A lot of music has come across the transom lately, not least of which is the video released today by Apple’s Bob Dylan. (Dylan came out with Modern Times, his thirty-first album.) Notes on the video:
- The video is filmed in black. It features Bob Dylan, who is in both shadow and silhouette. His guitar is black as is his cowboy wardrobe. It’s quite beautiful. And so is the black woman seen dancing in the background.
- The black dancer in the background sports a white iPod that shines brightly against her black dress and skin. It’s unclear, to me, why she would be listening to Dylan on an iPod when he’s supposed to be only a few feet away playing his guitar.
- Black is the new season’s color, all around. Skulls and crossbones abound in high fashion and Apple is charging extra for its new laptops that come in black. Black is the sign of our fascination with our ends (and probably our rear ends).
- I understand Dylan wanting to use black as a kind of character treatment. He’s the new Man in Black, again riffing off the very best our musical culture has to offer, most of which came from blacks.
- Dylan wears a black cowboy hat. Real cowboys, the ones who worked in the fields herding cattle and stuff, would never wear a black hat. Not out in the hot prairie sun that I now know so well.
- These days, black hat has taken on new meanings. The Dylan video can’t help but point to the technology of the black hats, our new bad guys.
- The video ends with a black screen and a white apple. It’s enough to make one buy an iPod.
Oh, it’s a really nice video.
The past few weeks have been slow. I have this laptop and when I’m sitting around with it, sending emails, looking at websites, figuring things out, it was slow. Pictures would crawl in. Banner ads would creep in. Text would flow in. Background images would slip in. And emails, large and small, would traipse out. I’m using an Apple Airport Extreme connection with a G4 laptop. After a little bit of searching, I finally found a series of fixes that seem to have helped tremendously, much thanks to MacFixIt. I hope this helps the wayward airport slow connection speed traveler.
My daughter watches a lot of—perhaps too much—animated television programming. The total hours per day is probably 1 to 2, which isn’t a lot. It does add up when you calculate it out in terms of days, weeks, months, and years and you realize that a child’s education in large part comes from animated creatures, mostly animals, that speak, feel, act, think, react, cry, laugh and interact constantly. You know the names—Binoo and Barney and Bear and Beaver. You might worry, like many researchers and parents do constantly, that your child is being exposed to a bombardment of commercially acceptable imagery, that a young mind is being transformed by business practices that seek to motivate children to act in ways their shareholders prefer. And many do, as do I.
But there’s another side to this, a spiritually significant side to animated televisuals that often gets unmentioned and unnoticed. It’s that the animals, persons, and creatures depicted in these animated features are alive—truly and utterly alive. They speak, feel, act, think, react, cry, laugh, and interact constantly. They live in an emotionally sensitive world where things happen (sometimes not nice things) and they must live to work through and around those things. Hives fall from trees and bees chase animals around the forest. A character finds jobs for other characters as part of a class assignment but worries that he’s not doing a real job in turn. A cloud falls from the heavens and someone (maybe a chicken) says that the sky is falling.
Moreover, these characters are not just alive. They also live, just like all things do in a child’s world. From what I remember as a child, every object is living, every thing has a feeling, every animal can give off feelings. I remember, when I was maybe only 5 or 6 years old, feeling badly when I threw something out—a piece of paper, for instance. A sadness would come over me that that object would no longer live and be part of my daily observations. I never wanted to hurt anyone or anything’s feelings; this was a sensitivity of a living child amazed to be in life. I worried about what would happen to that piece of paper and how it would feel that I pushed it out of my world.
Today, when walking home from the supermarket, I asked my daughter which house she liked more, ours or that of our neighbors. She said she liked both. I asked her why and she replied that she didn’t want one of the houses to feel bad. I agree with her. Making decisions and opinions is always hard but, when one puts up the light of an animated world against one’s daily practices, they become harder.
I spent the year 1994-1995 in Poland. It was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. In fact, I look back on the days I spent there, mostly in Krakow, as ones of incredible pleasure, tremendous learning, and unmitigated complexity. While I was there, I did a lot of drawing and painting, most of which I brought back to the States and which now resides with me in Canada. This is an odd thing for a former painter. You spend an enormous amount of time collecting the tools of production to make works that you often feel don’t work or only partly work or resemble something you don’t want to remember and then, for the rest of your life, you’re burdened with these monsters that sit around you and your dark memories, sending you frightening messages of lost possibility, threatening you with anonymity and welcoming you with inordinate despair. You look at these old paintings, work that was literally the sweat of one’s brow, and they only resemble memories, like poor facsimilies of old thoughts. It’s very hard to capture exactly what was in my brain at the time, but I get gleanings and I can kind of limn my way to understanding. Sometimes, there is peace. Most often, these paintings sit in mocking repose. And yet, like old friends, I love them.
I left a few drawings and paintings in Poland with friends I lovingly made there. I’m in touch with some of these folks, including Ewa, who has recently used a drawing of mine for the publication of a new book by the well-known Polish poet Marcin Świetlicki, entitled Dwanaście, meaning 12. (Dwa – pronounced “di-vah” – is a really sweet number in Polish. Well, any language, no?) I wish I could actually read 12, as, from his online bio, he seems right up my alley and his poems are grand.
