Stephen’s Index 2011

31
Dec
2011

Months spent out of the country: 2.5

Emails received: 14572

Emails sent: 5138

Number of broadway shows seen: 4

Number of movies seen: 26

Percent viewed in a theater (vs at home): 46

Number of times someone indicated they liked my profile on OK Cupid: 147

Number of first dates: 57

Number of boyfriends: 0

Number of times groceries were delivered: 34

Number of new facebook friends: 83

Number known before: 20

Percent of new ones actually corresponded with: 6.3

Number of separate occasions on which I saw family members: 6

Average yearly number before moving to New York: 1

Number of times lunch appointments appear in my calendar: 36

Friends from LA who visited this year: 3

Other US states I visited this year: 2

Number of websites worked on: 24

 

 

simple, stupid.

30
Dec
2011

We all have mild annoyances in our lives that we don’t respond to with changes or a fix. Sometimes they stay in the background and we just live with them, and sometimes after a long period we snap and decide to change something. Such was the case with my shower curtain. Since moving into my new apartment almost two years ago, I have had a problem with the shower curtain often being sucked inward and sticking to me (a mild annoyance). It was due to the differential pressure generated by the hot water on the inside versus the colder air outside, or something like that. I finally got so fed up with it, that I ordered a heavy duty and stiffer shower curtain, hoping that would curtail the movement. It helped a little, but failed to sufficiently stop the inward movement. I was really getting fed up now, and searched high and low on the internet for some sort of attachable weight one could affix to the bottom which would hold it more in place. I did my internet research and found none that fit the bill and for a brief moment considered designing and manufacturing them, and how I would become rich filling this unmet need. And then I read a blog post from someone with a similar problem that pointed to a very simple solution: don’t close the curtain all the way. Miraculously (or not, when you stop to think about it) this worked. By leaving about a foot or two of space at the far end of the shower, the air was able to move freely around and voila, problem solved. The curtain stays put. For someone as science smart as I (like to imagine I) am, I have to admit some embarrassment for not figuring this out sooner.

People’s names.

29
Dec
2011

I love it when one’s lack of any particular expectations about something result in a wonderful surprise. I just had the pleasure of watching a delightful film (streaming on Netflix) recommended to me by friends. It is a French film called “Les Noms des Gens” that they have badly translated as “The Names of Love“. It is more appropriate to call it by it’s original title (which means “People’s Names”) as the movie has a lot to do with naming, and how we see ourselves through the lenses of our names. It is also about how society views us by our names, how we look, and our perceived cultures. In a nutshell, the film tells the story of a politically left wing woman who sleeps around with as many very conservative men as she can find, in order to convert them from their right wing beliefs. The film is a farce, a smart screwball political comedy, and a love story all rolled into one. It was a total treat and I highly recommend it. The only caveat I have is that some of the humor plays off of the specifics of French political culture, so some things may have less than their full punch or meaning to someone not familiar with French politics.

Traffic

28
Dec
2011

I awoke with a start this morning (my alarm always startles, that is its purpose after all), with the barest remnants of a strange dream. Here they are. I was with my ex, Brian, and we were driving (in separate cars) to the outskirts of San Francisco, but it didn’t look like San Francisco. It looked like a cross between Los Angeles and Indianapolis, and the traffic was terrible. We kept driving around, desperately trying to find a place to stop. Then I was in a body shop / garage with my car, waiting to pick it up while Brian went to park his somewhere close by. Their system for finding the cars they were working on was byzantine, with rotating racks of numbers not unlike the ones that clothes go round on at the cleaners. Finally they got me my car back and I parked it right outside, wondering where Brian was after all this time. I called him and he was in a fit about finding parking but finally had. I told him we would walk into town and he freaked out. He absolutely hated walking and wondered why I couldn’t just drive us to where we were going despite the traffic. I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, but he was screaming mad about it. Other than that, I remember watching some crazy live fashion show/ advertising campaign in the lobby of some building while waiting for him to join me and thinking, I could do better than that….

