‘THIS ISN’T A BOOK. This is an experience.’
Details by email, for those who pre-order.
Pre-order here: Nostalgia Cà Phê.
A NEW BOOK is going to launch on 1 September. It’s called Nostalgia Ca Phe. I’m really looking forward to seeing this one go out into the world. Not your usual kind of book, Nostalgia. It’s a nonlinear interactive experience. I know. That’s weird. (But… if you are smiling, then this was written for people like us.) Science fiction, third-person narrative. Set in Copenhagen, Hanoi, and… outer space.
Set to launch on 1 September…
IT MIGHT BE A LITTLE PREMATURE to start blogging about the next ‘N’ already, but it is here, in my heart, as soon as the last one finishes. There is, of course, the thank-you not that I am still writing. For those who joined us at ‘N’ in Hanoi… wow, just last month. At the very end of June, when we were all sweltering and wondering if we could really pull that off, must have been really surprising (as one guest told me, hello GN!) for some to see that we did get together, 16 of us, and then, we took a selfie.
I need to share that.
I need to do that right, but I am also realizing that there is no ‘right’ for things like this. Blogging, is it already old school to be a blogger? I do not do product placements. There are no sponsors. I feel sad when I go to a nice event only to see that it’s been co-opted by some giant car dealership or beer company, and it becomes, well, more of the same. The banal.
This happened before, when I would join events that were ‘free’ but turned out to be anything but, what with the snapping of photos for someone’s ‘promotion’ and the marketing materials that are shoved at you more subtly in 2017 then they were in the 1990s, they don’t print flyers and blast them at you, they just… what? Make weird psychological triggers, capitalize on your insecurities, make you feel like you need something (absolutely ‘must-have’ it), because you’re not complete enough without… But ‘N’, if you were wondering, ‘N’, I think, I believe, is a way to really come back to just being who we are, together in a small circle, small is important, but not too small, because… you need a mix of people and I’ve found 16 to be perfect.
Four groups of four, that’s a bit of a holdover from the days when I recall working with other consultants to bring the jigsaw method to play in experiential learning workshops that we would design together. To varying degrees of success, of course. It’s not trendy or sexy, what we’re making here, in S P A C E salons, workshops, magazine, print stuff, zines, eZines, and things to come. Things to come! There is always that wild card spot. ______. Anything is possible, anything anything.
‘N’ CPH. For ‘N’ in Copenhagen, so far we have 5 people who are ‘in’, and that’s exciting. Things have changed a lot since 2015, though, since that time when they said ‘yes’… Still. We have been in touch. Corresponding, from time to time. The theme is NEARNESS, and that means building trust, over time. Showing up, even ambiently on email, is important, I think. Learning, changing, as I go.
More patient, as I learned to be from those I met in Copenhagen in 2015, on a foray into that place to see about making ‘N’ happen. I got there and realized I didn’t have enough time to find the people I was looking for, that those whom I would meet would need time to meet again, that email wasn’t something people do anymore (this is just something I do, is it?), and that… you have to kind of know people before you can show up from out of town and throw together something as wacky and undefined as ‘N’. But… I have been… staying the course. I still did some small things, a little talk about productivity and a couple of salons: Internet I Hate You and Drift and the Nomad. Both were good. Small, clean.
OPTIMISTIC. For Copenhagen, for 5N, whenever it will be, and however it comes into shape when it does, I am optimistic. I have been practicing at this, just that… cultural differences. It is so not like America, you don’t just walk around handing out cards and putting up flyers and saying, ‘This. This is good. You should do this.’ No one takes that kind of craic seriously, there. And why should they? I like the place because people do show up when they say they will… no fuzzy cancellations or weirdness which happened so often here in Phnom Penh that I got riled up about enough to design ‘N’ Phnom Penh in the first place. That was when you had to get tickets ahead of the poll-making step, so you really had to commit before you even got to help select the date. Same with Bangkok’s ‘N’. And London’s. This time, though, in Hanoi, I thought it would be interesting to kind of wing it. Once you get there, and you start being yourself, and people can see that you are earnest about it, what you’re making I mean, then yeah. It works. It can, it does. It will, for CPH, too. (But if it doesn’t, that’s okay, too.)
