Monday, June 17, 2019
By Eolake Stobblehouse
In the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig wrote a bestselling philosophical volume concerned in its basics with the nature of "what is quality?"
The book is very good, and has been very influential. However one thing bugged me about it: after following the author the whole way through his metaphorical trek to clear up this issue, what he finally concludes is that he can't define quality, except that he knows it when he sees it. Pretty weak ending to a strong book.
It is easier to criticize than to do though, so I attempted to define quality to my own satisfaction. What I came up with after working it over was:
Quality: how well something works according to its intended purpose.
This is remarkably simple, but I do think it is very workable. There are two tripping stones though:
1) Evaluating quality depends on perception of the purpose of the object.
2) Often, but not always, aesthetics and longevity enter the picture.
Taking the second one first, because it is the simplest: Many things are not meant to endure, like card tricks, birthday cakes, kisses, and so on. But many things are. If you buy a chair, no matter how well it works, if it breaks down after a week, you will probably not consider it good quality.
Also if you buy a chair for your home, it is surely important to you that the chair is pleasing to look at and fits into the style of your home. On the other hand if you buy a chair for a workshop where it will get remarkably dirty, it is not so important how it looks, only how well it works.
And regarding the first point: defining quality is tricky mainly because it depends, according to my definition, on the purpose of the object. You can't judge the quality of carrot cake by the standards you'd judge a protein drink, even though they are both food stuffs. And trying to judge carrot cake by the standards you'd use to judge a camera or a car or a song performance is clearly silly. There is just no relation. So quality can only be considered after you have defined the purpose of a thing.
Further complicating the matter is that different people may assign different purposes to the same object. For an elderly man, a pair of eye glasses are judged on how well they help him see. It does not matter if the glasses are big and ugly. But for some young women, they might wear a pair of glasses as a fashion accessory even though their eyesight is fine. In that case, aesthetics is the yard stick. This is a minor point though, since most things have well defined purposes.
So I think that once you have considered what is the purpose of a thing for you, then determining what makes it "quality" or not is not so hard. In the Zen book, Robert Pirsig is looking at some windows that a man has made, and thinking they were quality, but not knowing why. Well, I think that quality windows are some that keep out the wind and rain in a satisfactory manner. Further, that they will last long. And finally, that the fit and finish is aesthetically pleasing. The last point of course can get into personal taste, colors and so on. But generally people find that something produced with much attention to precision and detail is more pleasing than something sloppily produced.
The really difficult area is of course the Arts. And that is part of Pirsig's problem, because that is where he starts out, in the area of creative writing. In this area "purpose" is so flexible and so hard to nail down that defining quality is very tough. The purpose of a piece of writing can be to entertain. Or to educate. Or to philosophize. Or to make people laugh. Or, or, or.
Some educated people consider that pop music and pop TV shows are Bad Quality, just in one sweeping generality. Because those things don't make you think. But they forget two things: 1) Not everybody wants to be made to Think, all the time at least. 2) Different things make different people think. Somebody watching a soap opera may have a sudden realization that maybe it is not such a great idea to cheat on her husband all the time, for she might get caught. For somebody else, that might be an obvious conclusion, she might prefer to think about how to square the circle or other high philosophical or cerebral ideas.
In other words, not only does quality depend upon purpose, that purpose can also change from object to object and from person to person.
Still if we know these things, I don't think it is all that hard to determine. Which is why we "know it when we see it" after all. We know what we want, and with a bit of perception and enough data we also know how well a thing fulfills that want.
I think another part of Pirsig's problem was that he was really reaching not so much for quality itself, but its metaphysical or spiritual background or source, or its ultimate identity. I don't think the definition can be divorced from purpose and still hold much meaning. But here are my closest attempts:
Quality: a manifestation of the awareness level from which something was created.
Quality: a measure of the care and skill invested in something.
Quality: a measure of purity.
"Knowledge is the food of the spirit, and beauty is the drink." - Eolake Stobblehouse
Saturday, May 11, 2019
Politics are the attempt at managing conflicts between groups. If it’s just one man against a group, then it’s “justice”, and he is crushed. If a group is large enough that another group can’t handle them easily no matter how crazy they think the other group’s views are, then the dynamics are “politics”.
