A square wave is a waveform consisting of instantaneous transitions between two levels. Fans of Fourier analyses argue a square wave can be made by summing a fundamental with an infinite series of odd-multiple frequency sine waves at diminishing amplitude, while audio engineers suggest familiarity with the tonality of a square wave helps identify symptoms of distortion, given the extent to which clipping squares a waveform.
Visually speaking, the squared off duty cycle of a square wave suggests both balance and maximised utility, based on equal oscillation between full expression in an upwards or positive direction, and an equally full expression in a downwards or negative direction. Experientially speaking, the rapid and repetitive cycle between full exertion and deep rest can similarly distort perspectives and bring out the higher harmonics. In life as in music, there is both magic and mayhem in going repeatedly back and forth at full blast.
Watching science fiction on television tends to put interesting ideas in my head. A recent program that has captured our interest explores the idea of resistance, suggesting that when things are not supposed to happen, reality can push back and present all sorts of obstacles and interferences in order to ensure that the correct chain of events is unbroken. Where it comes to the interpretation of subtle, recurring events there is a fine line between intuition and superstition, and while sometimes resistance indicates a warning to change direction or behaviour, sometimes it indicates an opportunity for perseverance and growth. The kicker, as always, is knowing which is which.
For reasons I am not entirely sure of, I enjoy taking pictures of signs. Some warn of danger, some announce the location of a place of significance, and some indicate a suggested path or direction. In every sign I see, I see a bit of certainty, and the chance to make an informed decision.
I also like the idea of events as signposts in the metaphorical sense. When something happens, we take meaning and direction from our interpretation of the event. Sometimes an event says to us well done, keep going. Sometimes it says wrong way, go back. Sometimes it suggests we may want to hang a left before we run out of petrol. Unlike the more physical type of sign, though, metaphorical signs are often a lot more open to interpretation. Our read of them can change with the passing of time, too. Maybe thats why I like the idea of capturing signposts on camera. To rewind, reflect and revisit the decisions made along the way.
Insofar as one can trust the attribution of quotes on the internet, Brian Tracy once observed that self esteem is the opposite of fear, and that the more we like ourselves, the less we fear anything. By this principle, it should follow that we take greater risks when we are feeling better about ourselves and our circumstances.
Risk, particularly when taken by choice in the context of a positive state of mind, can be rewarding. The challenge, of course, is balancing the enjoyment of living on the edge against the very real life requirement to not go head first over the handlebars any more often than is necessary.
Everything old is new again. It has long been true with modern music and so too is it true with video games, with a reboot of the classic ultraviolent shooter DOOM having been released in recent weeks. Hard to believe it has been 23 years since the original, which I recall playing on my beloved 486 across a coax ARCnet LAN set up in my basement until the sun came up on many occasions.
IDDQD, those of you of a particular vintage may recall, was a code that could be typed in to the 1993 version of DOOM that would enter what was called god mode, whereby the player did not take damage from enemy fire or hazards, and could play the entire game through to the end without dying once. While astounding and immensely rewarding at first, IDDQD had the effect of stripping all of the risk, and therefore all of the fun, out of the game.
Real life is like that too. While there is a little voice in everyone that tries to talk us out of trying things that we might fail at, stripping away the challenge and possibility of failure also strips away the opportunity to truly enjoy a well fought victory. As Brickman et al figured out in the 1970s, winning the lottery is likely to make you miserable, while becoming a paraplegic in many ways makes life surprisingly enjoyable. Life, like DOOM, needs to be hard to be rewarding, even if sometimes we might lose a few men in the process.
In my experience, stress and boredom exist as opposite ends of a continuum. As such, professional development is the process by which we keep the goalposts apart – ensuring there is room to carve out a life between the things we find too boring to tolerate, and the things we find too difficult to deliver on.
For those who experience stress as excitement, the world can be a very exciting place. And for those who carry the burden of self-awareness, pushing the envelope can mean running a gauntlet of self-doubt. Thankfully, we tend to overestimate the extent to which others can perceive our state of mind. We are assessed not on our thoughts, but on our words and our actions. Managing the inner dialogue may be difficult, but it is truly a personal problem.
Lighting, temperature, humidity, sound and smell. Ambiance. Mood. Vibe. Feel. Every space, every place has its own unique character and dynamic, the sum total of the sensory input of being there. To me the best nightclubs always have more than one room, so that you can leave without leaving, and come back without having left. At Altitude on Russell St here in Melbourne it was the balcony. At the Rhino in Calgary it was upstairs, or if you were upstairs, it was downstairs. At Seven in Calgary it was the patio. Places like Fabric in London and The Guv in Toronto (RIP) are entire ecosystems of diverse space and intensity, and even Calgary microclub Habitat has its own equally intimate side room with its own feel and dynamic.
The place I live now also has its own separate spaces. The balcony is just a few steps away from the DJ booth, but it is a different space and feel entirely. And when the weather and neighbourhood cooperate, it really does provide us with an amazing bit of atmosphere.
Part of becoming an adult is learning impulse control. As we mature, we learn to fully consider the consequences of our actions. Over time we realise that what might feel good right now may not actually be in our best interest in the longer term, and that by spitting the dummy we may well be cutting off our nose to spite our face. Some of us learn this more readily than others, and some of us are better at defending against moments of weakness than others – but by and large, most of the time most of us are reasonably good at thinking things through a bit before we act.
With that said, there is something cathartic about giving in to impulse. The immediate payoff of immediate action, and the thrill of the risk associated with taking action in the heat of the moment are both pretty compelling, even if not always for the right reasons. This pleasure was reinforced recently during a series of arguments I had with a small kitchen appliance. Everyone has a breaking point.
I look back fondly on the 3+ years I spent living in Calgary, Canada. While I could write volumes on the many amazing people I met during my time there, Area709 patriarch Wes Straub stands out as someone who has really had a profound impact on my life. Without getting all misty eyed, lets just say he is a pretty good guy.
I was honoured to contribute a one hour guest mix to the 100th episode of 709 Sessions, the radio show Wes mixes for Digitally Imported Radio. The mix was broadcast around the world last month. Unlike most of the rest of my podcasts, this mix has been sequenced in Ableton Live, and so contains a number of edits and layers beyond what I could be able to mix live. Those with an ear for detail will appreciate that the first few minutes of the track include synced and processed audio captured during my most recent New Years party, where I road tested the rework that starts the mix off. Enjoy!
In 1965 the Byrds released a song that, drawing heavily from the Book of Ecclesiastes, equated the changing of seasons to the changing phases and fortunes of life. It is an apt metaphor.
As children we may have dreamed of being race car drivers or royalty. In our teenage years we wanted to be rock stars. Now as adult life brings forth its many opportunities and limitations, the goalposts and intended future paths shift further still. As a good friend returning home from a gig at 5AM a few weeks ago found out from his cab driver, everyone has their own opinion on what is age-appropriate when it comes to career and life choices.
Whether you are looking to leave your mark, live your dreams or leave it all behind and start again, decisions to change direction are never easy to make. At the same time, perseverance in the face of difficulty and doubt is critical to any long term success. Sometimes you need the courage to stick it out, sometimes you need the courage to make a change, and determining which path will pan out best is rarely easy. Perhaps The Clash had it right after all.