On Liveness

I was reminded of and keep being reminded of the qualitative and fundamental differences between something that is being experienced live vs. recorded, digitized or otherwise preserved the other night while at a concert and listening to Philip Glass.

There is just no comparison. While listening to a recording – I lack the urgency, immediacy, fallibility, and frailty of the live thing. I can turn it off, pause it. Live – I must focus, because it is fleeting.

In liveness I am complicit in the performance – I am integral – part of the pact of performing. Some of these apply, when I go see a pre-recorded film at the theater – this is why it is sometimes more enjoyable to see film there. But with a live performance not only are you part of the audience, but you are also part of the performance as a whole. Your actions can be acted upon by the performers. You can bring down the house of cards, break the pact, but you are compelled not to and you do not.

As an audience member you might disagree – but as a performer we all know how fundamental to the performance the audience is.

That’s easy!

That’s so easy!  Anybody could do that. I could do that in my sleep!  Oh really?  Have you? I know it looks easy, everything looks easy.  The harder it was to pull off the more work was put into it to make it look obvious and easy, the more they all point and say – that’s easy, I could do that.

Well the devil, or good product, or a truly magnificent finished piece of work is in the details. And those ain’t easy.  Well sure, in theory it’s easy.  “Oh that, that’s just that with that and you’re done.”  Or, “is that all?” Or “that’s just that, but less of it, more minimal. Seriously, anyone, could, do that.  I had that idea a long time ago.  I could have done it anytime, I just never got around to it.” Well ‘in theory’ everything is easy. That’s why it’s theory and not practice.  In real life you have to deal with all the crap that you just gloss over, and not think about, while you’re too busy thinking about how it’s all so easy.

That’s just it. Nothing is easy. Some things may look easy, if you’ve got enough skills and experience, you’ll make it look easy. but it ain’t. Not in the real world at least.  It all gets complicated real fast, and real solutions take work.  Untangling that ball of wires, to make a straight wire, takes real work and skill.

Hey you, instead of going around pointing out how easy everything is, which you are too ignorant to know better, go out and do something, make something yourself. Prove to me how easy it all is.

And you, the one looking back on your own work, appreciate what you done, getting them to say “That’s easy!,”  took real hard work, appreciate and remember that.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

A videogame movie.

Disclaimer I have not seen the movie, and probably never will, but I am into video games, and I thought this was interesting:

The new york times has two different reviews of this movie, and to my surprise they are complete opposites. The first one, by A. O. Scott, even designates this movie a “critic’s pick.” The second one, by Seth Schiesel, describes how he could barely get through this movie.

How can this be? Simple – the first person is a film critic, the second a video game reviewer. (I suspect age might have something to do with it as well.)

For the film critic, this movie does an excellent job of bringing to life the repetitive mindless button mashing point acquiring primal stupidity addictive feel of early video games. Back when there was no story, just the joy of being the best button masher. If you tried long and hard enough, (and had enough quarters) eventually you would win and get the girl. For him the movie does an excellent job of representing this feeling.

For the video game review writer, that sentiment is exactly what video games have been striving to get away from for years. Nowadays, video games are the ones that are very likely to be cinematic, and so story driven as to rival and greatly surpass many a cookie cutter movie offering. Today’s video games are often interactive, immersive, engaging stories that might pull you into their word more readily and more deeply than any movie ever has. With that in mind any movie that represents video games as the button mashing of yore is a slap in the face. It’s hard not to get a chip on your shoulder when you’re working in an industry that is trying to get recognition as a viable artistic medium and is constantly being compared to film.

Who to believe? Depends on which camp you’re in I guess. For me it was interesting to see opposite reviews in the New York Times, I had no idea this movie would be so divisive.

Bullshit Artists

(Image: on Flickr – Photo Sharing!, a Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from antiparticle’s photostream)

I was just reading this, you should too:
New York Observer – The Bullshit Artists

My thoughts on “BS Artists”:
Laurie Anderson once said “People say, ‘C’mon, just say what you mean,’ which to me seems like such a bizarre thing to say. I’ve always felt that if I could say it, I would just write it down on a piece of paper and stand on the street corner and hand it out.”

I don’t deny the fact that there is a lot of bullshitting going on in the art world, but I think the reasons for it are more complicated than just lazy, greedy or stupid artists. Sure, some of it, maybe even a lot, can be attributed to these factors. But, I think a lot of it is also due to the fact that in order to be competitive as an artist, you are often forced to create sound-bites for your art.

Often times if your art is any good, it will cause confusion, be hard to explain, perhaps hard to even put into words. After all, as Anderson’s quote states, if the best way to express your ideas had been words to begin with, than you probably would have just written them. You would have pursued being a novelist or a poet! Instead here you are expressing yourself in your chosen medium, you finally figured out a way to communicate something that is not necessarily easily expressed through words and the first thing that happens is that someone comes along and asks “Tell me, what does it mean? What is this about?”

And so you struggle, eventually you build up a repertoire of interesting sound-bites that either satisfy or serve to further obfuscate your meaning. But at least the person asking you has something they can use to tell their friends or to market you. I’m not saying there doesn’t have to be vigorous intellectual thought and practice behind a work of art, and a lot of art especially conceptual art, truly is about a specific highly intellectual pursuit that can only be explained using big words that to the untrained ear sound suspiciously like BS but a lot of art can also simply be about aesthetics and beauty.

A sculpture might be a highly intellectual exploration of nothing more than the shape and the space it occupies, or an exploration of orangeness. Point being, the aesthetic aspects of an artwork may sometimes be the very inexpressable thing the artist is exploring. Thus they may be at a disadvantage when their dealer or gallery needs a soundbite, especially if their work is not backed by a solid intellectual and historical foundation.

Embrace Risk


i.e. the 40-30-30 rule:

On a ride up the ski lift, my coach told me I was missing the point. He explained that success in ski racing, or most sports for that matter, was only 40% physical training. The other 60% was mental. And of that, the first 30% was technical skill and experience. The second 30% was the willingness to take risks.

I’ve never heard of it before, but it makes sense, and can be applied anywhere. Read the full article, but the take away is to embrace risk and go for it, push yourself beyond your comfort zone.

(via thedonutproject)

Happy Anniversary!


SpongeBob SquarePants is celebrating 10 years of being on the air! Original pilot aired in the US on May 1, 1999 and the “official” series premiere followed on July 17, 1999. The show is translated into 25 languages and airs in 170 countries! Go SpongeBob!


The title of this one page website might be a little bit deceiving, for me the focus is not really typography, and the execution is so simple some may take it as nothing at all, but it really is an experiment (I love those), a test of an idea with a surprisingly engaging outcome.

“While this may not be the most practical layout on earth, it does illustrate some ideas worth mentioning. By keeping areas of content hidden until they are needed it can make a website look much cleaner. It also makes extensive use of navigation within a page (instead of between pages). I think both of these ideas should be used a lot more in web design.” – Matthew James Taylor

Try it here and read the rest of the author’s thoughts here.

Design Making a Difference

When will major businesses learn that design matters? Recently we saw how Tropicana lost 20% of it’s sales with a simple redesign of it’s packaging, well, here is an opposite story. With really good design Jacek Utko was able to increase circulation of his newspaper by as much as 100% in some places. This is a pretty inspiring TED talk.

more on the TED website