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Archive for the ‘art’ Category

About 13 years ago d and I made the passive aggressive decision to open ourselves up to the chance of procreating.  I’m sure the reader can figure out the choice we made.  Well the chance turned into a probability of 1 rather quickly.  

 I was a 26 year old idiot who believed literally “I could move mountains of if I had to.” Yup I said that seriously in an argument back then.  So my decision making ability then was as optimistic as it is now only it was further enhanced with nativity and hubris.   Nonetheless the die was cast and I was to be a dad.  And the learning and appreciation needed to come fast.   Fast it came or so I thought.  
I distinctly remember the moment d’s water broke.   OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT.  what do we do?!?!   We are generally intelligent beings who faithfully read the curriculum and attend all required classes. But in that moment it was gone. All of it.  So of course WE CALLED OUR PARENTS.  mine laughed and when they were done they repeated a simple instruction: go to the hospital. Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.  
We got our literal and figurative shit together and did just that.  Generally things went as expected.  It’s sort of all a haze.  I remember that I was not to talk nor point out when a contraction was evident on the seismograph as she “was very well aware of the situation!”  It was July 4, 2003. Barry white passed away earlier in the day.  I listened to Barry white songs while d came in and out of sleep and pain.  
Then came go time.  The sun was setting (hey this is my blissful memory so don’t go fucking fact checking).  It was time to bring baby Bella into the light and air of Santa Monica.  D was so amazing and as the sun faded hell if I didn’t see a purple headed offspring come screaming into the world.  These moments are what I’ve called before HI FIDELITY. the streams of data are so intense and the change of state so intense it leaves you transformed and awed.  Awed I stood watching them clean that little thing and watch purple turn to pink.   And then fireworks shot off in the distance and they handed d the Beautiful Light and we were officially a family of three.  
That’s my dad origin story more or less. And I couldn’t have dreamed of one of my more Ill thought out just do it non decisions turning out any more beautiful.  
And so here we are today. In less than a month my first procreated turns twelve.  Over the years I’ve gone through waves of confusion and disbelief and low confidence that I had or could get things right.  I’ve openly questioned what any right any of us have bringing kids into a world so far from being worthy of their existence.  And yes the whole last few sentences are some weird cultural and philosophical backdrop that is sort of irrelevant. 
 Things happen.  We happen. I happen to be a dad.  And with what happens I must do what I can to make it happen as best I can.  My daughters are passed the point where I swaddle and bottle and make it ok with simple gestures.  I have not transitioned quickly into going from provider to confider.  Just as I started figuring out how to properly feed them they learned logic and peer pressure and emoji.  And so now I’m a dude that occasionally can mumble something about relationships or why pot isn’t legal or why reality shows aren’t really reality but what is anyway.  I’m still pretty clear on mathematical things so not all is lost on first providership.  
And this is why I paint and write and sculpt and generate programs.  My kids long ago escape a linear relation to me or the world and I don’t have enough solid dad talk tracks built up.  I guess my artistic endeavors and other attempts to express and give back some synthesis of the world are me trying to pass on a little of what I’ve learned.  It ain’t easy.  It ain’t obvious.  It ain’t entitled.  It ain’t certain.  
Put some same beautiful light on a canvas and get on with it.  
Peace and love dads of the world.  And moms and kids.  
– Russ

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We have a problem.

As it stands now the present and near future of economic, social and cultural development primarily derives from computers and programming.   The algorithms already dominate our society – they run our politics, they run our financial system, they run our education, they run our entertainment, they run our healthcare.    The ubiquitous tracking of everything that can possible be tracked determined this current situation.   We must have programs to make things, to sell things, to exchange things.

punchcard

The problem is not necessarily the algorithms or the computers themselves but the fact that so few people can program.    And why?   Programming Sucks.

Oh sure, for those that do program and enjoy it, it doesn’t suck. As Much.   But for the 99%+ of the world’s population that doesn’t program a computer to earn a living it’s a terrible endeavour.

Programming involves a complete abstraction away from the world and all surroundings.  Programming is disembodied – it is mostly a thought exercise mixed with some of the worst aspects of engineering.   Mathematics, especially the higher order really crazy stuff was long ago unapproachable and completely disembodied requiring no physical engineering or representation at all.  Programming, in most of its modern instances, consequences very far away from its creative behavior.  That is, in most modern system it takes days, weeks, months years to personally feel the results deeply of what you’ve built.    Programming is ruthless.  It’s unpredictable.   It’s 95% or more reinventing the wheel and configuring environments to even run the most basic program.  It’s all set up, not a lot of creation.   So few others understand it they can’t appreciate the craft during the act (only the output is appreciated counted in users and downloads).

