100 Conversations · In real life · In Việt Nam · The Muse

‘He likes duck’

‘’YOU SHOULD GO.’

’I should! But I don’t like to do things just because of shoulda. You know that.’

’I do. But I also know you like short films.’

’I do! I remember getting on a train from Chiba just to go into the city to watch the Tokyo International Film Festival. The short films, those were really… weird and interesting! Sometimes art school films are really bad, though. I know that. It’s a risk. You can’t have it all. But those kids cartoons the other day, those were fantastic. I really loved ‘Cube’ and ‘Tokri,’ those were… really good. I really cried and everything on some of these things. I did. It’s fine to get emotional watching film. Film can move us. I guess all art can, if it resonates. Now who am I talking to, here. I wonder about that, sometimes. But art making: its purpose, its definition, its boundaries… these are questions that go out the window when you just experience something… something that makes you feel something. Something noteworthy, you could say. But of course it’s subjective, based on the experiences we each have. And now I sound like a sound byte, or someone’s really bad Medium tirade, that they want to sound philosophical and beautiful and poignant, but which reads like, you know, bad copy. Bad art, and bad copy… those are there. But you can’t let the prospect of bad art get in the way of going and trying to find your way towards the unexpected. Right? I mean, right?’

’…’

’But it’s so hot out. And I’m so tired of the noises, and I just want to be alone, you know?’

’Being in the theatre, that’s how you used to be alone. Remember?’

’Wait. how do you know? Who are you, anyway?’

’…’

’Are you telling me that I should just go ahead and make myself walk over to Sorya Mall, and go see this thing?’

’Do what you want. But don’t make excuses, like it’s too hot. Hotness is part of life in Asia.’

’Yeah, that’s true.’

***

’You went!’

’I did!’

’How was it!’

’OMG. I’ve never seen… Well, let me just find it for you. On YouTube. Oh, here it is… Watch this.’

 

 

'S' is for Sincerity · 100 Conversations · Experiments in Expression · Ideations · In real life · In Việt Nam · The Muse

S P C | Kuala Lumpur, ‘Kaunter Tiket’


PRETTY REMARKABLE SERIES of conversations in Kuala Lumpur. The goal was to make ourselves go in search of the unknown, see what we could discover in chance encounters. Getting on a train with someone with a map. Sitting up straight listening to O.’s frank reportage of her life as an escort. Making smalltalk in broken Hindi, finding the language irrelevant to the quality of the exchange. Meeting a line of new queries, breaking through unseen surfaces. And sharing the jazzy back and forth style of conversation-connection that we love, with a seasoned pianist. A lot of missed connections, too, with the ones who didn’t realize our invitations expire. (How else to press the point, this is a celebrating of real life, this magic moment of being here, now. In real life. Together.) On Tuesday we will post to our S P A C E community the fresh new zine, S P A C E || Kuala Lumpur. The story is called Kaunter Tiket.

Special thanks to No Black Tie.

16N · Experiments in Expression · Found in the Field · In real life · In Việt Nam · The Muse

16N in a pic

AT LAST, the picture of our guests at ‘N’ Hanoi: NARRATIVE. What stories do we tell to the world? Which ones do we tell ourselves? In this brief encounter, 16 people whose paths might not have otherwise crossed conversed and wrote, read and listened, in a space of just 2.5 hours. A magic moment. *!

’16N’ Hanoi happened on 27 June 2017.
100 Conversations · Found in the Field · Ideations · In real life · In Việt Nam · The Muse

A Q&A with author Michelle L. Stephens: ‘Venturing into the unfamiliar’

[Update: Before Design Kompany became a roving atelier to gather people’s stories on the spot in real life, we were gathering perspectives in our online community, behind protected-pages at this blog. This post was originally an exclusive for a forum, ‘The Village,’ on work, life, and relationships.]

