Alex and I were in our semi-weekly creative-buddy session on Skype last week.  He said he was about to go to Sint Maarten for a “Clowns without Borders” tour, and wanted to be able to post the cool things he’ll be doing on the trip in Instagram — but he just doesn’t have the social media fluency to be able to do it on the fly.

So I said  “sounds like we need to practice getting fluent.  How about an Instagram Party?” – we could photograph stuff in our houses. Yeah! he said – the things that make this Jester House and yours a composer and harpist house. So we got together this morning a little after 9:00.

#We #Need a #HashTag #Brainstorm

Immediately Alex says: We need a hashtag and a theme – maybe a faux-competition – even though you’ll win because you have #cats and you’re a #girl – and girls get more views.  So we brainstorm hashtags:

#performerwithprops #actsthatmove #harpjesterbattle #harpvsjester #harpvsfool #jestervsharp #performerprops#harpvsjester #harpvsclown #artistlife #artisthome #performerlife #tonyfolks #physicalfolks #barnpeople #performerhomelife #offbeatentertainers #offstageantics #outofthebox #whatbox? #stagersathome #homeofficeblur #onstageoff #offstagelife #offstagelife

We choose #offstagelife because, as friends for over 25 years, we’ve always been interested in how our onstage lives blur with our offstage lives and how that affects our homes, our vehicles and our families.

we've always been interested in how our onstage lives blur with our offstage lives Share on X

We Post Our #Intent

So we post our intent and get started:

I admit I experimented earlier by putting two little harps on the kitchen floor and dropping some kibbles on the soundboard, so this was my first post of the day:

2 cats. 2 harps

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11:01 AM – After we each get a few posts up, I have a melt-down. So I stop and have breakfast.  When I come back, we’re trying to figure out how to take an Instagram post and post it to Facebook at the same time we post it to Instagram. I let Alex try to figure that out while I post another cats-with-harps photo.

Nose to nose. Cat meets harp. Cat smells harp. #offstagelife #harpvsfool

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11:14 AM – Eventually, Alex’s teenage son explains that if we start from the INSTAGRAM app, we can post to BOTH Instagram and facebook, with the same post … and to Twitter as well, though the photo won’t show up there.

I have Meltdown #2 when I can’t figure out how to turn my notifications off and they keep getting in the way of what I’m trying to do.  Alex used to flip out when I melt-down but after a 25 year friendship, he’s OK with my meltdowns. To a point.

11:23 AM – So now, Alex and I are sitting here ignoring each other, and connected by the Zoom Meeting app, each trying to post to Instagram – and noticing that, although we THINK we’re posting to Facebook and Twitter as well, we’re not. Or not anything we’re seeing.

It’s reminding me that one of the things I really love about playing an instrument is the immediate response.  I can tell when I’m playing it.  I can tell if it’s getting played.  This is me not really being ‘in the moment’ I know … but it’s what it is.

one of the things I really love about playing an instrument is the immediate response. Share on X

I discover that while we CAN Twitter just posts a link to the Instagram photo … but who would click on that? I tell Alex that and he says, “Right. I already told you that.”

The posts aren’t going to Facebook.  We try again. We’re cheering the post on.   Failure.

11:31 AM  – We’re reading a post on how to share Instagram photos to Facebook when we realize — oops — it IS working … the posts ARE being shared to Facebook, they’re just going to the wrong Facebook Account in my case and they’re underneath some older posts in Alex’s case.

Therefore I just posted a “Still Life With Bottle Caps … discovered the night after” to my business page … I meant it to go to my personal page. But in social media you get to make your mistakes publicly.

Still life with bottle caps … discovered the morning after #offstagelife #harpvsfool @alexthefool

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I start looking around my office for other places where my harp-life intersects with non-harp life and find this:

A place for everything, and everything in its place. #Harp tuning keys go here #offstagelife #harpvsfool @alexthefool

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11:43 AM – Alex is tagging me and I’m not seeing his posts. (Meltdown #3) (I’m not sure it’s helping that I stopped drinking coffee 5 days ago)  I have now posted 4 posts.  Alex is getting help from his 17 & 14 year-old-sons.  I’m just checking google and making notes to go over this stuff with my computer-web guy later this afternoon.

