Well, last week I put up a one panel cartoon prompted by my frustration with people who view technology from a purely consumerist point of view – having the latest gadgets just to show that, well, they have the latest gadgets. What irks me is that they put down people who are different than they are. If you like new gadgets and have the money, go ahead, have a blast. Although this sort of behavior is exhibited by men as well as women, it reminded me of certain types of girls in high school who would show off having the latest and greatest whatever. It generally wasn’t technology back then. Then I felt funny about what I drew, contrasting a “bimbo” with a “serious girl.” After drawing it, I realized that I was feeding into stereotypes and that I might have looked like either girl at different moments in my life. Well, I don’t wear heels like that. So, I decided to draw a caricature of myself circa 1987. I found a red satin men’s smoking jacket in a thrift shop that I just loved. I used to throw it over a short stretch cotton mini-skirt and a black tank top. I usually wore dark tights so I didn’t have to worry about crossing my legs. I also had a pair of soft leather booties what were incredibly comfortable. I’d wear them whether or not they matched. After a while, a couple of friends started teasing me about my “elf boots.” Yes, elf boots and big hoop earings. That’s just the kind of gal I am.
As I said at the outset of this blog, I’ve been posting every day because in the past, when I’ve started blogs, I’ve posted lots and lots at first and then slowly taper off until I have one of those zombie blogs. I may still have two zombie blogs here on WordPress. So I post something, anything, every day – even if it’s just a picture. Today, I’m feeling too blue even for a picture post.
The post I’m planning on putting up on Wednesday is about getting my hair cut in seventh grade. That sounds really trivial, but it fact it was a turning point in my adolescence because, quite accidentally, I stumbled on the trick to being “cool” rather than a “nerd.” You see, I suffer from mild social anxiety, although I didn’t know it for most of my life because I was able to cover it up successfully. I thought everyone was just a little bit nervous in social situations. I would have put myself in the “slightly shy and certainly introspective” category rather than the “gregarious and outgoing” category, but I believed that I still fell somewhere on the continuum of what most people would consider normal.
I handled social situations by over preparing and bracing for the worst. I’d do my makeup and my hair. I’d choose my clothes carefully. I’m not much for the consumer mentality, but I am very visual and I think I frequently succeeded in looking quite stylish, yet not unoriginal. I’d agonize about going and finally I’d force myself out of the house because I was already showing up a little bit later than was polite. I’d take a deep breath and walk into the room. It could be a classroom or a party. The dynamic was pretty much the same. I’d battle my instinct to slink along the wall like a scared cat. I’d walk into the room, moving close to the center although I usually couldn’t bring myself to actually inject myself into a conversation. Then I’d stand there with my shoulders back and my chin up as if I were defiantly facing a firing squad. What did I get as a reward for a my bravery? People would think I was stuck-up and a snob.
That’s not as bad an outcome as you might think. I learned very young that most people don’t exercise judgement very well, and it’s especially poor in groups. People value things because they see social cues telling them that something is valuable. By accidentally acting as if I thought I was too good for everyone else, other people would perceive me as having something of value. I didn’t need to approach people because they approached me. Of course, every minute of waiting for someone to approach is like dying a million little deaths in my mind. Consequently, I do not choose to go to any and all parties. I pick ones which offer a high return on investment. In some sort of virtuous circle, I appear to other people as picky.
Still, I’ve never ceased being nervous. People saw me as confident and self-possessed. Meanwhile, inside I was a basket-case.
What does this have to do with not feeling like posting? Because time doesn’t work on the internet the way it does in the flesh. In the real world, I’m not up for an argument all the time. When I am, I steal myself for it, so to speak. If I’m feeling vulnerable, or blue, or especially shy, I don’t engage. However, on the internet, you can put up a comment on a day when you’re feeling strong, or silly, or friendly and you might get a response when you’re in a totally differently state of mind.
So someone made me cry this morning. This is not the first time this has happened within the past couple of weeks. I find myself hesitating to comment on other people’s blogs. Most of the people I meet online,I like. I don’t especially want to withdraw, but I’m feeling very conflicted about my presence in certain places.
