Straightening Spaghetti

OK let’s get to the point. I apologise. This blog has gone all maudlin and sporadic and is far below the quality that you pay for. The reasons being:

  • I am supposed to be writing my thesis paper, and therefore the act of writing has become one level up from gargling urine in my list of fun things to do.
  • I have turned sevcom.com into a blog to be able to update it more often, with the disastrous effect of me having to update it more often.
  • Tweeting. It’s like when you eat so many peanuts you get a stomach ache and can’t eat a proper dinner.
  • I am a fucking middle manager, what can I possibly write about?

The old blog fell into a routine. There would be have some guff about Kunst Kamp, which no longer exists and besides I am no longer in a position to mock the place. Then I’d put the boot into some fool, which got a bit dull, and then I might write about cybercloud la la bullshit, which hasn’t made the slightest difference to the trash that people in Google Glasses believe. All of it has been done to death, and so old articles now appear at random, which is more effective than me writing essentially the same thing.

I also think I would rather write about things that are creative and positive. The only reason to pick fights with fools and sluggards is to show how it can be done better.

There’s been a bit of time to plan how to sort this fallen empire, so here is the idea.

  • All the antiques go onto sevcom.com. That’s where things get sold and displayed that live in the past.
  • tomellard.com is going to be about making things. I know I’ve spent the last few months rambling on and on about synthesisers, but that’s been my learning process as part of making a whole bunch of music – some heard and some coming real soon. I’m also going to start supplying free samples of all the tools I’ve been collecting to go with the verbiage, and that’s a positive thing.
  • Twitter is for bullshit.

Time travel

Time flexes, distorts, the First World War draws closer, recent history tangles in a coil where 1985 lies a little closer than 2005. WW1 is on the front pages next to news of a Caliphate being carved out of Iraq. Your dreams expect the ghost of 1962 Peter O’Toole to step onto a wide screen and show those 1917 Arabs once again how a decent British officer can banish the Hun. Did WW1 ever stop in the middle east?

lawrence-of-arabia1

Seriously, how does that robe stay so frigging WHITE?

1985 is familiar for all the usual tedious reasons. The other night it got to me when somebody made a large vague offer to my long dead band, but I’ve got my cynical shields raised again.

More interesting is judging how far into the new century we have travelled. Think again, 1914, the intervening years are scarcely mentioned; 20th century, first war, boom tish. Yet, 2000; seems awfully long ago really.

Measured with technology (look, I’m a technocrat, let it be) the difference is quite remarkable. I needed to get files from a computer to an old sampler. The most efficient way turns out to be burning CD-Rs. Not DVD-Rs, which were a bit futuristic in 2000. Little wheels, motors. Carry the wheel to the tray, pop in the disc and read it. Is there a problem? Bin the coaster. Burn another disc. The sound of motors and fans, the physical objects being carried back and forth, may as well be scrolls in the Library of Alexandria for what that has to do with the current day.

I could use cards:

20140630_161852

Smartmedia card, made from disco balls.

On the left is the SD Card that you currently expect will be around forever. On the right is the SmartMedia Card that was expected to be around forever in the year 2000. Took me quite some time and cash to find some. It’s very pretty, but about 8 of the largest would fit on the smallest SD Card. It’s also horribly slow, slower than the CDs I’m burning.

For a short moment I thought maybe I should spend $40 and get all this tasty kit:

$_57

I’m glad to say I’m better now, thanks for asking. (BTW, note the blue coloured translucent plastic. Nothing says late 20th century quite as effectively).

Now…

Bq0DZN2CIAAH4Sh

Only 5 years later the PC card was the go, or a CompactFlash card. The picture shows how get my 2014 microSD to slot into the incredibly antique technology of 2005.

Was there such a distance between 1905 and 1914?

A mental exercise that helps me reach oblivion each night:

  • If an underground label in 2014 is releasing a LP from 1984…
  • In 1984, from 1954…
  • In 1954, from 1924…

Time flexes again – the change in music from 1954 to 1984! And so little from 1984 to now…

Term Break!