TODAY I INVITE you to read a short email conversation with Michelle Lynn Stephens, a poet I’ve been in touch with since the time we met at a fun open mic. We share roots in Durham, NC, and recently reconnected when I hosted a tweet chat about self-publishing. That opened a space for an entirely new conversation, in which I got to know more about where things have gone for Michelle since we met. Here’s our interview, which took place over email through the spring of 2017. This piece was originally published as an exclusive for our online community, S P A C E.

 

Venturing into the unfamiliar

DK: We talked in our email conversation about journeys. And leaving, and how that can inspire us. Can you talk about this a little bit?

Michelle L. Stephens

MS: How interesting that you should ask this question, as I met you at the beginning of my open mic journey! I am definitely the adventurous type. I love trying new platforms and traveling to different venues. I have met so many wonderful people who have been very supportive and eventually became my creative village.

DK: Can you tell us about what you’ve written, so far?

MS: My book is The Divorcée Chronicles. And I co-authored an anthology, Single Mama Dating Drama.

DK: OK. Besides writing and traveling, I think we also talked about family. And… dating? 

MS: The sequel to Diary of a Divorcée Diva is all about dating, but nowhere near finished. There is a tad bit of dating adventure in the first book and my short story in the anthology is about getting back out there after divorce. The anthology is focused on single mothers, so that may be where you are remembering the parent thing.

DK: But then, there is the massive adventure of parenting right? The ultimate adventure into the unknown? 

MS: Kids are fun and inspiring! The only downside is losing sleep sometimes when they are young and finding courage to let them go off own their own when they are older… While my toddler is my only biological child, I have had a plethora of little ones in my life and don’t feel particularly new to parenting. I have always taken care of children and it feels very natural to me.

My mom tells me that I wanted to do whatever she did with my baby sister, such as feeding her, combing her hair, rocking her and such. I took care of my baby cousin, I have several godchildren who call me ‘Ma’, I volunteered at daycare and after school care programs as a teen… I once had stepchildren who I adored and I take my niece and nephews around with me quite often.

DK: After we met in Durham, where have the journeys taken you?

MS: My circle in Durham encouraged me to share my talents with so many others. I may have been afraid to venture back out after my California dreams faded into the working world, if it were not for my arts experience in Durham. It is a place that embraces and supports the arts tremendously. The path from Durham led me to the next town over, then to major cities like Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia to share my words. I gained the confidence to submit my work to some heavy hitters in African American literature and became a part of a book project that turned into a #1 National Bestseller. My territory is ever increasing and I dream of seeing my work on the big screen someday, but I would also like to remember where I came from and remain a part of the circle that started me on my way.

DK: On your way… to where? Curious.

MS: I have back and forth from the DMV area often, as my significant other takes on mostly government contracts. I love the arts up there as a spectator, but unfortunately have not been able to participate much as an artist. I have no support system there, as far as babysitting goes. There’s always a book festival, library event, or museum to stop by in DC and the scenery is quite inspiring…

DK: Venturing out seems important to you.

MS: I am a firm believer that venturing out into the unfamiliar serves to strengthen your creativity. It opens your eyes to things you have never seen and expands your worldview. I have not traveled as far as you have, but testing the waters up and down the East Coast has been very fulfilling. Even before I began doing poetry and publishing, I was off to California and exploring the performing arts world. I experienced being among the best performers, in the audience of great theaters, in studios, filming for television on Hollywood sets, at casting and modeling agencies and briefly attempted to form a singing duet. My time there was amazing and continues to influence my writing and stage performances today. There is, however, a time for stillness when it is time to gather your thoughts on the page.

DK: Who are your favorite artists?

MS: My favorite artists are two alumni of North Carolina Central University, my late aunt, educator Barbara Tuck Ebron and the incomparable Ernie Barnes, a Durham native.

DK: Art venues?

MS: My favorite museum is the Smithsonian American Art Museum. They have very diverse exhibits with everything from presidents to Native American experiences to African American musicians and writers on grand display.

DK: Can we share an excerpt of one of your books?