There are a couple of reasons why this is the case – a few theoretical/natural limits and a few self-imposed, engineering and cultural issues.

First the engineering and cultural issues.   Programming languages and computers evolved rather clumsily built mostly by programmers for other programmers – not for the majority of humans.    There’s never been a requirement to make programming itself more humanistic, more embodied.    Looking back on the history of computers computing was done always in support of something else, not for its own sake.   It was done to Solve Problems.   As long as the computing device and program solved the problem the objective was met.   Even the early computer companies famously thought it was silly to think everyone one day might actually use a personal computer.   And now we’re at a potentially more devastating standstill – it’s absurd to most people to think everyone might actually need to program.    I’ll return to these issues.

Second the natural limits of computation make for a very severe situation.   There are simply things that are non-computable.   That is, we can’t solve them.   Sometimes we can PROVE we can’t solve them but that doesn’t get us any closer to solving some things.    This is sometimes called the Halting Problem.  The idea is basically that for a sufficiently complex program you can’t predict whether the program will halt or not.   The implication is simply you must run the program and see if it halts.  Again, complexity is the key here.  If these are relatively small, fast programs with a less than infinite number of possible outcomes then you can simply run the program across all possible inputs and outputs.   Problem is… very few programs are that simple and certainly not any of the ones that recommend products to you, trade your money on wall street, or help doctors figure out what’s going on in your body.

STOP.

This is a VERY BIG DEAL.    Think about it.   We deploy millions of programs a day with completely non-deterministic, unpredictable outcomes.  Sure we do lots of quality assurance and we test everything we can and we simulate and we have lots of mathematics and experience that helps us grow confident… but when you get down to it, we simply don’t know if any given complex program has some horrible bug in it.

This issue rears its head an infinite number of times a day.   If you’ve ever been mad at MS Word for screwing up your bullet points or your browser stops rendering a page or your internet doesn’t work or your computer freezes… this is what’s going on.  All of these things are complex programs interacting with other programs and all of them have millions (give or take millions) of bugs in them.  Add to it that all of these things are mutable bits on your computer that viruses or hardware issues can manipulate (you can’t be sure the program you bought is the program you currently run) and you can see how things quickly escape our abilities to control.

This is devastating for the exercise of programming.  Computer scientists have invented a myriad of ways to temper the reality of the halting problem.   Most of these management techniques makes programming even more mysteries and challenging due to the imposition of even more rules that must be learned and maintained.   Unlike music and writing and art and furniture making and fashion we EXPECT and NEED computers to do exactly what we program them to do.   Most of the other stuff humans do and create is just fine if it sort of works.  It still has value.  Programs that are too erratic or worse, catastrophic, are not only not valuable we want to eliminate them from the earth.   We probably destroy some 95%+ of the programs we write.

The craft of programming is at odds with its natural limits.   Our expectations and thus the tools we craft to perform program conflict with the actuality.  Our use of programs exceeds their possibilities.

And this really isn’t due to computers or programming, but something more fundamental: complexity and prediction.    Even as our science shows us more and more that prediction is an illusion our demands of technology and business and media run counter.    This fundamental clash manifests itself in programming, programming languages, the hardware of computers, the culture of programming.  It is at odds with itself and in being so conflicted is unapproachable to those that don’t have ability to stare maddeningly into a screen flickering with millions of unknown rules and bugs.   Mastery is barely achievable except for a rare few.   And without mastery enjoyment rarely comes – the sort of enjoyment that can sustain someones attention long enough to do something significant.

I’ve thought long and hard about how to improve the craft of programming.   I’ve programmed a lot, lead a lot of programming efforts, delivered a lot of software, scrapped a lot more.  I’ve worked in 10+ languages.  I’ve studied mathematics and logic and computer science and philosophy.  I’ve worked with the greatest computer scientists.  I’ve worked with amazing business people and artists and mathematicians.   I’ve built systems large and small in many different categories.  In short, I’ve yet to find a situation in which programming wasn’t a major barrier to progress and thinking.

The solution isn’t in programming languages and in our computers.  It’s not about Code.org and trying to get more kids into our existing paradigm. This isn’t an awareness or interest problem.   The solution involves our goals and expectations.