Yay! Term break! Long Weekend! Actually sleeping over a whole night!

For a short time I can think straight, without having to warp reality to make opposites true at once:

  • Listen to students! Survey them! Find out what they are thinking!
  • Don’t listen to the students! They say they want skills, but we are not here to teach skills. They can get skills anywhere. No, we are here to guide them into leadship roles. We are about ‘cultural leaders’.
  • But not every student wants to be top of the class. Keep in mind that students have different goals, some are simply there to pass…
  • as leaders.
  • We aspire to be held equal to leading world institutions…
  • …while maintaining 10x the intake.
  • Open more animation and video production classes, they are growing exponentially!
  • Although we should really look at moving on from animation and video classes as they are not what we are about.
  • Besides anyone can do any of that with a mobile phone. Your courses are old thinking.
  • Our new courses are not popular because you don’t support them enough!
  • Any critique of these courses is just reactionary old thinking.
  • Research must take a higher profile. Students should question the meaning of everything and not take it for granted.
  • But not question the meaning of ‘research’.
  • We want you to hold a vision for where the degree is going.
  • We disagree with your vision, here is a better one.
  • Be engaged in creative practice. Come to the meetings. Write more papers. Develop new coursework. Take part in this teaching and learning project. Deliver these lectures. Settle these disputes. Listen to complaints…

robocop2+Orion+joke+2

In some ways it’s easier when you are a casual. You are there to do a job well, and you know what doing it well means. Although casuals are the foot soldiers, fodder for the machine gun. Above that you eventually arrive at a limbo where you have a title and a responsibility and not really enough power to make it work. The days are exhausting not because you are pushing a shovel into the ground, but wading through a quicksand of conflicting ideas in which your own opinions need to be kept guarded. Meh.

Personally I think everyone involved is right, so long as you gauge their point in the framework from which is it put forward. That is, yes research is important, and yes we need more skills, and yes old artforms have to give way, yes new ideas must be tried out (so long as they really are new, and I know most are not). The effort of trying to translate all these frameworks is just miserable. The most difficult part of it is how one side will demand concessions from the other which they themselves do not feel the need to meet.

At least for the next few days I can just enjoy my old-thinking research inactive music making. Good for the soul.

Handbag Spam

Hello ladies and other. There has not been much worth saying, and so I tend my ‘garden’ and only occasionally write about my cables and boxes in the pages menu-ed above. That in itself says all that’s needed, a self-centred thing away from attempts to persuade anyone of anything. Because who cares? Really?

This diary has lasted about six years and it’s enough that I get to laugh at my younger self without anyone giving a damn either way. But if I don’t write something now, what will I get to laugh at six years from now?

Busty Ginger!

Let us begin at the beginning.

Also the outside keeps wanting attention. Just last week the fates decided that I had spent so much time mocking MOOCs and flipped classrooms and all of that cyberdildonica that I needs be punished by being part of a research project in exactly that. Of course I said yes. I will flip the classroom with vim and vigour because either it’s meaningless and therefore it’s right up my alley, or it’s dangerous and I’ll know better how to denounce it, or it actually works and I get to be wrong about something and have a richer universe.

Also the rising number of record labels that are lining up, wishing that I was dead so they can flog my old artworks. I’ve stopped worrying about it, it’s ridiculous and where I would have once complained about it, it’s like complaining about rain. Just take the money and use it on the garden, not try to remould the outside world, which was always an insanity. They want me dead, and in a way so do I.

The Vivid festival is on and I can’t even be bothered punching that, despite some mildly humiliating behind-the-scenes goings-on.

The only thing that needs some intervention right at the moment is the usual bullshit from tenured academics congratulating ‘disruption’ in the music and film industries, cheering on file sharing and telling musicians and film makers they have to ‘embrace change’. As the current Australian government starts destroying the education industry I expect to see a lot of those academics forced out of their positions. I will send each one of them a message congratulating them for ‘embracing disruption’ and see if a tiny morsel of insight has finally reached their lifeless minds.