IS IT WORKING? That’s subjective. Maybe people wouldn’t see the losses that are coming back financially as successes, but I, personally, find each ‘N’ moment to be such a magical one, such a gem, that I can’t help but keep motivated to carry forwards. ‘Success’ isn’t about ‘outcomes,’ it’s about paying attention, I think, to what you are learning as you go, and being able to adapt yourself so that you can, well, add to your life instead of simply check things off some list.) Is it working? Who knows. We are just 4N in. I am going to be writing more about Hanoi soon, and maybe I’ll share about Bangkok and Phnom Penh, too. There were ‘N’ events here I hardly wrote about, mostly because… new at ‘N’-hosting. New means… reluctant to share. Less so now. Less new, more open. Blogging again, weird, that. Anyway. Here’s to the journey. And very warm welcomes to those just joining us, in S P A C E.
FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS, we’ve been publishing a weekly eZine, S P A C E. There is a fee for this magazine. There are a very small group of subscribers. But that’s good.
I’m telling you this because we are at the verge of a new chapter, this junction of DK. It’s 2017. We started in 2006 in Seattle, as a humble LLC thinking that ‘making it’ was landing enough gigs to pay your bills. But that’s so… boring, just paying your bills. What about interestingness? Intrigue, learning, growth? Beauty. Over the years there’ve been many shifts, and this Tuesday, I press a big red reset button. Killing the mailing lists, outside of the new one. Many things. For sure. Are informing the downsizing of the ‘who I know’ database and an inward press to focus, instead, on just a handful of people with real attention, real is the important word here, real because there’s caring, and understanding, and mutual respect. No more ambient stuff. No more keeping in touch. I’m moving everything into the new box, the new S P A C E.
Happy, so far, with the way it’s been a slow cook build. Because small is beautiful. We are consistently creating conversation-sparking instances, I think, really, it’s working. We aren’t overly in touch, but we are quality in touch. We are developing conversation space that is progressing, with richness and complexity. Delving deeper than the superficial, going beyond the happy facebook post and going into places that, for better or worse, are opening us up to one another, and ourselves. The online course SELF started it, then there was THE MIRROR, THE FORUM, THE VILLAGE, and some other things that were invitation only for just a handful of people because… I felt… they might like them.
DK ARE STILL MAKING AND DOING. Thanks to our subscriber base, we can explore more interesting dimensions, and get to better and better ideas, which takes a lot of room and improvising and testing and… belief in the point of it all. Some of us are more interested than others in the pursuit of beauty, the search for meaning. And those are the people who DK now works for. It’s been quite a trip, discovering this. It’s been a long slow process of carefully and sometimes less than artfully letting go. Of the deadwood, that doesn’t contribute, but only takes. So Tuesday, I kill the mailing lists. I get started instead on who is newly arriving in the orientation rooms for S P A C E.
Who DK works for…
HERE’S WHAT’S COOL about the online programmes, to me.
‘So like how do you do that?’
‘Whatever you’re doing.’
‘Whatever it is. Does it pay the bills?’
Total stranger asks me this. Like it matters. Like anyone cares about the things I care about, and what matters to me, except me (and maybe 1-2 others whom I randomly find out of every 100 people I meet). Interesting, I thought. But I kind of just went all into it. I said, ‘You know what? You have to create your own value, now. You have to show up, and do great work. You have to deliver. This is the digital economy, now.’
