Just a Little Taste of Sunshine for the New Year.
posted 31 May 2024 by Krister Axel
First it is too slow, and then it's too fast.

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This is an old post from February, that never went anywhere, that I am resuscitating and giving a new life because I am not quite yet finished with this old platform, and until we finish launching the new Webflow version, I have to dial into Digital Ocean every time I want to push a new image. So it's easier to hijack an old post that never got published because the art is already out there in the universe. :)

There is certainly an irony here, supported by the simple fact that I started this blog, now six years ago, in order to support my writing. And now, for almost a year, I have not been writing because I have had to focus my attention on migrations & paying down technical debt and all the other things that go with maintaining a long-term project. So, in short, the thing I built to help support my writing, has for the last 12 months, kept me from writing. But we are so close to the end here that I'm just gonna pretend that we have launched already. Allow me to enjoy a little preemptive self congratulation.

And the context now is, having just returned from a 2 week road trip to Madison and Denver, and back to New York, that I should be able to redirect that energy, and somehow encapsulate what that trip meant to me in some meaningful way. No pressure. I just need to channel my inner Jack Kerouac. But, to that end, I do find it particularly relevant to start with the kind of perpetual, philosophical hindsight that so often persists in that sleepy dream-state between consciousness and physical action. You know, the constant cognitive repositioning that we have to do as individuals in an infinite universe - with visibility into a tiny fraction of the physical world, limited to a subset of the natural spectrum of light. It's like we never take into account the heavy lifting that our mind does every day to make the universe palatable; the way it takes perception and turns it into truth. Even as we delve further into this new world of teaching machines to think, we see more and more evidence of how unique our minds are - to be able to do with the roughly 20W of energy that the average human brain consumes, what we are still not able to do with super computers running on thousands of times that amount of energy. Life is exceptional, biology is exceptional, and humans (at least in some ways) present the best of what Darwinian evolution has been able to achieve. OK, what now?

Well, I think I have to turn this into a series. I won't be able to immediately write everything I want to write about the experiences I just had over the last two weeks, and I also don't want to wait so long that I lose contact with the subject matter. So much like I have been doing with the Substack list, just going to start publishing stuff and we'll see what happens. But this reminds me of a little story that sometimes still makes me chuckle, which has to do with what I see often as a disconnect between how one is perceived, and have one perceives oneself. And there's a little bit also of what I would consider maybe some unique characteristics about my personality, and how sometimes that can take you by surprise when aspects of your personality have evolved in a vacuum, so to speak.

So there I was, about 2 1/2 years ago, deep in the throes of the last huge crypto zeitgeist. Some of you may remember this, I wrote about it briefly, but in the one to two years after the emergence of Covid, there was a bit of a mini revolution inside the crypto space around what are called DAOs - decentralized autonomous organizations. That was the last big bitcoin bubble before before the current phase, that was at the time an all-time high for ETH, etc. Incidentally, a lot of these Fintech skills that I connected with during that time have turned out to be super helpful for me right now, because at my job with builder.AI I am constantly advising clients around working with altcoins, different blockchains, NFT marketplaces, web 3.0 authentication, and many related things, so it's been really great to have that core knowledge around crypto, proof of work, proof of stake, liquidity, etc. At the time I was still consulting, so it made sense to join a group called DeveloperDAO, and there were only 100 profiles available in that first pull, if I remember correctly, so I was an early joiner. Volunteering for duties at a freshly minted DAO found like a recipe for success, so that's what I did. I immediately jumped in and volunteered to help write the newsletter.

We're about to get to the part that made me laugh. :)

So I jumped in, rolled up my sleeves, and did the best job I could possibly do, poking through all of the different forum threads and Twitter convos to create a list of important details around the activity for that week. I added some hot links, did some reorganization, added headers. All the things that we do to get things published. But before I actually published anything, I thought it best to get some feedback from the person who at the time was in charge of 'communications.' This was a recent college grad, who was easily 20 years my junior. So that made it slightly awkward to receive professional feedback about the newsletter I had just written, but he said something that took me by surprise. I think the phrase was "I'm not sure what your voice is here - is this journalism or an opinion piece?"

That one really took me by surprise. It basically triggered a period of self reflection where I decided I wasn't really interested in understanding my own distinction between journalism and opinion writing. It dawned on me that as a solitary writer, technically only trained in poetry, aside from some early undergrad logic and essay classes, my writing has evolved entirely in a vacuum to the point where it has divorced itself from journalism and opinion writing. And I'm ok with that. I chuckled because it took a 22-year-old BA in journalism to trigger that catharsis for me, as I was well into my 40s. Better late than never, I guess. I'm not an opinion writer, or a journalist - I am a blogger. But not even in what would be considered a modern definition of blogging - I'm a blogger as defined by the fuzzy transcendental projections of a 20-something would-be rockstar who is absolutely horrified by the state of social media. When I met the Internet in the late 90s, it was a place where anyone could have a webpage whether that be just a simple server hosting on a VM somewhere, or an account with Blogger, or a MySpace page, or a GeoCities page; and now we have evolved directly into a generation that has accounts with TikTok, or Instagram - but not really writing anymore - they're making videos, they're sharing photos. For me, I've always loved language, and I've always loved putting words to a page. People post poems now on Twitter that are so short, they just make me sad, and sometimes they share screenshots of poems on Facebook that do next to nothing to bring any sort of visibility to the author. I guess I'm still attached to blogging culture, because I feel like we still need it desperately. I even wrote a whole thing once about the idea of "not building your house on rented land." I think that is probably a lesson Gen Z needs to learn all over again.

The reason I think this is relevant here is that I have evolved in exactly the same way as a songwriter and musician. What I was reminded of most about my visit to Madison was that almost 30 years have gone by, now, since the last time I was routinely involved in cowriting with anyone else. That's why I was happy to learn recently that Eric Idle, of Monty Python fame, was similarly a solitary writer. I guess we just like working in a vacuum. And just like when it comes to writing, I am so far removed from a distinction between journalist and essayist, that it has lost all value, I am not interested in pitching myself as an artist of a specific genre. Sunshine Allison was known mainly as a jam band, but we worked a lot with world music, indie rock, and even some Pop. I am proud of the songs we wrote, I am proud of the lyrics I wrote, and frankly, the only issue I had with any of these old songs was that they were written so long ago, that many of them were outside of what is now my acknowledged singing range. I guess you could call me old school if only for the reason that, I am not directly interested in success: I am interested in communicating honestly about the world I see around me, and I am interested in writing and producing prose & music that Rick Rubin would call 'true' - coming a real place of emotion that communicates something important about the human condition. If success can come to me in that environment, all the better. If not, I would still do it all again.

So that's it for now. I guess this is just going to be a post about preemptive self-congratulation, and a sideways values statement that CHILLFILTR® is here as a public good. We are here to tell the truth as we see it, and to hold space for a truly unique moment in the modern political landscape. But we're not actually sure if we're writing journalism or opinion, and we're definitely not sure if that is an important distinction in the current context. All you have to do is keep reading, and we will keep writing. That is the nature of our social contract. The end.

About the Author


Krister Bjornson Axel

Ogdensburg, New York

Paris, France. Madison, Wisconsin. Los Angeles. Ashland, Oregon. Ottawa. I write music, I write about music, and I write code. See also: photography, prose, podcasting. I have 1 gorgeous wife, 2 amazing kids, and many interests.

Recent Awards: 2020 ND (Photo) Honorable Mention, 2020 Accenti Writing Contest Finalist