I might be a tenured academic but by God I can remember life on the outside.

H10X3rQ

Swan Upping

I have the task of digitising my old man’s writings. He was a psychiatrist, working everywhere from the prisons to the air force as well as a private practice. He seems to have written about eleventy billion articles going by the folders still to be copied. I can forgive him, because most of the time he was deflating the pompous.

I invite you to enjoy a little excerpt about medical publishing from 30 years ago which shows not much has changed since then. Please extend the reference to ‘Medicine’ to include ‘The Arts And Social Sciences’.


I would like to consider the proposition , commonly advanced, that the material published in medical journals is scientific. Imagine that I am a scientist, and that the object of my study is swans. As a result of some observation and some thought I have formulated the hypothesis that all swans are black. You will note that it is a good hypothesis, not only be­ cause it can be understood by anyone prepared to listen, but also anyone who takes the trouble to inspect swans will be able to refute it, if indeed it is incorrect. Additionally, it motivates us to make further observations of swans: we have science at its best.

In the course of my enquiries I go to the zoo, and there I observe a white swan. My hypothesis is refuted: I retreat, cogitate and then declare a new one, ‘all swans are achromatic’. Once more it is refutable: discover but one coloured swan, plain, polka dotted or even tartan and I must hypothesise again. This, as I understand it, is scientific activity: the construction of refutable hypotheses which are then tested so that we will be led to better ones. We approach the truth asymptotically, but we never achieve it. Remember that a refuted hypothesis may be most useful nevertheless: think, for example, of those hypotheses of Newton which not only still serve us well, but also caused other great minds to work so hard to produce better ones.

BlackSwan

Now let us change tack a little. My initial paper about swans would have been brief and to the point. ‘Having observed a number of swans, it is my hypothesis that all swans are black. I would be grateful if any observations of swans inconsistent with this hypothesis were forwarded to me at the above address.’ The second paper would be no longer. ‘I refer to my previous hypothesis, namely that all swans are black. This hypothesis has been refuted by my observing a white swan. I now propose that all swans are achromatic. Once more, observations to the contrary would be much appreciated.’ Note, by the way, that I regard refutation of my hypothesis as a step forward, not as the destruction of a cherished possession.

Now, I imagine that as I continue my advance into pure science, other papers might begin to appear. First one might encounter: A Portable Digitalised Tele­colorimeter for Examining the Plumage of Swans at a Distance by A, B and C.

Succeeding papers might be a function of the interests of the day – thus we might confidently anticipate: A Search for Endorphins in the Faeces of Chenopis Atra to by D, E and F, rapidly followed by A Double Blind Controlled Trial of Six Beta Blockers in the Arctic Nesting Whistling Swan by G, H, I, J and K, repeated as many times in as many journals as there are permutations and combinations of the authors’ names. There might be a paper on A Special Apparatus and Wetsuit Combined to Permit the Endoscopy of Swans While Swimming: those of you familiar with current literature will be able to invent further titles of your own. Certainly, after a time the literature would become self generating, able to continue even if all swans in the world were to perish. Under these circumstances we might have A comment on the use of non parametric statistics in Duddle­thorpe’s Analysis of Honking Behaviour in Swans, including Cygnus Dolor, the mute swan. And then, A Reply.

Finally, of course it would spill over into other.literatures. Swan Upping: some radical feminist strategies for introducing new therapeutic modalities into the management of high socio­-economic status zoophiles.

Our literature is launched. We can assume that PhD’s and MD’s are already being won and that a portfolio filled with nonsense of this kind may well lead to rapid academic achievement. Before long I shall receive on my desk prospectus, posted direct from Ruritania, inviting me to subscribe to the new Inter­national Journal of Swanology. The first issue will be of some five hundred pages and contain a distillation of the wisdom revealed at the 1979 International Conference. No doubt by coincidence, the Editorial Board of the journal will bear a remarkable resemblance to the list of contributors.