WHAT I DIDN’T SAY: Asking me about how to make money in this field (which is what, exactly, anyway?) is not just overly personal and out of bounds, but it’s okay, I’m over these things, being a self-employed person you get this a lot, but you know, boring. It’s just… such a 1990s question. DK are not making widgets (anymore. No more brand identity designs, those process books that we would deliver, they were about the conversations… the arrivals at terribly insightful moments of ‘yes! That’s IT!’… which was the fury and the love of doing these collaborations… but when we got googled about design and identity and Seattle, people saw the images and portfolio things, I think, at first blush as products to buy off the shelf... Only our clients at DK know how much time and energy went into the early part of the process… getting to know you, designing something uniquely authentic and… well, anyway, we’re not doing them, now. Around the time we finished up NUK Cafe we said, that’s enough).
The people who subscribe to S P A C E are the people who are making it possible for us to continue to conceptualize, design, develop, test, prototype, test some more, research, understand a glimmer of something about, but not fully, and that’s okay, because we can keep at it, we can fail flat, or flatter, and then, try again… they are the people who are supporting us, in the most important way (for viability, that is): capital. I used to think that the people I wanted to keep in my inner circle were those whom I had known the longest. Those who had, in some way, been part of my most intimate conversation spaces. But I was wrong…
WHY? Well. It takes years of life to learn that you were wrong, in a big way, about something you held as basic. People I imagined would be part of my S P A C E community, the one that matters to me the very most, were… those from my past. But I was wrong. Of course they weren’t. They were… the people I was finding now… in life, the world of this place and time, where I am. Bricolaging and finding us together, expressions of moments of exchange, collected instances, is my new work, now. And I can’t cling to the past connections, I can’t hold on to every single… old tie. Were we teenagers, hanging out getting tacos or ice creams or something bad for you, as teens do? Maybe we were in the same dorm, or maybe we shared some kind of experience, like a concert or a theatre performance, or something lifechanging like… well, you have yours and I have mine, right?
Too personal to share out loud, here. As so very much other stuff is, too. Work, life, family, relationships, conversations that happen in the private rooms of dialogue that go into weird and fascinating directions. Letters. Poetry slams. These kinds of things are not high-profit, but they matter. I think. I really, really do. Which is why I’m not going to break down and get some gig in digital things I don’t understand the point of. Why would I want to market someone else’s things, when I have S P A C E to send out into the world. Why???
I still want to make conversations happen, which is why we are hosting online programmes to continue the dialogues that spark an interest. If you are on for sharing with us more, then do consider applying for something, or show up for something when it comes around in your town (next stops: Berlin, Copenhagen, Budapest, maybe). Thinking. Planning. Devising. Dreaming. Here we go. Next!
READY TO CONTINUE THIS conversation? Good.
I invite you to S P A C E!… the orientation is free… just click any of the boxes to go to the page to add your name and contact. More from there.
A short note.
And ’16N.’ I’m looking for interesting people to invite to a 16-way blind date. ‘Interesting’ has a lot of definitions, I’m aware. I guess for me, the kinds of people who would say yes and show up to something as wacky as an ‘N’ deems theme exceptionally intriguing. I can tell you now, why.
Making the magic moment *happen*
DESIGNING MOMENTS. Two years ago, I was sitting in a cafe in Phnom Penh wondering if I would ever meet Person A again. The conversation had gone so brilliantly, but it was just a passing thing. Wasn’t it? Yes. That was fine. Not everything has to be eternal friendship. But… what if it could’ve been a different kind of setup? As in, the stage-setting for the two hours or whatever it was, so that the actual time together was *better*? That is the work of designers, isn’t it? To make things *better.* So I started drawing on a napkin, thinking about nothing. I made an ‘N.’ It was weird. I put a vector sign over the top. Now it was ‘N’ vector. What the? Geometry?
And then, weirdly, it hit me.
What if 16 vectors crossed just ONCE?
What if 16, which is a nice number, people who’d never met were invited to join in on a once-off conversation salon? Of course the theme would start with an ‘N’. The place? A venue with an ‘N’. In a city with an ‘N.’ Just for symmetry or maybe poetry, 16N events in 16 cities. Yes. That. That is how ’16N’ got dreamed up.
