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Mike Johnston Interview August 26, 2011

Here’s episode two of the new Synchronicity Arkive podcast, Arkiving Synchronicity. This episode is the exact opposite of episode 1. In that episode I interviewed Karl Tune, and in this one, he interviews me. Again for your listening enjoyment…

Click here to download it (approx. 14Mb, 49min.).

A Transcript follows after the break…

Karl: Welcome to Arkiving Synchronicity, the Synchronicity Arkive podcast. This is your host, Karl Tune.

Joining me today is Arkiver, creator of the Synchronicity Arkive. (There is a round of applause from the audience). Did you ever imagine that your web site would last so long or become so popular?

MJ: Hi, Karl… great to be here. It’s funny that you ask about how long the site has lasted. I don’t think I really gave it much thought when I was initially setting up my small “Synchronicity Arkive” page back in 1995. It just kind of went from there really. It’s been part of my “internet persona” since the beginning now, so it’s kind of hard to view it as anything separate, it’s just kind of there. Even as my own specific interests in audio-visual synching have waxed and waned, it’s still been there.

Karl: What was it like being interviewed by MTV in a segment titled “Did Pink Floyd take a trip to Oz?”, which aired 05/30/1997 , and seeing yourself on National Television? Did you have old friends call you up or people approach you in the grocery store afterwards?

MJ: Huh. I can’t say I’ve ever had anyone approach me in a grocery store, or anywhere else really. Most of my friends got a laugh out of it at the time, and some that didn’t know about it think it’s kind of funny nowadays if I tell them about it. That spring and summer was a fairly surreal experience really. It wasn’t just the attention from MTV, it was the whole frenzy of attention that was kicked off at that time. It all does tend to get a little blurry now, to be honest. There was such a rush around the whole media event. I mostly recall how all of a sudden my simple 1-page set up just proceeded to go nuts. I was still doing everything on the Arkive manually at that time, in straight HTML, and the site’s hit counter just went crazy. I was running around like mad just trying to keep up.

I think the best thing that came out of that attention was the addition of the message board. I was getting so worn out trying to keep the page (and then pages) themselves up to date, there seemed to be such a hunger for the idea of synching at that point, that the idea of a message board, that would allow people to contribute on their own, kind of became a way for me to get out of the grind of trying to do daily updates (while continuing to do my day-job as well, since at this point the Arkive had absolutely no source of funding). It just took off from there.

One thing I kind of like to speculate about now, is if I’d had the same kind of tools for web design back then that are around now. It’s interesting to me to think about what might have been, back then. Obviously, the possibilities are much wider now, for what you can do with a website. I was never much of a coder really, I mostly just hacked some things together to get them up and working, so, these newer tools really expand what someone like me can do (compared to writing things from scratch).

Karl: Why did your first web site promote music played to unrelated movies? Was there a synch that really resonated with you? Or did you want to promote a personal discovery about synchronicity? And why did you do constant updates on your site? It seems that your promotion of other people’s ideas grew into the synch database in the “Synchronicity Arkive” which is wildly popular with a number of the regular synchers.

MJ: When I first got home from college, I took some advice that my advisor had given me, about getting on the internet, getting into new technology. I opened my first internet account (outside of school), and hopped online. One of the first places I went was the Pink Floyd newsgroup, alt.music.pink-floyd. Now, one of the threads there that jumped out at me was the one for the Dark Side of Oz. That got me really fired up, because in college I was a big fan of the Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite synch. I wrote up that college experience a little in my page on JaBtI. So, at the time, I’d been thinking of what to do for a website, and here was a distinct possibility. I could do a page on both DSotR and JaBtI, and hopefully get more people interested in my favorite.

So, there was definitely a desire to spread the word about JaBtI that really kick-started my Arkive page. And, after a while, I started getting suggestions about others. I added my own Akira/Wish You Were Here match (which is not the best certainly, but I liked it), and any of the ones that the Floyd newsgroup seemed to think had something to them.

I guess fundamentally, I like the idea of participation, that sharing ideas, and including the ideas of others, seems to be a very dynamic, almost karmic concept. In a way, I get more attention to the ideas and concepts I like, by helping others to share their ideas. Sometimes it seems like a “pay it forward” kind of thing, to me. So, there was never really a question to me of including the suggestions of others, it was really down to a mechanical question of how to integrate that.

Like I said previously, when the site went nuts over DSotR, I got a bit strung out trying to keep up, and in that sense, the message board was really a defense mechanism, to reclaim some of my own time. And I do think it really did kickstart the overall community to a large degree. Of course, that “trying to keep up” took a huge toll on my own interest in doing synchs or really talking about them too much.

Karl: Well, I hope you’ll talk about them now since you know quite a bit of history. I notice you refer to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” played to “The Wizard of Oz” as “The Dark Side of the Rainbow” while I call it “The Dark Side of Oz”. Since you were present in the early days of the internet, how did these two names come about and were there any other names for the combination?