We must stop trying to solve every problem perfectly.  We must stop trying to predict everything.   We must stop pursuing The Answer, as if it actually exists.  We must stop trying to optimize everything for speed and precision and accuracy. And we must stop applying computerized techniques to every single category of activity – at least in a way where we expect the computer to forever to the work.

We must create art.  Programming is art.  It is full of accidents and confusions and inconsistencies.   We must turn it back to an analog experience rather than a conflicted digital.    Use programming to explore and narrate and experiment rather than answer and define and calculate.

The tools that spring from those objectives will be more human.  More people will be able to participate.  We will make more approachable programs and languages and businesses.

In the end our problem with programming is one of relation – we’re either relating more or less to the world around us and as computers grow in numbers and integration we need to be able to commune, shape and relate to them.

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Who’s Free and Who Isn’t (this is about artists) aka who should we pay aka The Free and Anti Free

An N+1 article grapples with the basic question, “should an artist get paid?” https://nplusonemag.com/issue-20/the-intellectual-situation/the-free-and-the-antifree/ It’s a decent question – that is, we ought to ask it and keep asking it. This article and so many like it definitely don’t answer it. The article isn’t poor quality. It’s thought provoking in that way where you want to chase down a lot of things. I don’t want to pick apart the article right now as it gets into class warfare, lots of history, media critique and more. I want to attack the question head on without the backdrop of all this other stuff – which I think is mostly just baggage.

The most important point of all is sort of an anti-point in life and existence. That is, none of us, nothing (no thing), deserves anything. The title of the article introduces the concept of SHOULD which is really just a form of “deserves.” Human language will never do this point justice but there isn’t any universal SHOULD. There are proximal “SHOULDS.” In some cultures, in some relationships, in some situations X SHOULD HAPPEN.

So no, artists shouldn’t get paid.

In this proximal culture, this western world of award shows and museums and ad agencies and media companies, should artists get paid? maybe. If they want to get paid they figure out how. Should they be paid a priori because they are doing art? maybe.

Why the waffle?

Really this question is bigger than art and artists. Does anyone deserve to get paid? should ___________ get paid? No. No, no category of people, persons, trades, classes SHOULD get paid. Do they? yes. Yes, some people get paid. Some categories of people with categories of skills get paid.

This distinction matters because there are FAR MORE starving manual laborers than starving artists. There are FAR MORE starving students than artists. There are a lot of starving people on the planet. There are lots of species of animals in very bad shape. The subclass of artists that are humans that are part of species on the earth is hardly unique.

what is art? that’s a relevant question at this point. It doesn’t matter. what is science? what is math? what is teaching? what is philanthropy? what is a job? what is work? Should WE Get Paid?

what do you do? Why do you think you should get paid? If you are a teacher you most likely have decided that you’re doing a good for society. If you are a social worker, same. If you are a business person you probably think you are “adding value” to the company or marketplace. Most likely you think you should get paid because those around you and those before you who did vaguely similar things think you should get paid and those people often “hire” those similar to them.

and then there’s art (and its cousins…) Art is the stuff that changes perceptions. Art is the concepts and ideas and forms and tools that don’t make sense. Pay only comes from a marketplace. Art is anti-market. It has an anti-market if it has anything at all.

So n+1 and those that worry about these sorts of things you can stop wondering if someone will pay or if capitalism or whatever category of being we’re talking about will assign commodity-based currency quantification to something that seeks, at its core, to never be defined.

Art and artists should forever seek ill definition, that’s the fucking point. If there is a point at all.

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What is art?

Art isn’t anything.  It’s everything and nothing.  Art is pattern.  It’s narrative.  It’s expression.  Anything we do someone else could consider as art.

What’s most important is that someone else can experience us, this art, the source of art.   And art doesn’t suppose an audience in its creation.  We all create art, constantly, regardless of whether we think someone else will view it, watch it, hear it, taste it. And everyone we interact with directly or indirectly (though culture, rules, laws) influences our personal art.

Is there ART?  that is, is there something that we’d all say that’s a clear expression of art?  No.  No there isn’t.  Even when people start out with the intent to make art and they make it clear they are making ART it’s no more or less art than anything else anyone does all day.  Art is simply that which we do that becomes noticed.

The key is Does Someone Notice.  Even if that someone is YOURSELF.  Art is that thing that makes you notice, that makes you change your perspective.   That’s it.  and that’s everything.

Art’s role in life is to be noticed.  Art is about creating audience.  The more entities that notice a new perspective because of it the more relevant the art (in American culture terms).

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