I’ve noticed something about my reading, podcast listening, and Twitter following habits lately—I’m not interested in hearing from “experts.” By that term I mean a certain type who seem to feel that they’ve crested the mountaintop of knowledge on a particular subject, and are now prepared to dole out this valuable accrual of information to whomever will politely listen. Experts tell you the “correct” answer, because they know.
This static state of expertise is sad and uninteresting to me, because it is the opposite of curiosity. It wrongly defines education as a goal rather than a process.
You may have noticed over the years that I often culminate a big, nerdy Prolost post with a disclaimer that I am not an expert. This is more than just covering my ass, this is an honest description of how I feel. What I try to do here is describe my current explorations, in their current state, and share with you the questions I’m asking myself and the new and ever-changing discoveries I’ve made that caused me to ask them.
“I write to find out what I think.” Search for that quotation and you’ll find attributed to everyone from Stephen King to Joan Didion. It is the first answer I give whenever anyone asks why I keep this blog. If a thought or idea is floating about in my head, the exercise of forcing it into a cogent essay will either cure it into discrete form, or prove that it had none. This does mean that for every post you see here, there is probably one or more that was abandoned due to my failure to wrestle form from the chaos. There are also ideas very important to me that I haven’t written about here yet, because I’m still herding the cats into roping distance.
But sometimes it works exactly as I hope. When I sat down to write about Canon’s release of the 7D, I posed the question, “Is the APS-C format good enough for filmmaking?” I explored the pros (it roughly matches Super 35 film) and the cons (the sexiest stills lenses are still optimized for full-frame), and ultimately found an answer—yes. You can actually see me talking myself into buying the camera. I wrote “You got me Canon. I’ll probably buy a 7D,” and then half a page later, “Pre-order your 7D now. I sure did.” That’s actually true—I got to the end of the article, went to Amazon, pre-ordered the camera, and then came back to press the “publish” button.
This exploration that I conduct in public here on these pages is an expression of my curiosity, and I am drawn to others like myself who share their journey rather than announce their arrival at a knowledge destination. Here are some examples.
Anything from fxguide is good, but the Red Centre podcast (renamed “The RC” in the same way that Kentucky Fried Chicken is now just “KFC”—better not to admit/claim that your chicken is fried or that your digital cinematography show is biased toward a particular camera) is a standout. Mike Seymour and Jason Wingrove strike a perfect balance of tech and art, and distill festering piles of controversy into deliscious 90-proof facts.
I’ve always enjoyed Merlin Mann’s appearances on MacBreak Weekly, as well as his talks and writing about productivity, but lately, as he’s been working on his book, he’s been sharing his curiosity with the world with an almost unnerving honesty on a new show from Dan Benjamin’s 5x5 network called Back To Work. There have only been four episodes so far, so go listen to them all. I’ll wait.
Here’s a left-fielder. I love coffee. So does Mark Prince, AKA the coffeegeek. His website and far-too-infrequent podcast have helped me tremendously with my coffee journey, and although his shows have dwindled to a trickle, his most recent episode is not only terrific, it turned me on to James Hoffman’s blog at jimseven.com. James’s beautiful site is full of great, nerdy coffee exploration. I was delighted to see that his Cappuccino recipe is almost identical to my own (down to the controversially cool milk temperature), but was I was even happier to read his admonition that “I’m not going to label this ‘the perfect cappuccino’ because that sort of thing makes me angry.”
What’s the best camera? What’s the right setting for the 5D? Do you transcode to ProRes?
I appreciate a good cocktail, especially a Martini. A decade ago, when I started drinking them in earnest, what I then called a Martini I wouldn’t even call a cocktail now. Over the years my taste careened from vodka in a glass (AKA not a cocktail) to undiluted gin, to the well-balanced twist on the traditional concoction I had this evening. Which, if you’re curious, was 2 oz Hendricks gin, 1 oz Sutton Cellars vermouth, and 1 dash of Regan’s Orange Bitters, stirred vigorously and at length, served up with a twist in a chilled cocktail glass.
I never order a Martini with a twist. I love olives, especially gin-soaked olives. But tonight I had an amazing, fresh Meyer lemon, freshly picked from a friend’s tree, just sitting there half-demolished from contributing to other drinks. I was overcome with curiosity about how its rind might taste in my drink.
It was delicious.
If you’d handed that drink to me ten years ago, I may not have known what to do with it. I was wrong—dead, stupid wrong—back then about what makes a good Martini. I wonder if, ten years from now I’ll think the same of my present-day recipe. My point, and I thank you for your patience, is that it doesn’t matter. I’ve been enjoying my Martinis the whole time. And I’ll continue to enjoy them, because I’ll never stop being insanely curious about how to make a better one tomorrow.
Do you see what I’m getting at here? No matter how much you know, you’re probably doing it wrong. There’s no victory, so enjoy the vector.
I’m just a dude on a journey. I’m no expert. Want a little piece of advice?