MJ: I think that particular synch has been known by a lot of different names actually. I’ve seen it referred to as DSotM/WoO (both as an acronym and spelled out), Wizard of Floyd, Dark Side of Oz, and Dark Side of the Rainbow. I guess I just liked the more poetic nature of DSotR myself, and since I was putting together the Arkive, that’s what I went with. It is interesting to me to note how my own thought patterns are kind of “imprinted” on the Arkive’s design, and how that might differ from the way someone else might have chosen to present things. I guess this is just one example of a semi-conscious choice in how to present this synch…. I think in a way it makes that synch stand out a little more, rather than just being a variation of the two titles, it presents it as a 3rd, unique creation really. At least, when I try to analyze why that particular name appeals to me, that’s how I would describe it.

Karl: Was there a move to standardize the name?

MJ: I don’t know that there has been any definitive move to standardize the name really. I think its one more example of the community having a certain “gravity” towards doing things certain ways, possibly. I’m reading a book right now that presented an interesting concept called “phase locking”, which is (at least from what I’m getting on it) the idea that uncoordinated and chaotic actions tend naturally towards aligning themselves into a kind of emergent order. It’s a fractal kind of thing. I’d have to say, I think the synching community has tended to phase lock a bit of our individual and solitary synching pursuits into more of a complete whole than you might think, especially if you’ve only ever heard the “urban legend” version of DSotR.

Karl: How did you feel about “The Dark Side of the Rainbow” when you first saw it? How do you feel about it now? Do you know why this synchronicity became the urban legend that everybody tries and talks about?

MJ: Well, I have to say, that I found DSotR a little bit of a disappointment, personally, on my first viewing. Although it definitely matches better than standard coincidence, I don’t think it’s quite at the level of really being a replacement soundtrack, personally. Although there were a few standout points for me (specifically Time and Money, and probably Great Gig in the Sky). That was part of what made the MTV thing kind of awkward for me. I think they were really looking for me to sell DSotR as a huge mystical incredible match to everyone, and I honestly look at it more as just kind of silly fun. Everyone I’ve ever shown synchs to, has preferred the Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite synch actually (talking “lay people” here, not really anyone in the synching community now or in the past). I know that’s contrary to your experience (since you didn’t like that one as much). So I guess the biggest thing I’ve personally taken out of synching is just how much we all have our own ways of seeing and how different those ways can truly be.

As far as now… well, my opinion hasn’t really changed that much. I think I’ve developed more fondness for DSotR over the years than I had initially, because it has had such a huge impact on the Arkive (obviously), but also on me. It’s kind of funny to reflect on that now… so yeah, I guess I have gotten into a lot more over the years than I thought I had. As far as the urban legend aspect of it… I think that it just hit at the right moment and in the right way to be an emergent phenomenon. In case you hadn’t guessed… I really dig the emergent concept, that order emerges out of chaos and vice versa. It just kind of fits my personal philosophy. I think that DSotR just hit at the right time to be paid attention to. I’m not sure that you could recreate that, as much as some of the “buzz” marketers try to do similar things.

Karl: So why did Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” played to “2001: A Space Odyssey” appeal to you more? It seems you were going against the trend. And why do we still refer to this synch as “JaBtI slash Echoes” instead of say…”Jupiter and Beyond the Echoes”?

MJ: I think part of the reason JaBtI has more appeal for me personally is probably the more limited scope it represents. I mean, it’s a 22/23 minute segment, rather than an entire film, plus the song itself is a whole. They’re two wholes that fit together perfectly, for me anyway. I like the completeness of it. Kind of like I was saying that DSotR represents that synch as a separate creation from either original work, I think that JaBtI as a synch represents a complete and original “work.” As far as trends… well, I think the synching community itself doesn’t necessarily represent what “everyone” would see in a given synch anyway…. From my personal experience, every person I’ve ever shown both DSotR and JaBtI to has expressed far and away that JaBtI is superior. But again, that’s what I like about this hobby is that everyone can take some different away from it. I don’t feel it diminishes my enjoyment of JaBtI at all that you (or others) didn’t see it as I did. I suppose one could argue too, that one’s first synching experience has a lot of influence on how one views all subsequent synchs, so as my first, I’m admittedly partial to JaBtI. And honestly, it also appeals to me as a sci-fi/tech/philosophy geek, moreso than Oz (as a fantasy) and DSotM (as a study in “madness”) do (although that opinion might be different had I encountered them earlier, since I was a fantasy geek in high school).