On the plus side, it’s caused me to try to be a little more sensitive to other people’s feeling when I make comments online.
Anyhow, that’s my post for today.
This wasn’t an easy challenge for me. Since the challenge is posted on Friday, that usually gives me the weekend to come up with something. Escape is a word that means almost nothing to me. My mind was a total blank. Then my sister went away to the beach with a friend for a week. She asked if I had any good “escapist” fiction. I took the lightest stuff from my bookshelf and put in a bag for her. Then I realized that reading was one of my primary means of escape. So I took a whole bunch of novels off my shelf and made this little tableau. There are also books under the chair and on the other side as well, but aesthetically, I liked this photo best. I think you still get the sense of a room cluttered with books even if you don’t see all the books.
Now, I need to go clean up the room.
This week, rather than posting several links I’m just going to post one. Recently, I’ve started reading Ally Fogg’s Heteronormative Patriarchy for Men blog. Apparently, he’s had a WordPress blog for a while but he recently joined Freethought Blogs. His claim to fame is being a white male heterosexual. In other words, he writes critically about gender roles from the point of view of a straight white man. I think he’s British, although most of what he writes could apply to the rest of the English-speaking world, and probably much of the allophone world as well.
Recently, I’ve read quite a few times on blogs known to be feminist the acronym MRA. I written elsewhere about the pitfalls of activist bloggers using terms that will only be understood by a small number of like-minded activist bloggers from your own age cohort, your own social class, your own region and, probably, only your own narrow sub-culture. Finally, I figured out what MRA means. It means “men’s rights activists.” Actually, I’m not even certain of that because I’ve never seen the acronym defined, but those are the words that best fit the usage. As I wrote in an earlier blog post, I don’t assume that men who are interested in men’s rights are inevitably anti-feminist because I was first introduced to men’s rights in a women’s studies class by a male professor who was very obviously and actively supportive of feminism. That he realized that there were issues facing men that feminism didn’t address didn’t turn him into an anti-feminist.
Ally Fogg does not call himself a men’s rights activist, but he does write about gender issues from a man’s perspective and that does occasionally include issues that wouldn’t normally be taken up by feminists, like a recent blog post about the shadow health minister’s comments about masculinity being in crisis. At least most feminists would be unlikely to write about it in a way that would put men’s interests first. Fogg makes some excellent points about the shadow health minister’s speech. I don’t know how things are in Britain, but from the point of view of an American woman going on fifty, the “hyper-masculinity” that Abbot, the shadow health minister, discusses has gotten better than it was when I was younger. The rise of social media and the accessibility of porn has definitely changed some dynamics, but I’m not sure that pornography presents men and women with any greater distortion of gender roles than the average beer ad. Focusing in porn while not worrying about the myriad of other representations of women and sexuality is really not seeing the forest for the trees.
Fogg’s world view is summed up in a post entitled Welcome to Global, Inc. (The actual title is longer, but contains a period which presents me with a punctuation problem.) In it, he creates an elaborate metaphor of the world as a large company. That company has a binder full of its stated rules, but it also has unstated rules and each department has its own internal culture. “But so long as the department is doing well enough, meeting its targets and making profits, the hierarchy at Global Inc doesn’t really mind too much, and doesn’t interfere.”
I have concocted this grand and rather clumsy analogy to illustrate a key point of my political views, which underpins everything I write on this blog and elsewhere. Socialised gender roles are not there by accident. They are functional. Oppressive acts of sexism, misogyny, misandry, racism, homophobia, transphobia, class prejudice and the rest do not arise from individual weakness or venality but because we have all been induced to retain and reinforce them as essential components of our role within the company. Necessary social progress in emancipation, liberation and human rights will be indulged by Global Inc when it can be turned to the company’s advantage – the welcoming of women into the professions, for example – and fiercely resisted when it challenges the bottom line, such as union rights or decent parental leave entitlements.
