Category Archives: Rant

New Fangled Gadgets

Why, back in my day …

The height of sophistication!

Trimphone! The height of sophistication!

… we didn’t have mobile telephones. We had one “land line”. In the hall. (Actually, due to Dad being paid “in-kind” rather than in cash for one job he did, we were one of the few families who had multiple phones in the house, but I digress). It had no “speed-dial”, or saved numbers. Just a ring of digits that you could dial individually to make up the required Number. If someone else was using it, you had to wait. If you were using it, you had to endure a parent glancing at their watch, and tutting (especially if it was before the 6pm cheap-rate!). The lack of privacy became noticeable as teenage years arrived. I recall changing my pound notes(!) into 10p coins and going to a local “phone box” in the village, rather than have my family overhear conversations with my friends. Ah, good times …

Or was it? It may sound like the moanings of a pre-Millennial, but we did get by without them. Mostly. Sure, I missed a few good parties because people couldn’t contact me. I failed to talk to a local girl I fancied because both of us were being eaves-dropped on by parents. I annoyed some friends because I missed the bus, and they had to wait around, not knowing whether I was on my way or not. But we got by. Mostly.

These days …

iPhone - new-fangled gizmo

Dang new-fangled gizmo

… I see too many of my generation (and previous generations) bemoaning the very existence of Global Communication Technology. They take that last paragraph I wrote, and turn it into a crusade. “Kids these days are not social” … “they don’t play outside” … “they have no real friends” … “We got by without mobile phones!”

Who do they think kids are talking to on their phones? I understand the dangers of ‘strangers on the internet’ (better than most, my alter-ego being PC Wizard), but mostly, they seem to be communicating with their school-mates. Arranging when to meet down at the local park. Checking who is going to the football match at the weekend. Apologising for being late, and finding out where people will be. Checking that their mate who hasn’t arrived is OK. Swapping gossip, and giving out #spoilers for the latest TV shows (“Netflix”, I think they watch, these days).

Yesterday:

I went to my niece’s first birthday party. It was a wonderful affair, with family and friends gathered to wish my niece and her parents the best for the future.

I got my invite via Facebook, and texted Lucretia to arrange our attendance. I checked the location, and driving directions, from my mobile phone. We kept in touch with everyone, complicated by Lucretia’s recent illness*, via TXT, Facebook, voicemail, and email.

Would I have attended without mobile phones? Probably, but it would not have been so easy.

The Future:

Mobile technology is not going away. People who are new to it will get used to it. The newer generations will have grown up with it, and wonder how we got by without, in the same way that we wonder how the world worked without radio, motorised transport and frozen food.

It seems odd to think that the iPhone is only 10 years old. We have come so far, to be able to carry a mobile computer, capable of linking to the Global Superhighway, and processing data faster than our forefathers thought was possible. The main question it leaves me with is: What next for mobile technology?

3d Printing is becoming more common, but feed-stock currently precludes it from being truly portable. Bio-monitoring (heart-rate, pulse, sugar levels etc) is advancing. Augmented Reality may attempt to surface again, although Google Glass failed to take off, and Pokemon Go is ‘only’ a game. The veil between the “real world” and “cyberspace” is breaking down, and who knows where that will take us!

We should not mourn the loss of the past, but rather celebrate the onrushing Future, and grasp it with both hands, lest it slip past us!

*Another example of how Modern Technology helped us to communicate! Her days at the hospital were greatly eased by being in constant (txt/Facebook) communication with her nearest and dearest, even though they could not be physically at her side.

Ramblings

Is it possible to use well-established Artistic ideas, such as Dada and Surrealism, to create anti-establishment shock-art? Or would I just be flogging another dead horse? And would it still be Art?

In its time, Dada was a counter to the cultural status-quo, defining itself by what it was not, and what it was against, as much as anything it was for.

While a lot of the concepts that Dada railed against are still prevalent in our societies, is hailing back to previous movements merely giving oneself the  label of “Rebel”?

Dyed hair and piercings have lost their 70s-punk power and are now considered mainstream. “The Persistence of Memory” appears on postcards. Banksy murals are bought and sold by local Councils.

Is there anything left to rebel with? Is rebellion itself a form of acceptance? Has questioning authority become a new form of subservience? Is writing a blog-post, assisted by wikipedia and thesaurus.com, bemoaning the impossibility of rebellion just grasping at passing bandwagons?