Every article will have the same conclusion – ‘Under standard experimental conditions X num­bers of Y things were submitted to procedure Z. Using statistical procedure A , and computer programme B, it has been demonstrated that there is reason to believe that further research in this area may be beneficial. The authors wish to express their gratitude to Miss Helga Futt for her typing, and to the Cornucopia Institute for their funding’. Meanwhile, no one has produced a coloured swan.

Now what is all this? Science? I think not – rather it is an industry. We have people count­ing things in the hope that some­ thing will turn up, obsessionals who believe that measurements are worthy ends in themselves, plagiarists, pragmatists who see how to get on, masseurs of data and – mixed up with it all – a handful of scientists and savants – diamonds in porridge.

Needle in a haystack

If you find all that uncon­vincing , then let me come at it another way. A couple of years ago I had an illness which kept me busy for a while, and made it necessary for me to postpone many things, of which one was my scrutiny of the literature relevant to my daily tasks. In the long run I found myself confronted with a year’s journals, which in time were subdued. When I finished dealing with them I asked myself what benefit that rather cheerless exercise had produced – in what way was my practice changed as a result of my labours. The answer came readily enough, for there was only one element in it – I was even more concerned about the lithium – haloperidol interaction than I had been when I started. For one year’s reading this was not much of a yield.

But perhaps all that is but a demonstration of my own per­sonal limitations, so let us try another perspective. Writing about psychiatry is difficult. Some of it cannot be quantified at all, like music. It is difficult for pseudoscientists to get a foothold there, for you have to do your own thinking and measurement doesn’t help. Further, if you do happen to write something intelligent or interesting, those programmed to respond to words like double blind and chi square are not triggered and will pass you by. Promotion does not lie that way. However, there are aspects of psychiatry which can be measured with good relia­bility, (let us not worry too much about validity) reduced to numbers, and then spun into webs of factors, variances and God only knows what else suf­ficient to satisfy anyone. From that point of view one of the simple tasks is to investigate the treatment of depression; there is plenty of it around, its subdivi­sions are manageable, and there are some effective remedies in existence. All systems are go: if you wish to start a career in research, start there.

What has happened? In the last 12 months, as part of a quality assurance project of the RANZCP and the University of New South Wales, researchers at the latter constructed a bibliography of the treatment of depression.

The successful treatment of depression requires patience and much tying up of loose ends, particularly in the case of neu­rotic depression. This in turn requires time and one would be reluctant to be comfortable about outcome with less than three months’ observation. Nevertheless, in the 100 acceptable studies, the median time for the duration of treatment, and for the time from the beginning of treatment to the assessment of its results, was four weeks. Only one study in eight had followed patients for the three months or more which any clinician would regard as necessary. Even when the trial was between two effective treatments, the median duration was still four weeks­ indicating that the researchers were more interested in getting quick answers to pharmacological questions than they were to discovering what happened to depressed people. Few of the studies produced data on compliance, a major issue in all pharmacological treatment in psychiatry. I should mention that the paper which produced the best results of all was impeccable in its design and revealed that two chemicals long since departed into the history of psycho­ pharmacology were much more effective than anything else. The firm producing one of the reme­dies had funded the trial.

Large haystack, small needle

I could go on but let me make my point clear. I do not assert that all medical literature is trivial, incompetent or faked. There are numerous papers of wisdom and perspicacity and without them the various disciplines of medicine would stag­nate. What I do say is that an unfortunately large proportion of the medical literature is re­petitive, uninspired and created more for the advancement of the authors than for the advancement of medicine. Further, much of it has very little to do with science.

Moreover, the relevance of much original medical literature to most medical practice is marginal. The more learned the journal the less its creators will be concerned with discovering the needs of its audience, which is why there is a steady pro­liferation of more and more specialised journals. Eventually one reaches a state in which the only people who read a particular journal are those who write it – we have passed from incest to masturbation.

The gap between what authors write about and what prac­titioners do is more noticeable if one looks back at the journals of say thirty years ago. Indeed, as you read them, you will find it difficult to decide what the practitioners of the day did at all. A friend of mine, eminent as a practitioner as well as an editor, once told me that he enjoyed using the library at Harvard, for there the journals are bound with their advertisements still in them. From the advertisements he managed to get a feeling for what was afoot in those days.