11:48 AM – Somehow I figure out how to follow Alex. I also discover I have 805 followers, but was only following 12. So I follow a few more. Now I’m hungry again.  But I want to see what Alex has posted and figure out how to repost or share it. I don’t know how to find his posts, even though he tagged me in each one of them.  I’m assuming I have an Instagram ‘feed’ somewhere … I go to the ‘home’ icon and click “Watch All” but it just fills my screen with a single big image.

I remember that I don’t like sequential things in general since they require you remember what happened before, instead of being able to see the full picture, the birds-eye view.  Wondering how I can find a birds-eye view.

I remember that I don't like sequential things in general Share on X

Alex is saying that he finds it very hard to ‘back up’ – like if you choose the wrong photo, or do something and want to change your mind it’s tough.  Correction. He’s now saying he thinks you can back out.

But in the 10 seconds between when he said you couldn’t and then corrected it, I’m thinking that’s kind of like playing jazz, where you just have to keep going.  Then I feel egotistical for thinking of something so brilliant. Then I check myself and get back on track with my ego. Then I notice I’m hungry again.

And I still don’t see an overview for what’s happening in my ‘feed’ on instagram. Maybe Instagram doesn’t have a FEED. Maybe the Instagram social media paradigm is different. Maybe the clue is in the name: INSTA-gram.  Maybe it’s about letting go of having an overview or a feed, letting go of seeing what you just did and  moving on. Knowing that NOBODY really cares. So let it go.

But I still want to see what Alex posted, because I think he posted a picture of ‘fake snot’ that he uses in one of his jester routines.

12:03 PM I find Alex’s feed. The snot looks great.

We talk about why we haven’t learned Instagram before and realize that part of it is because Instagram is about constantly looking at your phone – and neither of us like looking at our phones.  We’re both physical artists — he’s a physical comedian, I’m a very physically-oriented musical performer – and we’ve each spent a lifetime learning to integrate our whole bodies into our work, and this is just the opposite.

we've each spent a lifetime learning to integrate our whole bodies into our work and this is just the opposite. Share on X

But then Alex reminds me of our goal: to learn Instagram in order to share what we’re doing and shift through perfectionistic issues.

12:08 PM  So, we can kinda do Instagram … and now we want to BOOMERANG.  But how???  I can’t figure out WHAT a Boomerang is.  So I go to Google and read:

  • Go to the Instagram App
  • Click the plus sign at the bottom of the screen
  • Choose “Video”  (oops … I got lost … I think I just posted one)

This is a tiny test video of a little Latin rhythm #offstagelife #harpvsfool @alexthefool

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Drat!!! That was just a ‘video’ and not a ‘boomerang’ (whatever a boomerang is).

12:15 PM I’ll try it again … (oops Meltdown #4 …)

I can’t figure out if a Boomerang is just what people “call” a short video like a short repeatable musical phrase can be called a ‘vamp” or a “loop” — or like a certain kind of harmonica is just called a ‘Blues Harp’ – or is really a different thing, like a piccolo is a different thing than a flute, although they have a lot in common.

I need a dictionary of “But, what IS it??” for nearly everything I try to learn on the web. Most ‘information’ pages start with why it’s so great – and I’m still back trying to figure out what is actually DOES.

I am now Googling “What is a Boomerang Instagram” and Alex is asking his sons.  It looks like “Boomerang” is a completely different app from Instagram, although they seem to be related:

12:27 PM Alex sends me a Boomerang he just made and it dings on my phone, but I have no idea where or how to find it. (Meldown #5).  OK … I just found it.  It’s a video of his paper-towel rack.  Now I’m convinced I need a paper towel thingy like that, too:

Our paper towel rack. #offstagelife #harpvsfool #Jesterhouse

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I am now installing the Boomerang APP on my iPhone …. (random uploading sounds of gears turning and whizzing whirring sound)

I now have Boomerang on my phone, but it’s only letting me shoot a video for 1 second. I thought they were 8 seconds long. And it has no sound.