Salons on topics like BEAUTY, ORIGIN, and ENNUI from 2004-2015 in Phnom Penh, Seattle, and Durham NC have been experiments to discover what works, what definitely doesn’t, and how to enjoy gathering people in bounded boxes of temporal, ephemeral space and time. Skilfully designed. For highly present guests.
The first ‘N’ events were in Phnom Penh and Bangkok. (NORMALITY and NOW). Next was London (NOTEWORTHINESS). Continuing. Making it happen. Improvising as we go.
Can you help me discover people? New and different others…
The kinds of people who’d be open to enjoy a short evening of playful conversation, some improvisation maybe, and ‘let’s just see how it goes.’
Know anyone like that? I hope yes.
Introductions are very welcome. All the instructions and updates are on this page: http://16n.strikingly.com
Discover more about 16N at this page.
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This post originally appeared in our online eZine, S. P. A. C. E. Get it and discover what people around the world are saying about their creative process, when you become a patron of DK.
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I’M IN A DILEMMA.
It might seem really strange to want to go to the cities of the world and find random people and gather them in one moment of conversation. Each. One moment each. In 16 cities: 16 people in each city. For about two hours, each. So they can meet each other.
Yeah, writing that seems really strange, even I can see that. If you don’t know me, though… it is. If you know me, it makes perfect sense. Because I’ve done a lot of learning and changing and traveling, and I guess in a lot of ways I’ve given up a lot of other things (things that people might call ‘security’). Personally. That’s just me, though. Maybe it won’t really matter, at the end of all of this. I guess thinking about the end a lot, too. Not in a dark way, just in a, ‘Huh. So that’s where we’re all going,’ sort of a way. The great, fat ending that is going to be the same no matter what we do in the meantime.
DESIGNING ’16N’. So I figure in the meantime, why not have fun. Why not play. Enjoy the day to day, but when that gets boring find people to talk to, to connect with. I used to do this in small tea party styles, at my house or apartment. More of the time, apartment. Small, humble, but always in a place where you might run into something or someone interesting. Usually. Yeah, if you wanted to. You could. But then weird things happened. Cities changed. People stopped looking at each other, and started walking with their faces straight ahead, avoiding you. Or poking their glowing pieces of rectangular plastic. Not being able to notice anymore that right around them were a whole bunch of others. Also doing the same. It became more normal to meet online first. To talk after you establish some kind of digital rapport. Then meet. For, obviously, a definitive reason. Not just because it’s fun to talk to people. In fact, it’s become weird. You become weird because you want to just talk.
But it’s not just about the talking.
HERE IS THE THING ABOUT ‘N’. Oh, I haven’t said anything about it yet. Here is the unfolding story. Okay, so now, now that you’ve read that? :), here it is. When we meet people, things happen. I’m talking about in real life. I’m saying, like, when you just happen to be somewhere and you happen to meet some people, that’s one kind, you know? That’s a real way. It doesn’t always have to be pre-arranged for it to be a meeting. It can be strangers who don’t already know the details of what you do for work, how tall you are, that you have one greenish-brownish eye, or that you wear size 7 shoes. They can just see you and see how you smile, and see how you see them. That is real. That is the stuff I miss. So I made ‘N’ because I didn’t want to weird people out. But I guess it does, in some ways, some of the time. What is the point of it?? Why are you flying around the world to try to get strangers together, in real life, just once? What’s in it for you?
Beauty is in the moment. Art is in the connection: a timeless, wordless conversation only the sender and receiver can know. I made that up, you know. It will resonate, I hope, with a few of you: 256, really, in total.