If one man goes around killing jews, he is a murderer and goes to prison. If a small group does it, they are terrorists and are hunted down. If a significant portion of a country does it, then it is “politics”. And of course, if the conflict heats up, it becomes war or civil war.
Politics are just group conflicts. It is not “the art of managing a country”, it is simply various groups fighting for their own interests.
That’s why politics are so interesting on a superficial level, and so enervating on deeper levels. Conflict is bread and butter to the ego, but utterly trivial to the spirit.
Friday, January 04, 2019
(They wouldn’t have to be the main characters, of course, it’s clear that the main character needs to be human-like for a story to appeal.)
William Gibson and Iain M Banks have some of the rare exceptions, in both cases they are super-human AIs. (In Banks’ case, extremely super-human, more like gods. But benevolent.)
Friday, November 30, 2018
(“Compleat” is correct. It’s an archaic spelling, alluding to the classic book The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton (it may be too much of an inside joke though...).)
THE COMPLEAT ARTIST
By Eolake Stobblehouse
This is an article which will eventually become a book. It is a long process, and the final result will be much different and longer. I publish this, extremely compressed as it is, in order to get some comments to help with the further work.
This is a book about art.
I am tempted to leave the introduction at simply that statement, for that is the most precise and concise statement of the matter I could make.
However, this would not work , for after all there have been many books on art and there will doubtlessly be many more and how are you to know which kind this is? Some books talk about the history of art, famous artists, media, and so on, some books talk about contemporary trends in specific areas, some books teach techniques and other books wax philosophical.
This is a book of the last kind. It is definitely philosophical in nature, but is perhaps a bit unusual in that its goal is practical: A better understanding for the artist of what is art, and greater ease in his creative work and thus higher quality and quantity in his output.
This book is about art in its broadest possible sense. Not just about "painting" or even "painting, music, and sculpture", but about anything that has an aesthetic purpose whether or not it is normally seen as "art".
I have always regarded myself an artist and I have always striven towards becoming a better artist. This is probably why I have developed theories on the nature of art, in order to become a better artist myself. It never really was my intention to become a scholar or a teacher.
This book is a book written by an artist for artists. I am of course only too happy about anybody who is interested and reads it, but it really is intended for people who want to create and communicate. I don't care whether they are doing it professionally or not, or what medium or themes they work with. Anybody can be an artist, if he considers himself so. Many people consider that living itself can be an art form and certainly living itself as well as a host of activities can be considered in the light of the theories I present here.
Definitions of art
1: Any purposeful human activity that has no practical purpose, i.e. does nothing directly for physical survival, and produces something new.
2: Communication with beauty.
3: Creation wedded to communication.
4: A method of expanding the universe by creating.
5: Creating something that is pleasant, making it easier for people to turn their attention outward.
6: Interesting order.
7: A method of creating life.
Art is a method of coping that spiritual beings use when they are to a greater or lesser degree trapped in a fixed universe, where creation is limited and discredited. A spirit stuck in the unnatural position of not being easily able to create something that others can perceive, can use the method of making facsimiles of his creations in the materials he finds already present and perceivable in the universe he is in. This helps others to get an impression of his creation, and through agreement makes that creation more real.
Architecture of Art, definitions
A central part of this book is the chart I call the "Architecture of Art" (AoA for short). I considered "Anatomy of Art", but I liked better the implication of a structure, or something built, or even the building of something, than that of the practice of taking something apart, which is a quite different activity from what we are talking about here.
In the AoA I have divided art into three different parts or aspects. These three parts are again each divided into three parts. The AoA could be viewed as a structure or machine providing a process reaching from the physical universe into spiritual spheres. Or vice versa.
You could say that it is a blueprint of art as an machine. The lower the level the easier it is taught, observed, evaluated, and corrected. The higher the part, the more slippery it is to pinpoint or evaluate and to handle all in all.
The top of the scale is the reason why art has mystical connotations to many people. It simply cannot be explained easily if it is not perceived directly, since language derives from the physical universe, and the top of the scale is spiritual (and yet still real).
From a spiritual viewpoint the parts are more important the higher you go, and from a materialistic viewpoint the lower parts are more important.
Art consists of: (From the top) Static, Process, and Object.
"Static" consists of: Naturalness, Creatingness, and Wholeness.
"Process" consists of: Motion, Attraction, and Substance.
"Object" consists of: Representation, Association, and Materials.
