Artists And Entrepreneurs Oh My

The Atlantic has this incredibly long winded and very one-sided view of art history that makes the claim that entrepreneurs are the new artists. At first I thought this was a huge load of bullshit, but then I realized they may be on to something. I thought about it for, like, 5 minutes more and realized that The Atlantic is brilliant! They have nailed it. The entrepreneur and the artist have so much in common.

Sexy

I have this new theory on accomplishment that you can say you are good at a thing once you either get paid or laid doing it. Since most artists never get paid for their work, all they have is getting laid to prove that they’re actually accomplished at making colorful wall decorations for incredibly rich assholes to hide in their mansions. This is why artists strive so hard to be sexy, but they don’t have to try very hard because our society has placed them near the top of the boning scale. When you read about artists you find out that they’re simply banging everything. Men, women, cans of paint, animals, everything. They’re so desirable for their ability to apply pigment in ways that makes wealthy people wealthier that they can simply walk down the street and get some hot BDSM action.

But who’s at the top of this scale of getting laid? That’s right, the wealthy. There are people so wealthy they can throw Nazi themed sex parties with super models and artists in attendance without any problems. The entrepreneur just has to pretend he’s on track to be wealthy and he can viagra his way right to the tippy top boning ranks on the promise that one day he might invent Uber and stop being an ugly lumpy looking trollkin looking thing just like Travis Kalanick.

World Changing

Entrepreneurs and artists are both about changing the world. For the artist it’s by selling piles of garbage, paintings of incomprehensible color patterns, sculptures of dildos, or literally nothing to incredibly wealthy patrons who then hide the art in their mansions so nobody can see it. By selling art to the crazy wealthy, artists are being socially conscious participants in the world and making sure that poor kids in Detroit can see art every day. That’s how you change the world when you’re an artist. You soften the hearts of the wealthy while they’re banging a stripper at their Nazi themed sex parties.

Entrepreneurs are also trying to change the world with their glorious startups. For them it’s all about selling the startup to the same wealthy patrons either through investments or just getting bought out after they’ve driven their business into the ground. They’ll change the world with their “uber for diapers” for sure, and everyone in the company will benefit from their stock options and make like $5000 whole dollars after the investors make their millions or billions. ‘Cause that’s how you change the world my friends. By fattening the pockets of the wealthy while they’re filling a warehouse with meth to give to the strippers they keep in their dungeon.

Entitled

Artists love to say that there needs to be more artists and that means they shouldn’t have to work a shitty day job like the rest of us “non-creatives” to be able to do what we love. As Molly Crabapple said over at Boing Boing:

“The number one thing that would let more independent artists exists in America is a universal basic income.”

Molly sells her art to really super wealthy people, so she knows that in order to have more art end up in the hands of crazy wealthy assholes, you need more artists. I mean, how else can they speculate on the art market if there’s not more people producing art to speculate on? It’s like when banks were hiring crackheads to help fill out loan applications in 2008. If you have wild speculation on something, you will find just about anyone to make it for you.

But read that quote again. Apparently artists are so entitled and so special (and also mostly white) that they feel they deserve totally free money with no strings attached for simply existing. Notice she didn’t say, “The country would a better place if there was a universal basic income.” She didn’t even say, “We could help the poor with a universal basic income.” She said, “The way you take all those rich kids who can afford $180k in tuition and turn them into ‘artists’ is to give them money to blow on heroin rather than working like the rest of us.” I still don’t know why artists think they shouldn’t have to work like everyone else to gain the freedom to do what they love, but apparently it’s super important. Probably involves giving children and the poor things that will actually just benefit someone wealthy.

Artists are so entitled now that they don’t even want to suffer for their art, but if you want even more entitlement then you need to look no further than entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are so special, and so unique, that we debate whether they’re born or made. They are special breeds of humans who are real men taking risks that nobody else will by taking money from incredibly wealthy people in loans that have zero risk to them. Entrepreneurs are the good looking, strong willed, powerful future despots of the Kingdom of Corporate and everyone else is just a worthless nobody who needs to work for them.