As far as how to refer to this synch… I always call it Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite myself, because I view it as a complete “work”, with the title taken from the film segment. Honestly, I can’t watch that segment any more without “hearing” Floyd’s Echoes. Sometimes I’ll add the “/Echoes” just to clarify, for people who aren’t familiar with it… but I personally never call it “Jupiter and beyond the echoes.” I guess to me the difference in naming, with both DSotR and JaBtI, separates out those two from the rest of synching, since they were, at least for me, the beginning of this whole odyssey, both into the community and into synching itself. They’re like “The Big Two,” to me, and the names kind of reflect the differences between them and the rest of the material to come out of synching.

Karl: Yes, those two were the first two I witnessed. The differences between the two could be interpreted as philosophical. By the way, I know you are a reader of philosophical books. Did any of these books influence your view of synchronicity in life? And are there any books you would recommend to our listening audience?

MJ: Yeah… I’m also a book geek. And I mean “geek” in the sense of getting very excited about topics that interest me, really. I “geek” out over a lot of things, ‘cuz I feel them very intensely. I was heavy into fantasy books in high school, but gradually shifted more to sci-fi… and the thing that drove that shift for me was the way that sci-fi generally incorporated philosophy. One of my personal favorites is the Dune series; it’s heavy with philosophy. And, once I hit college, I kind of opened up my reading a lot more to include “real” philosophy, and non-fiction (political, technical, etc.). I’d have to say, for all time influences, my biggest has to be the book The Tao of Pooh, which uses the child’s story Winnie the Pooh to explain the Chinese philosophy of Taoism. Although I didn’t take that specific class, it was used as a text book in one of the classes offered in college. That book informed and shaped a lot of my personal philosophy.

Man, like I said, I geek out over books pretty easily. I could go on and on about the ones that influenced me and why. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and its sequel Lila… the writings of Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K. Dick…. Asimov, Clarke, Herbert, Heinlein… I keep meaning to start blogging a little more, and the idea I had for a personal blog was to use quotes from books (and other stuff) that spoke to me as a jumping off point for writing about why those quotes spoke to me. I’ve got a couple notebooks of quotes going, that one could infer a lot of my personal philosophy from, were I to post those quotes… so maybe one of these days I will take that up as a project. In the meantime… I do work occasionally bits of my favorite books and stuff into the site. The “People who get it” bits I used as Arkiver’s Reflections was an example of some of that.

Oh, and I can’t forget the influence of Robert Anton Wilson either, especially when it comes to the idea of synching. Actually, my interest in “Pope Bob” was triggered by a personal synch… the 1st thing of his I read, he talked about 2001, specifically the ending, which to me was the universe saying “pay attention to THIS guy.”

Karl: Does the knowledge you gained from these books influence how you view synchs now? Or how you interact with the community?

MJ: I think these books specifically, and any of those media (books, film, music), heavily influence how I deal with “reality,” so it’s quite natural that they also inform how I view synchs and the community. I’d attribute a lot of my interest in copyright, which I’ve read up on heavily, to the influence of synching in my life. Synching made a lot of those concepts, especially about reinterpreting, remixing, and just generally making use of “copyrighted” material, absolutely crystal clear to me. I mean, where does one draw the line, as far as “who” created a work, when, as a syncher, you’re in there, manipulating starting points and just generally engaging with the media materials (in synching, music and video) you’re working with. It just crystallized the continuum that I think our copyright law tries to draw very artificial distinctions around.

And philosophically speaking, I think I picked up a lot of karmic, “pay it forward” ideas from philosophy and sci-fi, and most certainly, engagement with technology, that really contributed to how I designed the Arkive, and even the changes I’ve made over the years. Just in the course of us having this conversation, I ran across that idea of “phase locked” in a book I’m reading by Doug Rushkoff, a media theorist, that put into better words than I was, some of the concepts I was trying to articulate. So, in a sense, that was a synchronicity experience too.

Karl: Yes, phase locking is an interesting concept. It is amazing how separate entities begin to act in unison and cancel out the chaos. We gather on the internet with infinite ideas and gather to constructively interact on a web site. In our synching community, “Shared Fantasia” could be a product of phase locking. After all, those who were present at its conception, said it happened almost instantaneously, as if spontaneously generating out of nothing.

I wanted to go back to the ending of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I know we have talked about this before but would you mind repeating your thoughts for the audience? Especially since you are well read in philosophy. How do you interpret what is happening at the end of “2001”?

MJ: I think the end of 2001 is really about our evolution as a species, and how far we have yet to go on that evolution. It’s also about a journey into the unknown, but also a journey into beginnings, and transition. All of the molecules in our bodies originally came from “outer space”, and the journey to the stars is in some ways almost a homecoming for those molecules. That this time we’re doing it consciously, engaged in it, is something I think presents unique opportunities. I also really like the idea of greater intelligences out there, that act to “help us on our way.” At the end of his journey through the stargate, Dave evolves into the star child, the next phase of evolution, where he’s now ready to take control of the evolution that, up to that point, had merely acted upon him, pretty much without his consent. I always especially liked the way that the end of 2001 almost sublimates human religious symbolism into a more technological framework to present that evolution. The whole “motion through time,” complete with a last meal, and the foreboding glass shattering, is just something that really speaks to me.

