Wednesday, August 21st 2013



Tuesday, August 20th 2013



Monday, August 19th 2013


The War of Art, Metaphysics and Understanding the Tormented Artist

Monday, August 19th 2013

I remember sitting on the loo thinking: this is my role - to gather foodstuffs, eat them and crap them down a tube. I'm a food processor. I work, I drive around, I learn things, just so I can gather vegetable matter. That's it. My life is really an over-engineered way to turn plant matter into faeces.

I wasn't feeling good about life :-).

Do you find yourself breaking life down into pieces (in my case, literally!)? Do you see the life in them collapse into a pointless soup of repetition and boredom? Does life lose its spark?

Then you are probably a Frustrated Artist.

Some things can't be broken down without losing their essence. If you take a picture and seperate out the lines, the shading, and so on, you don't have a picture anymore: you have a load of lines and shading. At some point it loses its emotion, its "Artsiness".

The corollary is that artistic magic happens when the lines and shading fit together: you get a picture that feels right. Add any more and you've over-cooked it, take anything away and it doesn't feel complete.

The same can be applied to any endeavour: a chorus that feels good, a design that looks right, a poem that snags the emotion, a database design that works, successful meditation, a beautiful move to the basket in the NBA, etc.

An Artist is a reductionist when it comes to gathering the bits together. LeBron James will spend hours deliberatly working on his 3 point shot. When there's 5 seconds to go, and Miami are down by 2, he just shoots, and the magic happens. When a person writes a song, he spends hours gathering influences, ideas, learning instruments, and so on. But the main parts of the song just arrive without effort.

Technique ends where intuition and Artistry begin.

The War of Art

Stephen Pressfield wrote a fun book called the "War of Art", where he talks about the "Resistance". A feeling you must fight to pursue creativity. He askes: what does Resistance feel like?

First, unhappiness. We feel like hell. A low-grade misery pervades everything. We're bored, we're restless. We can't get no satisfaction. There's guilt but we can't put our finger on the source. We want to go back to bed; we want to get up and party. We feel unlved and unlovable. We're digusted. We hate our lives. We hate ourselves.

Unalleviated, Resistance becomes clinical. Depression, aggression, dysfunction. Then actual crime and physical self-destruction.

Sounds like life, I know. It isn't. It's Resistance.

(The War of Art, Stephen Pressfield, p. 39)

If you find life meaningless because analysis tells you it is a hellish, dessicated wasteland of bored, spent energy then you probably have the Artistic Temperament and are denying yourself a way to express it.

For the Artistic, Art it is the only thing that makes life worth living. Everything else is trivial. As Frank Zappa once said:

Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid.

(You could insert whatever you want in place of music, but the point remains.)

Many people are afraid of being artistic. Sadly, the Artistic Temperament is often considered:

  • self-indulgent;
  • impractical;
  • naive.

A point of view that is a byproduct of the Protestant Work Ethic, no doubt. People are taught not to be Artistic.

  • Get a Real Job
  • Thought Factories

Apart from social pressure, there is self-doubt, aesthetic dissatisfaction, fear of rejections, and so on. What Pressfield neatly summed up as the Resistance. But Pressfield says:

"Self doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), "Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?" chances are you are.

The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.

(The War of Art, Stephen Pressfield, p. 31)


Saturday, August 17th 2013


The Shadow Bullshit Industry, Technofascism & Magical Computing

Saturday, August 17th 2013


Let me start with a tangent. When I was a kid, my parents bought a Sinclair ZX81.

Sinclair ZX81

We had a computer before we had a VCR!

The ZX81 only had 1k of memory. Loading software wasn't easy. You had to use a tape recorder. And the ZX81 would often crash randomly. And Basic programming was, well, basic.

But it was the first computer in my neighbourhood. And every kid loved it.

We used to gather around to take turns playing space invaders, asteroids and other classics rendered in glorious block form. (The ZX81 had a screen resolution of 64 x 48 pixels!).

Over the next three decades, computers went from being oddities, such as the Altair (from the mid 70s):


… to useful things most Western people use most the time. The classic "smart" phone with a touch screen.

2007 iPhone


  • If you'd been using a computer in the early 80s, you would have had to use esoteric command line instructions and flakey hardware;
  • To use a computer 6 years ago, you would have had to learn how to use a mouse.
  • Now you just have to be able to touch a computer to use it.

Being easy to use is one thing. But two other things have made computers ubiquitous:

  • portability,
  • networking.

Once people could connect to other people and the world using simpler user interfaces, computers became really useful. You could say they became necessary.

That said, user interfaces are often badly designed and hobbled by hardware constraints. The internet is still slow for most people. But computers and networks have shown incredible improvement over the last 30 years.

And things will get better.

Improved sensors, increased power efficiency, faster networks and increased computational capacity will conspire to make things even easier. We'll start to see some really useful applications of gestures, voice recognition, room sensors, machine learning, augmented reality and so on.

But there's a bigger shift afoot.

The last 20 years has been Great Data Entry period. From entering data into clunky old mainframes in the 1980s to social network updates. People, all over the world, have been feverishly entering data about themselves, about businesses, about their relationships, finances, tax … everything is being computerised.

The next period will be the Great Automated Data Gathering. Sounds silly! But computers will watch what you do, record it and react. People will gradually enter less data. People will become less conscious of interacting with computers, per se; they will be interacting with tablets, fridges, TVs, phones, humanised avatars, robots, cars, billboards, sensors in shops, security cameras, and so on, all networked together in one way or another (even if its in a very circuitous way).

This leads to:

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