Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Line Between Art and Making

Note: I am part of the Site 3 Fire Arts collective (S3FA), but I am speaking for myself, not them/us.

Some friends of mine went to FITC earlier today, ‘a three-day professional celebration of the best the world has to offer in design, web development, media and innovation in creative technologies.‘[1]

To me, reading the list of presentations, it feels like a software/design/digital/’creatives’ conference, and I’d always heard good things about it.

One of the presentations earlier today was about ‘Future Arcades‘, about how arcades and interactive installations can learn from each other. They even showed pictures of S3FA’s Riskee Ball! Yay! (Although, there was no attribution[2]. Boo!)

This naturally sparked a discussion about attribution, and how important it is. Whether people should be happy that their art/installation/etc is getting out there, or should be insisting on attribution and making sure people do so.

For S and I, this sparked a conversation about the line between ‘Making’ and ‘Art’. Is the attribution requirement different? Even if you’re copying the phone book, it feels polite to credit those whose shoulders you’re standing on.

Moving back to the title of this post, the more interesting[3] (for me) conversation was about the placement of the line between ‘Making’ and ‘Art'[4]. S mentioned that while we were designing and building Mirror Blaze, she always thought of it as a ‘Fire Installation’ more than ‘Art’. I had always referred to the group as ‘a fire art collective’, at which point most people asked if we spun poi. Some people in the group say that we build ‘Big Dumb Fire Art’.

So, how do you reconcile these views? I’ve always like the “I don’t know art, but I know what I like” statement, that like many things, you’ll know it when you see it. A common theme seems to be that there needs to be significant personal time and work invested by the artist(s) involved[5]. S suggests that intention of ‘Emotional Impact’ is what makes something ‘Art’ for her. (I’m the kind of person that takes great enjoyment in finding faces in everyday objects[6], so I guess that’s where the intentionality comes in.)

We also briefly touched on the line[7] between ‘Art’ and ‘Illustration’, but agreed that ’emotional intentionality’ also applied.

Comments? Questions? Rotten tomatoes? Comment below!

A note about ‘Art’ vs. ‘art’. I use the term ‘Art’ to refer to ‘what people generally think art is’, with all the associated baggage and politics that comes along with social pressures and millennia of history. Personally, I see art as whatever someone calls art, because at that point, they’re asking you to think and/or feel about the definition of art, if nothing else. I think there are also a number of things not described as art that qualify, but that’s another post.

[1]It always feels better to use peoples’ own ‘about’ statements.

[2]Maybe it’s my background in academia, where attribution is everything. Maybe it’s the fact that I seem to be good at Google, so it seems easy to me.

[3]Although I clearly had ‘feelings’ about attribution. Interesting the things you find in yourself while writing.

[4]I had originally had ‘Building’ here instead of ‘Making’. There’s a subtle difference, but ‘Making’ seems to be term more often used, and feels like it speaks better to what we do. (Even though there’s a *lot* of building. 😀 )

[5]I also feel like a lot of ‘Art’ presupposes one ‘Artist’, even if they have apprentices or other helpers.

[6]While researching this post, I came across this gem.


DS9: The Power of Adversaries, Season 1

Continuing our adversaries series, we’re starting today looking at DS9. I’m curious to know how it will diverge from TNG, and when. Or maybe it won’t. Which will mean there’s something about the Star Trek formula, or perhaps the general television formula[1].


High: 8
Equal: 2
Low: 9
Self: 0

So, this presents a significant departure from TNG. Even though DS9 is supposed to be grittier and have opportunities amongst the main cast, this is never the main adversary or obstacle in an episode. Also interestingly, the episodes almost exclusively separate into ‘very powerful outside force’ and ‘morality play where we try to solve problems without anyone getting hurt’.

The proportion of lower powered adversaries might be part of showing how powerful the Federation really is, as discussed by Garak and Quark[2] in ‘The Way of the Warrior‘.

You can also see this very clearly in the ‘Federation Maps‘ (direct link here). Just look at the size of the Federation compared to all of the other powers. Even if they’re not especially warlike, as any good Civilization player knows, if you have an economy four times the size of your opponent, they’re not really much of a threat. Add in the Federation-Klingon alliance, and they should be unstoppable. Gives you an idea of how powerful the Dominion and the Jem’Hadar must have been.

Perhaps it’s because the adversaries which are ‘just the right amount of challenge’ for the Federation haven’t really discovered the station yet, perhaps because the seasons-spanning plots haven’t started yet.