And just like artists, entrepreneurs feel they should be given free money just because they exist and can sling together two words around a preposition. Once they get that money their entire life’s goal is to then avoid working at all costs. It’s the entrepreneur dream to make his bank then go steal a public access beach like the Ocean Grinch.

Important

Artists are very important. Why? Pfft. How dare you ask that! Because art is important! No, not everyone can make art silly. Only true artists can make art, and you better not question their socially conscious washing machine scupltures because that’s just an affront to all that is art. How dare you have an opinion on what you like, commoner. You commoners are so lacking in social consciousness it disgusts me. Art feeds the souls of the poor wealthy men who can afford to buy it. Art helps children who’s parents are rich enough to live near schools with art programs. Art is everything, and by extension so is everyone who calls anything they do “art”. Artists are vastly important, and even though everything anyone produces is valid art, not everyone can make just anything like an artist can make just anything and call it art.

Entrepreneurs are just as important. Everything they make is clearly going to change the world. Whether that’s helping Starbucks open more Starbucks, making the cold fusion of batteries, or automating AirBNB, they are definitely changing the world. They’re going to make those poor wealthy investors so much more money that they’ll have no choice but to give their employees another, like, thousand dollars in bonuses once they get sold to Google as a pity deal. Entrepreneurs are the life blood of the world and when they gain power, wow, do they do great things with their money.

Entreprenuers are so important that they are mythological beings who are the sacred guardians of bitcoin (who apparently told a judge he should be released so he can change the world).

Similarities

It’s true. I now see it. Entrepreneurs and artists now share that incredible sweet spot in our society of being given positions of great status for doing so little. They are allowed to produce anything and declare it a sign that they are somehow more special than the rest of us. More important. More deserving of favor than us common idiots who work boring day jobs. No longer should they have to struggle to do their important work of making things for the ultra wealthy. No my dear readers, they are everything in our society and champions of our plight.

Artists and Entrepreneurs belong together.

Admitting Defeat On K&R in LCTHW

I have lost. I am giving up after years of trying to figure out how I can get the message out that the way C has been written since its invention is flawed. Originally I had a section of my book called Deconstructing K&R C. The purpose of the section is to teach people to never assume that their code is correct, or that the code of anyone, no matter how famous, is free of defects. This doesn’t seem to be a revolutionary idea, and to me is just part of how you analyze code for defects and get better at making your own work solid.

Over the years, this one piece of writing has tanked the book and received more criticism and more insults than any other thing I’ve written. Not only that, but the criticisms of this part of the book end up being along the lines of, “You’re right, but you’re wrong that their code is bad.” I cannot fathom how a group of people who are supposedly so intelligent and geared toward rational thought can hold in their head the idea that I can be wrong, and also right at the same time. I’ve had to battle pedants on ##c IRC channels, email chains, comments, and in every case they come up with minor tiny weird little pedantic jabs that require ever more logical modifications to my prose to convince them.

The interesting data point is that before I wrote that part of the book I received positive comments about the book. It was a work in progress so I felt it’d need to be improved for sure. I even setup a bounty at one point to get people to help with that. Sadly, once they were blinded by their own hero worship the tone changed dramatically. I became actually hated. For doing nothing more than trying to teach people how to use an error prone shitty language like C safely. Something I’m pretty good at.

It didn’t matter that most of these detractors admitted to me that they don’t code C anymore, that they don’t teach it, and that they just memorized the standard so they could “help” people. It didn’t matter that I was entirely open to trying to fix things and even offered to pay people bounties to help fix it. It didn’t matter that this could get more people to love C and help others get into programming. All that mattered was I “insulted” their heroes and that means everything I said is permanently broken, never to be deemed worthy ever again.

Frankly, this is the deep dark ugly evil side of programming culture. They talk all day long of how, “We’re all in this together” but if you don’t bow to the great altar of their vast knowledge and beg them for permission to question what they believe you are suddenly the enemy. Programmers consistently go out of their way to set themselves up in positions of power that require others to pay homage to their brilliant ability to memorize standards or know obscure trivia, and will do their very best to destroy anyone who dares question that.