OK … so now I think I have a definition of a Boomerang:


A Boomerang is a 1-second repeatable video with no sound that you shoot from your phone using the Boomerang App. Sometimes you can access the Boomerang functionality from your Instagram App Video frame, but not always.  Sometimes you have give up looking for the Boomerang App icon (an infinity sign) on your Instagram Video Frame and just go to the Boomerang App to create one.

Trying out the boomerang app. Tis a shame there’s no sound for these 1 second videos #offstagelife #harpvsfool @alexthefool

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I’m now melting down with increased frequency.  Alex reminds me that we usually start learning to do anything new by TRYING to do a BAD version. He reminds me that this is what I always tell him So we agree to post a bunch of bad Instagrams and Boomerangs.

Alex reminds me usually start learning anything new by trying to do a BAD version. Share on X

I want an easy-win, so I go back to Instagram and make this Video Micro-Training of how to play one of my favorite little latins riffs:

Then I start photographing some of the shrines around my house …

One of the many tiny shrines in my house #offstagelife #harpvsfool @alexthefool

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Another tiny shrine in my home #offstagelife #harpvsfool @alexthefool

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Plus a sign I found in the green room at the Hong Kong Airport, in a trash box, and dared to bring home.

Alex posts a photo of a reptile made from a violin case …

Lizard made from recycled violin case. #offstagelife #jestervsharp #hipharpist

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So I counter with a Vio-Lion made from a violin case and violin…

Vio-Lion #offstagelife #harpvsfool @alexthefool

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And then …

I hit Paydirt!

1:15 PM After an exhausting morning, I finally hit PAYDIRT — I BOOMERANG my CAT … I mean #cat.

Do do do do the Pooky-dance with my #cat The Great Pookerini #offstagelife #harpvsfool @alexthefool

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I’ve been teaching this cat to do tricks for the last 6 months and it’s finally coming in handy.

Committing to Completion

2:25 PM To give COMPLETION to the Instagram party I want to learn to embed the things I posted on Instragram into this blogpost.  So I go to this post: ….

2:43 PM – Unfortunately, that tutorial was written in 2013, so the information is no longer valid. (Thank you, post writer for dating your tutorial, so I could figure out why the info wasn’t working).

Turns out now it’s much easier.  You just click the 3 dots next to the “Comments” box on the computer version of the Instagram App and you get the embed code (but don’t expect this to be valid info if you read this post more than  2 hours after it was written).  So if you’re seeing the posts embedded in this blogpost I did it right.

So I survived.

What next?

My next goal – if I choose to move forward – is to actually get FLUENT at this – to do it more regularly – and see what happens to my ability.  To get to the point where I’m not just struggling with the medium and ‘figuring out’ where things are and how they work – but to where I can actually communicate with it, to express some part of myself.

At what point does it become an extension of my voice instead of an impediment? Share on X

I want to see what happens. I want to see if … assuming I DO invest in learning to speak Instagram fluently … at what point(s) it turns into a medium that helps me tell my story,  at what point it becomes an extension of my voice, the way the harp has – at what point it informs my voice.  At what point I’m no longer trying to fit my own understanding and body into how IT works – but able to speak with it.  At what point do I achieve fluency .

And since I know it’s NOT an instrument, like the harp, and I know it’s just a rented mode of expression, my own next personal goal would be to let go of it when it changes, when it no longer works the way I learned to integrate with it, to pivot to its next iteration.  I don’t like that. I don’t like being forced to change the way I express myself based on fashion or style.

It’s one reason I do what I do in the way I do it – meaning, play an instrument that has a physical tradition – even though I’m constantly pushing that tradition.  It’s also why my own style is not fashionable – or unfashionable – but simply based on me.

But I don’t want to be afraid of engaging in something that I know has a built-in obsolescence.  I know that letting go of how I’ve learned to engage with someone or something is part of a living relationship with things that change.  Unlike the security of learning an instrument that doesn’t change.

I’d love to see what it can teach me about letting go.  Because that’s a very important skill to have.

And until then … I’m just trying to hang on to what I’ve learned today.

How about you, how do you learn to do new things?




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