Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I’m not a nerd. I used to be one...

Thats the opening statement in a recent essay by Patton Oswalt. My friend Rich pointed it out to me and that first line realy caught my attention because it was very close to something I have been saying for years.

In fact, I have been meaning to make a post about how I am an "Anti Geek", A selective geek that denies being a nerd/geek and since I don't refer to myself in those terms and don't embrace ALL geek touchstones. I am shunned by current geek culture. This essay gave me new insights into that phenomenon and I hope to make that post soon. But in the meantime, here are my thoughts on Mr. Oswalts article itself.

Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to Die

I copied the text and listened to "Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to Die" on my smartphone using a text to speech app I purchased for $2... (I think there is much to be said about THAT as it relates to the essay and I leave you to ponder the ramifications).

Many have been witness to my strong opinions about "geek culture" and how I have sought to avoid that label even though I love select things that are considered VERY geeky.

I agree with much of what he is saying, but believe he is glossing over a larger picture. Aspects of counter culture have ALWAYS been cherry picked by pop culture as they became "ripe"... Its just simply geek cultures turn. Its funny because he seems to set the dates for the beginning of the harvest a bit later than me. He blames the internet for the rapid acceleration, and I agree... But I would go much further back and say it really got rolling with the introduction of widely available cable television, home gaming, and home computing in general. As an example, I would most likely have complained about someone his age (he is only slightly younger than me) being the reason for good arcades closing because he was willing to sit at home and play sub standard home versions of the games! "Grumble Grumble! Spend a damn quarter ya cheapskate kid!" It's interesting, but because of big technology shifts, just those few birthdays probably mean that he and I had a vastly different teenage experience. In my oppinion, Geekdom was already on the upswing in popularity by the time he hit his teen years.

Also, later, but before the internet, publishing was in on the spread and dressing up of the techie underground to the mainstream. I was reader of Mondo 2000 (The Authoritative & Scholarly Journal of Cyberpunk Subculture) and during its run beginning in 1989, it could be found on many "fully stocked" magazine racks in pretty mainstream bookstores. It was freaky and tried hard to make things that had once been the realm of pure geeks, ultra fashionable. Look at these covers... Notice anything? heh. Smart drugs, Hot scientists and Virtual reality where already on the lips of many "normal" people through the power of the hot chick on the magazine cover.

Of course, Geek culture is not the first counter culture to be "adopted" by the masses, but it may be the final one... there are few sub culture berries left to pick. Much like getting chosen for sports teams, seems like the geeks may have been picked last.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Convention for the horrifically yet proudly deformed

Now thats an unusual dream...

I was walking through a dark and stylish hotel filled with creatures that looked as if human skeletons had been resized and rearranged in every conceivable way, then organs replaced in them at whim and finally, skin tightly stretched over the results. All this with no regard for wether the resulting construct would constitute a viable living being. These convention goers were mostly nude and displaying themselves to each other with delight at their great diversity of form. The handful that had working genitalia were very proud of themselves and demanded a lot of attention. Some smaller participants were in ornate glass cabinets but it was clear that they were not prisoners, instead, it was for their protection as they needed a more pure environment to survive.

I wasn't fearful, just astounded. The setting was beautiful and richly ornate. None of the creatures seemed to be unhappy... But I DO recall that they had a little display, like a model of many identical six inch high beings doing some type of forced labor and the plaque beneath it read "Abused" I took it to be some sort of memorial to a less enlightened time when "normal" people had taken advantage of a population of them.

I am sure the dream means nothing other than that my "internal storyteller" is a creepy little fellow.

Sounds like my "external storyteller" should work that up into a short story someday...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Shaun The Sheep Is GREAT!

Oh wait now it sucks...

I have a 2 year old and I am building a library of quality entertainment for him on a server so that he won't be exposed to broadcast TV (and advertising) for a while. I was so happy discover that Shaun The Sheep had his own TV show and that it was so great! I started buying up episodes of season one and it is really stunning! Like mini episodes of Wallace and Gromit! They are subtle, funny and completely non verbal. The characters tell the story with hand gestures, eye rolls, and body language. One of the best shows I have come across for him yet!

So Last night when I found a new DVD that we did not have yet and I snagged it with glee. I popped it in today and I got my first taste of season 2. I will now stop collecting...