Fresh is contagious

27
Dec
2011

Now that my professional website is updated, I am really itching to update the design on this very blog. But alas, it will have to wait, as I have a (to borrow an expression from my friend Mo) high class problem: tons and tons of current work. It is funny how the ups and downs of freelancing go. One minute, you have no work or very little (October, for example) and the next you are flush. This, I think, is the hardest part for many people when considering working for themselves: the uncertainty. If you have the temperament for it though (and I most definitely do), I think it is far more rewarding than working for someone else on a set schedule. To name just a few of the practical benefits: No rush hour commute, shopping/errands when the stores are empty, taking a walk outside whenever you want, setting your own hours of work, setting your own places of work, variety of work and clients, and more. These benefits far outweigh the perceived security of a regular, full time job. At least for me they do.

We can all stop grimacing now

26
Dec
2011

With ever increasing frequency over the past few months, I would cringe a little when people asked me for the address of my professional website so they could check out my work. This was because although I was very happy with it when I first launched it, that was back in 2009. The site was definitely showing its age. I had updated the work section a little since that time, but I was feeling less and less convinced that it was presenting me and my work in the best light. I have resolved many times since then to redesign the site, but something (usually other work thankfully) got in the way.

Then last week I was at a party where I met (as I often do) a potential client. I winced as I gave him my contact info with the URL to my work site. It could not go on like this, I thought. I had to at least redo the work section if nothing else. So I resolved to just put up a simple, clean showcase of a few projects, nothing else. This would just be a quick redo so that potential clients could see and understand the work better, and not have to wade through all the other information about me that was cluttering the old site. Just something I could quickly add to or edit, and a placeholder until such time as I could redesign the entire site properly. I would just spend a few hours on it, nothing fancy.

Yeah, right.

Four days of almost constant work and tweaking later, I finally have a new website. And although I spent far more time on it than I originally had envisioned, I am very happy with it. Like most of my sites these days, it is based on WordPress, which will make it super easy to update (as opposed to my last site), and I will be able to modify the template much more easily over time.

So please, check out the new site here, and let me know what you think!

 

What is art in a market economy?

3
Dec
2011

The New York Times has a fascinating article this morning about a group of expert forgeries attributed to some very well known modern artists. Millions of dollars are at stake as art collectors and investors have been duped into purchasing works they believed to be authentic creations from Motherwell, Rothko, Pollock and others. Reading the article, one can’t help but notice the sheer panic of “art lovers” cast adrift in a sea of uncertainty around questions of authenticity. And this is the sad state of art in a capitalist society, where nothing is appreciated separately from its market value. And where the market value of something has nothing to do with intrinsic value, only what the market will bear. Although this idea is often presented as hardy and utilitarian, it is in most cases the opposite of that, and offends a common sense interpretation of things. I have long believed that art should be public, and that great ideas and works presented by artists are necessarily corrupted when produced for the private art market. Especially while the artist is alive and reaping the financial reward, it is rather like producing advertorial content in a magazine. As long as works are for sale, what guides the artist’s inner vision? Is it what sells? Is it what interests the artist? Is it social or political commentary? Maybe the artist divides between private, “not for sale” work and public “pay the bills” work. And who could blame him or her? We all need to eat.

But to the Art Market, the ideas or forms represented in the work are very much beside the point. They deal only in market value and in manipulation of levers that add to value, such as rarity or scarcity. This is especially true of art photography, printing, or sculpture moulds, which have at their very heart ideas about reproducibility and mass production. The output is intentionally limited to increase value. One can see why the same rules do not exactly apply to other art forms such as writing or film making, where they are intended to be communicative to as wide a range as possible. Those works are meant to be seen, and widely. Again this is the problem of art in the hands of private collectors, that the art is shut out from the rest of the world, unable to interact in a discourse with the culture around it.

And this is the rather amusing joke that has now been played on these collectors who claim to care about art. On the one hand, nothing at all has changed about the paintings they supposedly love and have collected. They still have them, can still look at them closely, appreciate the work in close quarters, revel in the meaning or technique or whatever. On the other hand, they have been duped. These works are not original to the artists in question. They suddenly lack authenticity, and for the collectors all value has gone out of them. Why is that? Is the form or content suddenly different? Would they have purchased these works for any reason at such exorbitant pricing (or any price) if it were only about the work, and not about the investment? Of course not.