When you go somewhere new, you become someone else. Sort of. You at least grow a bit. Stretch yourself from your normal bounds. That is what is in it for me. And that is what I invite people to do, too. Maybe it isn’t fair, because it’s so much harder, perhaps, for people to take me up on the invitation. Want to come to ‘N’? It costs. We’ll agree on a date, together. In a poll. And then, I guess, for my part of it, I have to make sure that I can really really do it. Really get there. Show up. Ninety percent of it is showing up. I have been humbled and awed and deeply grateful to the 32 people who came to the ‘N’ events in Bangkok and Phnom Penh. Wow. I mean, really, wow. I have these faces popping into my mind, people who became real, who sort of walked out of the internet. And there we were, together, in 3D. All of us. The 16N events were about that moment of connection that happens when we set the stage like this. I’m a trained engineer, so a bit of a dork about how to design things. And I wanted to design a space for that eye contact to happen more easily than it does these days amongst strangers, that magic discovery that happens when we find people, when we happen to, you know? I’ve been so bored on pre-arranged meeting thingies, having to go to events I don’t want to, seeing the same people complain about the same people (KH, looking at you), but then, also, wondering what to do about it. There was twitter. There was instagram. I’m not a big FB person, so I don’t know how to use it. But there was that. There were ways to find people online and meet them sort of and then get together in real life. But what about just going and seeing if I could make it happen, live and on the spot? [I picked, unfortunately, Copenhagen in which to do this. I gave myself six weeks. When I started to realize that was going to be hard, hard, hard to pull off what I could pull off in cities elsewhere, on account of it taking time to get to know people in Scandinavia, and of course, that is so how I am, too, so I was respectful of that, but then I knew I would have to postpone it. And so I did. And in the meantime, I had time. To just explore. To see the city. Walk around. A lot. Find the venues that might work for ‘N’ when next I came. Find the people I had met online. See if they checked out with what my gut had said about them. I found out, wow, I found out sometimes I was so wrong. That I had one whole idea in my head about how it would be and it was not. I guess this is what blind dating must be like. Maybe the hookup apps are so popular because it’s so easy to go, ‘NEXT.’ But I’m not a ‘NEXT’ goer. Not easily. I am very, very selective about whom I meet and talk to, even when it’s in that just-walk-up-to-someone and say hi kind of way. Even then. I’m shy. Terribly. So it’s no wonder that sending invitations around about ‘N’ to the world and seeing most of them go unanswered and some people getting worried or calling me names or making assumptions about my intentions, which, I guess that’s fair, because who DOES this? Who does ‘N’? And that… somehow… that is what makes me want to keep going. Because someone has to do it. There wouldn’t be these magic moments. Just 16, all in all. After 16 cities, that’ll be it. The series. The end.
Or maybe, the beginning.
Because sometimes, the biggest and most beautiful step, is that one. Showing up. The dilemma is about the people… the people I haven’t met yet, and how to discover them… and the ones I’ve known forever and ever… the people from before. Where to focus? Who shares with me an ‘N’ kind of connection? Are memories of old conversations and feelings just nostalgia? And isn’t nostalgia dangerous? Because it stops us from expanding beyond where we are, into the front-edge, and just-past, to the New?
I’ll write more about ‘N’. In this way. More of the real story, of what it feels like to try to make something happen. A thing that is really about people meeting one another. In that old fashioned way of looking at ourselves in the eye, and, perhaps, taking the time to learn new views and in the process, discovering a slice of who we really are. In the biggest, broadest, most human way. We are here.
NEXT. Next stops: ‘N’ London: NOTEWORTHINESS, ‘N’ Copenhagen: NEARNESS. And Bologna and Hanoi, to be following thereafter. One day I’ll get to Portland, Ore., and also New York. You could be a part of it. Curious about ‘N’? Ask me anything:
TODAY I AM GOING TO UPDATE the page that tells the story of ‘where is N’ now? The story is happening. There are conversations going on. This is really exciting now, there is momentum, let’s talk about momentum! Gumption gumption gumption. And magic. Flow. And what’s even better than all of that? Guests. So happy to be hosting ‘N’ for you. I can’t wait to meet you. To the journey!
THERE COMES A TIME IN EVERY LIFE where we face a crossroads.
You know when you’re there. It’s a big deal, this noticing of the moment of having to make a very significant choice. Which way will you go?