I am so disheartened. What happened?! Not only are the characters less endearing, but the color palate of the whole world is super saturated, the players express emotions with much more broad and clownish facial expressions, the once beautiful pastoral farm sets now lack detail (the junk heap that the sheep always pull resources from to build stuff is now less "junky" for example), even the grass looks bad! WHY would Aardman do this to such an amazing show?!

Cost I imagine played a big role. Lots of changes seem to involve not using clay but instead using what looks like foam rubber. I believe that the new lines around the mouths on the charters of The Farmer and Bitzer allow them to switch mouths instead of whole heads to speed animation. Still many of the other changes just confuse and sadden me. Constant "rasberry" blowing has replaced the eye roll, glower, and "sheepish look" that were more common in season one. I get the feeling that they were under pressure to make it more accessible to a larger audience (profitable) and in doing so they have crushed out much of the charm.

I think kids crave some realism, not everything needs to look like a candy wrapper. This new art direction is a mistake. One thing I noticed that most people may overlook is that the ever present poo adorning the fields of season one is now gone... I guess in this new reality Shaun and the other sheep have stopped going to the baaathroom. (sorry about that)

I am dying to know the behind the scenes story as to why this gem has become so... average. I am searching for an explanation.

I am sure Wallace and Gromit are safe from such de-evolution... so at least we will can look forward to future high quality shorts and movies involving those characters.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Son, you can't throw your toys...

Jamieson is 21 months old now and much has happened in that time. But suffice to say he is still often cranky and is going through the "terrible twos" early. Thats pretty much par for course with him, he seems advanced in so many ways.

Yesterday I was trying to talk to him about throwing his toys (I sternly told him not to throw his toys in the house, put him down, and turned my back on him) and he had a pretty bad meltdown. Now when it's just he and I, we work this sort of thing out and often he is mostly over in a short time. I always still feel like a jerk for having made him cry, but I also get over it eventually. This time however, was different. We are staying at Katy's parents house and he has had more freedom and far less lessons of this nature for over a week. He has been quite pampered and had few restrictions. People just want to keep him happy and I understand that. So when I decided to put my foot down about behavior we are trying to shape in a positive way, he did NOT like it. He screamed bloody murder in front of both of Katy's parents and her brother and nothing I did could calm him down. He just kept crying Moma over and over, which tears me up inside because it is something I imagine I would have done when I was a little boy and was frightened by my awful father.

Earlier in the day he had tried to grab my glasses off my face and when he would not let go after a long negotiation, I pried them out of his hands. This made him mad and he beat me up pretty good (scratching at my eyes, slapping and pulling out hair. he is really fast) right in front of everyone at the breakfast table. I was stunned as I often am and could not react fast enough because it takes me a while to collect myself and deal with the fact that my baby wants to hurt me. Katy scooped him up out of my arms and carried him off to give him the same stern "no no" and turn away treatment leaving me sitting there disheveled and trying not to sob.

So my grand attempt to show what a good dad I was, that I could handle tough situations, and be consistent with the messages we are sending him, turned into about the most embarrassing and heartbreaking scenario I can imagine. It could have gone many ways, the best outcome would have been for him to asked to be picked up and hug me in some golden light Norman Rockwell father son moment... I never expected that, I would not have been so lax all week in regards to his lessons if I thought that would happen. No, I knew their would be tears and I knew he would be mad at me for telling him he could not do something. So, I knew it was a gamble, but I didn't expect to loose so completely and utterly.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Confused By Your Dazziling Hubris

I hate to be the fly in the ointment. I don't want it to be true… But I can not stand by and let a talent go unrecognized while the people that profited by taking what was his are held up as god-like heros.

Well, meet Jake Homes I have only heard two songs that he recorded back in the late 60's but so far I dig the music he did back then very much… I will certainly be seeking out more. If his recordings from that time are still in print… I will be buying them. The reason being, he wrote one of the most recognizable rock songs of the last few decades… and very few people know it. See if this sounds familiar.

Thats right, back in 1967 Jake Holmes wrote a song called "Dazed and Confused", a song that sounds very similar to led Zeppelins Dazed and Confused.

Here is the history as I understand it… (I don't claim to really know, please poke around and draw your own conclusions, )
Holmes opened for the Yardbirds in 1967 while talented young Jimmy Page was in that band.

The Yardbirds then started to perform a version of the song as written by Jake Holmes (with his lyrics) on stage. Its a straight cover with more instrumentation and some added guitar interludes (as you would expect). A year later The Yardbirds have disbanded.

