Category Archives: Misc

Of What Value is Art?

I just watched a show on art forgery and it got me thinking.

There’s this painting.  At first, it’s just a nice little painting in the Renaissance style.  Some guy paid a couple thousand dollars for it and hung it in his restaurant.

Then someone said it was most definitely from the Renaissance, and the painting suddenly got a lot more valuable.  Tens of thousands of dollars.

Then someone said it was a Da Vinci, and suddenly it was worth millions.  No, hundreds of millions.  Hell no, it’s priceless.

Then it goes before a panel of experts.  Some say it’s genuine.  It’s sublime.  It’s for realz.

But some say it doesn’t reflect Da Vinci’s genius. They pull out a magnifying glass and point to obscure details, like these brush strokes are 10 degrees too close to the vertical.  It’s definitely not a Da Vinci.

But someone carbon dates the vellum, and it’s from the Renaissance period.  Well.  Maybe it is a Da Vinci.

Not so fast!  A master forger shows how he can take an old painting, scrape off the paint, and paint a copy of a Monet on top of it.  This guy’s painting looks like the real thing, even when put next to the real thing.  He put a modern forgery on ancient canvas.  Carbon dating proves nothing.

So…. now what?

They bring in more technology.

We get X-rays, super high res photos, color filters, infra-red cameras, digital re-layering, 3D reproductions, extreme magnification, side-by-side comparisons with the Mona Lisa.  Special software.  Statistical comparison.  Historians.  Fashion experts.  Hairstyle experts.  Paint experts.

After all that, most, but not all, of these experts say:

It’s a fake.  Game over, thanks for playing.

Suddenly the painting is worth nothing.

What the hell — it’s still the same damned painting!  It hasn’t changed in the least.  The only thing that has changed is who people think painted it.

And it took a couple dozen experts with Terminator technology to figure that out.  No one could tell if they stood back and admired it.  You know, like the way you are supposed to appreciate art.

So that begs some fascinating questions:

When people buy art, what are they paying for?  The painting, or the artist?

Isn’t good art worth the same, no matter who created it?

Why is Picasso’s toilet paper worth more than an art student’s masterpiece?

I’ve seen the Mona Lisa up close, and she is captivating.  I’ve gaped at the Sistine Chapel in awe.  I loved Blue Water Lilies before I knew who painted it.  But this little painting I got in Mexico by some street artist for $10, well… it’s mine, and it makes me happy.

Six Tired Senses

I watch a lot of late night TV.  Fortunately, I watch it during the day.

Basic cable channels repeat their shows at night.  You could say it’s because there is not enough programming to fill fifty thousand cable channels.  And you would be right.

But me, I consider the convenience.  I can plug my shows into the DVR before I go to bed, then watch them the next day.

There is one problem, though.  These late night commercials are really lacking in imagination and production value.

Instead of famous people and snazzy special effects, as is the preference with prime time commercials, these late night gems rely on giant fonts and direct assaults on one of my five basic senses.

First, there are the ads that appeal to my sense of lust.  They have women of questionable legal age telling me how much fun I will have if I pick up the phone and call some number.  Do it now!

phonebabe

Well, I would love to believe that every girl on this chat line will be as hot as them.  I would love to believe that I could find Miss Right (or even Miss Right Now) with a simple phone call.  I would love to believe it’s not going to be a bunch of lonely guys talking to a few professionals at five bucks a minute.

But I don’t.

Plus there is this thing called The Internet, where you get pictures too…

realphonebabe

Next is my sense of greed.  Every fourth commercial is a lawyer telling me I could be entitled to some money.  All I need is a bad hip transplant, fallen vaginal mesh, infection after surgery, or other stuff I can’t pronounce.  They list symptoms so broad that even I could qualify for a fallen vaginal mesh.  (They don’t list the vagina.)

Others appeal to my sense of vengeance.  If I was injured in an accident, I should sue whoever hit me, because it wasn’t my fault, and these kind lawyers only want to help me get what I deserve.  (The emphasis is theirs.)

It’s empowering to know if I can’t sue a doctor, I can still sue ordinary people.

Then there is my sense of fear.  Pharmaceutical companies have ads that list ten symptoms and if I have three of them it means I have this horrible disease and I should mention some official-sounding drug to my doctor next time I see him… which had better be tomorrow.

Problem is all these drugs start to sound the same.  Best to just mention them all.

