Thursday, December 18, 2014

This one goes out to my fellow artists

Okay, after reading this post just dook out a sketch, a crappy sketch just make sure it isn't your best work. Make rookie mistakes, don't use reference, don't bother to render and fuck up your lighting values.

Now, sit down and dedicate a couple of hours to drawing a decent piece, when you can, to the best of your abilities. All it needs to be is significantly better than your crappy sketch.

Now take bothand secret them somewhere. But seperately, like if you have a desk with unused drawers put them in two different drawers. Or if you have some old shoeboxes or something put them in seperate boxes and tuck both under your bed.

Now! How much would you bet that people open up the drawer with the good drawing way more often than the one with the crappy sketch? $20, $50, $100? Would you stake your entire career on it?

What the fuck am I talking about?

I doubt anybody would speculate that an awesome picture will draw a steady migration of people in to open up a particular drawer or shoe box to gaze upon it's awesomeness. Which is to say controlling for all other factors the quality of a piece has no real intrinsic pulling power for an audience.

Yet many artists effectively do stake their career on the notion that quality will be recognised, that it will somehow magically sell itself. That somebody with a career entirely unlike an artist eg. somebody who has spent years gaining both social and physical capital will see the piece and then provide it with an audience.

There's much truth to this scenario, but there's a whole heap of risk aversion, and when I write a book the book will be on risk. This is a classic misnomer understanding of risk. Something that is unlikely to occur is not high risk, but low risk.

So studying hard in high school and getting into medicine is a low risk profession, because due to the pressing need people have to not die, and not be throwing up, and not have a splitting headache etc. it's highly likely that doctors will always make a good living. When something is highly likely to occur it is low risk, but equally an artist being discovered by an extremely wealthy benefactor and being showered with a fortune being highly unlikely to occur makes it also a low risk strategy.

High risk means high levels of uncertainty. NNT is a billionaire thanks to his black swan investment strategy because it is actually a low risk strategy he had the insight to exploit. Which is while impossible to predict 'black swan' events are almost certain to occur.

Anyway, I digress. What I hope my thought experiment (or who knows, actual experiment) may persuade you is that you need to take risks and actually show your pieces, promote them even when you are unsure of their execution.

Simply wanting to succeed based on perfect execution has many counterarguments out there in the market. Perhaps most prominently Michael Bay, an inspiration for all artists.

For me, the pursuit of execution is something I do for personal satisfaction, but I have too many ideas to ever execute perfectly, as a result I want to be prolific, not good.

As Larry David said 'without the idea there is nothing to execute, so I'll go with idea.'

The View From Down Here

I used to have facebook on my phone. I used to 'like' a facebook page called 'The Good Men Project' and a good way to kill time at work was to read the numerous articles it churned out on a daily basis.

I'll be honest, it is ambiguous at best as to who is qualified to lead discussions on what constitutes a 'Good Man' let alone the ambiguity of what constitutes a 'Good Man' itself.

Thus there was a lot of garbage aggregated on the site. But before I quit it (and later got fb off my phone) I did learn some heuristics that were good from it.

This is one that has made me better at life but possibly a much harder person to deal with.

The best judge of a persons' character is how they treat you when you are in the wrong.

This is not to say I now go out of my way to wrong people to try and learn about them. It's not necessary I just fuck up in the course of my everyday existence.

Just trying my best to do right by everybody, I generate a lot of opportunities for me to apologise in any given year. Because I am a doofus.

And I always did intuit those feelings of dissatisfaction, of injustice, anger etc. when I felt people were being ungracious in my defeat and submission. It just hadn't clicked how relevant or reliable it was.

Anybody who attacks you when you submit tells you, they have unchecked emotional issues. No exceptions.

What if the apology is only partial or incomplete? This is the difficulty.

Say I'm playing with a silenced pistol collected from evidence when it accidently discharged and the bullet almost hits the cranium of my fellow detective whom was walking by and remains blissfully unaware that she almost died. I can decide on my own autonomy that an apology is necessary even though my colleague has not experienced feeling offended.

I think most people would agree that this is good and noble and proper.