For new Art to be challenging, it must address the Culture of the day, in ways that acknowledge that culture as existing, identify its flaws and clash with it in a meaningful way. Harking back to times long gone, whose rebellions are now identified, clarified and classified, does no more to advance the cause of Creative Mutiny (or Mutinous Creation) than repetitively quoting well-scripted jokes about spontaneity.

Does one need to study the history of Art, of anti-art, of punk and pop-art, to qualify as a bona-fide rebel? Or does that study inherently embed one in the established traditions?

The answers to the questions raised here, as I read so many times in text-books, are left as an exercise for the reader. Please show your working.

The Cank: Part 2. No Plaque! (EDIT: Plaque returning soon!)

EDIT: Leicester City Council Twitter (@Leicester_news) have replied, and are looking into the status of this. Please keep your powder dry while we await their response.

EDIT 2: The Leicester City Council Twitter team have assured me that the plaque is in safe storage, and will be replaced as soon the the renovation work is completed in the area.

In my previous post, I extolled the virtue of The Cank Street Well, and lauded the fact that Leicester remembers its past.

Cank Well Plaque

Close up view of Cank Well Plaque

So imagine my surprise when I found out that, after a period of renovation, the large brass plaque explaining the origins of Cank Street’s name has been removed!

The small brass tile still marks the original site (as best as we can tell) of the Cank Well, but there is nothing to tell people it is there, or what it was.

I foolishly thought that Leicester City Council’s Social Media Manager might be able to shed some light on this, but my request on their Facebook page has gone unanswered. Next will be a strongly-worded email, requesting not just an explanation for the missing plaque, but also for the ignoring of one of their Constituents! Such is the Wrath of a Wizard wronged!

As the next stage of my campaign, I am urging the good people of Leicester (and anyone else who wishes to get involved) to let LCC know that their negligence, whether through malice or ignorance, has not gone unnoticed, and request that you contact them with regards to replacing the plaque!

EDIT: Leicester City Council Twitter (@Leicester_news) have replied, and are looking into the status of this. Please keep your powder dry while we await their response.

EDIT 2: The Leicester City Council Twitter team have assured me that the plaque is in safe storage, and will be replaced as soon the the renovation work is completed in the area.

Link to Leicester City Council contact page: http://www.leicester.gov.uk/contact-us

Postal Address: Leicester City Council ,City Hall, 115 Charles Street, Leicester, LE1 1FZ

Please do what you can to get The Cank Street Well recognised!

Art – An Update

So, what has been happening in the Wizard’s World of Art?

Firstly, some sad news. Cakes-By-Natalie is closing. My sister-in-law has been making cakes for weddings, birthdays, or any other occasion, and even made me some Sword-And-Sorcery cup-cakes. But due to rising costs of ingredients, and other overheads, she has decided to explore other areas. You can still find her at Snowdrops Online. Less edible, but just as Art!

In better news, Dark Flights Art are continuing to produce pewter jewellery, and are looking into moving into bronze. This is being done alongside their oil-on-canvas fantasy scenes, inspired by Roger Dean and Rodney Matthews.

It is five years since OnLine-OddBall Ola Helland completed his challenge to assemble One Million Giraffes. Starting out as a drunken bet, Ola took to the Internet to get people to submit their drawings, sculptures, tattoos and other giraffe-based art. From the simplest of stick-figures, to beautiful watercolours, people also used lego, plasticine, cocktail sticks, felt-tip pens (on their hands, arms, legs, friend’s faces …), jotter-books filed with scribbled figures, a latte coffee, tangrams, and one person even found a cloud in the shape of a giraffe! The site is still up, so go take a look, and maybe even buy their book!

Melissa Lawrence is still producing hand-crafted cards, stationary and other gifts. Juggling her time with writing her book, she now also produces craft-kits, for you to make your own products from!

Linda Rudkin will be in Harrow this month, giving talks on ‘Colours From Nature’, and offering Workshops on Flower Pounding and Silk Paper Sculpting. Also dates in Leicester, check her website for details.

And in a controversial move, Leicester’s newest Art Installation will feature “No race-based content, political or propaganda content and nothing about crime. It will not feature drugs, alcohol, gambling, lotteries, adult content or third party advertising.” – In other words: Nothing to talk about.