It’s disgusting, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I cannot help old programmers. They are all doomed. Destined to have all the knowledge they accumulated through standards memorization evaporate at the next turn of the worm. They have no interest in questioning the way things are and potentially improving things, or helping teach their craft to others unless that education involves a metric ton of ass kissing to make them feel good. Old programmers are just screwed.

I can’t do anything about their current power over younger new programmers. I can’t prevent the slander by incompetent people who haven’t worked as professional C coders…ever. And I’d rather make the book useful for people who can learn C and how to make it solid than fight a bunch of closed minded conservatives who’s only joy in life is feeling like they know more about a pedantic pathetically small topic like C undefined behavior.

With that in mind, I’m removing the K&R C part of the book and I finally have my new theme. I’ve wanted to rewrite the book but couldn’t figure out how to do it. I was held in limbo because I was personally too attached to something I felt was important, but that I couldn’t advance forward. I now realize this was wrong because it prevented me from teaching many new programmers important skills unrelated to C. Skills in rigor, code analysis, defects, security flaws, and how to learn any programming language.

Now I know that I will make the book a course in writing the best secure C code possible and breaking C code as a way to learn both C and also rigorous programming. I will fill it with pandering to the pedants saying that my humble book is merely a gateway to C and that all should go read K&R C and worship at the feet of the great golden codes held within. I will make it clear that my version of C is limited and odd on purpose because it makes my code safe. I will be sure to mention all of the pedantic things that every pedant demands about NULL pointers on a PDP-11 computer from the 1960s.

And then I will also tell people to never write another C program again. It won’t be obvious. It won’t be outright, but my goal will be to move people right off C onto other languages that are doing it better. Go, Rust, and Swift, come to mind as recent entrants that can handle the majority of tasks that C does now, so I will push people there. I will tell them that their skills at finding defects, and rigorous analysis of C code will pay massive dividends in every language and make learning any other language possible.

But C? C’s dead. It’s the language for old programmers who want to debate section A.6.2 paragraph 4 of the undefined behavior of pointers. Good riddance. I’m going to go learn Go.

UPDATE: I’m going to learn Go, Rust, and Swift. Holy crap. Stop being so religious about who learns what. I learn languages now to teach them to people, not because I plan on using them for anything. Don’t listen to me as a barometer of what’s cool now. Peace.

If It’s Flow, It’s Art

I can hear it now. “Ohhh lord Jeebus, not another programmer who thinks code is art.” Problem is, everyone who is an artist loves to play this hypocritical game where everything they do is art, even if it’s chicken strapped to their underwear. Yet, anyone else who’s not in the artist club can’t call anything they do art. They want to dance on the edge where they can sell any random pile of garbage to rich wealthy douchebags, but if you try to say that the C++ code you slaved over for a year is art then you’re wrong. Sorry nerd, you don’t have neck tattoos and heroin track marks so you can’t possibly be doing art.

I’m sorry but if an artist can strap poultry to her panties, pile garbage on the floor, or do literally nothing, then everything anybody does is art including my very finely crafted C code, the turd I squeezed out this morning, and my pastel paintings. Basically, if you want to call what you do art, then it’s art. If anyone tries to tell you it’s not, then they’re not artists. QED. Moving on now.

What I actually want to talk about though is not why code is art from an external perspective that requires the judgements of the tattoo class, but rather a view on what is art from the perspective of what it does to you when you do it. I hadn’t thought of this view of “what is art” until I started learning to paint. Painting and drawing had a very familiar sensation I’ve experienced while deep in the throes of programming, writing, dancing, or playing music. This intense feeling of concentration where time stops and everything in my body and mind works seamlessly as if my self doesn’t exist. Leaps of intuition, euphoria, and relaxation are all things that programmers, musicians, artists, and writers experience when they’re very deep in their craft. A sensation of flow is a common thread through all of them and most likely many more activities that require intense concentration in an altered state of brain activity.