Now say that I'm a recovering alcoholic, currently onto the step of making amends. While I'm apologising to a friend for getting his name wrong when I first met him, his short stocky bald friend tells me I owe him an apology for refusing to lend him a sweater at a party, and for announcing that my reason was that his big head would stretch the neck hole. I also have the autonomy to decide on my own that no apology is necessary to the short stocky bald friend. You can only apologise for things you have come to accept were wrong. Nobody can demand an apology of you, which is literally not true, but when that happens apologies become strategic and almost certainly not sincere.

There's a juvenile tactic called deflection, when one is facing criticism. 'tohm you are always cutting me off.' 'yeah well you borrowed my car without asking and never returned it, now I have to cycle everywhere.' It's an attempt to even scores and counterbalance failing with failing. It's a shitty tactic because true or not, the matter at hand is the persons issue with me, it is not the time to introduce other wholly separate issues.

In the same way, an apology whether complete and unreserved or partial, the apology is the matter at hand. It is not the time to address any separate issues or components.

So basically if you do anything other than graciously, generously and compassionately accept an apology, you are going to fail my test.

Why care, tohm is on his hands and knees begging for mercy and he's powerless if I so choose to kick his teeth out?

Because you can actually snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I am still introspecting on the nature of advantage, but I would have to say advantage is not a situation where you can have your cake and eat it to. The point of an advantage is to have it, not eat it.

So perhaps frustratingly for people with unchecked emotional issues, the advantage, the moral high ground you gain when somebody apologises to you, you never get to do anything with it.

It gets worse though. Even when I haven't apologised, when I'm being petty and stupid and childish, this heuristic has allowed me the presence of mind to notice when somebody doesn't step up, be the bigger man and seize the advantage over me. I can judge people for returning my unchecked wrong with their wrong. I am capable of this feat of cognitive dissonance.

eg. If I'm pissed at you and giving you the cold shoulder. I will notice and judge you for giving it to me right back. I will also notice and judge you if you overcome this and call me out on my petty behavior.

I can sit down in the mud, floundering in my own ill-concieved incompetence and competently make accurate character judgements. I can only imagine this seems grossly unfair from the outside. Yet it is so useful, it really has helped me make great decisions.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Stop Watching the News.

I'm serious. You don't need it, and it is almost certainly to your detriment in being able to lead a life that tracks reality.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Human Condition

We're all afraid. It's okay.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Can Addiction Be Beat?

The honest answer is, I don't know. Very few people possess the expertise to say so, and I am certainly not an expert. So if you are struggling with addiction and have somehow stumbled on this post, please read with a grain of salt in hand, it's an opinion piece, factually I can only speak of my opinion, not the workings of anyone else's mind, body and their relationship with addictive substances and passtimes.

One thing I feel confident on commenting on, is the general nature of beating an addiction - the fact is that it takes the entire rest of your life to prove you've beaten it, but only a moment to disprove it.

For those unfamiliar with me, my addictions are arbitrary and relatively speaking, trivial. But they have been educational to confront for me. I haven't been in a KFC since New Years Eve last year. I used to eat it at least three times a week. Was that an addiction? Or merely a habit? Probably the KFC part was habit, the sugars, salt and animal fats were no doubt what I was addicted to.

Following that I quit McDonalds, then caffeine, alcohol (which technically I was never addicted to, I had my problems with alcohol, but they came from low tolerance rather than dependence), pornography, and desserts and soft drinks - which I simplified into sugar.

Unforch, unwittingly I had stumbled into what would become the next demonic health fad - quitting sugar. I have written about that before.

I want to talk about that one, because curiously though it is the thing I quit most recently, it's the one I get most acknowledgement for.

Here's an unexpected side-effect: I have inspired other people to quit sugar, or aspire to quit sugar.

The thing is though, when I say 'people' what I mean exclusively is women. What I find curious, is that I have been a pretty serious long distance runner for years. This obviously brings me great health benefits as my weight remained stable (if unideal) despite having a diet that often consisted of alternating between KFC and McDonalds.