More controversy from Leicester: The Cank Street redevelopment has thoughtfully replaced the marker of the 12th Century Cank Well, (as discussed previously), but have neglected to return the large brass plaque detailing the history of The Cank! Should we rack this up to Leics. City Council’s ineptitude, a bureaucratic error, or something more sinister? Come on Leicester Council, Celebrate your history, and let us celebrate it too!

So there you go. The ups, down, ins, outs and twisty-turny bits of Art. Enjoy.

 

Upgrading software: What can possibly go wrong?

The software that runs my online shop (The Crystal Cave) needed updating last week. Great, I thought! Security updates, performance issues solved, speed increase! So, I had a look at the upgrade process, and it seemed really simple. One-click, and its done! BUT: There is an advisory – make a back-up, just in case. Good advice, I thought. They even provide a back-up button. So, I wait a while, as it copies my existing shop, so I can restore is needed. Then, click to upgrade. A short while later, an error pops up! No Data. hmmm …

I can now no longer log in to my shop! Customers appear to be able to log in, and order things, but I am unable to check the orders and process them! A few tests, and I am emailing my website hosts to let them know, and see what can be done. Of course, this is Friday afternoon! A couple of automated “We have received your email” and a request for more info leaves it at 6PM. The shop is effectively offline for the weekend!

Monday rolls around, and, as usual, my hosts (Free Virtual Servers – look them up, if you need a domain, hosting or web design!) get the systems all sorted in the blink of an eye! All is well, and I can log in and start processing the weekend’s orders. But what is this? Another upgrade available? Nooooo ……

With great trepidation, I reach to click the link, fully expecting another few days offline. I’ve plenty to be getting on with besides fixing the shop, and can do without the hassle …
I decide to set it going, and rather than watch it, I’ll go make a coffee. By the time I’m back at my desk, the upgrade has finished, asking me to “Click here to test the upgrade” … I reach for the mouse. I click. I wait. My shop appears. No problems.

I spend the next half an hour logging in and out, in disbelief! I test all the new functions, and make sure the old ones still work. I check my products and look to see which have fallen out of their categories.

All is working.

I never trust things that work so easily, especially just after a major failure. But The Crystal Cave is open for business again! Feel free to browse and buy, safe in the knowledge that your order can be processed quickly and smoothly. And if it does fail again, don’t worry, you’ll be the first to know!

Yes, We have No Art. We Have No Art Today.

I tried, but I really didn’t get any time at all to consider Art today.

I spent this morning wrestling with my online shop. I knew the upgrade would cause trouble, so I made sure to back it up first. And now, lo and behold, it will not let me log in! And it won’t let me reset my password. So, as usual, I have to email my Website Host on a Friday afternoon with technical difficulties! I’m sure they think I do it on purpose. I’m resigned to it not getting fixed until Monday. So long as it gets fixed! People can place orders, and I hope it will email me a notification, but I can’t do anything about it!

This afternoon was spent reinstalling a customer’s computer (as my alter-ego P.C. Wizard). Fantastic machine: Intel i7 CPU, 32GB RAM, 480GB SSD System drive, 240GB and 120GB SSD storage drives, 3TB SATA storage drive. I forget which AMD GPU, but it was a monster!
OK, that’s enough techno-babble. I got it done in the end, but despite it being a super-fast PC, it took all afternoon. Just so much needed doing.

Then into town, sort out start-of-month and end-of-week monies, grab a coffee, and head home to sort out paperwork. Shop still glitched, so can’t do anything there. Quick call to sanitise another customer’s PC, after they’ve filled it with spyware, malware and other infections.

Check into HootSuite to keep my Social Media Presence up to date … nope, their servers are down! And by the time I’ve got another coffee and checked my email, I’ve forgotten what I was going to post!

So, its now 9PM, and I haven’t seen a single piece of Art today, unless you count the car-crash of a day I’ve had as some kind of “Performance Art”. If it is, I think the theme tune would be “Entrance Of The Gladiators“.

“But now its the weekend!”, you cry, “Time to relax, enjoy yourself!”. As if! Another day of broken PCs tomorrow. At least I’ll be out in the countryside, and the Met Office has promised me a nice day.

So you don’t even get a picture with today’s blog. No art. Nothing. Just me ranting about a long day. But there will be more Art soon, I promise!
Let me know what sort of art you like, what you’d like to hear about. Even visit the Crystal Cave, if you dare!

It’s Got To Be Perfect!