MS: Yes…

From The Divorcée Chronicles: Diary of a Divorcée Diva… 

I never felt so free as I did on that flight to LAX. The sky was the limit and I was literally on top the world, looking down on it from Cloud Nine. No one could tell me anything would ever go wrong ever again at that moment in time. After chatting it up with Darren a little bit about my hopes and dreams as always, he suggested that maybe I should look into moving to Cali, too. It would be the perfect place to start a totally new path in life and get away from all my troubles. I daydreamed myself about it right on to sleep.

“Good evening, passengers. This is your Captain speaking. I hope you have enjoyed your flight. We are approaching our destination and fully expect a safe and uneventful landing. Thank you for joining us. Have a good night.”

Waking up to stare out the window at the stuff that dreams are made of was surreal. The view of the Concrete Jungle, with all that water surrounding it, was amazing. I saw nothing but miles and miles of highway and bright lights! I had on my cute little sleeveless cotton dress that was hit just above the knee and got a rude awakening when I stepped onto the tarmac. The cold, sweeping air hit me right in the face.

“Whoa!! How can it be freezing in California in the middle of July?!”

“Kay, this ain’t Cackalacky. Ain’t none of that humidity out here. Don’t you know this is the desert?” Darren was always so thorough in his ex-planation of everything. Always had been, even back in the days when he was trying to tell me why we needed to break up and just be friends.

“You gone love the way it feels outside tomorrow when the sun is out, though. I’m telling you, Kay. The wea-ther is addictive.”

“Ok, I’m just gonna have to trust you on that one ‘cause it’s just freezing my legs off right about now!”

That night as I looked out the 12th-floor window of the hotel at all the lights that put the dark, tree-lined streets back home to shame, I was hooked and my mind was made up. If the rest of Cali was like the view from here, I was gonna call it home and soon.

The next day, Darren and I headed out to paint the town. He was right about the weather being gorgeous and we checked out the usual tourist traps like the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theater, then watched the many talented hopefuls acting out at Venice Beach. We toured the star homes and rode past all the famous places like Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, Capitol Records, and the Hollywood sign. We even checked out South Central and in the words of Ice Cube himself, I gotta say it was a good day.

“Tomorrow we’ll go look at the apartments I found online”, Darren said.

“If you decide to move here, you can just find something when you get to town because people move in and out around here all the time. It’s not like back home.”

DK: Thank you! Last question: What’s the best advice you ever got?

MS: Never give up!

A Philosophy of the Moment · In real life · In Việt Nam · Miscellany · The Muse

All Things Are Governed by Atoms

‘THE ATOMIC POEMS and the philosophy of naturalism espoused by Margaret Cavendish were influenced by Epicurus.’ Says the internet. Epicurus and the internet sometimes give us intriguing tidbits, indeed. Things that philosophers in this modern era might be heartened to read, because we sometimes get railroaded into thinking that what counts is what can be counted (but we know it isn’t always the case, right? Anyone who has listened to a great poem read aloud to her, one on one, for example, and especially if it’s very personally pointed in her direction, can attest to that.)

Cavendish’s poem, ‘All Things are Governed by Atoms’ is below.

Like I said, I found it while reading about Epicurus’ ideas.

These, specifically: that we should be able to spend time with our friends; be free of the need or anxiety that comes with having to make a living the usual way in our day and age; and also, the feeling that we gotta spend some time analyzing life. Epicurus has inspired us quite a lot here at Atelier S P A C E and I’m looking forward to revealing more as we go, in the journeys ahead. Meantime, find the poem and more about Cavendish posted at the page here.

But for the moment, here is All Things are Governed by Atoms

All Things are Governed by Atoms

Thus life and death, and young and old,
Are as the several atoms hold.
Wit, understanding1 in the brain
Are as the several atoms reign,
And dispositions good or ill                                
Are as the several atoms still.
And every passion which doth rise
Is as the several atoms lie.
Thus sickness, health, and peace and war
Are as the several atoms are.  

A Philosophy of the Moment · In real life · In Việt Nam · Mirror2018

On quality and intrigue, a conversation with line and music

IN DENMARK I got to hear a pretty neat collection of intriguing bands at a weird and fascinating spot in Copenhagen called Mandags Klubben 5e. (More about them, another time—so fun.)

