. Then we gave everything over to “social media profiles,” where we uploaded the perfect photo for our avatar, wrote a cute / informative / snarky bio, and then fed the machine one or two sentences at a time.

Now we’re writing 400 words again, or more. Sometimes on Substack, or uploading a video to YouTube. We’re going offline, spending less time on our phones, craving a little more that consuming 10 hours of video every day in 15 second clips.

I say this, and try to live it, and yet I keep thinking of the “yeah, but” people. The folks who will say, “well that’s good for you, but what about…” and then list 100 different reasons why we need a new platform to inhabit. That somehow we’ll all agree on the next website to set up shop, and we’ll hand ourselves over again, like a cult.

I know some people will say that’s Substack, and that I’ve really drank the Kool-Aid, but my friends, the work I’ve put in there since October 2021 is an email list that I can export and use elsewhere. The investment had a payoff, unlike so many other social media platforms that have popped up (and gone away in short order).

All that to say, I can’t worry too much about people who want to say on an app, who want to consume and subsist on what an algorithm deems worthy of their attention.

This blog is on a magazine rack the size of Nebraska, and if you’ve found it, rad. If you’ve come back, or every typed my name into a search engine, I appreciate it.

But I think that’s it.

I don’t want an algorithm to determine my listening habits. I’m gonna trust my gut and my intuition and listen to what I want to listen to.

Oh, but Seth, how will you find new music?

Have you heard of… friends? They have great taste in music, and they know me much better than any computer algorithm, so when they suggest something, it’s worth something.

I’m an adult. I can find the things I want to find, and read the things I want to read.

But it’s all made better when it’s on the free and open web.

MORE SACONY CREEK

I still really don’t know what I’m doing. Today, I put my camera in manual mode, adjusted the aperture and shutter speed (I guess), and let it rip for five minutes at a time. Holding my breath, making sure not to take a step, not fidgeting with my lens cap (I put it in my pocket after the first three shots).

Even then, getting home and managing the files and learning Davini Resolve on the fly. Like, what is color grading? I don’t know, but I know the raw camera footage was very “white light,” so I made some adjustments to make that sun more yellow as it looked real life.

Watch the full 5+ minute scene here.

UP UP UP

I just bought one 9V battery from the local CVS, and it was $10. The two packs were about $14.

Going from $1.75 to $10 is a 471% increase, and back then (in the ’70s or ’80s), you got TWO batteries for that price.

At .99 cents a gallon we used to fill up our gas tanks with a $20, and have money left over for lunch.

Now a full tank and a lunch from Wawa will run you about $45.

NO QUICK FIX

Photograph by Seth Werkheiser

Social media sold us on the idea that we can just post and lots of people would see it. 

This was true for a moment, but it was a house of cards. As more and more people post more often 24/7, there are only so many people who can see everything that is posted.

The “reach” was a lie. It helped lots of people, yes, until it didn’t. So now, as we enter a post-social media world, we’re left searching for NEW apps and algorithms, but it’s just more of the same, and it will likely end the same way.

Resist the quick fix, the shortcut. One subscriber to your email list is worth the work, the struggle, the grind.

SEARCHING

Photo by Seth Werkheiser

Love this from Mehret Biruk:

“I’m not searching for gmail.com, I’m searching for something, something of the past. That feeling. When I first learned to want and be wanted in a specific way; differently. All of it happened over the internet, the devices, the notifications. And what can I do about it now? Except hope that with enough time, enough effort, I will learn to forget the notifications. I will learn to want and be wanted in other ways; differently. Offline.”

From ‘Angry and curious

I do the same with email. Let me check one more time. Before a run. After a run. When I get home. As dinner is heating up. During dinner.

I’m searching for something. That email from someone that will sweep me off my feet. The job offer. The opportunity that gift wrapped from the universe just for me.

As Mehret says, time to deflect this feeling into something in the offline world, without a screen. I feel I get this more and more just by being outside. Finding myself stepping away from the computer more often. Going for walks. Long runs. Using my camera more often.

The search online never ends, but time on earth sure does.

HARD ART

Photo by Seth Werkheiser

Lots of people are making great art. And now AI is coming in to make things more tricky. Sure, Fiverr. All that.

The “great art” part is easy for consumers – they know it when they see it. They might not even care if you made it or a computer made it. They know what they like, and they buy it (or just save it to their desktop).

What I’m saying then is your art isn’t for those people. Your work isn’t for “I’ll take whatever is cheapest / easiest.”

Your work is for people who want to go deeper, who care, who think the person behind the art matters just as much as the art.

Those are your people, and if you’re lucky, they may someday become customers.

The text above was part of my reply to someone talking about the never-ending conundrum of “getting the word out” about what someone makes as an artist, or a painter, or a photographer. How we need social media, how everything is stacked against the independent creative person.

They had two posts on their Substack, so I mentioned this, too:

I read two of your posts – one about ADHD, and one about the atrocities of the war-ravaged world we live in. I already know you care, that you think about others, that you live with ADHD (something I know very little about)… but now I know a bit about you. You’ve already made it clear “this isn’t just about making pretty pictures.” You’ve put on full display, “This is me, this is what you get.” For what it’s worth, I’m going to subscribe – not (just) because of your art, but because of who you’ve shown yourself to be, which is how all this works.

I’ve channeled a lot of Seth Godin energy in this reply, but seriously… there’s a lot of great artwork out there. There’s no shortage of that. But there’s a shortage of people who care, who show up like you do. Keep doing that.