In Gary Marcus’ book Guitar Zero he discusses how there is no special “music part” of your brain. Instead the research suggests that playing music involves your entire brain using many parts in cooperation, but that each part is doing a different thing than its normal function while you play. During its day job a part handles language, then when you play music it detects note intervals. Another part’s day job is tracking moving objects, then when you play music it handles timing. When you’re done playing music they switch back to their day jobs and you snap back to normal.

I believe that this same phenomenon happens with (but not limited to) programming, visual art, music, dancing, and writing. These are all activities that are fairly recent in human history, not innate natural things we do but require education, and all seem to require this same altered brain function. In addition to this, it’s possible that receivers of the output from these activities also experience the same sensations when they’re listening to music, viewing visual art, or reading.

This phenomenon could explain both the sensation of flow, and it could explain why people like doing these activities. It could be that flow is simply the ability to make the parts of your brain do something different for a little while. A kind of vacation for your hippocampus. That would also explain why it takes training, is tiring, and in many ways why it is difficult to recover from. Many programmers, artists, and musicians talk about the difficulty of interacting with others after an extended period of this altered brain function.

In addition to this, people may enjoy the sensation because it provides a similar altered consciousness that they’d get from drugs, alcohol, meditation, religious experiences, but with much less effort or negative results. Instead of having to sit quietly for hours praying or meditating you can do some art, read, write, or code. In Europe there was a tradition of art being used as a sort of meditation device for worshippers to visualize parts of the bible while they prayed, and it was thought that artists channeled God when they painted or sculpted. It could be the origins of this are in the phenomenon of flow. It would explain why art, music, and religion are so commonly combined.

I now believe that an activity is an art if it causes this feeling of flow and requires an altered brain function to do. Not what the output of this activity is, but what creating that output does to your brain. What makes coding an art is that it requires making your brain do something it’s not normally designed to do which then causes a sensation similar to meditation and requires effort but feels effortless.

I also have this vague idea that this could be a key to improving art education. Currently art education is about the outward result of the artist. Can they produce a painting that looks like a thing? Can they pile garbage on the floor? Can they play Jazz standards? Can they analyze an Algorithm? However, what if art, music, and programming education had the additional higher purpose of using that art to help students learn this skill of flow? That if the student is able to do this little mental trick then they’ll get much more enjoyment out of the activity than just what they produce. It would be a goal of mental health through teaching a practical skill. Although that sounds kind of crazy now that I write it.

Now I think that if what you do gives you flow, then it’s art. I could even go so far as to say that the best art causes this flow in others, and if you’ve ever seen someone play a video game or browse the internet for days on end, then you know programming beats everything in that department.

The Coming Code Bootcamp Destruction

For years I have been both for and against the rise of the “coding bootcamp” business. I’ve been for them because they aim to help people learn to code and try to keep costs low compared to a similar degree from a university. I’ve been against them because most just take my books, teach my material, then rip off students for $15k programs that don’t actually get anyone deployed. In one week I’ll be writing a post a day about these bootcamps and why they don’t work. I’ll expose a few of the bootcamps that are abusive, in the hopes that future students avoid them. This will be a tough week for many people, but I’ve reached a point where I feel this needs to be done.

I’ve been in a unique position to hear information from students because of my books and many of them email me or meet me to tell me stories about their schools, good and bad. I find that a lot of students are literally afraid to speak out against these schools for fear that their hard work will be for nothing because they will be associated with the school and not get hired. It’s sad that these students have to put up with abusive and exploitative treatment because their perceived alternative is to be unemployed.

This has kept me from commenting on these schools because I feel sorry for the students who would lose their livelihood because their chosen school happens to suck. But, the alternative is that I take the information I have on the schools and do nothing while they continue to rip people off and take advantage of them. Much of my criticism isn’t even that bad, but some of it is very very bad. One school is so full of abuse, sexual harassment, and exploitation that I have no idea how they’ve stayed in business this long. Another school is on the verge of collapse because of poor business practices and also has wild claims of its effectiveness. Many still continue to employ completely unqualified instructors and in some cases, instructors who can’t even code. Most make wild completely false claims of their effectiveness in order to attract students.

