New job

Started a new job this past month at Gray Area. It’s not really a new job as much as a transition into a bigger, full time, more responsibilities kind of thing. Officially, I’m now the Venue Operations Manager and Program Manager for the Artists Incubator.

While it’s pretty cool to take over the venue operations, it’s kinda weird to lead the incubator. It’s weird because I have enjoyed being in it and have gained a lot of insight into my own and process but now I’ve been asked to take on a role where I’m helping to guide other artists. The vote of confidence from Gray Area feels great. There’s just that momentary flash that overcomes your brain for a split second when you realize what’s been asked and your brain sputters for a beat, and then the weirdness flows over you and you say “Sure, I can do that”.

Making Art on the Verge of War

The Russians invaded Ukraine yesterday. In a certain way, it feels like the past few years have been leading up to this – Trump’s election was a major step towards destabilizing the world, then we had a major world wide pandemic, and now here we are with war in Europe. We’ll see where this goes, but I’m not optimistic about this.

I was getting geared up for 2 different shows; an installation at Gray Area and some video work at the Commonwealth Club. The piece for Gray Area is an audio piece that deals with future narratives, specifically about the changing nature of the office and how most people who go to offices don’t really want to be there. And how, if given a good chance, they’d abandon it all together. The piece for the Commonwealth Club is video art accompaniment for a jazz trio on a multiscreen display. The focus needed for creative endeavors is tough enough to muster in the best of times and it feels especially weird to promote one’s projects at a time like this. There’s gonna be some figuring out around this I suspect for a lot of folks … so I’m not feeling that alone about it…

January 6th, One Year Later

Last year, on this day, I was paying attention to the counting of electoral votes, partially because I am a bit of a politics junkie, but mostly because of the $hit that had been happening with Trump’s utter lies about the election being stolen. I knew something was gonna happen. And it did.

After it started going down at the Capitol, the roommates and I ordered pizza and ice cream – what else should one dine on when witnessing the attempted destruction of one’s government? It reminded me of a simpler time, during the civil war, when citizens went out to watch the first battle of Bull Run and had picnics. Except now, the violence of the insurrection is in 4K UHD and the sound bar really makes it feel like you’re there, surrounded by MAGA idiots as they beat police officers with American flags and fire extinguishers. The technology revolution is really something as it brings the insurrection to your living room while Door Dash is delivering the picnic. All we had to do was watch, like the good passive consumers we’ve become, as our democracy slowly unwinds and falls apart. 

Now, it’s a year on and where are we? Tantalizing morsels of possible charges are starting to emerge. Watergate took 2 years to get to this point, so have we improved upon the whole holding the leaders accountable thing or not? Darth Cheney is lamenting the loss of ‘his’ republican party, conveniently forgetting his endorsements and support of the guy who convinced his followers to storm the Capitol. We’re seeing the right wing media machines turn on themselves, which is a sight to behold, while at the same time record numbers of fools are repeating the lies that got us here. 

Don’t know how many of you saw it, but a few days ago the Toronto Globe and Mail published an editorial that urged the political leaders of all 5 of their major parties to form a committee to monitor the United States political situation and prepare the Dominion of Canada for the fall of the United States government. I’m thinking Door Dash could run a downfall delivery special, 2 for 1 pizza and ice cream. They’d probably make a killing.

Tech Rant – Why Such Narrow Scrollbars?

In so many apps and websites now, the push towards eliminating interface elements is gaining steam and getting worse. It’s becoming increasingly harder for someone like myself to use certain apps or websites because of the push towards an all touch based interface. I started using PhotoShop 1, and did a lot of computer graphics work for a long time. The motion of clicking a mouse button, or clicking and holding while painting, gave me a type of pain that shoots from the tip of my finger all the way up into my shoulder. Switching to a pen and tablet fixed that, it’s a much more natural way for me to work. Now, with super small, or nonexistent, scrollbars, it becomes nearly impossible for me to scroll through certain apps or websites. I’ve never understood the idea that interface elements should disappear – how are you supposed to know that the page has more to it if there isn’t some sort of visual indicator? Are UI/UX designers really thinking that people are just going to wildly click around the page until they find something that responds? Even beyond that, why take away an easily understood and easy to use way of interacting with the computer and replace it with something that doesn’t work unless you use a specific peripheral? Not everyone can use a touch enabled device or an interface that is only touch enabled. Some folks are going to need peripherals that can point to elements on the screen. These design decisions are taking the ability to work with computers away from certain folks

Pro Tip – Photos in Word Press

If you’re using Word Press and using your website to highlight your photography, and you decide to use a gallery plugin to help you with that, here’s a pro tip:

Don’t use the photo gallery plugin’s media upload. Instead, use the native media library in Word Press to handle uploading and management of your images and their meta data.

Some plugins don’t allow you to access photos outside of it being instantiated. If those images are in the media library, you’ll always be able to use them in more places than in just the gallery. You can put all the meta data that you want on the images that will always be used with them, wherever they get used. Most photo gallery plugins will allow you to individually adjust images and meta data when you create a gallery, if something unique for that specific gallery is needed.

Most software operates on the hostage model- they want to capture your data or content and force you into a subscription or fee to access it or use it. This is why most photo gallery plugins want you to upload through their system directly. It’s better to manage in the CMS (Word Press in this case) and keep control. Only use the photo gallery plugin to make the gallery presentation itself.

New Project – The Moon

Got a new projection mapping piece installed this week at the Lone Star – The Moon. Working with Charlie Evans and Mark D Powers, we picked an image of the moon. I made the projection layout and they went to town painting it on the wall. 3 different shades of going from medium gray to bright white. The first animation I’ve made is an eclipse. It takes 7.5 minutes for the shadow to move from side to side, which is the typical length of totality during a lunar eclipse and the whole loop is 8.5 minutes long. Below is a 35 second time lapse.

The Pride Paradox

The end of June and Pride are both here. It used to be just a weekend, but now Pride really gets to strut it’s stuff for a whole month. And that gives us more time to ponder what Pride is and what it means.

At its basic level, it is the opposite of shame. That’s why Pride started as a riot – it was revolt against shame that had been brewing for several years in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and finally with an explosion in New York at Stonewall. It was an expression of rage and anger about how society was shaming people for things that they should not be shamed for. Society has no business criminalizing the most important aspects of an individual’s self – how they perceive themselves, their bodies, and what they do in their sexual lives as, and with, consenting adults.  

A riot turned into Pride. Then, Pride became a demand for acceptance. It isn’t just enough to not be beaten. No one should be denied a job, or an apartment, or simple respect as a human being. 

Acceptance breeds assimilation – once you can be out as a man attracted to other men, the rainbow colored cop car will eventually show up. 2 women married and raising children become a target demographic for major advertisers, just like anyone else. Trans people who would’ve been kicked out of the army can now go fight for our “country’s interests” in far away lands. Society expects some reciprocity for its acceptance.

The corporations that turn their logos rainbow and extol how much they support you are doing that because we are on the profitable side of the ledger right now. It wasn’t always like that. The utter neutrality of money is just that – it actually doesn’t care about anything. Lots of queer activists worked for acceptance and showed that we were worthy of being treated the same. And, to these entities, our money is just as green. 

But just because Citi Bank may have a rainbow version of its logo, that doesn’t mean that the LGBTQ community is not going to be attacked anymore. We still hear horrific stories of torture and abuse. There are those politicians who deride us and religious people who preach against us. Even though we’ve come far, the struggle goes on.

In order to become an accepted part of society, you become part of that society, even while some parts of that society still won’t accept you. A sort of paradox, if you will.

Also posted on facebook.

Joy and Grief

California is on the cusp of re-opening fully. Maybe other parts of the country are there already, but we’re not and we’ll do it in our inimitable west coast style – easy, laid back, and not rushing into anything that isn’t a new iPhone release party at the Apple Store. 

Ever since I got my second COVID vax shot (Moderna, in case you’re wondering, and I know you are, because everyone asks ‘which one did you get?’), I’ve been waiting for this moment, that time when I can not only feel safe for myself, but safe about other people. SF is at the much vaunted herd immunity level of 70% fully vaccinated and our numbers have been good and steady for more than 2 months now. While I’m pretty sure about my own behavior and ability to keep myself safe from this disease, other people are, well, they are other people, and they have their own level of sanity and sanitation. Being “fully vax’d” takes on a different meaning when it’s the whole city you live in, as opposed to just yourself.

There is a joy that I’m experiencing, of being able to see friends and be social. I’ve been going out more and doing more things in public venues and enjoying myself. Events are going to be happening and we’re all going to better for that. We’ll be completely weird and unsure how to interact with each other after so long a time of living in such a limited fashion. And that’s fine. Be patient and gentle.

There is also the grief, I have several friends who have lost husbands, wives, children, parents, and grand parents to this. And there is also the general loss in or communities – restaurants, bars, venues, small businesses that are gone and will never come back. Things are not going back to how they were, but things never go back to how they were, do they? That is the challenge of grief – realizing that change is the only constant and acceptance is the only way forward.

But I’ll probably be a proper San Franciscan and complain about how things were better before, when I first got here, when the city was cooler, when tech was not so ubiquitous, and rent was lower. After all, talking about how the city used to be is SF’s favorite pastime, and I’ll get to enjoy it again with my friends.

QAnon’s Golden Calf

A while back, I wrote how about QAnon was toxic to Trump, and by extension the entire republican party. Several months ago, some religious leaders in our country declared QAnon to be a Gnostic Heresy, and thus fundamentally incompatible with Christianity. This was the opening of a schism in the evangelical community – how do you absorb a heresy that is sweeping away your followers like this and maintain your power? Because evangelical Christianity is essentially a political movement and an extension of the republican party, QAnon sweeps them both together.

You have to understand that QAnon is the recycled anti-semitic ravings that propelled the holocaust. Replace the word “democrat” or “liberal” with the word “jew” and that’s it. Because the story is about the rape and murder of children, it is extraordinarily seductive and effective and people can very easily fall under its spell. It is a powerful narrative that is hard to be against.

We saw during the election and the subsequent riot at the Capitol just how far a conspiracy theory can push people. Combine the conspiracy theory with the hitlerian technique of the Big Lie, and you can easily seduce enough of any given population to your own ends. Trump, in amplifying QAnon and mixing it up with his own baseless claims of election fraud, was able to harness it to his own ends. And his ends do not match those of anyone else, not the republicans, not the evangelicals – no one save for Trump himself.

As Trump is rallying his troops at CPAC, something very interesting happened: his followers paraded a Golden Trump through the lobby of the convention center. When you combine this with the infighting happening in the republican party, i.e. Liz Cheney vs Kevin McCarthy, you begin to see where this is all going – the end of the Reagan coalition of the religious right and the republicans. Trump delivered to the evangelicals many things that they wanted that previous republicans didn’t, and now they get to follow his Golden Idol around Florida.

Remember what happened to the Israelites after they built and worshipped the golden calf.