Here are the basic definitions (from the bottom up).
Object: The part of the work that enters into the physical universe. It is the anchor that connects the creation to reality.
Process: Expanding the spirit, creating awareness of new things.
Static: The idea. The permanent part of the work. Not physical. This part endures as long as there is time. It also reaches far beyond the physical universe.
Materials: Are simply what the word says, the physical tools and things the artist uses in order to get his idea to appear in physical form.
Association: Is what the receiver thinks of, consciously or not, when viewing the work of art. Some associations are sane, like thinking of the smell of roses when seeing a picture of a rose, and some associations are not sane, like feeling a pain in the elbow when seeing a picture of a rose. There are many, many associations for any subject, and some are very personal (and so unpredictable), and some are more universal (belonging to a people or a species), and can be used by the artist.
Representation: The work of art represents an idea in the artist's universe. The more the Object is like the idea the stronger the art.
Substance: The created mass plus related masses (those masses made relevant by association.) A larger work needs great skill and integrity to keep these masses together seamlessly.
Attraction: That which keeps the work of art and those viewing it from blowing apart. (The process would tend to cause that otherwise, since it makes the viewer's universe expand and so push things away.) This is synonymous with "prettiness", and it is an important part of the popularity of a work, but only a smaller part of its overall importance.
Motion: The motion in the work/idea. It is the actual motion of the particles making up the idea, just like the motion of electrons etc. make up matter. Something which is not moving will not be perceived and if there is no motion at all, nothing exists. Motion creates space and time, making communication possible. (The Object does not, of course, have to be in motion for the work or the idea to be.) Both the quality and the quantity of the motion is considered.
Wholeness: The togetherness or the integrity of the work. How well the parts of the work play together in their action. Also the relative lack of superfluous or missing parts.
Creatingness: The amount of creation in the work. How much of it not taken from somewhere else. The power of creation put into it.
Naturalness: To which degree the work and its parts are the artist's own decision and is made from his own necessity. This is the naturalness (for the artist) of the viewpoint from which the artist creates his work.
The Architecture of Art chart is a tool.
It can be used to simply understand art better, but also has a variety of uses beyond that. It can be used as a tool during the whole process of creating a work of art from before the first idea to the last polishing.
It is not a tool of criticism. Criticism is in general a destructive (or at least deconstructive) process, and even though destruction can be good and necessary, the AoA is far too powerful a tool for such use. It is for the use of the artist when evaluating or creating his own work.
The purpose of art
Art has many purposes. The most basic of these, however, is expansion.
Expansion of the spirit by expansion of the universe.
And expansion of the universe by expansion of the spirit.
The universe is built of many layers. The topmost layers are those that can be contacted and perceived by the body's hands and eyes, i.e. crude matter. Under those are the finer sorts of energy, which can be perceived with finer instruments. And beyond those, even finer things, perceivable by even finer instruments, when built, or by the spirit itself. Those finer energies are no less a part of the universe than the cruder ones, and are in fact usually far more influential.
The universe is a solidified form of the collected ideas that the spirits inhabiting it have. The universe (or universes, if you will, for it is a complex thing) is one of the things that monitor the awareness-, happiness-, and activity-level of the spirits in contact with it. The simplest connection is straightforward: the more universe, the higher awareness.
And so, art becomes a method of expanding awareness by creating more of what is.
Any being (spirit, person) can create. (He wouldn't be here, if he didn't continuously create his surroundings.) He often creates for his own amusement in his own universe. And as he is in contact with the universe and other spirits, this has an effect on its own. What makes art a challenge is that in order to have a faster and more effective addition to the mass of ideas that comprises the universe, one must enlist the aid of others. In other words, one much make one's ideas communicate.
When the creation communicates, others want to join in and help create it also, and it gets solid much easier.
The problem, if any, is that pure creation, in the nature of things, is new. As such it is nothing people have ever seen before, so they have no relationship to it, so why have anything to do with it?Much of communication is based on familiarity. A being who is too used to living in a physical body which is not of his own creation is rather tough to reach and responds fast only to communication in the very physical end of things (i.e. food, sex, pain, etc.) Some people are great enough to go beyond that, and can receive communication that is more abstract and less familiar. These people are often an artist's most prized audience. But the point is to make art work effectively you have to combine in an intimate manner two things that natively have nothing whatsoever to do with each other, namely creation and communication. To a human being, they are almost like oil and water, for one requires familiarity and one is, by its very nature unfamiliar. And so we see the skill it takes to make good art.