Who are you, and why are you doing this? The guest had asked.
Sincere question, and yet, I couldn’t find a way to answer honestly, not quite. I mean, I had some ideas about what ‘N’ was about when I first hosted it, here in Cambodia’s Phnom Penh. I got clearer when I did this again in Bangkok. The goals for ‘N’ Phnom Penh: NORMALITY and ‘N’ Bangkok: NOW were, I think, more about making something interesting actually happen. Rather than, you know, sit around and imagine how much better everythign could be and complain that there is no good art anymore, and why is that, and the banal nature of everything that gets popular on YouTube (a woman I had asked on twitter about why her post went viral said she thought it was because there was an element of ‘hating on’ someone else, that those were the posts that went around quickly, and so, she was writing more of those kinds, to get attention, even though, she admitted to me, she really felt like her other works were better.) Quality, then. A space for something magical to happen. What does tat mean? It’s different for everyone.
But I think, really, when asked if there is a point or a purpose to gathering people in 16 cities around the world, cities which have an ‘N’ in them (two ‘N’s is better, of course), to converge with 16 strangers to talk about a topic that starts with an ‘N’ is that, really, well, these are quite arbitrary constraints, no?, and that, in fact, there is no point.
Let me reiterate..
The point is this: there is no point.
Something I learned from Man and Superman, last summer in London at the National Theater. Sitting in the audience in a place I had booked two days prior, while home and searching the internet for people to invite to ‘N’ in that part of the world and discovering, well, look at this, it’s Ralph Fiennes acting on stage, and this is Bernard Shaw, and, well, I simply must… attend this.
Is there a point?
That’s what they said.
That’s what they said, right there, on that big stage. The world of theater is so brilliant, sometimes I fall in love with it, and it’s very good to keep going to things. I’m not the type to just up and go to foreign countries on account of plays happening, not usually, in fact this was a lark, but I am so glad I did. Because I care about learning, and people, and connection, and Art. Capital ‘a’ Art, that is. The kind that you can experience over time, across distance. I don’t think the same feeling would have emerged if I was reading it, but I did find it on Google books and got a few of the lines that most moved me. One of them of course, and I’m paraphrasing because the best bits that you feel when you hear them may not fit the agendas of those who post online with quotes that back up their own viewpoints (it’s really real, isn’t it? Bias.) But my own bias is this. I believe that the purpose of living is to live in the moment, the unadorned, unattached, unexpecting right here and now. And ‘N’, I think, is about onceness, chance conversations and connection happening in a closed, bounded space where someone (that would be me) is ‘holding the space’ for people so that they feel safe, included, welcome, invited, warm, and, if this goes well, and I think it has, judging from the past experiences with 32 people I didn’t know before in BKK and here in Phnom Penh is that, yes, that is valuable. Yes, people want converastions that go beyond the usual variety of ‘paid or laid’ agenda. I know! I’m saying that. Out loud. Here. I want to talk to people who want to talk to me, about the big things, the art the culture the light the space the beauty the moment the magic. The magic! It’s very exciting when we can discover one another, and arbitrary constraints are a big part of design projects. So the brief I made for myself went as such: Find 16 people in 16 cities. The people won’t know each other. They will show up for a ‘big blind date,’ they will have decided a date together, collaboratively, and they will do this by making a commitment first (in this case, purchasing a ticket). Such a commitment makes it easier to believe that it will happen. I have made a promise to the guests who have registered. 16 people. In one moment. To meet and talk, together, about NOTEWORTHINESS. That’s the London one. The Copenhagen one is about NEARNESS. Hoping that the dates for both will be kind of close enough together that I can just make one big trip there and go to both places, so that, you know. Airline tickets. Time.
Here’s another one, from Man and Superman:
‘This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.’
Can you dig it?
Now registering for ‘N’ London, ‘N’ Hanoi, ‘N’ Copenhagen, and ‘N’ Bologna. Say hi through the note below, if you’re curious. I’ll share more.