Tag 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.

This Is Not Art

This is Not Art

This Is Not Art

Well, it’s not. Its a cheap rip-off of a well-known painting. All I’ve done is replace the text, the better to help you think on what isn’t Art. While the original meaning is not lost, it has taken on a fresh, related, meaning from its new context. Hold on …

But what about this:

Not Art!

Not Art!

Now that can’t be Art! A rushed copy, using whatever materials are close to hand, and an online translation algorithm. Well, I wanted to get this post written today, not next week, when I’d sourced a reasonable facsimile of Magritte’s pipe, and an expert translator who understood the context of the piece. But now I’ve said that, it makes this piece part of the zeitgeist, a perfect example of the Internet Age of Instant Gratification. #Art.

Opium

Opium

OK, lets find something that seriously is NOT Art: Adverts. Surely images produced purely to sell products can’t be Art? I just don’t see the artistic value in making pictures or videos whose only measurable merit is how much profit they bring in for their share-holders. I mean, they are just created to have the maximum emotional impact, whether that be humour, lust, guilt or envy, leading to influenced behaviour … hang on there one minute …

But what about the products themselves? Packaged  to maximise shelf-space and branded to be eye-catching, that can’t count as Art can it? Do designers really put that much artistic effort into what is essentially a disposable container for fizzy sugar-water?

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola

I’ll admit that some products have gone on to become iconic images, but this cannot have been the intentions of the advertising executives, stuck in their artless offices, scheming about how best to relieve us of our hard-earned crust? Can it?

Adverts often rely on using sex and sexuality to sell their wares. but can Nick Kamen prancing around in his undies really be compared to Michelangelo’s “David”? While The Nude in Art has a long and illustrious history, having a woman shove her ‘assets’ in your face while shouting “BUY MORE STUFF” isn’t really Art is it?

Mr Chad

Wot! No Art?

OK, lets move to the other end of the scale. Graffiti. The puerile scrawlings on toilet walls. Vulgar rhymes and anatomically-unlikely doodles. Even the colourful “tags” that are left on bridges and sidings are usually more notable for their abstruse placement than original, worthwhile content. This vandalism of public property does little to embiggen the World of Art. Pushing your personal or political agenda through anonymous images and slogans, designed to shock and titillate, can hardly be worthy of the name Art, can it?

Politics

Politics!

Food. Food isn’t Art, no matter what Instagram tries to tell you! Food is for eating, not taking photos of and showing the whole world!

Chippy Art

A Study In Colour 3

Salad Art

A Study In Colour 2

Fried Art

A Study In Colour 1

 

 

 

 

 

Do we really care what our food looks like? Would it be just as pleasant in greys and blacks? Surely after the first mouthful we would realise that our brain has been lied to, and shut down the illusion?

I’m not concerned here with Art made from food. Bacon Dresses, carved tomatoes, and that stop-motion video sequence can all be called Art. but food, presented as a meal, to be eaten?

Despite the obvious similarities of colour in the first two examples here, they are different meals. The visual similarities produce no effect on their taste, and certainly not on their nutritional value.

So there we have it. A short summary of what might (or might not) be described as Not Art.

But I am often told (mostly by Lucretia) that Art is subjective. So what subject do you feel is not Art? Where do we find a lack of artistic expression?

I Haven’t Been Reading Much Lately

Well, actually I have.

A fair amount of the conversation at the pub is centred around what novels people have read recently. From the latest Joe Abercrombie to a re-reading of Dune, we dissect the content, opine on our favourite characters, and bemoan the lack of further books (or bemoan the fall in quality of the later ones).

I say “we”, but in general, I am excluded from these talks. In the last fifteen years (since I bought a car, and stopped getting the bus to work), I have read considerably less than one novel per year. I have thoroughly enjoyed the ones I have read,  but I tend to find other things to do with my time. Often (although by no means always) things where I am the creator, rather than the consumer. I have several websites to create/source content for, an ever-growing toy soldier collection, along with the battle-field scenery I have made, multiple half-finished (and a couple of half-started) electronics projects, to name but a few. I also play games of many varieties (computer-based, card and board games, role-playing and other narratives (RPG), and the “augmented reality” Pokemon Go).

Several of these activities inherently include reading. Quite a bit is reference work, such as the W3schools website-tutorials, or RPG Rulebooks. I have had to relearn a lot of electronics, pouring over manuals and discussing projects on web-forums. The rpg.net games forums take up quite a bit of my time, including the speculative-fiction around the settings for the games.

But when the conversation lulls, and someone breaks the silence with “Anyone read anything good recently?”, they do not appreciate my answer of “CSS Tutorials” or “The Exalted chapter-heading stories“. “Someone on the internet had quite a good back-story for their character” doesn’t seem to go down as well as “<published author you may have heard of> has a new book out”. And no-one (except maybe The Ardingthoth) is interested in “I learnt how to reduce the pin-out usage of my Arduino, by adding a series-to-parallel shift-register”!

I have collected a few novels, including actually buying some, but they are still unread. China Mieville’s “UN LUN DUN” looks very interesting, and I was impressed with “The City and The City”, so I should get round to reading it. I got half-way through the first chapter of “The Three-Body Problem” before I put it aside, awaiting a time when I can give it the attention it deserves. They sit, alongside “The Antivirus Hacker’s Handbook”, “In The Beginning … Was The Command Line” and “The Steampunk Bible”, gathering dust as I concentrate on other endeavours. (ASIDE: Also on that bookshelf are a soldering iron, a copy of the “Blood Royale” board game, a stack of printer paper, Fodor’s USA (1991) and Spike Milligan’s “Hitler: My Part in His Downfall”)

It’s not that I don’t like reading. I do like it. I read a lot. But not novels. It’s not that I don’t like novels. I do. Well, it depends on the novel, but I am happy that the medium exists, and have read many a good novel, novella, short-story and 35-book series in my time. But not recently. Ask me about Ray Bradbury. E.E. “Doc” Smith. Tolkien, or Le Guin.

But don’t be surprised if, when asked “What have you read recently?”, that although I have read a lot (possibly more than you), I answer: “Nothing much”.

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.

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!”

The Wizard Goes Postal!

You know that bit on your Online Order Form that says “Postage and Packing”. Always looks like a large sum, when all they have to do is pop your item in a box, slip in the invoice and pop it in the post?
After looking into how to automate these systems for the Crystal Cave, I think most of the money goes to the Web Master, who has to configure the damn site to calculate it all! Handling Fees, Country-Specific Charges, weight-ranges, product-specific alterations, special rates, multi-order discounts, quick-delivery premiums … and that is just the “What”. Once you know ‘what’ the charges should be, you need to figure ‘how’ to tell the website this info! Where is the box for this fee? How do I tell it about that charge? Traversing the maze of menus, drop-downs, and other sections, whether it is a Product or Category alteration … its almost easier to deliver it myself!

I’m sure it will all come naturally once I’ve done it a few thousand times, but for now, it is a real minefield! And if I get it wrong, its me who will have to pick up the bill!

Oh, the joys of being a Wizard! Everyone thinks its all “Abracadabra”, #wave wand#, and everything magically gets done. But mostly its sat frantically stabbing at the keyboard in the vain hope that I can find the right settings!