Mediums and their basics.
The basic of pictures is the rendition of space.
The basic of sculpture is the rendition of matter.
The basic of music is the control of time.
The basic of stories is the discussion of people.
Some mediums, of course, combines things. Film combines people with space and time.
Architecture is matter and space.
Acting is energy.
The definition of quality is: How well something works according to its purpose.
Quarrels about quality are usually based on (unacknowledged) disagreements about purpose.
1: A natural state of spirit.
2: That quality which makes desirable the existence of something.
4: Harmony and life.
"That's not art!"
A destructive way of critizising art is by the statement "That's not art!"
The intentions of a person making such a statement is to make it cease to exist, either because he is a destructive person or in a destructive mood.
One should realize that fact and ignore it as simply another opinion on the quality of the work and remember that it is a work of art, and that any work of art is better than none.
Destruction of beauty.
One of the basic evil intentions in the universe is the destruction of beauty. This is so basic that possibly all of us have felt it from time to time. Certainly all of us have been affected by it.
It is one of the basic manifestations of the evil and sick soul that he cannot stand beauty.
Since one of the basic ingredients of art is beauty, this intention of course has devastating effects upon an artist's life and work. Much of the hardship and the fighting thrust upon an artist under the disguise of criticism, help, finance, and understanding problems, stems simply from the desire in certain people to destroy beauty. One should realize what it is and not be too discouraged.
The Artwork's force-field.
Any work of art existing in space is built around a forcefield. A forcefield is an energy system with one center and straight lines of force radiating from that. It also has the characteristic of concentric spheres of energy made from standing waves in the forcelines. The spheres of course have the same center as the lines, they are two manifestations of the same thing. And the thing is like a frozen explosion.
You simply arrange the parts and details in the artwork so they are in harmony with the forcefield. The forcefield's center is always in the exact center of the work, e.g. the frame of the painting.
The reason for this is that the explosion is the most well known and real energy manifestation anywhere. It is familiar and so has impact on any kind of living being anywhere. It has always been used in destroying and building things, probably because it is the simplest possible energy manifestation in three-dimensional space. In other words, any strange and unfamiliar phenomenon (which a work of art by its nature is) will still seem real to some degree when it is based on this. There of course is nothing stopping one from disregarding this and compose stuff based on completely different basics, but as long as the universe is basically as it is at the time of this writing, they will probably not communicate well.
Saturday, November 24, 2018
Thursday, November 08, 2018
In the classic story Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow, writer Alan Moore has Superman attacked by an alien parasite which attaches to him and puts him a coma, trapped by a dream.
In the dream, Superman is back in his home world Krypton, living a happy life in a world which has not exploded ever (unlike reality, which is why he is exiled here on Earth).
But very gradually, irregularities start kreeping in, and the dream becomes less and less happy. This eventually leads to Superman being able to wake up, freeing himself.
I was thinking: why does the plant not simply make the dream perfect, so he would want to stay there?
Simple: it’s not the plant making the dream after all, it’s Superman’s mind. And he wants to wake up. So he makes the dream unpleasant enough that he *wants* to wake up.
I thought that this explains a lot.
Thursday, October 25, 2018
(I’m a little confused though, I’m sure this camera came out like two years ago? At least some M Leica without a screen.)
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
... Most of those band names I made up. It’s a hobby.
Damn, now I have to start a band named Anal Insertion.
Or at least write a book named “Anal Insertion European Tour ‘37”. Subtitle: “All I got was this dumb tee-shirt, the band stole all my coke”.
Saturday, October 06, 2018
Gain divided by distance or time, compared to gain divided by distance or time.
If a gain is far away (happening to others, perhaps even strangers), or will take long before you see it, it may not be selected over a smaller gain which is closer, happening now, to you.
Wednesday, October 03, 2018
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
At the moment, I guess Sony and Fuji are ahead. But in 3-5 years I think both Canon and Nikon will have very strong systems. And I really hope that Panasonic and especially Olympus can keep up with sensor, for they have wonderful lenses and even cameras. And I love compact cameras, as I’ve said about 55 times.