There are a lot of ideas crammed into that last segment, and even the whole movie, that I’ve seen used in other sci-fi as well, that are concepts I personally get into. David Brin uses the concept of uplift, to basically describe that more advanced intelligence “uplifting” lower intelligences (a la the monolith uplifting the apes, and then later Dave). And really advanced, hyper advanced technology evolving us into newer, more advanced life forms is obviously in a lot of sci-fi. I also really like the way that the whole stargate sequence basically uses shamanic imagery (the whole idea of going through a tunnel to “dreamtime”), but recast in a more technological, outer space fashion (as opposed to more mystical, inner space fashion). I think it just gets at our linear divisions are breaking down, and that there is an underlying holistic order between these things that we’re used to thinking of as opposed (i.e. science and religion).

To really take it to the nth degree of mind-bendingness, I have to admit a certain fondness for the idea that the advanced intelligence working to “uplift” us is “us” from the future, just highly evolved. Not that that’s implied at all in 2001… it’s just an idea I’ve run across elsewhere that I kinda dig.

Karl: Whoa…that does send me for a loop. A possible future creating it’s own past. I had never really examined the end for all the symbolism you have. Now that we are talking about movies, with a well read background like yours, I was also curious what movies interest you the most. Does it tend to be movies based on books you like? Similar to “Slaughterhouse 5” perhaps?

MJ: I think that thing that gets me into movies (or books), is fundamentally the story. Y’know, Hollywood has come a long way with technology, they can make any idea or vision appear right before our eyes. But the thing that makes that worthwhile is, at its core, the story. If the story is good, then the effects, or the actors, can serve to heighten its effectiveness…. And certainly, bad effects, or acting, can undermine or even completely derail even a good story. I think movies nowadays are kind of suffering through a downturn in their ability to effectively present STORIES. Not that everything has to be a linear story… I liked Memento quite a bit (as did others on the Arkive), and that was hardly linear.

I think the advantage of a movie based on a book, or a comic book, or any other medium really, is that the story has already had an opportunity to be refined and tested a bit. That tends to be why those make “better” movies. However, it’s by no means guaranteed. I honestly can’t remember the last “original” Hollywood movie that I liked, most of the ones I did like recently have been reinterpretations.

I think that like a lot of synchers I tend to be drawn to surreal and psychedelic imagery, mostly because it “just looks cool.” But beyond that, it has to have some other kind of appeal, other than just eye candy. And my biggest criticism these days of movies is where the story or idea is subservient to the “look” of the picture.

Karl: Do movies have to have a purpose or can they just be fun?

MJ: I don’t know that they have to have a purpose, or even that the purpose can’t be secondary to just having fun. A number of friends have called me overly analytical, which is probably an occupational hazard of having taken a lot of media studies courses in college. It’s also a side effect of another aspect of my philosophy, which is that you (in the general sense) should strive at all times to be aware of things, and in some ways analyzing them. Sometimes you just need to unplug, and then a movie that is pure fun is probably what the doctor ordered. But I find that for myself, I get more enjoyment out of a good story… when the story breaks down, that breaks down my enjoyment of the film.

Take Batman Begins, from last year. You have the source material there, more than 70 years of Batman comics that have done pretty much every variation on that theme that can be done. So there’s a very deep well of story there. But some of the casting, in my opinion, took precedence over the story in that film. Perfect example was Katie Holmes as the assistant DA. I’m sorry, but she looks like she could be the intern to the secretary of the assistant to the assistant DA. And yet, that character was supposed to provide a lot of the emotional core of the journey of Bruce Wayne to a more noble Batman. Every time I saw Holmes on the screen, it just screamed to me miscasting. It broke me out of the story, every second she appears. Other than that, I liked that movie, quite a bit actually. But y’know, that one element almost derailed it for me. And what can be more “pure fun” than superheroes, y’know?

Like I said, I’m way over-analytical, but can sometimes set that aside to just enjoy a movie like Batman. Another thing that gets me about current movies is the lack of editing that some of the more “popular” films get. I loved the original Matrix films, but by the time you got to the second film, you get a scene like the 100s of Agent Smiths. When you look at it from a story point of view, what was the point of that scene? It established that, hey, there’s a lot of this guy, and he can really mess with Neo. A skilled editor could have conveyed that idea in a five minute scene. But instead, that scene drags on for 20 minutes. I don’t know about others, but that broke me out of the thread of the story, and I started wondering what was for lunch. That’s not good in an action movie. Not good at all. Kill Bill Vol. 1 had a lot of the same problems, and both KB and the Matrix sequels spread their story out over multiple movies. So, in addition to not being a good example of storytelling, you get to pay twice as much for the privilege of a lesser story.