But I think a lot of it is the nature of the beast. A ship exploring will encounter all kinds of different adversaries and challenges. They can travel to see the Klingons or Romulans whenever they want. A space station will be visited by small numbers of beings at any time. Some will be spatial anomalies which threaten to destroy the station. Many will be travelers on their own missions, but not significantly powerful in their own right. Rarely, representatives from other governments will visit, even more rarely will they have warlike intentions.

(I’ve copied my rationale below, as the results were o surprising. Please check out Jammer’s Reviews and/or Memory Alpha and tell me how I’m wrong in the comments below!)

2 (celestial temple, convincing by Sisko)
1 (Cardassians)
0 (Bajoran person)
2 (virus)
0 (3 aliens)
“Were we interfering with these people, their philosophy, their society? At the same time, what has happening there wasn’t fair. It was a classic Star Trek story” – Colm Meaney
2 (Q)
0 (courtroom)
1 (contamination from destroying ship)
2 (alien game)
0 (Ferengi)

0 (1 criminal)
2 (immortal self-healing people)
0 (Bajorans)
0 (reluctant evacuee)
2 (spatial anomaly)

2 (entity in the computer)
2 (telepathic matrix)
0 (one Cardassian)
0 (Bajorans)

[1]After DS9, I should do Community!

[2]If the link is broken.

Six Seasons…

…and a movie?

So, today was the end of Community for us. For me, it was all the more poignant because I knew there would truly be no more seasons. They had been talking about the cancellation for years, preparing each season for it to be their last, but this felt much more final, with the original cast of seven whittled down to four, and two of those moving away.

Perhaps it was the knowledge that it was the last series of any note put out by Yahoo TV, but I didn’t know that until afterwards.

Perhaps it was because the endings of the last few episodes were so nihilistic so as to break five or six walls[1].

The interesting thing for me was how Jeff became the one to want to keep everyone at Greendale, having to learn to let things (and people) go. One could say that a lot of the series is about his character development, how it taught him to feel for others, to feel their pain, but that enabled him to feel his own pain, and perhaps learn to accept it[2]

It’s also clear to me that there’s a lot of pain in Dan Harmon, and perhaps the rest of the writers, to be able to so viscerally show that on screen. I feel this last season was where they really let that go. I wonder if something changed there, or if they knew this was really the end, with all of the actors growing up and having other major roles elsewhere.

Either way, I’m looking forward to what each of these people can do, and maybe even the movie. 😀

[1]Characters in a commercial discovering a script for their commercial, thereby proving that they don’t actually exist? Classic, but so so dark.

[2]Maybe I notice him more because I’m also a tall white guy. YMMV.

Toy Boxes and Connections

Recently, I spent a few hours going through my old toy box from my childhood. I found a number of curiosities (which I’ll share later), but I wanted to give my first impressions.

The toybox my dad made for me so many years ago.
The toybox my dad made for me so many years ago.

Above is the toybox my dad made for me so many years ago. It was a lot of fun, even going through and unpacking all the things inside.

Interestingly, all the way through, I was thinking about all of the connections I could make with people based on the things in the box. Finally sorting my Lego pieces so that S and I could download instructions (or use the classic instructions still in the box!) and make things together. Taking all of the various parts of games and toys and putting them up on this blog or on fb, to see if people could help me figure out what they were (thinking they might enjoy that challenge (and the nostalgia) too).

Perhaps most poignantly, I came across the numbers ‘1’, ‘2’, and ‘8’, written on tape, attached to Lego pieces. I think that they were part of that one time I brought the miniature city I had built[1] and was so proud of, and labeled parts of it. Anyways, I was going to use this as an excuse to ask my dad if he had any pictures of that, or other things I/we had built, so we could bond over that.

And perhaps I could bond a little with that child from so long ago. One of the things I found was a mint. S mentioned that young me was eating mints, and had somehow left one for me, some way of communicating across the decades.

One of the things I want to do there is to build again my favourite spaceship (it had three parts which were each their own ship!), and my favourite town set, the classic fire station.

The toybox all sorted, with Spaceship!  (And Fire Station!  (And Space Station!))
The toybox all sorted, with Spaceship! (And Fire Station! (And Space Station!))