JOURNAL OF GENERAL PRACTICE JANUARY. 1984 pg. 11

The ephemera of physicality or whatta lotta cables.

So you (looks in mirror) have decided to go back to music making with hardware. The new century’s dream of having it all-in-one has given way to the ‘maps’ and ‘systems’ of the new decade. Or you just got an eBay addiction. The motion is one of forgetting and being drawn forceably into the void of not knowing. That sounds good, I’ll use it in a conference. Anyway, there’s been an awful lot of forgetting.

You forgot just how much infrastructure this crap requires. Ouch.

I was fortunate to have some of my old infrastructure still in place – 19 inch rack, patch bays, some cables. But it’s not enough, way not enough. If I was going to advise myself a year ago when I was starting to plan, I’d have some sage advice.

Nowhere near as obsessive as it could be.

Nowhere near as obsessive as it could be.

You need a tape measure.

Right, so the first thing that you’re going to need is a tape measure and you are going to always check how big things are, to ensure that the thing that encloses or holds the other thing is actually bigger. Because the only thing that can be relied on to be bigger is the floor. And that’s not ergonomic.

Ergonomic.

Just because a thing manages to sit on another thing does not mean that you can actually reach it or see it, or in any way make decent use of it. Unlike your software, it won’t come to your face, your face has to go there, and there might be several other things sitting on top of it by this point. I have planned to buy only small things, which I thought would mean most other things would be bigger. But that has problems as we shall see.

Layout.

So you have to get a piece of paper and draw a picture of where you think it’s all going to go. Because you soon find a recursion loop where the former is on the latter which is on the former, or the void is not just in your mind but under the main keyboard. Don’t go to too much trouble because when you buy a new thing everything else will move around in a grand diaspora.

Making do.

I am keen on making do. It was once necessary to mount everything on milk crates and it’s not like I am going to get the carpenters in to bespoke my hobby rig. But you can do yourself a great disfavour by starting with recycled bar stools and cardboard and eventually having no way to reach the toilet. I’ve found some simple tricks, one of which is bathroom trolleys.

trolley

Advantages – you can fit three or four small things on a trolley, the trolley can be rolled to the right spot, and they come in kits that I can carry under my arm, not having a car.

Also this: RAST as 19 inch rack. Many things are 19 inches across. Use your tape measure.

You need a labeller.

Get a DYMO labeller and label everything, especially cables. I know a DYMO is not the best way but they are on special at the supermarket.

Cables and doodads.

Now it surprised me to find that the world has changed in 30 years, it’s true. Some things like guitar cables are timeless. MIDI cables are not timeless – they’re a bit rarer than they used to be. Jaycar denied they had MIDI cables, but had them as DIN Audio cables. Or they did the week after I asked about them and they now stock them constantly as I keep going back for more.

Generally you need two guitar (6.5mm) cables and two MIDI cables per box. If you buy good quality that starts to add up fast. Cheapest is about 7 bucks a cable or $28 per box, but you can easily go way up and be up for $100. Buy bulk.

You need coloured cable ties. Tie cables together in coloured coded stereo pairs. Don’t bother bundling those until your setup is stable which will never happen.

When you start connecting your boxes to your computer you will tempted to buy the readily available USB to MIDI cables, and these do work. I then had to get a larger USB hub so that I had enough slots for each cable. The madness started when I found that some software can’t decide between two of the same USB adaptor and it became a game of finding more cheap and shitty brands to mix up.

So I ordered a multiple output MIDI box. The shop rang back to say that might take a month to deliver. They suggested that I trade up to a more expensive sort that would be only a week or so away. I said OK. It’s now been over a month. Today I ordered another one from another dealer who has 3 in stock. Rule is – almost no one wants MIDI boxes and they are rarely in stock. Available to order is not the same as in stock.

express-128-large-frontGet a big one. I don’t care that I have two, it’ll save grief years from now.

