Is regret regrettable?

You often hear the phrase “I have no regrets” thrown around. It is a dishonest phrase of course, but even if it were true is that such a good thing? To regret something is to on reflection admit it was a bad decision. Ultimately, it means if I were to do it again I would definitely choose a different way. And in that I see a great sense of wisdom and humility.

If you have no regrets, do you A – not regret your decisions even though some of them were not great (i.e. regrettable) or B – because you are perfect and never make mistakes. If B is true, please get in touch! Most likely it is A, in which case, to have no regrets shows a certain lack of self remorse and self-empathy.

My point here really, is nothing new. I simply wish to say that reflecting on your actions is a positive step. If we just ignore what we have done in the past, we are likely to make the same mistakes, then get frustrated because – guess what – we have been here before.

Of course, there is a balance to be struck. Regretting every little mishap is not helpful, but even with larger mistakes, it is not skilful to be constantly regretful. Regret, can bring suffering to one’s life if they are not able to distance themselves from it. If we observe regret as a thought or an emotion we can still experience it, but we can also not identify with it. Further, it is important to realise that not everything is under our control, often we make the best decision, but for unforeseen or purely unavoidable circumstances, it does not turn out as expected. This we should not regret; it is unfair and unwise too.

Ultimately, I think regret should serve as a reminder. A simple way to keep us in check and try to minimise our errors. I hope I do not regret writing this post.

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The awkward gap between the physical and digital world

Everyone loves to write or at least everyone prefers to write than to type. It might not be as secure or safe as its digital counterpart, but it’s easy and enjoyable. Despite iPads and Surfaces, nothing beats pen and paper. Will it ever? I presume so, but I don’t see the technology in existence today. There are three hurdles that we have yet to overcome:

  • Texture – Writing on glass is uncomfortable and unnatural, whereas, paper provides and ideal amount of friction.
  • Ease – Although, taking an iPad around with you isn’t much harder than carrying around a notepad, what about when you forget your iPad or its out of charge?
  • Nostalgia – This is definitely the smallest hurdle and one I see dying out if the first to hurdles are solved, but people thought typing would replace writing and it hasn’t.

I am hopeful that these hurdles can be straddled. The second one I see being the most challenging. How can you make something as accessible and easy as paper? Perhaps augmented reality has a role here in providing virtual paper. What makes this particularly difficult is that this is not simply an engineering challenge, it is one that requires a huge shift in many people’s lives.

No matter the technology, the act of writing will need to feel natural. If augmented reality is not fully able to provide this than perhaps in the interim, a hybrid solution will be required. Like the transition from the combustion engine to electric.

Of course we want the perfect solution, but we also want it fairly quickly. The situation now is incredibly awkward. As I write this blog post, I am actually writing it on a sheet of paper. Now I am transcribing it because no technology that exists today is great enough to decipher my handwriting. But even if scanning technologies could decipher the undecipherable, scanning is awkward because it requires every little thought or image that you want to write down to be processed.

I have not yet mentioned reading, which despite what you may think, is done more with a real book than an ebook (in the UK at least)[1]. Even with newspapers which are largely read online, their readers would often prefer a physical paper (cost excluded). Although the problem here has different hurdles.

Ease is not a problem – finding reading material on the web is far easier than finding it in print, even if you own a book you have to remember to carry it around with you. Nostalgia and texture play much bigger roles. Reading is about connecting to the writing which is much easier to do with another one of your senses involved (touch).

A waiting game I guess it is.

1. The Guardian – March 2017 – www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/17/paperback-books-sales-outperform-digital-titles-amazon-ebooks

A Poem is Poetry written by a Poet

In my not-so-well defined quest to behave more like an artist, I would like to dedicate this week’s post to poetry. And just like the topic of my previous post, I think that poetry is often misunderstood. The difference this time is that I feel like I am one of the ill informed.

I never cared for poems,
Never saw their use,
What good is writing
without being profuse?

