Archive for the 'Thought for the Day' Category

Obsession

June 3, 2005

Why do obsessions exist and are they healthy for a person or not? What separates an obsession from a neccessity in someone’s life?

I was thinking about these two questions after reflecting back upon my experience of not having my laptop for almost a week. In the previous post, I was writing about how humans have become attached to technology like it was a friend or person in their life who had significance to them. But then I started thinking about today how email isn’t just a tool anymore for people, or how cellphones aren’t just a convenience. People have started obsessing about these things, amongst other things.

One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Syracuse and went into the theatre department was how frequently the students whipped out their cellphones while walking out of a classroom. Worse was how people called people on their cells even though they only had a five-ten minute break. Are their people in the world that are that important that we have to talk to them at any given chance? During the major wars of the century, people back home could wait weeks to receive a letter from the soldiers abroad. They didn’t go insane because it had been less than an hour since they had heard from them. I know we’re a much more connected in our world now, but these social networks have become extreme to the point where we’re at a loss if we don’t have them.

I’ve seen several people get rather annoyed when looking down at their phone and they had a missed call, or they didn’t have any calls or texts, or even more frustrating was not being able to get a decent connection while in the basement of a concrete building. I’ve seen people check their phones every five or ten minutes for no apparent resaon. We all have our subtle body gestures when we’re uncomfortable or bored, but I guess that has expanded into looking at our cellphone in hopes of escape.

The same seems to be true with email, with all the various software notifiying you instantly of new messages. It doesn’t matter if the messages are important or not, most people will check them to just delete them (if they aren’t important) or read them. The annoying thing for me is how people will take the time out of their day to read a message at that instant, but can’t take the time to reply to it then. It’s kind of a double standard – your emails are important when addressed to me, but my time is more important than sending an email back to you. Knowing that someone could respond that moment but doesn’t is a frustrating feeling for a lot of people.

This has even become worse in the world of instant messages. Even though people may carry on a handful of conversations, everyone has the same expectation of being responded to quickly. People actually get annoyed at me because sometimes I’ll use my cellphone to communicate with them and it’s slower compared to when I’m sitting at a computer. It’s only a delay of maybe 10-15 seconds, but it’s still the end of the world. I suppose it’s a carry-over from the real world. It’s a problem with me, because instead of saying "uh" or some other filler words, I’ll just leave pauses while I’m thinking or looking for something. A lot of people will think I was disconnected from the phone. But it’s rather unfair to give the same sort of expectations to people using the IM clients. People use the clients as secondary uses of their computer. They’re surfing the web, writing a paper, listening to music, etc. They don’t turn on their computer to primarily chat, so why should they be expected to respond immediately if that’s not their sole purpose of actually being online? I’m going to have to start putting messages in saying "Chatting is not a priority at the moment" and maybe people will understand better.

When we use computers, are we using them as a tool or have we been trained that we *have* to use them, similar to what happened with television? First, television was an entertainment centre for the family, but as it exploded in popularity, it suddenly become odd if a family didn’t have a tv, or two tvs for that matter. It become a neccessity, even though there are better things in the world than a television. I’m thinking that trend is continuing with computing, and by extension, gaming, cellphones, PDAs, etc. It’s not that we need to use a computer at home for stuff, it’s more that we’re accustomed to having them around us everywhere. Instead of picking up a book to read, we’re more likely to rely on technology to entertain us rather than our own brains. 

I think of tools as something that helps us in accomplishing a task that normally we couldn’t do on our own. For example, a hammer allows us to bang in a nail – something we couldn’t do with our bare hands, and something that’s easier than using a rock. When we go to a hardware store, there are a lot of variety of hammers to choose from, but each hammer has a specific purpose where it’s better suited. At a computer store, however, every computer isn’t fine-tuned for certain applications. There’s no true home computer to buy (that allows you to surf the web, email, word/office applications, basic games, etc). Instead, people are talked into having to buy the 80 Gb hard drive, 3.0 ghz and 1 gig of RAM machines. That sort of power is not needed for basic things, but that’s all there exists on the store shelves. Humans have this obsession over "newer is better" which was probably true in other times, but I don’t think it’s neccessary anymore.

And a neccessity is just that: something that you need to survive. We need to eat. We need to drink. We don’t need to email daily.