And let’s not forget the long list of side effects that sound worse than the disease.  The commercial reels them off in a soothing voice against soothing music while showing beautiful scenes of beautiful people doing beautiful things.

superb 4-hour erection

I don’t care if Xylosferitrapitol is an anti-depressant that can cause depression — I want to look like those people!  Give me some of that!

Next is my sense of ignorance.  These guys tell me they know why my PC is running slowly. It seems fine to me… but now that you mention it, yeah, it should be faster.  It’s a computer, right?

Of course these guys have the cure.  Just buy this free program (you only pay shipping and handling) and let it run roughshod all over your computer and look through all your data and do God-knows-what with your bank accounts and family pictures.

Fortunately, I’m not ignorant.  I know this free program will actually slow my PC down by loading it with crapware, and they will sell my data to the highest bidder.

crapware

Of course if I don’t like it, I can send the free program back.  I only have to pay shipping and handling again.

Word of advice: don’t use anything for your computer that is advertised on TV.  A quick scan of the interwebs for things like ‘removing crapware’ or ‘scan for malware’ will find lots of advice from well respected places for removing crap from your computer.  And Windows users — don’t forget the one from Microsoft, which is free and offers some of the best protection out there.

Oops, I almost forgot my sixth sense.  Some guys have ESP.  They can read my mind.

Three commercials in a row declare they know why I’m awake.  They each give different reasons… but they are all wrong.

I am not awake because I am worrying about fitting into my pants, or because I owe the IRS money, or because I want pancakes in the morning.

I am awake because I am watching this in the middle of the day.

So they can’t really read minds.  A pity.

That is something that would actually interest me.

P.S. when I googled “vaginal mesh” the top hit was a Wikipedia page explaining it was to correct female genital prolapse.  The other hits were all lawyers.  From this I conclude that lawyers make more money from this than doctors.  Or patients.

P.P.S. stay away from phone sex.  It causes hearing AIDS! 😛

Our permanent state of superultrahyperbole

According to Webster, hyperbole is “the representation of something in terms that go beyond the facts”.

In other words, it’s lying.

In fiction, or comedy, hyperbole is acceptable because everyone knows you are exaggerating for effect.  You are trying either to impress or amuse.

There are clichés like “my head feels like a freight train ran through it”, or “she made enough food to feed an army”, or the directly related “she has as many chins as a Chinese phone book”.  Those are exaggeration for effect, and not meant to be funny.  More sad.

However, and of course, hyperbole is the cornerstone of humor.  Jacob Cohen got a lot of respect for statements like, “And we were poor too. Why, if I wasn’t born a boy, I’d have nothing to play with.”

And what comedian hasn’t tried something like: “My dick is so big, I entered it in a contest and it came in first.  And second.  And third.”

Unless the comedian is a comedienne I suppose, but then she would do a boob joke.  Or a thighs joke.  Or a shoes joke.  Oh good God! the shoes.  The streets are paved in shoes.  How many feet do women have…

My point is, hyperbole in certain situations is expected.  However, hyperbole in news articles is unacceptable.

It used to be restricted to tabloids, but it’s leaking into mainstream media as well.  See if you have noticed the following trends:

  • anything apparent is blatant
  • anything obvious is glaring
  • every misfortune is a nightmare
  • anything unexpected is a shocker
  • anything shocking is a bombshell
  • anything ugly is a horror
  • every worry is a terror
  • every disagreement is a slam
  • every debate is a crisis
  • every trend is an epidemic
  • any expression of surprise is a freakout
  • everything hidden is a “secret shame”
  • every shame is a disgrace
  • every disgrace is a scandal
  • anything romantic is steamy
  • every want is a “desperate desire”
  • every setback is a failure
  • every disappointment is a disaster

Most people don’t even notice anymore.  When you are in a permanent state of hyperbole, it becomes the new normal.

Soon we will need the superhyperbole.  Then the ultrahyperbole.  Then the superultrahyperbole.

Or we can boycott any news media that has to exaggerate to get your attention.

Because — think about it — if it really was worth your attention, they wouldn’t need to exaggerate.

A couple of quickies: another Audible update, and better buds

First, no doubt being prompted and encouraged by my review of their last update, Audible has released another update to their iPhone app.

They added two more narration speeds (0.75x and 1.25x) and a shorter sleep timer option (8 minutes).

The 0.75x speed does slow the narration down, and the pitch correction stops your alto narrator from turning into a baritone (just like it stops said narrator from turning into a chipmunk when sped up).  Unfortunately it sounds all echoey with the two books I tried.

Why would you want to slow a book down, anyway?  Trying to stretch your Audible credits as much as possible?

