I spent some time at the weekend upgrading the look and feel of my website.
My aim was twofold: First, a kind of spring cleaning, aimed at de-cluttering the site and focusing the experience primarily on the articles, rather than myriad sidebar links. I have come to realise it is not so much reading on screen, as reading on a screen full of other options, that I find distracting and therefore distressing. Hopefully, in this sense, the new site mimics the experience of a print publication just that much more.
Second, I wanted to make my site more mobile-friendly. I extended the forthcoming and much-anticipated WordPress TwentyTwelve theme (still in alpha) with touch-friendly features such as a button-like top navigation menu and larger search box. The site also adapts based on screen size to avoid having to zoom and swipe around when reading on a small screen.
Although I typically have only upgraded my site every couple of years, it felt important and appropriate to serve a growing mobile readership with a better experience, and everyone else with what I hope to be a more elegant and visually-appealing presenation of my writing.
Having recently moved to North London and joined the Highgate Poets, I seized the opportunity to help them put up their new website soon after being accepted into the group. What took weeks of custom programming to create the content management system for the Ojai Poetry Festival only took a matter of hours this time, owing to advances in the WordPress blog software.
“Let your lie be even more logical than the truth itself, so the weary travelers may find repose.”
I have been previewing Facebook’s upcoming Timeline feature. It turns one’s profile into a scrapbook-style autobiography, arranging multimedia posts in a chronology from birth to present. It is part of a larger strategy to promote information sharing that has been intelligently criticized in general terms. But it was a specific moment in my exploration of Timeline that pulled me up short. Clicking on the small heart icon for “Relationships”, up popped a menu item for marking one’s timeline with “Lost a Loved One.”
Though we have memorialised our son in many ways, the thought of posting his photo on Facebook beneath the small flower icon to make it part of this music-video-all-about-me of a web application struck me as painfully absurd. He is deeply and irrevocably part of my life. But a biography is not a life, much less an online profile. We have become a society obsessed with crafting our image — so much so that we almost believe, and sometimes attempt to inhabit, these spun self-tales.
The antidote to the future we now inhabit, wherein everyone has their own Wikipedia page for fifteen minutes, is art. Mark Twain called biographies “the clothes and buttons of a man,” deciding, “the biography of the man himself cannot be written.” But something approaching what it feels like to be a man can come across in the literary arts, and especially poetry. Poetry is the anti-wiki, striving for truths that need no citation, encompassing contradictions rather than devolving into fact-slinging “flame wars.”
And so, when it is released next month, I will use Timeline. But for matters that transcend time, and excavate the inmost reality, I’m sticking with poems.
“O, wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in’t!”
-Miranda, from “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare
This past weekend, I accepted the role of Chief Technology Officer for BraveNewTalent, a social recruitment startup based in London. At the David Allen Company, I have been using technology to help bring the GTD® methodology to millions of people worldwide, freeing them up from organizing tasks in their head so that they can focus on doing their best work in any context. BraveNewTalent seeks to help the workforce of the twenty-first century find, not only ideal new workplace contexts, but the relationships and aptitudes that will unleash the best work of an entire upcoming generation.
Led by visionary young entrepreneur Lucian Tarnowski, the company has already assembled a fine team and is rapidly accumulating blue-chip clients and media attention. It is an exciting time to be bridging the gap between baby boomers in corporate leadership and an inherently digital generation, who hold the promise of a new way to work. Doubly exciting is the opportunity to join not only a well-positioned startup in a high-potential emerging marketplace, but to do so in London — which is itself emerging from the ashes of the financial meltdown as a technology innovation powerhouse.
I am looking forward to doing interesting and meaningful work, with talented people, in one of the greatest cities in the world.
I asked for an Amazon Kindle for my birthday. Like Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol,” I have been haunted ever since. In my dreams, I visit the destitute families of the former owners of small, independent book stores. The youngest, a cripple, gives thanks before a paltry meal, declaring, “God bless us, every one — even that mean old Mr. Peake, the last person on Earth we thought would betray the printed book!” I wake in a sweat.
And yet, it is precisely because I love literature that I decided to try buying it digitally. None of the typical reasons for e-books really tipped me over the edge. Nor did the counter-arguments counteract the most compelling reason I have to take the plunge. Our small cottage is lined with book shelves. We moved five times in five years during the U.S. housing boom, when landlord after landlord decided to sell at the end of our one-year lease. That meant schlepping dozens of bankers boxes full of books — heavy books! — from one home to the next.
As a teenager, I watched “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” repeatedly. This 1970s Zeffirelli bio pic of St. Francis, complete with a soundtrack by Donovan, features the overacting of Graham Faulkner as the crusader-turned-saint. The scene that stayed with me is the moment of Francis’ enlightenment, when he strips naked and begins flinging his worldly possessions — and those of his rich father — out the window, into the arms of a receptive crowd of peasants below. That’s pretty much how I left college (though I kept my clothes.) And, while I miss my record collection (and my parents could have used the futon), the idea of simplifying my possessions — if not to enlighten myself, at least to lighten my stance — remains compelling. Continue reading…