I also was quite conspicuously training for and ran a marathon in my social circle. I have not inspired anyone to take up running, in the years I have been running. If I have, it has been men - though I'm not sure if I 'inspired' them for their own benefit or they were inspired to compete.

But in 7 months or so, the number of women that have confessed to me that they really should quit sugar, and those that have tried it out has genuinely surprised me.

This is what I hope isn't the case - for many women seeing a man forego sugar immediately is presumed to be 'dieting' behavior. They are noticing the bi-product of quitting my addiction - weight loss, and projecting onto me conformist body image behavior. Then feeling guilty that they don't have my dedication.

I am fairly certain this is not what any female friend of mine consciously thinks, I just suspect it describes a set of hardwired but unintelligible emotions my female friends feel. I don't know what they tell themselves but I am always suspicious of the reasons they give.

Which brings me to my next point of discussion. Pornography, I had previously written in a set of posts here about how pornography (and specifically - videos) had become too 'hardcore' for me, and what I mean by 'hardcore' I now understand to be 'misogynistic' and 'grotesque'.

I maintain my theory that this is because porno is a drug, and acts like a drug - users build up a tolerance, taking them longer and requiring more 'stimulation' to gratify them. By taking them longer I know from my own experience that porno's true cost is search time. You can trawl the internet for an hour and a half to find one image that hits the spot. In the meantime finding plenty of material that is a turn off.

More concerning though is the 'more stimulation' at the risk of reiterating something I had previously written, I would point out that porn videos can only hit two of our senses - visual and auditory. The women of porn (and men, I guess) need to be visually super-stimuli (ie, larger breasts, more extreme hip to waist ratio, redder lips, longer lashes etc.) to compensate for the lost sensory input of video (touch, smell) that make actual sex with an actual person a much better experience than any porno ever viewed.

The sex acts engaged in, likewise become more extreme to compete with 'the real thing' and for some reason, this has trended towards anal penetration becoming a status quo, and slapping, spitting on, choking, gagging and calling women 'bitch' pretty commonplace in porn videos.

With few exceptions I quit porn videos long before I 'quit' porn. I now see pornography as a social problem, an industry that badly needs regulation, socialising or some drastic intervention.

It comes up the least in conversation though, I guess because I am often offered tea, coffee, alcohol, biscuits or desserts that I have to decline and explain, but am rarely offered pornography to watch.

I don't trust it, I find it incredibly hard to trust. Pornographic video in particular challenges my concept of consent.

What I'm confident about is that the norms of porn do trickle down into the norms of sexual conduct of everyday couples. Trends in porno set trends in conventional sex. I suspect oral sex, as performed by women on men became almost ubiquitous as my generation came of age. It certainly existed before, and probably prior to the legal definition of time immemorial, but not ubiquitously so. That 60s-70s stalwart 'the Joy of Sex' referred to couples who naively were attempting sex via a woman's navel instead of vagina.

While not necessarily a bad thing in terms of liberating people to indulge their sexual fantasies, I am sure, and feel confident the book 'Female Chauvinist Pigs' had found in research, that the widespread adoption of oral sex was not equal between the genders. Guys were not uniformly going down on girls to give them pleasure and express affection and tenderness.

I'm not really down on the teenage highschool gossip like I was when I actually attended highschool, so this is pure speculation, but I imagine the number of girls between 16-18 that have consented to anal sex with their partner has skyrocketed by 8000% between my graduating year of 2001 and now.

From year 8 to year 12, I got the gossip of some 300 students at my school. Off the top of my head I can recall about 5 kids getting busted giving blowjobs. These stories are memorable only because the kids got busted, the kids in actual relationships not having spur of the moment relations in the boys toilets during 4th period must have been engaged in fellatio much more frequently and in much greater numbers, though with the average age at 17 to become sexually active, many, myself included had to content ourselves with kissing.

Anal sex is a more concerning trend because porno creates a larger degree of illusion, unreality. The first being that actresses are into it, the second being that the actresses are sober and the third being that it's fine and harmless instead of being painful with lasting aftereffects. Bj's can be depicted with similar degrees of illusion (particularly face fucking) but in general sucking a cock on video and the reactions of the participants are not that far from what happens at home.