It is simplistic nonsense to think of patriarchy, in particular, as a system in which men oppress women by choice and for our own interests. Patriarchy often requires men to do horrible things to ourselves, to each other and to women. Patriarchy imposes dominant roles on men whether we want them or not, and punishes us when we fail to fulfil them adequately. It’s all there in the job description. It is equally simplistic nonsense to imagine that male suffering (on the battlefield and in homelessness, suicide rates, alienation and loneliness) is a consequence of women’s behaviour, choices or social liberation.
Anyway, I’ve been finding his blog fairly interesting, so I thought I’d put a link up to it.
Last weekend, my sister and I took a trip to western Maryland. We stayed in a vacation house that was located on the property of a farm. Near the house, there were a couple of mules. One spent most of his time standing underneath a flowering tree. He looked sweet with pale pink petals over the back. The other one, whenever he saw us would come to check us out. I had the distinct feeling that he was a little bit bored and people coming and going were the big events of his day.
First things first: Gimp.
As someone who’s used Adobe’s products for over a decade, I’ve been trying to make sense of what’s been going on with that company lately. Like many of their customers, I have a love-hate relationship with the company. Their products are not cheap. The first version of their Creative Suite that I bought was actually an old version because the computer I had at the time didn’t wasn’t sufficient to run the version that was most current. I remember searching around for an old copy. Even still, it felt like an indulgence, a very expensive toy, because I was not, nor was I ever, a professional graphic artist. I had already been using a stand alone copy of Illustrator for a few years at that point. When I received a digital camera as a gift, I was the first person I knew, outside of the person who had given me the camera, to have a digital camera. At that point, the Creative Suite, bundled with Photoshop, made sense, or at least I could justify spending the money. It came with Adobe’s website editing software, GoLive. I had a bit of fun learning how to make a web page. Eventually, Adobe acquired Macromedia and its products like Flash and Dreamweaver. GoLive, which I preferred to Dreamweaver, was discontinued. However, that didn’t matter much at first because I wasn’t a web designer and I continued to use that old version of the Adobe Creative Suite until that computer went belly up and I had to get a new one.
Generally, I get a new computer when the old one is too dead to repair. I go as long as I can between new machines, which is about a year or two longer than the average. I rarely buy a computer simply because I want something shiny and new.
It’s hard to explain my behavior in terms of the paradigms used by marketing departments. When I was in my mid-thirties, I dated a marketing executive for a time. He told me that he originally wanted to be an engineer, but was rejected by the engineering school because his grades and test scores were not high enough. Instead, he majored in business. He was exceedingly amused by the fact that he now told engineers what to do and made tons more money than they did. Needless to say, he didn’t increase my respect for marketing people. I have been in every category of the Diffusion of Innovations theory. The funniest part of that theory is the ascription of personality traits to what should be functional categories. So the early adopters are “younger in age, have a higher social status, have more financial lucidity, advanced education, and are more socially forward,” while laggards are “focused on “traditions”, likely to have lowest social status, lowest financial fluidity, be oldest of all other adopters, in contact with only family and close friends.” I have been both, sometimes in consecutive years.
I was among the first non-tech people I knew to have a personal computer at home, and the first woman by several years. Consequently, when I don’t like a new innovation, like that jumping paper clip that totally freaked me out, and I’m told that I should accept it because “it’s the future” and my only reason for not embracing it is that I’m “afraid of technology,” I am not convinced. Clearly the person who is saying these things has no clue what he or she is talking about. By making sweeping generalizations about my personality, which I know to be untrue because, after all, it’s my personality, the writer is demonstrating that he or she has no interest in facts or analysis and is posturing for some reason that is beyond my ability to understand. Some of the people I know who are the least interested in touch screens, the most skeptical of “the cloud”, dislike terribly Windows 8 and don’t engage much in “social networking” are tech people. They are not afraid of technology. Mindless consumerism, however, doesn’t appeal to them much.
When Windows 8 was not installing correctly on my computer a few weeks ago, I looked on the internet to see if anyone else had had the same problem and if there was a solution. Instead of finding a discussion of real problems I found article after article of psychic psychologists masquerading as tech writers that helpfully offered that people having problems with Windows 8 were just laggards afraid of the future. Do these people even realize how stupid they look when they write that crap? Hello? You’re a tech writer and you don’t understand “Windows 8 operating system crashes” is not a choice I made?
Finally, I built my new computer, yes, a desktop, installed Windows 7, installed Slackware Linux (yes, I’m old), and took out my three-year-old disks of Adobe’s Creative Suite and installed it on my new computer. Considering that I just spent a load of money on hardware as well as paying for both Windows 7 and Windows 8 (yes, I’m unhappy about that) I wasn’t about to spend money to upgrade to the next version of Creative Suite, at least not right away. However, I tend to plan big purchases ahead of time so I can save up or adjust spending in other areas if necessary, so I looked on Adobe’s website to find out what version they were up to. Everything was Creative Cloud, Creative Cloud, Creative Cloud, as if they had only one product. So, when Adobe announced last week that they were no longer offering their Creative Suite and now only selling their Creative Cloud, it came as no surprise to me. Their website had been reflecting that decision for a few days at least.
So what is this Creative Cloud? First of all, it’s loved by Wall Street and deceptively named. If that doesn’t raise your suspicions right there, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you.
First of all, it has relatively little to do with the “cloud.” Just the other day, a friend of mine, a programmer, editor at a technology magazine and all-around knowledgeable guy, writing about a different subject, said to me, “Most people don’t know what they mean when they talk about the cloud. Marketing people are the worst. They call things the cloud that have nothing to do with it but it sounds innovative.” He wasn’t talking about Adobe’s Creative Boondoggle, but he may as well have been.
In “cloud computing” most of the resources do not sit on the users’ computers. This WordPress blog that I maintain is a great example. I access the dashboard where I do most of the work of writing, organizing and posting through my browser. None of this resides physically on my computer. The text files and image files are all stored on a server that is maintained by WordPress.com. I access all of WordPress’s wonderful bells and whistles via the internet.
In contrast, Adobe’s Creative Clouding the Issue is comprised of core programs, the same programs you know and love to hate like Photoshop, that sit on your computer. So, you may reasonably ask, what’s the difference between Adobe’s Creative Suite and their new Creative… uh… uh… you know. Mainly, the difference is pricing. Instead of a one time cost, you will now pay on a monthly basis. Whereas the Creative Suite was last released in several different versions that catered to different groups, contained a different set of programs and were priced accordingly, there will be only one level of subscription which costs $600 a year or $80 a month. Currently, you can buy an old version, Adobe Creative Suite Design Premium 5.5, on Amazon for $569.98 for the Mac version and use it until your computer conks out. Adobe maintains that the Creative Cluh… Cluh… Cluh… Thing will be less expensive than purchasing the current version of the Creative Suite Master Collection, their most expensive, most complete offering, and updating to newer versions regularly. Okay. But I didn’t do that. The Creative Suite Master Collection is currently available at Amazon for $2,149.75. When choosing which creative suite to purchase, I would try to decide which programs I would really use and choose accordingly. Now, if I was rich….
Hell, who are we fucking kidding. If I was rich…. If I was rich I would be the female goddamn Tony Stark. My computer wouldn’t be running Windows, or Linux for that matter, it would be running my very own operating system, you know, the one with the AI interface that gets my sense of humor. My “office” would look like the bridge to the Starship Enterprise. I wouldn’t be driving a cute little economy car, I’d have a Maserati. Yeah, I know I never go over the speed limit because I’m super-duper law-abiding, but that’s not the point. The point is that I have lots of plans for my spare cash, the spare cash that Adobe is eying so greedily.
Perhaps it was just bad timing for me to learn about this. As I’ve described else where on this blog, I just spent a lot of money putting together a computer. I went through a literal nightmare with Windows 8. I have so many thoughts racing around my head about all the garbage I’ve been reading, it’s hard to get it out in a coherent fashion. I’m just getting to something of a saturation point with hearing people proclaim, “It’s the future!” as if this is supposed to be a meaningful statement. It reminds me of when I was young, living in New York City and spending far too much time in bars and nightclubs. I never read fashion columns. I never read about what was “hip”, “cool” or “trendy,” because I knew that things were hip, cool or trendy because of me and people like me. The lifestyle journalists were reporting on our collective behavior. It’s stupid to do something because it’s cool. You do it because it’s fun, or you like it and, if enough people agree with you, lifestyle journalists will declare it a trend. So, when CEOs of tech companies declare something “the future,” they have it backwards. They get to offer products to the public, and we declare what the future is. Let’s also not forget that the future may very well be more than one thing. We have both motorcycles and eighteen wheel trucks, and vehicles of almost every conceivable size and shape in between.
As my mother likes to say, “That’s why there’s vanilla and chocolate.” However, reading tech news these days is like watching people proclaim “the future is chocolate!” It doesn’t seem to occur to them that some people will choose to not have ice cream. I last owned a television on which I could watch broadcast t.v. in 1998. I just didn’t watch it enough to replace it when it broke. Some people do opt for “none of the above.” More and more the web feels to me like t.v. with an order form attached, a future that I think would suit corporations just fine.
The future is the cloud. The future is mobile. The future is touch. The future is software as service. These are nothing but marketing slogans by hucksters with a product to sell. It may be a good product, or maybe not, but they’re still nothing but marketing slogans. I really can’t believe apparently functional adults take these statements seriously.
I’m apparently not alone in feeling uncomfortable about Adobe’s Creative Accounting. There’s actually a petition on Change.org objecting to Adobe’s new pricing scheme. I don’t expect any of these companies to “reverse” their decisions. After all, technology rarely, if ever, moves backwards. However, I think it will move forward in a different direction. Here’s the bad news for Adobe and Microsoft: I am your market. If you don’t please people like me, you’re in trouble.
Some final thoughts about where Adobe’s heading: Tossing up a word salad that makes Sarah Palin sound like Shakespeare, David Wadhwani of Adobe explained the company’s direction to Digital Arts magazine.
The way we do that isn’t necessarily to take what we’re selling now and make it cheaper and cheaper because I think there is an inherent value that what we’re creating gives creatives some of the new value we want. However, I think that there are decided opportunities that we can take some of the technology that we have now and surface them in different ways that are more affordable and more approachable to a broader set of customers. And so if you’re asking: am I interested in leveraging this new platform and the flexibility it gives us? Then the answer is absolutely yes.
“…there is an inherent value that what we’re creating gives creatives some of the new value we want….” What on earth does that even mean? What does it mean to “surface” something? Admittedly, I’m one of those stick in the mud people who can’t stand the word “gifting” when “giving” would work perfectly well. This puts me in mind of what Fred Vincy in Middlemarch calls “shopkeeper’s talk.”
It’s also important to note that Adobe has ventured into social networking and hardware. I can’t help wondering if they fancy themselves a total creative ecosystem.
Here’s some lists of alternative software:
I’ve used Gimp and like it a lot. If you don’t have to collaborate with other people who use Photoshop, I really recommend trying it. Inkscape, at least when I last tried it, doesn’t hole a candle to Illustrator. I tried Corel Draw a very, very long time ago and thought it was comparable to Illustrator, but it was so long ago I can’t vouch for it. Illustrator, not Photoshop, has been the main program tethering me to Adobe.
My mother and her friends grew up in the fifties. They went to college, married young and had two kids each. Of the eight of us, my sister was the oldest. Then came D, the only boy. There were four of us who were approximately the same age, K, D’s sister, T, L and me. J brought up the rear. I like all of these people, but somehow we just never became close. Several times, however, I made a stab at a closer friendship with T and K.
One weekend I stayed at T’s house. Their house was what is called a Cape Cod style, a free-standing suburban house with a fairly compact layout. The second story was under the eaves with a sloping ceiling and dormer windows. It was long and narrow and ran the length of the house. T’s bedroom was at one end her younger sister’s bedroom was at the other with a bathroom they shared in between. The two bedrooms were reached by a staircase that was tucked away behind a door, so the second floor felt like a children’s hideaway. Their mother gave them a slightly freer hand in decorating their rooms that most suburban mothers did and each room reflected its occupant’s taste.