I’m going to do my best to separate the students from the schools. It’ll be difficult, but I want the students to know I will constantly hammer the message that if they can code it’s because they learned despite the school and that nobody can hold the school they attended against them.

However, that may not be enough, so before I begin my warpath I want to invite every bootcamp graduate or student who needs help finding work to email me at help@learncodethehardway.org. I can’t promise I can do much, but if I have connections to jobs or anyway to help you get work then I will. I’ll take responsibility for possibly ruining your job prospects and do what I can to get you work. You can also email me with your experiences or comments about bootcamps and what you think they do right and wrong.

Stay tuned. It’s going to get ugly.

Troll > Artist > Author > Musician > Coder > Nerd In Social Status

Today I stumbled on this excellent article in The Guardian “I Am Being Catfished” where an author reads a bad review on Good Reads and proceeds to track the reviewer down in real life to confront her. The article is significant because apparently on Goodreads there’s a social norm that authors are never to reply to any review or face the wrath of the community. An author that responds receives a stream of vitriol, is slandered in the “blogs”, and labeled something called a Bad Behaving Author (BBA). Should you attempt to do something as ambitious as hunt one of your trolls down you are even more evil and destroyed even harder.

Problem is, in the article Kathleen Hale hunts down her troll “Blythe” and finds out that actually her name is Judy (or possibly an alias for the article’s legal reasons). Judy also harassed Kathleen, spent weeks trying to bait her into replying, and ended up being a weird sociopath who seems to just post bad reviews to destroy authors. All of this behavior is incredibly abusive troll behavior, and I am a firm supporter of outing trolls and exposing their real identities. Yet there’s this odd ethos where trolls have a right to privacy, but victims of trolls do not. The defenders of trolls will pronounce the “Free Speech Spell Level 1” and “Right To Privacy Spell Level 3”, but completely ignore the trolls own violations of all those same rights on their victims. In fact, I think there will be a new surge of abuse directed at me simply because I’m talking about abusive trolls right now.

What this troll ethos amounts to is the classic abuser dynamic found in many abusive relationships. An abuser’s entire goal in life is to find a reason to exert their abusive sociopathic desires onto victims while appearing to be in the right. The abuser says, “I just had to smack you because you made me so angry. Why do you do that to me?!” The internet abuser will send out a small pin prick, hoping for a response so they can justify their abuse because the social norms of the internet (Don’t Feed The Trolls) gives them license to then attack if you respond. If you don’t respond then you can almost hear the troll say, “That’s right bitch, take it.” If you do respond then you deserve their abuse because you made them react. The internet said so, so they can do it. Why did you make them abuse you by responding? It’s not the trolls fault.

Throw into this the weird internet norm that hunting down a troll is wrong and now we have a situation where trolls can walk around abusing people with zero retaliation. It’s as if there’s a whole street of dudes saying, “Faggot” while I walk by but they all get to wear masks and if I respond then everyone will yell at me while he tries to beat me into the street. If I fight back, I’m the bad guy. If I rip off his mask, I’m the bad guy. If he comes to my house, well that’s just what I get. If I go to his, then I’m violating his rights to privacy. The insanity of the internet is not that there are trolls, it’s that trolls are given full rights to abuse others and people defend the troll’s right to be abusive fucking assholes.

These bizarre social norms on Goodreads mostly amount to nothing more than enabling abusive trolls like Blythe/Judy and do not improve the reviews. In fact, the entire point of the internet is that people can respond to their criticism placing critic and subject on equal footing. In Blythe’s review she claims there’s rape in Kathleen’s book, but Kathleen and many other people claim there’s none at all. Since the author can’t respond then the reviewer’s words become the truth. When Kathleen responds to the outright slander she is vilified and ridiculed, but the point of free speech is that everyone gets to talk, not just the first asshole who opens her mouth.