Most concerning though, is spitting on women, slapping women in the face or on the ass, telling them they like it, calling them bitch etc. These aren't fetishes, they aren't playing a role, or any role other than hating women. Women should not be exposed to this message. Men should not be exposed to this message. It should not be able to play emotionally through their brains, even if they (and I) feel we can process it cognitively.

A case can be made for virtually every sexual fetish, including anal and even rough play. Degredation of women is not a fetish though, it is something else. There is no way to spin degrading acts both verbal and non-verbal as a kinky fetish. I'm sure many have tried though.

I saw a post of a lot of quotes from former porn stars today, and many of them said 'everybody is on drugs' I think this statement is both powerful and weak. It is weak because making a blanket statement about all porn actresses is just a weaker argument than taking only your own perspective - it is much more relevant that a single actress had to be high on cocaine and ecstasy to get through their scenes than for them to assert that everyone does. Because just one is enough to permanently destroy the illusion required to enjoy porno.

Viewers are trying to identify with a sexual fantasy, and whatever else is said, and however many men out their identify with rape and brutality, the vast majority are fantasizing about encounters that are mutually pleasurable (if unrealistic) between consenting adults. That ability to identify goes away once you can no longer trust whether an actress is saying 'oh yeah' in response to the sex act, or in response to being high on MDMA and coke and completely dissociated from what is going on.

Which is to say nothing of tumblr and pornographic stills. I guess if it is taken from a porno shoot, whether as a gif or a still image. There is no difference. But tumblr is full of sex blogs consisting only of still images of lingerie, bikini and nude models, you can find ones that never depict any kind of sex act. Good old fashioned pornography in other words, like the magazines that predated the internet available in newsagents and stolen by teenagers.

Those really are the side of porno addiction I quit this year, because I compulsively consumed them and they in turn consumed much of my time. I am much more okay with modelling, pin ups etc. on ethical grounds. Selfies I am not going to touch here, they are to say the least problematic. But a model working with a professional photographer, staging shots or doing shoots can be fine. Van Styles and Cherie Roberts I trust. It can't be said of everyone, there are certainly sleaze photographers out there. I recall one whose thing was to reach his tattooed arm into shot and touch the models he was shooting, just seemed akin to that whole domination vibe that put me off porno videos in the first place.

And I should say, that just because I object to porno, and it is little discussed doesn't mean I unequivocally oppose porno. I find it plausible that people comfortable with their bodies, whom have an exhibitionist streak could consent to documenting sex acts that they enjoy and distributing the footage for general consumption. Where no party is exploited beyond being subject to piracy. I may have even seen some porno that was ethical. Amateur porn (particularly couples making their own) in general is a lot more trustworthy than industry made porn. What I don't think is happening is that such porn is made, nor likely to be made by the porno industry as it stands.

But all of these things, I have quit. I may have backslid on occasion, but never fell back into habitual consumption. I ordered a coconut juice for example at a restaurant and it had added sugar. Having ordered it and the waiter opened the can, I just drank it anyway and took note not to take such risks in the future.

I also consume condiments that no doubt contain sugar, what I haven't done is drink a bottle of tomato sauce as a substitute for the ice cream I used to consume.

But onto the central question - Can addiction be beat?

I quit all these things, true. Sugar particularly was clearly a problem-solver, stress induced consumption habit that relieved on a daily basis, stress and to some extent emotional pain. And I live without this security blanket now.

But... I ran, between 1-4 hours 6 days a week most of the year. And post marathon when I tapered back my training I got pretty heavily into video games.

At this early stage (less than one year in) it would seem that while I can beat specific addictions, I can't live without some kind of security blanket. Video games in particular, are clearly detrimental to my health.

This is the struggle of those who are addicted, and a lesser known thing. Is someone an alcoholic when they seem to go two three months of heavy drinking, then go cold turkey? What if they then having sworn off alcohol are suddenly taking heavy painkillers round the clock?

They aren't an alcoholic but they are an addict. Both opiates and alcohol can numb emotional pain.

