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December 2nd, 2004

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03:14 pm - stayed home today, apparently to rant
I was just too tired, and must have been thumping my foot during the night because it hurt far more than it had when I went to bed the night before. :( I lay down thinking I would sleep a couple of hours and go in late, but I slept until 1 or so, at which point by the time I got down to work it would be nearly time to turn around and come home. And I'm still kind of shaky - so having a good excuse, I used it.

I was listening (with about half an ear, usually) to the Digital Generation special they have been doing on NPR this morning. Today they spoke with some 44-year-old art therapist who completely disdains computers because they make art too easy. His mentor, who is 84 or something like, believes the same thing. Her I can forgive, maybe, due to her age. He should know better.

This attitude infuriates me. It's exactly the sort of thing that made me avoid writing classes in school, that made me think I had to focus on something else for a career, because writing for me was too easy. It came naturally - therefore I should do something else that was more work. What the fuck? What kind of attitude is that? It is very closely related to that voice in my head that tells me "Give up, you'll never be happy. Why do you want to be, anyway? Your work will never mean anything unless you suffer for it. If you're happy, it's worthless. If you're happy, you're not doing it right."

Do you want to know what one of his main problems was? He couldn't cope with the pointing device being called a "mouse," after something real. After something real. *blink* Hello, prejudice - computer mice are perfectly real. I would expect an artist to be a little more flexible than that. But no, he proudly kicked the machine his daughter gave him off the back porch in a fit of self-righteousness that someone would use a word to mean -- more than one thing? both an animate and inanimate object? a mammal and a machine? Whatever...

But leaving aside his personal anti-tech stance, which I can allow as his opinion even though I think it is dumb, he also appears to claim that no-one who uses a computer has any (or an) imagination. Why? Because clients come to him, and they have immersed themselves in video games to the point of social dysfunction. He seems to have completely missed the fact that he is dealing with a biased sample. He is seeing people who already have problems.

They could have been raised in a barn by wolves, or in the middle of the jungle, or fifty years ago before the internet was much to look at, and they would still be people with problems. That's his client base, after all. If it wasn't video games, it would be television - remember how TV violence was the bane of society, back before violent video games took over that cultural slot? If it wasn't TV, it would have been books. Or radio, or something else - there have always been places for introverts to retreat into, little trainspotting hobbies of varying degrees of obsessiveness.

To me, it sounds a lot like the folks who whine that activities like NaNoWriMo just let the riff-raff into the sanctum sanctorum where the Real Writers hang out. Which to me smacks of low self-esteem and lack of confidence in one's work, or perhaps simply mean-spirited peevishness. Real Writers aren't so threatened by other people's talent as to try to quash any future competition, I don't think.

Yes, I get as tired of bad stuff, or things that strike me as banal, as Harlan Ellison or Charles Bukowski. But it isn't my job as a fellow writer to say "if it doesn't burst out of you, don't do it" or variations on that theme. That sort of thing is the job of the editor, I feel, and the rejection should fall squarely on the work rather than the person. Contrary to what they might personally think, I doubt either one of the men above leapt onto the scene in the full flower of their creativity. In Ellison's case I've read enough (almost all) of his work to know that as he wrote more, he got better. I admit this is kind of tangential to my original peeve, but it is related. You're not going to get better crafted written work by telling people to stop writing if they aren't any good.

I know that's probably kind of funny to hear me say, but one of the few things I have confidence in is my writing. I am not particularly confident that any one other editor-type person will agree with me, so I'm not completely certain of its salability, say - but I am certain of its worth and validity in comparison to other work. My mother, probably in an effort to spare me... something, used to say that she thought people who made a successful career of writing had some drive in them that most people didn't have. Oh, I thought. I must not be a writer after all then.

Except that I write every day, except on very rare occasions. Not always much, but usually something. I write on all sorts of things, in the margins of my crossword book, on the back of ATM slips, in Moleskein notebooks, on my hand with ink pens, with the sooty ends of matches at times... I don't feel particularly driven, though. Somewhere along the line I came to realize that while it isn't terribly driven seeming in here, in my head, it might possibly look driven from the outside. So maybe I am a writer after all.

Whatever, I write things, whatever you want to call me. I said in a biography once that I ooze poetry, because it just comes out, whether I want it to or not. And like anything oozy, there are times when it is damned inconvenient. And I use computers, to write, and for other things, and my imagination is just fine, thank you. I've certainly got more imagination than someone who can't stretch his definition of mouse any further than the rodent.

Aside: you see why I'm leery of having kids? The majority of the crap people put me though in childhood was meant to be beneficial, I'm sure, as surely as it turned out the opposite. I'm nigh certain I'd break anyone I was trying to teach about life when I was just trying to help. How can I not, when I'm still furious about things that happened 30-odd years ago?

(6 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:December 3rd, 2004 10:24 am (UTC)
I met a lot of professional people (mostly doctors and attorneys) who are afraid of computers/internet and think that it makes everything super easy or is full of child molesters.

They all seem to come with big chips on their shoulders about everything else in life too, not just technology.