You need a mixer.

Think of how many channels of sound you are expecting to need. Double it. No, it’s not software you just can’t run another copy. Now get the tape measure and figure out size of mixer versus how much you can plug into it. Like an Upworthy post the answer might surprise you. The trick is using auxiliary inputs, effect returns, any damn thing to get more channels. This is what I bought:

QX2222USB_P0AL2_Top_XL

On special for about $270. Note it has a USB connection this is a good thing as now all your boxes are connected to the computer, although not as individual things – but $270. And it fits in a 19″ rack. Tape measure!

Knobs

In my case modesty has lead to my buying small and cheap boxes, and most of it is programmed on the same computer that has all those nice VSTs I could be using. I find myself sitting in the same place more or less. Perhaps all of this should be about moving about, and I have arranged a bit of discomfort to (a) give myself something to complain about while (b) having to shift my arse to make things happen. Part of that is about making to sure have a few knobs scattered about, and that’s a something to keep in mind in the heat of the bidding.

… and taxes.

Aside

Pardon me, I have to shut all comments as some fool is trying to post several hundred fake handbag spams a day. Like it’s at 9000 spams and counting…

UPDATE: down from 300 to 7 today. I don’t know if bots eventually get ‘bored’ and pages move down a list. We’ll lock down for a while. I’m on Twitter anyway.

UPDATE: it relentlessly seeks to sell handbags, 10,000 spams and rising. It is insatiable. All comments locked until it moves elsewhere.

Death

maj13

Hello 2 dogs and one person. Today is about death, or at least the meaning of death which is associated with the card;

  • Ending of a cycle — Loss — Conclusion — Sadness
  • Transition into a new state — Psychological transformation
  • Finishing up — Regeneration — Elimination of old patterns
  • Being caught in the inescapable — Good-byes — Deep change

according to The People’s Encyclopaedia of The Cloud.

I actually owned a tarot card pack when I was very young. I liked having a ‘system of everything’ – wouldn’t you? It’s why people become programmers, they get to control a small complete everything. Pity I didn’t understand the meanings back then – which pre-teen would get what Death was about? Better to be a mystic and control the full everything, but anyway…

…anyway, the last few days I was thinking – ‘this really is a complete load of shit isn’t it?’ By it I mean pretty much everything that everyone seems to have turned into ‘everything’. No, hang one, that’s not very helpful is it? Start again…

If you live long enough you get to see the cycles. You see the dawn, the inkling, the enthusiasm and the swelling ’til it bursts and the retractions and denials. I wrote about that last time. But more than that – now talking about the cycles from the outside – they go beyond laughable, beyond tedious – they become painful. Somebody gets in your face about the grandeur of something you already saw die again and again in a lonely corner and you feel pain.

I want out of that cycle.

Part of the fault is that I am powered by enthusiasm which is a dirty fuel, and runs out quickly. You can get a lot done quickly on enthusiasm, but when it runs out you are left dangling over the void. Another role comes along and you get your enthusiasm up for that one – a little less, a little shorter. Another role might get you started for a while but the cycle is now obvious; just jumping from role to role is no real progress. And you are confusing your enthusiasm for something with it being actually worthwhile.

When really the first question should be ‘is this worthwhile?’

Worthwhile to whom? If I make 1000 YouTube videos showing pictures of huge breasts while talking about computer games I’ve played – sure, that would do nicely for a large number of people. Those that dislike that kind of popular culture still measure how many people cite a paper or attend a conference – popularity is always the winning argument no matter what’s being debated. It’s pretty funny watching managers that want to ‘apply quality frameworks’ and ‘certify research value’, go into a panic when the sales aren’t there.

But this is about more than poor old academia. It’s about the ‘everything’ that we have built. In the country of the blind, the guy with Google glasses is king. He’s going to wander around a 3D visualisation of reality and we’ll all keep a hand on the shoulder of the next guy.