But for today I want to share an interview with someone intriguing I met, whose upcoming album is another thing I’d like to share about in a future post as it has a connection to one of our own pieces of work, The Book of Songs, in an abstract, tangential sort of way. Abstract and tangential, now that I think about it, is exactly what was awesome about being there on that day last autumn.

Let me expand.

Loved the sound of a young group called Gunslinging Bird Quartet, and started drawing in ball point pen and off the page—two new things for me, at the same time. I later asked trumpeter Erling Skorpen about the style of music he and his bandmates play, and why. Free jazz.

DK: Cool show, can you tell me about your band?

ES: Through years of playing and exploring different types of music, we all found a common interest in this type of jazz music. It’s merely a process—we might part ways with this aesthetic in one year or ten years. This is the music we all love, and which inspires us right now.

DK: What makes you happy?

ES: When we are playing music and it really works out. Drinking coffee. Pleasant surprises.

DK: How do you define intrigue?

ES: When you listen to a concert, and you notice that the musicians are really into what they’re doing. When you can feel the energy in the room, and there exists a special atmosphere there. That’s the feeling that best describes intrigue for us.

DK: How do you define quality?

ES: When music is honest and it connects with the audience. When you really hear that these people mean what they do.

MEMBERS OF the band are: Trym Daniel Rødvik – alto saxophone; Erling Skorpen – trumpet; Alex Riris – double bass; Amund Nordstrøm – drums & percussion.

Discover Gunslinging Bird online here: Soundcloud.com/gunslinging-bird.

Arts and culture, conversation and the story

IT’S NOT FOR EVERYONE, as Erling says and which is exactly why I enjoyed being there. Mainstream can get in the way of real connection, in my opinion. When you bumble into the unexpected and find intrigue, there is something *! that happens.

Magic?

Magic.

It’s delight these days, I’m convinced, that makes up the aesthetic of a new kind of ‘beautiful.’ And when I say ‘delight’ I don’t mean some user interface or an app. I mean, real life. What is the role of music in society? What is the role of poetry, of design? To make artfulness, I think. To meander, to open hearts.

But what’s your take? Comments welcome. —DK

This post originally appeared in the INTIMACY sequence of our eZine, S. P. A. C. E.

A Philosophy of the Moment · In real life · In Việt Nam · Mirror2018 · The Muse

‘Light sticks:’ implements for generating sparks or flame

TODAY, A GUEST POST from Eric Chuk, who took me up on my challenge to write an answer to the question, ‘What is intrigue?’ 

This originally appeared in the final issue of the INTRIGUE sequence in our eZine, S. P. A. C. E.

Intrigue

Light sticks

A MATCHSTICK IS COMMONLY composed of a small piece of wood and an ignitable coating at one end. When struck against a suitable surface, heat generated by friction causes the coated end to catch afire.

This simple mechanism is actually the result of centuries of development, not counting the preceding usage of flint and steel or the later advent of portable lighters. These implements for generating sparks or flame make it easy to focus on the accomplishment — the activities that require a greater source of light or heat than a match. The substrate itself is often overlooked.

Yet ‘what is to give light must endure burning.’ If ignition can be a metaphor for all that inspire and impels, why not the kinds of things can be burned? Why praise the fire of creativity but not its fuel, intrigue?

By some considerations, artistic activity depends on creativity as the energy that sustains it, and intrigue is thought of more as the spark. But to define intrigue as a momentary thing, bright but so quickly expended, is to ignore the need to sustain attention even after the original impetus is gone.

What makes a story?

AS AN EDITOR and writer, I am especially intrigued by the following—one is a technique while the other is an open question about the nature of storytelling.

In writing, the technique of ‘showing,’ or describing using concrete facts, is known to be more effective than ‘telling,’ which is to rely heavily on adjectives and adverbs.

