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minimalism in a nerdy world

The Summer of New – Geek Minimalist Experiment

If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you.

-1998 NBC promo for summer reruns

Back in the days before PVR and iTunes, people would sometimes miss episodes of their favourite shows and have to wait to catch the reruns in the summer.

(I almost feel like I have to explain reruns to my younger readers. These days reruns are mostly replace by 2-hour blocks of Big Bang Theory and summer-run reality shows)

In 1998, NBC aired a promotional campaign with my favourite marketing tag of all time.

Though seen by cynics as a network trying to spin a lack of new content, I saw it as a reminder that new is not automatically better. If I discover a music group from 30 years ago and it brings me joy to experience their songs for the first time, is that lesser than the latest album from someone else?

With that in mind, I am kicking off a minimalist summer experiment.

The Summer of New

For July and August, Wifey and I are going to watch and read only content we have never experienced before. She will put aside her bi-annual watching of 300, and I will wait to do that full reread of Strangers in Paradise I’ve had in mind.

Come along for the ride, and share on social media what new discoveries you make. #SummerOfNew

I find value in revisiting content I’ve experienced before. Sometimes to catch nuance I missed before, or simply for the feeling of comfort from my fandoms.

But every rewatched episode of Twin Peaks puts me one episode back in the new season of Twin Peaks I haven’t seen yet!

All of those shows and books I keep meaning to find the time for will move up. The warmth of the Star Wars trilogy can wait for fall.

5 ways I’ve minimized my comics (or “how I learned to stop worrying and love the pdf)

When your prized possessions start to weigh you down

Look in my direction, I’ll be round, I’ll be round

-Beatles (“And Your Bird Can Sing”)

In the past five months I have cut my comic collection by about 2/3rds, mainly in trade paperbacks.

I got rid of the floppy comics about 10 years ago. I have 2 short boxes, one of which is just New Universe. My rational for that box of New Universe is:

  1. I love the New Universe
  2. very little is available digitally (and likely won’t be)
  3. If I get the urge to read a print comic, I have that reserve ready to go

In fact, aside from small press, which is most of the other box, the only floppies I’ve bought in 10 years was the Planet of the Apes/Star Trek mini-series.

What has motivated me to so heavily reduce my print collection is that I thought about what I really value.

Firstly, enjoyment. And secondly is to support of the artists and art form. Ownership of the artifact doesn’t really factor into either of these.

I have continued to trim and cull, using the below as leverage. As for what I am keeping, there is a select few comics that are honestly better in print, or are just not available (yet). In the former category are the works of Seth and Ray Fawkes, which use the physical form of the work as part of the artistic expression. The latter, works not yet available, unfortunately include almost all of the work of the founder of the American graphic novel, Will Eisner.
Here then are the five ways I’ve used to minimize my comics:

A good tablet

I like the resolution of the retina display, but frankly the physical shape of the ipad (and the cost difference) had me stick to Android tablets for digital reading. I have a 10.1″ widescreen Android table which is quite close to comic size and shape.

Anyone I know who says they “can’t” read comics digitally, I honestly assume they have just tried with the wrong tools. My tablet is the same size, shape, and weight of a six-issue hardcover and holds thousands of comics. And with the right settings I get little to no eye strain.

I will say that the tablet does not make for great outdoor reading, but I have that stack of New Universe comics to keep me company.

Digital is my final format

How many times have I bought and rebought Sandman over the years? Singles, trades, new trades when a roommate got my first set, Absolute editions.

Time to call it quits. Digital is my final format.

My comic purging started with this line being drawn. My first cull was material I also had on Comixology and through other means (more on that later).

No more “better” editions or extra pages or replacements, the permanent version is on the tablet.

Swap hard copy for digital (if you can make some money on it)

I avoid rebuying unless there’s a strong chance I can net out with extra money. I did so on my Punisher collection, as well as Preacher and Walking Dead.

Swap hard copy for digital later

The long-game version of swapping is to sell it now and rebuy it much further down the road. The price of digital comics is only heading downward and availability of free or “streamed” comics is heading upward. If I sell off my hardcopies now, that money can go to work on my debt while I wait for the right time and price.

If I don’t think I’ll read something again soon (or ever), I am kind of ‘holding up the queue’ by hanging onto it. I could sell it, or give it away and someone else can enjoy it. Holding on ‘just in case’ now feels selfish to me.

Bundles of joy

I love the Humble Bundle. The book bundle changes out weekly and often it is a pile of comics in a couple of digital formats (usually pdf and cbz) which are legal, give money to charity, and give me an inexpensive way to try out many different series.

My first pass that I mentioned above was to remove more than two dozen hardcopies that I had also gotten in bundles in the past year. Once I had that momentum, it got easier every step of the way.

I hope this helps. Move those hard copies out of your storage room and into someone else’s hands.

Experiences: A Dip Into The Cuban Black Market

I’m driving a stolen car
Down on Eldridge Avenue
Each night I wait to get caught
But I never do

-Bruce Springsteen “Stolen Car”

Since minimalism is about experiences instead of Things, I thought I’d share the experience that I had while travelling a few years back.

The setting: Cuba.

Resort Cuba, not Tony-Montana-was-lucky-to-get-out-alive Cuba.

The time: May 2006.