I’ve seen and used del.icio.us, the online social bookmarking tool, for a while now and have never wanted to set up an account. But then, tonight, in the midst of being tired but not sleepy, I thought I’d open an account and lo and behold, I did!
Wow, it was really interesting importing all of my bookmarks/favorites (I have almost 2000 of them) into del.icio.us. Wow, it was so nice to see all of my folders stored so neatly as tags around each of the bookmarks. Wow, it was so cool to see me editing the bookmarks, adding tags, notes and other things to my bookmarks so that I (and my children and my children’s children) could recall websites in perpetuity using del.icio.us. And Wow, it was so great that it all was pretty easy to use and I could even create a little bookmarklet in my browser and I had my own little mini domain name and everything. Wow!
Then I noticed that, Wow, all of my bookmarks are completely exposed to the viewing public. And that, Wow, special sites that I reserved for my use or my client’s use were totally available (or at least visible) to any Tom, Dick and Harry who want to visit them. And that, Wow, everyone can see all of my favorite “Inspiration” sites that I go to for regular design or content aspiration. Wow! I was totally exposed within a few minutes!
After looking up “how do I delete all of my bookmarks from del.icio.us immediately,” I found that it isn’t easy. In fact, it’s quite complicated – one needs to have a script compiled to do it. Then I found out something really cool: Wow, I can shut down my whole del.icio.us account immediately. And I did. Goodbye Yahoo! Inc.. (I mean del.icio.us).
Postscript: I know there is a way to make sure that bookmarks are kept private (or some bookmarks are kept private) but it’s certainly not clear in any of the instructions I saw. Additionally, I know that social bookmarking is supposed to be, well, social. Still, the situation I described above shouldn’t have happened. Rather, what should have happened was this: I import my bookmarks into del.icio.us. The system then immediately asks, “Hi, Andrew. How are you doing? Would you like all of your bookmarks available to the prying eyes of the World Wide Web? We assume you do because you’re into social bookmarking, right? If not, check, well, this box, dummy.” That’s it. How freaking hard would that be to do, I ask.
I’m back from a solid week’s vacation in gorgeous Vancouver. The place quietly whispers “natural beauty” in your ear almost whereever you are. The mountains pretty much surround you and the waters follow you. To the left are pine trees that climb 40 meters into the sky. To the right are swishing waters, receding because it’s low tide while birds come in to peck the mollusks clean. Above is, usually, blue sky, mild clouds and simple winds.
There is little air conditioning. Sure, it exists, if you want it and you’re, perhaps, old or sick. But you open a window and the air conditions your home. Lovely. We stayed in Coquitlam, which is about 45 minutes outside of the city. Indeed, it’s the suburbs, but nice suburbs, the kind of democratically okay suburbs that you might actually want to partake in. Tremendous diversity: I could identify lots of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Iranian and Hispanic cultures throughout that part of the town. Old and young. Some are retired. Some are superrich. Actually, a lot of people seem superrich. Having come from Winnipeg, where nice cars are hard to keep and maintain, the shiny metal skins being driven by people in Vancouver were surprising and even alarming.
Money flows in Vancouver. It’s said, or it was to me, that the money is fully Chinese. And I believe it. We went to an Asian mall at one end of Vancouver. It was huge and completely dedicated to Asian needs: every commodity and service was in Chinese, or occasionally, Japanese. 95% of the visitors were Asian and the parking lot was packed. Called Aberdeen Centre, the mall has about 80 stores and also hosts a range of traditionally Western coffee, banking and other fare.
If I could see the future, it is here. There’s little doubt in my mind that Vancouver, the West Coast, and the West generally, will become an Asian-focused economy over the next 50 years. The sheer number of people, the strength of their culture and attitudes, the prestige they so obviously attribute to being in Western Canada/The West is palpable.
I don’t mean this in any alarmist way. Cultures move like water, first to deeper pockets and then to shallower land. I expect that there will be a mall like that of Aberdeen Centre in Winnipeg in the next 20 years. But I assume there will be one in every city on the West Coast in 10.
I’m now reading two books that I’ve been interested in for some time. Freakonomics, given to me for my birthday a while ago, is quite a good read. And a friend lent me Collapse, which I started and I found to be brilliant and, at least in the intro, disengenuous. Diamond argues again and again that his studies of the collapse of ancient cultures and societies because of poor human interaction with environments do not necessarily correlate to our modern societies and cultures. But then he continues to make the point that his studies probably are applicable. It’s like he doesn’t want to get too much credit if the sh*t hits the fan and he doesn’t want to get too little credit if the sh*t hits the fan but in both cases, he knows he’s right.
Anyway, I came up with some alternative names for Freaknomics, which is a good read. The name of the book is accurate because the book, despite its attempt to argue that the authors are studying unusual economic practices, are really just studying practices. There’s no real economics in the book. Rather, the authors, who twist a good story around their studies of human behavior, examine the oddities of relationships among people that also happen to have something to do with money. Economics, or “the social science that deals with the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services and with the theory and management of economies or economic systems,” doesn’t really come into play much in the book.
Without further ado, here are some revisionist titles I thought I’d share:
- Phenomenomics (my favorite)