I have noticed that certainly in my own experience, I certainly have less security blankets to go to than I used to. I can't really comfort eat anymore which was the big one, nor manage my energy levels via caffeine (deciding when to relieve my withdrawal symptoms that is) I have no recourse to 'dutch courage', nor relieve my sexual frustration by logging onto a sex dedicated tumblr and perusing.

Running is by it's nature a discipline and frankly, a pain in the arse to indulge. I certainly get addicted to it, but it self-regulates because it is by it's nature effort.

Video games I should quit, but I am reluctant to because like facebook, for it's many downsides it has it's uses to a visual artist. It also is regulated by being constrained to my computer. I have to come here and make time to play the games. I am not seeking to eliminate all escapism from my life.

I notice I am far more likely to actually deal with shit now. By virtue of having less security blankets, those I do have become far more transparent, far more flimsy. Running indeed is little more than a planning exercise for dealing with shit. I emerge from it focused and relaxed. If only the same could be said for video games.

I imagine it is possible to live without security blankets entirely, without short term avoidance strategies. I am not sure if it is desirable.

A guy at a party I was at earlier this evening said of my non-drinking 'whether you are a hardcore drinker or a hardcore abstainer, you are still letting alcohol control your life' which I think is true and speaks to the tragedy of addiction. It does never leave you.

But with this common ground, the two choices are very different, and those differences have meaning. If you can beat one specific addiction, even if it results in you having an addiction to carrot sticks as a cigarette substitute, I feel you certainly should. 

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Nekkid

Last weekend I walked into a studio in Kensington, took all my clothes off and my friend and contemporary Harvard photographed me.

I've read before that it is the job of the photographer to make the model feel relaxed and comfortable, Harvard did this by being extremely uncomfortable.

I don't know anymore what I was expecting from the experience, my rational was that of Harvard's friends I've been shot numerous times, perhaps only behind his wife Chika. There was nothing new for me to do. Also I'm over 30 now, the likelihood of me physically doing anything but deteriorate is incredibly small.

Also over on my tumblr during inktober I published a heap of drawings based on photos of women in various states of undress.

I'm told the photo's of me have gone up online somewhere, which I myself will do in time on tumblr or something, that was the first point where I felt I'd crossed a new threshold. Something possibly akin to a young female model's thoughts and feelings when there first naked photo goes up online.

Of course mine is unlikely to be reproduced as often as Cherie Robert's model or Van Styles. Nor can I expect any financial gains, just that this will become my file photo for newstories should I decide to become a politician.

It was kind of inspired, or seeded a long time ago by Trevor Goodchild in the old Aeon Flux series. I have nothing to hide, and I've been any good at leading my life, there shouldn't really be any surprises there.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Where are the Cogans?

There's a book called 'Cogan's Trade' that you could read. I never have. It was adapted into a film called 'Killing Them Softly' which I have seen. This post is a question about the state of competence within the American Law Enforcement system, particularly Missouri - I don't know how the heirarchies of Police work anywhere, let alone the US.

Assume though, that somewhere between who Darren Wilson reports to when he gets back to the station, and the District Attorney for St Louis. I would have thought somebody in the Saint Louis sat down with someone else and asked 'What should we do?'

The fact is that an officer shot an unarmed man.

Mike Brown had the last day of his life, Darren Wilson had a bad day on the streets. As an individual, I don't begrudge Darren doing everything possible to avoid the worst repercussions of that day. That's his natural self-preservation. He is also the only person left alive that really knows how it all went down.

Then there's the institution of the police. Enter the relevance of Cogan.

In Killing Them Softly the Mafia faces a similar aftermath decision process, the premises is thus taken from Wikipedia's page:

Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta), the proprietor of a poker ring, is revealed to have previously orchestrated an inside job by paying two men to rob his own illegal poker room. He holds up under rough questioning by the hitman Dillon (Sam Shepard); though later he openly admits his involvement to various criminal figures and suffers no retaliation. Squirrel anticipates that the Mafia will automatically blame Markie for the heist.

Cogan is a hitman brought in to basically deal with the aftermath of the robbery. A driver acts as emissary to the unseen Mafia decision makers. Cogan gives this driver advice.