Happily, it seems that most of (or at least a lot of) the space parts are still there. Sadly, it seems that many of the essential parts for the fire station are not present. It had a really cool slidy-up-and-down front door to each of the fire truck bays. Of the 46 pieces involved, I was only able to find about 10 of the grooves, and three of the roll-top-desk-like part things. But then I remembered the internet! So, has a parts list for the fire hall, and they link to Bricklink, where you can purchase the part! And not even that expensive! I love online communities.

Maybe I’ll connect with other people about this, too.

Here’s to connecting with ourselves from so long ago, and maybe helping us connect with ourselves and each other right now.

[1]It even included a hockey rink! With a swimming pool underneath, with real water in it! Lego is surprisingly water-tight. Or maybe there was a lining. I don’t remember. I just remember the paper rink surface getting wet. 😀

What Do You Want to Do With Your Life?

Warming spring days bring with them the scent of renewal, of life waking up again. And as it’s waking up again, it’s starting to ask questions. Like ‘What do you want to do with your life?’ and ‘Why am I here?’

For me, a substantial part of this is the desire to build things.

My thought map for this might look like the following:

“I want to build things.”
– ‘I’
– Does this need to be only me? :: No, I like working people, but I also like entering flow by myself (this is a conundrum)
– ‘want’
– Is this a want or a need? How strong is this? :: I don’t think I will ever be satisfied if I don’t build. Perhaps not even then.
– ‘to’
– I can’t think of any reasonable way to disassemble this word. :: No.
– ‘build’
– What does ‘building’ mean? How firmly am I wedded to this definition? :: Assembling might be fine. The key is that it is easily recognizable that I had substantive creative input into the process. For example, ‘Biggle’, while a copy of an established game had clear creative input because of the absurd larginess, as well as the fact that I(we) made it by hand.
– ‘things’
– How broad is ‘things’? Could this include an organization? :: In this context, I mean things, I have a separate category for organization(s).

So, what do *you* want to do with your life?

‘Memorize! No Time to Derive!’

Back when I was in engineering, there was a story told about one of the profs:

He would say ‘Memorize! No time to derive!’, meaning that in order to do the questions on the exam quickly enough, you would have to memorize the formulae in their applicable form, instead of deriving them from first principles each time.

For me, there is a clear analogy to the regular brain remapping you do everyday through your choices of what to do and think about.

There’s also a clear analogy to performance, whether that is singing, dancing, or powerpoint. It’s important to know your ‘words and notes’ off by heart, backwards and forwards, so that you can focus on the task at hand, whether it’s entertaining people, conveying a message[1], or solving a problem.

[1]These are often one and the same.

Fortune Favours…

It’s often said that ‘Fortune Favours the Bold’, a translation of a number of associated latin mottos[1], originally quoted from the Aeneid.

But what else does Fortune Favour? In different circumstances, Fortune could Favour many different things.

For example:

If you are a newspaper:
– Fortune Favours Above the Fold

If you are researching a new type of cheese:
– Fortune Favours the Mould

If you are a manufacturer of desserts containing cryptic messages:
– Fortune Favours the Mould[2]

If you are hoping your ice sculpture will last:
– Fortune Favours the Cold

For those colonizing a new world and hoping for horses:
– Fortune Favours the Foaled

For those hoping to move houses:
– Fortune Favours the Sold

For those hoping to not fall off their gondola:
– Fortune Favours the Poled

Nelson[3] is thought[4] to have said:
– ‘Fortune Favours the Coaled.’

Other associated sayings:

For those who enjoy canned pineapple:
– Fortune Flavours the Doled

For those who evade blame:
– Fortune Waivers the Scold

For those overheated who luckily find shelter:
– Fortune Savours the Cold

For those working with Filo[5] pastry:
– Fortune Flavours the Rolled

And finally, for those of a musical persuasion:
– Fourtune Favours the Multiphonic (my favourite)

[1]And a DS9 episode.

[2]From S!

[3]Somehow, Horatio Nelson does not appear in the first ten(!) pages when you search for ‘nelson’. Even Nelson Mandela doesn’t appear until page 7! What?!?


[5]Not to be confused with their enharmonic equivalent[6] ‘Lifo pastry‘.

[6]The enharmonic equivalent for ‘Filo’ would actually be ‘Lofi’, but that sounds silly, and I had already written the joke.

