Monday, June 10, 2002

Welcome to Suburban Limbo, which is a web blog. Not a War Blog, which you might have read about today in the New York Times. I wish I had those naked pictures of Lara Logan you're searching for, but I don't. I am offering a lovely photo of Lara reporting from Afghanistan, which is kinda hot if you have a thing for women wrapped head to toe in a blanket. Perhaps you'd like to read on and find something of interest here? We cover a wide range of...No? Gotta go find those swimsuit pics of Lara Logan? Okay, I understand. Well then, thanks for dropping by!

Something I've been thinking about recently - mastering an ever growing list of improved creative tools vs. actually doing something creative. I occupy so much of my free time upgrading home computers, fiddling with software demos and imagining the music I'll create once I install CuBase that I rarely sit down and play guitar, edit video or get out and speak to other creative people (or uncreative people!). Luckily, because of this blog, I still write often and that was certainly one of the reasons I strappped myself in for this ride. But I wonder, have I become a slave to my tools?

Years ago, I worked in a small NY advertising and marketing agency. We specialized in music equipment companies (Korg, Marshall, Yamaha, etc.). The head writer was a guy named JC Costa, who had spent a lot of years working in the rock press - Rolling Stone, Creem, that sort of book. I remember one day, I showed him the "final issue" of Spin Magazine. This was very early in Spin's life, when they thought the mag was going under. Anyway, JC, looked at the copy of Spin I held up and smiled.

"I am proud to say I never read single issue," he said. He considered it a huge step forward in his own growth that he had ignored a rock periodical for its entire life. That wouldn't have happened two years earlier. In a way, I guess it's like an alcoholic who gets through the entire party without taking a drink.

At the time, I thought JC was being snotty about my interest in Spin. He held a belief that the age of good rock writing was long-dead and although I didn't know it then, he was right. But now, I see that he was most pleased that he hadn't been distracted by a new venue for his writings. He hadn't become obsessed with a new tool at the expense of his current work.

Similarly, I am thrilled when I let two or three upgrades of a software product pass me by. If I'm not working in layout everyday, I don't really need the latest and greatest version of Photoshop or Quark (actually, I'd like a new Quark that was OSX-ready, but...). I've also started ridding myself of software and hardware which has been superceded by better products. And if I like the way something works, I don't look for a replacement. Dreamweaver is an excellent example. I like it, I know how to use it. I'm not even going to investigate GoLive or any other GUI-web page creator software until I find problems with Dreamweaver.

Improvements and upgrades are good, but I refuse to conform my schedule to the six-month upgrade path necessitated by industry. It especially galls me to watch as a companies release half-baked products with the intention of suckering in early adopters, then increasing the quality of the product while lowering the cost to move more mainstream (digitial camera are the latest players in this ruse). Hey, how about this - hold off on introducing a product until it's feature set justifies its existence? And how about starting at the lower, mass-marketed price, rather than scaming a few extra hundred bucks from those who've gotta have it now? Remember how much DVD players cost a few years ago? Think how much quicker DVDs would have become propular if the first Christmas they were available, they'd cost $200.

The funny thing is, people other than me are catching onto this trick. I now see many folks refuse to by Version 1.0 of anything because it'll be on sale next month and an improved version will be out next spring. It's great excuse to say "No." If industry wants to know why it's sales are slumping, maybe it's because people are tired of buying some product, only to feel three months later that there are many better and cheaper versions available.

We are becoming a world of technicians instead of artists because technicians spend more. Industry likes that, so that's who they appeal to (and by force of commerce, that's who they create in the marketplace). Artists work with what they have to say what they need to say. That doesn't spell big sales for many companies, but fuck 'em. I've been playing technician too long. Sure, it's comforting to piddle with the software and plug in the boxes and feel like you're doing something creative, but it's not. It's piddling with software and plugging in boxes.

Time to stop updating and start producing.

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