I could go on and on with examples from recent (or at least semi-recent films)… but I don’t want to bore you too much… but then I can still enjoy a movie like the Mummy films, because they don’t try to tell such an overwhelming story, they’re more geared towards just being fun. In general though, I prefer the better story…

Karl: Yes, some movies are eye candy but they are trying to appeal to a wide audience and make the most money. And you have to admit that some movies are just fun to watch. After all that we said, what are your top 10 movies and do you agree with magazines like Spin when they list the top 100 movies of the 20th century?

MJ: I definitely agree that movies are trying to appeal to a wide audience, which I think tends to “vanilla-ize” them to a certain extent. But it does seem that in trying to appeal to a wider sense of fun, sometimes that particular mountain ends up more as a hill, than a real peak. It’s true that you risk a valley by going with a more complex or different story, but those are where you find the real achievements, I think. I guess lately nothing from Hollywood has blown me away, so it’s hard to get excited about their sense of fun.

As far as top lists go, I think they can be problematic actually. After all, over time one’s list is going to shift, as new stuff comes out, as we get more or less interested in certain ones. I don’t know that I’ve really thought too hard about my top 10 favorites in a long time actually. So, let’s see… well, 2001 would have to be on that list, definitely, although over time it’s probably moved down from my #1 favorite. It probably peaked when I was in college and watching that synch a lot. Pink Floyd’s The Wall would have to be on there, as well as the Doors movie. Both of those were also college favorites, but I still really like both of them. Jacob’s Ladder was a great ride, a definite mind-bender, which I’d rate pretty highly. I get a kick sometimes out of discovering movies randomly, and for that, I’d have to say the best two that hit me that way were the movie version of Vonnegut’s Mother Night and A Little Princess. I think that gets us to six… ? Hmmmm…. For anime, I’d have to list the Ghost In The Shell movie, and probably Akira. Both of those got me into Japanese culture a lot more, plus the portrayal of technology in both is just incredible. I’d probably top that list of 10 with Fight Club and the Shawshank Redemption. But looking at those 10, there are a lot missing there too… I mean, Dark Crystal, Dark City , Labyrinth, Memento, Swingers, Donnie Darko, the Incredibles, Dazed & Confused , Brazil … I could probably go on even more…

I do often find that a lot of movies I either really like myself or that I think are “critical” for those types of lists, do indeed make it (like Spin or Time, or AFI). Citizen Kane is usually on those, and that was certainly a ground-breaking film. 2001 too, is usually on lists like that. Sometimes Clockwork Orange (another good Kubrick film). The Godfather films, although not my personal favorites or anything, are usually on there. I was just reading something about a top 200 album list that came out, and that there were a lot of columnists and bloggers who disagreed. I think what’s interesting about lists like this is that they get conversations going about what belongs on those lists, and that in turn represents a tremendous potential to get people to check out new things, outside of their “comfort zone.” I think we’ve talked a lot about that over the years, the idea that synching exposes one to a lot of new material, potentially, and in a way I think these lists are an even more informal way of doing that. After all, a lot of the ways that we separate the “wheat from the chaff” in terms of what we discover is through that type of recommending. I think that also represents a lot of the potential of the internet and online communities to restore that type of discovery to people, when modern society has in turn removed a lot of our contexts where that activity used to exist. True, we sacrifice depth sometimes for range online… but the range is so much bigger that I think sometimes it makes up for some of what’s lost. Actually, I think ideally, one uses those types of features as a complement to developing the type of “real world” contexts that are so much harder to maintain today.

Karl: I am glad you bring up music because that is what I want to ask you about next. I definitely read the top music lists to find out about music I don’t normally listen to. I don’t know if this is true where you live, but the radio stations I listen to only play a narrow selection of music. Do you crave new music or are you satisfied with what you currently listen to? How do you get exposed to new music? You mention that synching exposes people to new music. Has it exposed you to great new bands that you would have otherwise would have overlooked?

MJ: Oh, man… music. Yeah, I remember music. Almost. I can’t say I’m really that into music so much lately. For me, the day the music died was the day that Napster got shut down. Now, I’m not advocating music piracy, but when Napster was going full tilt, prior to the lawsuit from the recording industry, I was trying all kinds of new stuff. I was buying probably 2-3 CDs a week too. I think you hit the nail right on the head talking about radio and narrow selection. Radio by me is a desert, when it comes to selection. And I’m in freaking Chicago . That should be a big enough city to count for something. So, yeah… when Napster went away, I lost a lot of my taste for music. I’d gotten hooked on the whole “try before you buy” method as a way of eliminating “one-hit wonders” and other crud from my collection. Now that it’s difficult to do that… well, I’ve found other things to spend money on. The little bit of new music that I’ve gotten into since Napster, some was definitely from synching. I’d attribute both my liking for Radiohead and the Flaming Lips to synching directly. And I’d just bought the new Beatles’ Love album, specifically on recommendations in the Arkive forum.