Bruegel_1568_Parable-of-the-Blind

The guy on the ground is the futurist – the rich one that made up some science fiction. About to fall on his ass is the great communicator, the journo that writes a pop science book or two. Armed with his walking stick, next up, the academic, with the business man, the worker and the consumer a few years behind. The joke is none of them are blind. They just have adopted a way of seeing, a personal technology that cloaks the world around them. They put the Occulus Rift on their heads and went on Facebook.

Visualisation is a post-punk word that has just walked back on stage to wild applause. Even though the stasi are watching I can’t clap, I just can’t do it any more. The irony of the blind men making a blinding device is too much. Visualisation is a very practical business in a limited sense, been around at least since people drew what dinner looked like on cave walls. X-rays are good and so are speedometers. But the blind men don’t mean that – they mean overlaying data on top of things to tell you what you are seeing with a few ads. Zoom out and fill your eyes with big data.

repin_cossacks5

Dogs and their person; hear me: 24 years ago, driven by insanity of enthusiasm and fear of unemployment I made a computer assisted teaching presentation about Ilya Repin’s Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks, on an Amiga. You could fly around the painting, call up information about the painter and the situation that was described. It was a marvel of the dawn of New Media, a proof of the glorious future to be. Now we can do it more and bigger and in 3D and I am not really sure if it was worthwhile the first time. I certainly know that previous experience is unwelcome.

What happens when you walk away from the procession?

051_768px

The other direction leads to muddled, incoherent mysticism of the type that Reich and Jung and Dee indulged in their old age. Sounds fucking great, some necromancy and visits to Pluto on a flying demon – hell I don’t care, so long as it blows a mind or two. Because popularity is never going to be a guide to risk, and risk is what is sorely lacking.

The tarot cards are back in use and the Death card is face up.

Innovation

Twitter is a great place for bon mots, quips and dips. But the meals are not filling. I have to bring a line of questions here to have a chance of saying anything at all.

The question is about innovation, a word I get to hear in education all day, every day, along with bird calls, whoops and other sounds of the jungle. It’s a pretty sound, innovation. It sounds like somewhere they would visit in Star Trek. That may be why people use it so rapidly and vapidly.

Innovation exists, but it’s gone before you see it. It was there in a side room somewhere, ignored. Then somebody walking by was struck by the idea. They put it in words. Somebody else turned it into a set of principles. A lone wolf followed those principles in some private space, and was called a loopy or a visionary. More likely loopy, because the visionary is the person that tries the idea again in a larger space, dropping the bits that don’t fit the context. An academic ‘gets the picture’, they write a paper, they give a TED Talk, the idea is on TIME.COM, it’s being misrepresented in the newspapers, there’s a conference with a panel of visionaries that agree this innovative practice is exactly what we must put into practice everywhere no matter what.

By the time it’s hit ‘best practices’ as documented in Power-points by the Innovation Panel at the company executive level, the idea is a set of callisthenics for staff to learn in 2 hour training sessions. They make feeble attempts while preserving their experience gained over years of trench warfare. The new thing is absorbed into a wide folklore of practices, an archaeology of new things. Maybe it helps, maybe it doesn’t, but the machinery has already spun off in pursuit of a new innovation.

Like most things it starts with action, and is turned into words because words are easily counted and peer reviewed. The words then replace the action.

I have been through this many times. Probably the easiest to describe is computing.

Dickheads.

Dickhead

1979 dickhead. I think that’s a punch card on the shoulder for some dickhead reason.

I was the only person in my high school or anywhere I knew that had a personal computer. I used it to make simple art and music. Other students called me a dickhead. In 1980 I enrolled at university in mathematics, because I had a vague idea about making computer based art. There was nothing there either which made me a depressed failure, so I switched to history of science, because that was more fun (but also I’ve since realised that universities are good for hearing about people like yourself that are dead.)

Somewhere in that period Time Magazine declared The Personal Computer Revolution. I was now a pioneer dickhead.