Thought for the Day: Garbage

February 24, 2005
Lately, I’ve been subjecting myself to a lot of different kinds of music to see what else is out there besides the usual rock radio crap and the same bouncy dance anthems. What I’ve been discovering is some pretty interesting work, some addicting stuff, some bizarre but good stuff, and then stuff that should be classified as garbage. But I have a hard time of labeling something garbage because someone did make an effort in creating that piece of "music."

It takes a lot of time to create something, regardless of how we view it. Does our opinion matter when viewing something, or should we leave it up to the artist to decide what is good and what is bad? Would our opinion matter more when the artwork is thrust into our faces (graffiti, street musicians, etc.) rather than art that we had to search out (mp3s, blogs, art in a museum) ? Since the artist is putting it in front of us, I would think he/she’s daring us to judge it. They’re making us confront it and face our fears, question ourselves, look at what they’re providing and find something of value for us. At that point, we can say something is garbage or very good.

But is by calling something garbage a way of us personally avoiding the real answer? Do we pass it off as crap because we’re afraid of going to that place where the artist is asking us to go? Is that the root of the problem with public nudity (in art or in general), because so many people classify nudity as taboo or should only be viewed privately in a bedroom? If it is the problem, is it impossible to avoid this confrontation from within? Will humans ever open themselves up to go places where they normally wouldn’t go?

Is art the garbage of life – the taking something bold and making the viewer look at themselves deeply and come to some conclusion of who they are, where they are, who they will become, who someone they know is or will be, etc?

If art is the crap of the artworld, how do we explain the popularity of some artistic styles and pieces (ie Mona Lisa, Water Lilies, statue of David)? Is that art just good design or beautiful in nature but not real art? Is it popular because it’s safe, or because it’s perceived to be underground and thus "cool"?

With apologies to David Garneau (Visual Arts Dept Head, University of Regina), I’m going to steal an idea he presented in his classes. He developed the model below based on a single question: What does it mean to be priviledged in our world? (Western, as opposed to Middle Eastern, Asian, etc). The classes came up with one list and he put down the opposite side, so it read like this:

  • White                    Other (black, Asian, etc)
  • Wealthy                 Poor
  • Judeo-Christian        Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist
  • Urban                    Rural
  • Educated               Un-educated

etc.

His premise was that anything that was popular in our culture came from the "other" side. Blues, jazz, rap/hip-hop, trance, the hippy culture, Asian martial arts films, and so on. The list is honestly endless, and almost everything passes through this filter. Yes, you have the white rappers like Eminem doing well- but he was pretending to be other: poor, trailer-trash, uneducated, etc. He’s not an exception; he’s playing by the rules of pop.

I would say that it is indeed true that most cool art/media comes from the other side, while the safe and good art comes from the left side (white). Society says that whites are cleaner than darks, so by extension so must our art – unless we’re trying to play to the other side, like Eminem. I’m sure that’s a reason why most people learning to paint turn towards the nature or still life pictures and not the abstract. They’re not ready to question their artistic integrity and themselves, so paint a safe picture to boost their esteem and so forth.

But is this binary in art so black and white? Are you one or the other, or is it linear and you lie somewhere between good and garbage, favouring one side or the other? I think it does fluctuates, but it changes for the self, not a society as a whole. So, the reader may find my writings sliding towards the side of being "crap" but a society will simplify things and call me crap or good. Society needs to be simple so people don’t get lost by the rules (we all think it is complex, but deeper analysis would show us a simple truth to it all). That is another topic for discussion later, though.

For now, the point is made: garbage exists on a societal level, but ultimately it is up to an individual to decide how crappy that garbage really is.

As a side thought, imagine if there was a catalogue of websites that are crap that people should avoid (like how people grade movies, books, music). The punchline would be something along the lines of "Who knew humans could create so much crap."

From April, 2004

February 20, 2005
April 29, 2004.

