eBooks

For the last week I’ve had no phone line, no internet except that which comes over the ‘smart phone’. Holy Shit how do people ‘consume’ through that tenuous porthole? Here’s me holding the phone up in the air trying to catch a reasonable WiFi signal, just so I can maybe see 5 words at a time from a ‘mobile’ news site – which is bowdlerised to the hell to show only ‘popular’ news items. No wonder so many dumb-ass millennials if that’s their online experience.

Anyway – it’s relevant to the topic at hand – what is ‘a book’ in this year 2015? What will ‘a book’ be in 2025? This really should be of interest to budding media designers, who spend too much time creating content and not enough worrying about publishing it. I’m starting a course on this topic because it makes no sense to keep teaching people how to animate for film and TV. That’s like teaching how to hoist sails on a long ship. Good luck on the high seas matey. I am no expert in electronic publishing, but then again I got the gig teaching ‘film studies’ 7 years ago from being a musician, and no complaints.

book-in-dumpster

There will be paper books, they will be expensive collectables, like vinyl. Never mind that foppery. There will tablets, watches and perhaps eReaders, although the most recent Kindles seem to announce death of the purpose designed reader. You would hope that the book would not just be a flow of endless text pulled from a word processor, and would in some way respond to the potential of the device with sound and animation.

In 2011 the ePub3 format finally took on fixed text and multimedia. But in 2015 most eReaders still do not properly reproduce this format.

Obviously Apple got sick of that shit and Embraced, Expanded and Extinguished it into iBooks. You can’t blame them for getting tired of waiting, in fact you have to admire their snappy Hugo Boss uniforms. But at some point the iPad will no longer be the Fuhrer, and iBooks will be a dead end. ePub, like HTML5, is a mongrel, but it’s the mongrel we have to adopt.

A group of Nazi troops and students gather seized papers and books to burn, in the Opernplatz, Berlin.   (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Nazis and university students. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Most of Apple’s shenanigans have to do with punching Adobe in the face enough times to try kill it, but you can’t kill that which does not live. Example – having been punched for Flash, Adobe built a tool called Edge Animate that creates Javascript animations. People build these into iBooks. Apple updates iBooks with a kill switch for Edge. Adobe updates Edge with a cloaking device. I am mainly on Adobe’s side because at least they are building a tool, whereas Apple is breaking it. Flash may have been too hard on the first iPads, but that’s turned into an ancestral dispute.

My students need to publish visually dense books that represent artistic folios, and that means InDesign. It will make ePub3 as well as PDF, which is a strong format for print publication and archives, but a little too heavy for portable devices. You can also get a HTML5 website out of it, which might equally be a book in 2025.

Under the hood the ePub is an XHTML file, the format that lead to the great HTML rebellion (in which the W3c tried to move the community over to clean and tidy XHTML only to have outsiders instead propose the messy and forgiving HTML5 spec.). Sadly that means they preserve a religious schism that has since healed, and makes hand scripting difficult. An eBook also uses Scalable Vector Graphics, while HTML5 avoids this heavy computation. All up it’s the kind of file zoo that existed all over digital media back in the good old days.

Of course there are many more things that you can do on a pad that have artistic merit. If they want to dip into objective C then it’s their private hell. Some students might want to make ‘apps’, which run on watches. Bless them, I do not know how you can convey important things on a watch.

Will we make 2025 books? Will they be good books? Can we start a dialogue between engineer and artist?

An Essay on ye Olde Aesthetik

PART ONE.

I just went off for a quick toilet break and by the time I got back some nong had announced a ‘New Aesthetic’. Actually the first inkling was some whining from the Hauntology crew that somebody had dared to be excited about something other than 1970’s English shopping centres and Thunderbirds. Which of course is NOT ABOUT MY CHILDHOOD OH DEAR NO it’s a legitimate philosophical stance with Derrida shoved into the middle of it like a spoon in a tub of yoghurt. They’ve identified the ‘New Aesthetic’ as a 80’s obsession because they see everything measured in decades. But it’s not, it’s something far less.

Derrida

All this howling of English dorks led me to a tragically bad essay by Bruce Sterling which is yet another low point for Wired Magazine, proof that minus infinity can be breached. In a sloppy porridge of words the phrase ‘the New Aesthetic’ repeats in dreary multiples. It’s one paragraph time stretched so I jumped to the blog cited which didn’t seem that more interesting than the usual wacky picture compilation – yet another jump got me to the original brain fart. As a purveyor of such farts myself I’m pretty sure we’ve got a rockin’ case of intellectual comb over.

It goes like this: think of the modernist viewpoint that existed in the ‘space age’. It led to ‘a way of seeing’, a zeitgeist, inspiration, an aesthetic. But modernity was shallow and collapsed under the critique of the post modern, which has in turn been parasitic, ineffectual and implausible. Now there exists a new aesthetic that is built upon a new positive viewpoint, the computer eye, the web, the online society and so on. This positive is needed at this time and should be followed.

