from the desk of H. Bowie...

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An Overdue Update from The Practical Utopian

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image credit: iStock | wenjin chen

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted anything from The Practical Utopian, so I thought it might be time to give everyone an update on what I’ve been up to over the last couple of months.

Updates to Notenik

Although I enjoy writing opinion pieces, and appreciate all of you who read my stuff, there are times when I feel like it is time to actually work on a product that does something useful.

That’s when I start to turn out software code, instead of mere words.

Notenik is an open-source Mac app that I’ve been working on, in one form or another, for close to 20 years.

It is, first and foremost, a tool that I use for creating and organizing and publishing the content that I write for the web.

But I also make Notenik available to others, for free, from the Mac App Store.

And although it’s not hugely popular, it currently has 43 ratings in the App Store, with an average score of 4.9, and I’ve heard from at least a few people who find it useful; I release a new version of Notenik about every two weeks, each with a handful of significant updates.

(If you happen to own a Mac, and at least occasionally want to make notes about a topic of interest, and organize those notes, then you might want to give it a try.)

So that’s the first thing I’ve been up to. (And oh, BTW, version 10.5.0 has just been released.)

The Lexicon of Song

Over the years I’ve written a number of pieces that attempt to explain the workings of songs that I love. Some of those writings have appeared on Reason to Rock, and others on The Practical Utopian. But wherever they’ve appeared, Google often reminds me that these are among the most popular pieces I’ve published.

(For example, if you search for “All Along the Watchtower,” my piece appears pretty quickly once you get past the YouTube videos, the lyrics sites and the Wikipedia entry. And it’s appeared there consistently for the past twenty years or so.)

And I still feel a regular yearning – often indulged – to write about songs that I love, or that interest me in some way.

And so, I thought recently, why not collect all of these sorts of writings in one place?

Great idea, right?!

But then, what to call it…?

And then I came across a Bob Dylan quote from a 1997 interview:

I don’t adhere to rabbis, preachers, evangelists, all of that. I’ve learned more from the songs than I’ve learned from any of this kind of entity. The songs are my lexicon. I believe the songs.

Yes! Exactly!

And so the Lexicon of Song was born!

With a little help from the latest versions of Notenik.

The new site contains a number of my older, time-tested writings, as well as some newer pieces. The songs that I’ve written about (so far) are dated anywhere from 1915 to 2010. So if you have any interest in songs, head over to the home page to see my latest writings. And give the songs a listen while you’re there.

Portable Wisdom

Lots of the stuff I’ve written as The Practical Utopian has been pretty topical, and often dates pretty quickly.

But then there are other things out there that seem to encapsulate some more perennial wisdom – often summaries of ideas I’ve come across elsewhere.

These are words – lists of various things, models of how things work, and concise quotations – that I find myself returning to again and again, because they don’t go out of date, and in fact seem pretty broadly applicable to all sorts of things.

As it happens, I’ve had the Portable Wisdom dot org domain name since 2005, so I decided that would be a pretty good handle to use for this sort of stuff.

And so the Portable Wisdom site was reborn!

Again, with assistance from those recent versions of Notenik.

So feel free to head on over to that site and browse around a bit. Odds are good you’ll find something interesting.

The Medium as Message

One of the best pieces I’ve read recently is one by Ezra Klein, called “I Didn’t Want It to Be True, but the Medium Really Is the Message.” You can find a brief quote from it over at Portable Wisdom, along with a link to the full piece on the New York Times site.

Klein summarizes a lot of what I’ve been feeling lately, in that – despite our best efforts and intentions – we need to be careful which tools we choose. As Jackson Browne puts it in his song “Casino Nation,” we need to “to understand the way the hammer shapes the hand.”

And so, if you’d like to be occasionally informed about new bits that I’ve recently published, you can do this by pointing your RSS reader, or RSS aggregation service, to any of my websites. This is the least intrusive and most reliable means for me to notify you of new stuff I’ve published. But none of my sites will pester you with popups asking you to subscribe, or requests to allow notifications, or even banners requesting your permission to use cookies.

They’re just websites, folks. Peruse them when you have a bit of time. Share them with others if you like.

And, as always, if you have any feedback for me, please leave a comment, or send an email to comments at hbowie dot net.

October 10, 2022