This world is such a bizarre place. It has come such a long way from its humble beginnings, if there ever was a beginning. The world changes just as fast as time does. New technologies develop in seconds, new creations made and discovered. At any moment in time, something disastrous could occur any where in the world and within minutes, the rest of the world will learn of it. What an opposite compared to the beginning when people had no idea that there was such a thing as a “world.” What is even more bizarre is that that world was less selfish than the current one. Selfishness was a word that didn’t exist than, because the whole reason to live was to survive and pass on your genes. You couldn’t concern yourself with the events halfway around the world because you were powerless to do something about it. But these days, any human being with a cent can make a difference. But they choose to hold onto that money to make their life more luxurious. It is rather sickening to see people want a million dollars rather than a portion of a million and give a large amount to people who need it more.

This world is so bizarre. We’re fighting a war against terrorism, but we’re ignoring the cause of this terrorism. Do people not realize that terrorism is caused by oppression by a more powerful force? And what is power but having something that the other person/group lacks. It could be knowledge, money, a gun, a drug, etc. The war on terrorism should not be targeting the people who are trying to solve their situation, but towards the cause of it. The war should be looking at how American capitalists are targeting areas of weakness in the world to reap the awards. They are the imperialists in the 21st century. Humans have not learned a thing from the British, French, Spanish, Dutch, German imperialists, the communist Russians, the Ottoman Turks, the Mongols, the Romans, and so on. Humans need to realize and accept that having power is actually a bad thing. The communists have it right. Everyone should be put on an equal playing field and maybe some of the problems in the world can be solved. Maybe not some of the medical diseases, but the social problems that exist.

Previous Thoughts

February 20, 2005

Pre-face: Before setting up this blog, I had been writing at another site two-three years ago over at opendiary.com (it no longer exists now), and also on my computer from time-to-time. My notes on the computer aren’t that articulated, just brief points usually, but I thought I’d put them up here to store them more easily right now. The next couple of posts will be various short essays or notes written in this year. Hope to be inspired soon to write more, or maybe I’m too inspired right now to put down my thoughts with everything going on – election, baseball, flu epidemic, Iraq, etc, etc, etc. Enjoy.

July 25, 2004.

Thoughts.

The doom of capitalism

Why disease is good for the world.

– without disease, illness, etc. the pharmaceuticals wouldn’t have anything to battle against
o meaning, companies would lose money and eventually go bankrupt.
o Therefore, to ensure the companies will still exist, the drug companies don’t pursue the research further enough to eliminate these beneficial diseases.
o Doctors and researchers from the 17th-early 20th pursued medicine to eradicate diseases for the benefit of the human race. Somehow, that pursuit for man has become a pursuit for money. If companies truly don’t care about the profits their drugs make, would they need to advertise heavily on television and convince people they do have a problem? Why do drug companies exist? Why can’t they be non-profit organizations and actually care about their clients? Even if these companies charge money for Tyenol, why not give the really helpful drugs for AIDs and diabetes out for free and support those operations through other donations?

Drugs

Are drugs really that bad? Are they illegal because the state can’t control the trafficking of them as easily as other material goods and, therefore, lose a lot of tax money? Are they too accessible to profit from with legit companies? People can grow marijuana inside their house, or on their farm, etc. But people can’t just make a car out in their garage easily, nor any processed goods.

The end of capitalism is coming if things that harm humans is actually good, and items that can’t be controlled are marked evil because they can’t be profitable or lose a lot of potential income. Only items that are manufactured or inaccessible can be legit and good for the economy – oil, cars, tobacco, pornography, etc. I wish the world would wake up and realize all of this.

Thought for the Day: The Death of Art

February 20, 2005
As an artist, I find it hard to admit this, but I think art as we know it is dead.

In the thousands of years of human history, art has always existed alongside such things as violence, sex, religion, consumption, etc. As we’ve evolved, art has become increasingly more important to us but the scale has tipped too far now. In the past where art was splendid, beautiful, and amazing, people have lost their appreciation for art. No longer will people see a painting by da Vinci and think of how wonderful it is. Instead, they’ll focus on everything that the artist probably never intended on the viewer paying attention to. Gone are the days of admiring the artist’s skill with a brush, or how we captured the ambiance of nature perfectly. We’ve turned into the world’s largest art critics in human history.

Now-a-days, we humans can’t walk past anything without passing judgment, whether they me animate or inanimate objects. With art, we analyze anything and everything. We don’t look at the subtleties of what lies in the art, but question what everything means, why the artist did something, what the artist stands for, and so on. We’ve made simple art more complicated than ever. Children’s art is being analyzed for future criminals or disturbed individuals, instead of encouraging them to continue drawing. The criticism is endless and exists in every artform that is practiced currently.

