torsdag, september 29, 2011

Feist - Metal

Since I heard the first single of Feist's upcoming album, How come you never go there, I've been eagerly awaiting the rest of the album, titled Metals. It isn't coming out until next week, but in exchange for your email you can already listen to the album online.

onsdag, september 28, 2011


I see storytelling in everything.

The most common place to look for stories is where they are approached in artistic ways, presented in many different forms; books, movies, music, dance, illustrations, spoken word. But we also find stories in lectures and written curriculum, we find them even in the way we present statistics. And then there are the stories we tell ourselves; the narratives we draw up about our own lives.

Recently I've chosen to start eating vegan. Apart from changing my eating habits, it might also affect the way I tell myself. Do I consider it a strictly personal choice? A political statement? A fashion statement? Do I tell myself that I am better than the people who choose differently, or do I think eating habits doesn't make people better or worse? Do I tell myself that I will help change the world because of it? Or do I question whether my actions have any affect at all? Do I get angry with myself for not having made the change earlier on, or do I tell myself I should be proud for making the choice at all? Or a little bit of all of the above?

When your husband forgets to do the dishes, does it mean that he doesn't love you? Enough, or the right way? Does it mean that he doesn't respect you? Or that he's just lazy? And if you're okay with his laziness, or his lack of respect, what does that say about you?

Did I miss the buss because the line at the ticket office was longer than I expected? Or because the universe is involved, creating obstacles that make it hard for me to be on time? (Someone called the second I was gonna leave, my wallet was still at the office when I left, my jacket was not where it's supposed to be.) Or simply because I didn't plan my time the way I should have? And if that is the case, is it because I am a lazy asshole who doesn't care if I am late to meet my friends? Or because that's just the way life is sometimes - things take time, and unforeseen events occur.

The answers to these questions don't change the facts; I eat the way I do, the dishes have not been done, and as I go back for my wallet I see the bus driving away. But the different answers we give will create stories that affect the way we perceive ourselves; they say something important about us, and might also dictate the way we see the world, and the people around us. But no matter who they tell, or what they tell, or how they are told, they're stories. Some stories are well told, others are not, some open our eyes to a side of things that we haven't thought of, others are deliberately told in a way that convey only half the truth.

We are bombarded by stories every day. Though we live in the information age many who should consider storytelling at least a part of their payed job do not bother learning the craft. But no matter what we're supposed to do while on the clock I think we all should consider ourselves storytellers on the home front.

It is quite rare to come across someone who seems to take the craft of storytelling seriously. So when I do, it makes me extremely happy. And I try to learn from them. The best storytellers both have something to say, and says it in an interesting way. But there are a million ways to tell a story. And in my view, there are a million interesting things to tell. Doubtless, there is a matter of personal taste to what stories we like; if we find the theme interesting, or if we appreciate the way the story is told, but that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the craft.

Depending on how we think of the word 'best', the best story ever told can be anything from the personal details we only tell ourselves, to the stories that touch countless hearts, and end up traveling the world between book covers, on stage, on screen, on canvas, or through head phones. I believe that when a storyteller is curious about 'something', provided she follows her curiosity all the way; no matter how sad or uncomfortable, or even seemingly mundane that 'something' appears at first (or second) glance, she'll will find something that is worth telling. And told the right way, personal stories can have universal resonance and appeal.

The Moth - true stories told live, are filmed and recorded in front of a live audience, so the occasional laughter and sighs you hear are real. But I download them as podcasts, and what I like about The Moth is the simpleness - a story told without any help but the storyteller's words and voice. There is nothing to hide behind; there is nothing that will enhance your story, except the way you tell it. A craft one can learn, but some seem to be born with a talent. I am not one of them, and so I am fascinated by those who are.

Every now and then you'll hear mind blowing stories at The Moth, but seldom any that alter the fundamental way you perceive the world, or leave you pondering who you are, throwing you into an existential crises. (Luckily.) What you get is a lot of good stories, about (more or less ordinary) everyday life. Listing my favourites I could list most of them, as they're generally really, really good. Only a scarce number are not good at all, and the rest is really good, or at least good. Here's one link though, to get you started; Salman Rushdie talking about what he did to finish a novel, when he had writer's block.

Another place I go to for a steady flow of well told stories is This American Life (TAL). Each week they choose a theme, and during the hour long podcast they bring us stories on that theme. The show makes for excellent company while I'm in the kitchen cooking, or when traveling. TAL's hilarious take on being broken up has made me laugh through my tears more than once, and left me with a newfound love for Phil Collins. The episode about life after death is a curious search into a complex and abstract theme. But the stories make it more tangible, and the episode made me ponder about life before death. I had long been wondering about what money is? when TAL asked the question. The answer? Here you'll find out more about the invention of money.

The Moth and TAL both master the craft of storytelling. But most of the stories they tell are begging to be told. That does not lessen the craft of their work, this is simply a transition; there are also interesting stories that are not as easily told. Facts about the universe, statistics, research about humanity and ideological thinking, abstract subjects or ideas, that would rather beg you to study them thoroughly. Some of them would even be like: I could create the basis for an interesting PhD. And still, some people tell us these stories with such ease I cannot but applaud them.

On you find interesting talks about a wide range of topics. Though maybe not PhD material, this is one of my favourite talks, and in my view a good example of a great storyteller; Benjamin Zander about music and passion. (linked to youtube instead of TED, because the video for some reason is better there.) I don't mind classical music, but I don't listen a lot to it, and I know even less about it. Zander knows his audience might be much like me, and tells his story directed at us. He draws me in with laughter, and fills my head with new thoughts that stay with me for much longer than the 20 minute talk.

The latest contribution to the bookmarks folder on my computer labeled 'great and inspirational storytelling' is RSAnimate. They tell complex ideas in such a simple way I was inspired to write this post. The first video I saw of theirs was this one:

It blew my mind. Possibly (a little bit) because I'd, only a month earlier, had a similar idea of animating essayistic thoughts, but never seen it done this way. And it worked the way I imagined and hoped for, making it possible to talk about very complex ideas, without loosing peoples attention.

There is a lot more of great animated videos where that came from. Though he is not animated, at least not in that way, I'll let Timothy Wilson end this post. Here he is talking about how we can transform our lives by redirecting the stories we tell ourselves: