Discover more from Scenes with Simon
Tending The Gardens of Creativity
Also: New Provenance in NFTs, AI & The Writer's Strike, and West End Girls
While I’ve always created: from games, music, websites, code, economics, art, novels, the works, I sometimes find myself alone: putting things out in the world and being greeted by only one or two passersby peering over my hedge with curiosity, smiling out of politeness, and then going on their way. It’s something that you get used to. When the world has moved on, you have to still enjoy what you’ve made. It’s the most singular important part of being any kind of creator: if no one is there to clap you on the back, you must enjoy it, for its own sake.
These days, writing to 188 of you, I’m back in my garden, mostly tending it for my own sake. I write first, because I want to understand myself. Only when it is extruded into words - given some sunshine - does it feel like the thoughts can breathe. But, sometimes, you still wonder: is this for someone else, and not for me?
It is thus, a joy, to read Jay Springett’s ode to creativity this week, having it resonate strongly: a reminder to tend your garden of creativity, always for its own sake.
Do not let the garden be overrun by weeds, The needs of retweets, likes and follows are unhelpful allies. Resist the siren’s call of engagement from beyond the sea. Pursue authenticity. Know thyself; for in the depths of you, the purest art is born.
For the artist who persists, who commits to the doing of the doing, rhythm becomes its own sanctuary. Forge ahead.
Like the heroes of epics past, let one’s creative odyssey be a saga of perseverance and triumph. But know too there is as much glory in the garden as on the battlefield. You do not have to fight to be remembered, good soil is appreciated by all plant, beast and being a like.
Tending a garden takes time – do a little every day.
A fear I have, is that I will become trapped in feeding an ego to produce a similarity of works for the sake of it: growing a garden that’s unnaturally kept alive, like the monoculture of suburban grass lawns. When seasons change, it dies.
It’s why I enjoy sucking at things. The joy of learning. The joy of becoming. The joy of being unafraid to look stupid. And, what I’ve learned, as Jay says, it takes time. Every day, a little.
The work at first may flourish. Bear generous fruit, enjoyed by both the artist and the audience. But beware, however long or brief the blooming, it will lose its lustre. Guests will leave and once again the artist will find themselves all alone. They must return to work, sowing and pruning, finding fulfilment in the doing.
I practically just want to quote the entire article, so, please just go read it. If you are a creator of any kind that has been through the seasons of creativity, it will resonate. To other creators, what’s the journey been like for you?
Thanks for reading Scenes with Simon! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
New Provenance NFTs
I’ve been more and more loudly banging the drum that NFTs should be recontextualized as provenance-first, socially signed culture. It was born from a market, but it still remains in that context. Luckily, there’s more and more projects that use the provenance layer as its medium for artistic expression.
One such project that recently finished is Burak Arikan’s Social Contracts, capturing the network that exists on blockchains.
Another example is 0xDEAFBEEF’s new CHRONOPHOTOGRAPH.
It’s inspired by the work of Eadweard Muybridge who captured people and animals in motion, frame by frame.
With Chronophotograph, user who own the animations (as NFTs) can trigger a shutter release, capturing a sequence of frames that in itself becomes collectible. What’s smart about it, is that involves the addition of a ‘photographer’: someone who executes this shutter release on each animation. It gives more opportunity for a wider selection of contributors to add/sign their relationship with the work and have it be recorded in the provenance of the artwork. It reminds of me's great take on adding more psychological ownership to the NFTs. I was a photographer for one of the Chronophotographs, and no matter who owns it, I will always have some affinity to this bird, flapping its wings.
If you have more NFT projects that directly use provenance as part of the medium, please link it!
Son Lux and The Musical Easter in Everything Everywhere All At Once
I’ve been a longtime fan of Son Lux and their score adds a wonderful ethereal quality to one of the best films ever made. Little did I know that there’s actually a meta musical theme incorporated in the film that comes from Son Lux’s own history. It adds to the meaning of the scene. Watch it and be amazed! Have any links to easter eggs like this in other films?
AI & The Writer’s Strike
The Hollywood Writer’s Strike is in full swing.has a really great article on it, detailing the issues, particularly around how streamers have up-ended traditional film and TV distribution (and its impact on writers).