Jane Goodall, In Concert

So, we had the privilege of going to hear Jane Goodall speak today. It was an intense experience. Apparently, she’s 80 and still going strong[1]. Hearing her speak, she talks about the very human things that are causing our worldwide problems, the intense poverty which is forcing people to make destructive choices, the intense greed which promotes the same, and the continued population growth which amplifies everything. I wonder how much of this perspective was from her growing up during the War, seeing firsthand much of the hardship and devastation, even in the UK, at the time.

She also credited her mother with giving her huge amounts of support and encouragement in her love and study of animals, that at many seminal points in her upbringing, if that support had gone the other way, with a parent who had disagreed or squelched, her life would have been very different, and nowhere near as successful or fulfilling.

I think most useful to me was her message of hope, of the successes people have had re-introducing species into the wild, of her institute’s ‘Roots and Shoots‘ program to help young people to identify and work on the challenges they see around them, from the ground up.

[1]Which makes sense with my memories of her being enough of an icon in the 80’s that I got the joke in The Far Side about her.

TNG: The Power of Adversaries, Season 7

Season seven is a bit of an enigma for me. I don’t remember most of it, probably because I’ve never actually watched most of it[1].

S7: 20-100 2-102-1 210-11 -12-121 -102-122

High: 9 (2 for ‘All Good Things…’)
Equal: 3
Low: 6
Self: 8

Season seven continues with the themes of self-searching along with terrifically difficult adversaries which must be defeated using guile.

Jammer’s Reviews mentions in the season seven reviews that there were a number of episodes designed to tie up loose ends, specifically having to do with the families of each of the main characters. Interestingly, the writers managed to do this while keeping the same mix of adversary power as they had in previous seasons.

This season includes some of my favourites, including ‘The Pegasus‘, about regret over decisions made decades ago (and some more meaningful conflict between Riker and Picard, more meaningful than Riker just questioning everything Picard says for the sake of questioning things), Wesley going off with the Traveler, Ro Laren going off with the Maquis, spinning off into many storylines for DS9 (and not incidentally Voyager).

But the crown has to be the season finale, ‘All Good Things…’, where for one brief moment, our (and Picard’s) eyes are opened just a little bit to some of the other things which are possible, both out there, and in here.

[1]I don’t remember why specifically, I think I must have been distracted by something, because I think I stopped watching TV somewhere around then.

TNG: The Power of Adversaries: Recap

Now that we’ve looked at all seven seasons of TNG, we can look at the series as a whole.

Somewhere between season 3 & 4, the balance shifted from low-powered adversaries to the crew (or Starfleet) themselves as the adversaries. Perhaps this is because you have to have a certain number of ‘plot‘ episodes before you can have a ‘character study‘[1].

All the way through, the plurality in almost every season was adversaries of much greater power than the crew. This makes sense if you want to show your cast using guile, as in these situations, they simply have to.

As pithily explained in ‘Peak Performance‘:

Commander William T. Riker: You’re outmanned, you’re outgunned, you’re outequipped. What else have you got?
Lieutenant Worf: Guile.

Almost all of the episodes with ‘equal’ adversaries (generally Romulans, Klingons, or Cardassians) also involved guile of some sort. It wasn’t until the Dominion War on DS9 that phasers were commonly used to solve problems.

Below I have my categorization by episode, for those who enjoy arguments of this type.

Episode order is from Jammer’s Reviews, but should be the same as that from elsewhere, such as Memory Alpha.

Season 1 (25 episodes):2-102220-1202101020-1-1202211
High: 10
Equal: 4
Low: 7
Self: 4

Season 2 (22 episodes):02100-121-1-1222-10200-111-1
High: 6
Equal: 4
Low: 6
Self: 6

Season 3 (26 episodes):0020-121001002-12-11222-10-1-1-12
High: 8
Equal: 3
Low: 8
Self: 7

Season Four (26 episodes): 2-120202-1221112022-122-10-11-12
High: 12
Equal: 4
Low: 4
Self: 6

Season Five (26 episodes): 21122-1110-1-10002-102-1-1-12-12-12
High: 8
Equal: 4
Low: 5
Self: 9

S6: 2-102220-10-12101-1-120-1-1201-122
High: 9
Equal: 3
Low: 6
Self: 8

S7: 20-1002-102-1210-11-12-121-102-122
High: 9 (2 for ‘All Good Things…’)
Equal: 3
Low: 6
Self: 8

[1]I credit Ty Templeton’s Comic Book Bootcamp for teaching me about such things. All errors are my own. You should check out his classes!