Cogan's view is that Markie Trattman isn't dumb enough to rob his own game twice. He extends Trattman charitably that he thinks he is innocent. But this 'doesn't make a lick of difference' Cogan recommends that Trattman is whacked as a matter of course.

In the space where I can entertain operating in organised crime, I agree with Cogan. Trattman is simply unfortunate, it is not in this case a question of his guilt or innocence, but of broader perceptions. Perceptions that impact on the Mafia's ability to operate.

The difference between the Mafia and Law Enforcement institutions, is that recognizing the misfortune of Trattman involves killing him off. Recognizing the misfortune of Darren Wilson simply involved having him endure the most open and transparent trial process possible.

But where is the Cogan advising the Police Brass? Who is pointing out that every effort the Police make to help their unfortunate officer (he was unfortunate to have fucked up in this case) helps not just condemn Darren, but also themselves.

I can only think of two things the Saint Louis' Police conduct can suggest about this incident.

1) the obvious, is that it suggests that Darren is guilty.

2) the Police are weighing up two unpleasant repurcussions of their handling of this case and choosing the 'lesser evil'. Which is to say, the damage done to their ability to operate as law enforcement is less if the community of Saint Louis (and nationwide) believe the police are corrupt, racist and complicit in a miscarriage of justice, than if the existent members of the police force were to see the Police not protecting one of their own by obstructing the course of justice.

It's the second one that suggests that Cogan is sitting in a car with an emissary of the top brass explaining that Darren Wilson needs to be thrown under the bus and prosecuted as ruthlessly and as transparently as possible, and probably removed from ever facing the possibility of acting as a law enforcement officer in the African-American community ever again.

And the driver is turning to Cogan and saying, we can't do that, because the majority of the police force identify with Darren Wilson, and if we throw him under the bus they'll think we'll do it to them too.

I got told that in Australia at least, if you are driving a car and you kill someone with it, you will be charged and tried for 'culpable driving' not 'manslaughter' or 'murder' the reason being, jury's identify too strongly with drivers, they will always acquit somebody of manslaughter or murder if they were just driving to the store to get milk, but they can convict somebody of culpable driving.

What I don't like about the police anywhere ignoring a Cogan who thinks of the big picture when dispensing advice, is that it says the culture that produced Darren Wilson identifies with seeing an unarmed black teenager as a threat you can unload your gun into.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Literal Metaphors

I just watched 'Walk the Line' the Johnny Cash, June Carter-Cash biopic after many years of never getting around to it. You know the man in black has written and performed some of the greatest love songs of all time, and yet he was for the most part not a very good lover to his partners. Even the love of his love, his muse that inspired most if not all of those very great love songs.

Anyway whatever you can presumably watch movies for yourself or if time poor read wikipedia articles that have more peer review than this blog.

What got to me though, was the Tractor scene. A Literal Metaphor, though in another more literal sense a nonverbal communication. Johnny Cash's dad sees that his son has left a tractor stuck in the mud after unsuccessfully trying to pull out a stump. It's a metaphor for Cash squandering his talents to drug addiction, but it's also a clear cut piece of communication.

He is literally leaving an expensive piece of equipment out to rust and deteriorate - and it says something about Johnny Cash that he would do that.

I watched this in the comfort of my room where plates and laundry glasses and garbage have been piling up for a couple of weeks now. The house has fallen into a state while I played video games. I hadn't shaved my face in a week and no, I am not growing a beard nor desire to.

In other words, I am exhibiting all the physical/non-verbal tells of somebody who is grieving, or depressed. Ironically, when getting out of the house I've been practicing mindful walking and when my thoughts return to me, they are generally appreciative of the quality of life I have achieved here and now. Yet I could not prove to an outsider that I am not depressed or in a funk.

I don't feel like I am, but why am I living like I am? That is the question.

So I wrote down on a piece of paper, a brochure for my local Greens Party candidate 'something is wrong' and stuck it to my wall.

Today I started cleaning, and will keep going until it is done. It is strange to think though, that whatever problem I have that I am not conscious of, I might make it untrue by removing the physical symptoms.

Perplaxionary.