The 1.25x narration speed works well, and sounds really natural.  I expect it will become the default speed for a lot of people, especially with non-fiction books.

But who asked for an 8 minute sleep timer?  Who falls asleep that fast?  Someone call a somnambulance.

They also fixed a bug with the sleep timer not working when running multiple apps — something I never noticed.  And they promise a volume control in a future update.  I guess people miss it.  I don’t, really.  I just use the normal volume up/down controls.

Second, I wanted to update my review on Jaybird JF3 Freedom Bluetooth earbuds.  I had forgotten to test the microphone sound quality for voice calls.

In my review of my first set of buds, I had said the microphone sucked.  Well I’m happy to report that it no longer does.

I have made several calls now and the voice quality is good on both ends.  It needs a quiet environment though — once I walked into an Arby’s while talking and my friend got a blast of background conversation, even though the place was relatively quiet.  Apparently they still need improvement on filtering out ambient noise.  It does work well outside though, even with a light wind.

New Audible app pleases the eyes, too

Audible updated their iPhone app last week to version 2.0.  I don’t see a corresponding Android update but on their website but I’m sure it’s coming.   I’ve been using the new app daily (of course) ever since it came out and I love it.

Here are the release notes.

Not much there, right?  (sardonic grin with Rock-style eyebrow lift)

Well the iPad support is a big deal for those who have them, and being able to download more MB over 3G is nice for people with no wifi and lots of money (or unlimited 3G).

But the “complete visual overhaul” line bears some expansion…

First, there is a new icon — it’s cleaner and more industrial looking:

audible_icon

The main screen is also cleaner and more industrial looking:

audible_skin

You can see they removed the chapter skip buttons, which is reason enough to upgrade for me.  I kept hitting the damned things by accident when I wanted to pause.

They also removed the volume slider, which I miss a little, but we still have the volume buttons on the side (remember those?).  Plus my Jaybird earbuds have a volume control too.

I use the 20 second rewind button a lot, and that is right there.  It’s the audio equivalent of rereading that last sentence, because your attention wandered for a moment.  Or because the phone rang in the middle of a virtual paragraph and you lost the virtual thread upon its actual resumption.

Next to the Play button is the “add bookmark” button, which I am starting to use more and more.  A quick tap every so often helps you find your place if you lose it.  (Yes this is a problem for me.)

The sleep button in the bottom left will “sleep” the app after selectable 15 minute increments, or at end of chapter.  It’s now a simple dropdown instead of a silly spinner.  Note this is really a pause, it doesn’t sleep the phone or anything.  That’s up to your normal phone sleep settings.

The speed button on the bottom right is useful if you are in a hurry to read your book, but I enjoy my books, so I wouldn’t use that.  Actually I lied: I used it once to find my place in a chapter after my mind wandered for an extended period.

So where was I?  Oh yeah, the main screen.  Now, if you want to move forward or back a chapter, you have to use the chapter list.  This is much easier to get at though — just tap on the “Chapters and Bookmarks” button at the bottom.  It brings up the Details, Chapter, and Bookmark viewer, which is now just the Chapter and Bookmark viewer.  Other than losing the Details (see below) the interface is much the same as before, except updated for the new industrial skin.

The book details are now available anytime by hitting the little “i” at the top right of the screen.  This is an easily overlooked change that, to me, really ties everything together.  Just like the book jacket it replaces.  You can see it is not only pretty but is a tribute to the book, which is after all the reason you got this app in the first place:

audible_book_jacket

At the bottom is a swipe pad which brings up the button free screen.  Here you can use swipes to fast forward, rewind, pause, or add a bookmark.  The screen hasn’t changed, just is easier to get to.  Seems like a gimmick to me; I don’t use it.

Speaking of gimmicks, the “Me” menu hasn’t changed much.  It still has our somewhat interesting listening stats and those silly badges.  Cue the obligatory “we don’t need no stinking badges” joke.

As before, you get to the Me menu by tapping the back button from the main screen to get to the main menu area:

audible_main

You can see this is also much cleaner.  The library is now one level instead of several confusing submenus, with non-downloaded books simply greyed out.

And note the oversized book cover icon in the middle — that’s actually a button that zips you back to the main screen.

And note the star at the top left: this allows you to access help and modify some app settings, such as the 20 second rewind time.  You can make it a 10 second rewind time.  Or 30.  And yes, the button on the main screen updates with the new number.  Slick, huh?

Have you tried the new app yet?  What do you think?

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