Jimmy Page then forms Led Zeppelin, and records "their" Dazed and Confused The lyrics are somewhat different but it is clearly the same song. Not only does he not credit Jake Holmes, but denies ever hearing the original… The original song that there are recordings of him PLAYING.

Apparently there are many examples of Led Zeppelin doing similar things… I am not on a wicth hunt here. Some people will point to very weak examples and as a musician I understand that creating something never happens in a vacuum, but this is also pretty damming…

Honestly, that example made me greatly sad. How fucking hard would it have been for them to give credit? Share in the glory of their accomplishment in some small way? I understand the reason. Fear. Scared young men afraid that they were not good enough to live up to the hype they and their record company had created. Its not like a line of text on an album cover would have made them any less successful or famous. What it MIGHT have done however is cast doubt on the illusion that they were somehow extraordinary geniuses.

What pitiful weaklings that use, yet blatantly don't honor the talents of others.

Friday, January 29, 2010

You and your iPad

I have been thinking about pad computing over the last few days. I am fond of saying that I have needed a hand held computer for decades and I finally got the right one in my iPhone. So when people started complaining that the iPad was "just" a big, fast, iPhone... I honestly started to wonder what it was that they were complaining about.

Yes, as an old school power user I would have liked to have some more ports, multitasking and I would have liked to have a camera, but I understand that I am not the main audience for such a device and I don't see any of these things as destroying it's potential.

Off the top of my head I have has some ideas of who could use this thing right away...

Education (small children)
Flash Cards, Maps, Games, Science apps (Starmap!), Music Apps

Higher Education
Note taking, Lecture recording, TEXTBOOKS!!!

Book Reading
(I will never bring a laptop to bed... I WILL break it). (I understand the whole digital ink debate, but I know people who lie in bed reading text on their iPhone so until there is a Digital ink LCD hybrid device I think many of us will stick with a multi-funtion LCD based device.)

Tethered Photography (Apps and adaptors pending)

Universal Cookbook (Laptops are bad for this in comparison, imagine yours in the kitchen)

Picture Frame (While charging)

Time sheets, other record keeping/logging

Musical instruments (Musical input device)

Medical Use (Doctors can face us again while updating our records)

Then I started thinking of all the "one trick pony" devices that may not be needed if you had an iPad...
Here is my quick list of things the iPad could potentially replace that only do one thing, or are much more limited, and in some cases are much more expensive.

Yamaha Tenori-On LED Performance Instrument - $999.99
Cintiq 12wx - $999.99
(I would have to see if the stylus for the iPad that is available works worth a damn)
Tranzport Wireless DAW Remote Control - $199.99
Sony Reader Daily Addition - $399.99
Archos - 5 16GB Internet Media Tablet - $299
Harmony® 1100 Advanced Universal Remote - $399.99
(The iPad lacks RF and would need Wifi to RF hardware but I bet a company could make a cheap little box)
HP DreamScreen 100 10.2" Wi-Fi Digital Photo Frame - $249.99

Then there is the cheap ass software! I have filled my iPhone with games and fun and even useful stuff for almost no money... Most of the apps I got for free due to the competition between developers and their tendency to put stuff on sale. A person buying an iPad would not likely have to pay much for software.

People seem to want it to be a replacement for netbooks. Well it's not a netbook. people who buy netbooks want small computers. I think people who will buy an iPad are people who want to buy an appliance. Or the occasional power user who wants to ride on their coat tails and will use the device beyond what it was intended for.

This thing is very close to the promise of a low complexity computer for the masses, based on touch and simple well behaved apps. Don't be pissy because it was not made to suit your particular needs... be happy for the people that WILL get a lot out of it, and, if you want... have fun with it until the pro version come out.

Just remember, If its a failure, Apple or some other company may not make the reasonably priced, totally open, 3rd generation or knockoff of your dreams someday.

My wife and I had and interesting discussion and I realized that much of the backlash against the iPad might be attributed to technically savvy people being annoyed at Apple for not building the "high end" version FIRST, but instead having the gall to build a simple and elegant device aimed at non technical people BEFORE they built one for them. These type of folks are used to it working the other way around. They get the cool new thing with all the bells and whistles and maybe a few years later if they "bless" it, then and only then does it trickle down to the masses. Apple has skipped that tradition and just made something that could go right into the hands of grandpa with zero advice or tech support from the wizards on the hill.

The wizards are angered and they are casting magic missile at the iPad.