Like any good story, it requires that you ignore elements that don’t fit the flow; ignorance or ‘operational definitions’ depending on who’s talking. And it’s NOT ABOUT MY CHILDHOOD OH DEAR NO. Get to the heart: if you think animated GIFs are the genesis of a new way of seeing then step right up…

…there’s a website that you should see called You’re The Man Now Dog. It’s just deluged in The New Aesthetic. But if you’re too smart to fall for that trap let’s have a look at what’s really going on here.

…we need to see the technologies we actually have with a new wonder is a fine idea. It renounces cynicism and that’s good. Just today I was carting groceries home and tried to see the familiar streets as if I was a tourist. But that principle works for anything, and very quickly the instruction became we need to see the technologies we actually have as if they posses some artistic worth beyond the everyday. By the time Wired got its dentures into it; you should repair your ignorance about something that looks more or less like a weltanschauung.

What do they mean by ‘see’? The actual physical evidence presented is the current version of a Front 242 record cover; with the pixels, the colours, the timecode in the corner, the gun/camera sight. This kind of thing was really cool in 1988. Now it’s really cool in 2012. New Media is back, having had a bottle of milk and a midday nap, ready to smear brightly coloured pixels on walls. I already denounced this in 2008.

Never tired of CyberPaint

This is just a style. So let’s have the real stories that go with this style, not the unicorn horn that Wired wants to manufacture.

PART TWO

Jack Tramiel died recently; Jack that ran Commodore and then Atari. The style begins with the limits of the machines that Jack built. The look is entwined with the tools; we saw a new wonder in the technology we actually had. With every new version of Deluxe Paint the community would push it as hard as they could to reach the limits of their imaginations. What the New Aesthetic proposes was there, and still there when the tools are transparent.

I’ve revisited the tools I used around the time that New Media was being born. I’ve used 3D Studio since 1994 and the software always seems a vast landscape that I will never be able to encompass. I went back and installed the oldest copy of 3D Studio I could find:

What at the time seemed impossibly complex and futuristic now seems clunky and limited. The 256 colour renders look hand carved from soap and the interface feels like I’m snow blind. It was a shock to hit the limits of this tool in a couple of hours. Compare to the 3D Studio Max I use now:

which will seem just as clunky and toy like in 2030.

But each is equal in its own time, part siren and part antagonist in a drama of creativity. You are granted a vision, you move towards it, you never reach it. That’s what I mean by the tools being transparent – the intention and the vision is the same and the limitations are the LEAST INTERESTING thing about the art. Not worth the name ‘aesthetic’.

To fetishise pixels and bright colours and animated GIFs and all that misses the artistic vision that was being followed, one that these tools could not / may not ever satisfy. Those are the exact things that we did NOT SEE, and only through a retrospective viewing do they become a kind of arty version of  ‘Magnets, How Do They Work?’

I can vaguely recall what I saw in my head when I was looking at


and I sure wasn’t thinking about the modern aesthetics of 64 colour dithering. I was trying to make as best a picture as I could.

Actually, the hauntology guys are closer to the truth. These old tools recall ghosts of people and places that flesh out my own personal history. It’s about they way my hand reached up and typed F10 to make the picture full screen without my concious recall. It’s ALL ABOUT MY CHILDHOOD.

{If you too want a seance with your motor memory: I found all of these oldies online without too much trouble, but if you want help and directions just ask.}

P.S. Stephen M Jones wants me to post this

spiderman, spiderman, does whatever a spider can

which I think just puts the cherry on top.

Oh finally…

the launch is done and the gag is off the mouth.

HAPPY 3oTH BIRTHDAY SEVERED HEADS
World’s longest running shaggy dog joke.

birthday_dogs

Modular and the Festival of Sydney present:
SEVERED HEADS & THE REELS
STEVE ‘MAL’ MALLINDER & MARK MURPHY

BECKS FESTIVAL BAR JANUARY 14TH

More information and some picture they found in a cupboard that had been sitting there for nearly 25 years at the Sydney Festival site!

Brought to you by BEER.

White Man’s Burden

Thank God that Brian Eno is coming to curate the Luminous Festival at the opera house in Sydney. For a short but terrifying moment there was a chance that a young local person might have decided on what was going down. But common sense has prevailed and we rely on the tastes of 1970s Mother Country.

To Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth Rex V2.0.

We the Humble Petitioners undersigned, your loyal subjects from the far flung antipodean colonies, humbly beseech your Royal Majesty to provide us with the culture that we so obviously lack, for the illumination of our feeble untutored minds. Please be sending an emissary from the Mother Country to guide us through the musical and visual arts of which we know nothing.

Yours, Convicts.

Dear convicts I will send my faithful Father Brian Eno to lead you in matters cultural. Make sure that the pound notes are crisp.