The issue with the streamers aside, I find the conversation around AI in writing quite interesting. It’s complicated. Last week, I argued that because you can’t always be deliberate and that AI is supposed to be opinionated, it just won’t be able to compete with a writer who knows what they are doing.
To put it differently: AI is going to leave a lot more Chekov guns lying around than what certain stories need. It feels like if a toddler wades through your story, leaving things strewn about.
I still struggle to see how AI can be deliberate as to why it needs to show something. To be deliberate and precise with AI eventually hits you up into a complexity limit. To fully describe it, turns the mere model into all of reality.
But, as the discussions point out: great writers *would* be able to take AI generated al dente spaghetti thrown on a wall and actually make it stick. In all honesty, I think TV & Film writers won’t really be at risk. Great TV shows will remain and people will watch them.
The bigger risk is that AI might create new kinds of entertainment that crowd out everything else (eg, the looming threat of the everything-derivative, infinite fan-fic mashups). For example, it’s more threatening if a streamer creates new IP that works really well with becoming infinite fan-fic. You are Balenciaga, WGA.
The reality is, these trends aren’t new. AI just keeps the train moving. Distribution is king in a world where we are all, already storytellers empowered by technology. The true struggle of the artist and writer is still to do the *hard thing*.
I’ll say it again. You can’t automate authenticity:
Writers deserve protection. I’m all for the unions. To hell with Hollywood Accounting. But, where the WGA currently fits in, I don’t think that it is going to need to worry that much from AI on merits of storytelling. The Balenciaga fan-fic wolves feels like it is elsewhere.
Spawning & Consent Layer of AI
I’ve been following what the Spawning team have been doing lately, and I’m glad they are succeeding. I think my principles are fairly aligned currently with their approach. I think changing copyright or data-mining law to account for AI training and models can be longer-term more detrimental (by essentially giving those who have power to litigate, more control. It’s better to have a social consent layer doing this work. It ties into the analysis from Andres around the case of the photographer suing LAION. It’s likely that he has no grounds, BUT, as Andres rightfully points out at the end:
I have to admit that my initial reading of the case was dismissive of Mr. Kneschke’s claims, but the more I have looked into it, the more I think that this could go all the way. Speaking selfishly as an academic interested in this area of the law, I hope it does; we could get a few important explorations of difficult legal questions that are still open. Is training covered by the transient copy exception? If not, what is the reach of Articles 3 and 4? What is a research institution? When does the opt-out kick in? Something else I’d like to see discussed is damages. What is damage is the claimant asking for?
But perhaps most importantly, if someone comes asking you to remove some links from a database, it may be a good idea to just do it. You may lose €800, but win the world.
LAION might have legitimate reasons to want to avoid complying with many people asking them to remove links, but it still felt like a dick move to slap the photographer with an unjustified claim and request to pay said fees to do so.
New York City with less cars AND less trash?!
New York City could finally enter the reality of many modern cities by actually just adding trash containers. No more leaving trash in the street. The catch, apparently, is that 150,000 parking spots might have to be sacrificed. Well, now that the federal government has okay-ed the MTA to do congestion pricing in lower Manhattan, maybe, just maybe we might see a New York City with less cars, less trash, and less rats. Who could possibly want such a thing?!
New York after all outranks all other USA + Canadian in its dense urbanism.
Star Wars Visions 2 & IP Protocols
Mac Budkowski makes a compelling case for thinking about storytelling universes as protocols. They set a framework for how it can be expanded upon (both codified and in norms). I find this sometimes both necessary, but also frustrating. Some of the best Star Wars in recent years has been the Visions shorts. Season 2 came out this week (may the 4th be with you)!
It’s amazing and really breathes a new kind of life into the story world of Star Wars. But, it’s not “canon”. I really wish Lucasfilm would take more chances like this. To break out a bit of the current protocols they’ve built for themselves.
My favourite in Visions 2 was Spy Dancer. Did you watch it? Which one was your favourite?
West End Girls
I know Pet Shop Boys. But, I don’t know why I somehow missed their most famous track for so long. It’s been on repeat for days now.
Enjoy! Are there any hits of the past that you missed out on and recently discovered?
See you all next week. Enjoy a sunset!
Thanks for reading Scenes with Simon! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.