I got drunk, did music and kept making computer art stuff, meeting up with a small bunch of other people who were also reject dickheads. By the end of the 1980′s we dickheads were starting to show up in galleries and exhibitions, the curators of which happened to be walking by. This caused some academic somewhere to ‘get the picture’ and spout the name ‘New Media’ which was an innovation that must be defined, funded and taught. Much words were penned about electronic media, cyber arts, linkages and French philosophy. By 1990 there was one computer at the university that ran PhotoShop and way too many journal articles.

The early 90′s were a fun time for me, playing the tame dork, ready to explain computer stuff to the Common Man over the TV, radio, newspapers and conferences. Oh the conferences; to be sitting on a panel with my fellow cybernauts, telling the audience of educators and funding bodies about this innovation that was going on, hurry hurry, get with the system. I was no longer a dickhead – according to one newspaper I had geek chic.

This tame media geek role was something new. I’d just waddle onto the telly, predict online sales or DVD and wander off again, feeling cheerful because no one had called me a dickhead recently. But others ‘got the picture’ – what if you charged the audience to hear this futurism? What if you made it REALLY expensive and only CEOs could be there? What if you called it TED? You would have the innovation industry,

I was outclassed by the late 90′s and had to go and get a real job. But being knocked down can knock a bit of sense into your head. Cut to the chase; here I am now, an academic in charge of a media arts degree. When I went to university in 1980, what I wanted was not even a glint in the vice chancellor’s eye. Not even peer reviewed. It was actually innovative, and no one had got it yet.

Innovation takes place in the underground. If you are reading about it in a newspaper or a university handbook, you are seeing the innovation industry, which runs about 3-5 years behind the thing itself. These can be good and successful things, but they are not the innovation itself. And that’s why any discussion about how the powers can support and develop innovation is baloney, because they can’t see it. Creativity, maybe, creative industry sure thing.

Once an innovation leaves the underground, you can’t put it back. So the idea of revisiting the innovations of the past to try regain inspiration are doomed to failure. Retrofitting the past can be pretty, but it’s well said that the past is foreign country.

Relax. Some kids are out there doing it for you. You just can’t see them.

Soggy’s Saga

You will remember I am sure my dear neighbour Soggy the Sailor. If you have forgotten, please do refresh your memory.

sailor

Soggy has been absent on a long voyage to the land of Hipster Douche, having fought many great battles against taste and relevance, battles I must admit I hoped would lead to his falling in a volcano and it hurting. Instead he returns triumphant, a golden fleece in his paws. I am not sure what it it is, but if I may be allowed a guess it has the dreary beige earnestness of The Best Of Glenn Campbell, although with a bit more Country and Western twang.

Of course the best way to play Glen Campbell is loud and proud at 3AM. As always, I’m amazed at the ability for his insipid gruel to work its way through my walls and keep me from the oblivion I crave.

And as is always the case with Soggy, he and some other turd will adopt the same instrument as his muse, plunk away at it sporadically over the hours and then (I guess) fall into a stupor about 5AM. His guitar is as bad as his fiddle. Fuck him.

I have a new friend, Party Girl That Yells Over The Top Of The Universe. She has the kind of voice that strips paint at thirty paces and she seems to enjoy holding parties somewhere diagonally behind my place which always end up WITH HER OPINIONS BEING ELEVATED OVER ANY PERSON THAT DARES TO TALK BACK. Good times, sad times, any time is right for yelling. Laughter must be shared with the entire Pacific Rim, otherwise there might be some Fijian that isn’t paying attention to her. Right now she has met up with another of her kind and in the manner of two knights colliding in a slow motion joust, the two of them have been YELLING ANGRILY OVER THE TOP OF EACH OTHER ABOUT SOME SHIT DOESN’T MATTER for about an hour. Like a dogfight, it needs a bucket of water thrown over it.

When I was twenty something I did have heated arguments like that. But as I wasn’t able to breathe through my arsehole I had to pause every now and then.

The argument has worn out and we’re back to her just yelling OH MY GOD, I’M SO TRASHED every minute or so, as if to stake out the limits of her sonic cesspit. If I may say ma’am, you are a dreadful bogan and the suburbs are calling you. Answer their call.