Monday, September 17, 2018
Saturday, September 15, 2018
“Well, how come you only want tomorrow
With it's promise of something hard to do”
- David Bowie, Teenage Wildlife
Isn’t that the truth? The human mind is so effin perverse.
For one example, I could not go back to film photography even if it was still better quality. It’s just way too much work. And at the same time, digital is almost *too easy*!
Why do we value anything simply because it’s hard to do? It’s insane, it should be the result which matters. Communication or beauty should be what matters, not the barriers to achieve them.
Thursday, September 13, 2018
And indeed I have found it important to remember that as Adams said, the Zone System is a teaching tool, not an artistic tool. Once one has learned to control tones, then one is free to make other choices. For example I have found that sometimes blocks of pure black without detail is much more expressive than the Technically Correct way.
(Granted, I didn’t have much choice in this case, but sometimes I’ve had.)
Wednesday, August 29, 2018
This is *twelve* times as much as what I consider enough for 99% of photography. (And for 90%, six is enough.)
In other words, pretty damn specialised equipment. I can’t even imagine who really needs this. I also wonder, how is companies like Phase One and Hasselblad going to distinguish themselves in the future, now that you can already get *superb* professional cameras for two thousand dollars, and theirs cost something like twenty times that. It’s like building cars that can go eight hundred miles an hour. Prestige products. But I guess that some will always have the money, and the desire to have the very best, no matter if that Best is practically useful.
I admit I still feel a strong attraction to superb tools. But this has now entered a sphere so stratespheric that I can’t even imagine anything I could do with it, better than with, say, the new Nikon Z7, or Sony A7RIII.
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Invitations went out.
“Come see the show. Greatest show ever. The act of creation. Come now, come early, see it all.”
The all came. They all saw.
The chicken concentrated. It thought. It pressed. It clucked. It conceived.
The egg descended slowly. It glowed. It was glorious.
The egg split in two. A gold and a silver. They both cracked open.
Two small chicks, a black and a white, stumbled out onto the plains, parting. Each veered, wobbled, varied their course towards the horizon. They pecked for seeds. They walked on, searching, searching.
Monday, August 27, 2018
I must say, so far I’m impressed. I’d expected them to be good of course, but I’d not expected them to be such a leap up in both functionality and image quality. And I’m especially impressed with the price, I’d have thought twice the price to be reasonable, but don’t tell Nikon.
See article and video here.
And an early review on image quality and lenses.
For many years, digital cameras did not have dynamic range (contrast coverage) equal to film. But recently they have surpassed it, and this has fifteen stops of it, which is awesome.
It also has eye-following (of the subject) autofocus, which was the killer app of the recent Sony cameras.
And of course in-camera stabilization, a huge advantage of some mirrorless camera over DSLRs.
I think the naming though, Z6 and Z7, is not of the same high standard! They are obviously at total effect of Sony here, naming the cameras practically the same as the Sonys which have been eating into their marketshare. Also, why still the taste-free names? Why not. Uhm, “Nikon Killroy 1” or “Nikon Calypso Dancemaster” or “Nikon Taserface K”, just to go wide.
As old readers know well, being mainly a street photographer, I’m a big fan of compact cameras, and for years I’ve thought that full-frame cameras are just too big and heavy. Well this is still so, even though the body in the new Nikon Z system is much smaller. But: for special projects demanding extreme image quality, I could actually imagine myself using this system.
As I’d predicted here, they have indeed made a brand new mount (for the first time ever! Due to Nikon’s same-mount promise), and an adapter for legacy lenses. But I thought it could really not be any different, they could not take advantage of mirrorless design without getting a shorter lens-to-sensor distance, or faster lenses without the bigger mouth. They have great flexibility for the future with this new mount.
I hope they will go beyond the current fetish for big and heavy “ultimate” lenses, and also make some compact ones. Leica M lenses have always been amazing, and are also very small, so surely it can be done now with computer design.
|Look at this dynamic range!|
Copyright Ross Harvey, see article
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
I consider sexuality a powerful force, sure. But hell, so is sugar! It does not mean it is important, only that it is strongly addictive.
For me, beauty, spirit, philosophy, art, are *much* more important than sex.
It seems to me the most powerful formula is a simple core for quick communication, and added, more subtle complexity for deeper power, to be revealed with time and attention.
|Running Yellow Man, Stobblehouse|