We have lost contact with the grandeur of the world as it exists. While a lot of people would be overwhelmed with the beauty of places like the Grand Canyon or New York City, most will shrug their shoulders and pass on the judgment of it. We’ve become jaded and can’t see how amazing the construction of buildings are. In an ironic twist, it is not the creation of something that amazes us, but the destruction of something that causes awe. We don’t care what the tallest building in the world is, but when the Twin Towers fell the world froze to watch. I’m not praising the efforts of the terrorists in what they did, but they hit the nail on the head to mark the end of art. Las Vegas almost always blows up a hotel or a casino for New Year’s Eve now, people are enthralled by the hot-dog eating contests on Coney Island and the world, people watch extreme sports for the hope of seeing crashes, and people watch WWE and boxing for the destruction of man in front of them.

We don’t love the creation of something anymore, and that’s deeply saddening for me, and when people do create something, we ignore it and tear it apart to find its true meaning. Humans have turned from creation to destruction, and it’s a path that will probably never end until we’re all dead.

Thought for the Day: Technology

February 20, 2005
Today, I was reading the Business section of Monday’s NY Times (I was too ill to finish it last night) and came across several articles talkin about the technology sector. I zeroed in on one article in particular, To sum up the article, it’s about the ongoing battle between Sony and other media technology groups about the next format for movies and media. The secondary battle is about where the technology will be played, a television or on the computer.

My take on it is this: why do we need another format for movies and media? Yes, eventually, we will most likely need a larger format as movies become more sophisticated and require more space, or more people purchase DVD-burners to make their own home movies easier, but not at the moment. CDs have only been around for a decade or so, and DVDs are younger than that. There’s still a lot of people out there who don’t have a DVD player, and I know there’s still people with tape players in their car. Is there really a need for more technology for the general public, or is this to satisfy all the technology-geeks of the world who thrive on having the latest technology now! ? I can’t see the general public needing something like this right away, and it would probably be more beneficial to encourage people to trade in their VHS players for a DVD player.

I can understand why these businesses want to push forward with the new technology, to make a profit and be seen as being on the cutting-edge of technology. But at the same time, there’s so much wrong with the current stuff we have, why can’t they focus on fixing it? For instance, there’s still problems with Windows XP, but Microsoft is planning on launching the next release of Windows in the near future. Will the old problems be solved in the latest version? Probably not.

Companies thrive on the failure of their products. If their products didn’t fail, eventually, people would never have the need to upgrade, buy the latest thing, etc. It’s the danger of having such large monopolies like Microsoft. So many people are dependent on their technology that if it fails, those people will have no choice but to upgrade. Do I sound too pessimistic? I challenge anyone to give me one example of technology that has been able to last a long time that never broke down. It has to be something electronic, however. I know a hammer can be classified as technology, and odds are it will never break down in your lifetime, so I can’t count items like that that are built to last. I’m talking about all the temporary technology in the world: computers, cellphones, PDAs, stereos, etc.

There are days when I worry that this "failure in technology in order to suceed" can also apply to medical drugs and doctors, but that’s a different story.

My stance on technology is I want something to work, reliably, for a long time. My current stereo system has been running strong for over 6 years now, and I’m quite glad I never had to go out and buy another one. Everything else has small faults in it, that I just put up with. I’m not out to buy the latest gizmo, because I don’t have either the money to afford it, nor the time to play with it, nor a need for that item. I will probably never have a need for a PDA, nor a Blackberry, nor a handheld game device from Nintendo or Nokia, or whatever else may exist in the world that I don’t know about. I prefer reading books and newspapers to reading online, especially the NY Times. I’d prefer to talk in person than over a cellphone, as hard as it can be for me. I am thankful for computers and the ease in writing on them, until they fail on me, but I still enjoy writing with a pen and a small notebook so I can make sketches around my words.

I want technology to work for me, and not have me work to make it work. I want companies to stop advancing so quickly and focus rather on the consumers’ needs, and forget about profit for once. Making a customer happier will lead to financial success through word-of-mouth, I think. I wish they could teach people this at business school.