I think it’s kind of sad though, because music used to be such a huge part of my life. Part of it is probably also that my fiancé and I have different tastes, so we opt to listen to that small subset of things we both like, which then limits things. Also, it’s just become a time thing. I guess I just don’t have the kind of time I used to have, to really enjoy music. I’m more likely now to run across something in a commercial or a movie (or tv show) than anywhere else.

But radio… ugh… don’t even get me started there. I think radio deserves to die already. That was probably one reason I had an issue with doing any kind of ads on the Arkive, is how effectively advertising has ruined radio. I still find myself a bit troubled by it… but at the same time, I did get tired of always spending money on the Arkive, it seemed like the only way to maybe get it to pay for itself at least.

Karl: I am glad you have funding to help reward you for your years of toil on the Synchronicity Arkive web site. I don’t like advertisements but I like paying money even less. Thank you for not using those ding dong pop up ads.

MJ: I hate pop-ups, so you won’t see those any time soon. It’s interesting to me to see how the ads or similar funding links can actually add to the experience of the Arkive rather than diminish it. As a media theory “interested party,” I’m not a big fan of advertising at all really, so at times it does feel a little hypocritical. The best I can do to balance that is make sure that there is some way that the ads add something, or at least allow registered members to “not see” them.

Karl: Back to the music. What are some of your current favorite bands and which do you and your fiancé both enjoy. I am always looking for good recommendations.

MJ: Well… my fiancé isn’t much of a Floyd fan. And a lot of the music I got into after college had a certain Floydian flair to it. So that eliminated a lot of my “comparatively recent” favorites from the rotation. I found that I liked a lot of stuff that falls into the electronica genre (if you want to call it a genre). Stuff like The Future Sound of London, Juno Reactor, the Crystal Method, Moby, and Fatboy Slim. Obviously, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Doors, and Floyd. Recently, I discovered Boards of Canada, Radiohead, and the Flaming Lips pretty heavily. As far as what we’re listening to these days… well, a lot of it is “one offs” from iTunes. Unfortunately, my memory for “one offs” isn’t that good really… they don’t make enough of an impression, I guess. Kinda like snacking on too much chocolate.

At times, I find myself really missing substantive music. When that hits, I tend to turn more to stuff I already know, because I *know* it’s substantive, I don’t have to struggle to find it. That’s what was so frustrating about Napster dying. When they were really going, man… I was so into music. Oh, I forgot… Dead Can Dance, which my friend Fred who works in music got me into. They’re totally different than anything else, and I love ‘em. I’m probably going to think of a bunch more in a bit now… I recently became an affiliate of the iTunes store, so that I could start including some links there in my promotional efforts for the Arkive, so perhaps I can pull together a write-up or two for a future Arkiver’s Reflections.

Karl: I am really curious. Have you ever played in a music band? Do you have any musical talent? Do you think that being able to read music is required to harmonize music to movies?

MJ: Ha, now that’s a synchronicity for you. Just recently I finished digitizing a video from college, of my good friend Luke (who introduced me to JaBtI) and I playing at the college coffeehouse. So, yeah, I have played a little. Mostly just messed around on a guitar really. I can’t say that I have the discipline for formalized music I guess. In music, like in other things, I like to try things out and experiment, and kind of keep a certain “generalist” approach to the way I do things. I also don’t know that I have enough “musical talent” really to compete in any meaningful way with the rest of the world, which is one reason my interest in it has faded. I mean, there are plenty of other things that I’m more interested in. But I do think that keeping an interest in as many things as possible keeps one mentally sharp, so to speak.

I don’t think formal music training is required at all for the synching hobby, although I would imagine that it would tend to instill a bit more of an analytical approach. So, for me, as someone who over-analyzes anyway, I can’t see that being a bad thing, necessarily. I think anything that brings that kind of critical awareness, that rigor, to art or music, or movies, or philosophy, or anything really, generally tends to strengthen it. So I would see it as a good thing if more people had some of that type of training, or approached the hobby from that perspective. At times, it can seem that the community could really use that. At least, it does to me.

Karl: I consider you a good role model on the internet. Is there something you would like people to learn from your site? Is there a certain philosophy you would like people to know about that would help them in life?

MJ: Wow, Karl… now I’m embarrassed. Wow. Well, lessee… I think I’d personally like it if more people could pick up on the main thing that I’ve learned from running the Arkive. That is, that we all have different perspectives on things, we all see things differently, and each of those ways don’t have to result in conflict, they can co-exist fairly easily. That’d definitely be the big one. I think too often nowadays everyone is pushing for every other group to be the same as them, somehow, as if that would validate that they’ve chosen correctly. I find that especially with religious groups. I’d have to admit, right up front, I’m not terribly friendly to organized religion for exactly that reason. I’m fine with people choosing to live whatever way they want, but when they decide to try and make choices for others, that really does annoy me. I see that particularly in those religions that came out of the Middle East, Judaism (not quite as much as the others), Christianity, and Islam.