Like, I would take this guy's opinion more seriously if he was an expert in Illustrator or something. If he could do both, and then explain to me the pros and cons of both, then yes, his opinion is worth something. Say, pros and cons of manipulating digital photos rather than film. Otherwise, it's just a scared close minded man afraid of the dark.

Hey, didn't they say the same thing when photography was first invented, like it was the death of painting portraits and that no one would paint anymore?

The chips on shoulders don't seem to like the fact that someone else can know more about something that is completely not in their field, they must be experts on all!!

I also met some people who really know a lot about a lot of different things, but strangely, they are nice and open and wow! Don't have chips!!! Weird huh?

What is recently bugging me is the attitude that you're not a real artist unless you have your MFA or went to some sort of art program. Not just technical stuff, but just in general.
[User Picture]
Date:December 4th, 2004 09:41 am (UTC)
Yes, the credentials issue. I struggle with that one myself.

I always remind myself of Freeman Dyson, who is Ph.D.-less in a world of highly degreed individuals.

I wonder how much I would get out of a poetry masters/phd program vs. toiling in obscurity...
[User Picture]
Date:December 4th, 2004 06:00 pm (UTC)
I know. The only problem is that they don't have evening degree mfa programs. Why only mba programs? grr.

When i asked my uncle that he made a joke about them being dedicated to not working or something like that.
[User Picture]
Date:December 4th, 2004 02:53 pm (UTC)

Computer art....easy...hah...

Okay, I've done about as much digital and non-digital art as anyone I know, and I can tell you that both natural media and digital have their peculiar strengths and weaknesses.

On the other hand, I know that, often, when artists like Dave McKean move more toward the purely digital, I like their work less. But I think it's about shortcuts. Because the clips from Mirror Mask -- of necessity, ultra-digital -- they were amazing. So I think sometimes the computer can be used to shortcut, and in that case the art is compromised. But there's all sorts of ways to shortcut and compromise art. And sometimes the quickest-done stuff comes out the best anyway. You can never tell.

I have beefs with computers. I don't like the way they destroy process. I don't feel like art on a computer is really archived, I expect it to disappear any moment (and have lost enough over the years to computer crashes and incompatible upgrades that I have some reason for this fear). And for a lot of things I just don't find a computer a very natural interface. But for other things it is. They're great for preparing art for reproduction.

Psychologically, I sometimes think that we spend too much of our lives immersed in the very abstract and kind of alienating -- computers exacerbate that but did not cause it. Mass media probably caused it.

A lot of times I feel like anti-computer comments come from anxiety. People feel this intense pressure to conform to the New Digital Paradigm, and there is this fear that -- well, it's not expressed this way, but it's almost a fear that the way you like to do things, the way you like to live, is being taken away from you. Like some techno-optimist is going to sneak into our homes one night and replace all our paper books with electronic versions...on a Microsoft format...that will be obsolete in five years...and stop working reliably long before then. I think that fear manifests itself as an exaggerated anti-computer stance.

I, for example, have had nothing but trouble with digital photography, and am not ready to get on board with that craze until it's much, much more mature. But I'm cranky, because I'm afraid that it will become extremely difficult for me to get my actual film developed long before digiphoto technology has progressed to my satisfaction. I cling jealously to my lovely all-manual camera and feel like a luddite, but then kind of smug whenever anybody wants to show me their pictures on their digital and the batteries are dead, or they accidentally dump all the pictures while scrolling through the menus.

[User Picture]
Date:December 5th, 2004 11:54 am (UTC)

Re: Computer art....easy...hah...

I wish it didn't so often seem to be one method/process replacing another, so much as more ways to do things.

I like digital photography because of its immediateness, and its portability - I get to see my photos NOW, I get to see them at all (I have dusty undeveloped rolls of 113 film from my first camera rolling around in boxes, somewhere), I can send copies easily and cheaply to friends and family. I like the ...commonness of it, the fact that it lets my friend Joann at work put her daughter Caleigh on her desktop without access to a scanner. I like that there are cameras in phones, because I think one of the few antidotes to an administration that wants to control what you see and hear is the proliferation of technology that makes it easier to propagate what you see and hear over the internet/airwaves/etc.

I like analog (? is that the term) film photography for the look and feel of the results, the depth that digital images often lack, the way film captures the feel of the light in a way that digital can't display certainly, even if it can capture it. I like that it doesn't require electricity. I like the heft of photos, I like that the process has enough organic noise that you can take two pictures seconds apart, with nothing in the composition having changed, and have them turn out to be different. I like that there is a subtle quality to them (for which I have not yet ascertained the name) that allows me to perceive when they have been altered, because it just looks wrong.

I want both, I don't want to give either up... I like being able to read (and search! for those quotes I'm always mis-quoting) online, but I don't plan on giving up tangible books, ever.

I don't know if this came out terribly coherent, I've been having trouble of late. I hate that anymore choosing option A means option B goes away forever, or that it means option B is wrong, or lesser, or... well, anyway. I'm glad you are sticking to your preferences, I'm sorry it makes you feel like a Luddite - it shouldn't be some strange question of allegiance, it should just be one choice among many.
[User Picture]
Date:December 6th, 2004 01:35 pm (UTC)

Re: Computer art....easy...hah...

"it should just be one choice among many."

Yes, exactly.

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