As you can see, I don’t understand poetry, but I would really like to. Reading poems gives me great pleasure from the voice in my head that dedicates itself to this task. He reads with a beat, but not a static beat, one willing to change. I digress. I enjoy reading poems, but I don’t understand why or how. What are they for? Pure entertainment? Outbursts of genius? I don’t have a clue.

A man once said:
This is no song,
This is a poem,
Don’t get it so wrong

I must admit writing these little poems is good fun. I realise they are no good, but they are incredibly joyous to write.

I fell in love with poems,
Not a first sight,
But from Patterson,
The bus driver,
Who never pulled a fight

That last so-called poem is a reference to the brilliant film, Patterson. In which a bus driver named Patterson (played by Adam Driver) writes poems. It had an esoteric feel, but this gave it such charm that I fell in love with it and poetry.

I think that’s enough for this week. I suppose this week is like a homework assignment: write poems!

Love Classical Music

There is no genre as misunderstood as classical music, perhaps with the only competition being jazz in this regard. Millennials generally despise it, generation X generally ignore it, and the baby boomers are about fifty-fifty, and the older generations generally admire it. A lot has been done to enthuse the genre and pass it onto the next generation. However, most attempts just water down the music which pleases no one.

I believe that anyone can love classical music. An understanding of classical music is all I ask for. That is what will make one love it. No amount of persuasion or forcefulness will change someone’s mind. This love can then develop to other music forms, as it naturally will.

Tempo, orchestration and melody may sound like jargon to some, used by those who treat music as if it where designed by people in white lab coats. But, in reality you just cannot understand music without these elements. No matter the culture or the geographical location these concepts come up.

Unlike, films or even books. The genres of music, have exploded in a very short timeframe relative to its age. Music is as old as Lucy. Whilst many forms of music have existed for tens of thousands of years, its development is on the timescale of entire species, whereas literature has only existed since circa 3100 BC (wikipedia article). That is why you will learn more about music from classical music than from classic films about films. In short, music developed more chronologically than spatially.

Therefore, instead of classical music just being another genre like rock or pop, it was the music of its day. The classical period was a mindset on the creation of music, not just music that shared similar instruments or rhythms. And that mindset was a deep understanding of the musical concepts (wikipedia article), therefore you can (in a way) deconstruct a piece and understand what is going on.

It’s a bit like an engineer building a bridge, bridges existed well before the faculty of engineering, but the bridges built by engineers follow the concepts of bridge building. You can still study pre-engineer bridges, but it makes it a lot easier and will give you a firmer ground if you start with bridges designed by engineers. And whilst music post-classical (should I dare use that term) employ the same techniques, the classical period provides such a good basis, that you would be shooting yourself in the foot to ignore it.

Now I should convince you why from this understanding you will find love. To be honest, I cannot, but I can say that I have not known a person well-versed in music who has not all but love for classical music.

A good place to start would be to listen, look around, find a piece you will adore, it shan’t take too long. I personally love Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas (no. 9, 15, 21 and 31 in particular). There are a plethora of great resources for learning a bit about music, but one that is free and very worthwhile is a series of lectures from Yale that is free to watch on YouTube (series of lectures).

One final point I need to make is that this is not about studying music every time you listen to it. Instead its about understanding what makes the music you love so lovely. You will hear time measures, dynamic shifts etc. and these will all allow you to fully engage in a piece. Instead of using music as background noise, have it as entertainment.

Life

As I decide the topic of this weeks blog post, I look out my window into the piano black autumn night. I see a flickering. A frantic panic it seems, like a young child drowning. On a closer look, it is a moth, but despite its spasm it is not moving anywhere. Into my view pops a spider, making pace towards the moth. We all know what happens now. For minutes the moths flaps – a futile effort, but little does it know. I sit there helpless, knowing of the fate of this moth. A tap on the glass has  no effect.