So, in that sense, I do think one can play up larger issues when it comes to synching and philosophy. I wouldn’t want to go too much into that tangent, ‘cuz I know people can get touchy about it.

I guess at root, what appeals to me personally so much about synching is that it’s just there to be appreciated by those who know, and pretty much ignored by those who don’t. I think if the rest of life worked more like that, we’d all be a lot happier as a species. I find the art angle, that seems to appeal to you a lot, very interesting as well. The combination of visual art and music, it just speaks to certain core things, I think. About what’s really important. But then again, it’s also a great fun thing to do.

I think you might’ve thrown me there by calling me a role model. Man, that sounds so… responsible. I’ve started getting comments like that at work… they tend to clash a bit with my perception of myself kinda, like I wrote up in the “How Old Are You” Arkiver’s Reflection. It’s just a bit weird is all….

Karl: We won’t say you are old, just mature. You really do have a positive and friendly effect. That is important for a think tank effort where there are no right or wrong answers. I do think that brain storming allows the internet members to exceed the sum of their whole. This is where your phase locking idea could come into play. Beautiful things can be created from the chaos when ideas harmonize.

I do think it is your positive influence that has made your “Synchronicity Arkive” synonymous with “The Dark Side of the Rainbow”. Many web sites typically link to both phenomenon. And you are always quick to point out the other web sites for synching. That does shine of your “pay it forward” idea.

I know your site is a lot of work. I’ve been wondering. What are your biggest headaches and blunders for the “Synchronicity Arkive”? What are your biggest joys for the site? And do you foresee interesting things in the future of your site?

MJ: Perhaps the biggest headache is, and has been, staying on top of the site when my own motivation is lacking. Like anyone else, my interest in synching and the community does ebb and flow a bit. It’s when I’m maybe more into other things that keeping involved is most difficult. That’s probably contributed a lot to the ebb and flow of the site itself. When I’m involved, the site tends to hop a bit more… and it tends to languish when I’m not.

I’ve also struggled with the usual “dangers” of the internet, y’know spammers, trolls, griefers, etc. There’s a lot of negativity and just general bashing that goes with the net, and one does open oneself to a lot of that by running a site. I never wanted to be “the benevolent dictator,” in situations like O, but at the same time, if I didn’t do something there, nothing was going to improve. So I do struggle with that role, of dictating to the community. It’s a bit of a conflict with my own philosophy of free speech. So far, I think I’ve been pretty clear about what I won’t tolerate, in terms of spam, but maybe that’s partly because I’m applying my personal standards there. I try to rethink that continually and also be open to feedback about when I may have crossed those lines as well. Taking the site at least partly commercial, in terms of the ads, has also been a bit of an ethical challenge as well. I’m not really a fan of the commercial, so I’d admit that it seems a bit hypocritical to have ads. And I do worry about that polluting the site, or further driving away the regulars. In many ways, that can be a slippery slope, and it can be tough to navigate it.

But enough on the negative side of things… on the positive side of things, running the site has been a great experience overall. It’s put me in touch with a very wide variety of ideas and personalities, it’s been great for extending some of my own skills (in terms of building/maintaining communities, interacting with others, and even coding). And, although it really was crazy busy, the whole 1997 media frenzy was a lot of fun. Maybe one of these days that wave will come back around. It certainly seems that some in the community would welcome the attention (but not all, perhaps).

In terms of the future, I’ve been pretty excited about the possibilities. My continuing struggle though is just to get the right amount of free time to devote to those possibilities, and also free from other distractions. I’ve got a running joke with a friend of mine that I’m easily distracted by the things I’m interested in, which is a pretty long list…

I’d like to revisit the idea of a book about the community, definitely. And finally get the site into a bit more useable form.

Karl: I know you have some other web sites. Do you want to mention them?

MJ: Well, I’ve got a couple projects in the works, most of which are even less developed than the Arkive in its current form. I hope to get to those after “finishing” a bit of my to-do list for the Arkive. The only really active site I’ve got, other than the Arkive, is an alumni site I put together for my college fraternity, to help keep people connected. That one came directly out of frustration and my own personal desire to reconnect with those guys, and pretty much maintains itself. It also works out pretty good as a test bed for some of the things I hope to do with the Arkive itself. That’s one good thing about using the same code base for my sites.

Karl: I am always encouraged when people like you actively use the internet constructively. A web site to bring together old friends is always a wonderful thing. As the Wizard of Oz said, you are a doer of good deeds.