So, I have another article posted on The Crystal Wizard site. But I’m not that happy with it.
“So why did you publish it?” I hear you cry. I’m glad you asked. Allow me to explain:

For a combination of reasons, I have tasked myself to produce a steady stream of content, be it articles, blog posts, new sections for the site or other things, as I think of them. Obviously, I would like it all to be of the highest quality possible. Unfortunately, some of the material I produce will not be of as high standard as others, and this forces me to make a difficult decision. Do I publish it anyway? Several factors have to be taken into consideration when answering this.

  • Is it “good enough”?
  • Is it so bad that it will harm my reputation to publish it?
  • Is it possible to rewrite it, better?
  • Would the delay to publishing be a problem?
  • Can I publish something else instead?

And, of course, the age-old question a Creator must ask themselves: Who am I to judge this? Am I too emotionally invested in the work to give an unbiased opinion?

Not having the funds to employ a team of expert proof-readers, I rely on my Social Support Network (Facebook!) to alert me to any problems in the work, be they grammatical, spelling errors or factual inaccuracies. But how good is that feedback? Are people happy to criticise my work, and therefore myself, or would they rather stay quiet? Is it easier for them just to click “Like” than to point out my poorly structured arguments and inconsistent conclusion? And are they qualified to judge the work?

I have a plethora of example works to compare mine against, from high school essays to amateur blogs to professional journalists and critics. Should I be trying to emulate the best of these? What is it that makes them good? Am I just copying them?

I could approach it with an arrogant disdain. I wrote it, it must be good. If you don’t like it, don’t read it! But I do want people to read it. My ideas and opinions are worth reading! Should I alter (improve?) my writing to keep (gain) an audience?
Or should paranoid neurosis’ keep me re-editing, re-reading, never publishing until I am convinced that the work cannot be improved? What if it still attracts criticism? Remove the work and re-edit?
I am reminded of John Lydgate’s words “You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time. But you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.
The most difficult person to please at the moment seems to be myself. Is ‘some of the time’ enough?

On this occasion, I have decided that the article is good enough. It may not be the best I have ever written, but I do want to keep up with my schedule. It keeps my audience interested. It highlights my better work. It adds to my SEO score. It gives people something to talk about, even if only to criticise (“The only thing worse than being talked about, is NOT being talked about!” – Oscar Wilde).

The Art of Envy

don’t envy people their stuff. Usually, I don’t even like their stuff. I like different stuff. I don’t envy them having more stuff than me.

What I do envy is their talent, their drive, their personality traits that seem to make them more “successful”. Not that I envy their success, just their ability to succeed.

Envy is born of seeing something that another has, and wanting it for ourselves. Thinking that we should have it for ourselves. That we deserve it at least as much as the person who has it, and possibly more. It is an emotion that justifies itself with fairness. It is unfair that they have that, while we do not. It would be right for us to have it. It is also an emotion of exclusivity; we should have it, instead of them. It is not enough to possess the focus of ones envy, but it must also be denied, taken from, the ‘undeserving’ owner.

When applied to Talent, (“How come they can do that, and we can’t? That’s not fair! It’s not right!”), we are usually only seeing the product of a lot of hard work and practice. Very few Talents are purely Natural Ability. Even if one is born with a predisposition to a certain skill, it takes time and effort to hone it into something useful. We want they have, but we want it now, without having to have gone through the long, arduous process that we don’t always see.

I have analysed this a little, and realise that what I actually envy is their ability to put in those hours, that effort, that concentration. I could do what they can do, if I put my mind to it. They obviously have. What I lack is their drive, their commitment.

When envying others, we do tend to lose sight of what one already has. We don’t think that they might envy us. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, as they say. If only we had that energy, that ambition, we could be where they are. Or even where we wanted to be. But envy blinds us to what we do have, and how we can use that to get where we want to be. We see what they have, and want it for ourselves, instead of seeing where we can get with what we have.

In this way, envy is born of dissatisfaction. If we were happy with what we already had, or what we thought we could gain, why would we envy others? We would be happy for them, and think “We’ll have that, too, soon!”.

So, like all the good self-help manuals, we need some bullet-points:

  • Appreciate what you have.
  • Appreciate that it took others a lot of hard work to get what they have.
  • Identify what it is that you actually want.
  • Find a route from where you are, using what you have, to where you want to be.
  • Turn your Envy into Drive. When you start to feel envy, say to yourself “I do want what they have. And By Klono’s Brazen Whiskers, I shall have it! By my own hard work!”