T’s room had ruffled curtains and walls painted a soft pink. On the carpet, lying in the middle of the room as if she had just finished reading it earlier that day, was a book. I looked at the title, My Darling, My Hamburger. That had to be one of the stupidest titles I’d seen in a long time and I didn’t hesitate to say so.
“Yeah, but it’s actually a really good book. Do you want to borrow it?”
I picked up and flipped it open. “Yeah, okay. If you say it’s good.”
T excused herself for a moment and headed to the door. On the side of the door facing into the room was a full length mirror. As T approached it, she paused for a second and regarded her reflection. Suddenly she stuck out her tongue and made an angry face.
“Why did you do that?”
“I hate the way I look,” she said matter-of-factly and sauntered out of the room.
After the door clicked shut, I approached the mirror and looked at my own reflection. I made a similar ugly face to see what it felt like. It felt silly. Then I looked at myself again. It hadn’t occurred to me to have an opinion about my face one way or another. Until then, I just accepted it for what it was neither thinking it was pretty nor ugly. My eyes were brown and my hair was brown. I knew enough about the culture’s standards of beauty to know that these were not the preferred colors, but I didn’t dislike them on other people and didn’t attach much meaning to it. I turned away from the mirror, sat down on the rug and opened the book.
In those days, I could inhale a young adult book and there was no need to borrow it since I managed to finish it before leaving. It was, at least in my memory, a dreadful book. It was, very palpably, intended for teenage girls a few years older than I was at that time. Of course, no one reads the books intended for their age group. They read the books meant for kids a few years older. By the time you’re twelve, and adults idea of appropriate entertainment for you seems juvenile. At least, that’s how it was in those days. Kids seem to stay kids longer these days.
In the book, there was a good girl and a bad girl. The good girl is insecure. The bad girl is attractive and has boyfriends. The bad girl gets pregnant and has an abortion, which of course has complications. Sexuality needs to punished. I wasn’t very old, yet I could see through the lesson I was supposed to learn from the book. These were the roles offered to young women, but I didn’t want to be either girl. Nor did I want to be like T, sticking my tongue out at my reflection in the mirror.
My sister stopped by and while she was here she asked me to show her how the drawing program works, so I did this quick little doodle. It’s pretty simple. I use a Wacom tablet and ArtWeaver. ArtWeaver has both a free and paid version. The free version works pretty well. At 29 €, the paid version isn’t a bad deal either.
Lately, I’ve given up on the possibility of meeting anyone who can actually tolerate me, but for a decade, starting from the age of thirty five, I had profiles up on dating sites. Whenever I’d fill out those profiles, I’d feel really self-conscious about my hobbies and interests, all solitary and sedentary. So, I’d add hiking. Now, my idea of hiking is essentially a long walk. If it requires buying equipment at REI or EMS, well call the EMT because I’m about to start hyperventilating. But I do like a nice walk in the woods, so in order to not sound like a lump on a log, I put down hiking as an interest on dating sites.
About seven years ago, through one of those dating sites, I met a boyfriend who was a serious birder. This means waking up at the crack of dawn to go tramping through a swamp until sunset. Sorry folks, coming home and checking each other for ticks is not my idea of foreplay. I want lunch. I like to take a break and sit once every four or five hours. This is why I call myself a lazy birder. I’m probably an embarrassment to real birders like my ex-boyfriend.
Here’s my list from our weekend trip to western Maryland. New birds are in bold.
- Northern Cardinal (we saw a male feeding a female, which is a courtship gesture)
- White Crowned Sparrow
- White-breasted Nuthatch
- Black Capped Chickadee
- Red-breasted Nuthatch
- Tufted Titmous
- Ruby-throated Hummingbird
- Purple Finch
- Song Sparrow
- Chipping Sparrow
- Green Heron
- Downy Woodpecker
- Baltimore Oriole
- Eastern Towhee
- Red-winged Blackbird
- Wild Turkey
- Eastern Bluebird
- Scarlet Tanager
- Rose-breasted Grosbeak
- American Robin
- Yellow Rumped Warbler
And, after we left the state park and headed off to dinner, a Pileated Woodpecker!
Photos for those who are interested Continue reading