I wanted to bring to your attention that my buddy the Galactic Hombre occasionally visits your site. He thinks we are all busy patting ourselves on the back and lack a real diversity. Especially since you banned “O”. I told him that we don’t have to be uniform to be unified. I think we do have a diverse group in our synching collective. I also reinforce your sentiment keep it clean on our corner of the internet. Especially since we are perceived as people with too much time on our hands. And especially since we do attract people in altered states. What are your thoughts on Galactic Hombre’s off handed remarks?

MJ: I think, if I understand where GH is coming from, that the symptom he is describing is fairly prevalent in online communities. And that’s to say that, when you have a group of like-minded or like-interested people, that there’s a certain tendency for that community to become a bit of an echo chamber. I don’t know though that I would agree with him that the synching community really fits that. I do think that the O experience had greatly damaged some of the dynamicness of the community and that’s resulted in a bit more lackluster conversations and participation at times. But I would attribute that more to the fact that O drove some of the more interesting people away during his attempts to monopolize the floor. At least in my own thinking, I don’t intend on cracking down on negativity completely, and people are certainly still free to disagree and discuss things passionately. However, I do think there’s a difference between disagreement and outright trolling/flaming activities. Unfortunately, I think that difference is mostly one of degree, rather than specific things I can point to, which does again make that a slippery slope.

The one thing that does kind of get me about GH’s comment is that if that is the perception out there, especially among people who are not posting, then we’re missing out on those “hidden seas” and depths of thought and opinion of those who feel that way. And I want to do everything I can to encourage people to participate in the Arkive. My biggest fear in acting on the O thing was that that would discourage someone who did have something to add from contributing. And sometimes the thing to add is criticism, and a critical eye, or even intense disagreement over what things mean. Some of the best discussions of synchronicities historically have been around the questions of intent for DSotR, which some feel very passionately about. I’d really hate to think that by acting on O, that I quashed that.

And I do think that to a certain extent the Arkive itself needs some tweaking and back-end work to get clearer and livelier, I guess. Like I said earlier, I keep meaning to… but y’know, life has a way of getting in the way. My mom always had a saying up that said basically “life is what happens to you while you were making other plans.”

Karl: I think people do like participating in this mysterious art form of simultaneity, where two unrelated things happen at the same time and actually seem to harmonize by accident or design. The fact that things do harmonize leads to our hobby of synching music to movies. I’m sure we’ll continue to get a lot of discussion from people trying to define this strange phenomenon. People are still experimenting with synching and calling our attention to new ideas all the time.

I have one last question. Mike, do you have synesthesia or have you ever experienced the crossing of senses? You know, like tasting color or seeing sound. And do you think synesthesia aids people in synching?

MJ: One of the most interesting questions saved for the end. Honestly, I think we could do a whole show on the concept of synesthesia, and springboard off that into how people’s consciousness filters what they perceive. I’m a big believer in the theory that consciousness is best understood as a filter, taking the overwhelming spectrum of sensory input and squeezing it into categories and models that we use to understand the world around us. In that sense, synesthesia seems to me just a “slightly off” filter, perhaps. Although I wouldn’t describe it that way exactly, because that seems to have a more negative connotation than I would want to imply. Again, I think the best lesson that synching has taught me is that there are many ways of understanding the world. And I do think that the flexibility of understanding that there are different ways of understanding is certainly an asset when it comes to synching. I don’t want to get too “meta” with my analysis of the concept really.

As far as my own personal experiences in this area go… I’d have to answer yes and no, both. I don’t know that you could say I’ve experienced the clinical definition of synesthesia, but I have had some experiences that I would characterize as meeting the general definition of it. And yeah, I think they’ve definitely added to my appreciation of synching.

Maybe on down the road I need to do some dedicated podcasts, and synesthesia is a concept that could fill one of those. Copyright too. I’m sure we could fill quite a bit of time digging into either of those (and probably others).

Karl: I am always curious if many of our fellow synchers experience synesthesia. It has definitely been discussed among our synch group before.

Mike, thank you for allowing us to find out more about you. You have definitely shed some light on why people create helpful websites like your “Synchronicity Arkive”. I hope you continue to write your interesting “Arkiver’s Reflections” and I look forward to experiencing other syncher’s podcast interviews.

Is there anything else you want to add to your interview along with your closing statement?

MJ: Thanks again, Karl, for doing this and the 1st podcast. It’s been a blast putting this together and that reminds me of why I started doing the Arkive in the 1st place. It’s also been a good motivator to get me going on doing more with Arkive again. I think I mentioned it in a couple places in our conversations, that my interest does at times tend to ebb and flow a bit, and sometimes needs a kickstart or two. My hope is that the Arkive itself will continue to be a place for the synching community to hang out and grow, and I hope that even those who leave us will occasionally find time to drop in and see what’s new.

 

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