At this point, the moth moves its antennae, a last hoorah. The spider will not give mercy, tightening its grip each second. Each leg clinging to the moth like a spraydeck to a kayak. The moth is still alive.

After a frightfully cold night, early in the morning before the sun stretches it arms across the land, the moth is there, but completely anonymous. Like a victim with no name.

I don’t like to draw out a grandiose meaning from an everyday occurrence, it always feels contrived, so I won’t here. But it did get me to ask a question on life: how valuable is it? We deem life to be sacrosanct with no competitor for value. Of course, there is good evolutionary reason to think this because if I value life above all else, I will reduce my chance of death. For example, if I am hungry I will eat to avoid death, but if that food requires a risk to my life, I will not be so enthusiastic. It is apparent in all creatures, for example, the moth tried to stay alive – the best way it could – by franticly flapping around, trying to break free of the spider.

Blog Consolidation

It’s time for some changes. For too long this blog has been left stagnant and ignored – all but for my very infrequent posts. It is time to actually do something about it.

First of all, content on the blog has been too varied. When writing a blog it is good to think, just as when writing a book, “who will be reading this”. For a blog, it requires someone to come back week after week to see what’s new. In reviewing my blog posts of the past, I don’t see quality as the issue, but the disconnection between posts: a lack of a theme or topic. You may notice that there are three tags to the blog: Art, Society and Technology; and four categories: Opinion, Tip, Review and Update.

This system of categorisation, on review, is not very meaningful. But this is not the problem, the problem lays in the way I approach blogging:    

Diagram

At no stage is the question “does this align with the blog” come up. From now on it will.

The next hurdle, is closely related to the first, and that is the sporadic nature of posts: few and far between. This does not make it easy for a reader to come back to read the blog. From the diagram above, you can see where this comes from. A blog post appears on the blog whenever I complete stage 3 which is clearly not very often.

So from now on: a blog every Sunday with a topic relevant to the blog.

Design changes may be made, but the changes to the blog will be meaningful, not just painting over a cracked wall.

The Honeycomb film review model

Models. They are great. They let us break things down, get closer to what really matters and fully comprehend the situation. If only the world had more models.

Film reviewing has always remained a dark art to me. I’ve tried to review films and failed every time (without fail). I have concluded that film critique requires skill and practice, therefore I will leave it to the professionals. But as an engineer (studying), I love abstraction. Hence, my love for models.

Here I present my proposal for critique of a film, in an abstract manner, with something I call the Honeycomb film review model. It looks at the success of a film like a honeycomb. There are four somewhat discreet echelons.

1. A great, almost perfect film is a completed honeycomb with maybe a few hexagons lacking some honey. Examples: Dunkirk, Bridge of Spies

2. A dishevelled film lacking direction – one that would be better if it was completely remade. These films aren’t necessarily awful (although they can be), they might be good to watch but not feel complete. Examples: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World

3. A good, fun film. Most people will like it, including the critics, but it’s not great. These films are a completed honeycomb, but not with the finest quality honey. Examples: Logan, Spiderman: Homecoming

4. This is the most variant group. The honeycomb is basically complete but a lot of the hexagons are half filled. These films are not necessarily awful (but can be), they just have some major flaws which can completely ruin the film or be overlooked. These are the type of films which critics dispute over. They evoke strong feelings, creating two poles – hate or love. Examples: The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Interstellar

The beauty of this model (if I may say so myself) is that it’s more objective than subjective. For instance, the fourth band is where opinions will differ most strongly. In the first two echelons, there will of course be disagreements on the quality of the film, but a consensus is likely to be reached.

One flaw I see immediately with this model is the lack of a place for films that critics love but viewers hate. Perhaps, they belong in the first group, but that could mean that this model has a bias towards critics opinions. Furthermore, films like the latest Transformers movie would firmly fall in the second echelon, yet you will get groups of people who would argue it belongs in at least band 3.