I went on a daytrip to the mainland, a small town called Morøn. My girlfriend and I wandered the streets a bit, taking in the people and the places. Then one of the locals whom I recognized as a bartender from our resort walked up. He also recognized me and introduced himself. He told me he knew where there was a good store that had better prices than the resort.

We had a few minutes so we followed along. He said we were going to a ‘bar’ but what we entered looked more like a sandwich counter that had just had a theft of all of its furniture. There were only 2 other people in it and no products to sell of any sort.

Our new friend (Joelle – rhymes with First Noel), asked us to sit and offered beers. After a few minutes, another of the resort staff, Peter by name, came in and we were all introduced. Joelle led us toward what I thought was going to be a back room, having realized by now that I had wandered into the black market.

Where he led us was the men’s washroom, a 3×4 single stall with a flickering bare bulb. The three of us crammed into the bathroom while my girlfriend kept watch. She is trained in emergency medical so she was casing the place looking for saran wrap in case I received a sucking chest wound.

Peter reached in a backpack and pulled out boxes of cigars wrapped in newspaper. He was offering Monte Christos and Romeos for less than half the resort (ie: legal) price. We finally got him to pull out some smaller boxes and bought 15 for 2 pesos each (about $2.60 Canadian).

Just as I was pulling out my pesos, the light flickered for the last time and the bathroom was in darkness. That was the moment I thought was going to be the difference between exciting “Cuban adventure” story and tragic “a Canadian tourist was stabbed today” story.

Joelle stuffed the cigars, newspaper and all, into my girlfriend’s shoulder bag and I shoved the money into his hand. I honestly don’t remember a second of the time between handing him the pesos and being a block away. The adrenaline was rushing through me and we cut out of that place as fast as we could.

We headed back to the bus and it wasn’t until we were at the resort hours later that I could get a look at our purchase – 15 of the most beautiful cigars I have ever seen (and yes, sometimes a cigar is just a really good cigar).

Hours later, my girlfriend tucked into bed, I sat on the deck of our room, a light spring shower falling on the river, smoking a black market cigar, dreaming of the revolution.

The 8 reasons I loved Sense8

sense8 black and white

Your life is either defined by the system, or by the way you defy the system.

– Nomi, Sense8

I watched the whole second season of Sense8 while on holiday in Greece. It was wonderful to snuggle up with Wifey in the quiet of our hotel room after a day of adventures. Phones off, hands held. Enjoying my favourite show.

I was crushed a few weeks later when Sense8 was cancelled. Unfortunately, I’m quite used to shows I love ending before their time. My tastes do not follow the mainstream, and an experimental work that reaches for something new has an uphill battle.

Saying goodbye is hard, so I choose to celebrate what was instead. Here are the eight things I loved most about Sense8.

  1. Heroism – The heroism of the common person in quiet moments. They stand up for each other and reach out to help.
  2. Community – These eight people have radically different backgrounds and experiences, but they find friendship and common purpose. As different as they are, that difference defines them and protects them.
  3. Connection – We all desire connection and it is decidedly rare in our world now. It seems harder and harder to know one another. Social media opens more connection but it is increasingly shallow. Connections are broken easily over the smallest slights, and so we hide who we really are.
  4. No secrets – The sensorium can withhold truths from each other, but they cannot effectively lie to one another, at least not for long. They see each other in alone moments. When they are afraid. Or happy. Or lonely. All the times we do not want someone watching.
  5. Friendship – I love the care they have for one another. Reaching out with a thought. Being there in joy and pain. Never giving up on each other.
  6. Acceptance – They understand the hopes, dreams, and struggles. We are all seeking meaning and fearful of others controlling our destiny. Nomi may be distrustful of police for example, but Will is not a faceless “them,” he’s a real person with weakness and strengths.
  7. Be yourself– Be your nature. Will is a cop and he doesn’t stop being a cop even when he’s on the run. Sun is a fighter. Nomi is a woman who always has more courage than she thinks. Denying who you are is a cage. The story of Sense8 is escaping to the freedom of your tribe.
  8. “What’s Up” – The turning point of the first season as the characters and the viewers get a compact and moving depiction of how the connection works and the potential it holds.

Thanks for every minute.

And I pray. I pray every single day. For a revolution.

The secret is you gotta dance

dancing on a paper boat

Everybody was nervous
We were serving the dervish
We were feeling observed absurd
And paranoid
Oh! we were paranoid

-David Baerwald “Dance”

At every concert I’ve been to recently, I’ve seen someone who is almost cartoonishly into the music.

They sing along to every word, eyes closed and arms flailing. Oblivious to everyone and everything except the music and their own experience.

I desperately envy them.

At a Depeche Mode concert recently, I saw a guy about my age dancing his heart out. Several other people around me clearly though it was comical.

Not me.

In his wild and ecstatic exuberance, I saw someone completely lost in the moment.

While the cynics tried to capture video of him, perhaps to continue their misguided judgement later, the dancer did not even notice.

He did not care for the scorn or the smirks. Not for their very existance in this world. Because for that moment, his whole world was his couple of square feet and the music.

He was purely in the moment.

I looked at him only with joy, admiration, and with a hope that someday that would be me.

Dance, my friend.

Not dance like no one is watching.

Dance like no one watching matters in the least.


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