Yours, Queen.

eno73a

So, tell us, what is coming to Sydney such that we must forgo meat pies to save our pennies? What has the great man decided to bring in his suitcase?

Ladytron. Oh yes, nothing quite sums up 2009 like an 80’s nostalgia band that peaked about a decade back. We have nothing like this here and will be very glad of the instruction. Arse.

Lee Scratch Perry. Why just the other decade, or was it a few decades ago, I was saying to myself that Lee Scratch Perry sure sums up dub music. It’s like that wildlife petting zoo in the city centre for people that don’t want to drive too far. I bet … yes of course Adrian Sherwood will be there. Will he do the same act with the speed and the mixing desk as he did 30 years ago? Will be the same desk and the same encrusted speed?

Laaraji. Yeah that was a great screwing record when I was a kid.

Jon Hopkins. Oh look somebody under 30. What does he do? Cafe Del Mar soundalike? Oh that takes me back to when I used to work in the desktop publishing office and the management girls would put on Cafe Del Mar CDs over and over. And he’s worked with Coldplay! Be still my beating heart. Look he has a VJ. Tick ALL the boxes.

Liberace in his coffin. I made that one up but it would be infinitely cooler that all that rot.

Ah, I could go on, but I go on too much. This stinks of an age group and a mind set, and it should have happened 20 years ago or not at all. This whole thing feels like something that was on the shelf until finally somebody accrued enough power to put it on, unchanged from when it was first outlined in the late 80’s.

I don’t blame Brian Eno – it’s enormously ego boosting, he gets to party with all his old friends, and besides the man is so poor he had to sell his DX7.

Before anyone squeals about jealousy – I have other events in motion and they are not so goddamn sycophantic and mouldy.

easter_2

Of course the highlight for me will be the installation of 77 Million Bad Paintings which will be running throughout the programme. I am sincerely curious to see if multiple examples of this work somehow lifts it above the extremely underwhelming DVD version on which I spent my pie money.

I am going in for surgery.

(Can I first apologise for not having got the Showbag DVD out on time. It’s not just that it’s a mix of PAL videos that have to made NTSC and 720p60 videos that have to be made PAL etc. although that is misery. It’s also that I am ‘coordinating’, which is a euphemism for being a flipper in student pinball. Students come flying down the table bouncing rapidly between the bumpers and then zoom right at the gap between the flippers and you have to keep flicking them back up at the targets. The DVDs will emerge soon.)

In the coming week I am booked in for surgery, it’s a minor procedure and the specialist says that I will only be in the ward one night at most. This is a problem that many people are starting to recognise and secretly have treated – yet people are ashamed to talk about it. If you are of a certain age, you are more than likely to have this problem but you won’t find it mentioned on Oprah or even the medical blogs that crowd the net.

I have always believed in saying what needs to be said. Perhaps if I come out and say it, others won’t feel so ashamed.

I don’t like Daft Punk.

Now this is the kind of problem that people will say they can accept – yet you know deep in your heart a relationship is never going to flower. People at parties – they will act sympathetic until finally one drunk oaf will yell out HEY HE DOESN’T LIKE DAFT PUNK – and then they will all form a circle laughing and pointing. Believe me I’ve lived this life.

I wasted years in therapy where a well meaning but basically stupid counsellor tried to get me to accept that I liked videos made by Gondry (yes that’s true) and he made a clip for Daft Punk (yes but…). I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it still sounded like a squelchy pseudo 70’s tediously camp tuneless dull aaah aaaah get me the bucket please. Now when I see DP have stolen adopted the look of the Gondry video as their entire persona it’s ruined THAT as well.

Thank God I met my new doctor who was able to tell me it’s not my fault – it’s just generational stereotype confusion disorder. You see if you were born after the war up to about 1962, you’re a ‘boomer’. But if you are born 1965 up to 1980 you’re a ‘gen-Xer’. Boomers love Woodstock, The Beatles and healing crystals. Gen-Xers love TV, Nirvana and slack. But what if you are born in between? One moment you’re flower power and the next moment you’re a favourite episode of Gilligan’s Island. You don’t know whether to change the world or invent Facebook. This uncomfortable twilight zone isn’t just about not having a best selling book about ‘your generation’ to buy. When confronted by inputs that are targeted at your Gen-X ‘referential – who cares its just fun’ apparatus, a residual and malformed Boomer organ cuts in and emits a ‘critical – hey that’s been done to death already‘ secretion. This causes a biofeedback that means you end up hating things that are just French costume party music.

One snip and the Boomer goes into the bucket. For an additional fee he can stitch the ‘Millennial’ organ from a goat into the tissue, leaving me with a love of mobile phones and bling. I think it will already be enough to be able to go out and with a clear heart say that I appreciate the shitty music loved by people younger than me.

We truly live in a world of medical wonder.