Of course there is subjectivity in all writing, even so-called factual writing, because writers choose which facts to include and thereby bend them to their purpose. So this implies that given a representative, well-sourced collection of facts and subjective observations, the reader is supplied with enough fuel to be intrigued, to read and form an opinion about the issue or the writing itself.

What makes a story? It is the difference between hearing that ‘the king died, and then the queen died’ versus ‘the king died, and then the queen died of grief,’ as explained by the novelist E.M. Forster. Although he calls the former a story (chronological sequence of events) and the latter a plot (causal, logical structure connecting events), the point remains–causality is intriguing, but more specifically, cases of human actions or occurrences causing a significant and relatable effect on some world-state.
I would say that grief, although a specific emotional implication in this example, can be generalized as the matchstick that begins to burn once we think about the relationship between the story characters and the people in our own lives who mirror them.But regardless of whether matches or sparks deserve further contemplation, my hope is to have outlined intrigue in terms that might lead to an even more universal definition; it is a force that focuses imaginative attention, not only on whatever is at hand but also toward vistas we have never before reached, with distant campfires waiting to be lit. —Eric Chuk

Published in S. P. A. C. E. 

Found in the Field · Ideas of Curiosity · Ideations · In real life · In Việt Nam · Interviews · Publisher's Diary · The Muse

S P A C E | Jai Ranganathan: ‘Sharpen and heighten’

Editor’s note: First published in S P A C E in 2017, this short Q&A about the creative process still rings true today to those of us at DK who remain very curious about how to continuously improve on what we make.

OFFLINE CONVERSATIONS lately are turning to the process itself, and, to take it further, discoveries that happen on the way to ‘making.’ Maybe it’s in the air? Looking back on what creative people have told me about this work of making, I recalled something I learned from science podcaster Jai Ranganathan. (Find him on twitter at @jranganathan.) We had met at a science conference in NC’s Research Triangle Park. That was the kind of place where bunches of people convened to share tips on making science interesting to a general audience, more or less, and I discovered Jai was set to instruct scientists at University of California Santa Barbara on how to use social media.

Conversations about sharing discoveries inspired this interview with Jai Ranganathan.

DK: What do you need to think about when opening a wide-open project like a podcast? That’s a pretty big blank canvas.

JR: First, define your purpose. Then, what’s your scope? Do you want to be a local brand? Have a national audience? If you want a large audience, people really go for video.

DK: OK. So if you know your purpose, then what? Any tips?

JR: Sure.

  1. Think about where can you add value. Ask businesses, ‘What’s a problem you have?,’ and then share, ‘Here’s how we might solve it.’
  2. Give your product away so people want to know more.
  3. You can do latest tips. Interviews. You could have seminars.
  4. Just get started. Do it frequently. Keep it short—2 minutes.

DK: Wait, so you just have to be prolific?

JR: You don’t have to be flashy, or always funny, or the best-looking. But you have to be compelling in your voice. Be engaged, animated, and interesting.

DK: But what about talent?

JR: Talent is overrated. You have to be interesting/entertaining first, or else it doesn’t matter what you have to say!

DK: How do you do that?

JR: Boring podcasts are that way because people are checking boxes off a how-to list, as opposed to doing something that’s really them. Anything creative like this—podcasting, video, or writing—is about deciding what you want to say, and what’s your way of saying it. How to make that your own is key.

DK: How did you get into this?

JR: I was doing my postdoc in conservation biology. If you’re not a scientist, your job is to write papers. I was disenchanted after a while. How likely was it that what I wrote would lead to action? So as a hobby, I started interviewing scientists. I’ve always really liked radio. Someone found me and offered to pay me to do this, so now I have $2,000 broadcast-quality equipment and I make a good living. But, I had hoped more people would listen.

DK: What can others learn?


JR: It takes a while to figure out what you’re doing and why the heck you’re doing it. Don’t make it too scripted. You can have a script, but don’t read it. Imagine somebody giving a talk and reading a script–it’s death! And you know, you have to like doing it. And keep doing it, that’s key. Don’t wait to get good. No one sprouts out of the earth fully formed.

Published in S P A C E, 2016.