A General View Of Creative Social Status

This article had me thinking about why a group of professional authors are not allowed to do the one thing they’re best at (writing) while seemingly illiterate morons are given full control of a book’s status. In the case of Blythe/Judy the woman is obviously illiterate because she claims the book is full of rape when it’s not according to the female author of the fucking book. Think about that. In the social hierarchy this puts trolls above authors and makes them more trusted than anyone else online.

What I’ve noticed is there’s sort of a Creative’s Hierarchy that I’ve experienced in various ways because I actually do all of these things. I’m a kind of a troll of trolls, an amateur artist, a professional author, an amateur musician, a professional coder, and a huge nerd. If I could put them into order of social standing it would be this:

#1 Troll

As I said, not only can trolls be completely abusive social manipulators transmitting the most heinous propaganda, threats, and slander, but perfectly rational people will defend them when they do it. Weev is the best example of this, being as he is a literal fucking Nazi and yet the likes of Molly Crabapple (an artist) defends him.

#2 Artist

I’ve been reading a bunch of artist’s biographies, and I have to say, many of them are gigantic huge pieces of shit. There’s even a common social norm of “separate the artist from the art”, so an artist can be the lowest of human scum and still worshipped for his paintings. Even then, people do comment on artists’ behavior and don’t defend it, unlike with trolls. This puts them just under trolls. Another good test of the social power of being an artist is the amount of shit you can get away with when you’re standing there painting or drawing. I’ve had people who grimace at me when I bust out my laptop at a cafe have no problem with me busting out an entire table of painting gear to bust out a shitty watercolor of some flowers.

#3 Author

What brings author into the #3 slot in the hierarchy is the odd dynamic of being able to influence millions of people with words while having almost nobody give a shit about your skills as a writer. I’ve had people who have read my books rattle off all the things I can do and leave out writing. I tell people I write “technical books” and they say, “Oh so not real books.” Other authors of real books tell me that until you’re filthy rich you really don’t get much respect, and even then other writers will shit on you even when you win the Nobel Prize. In addition to that, when I read a biography about an author usually they’re not pulling the “separate the artist from the art” move to justify bad behavior.

#4 Musician

What’s the difference between a large cheese pizza and a bass player? A pizza can feed a family of four. That sums up society’s opinion of most musicians, however there’s also the odd thing of even the worst laziest giant loser of a man can get laid like crazy if they just play bass in a 3rd rate punk band. No idea if the same thing is true for women, but the odd social status of not having any future prospects but still having everyone want to mate with you is a very common musician trope. What’s even weirder though is all creative types have the same typically poor future prospects, but musicians have a kind of reality distortion field that protects others from seeing the track marks on their arms and empty bank accounts.

#5 Coder

I see the coder as being almost at the bottom of the social hierarchy but rising, and that upward mobility ends up pissing off everyone else above them. You’ll see nearly every other sector of the creative social class use Twitter, WordPress, and their iPhones to rant about how coders are destroying the world with their technology. When I go to art classes I tell people I’m a writer because if I tell them I’m a programmer they’ll go into a tirade about how “techies” (aka nerds) are raising their rent. I stare at someone on the bus to draw them and they smile and hold still while I do it. I glance at someone at the bus stop while wearing a startup t-shirt and they grimace and hide on the other side of the bus stop because I’m “creepy”. Coders are just at this really weird position in social status that’s upending most of the others, which is why there’s so much love hate. When a programmer does something fucked up that artists, musicians, authors, or trolls do it’s blasted out as the worst in abuse and written about in the press as the end of the world. An artist puts a fucking green butt plug in the middle of Paris and it’s fucking art (which you get to see on Twitter because of some coders).

#6 Nerd

In the end though, everyone gets to hate nerds, and being as I’m a super nerd deep down and a huge dork, none of the social status I should get from the above matters. I’ll demonstrate this by way of a story. I was at Union Square (SF) with my friend Corey, and before we met up I had spent a few hours playing guitar. I had headphones on, so nobody could hear how good or bad I sounded, but I was dressed like a nerd hobo with startup t-shirts, jeans, and the usual uniform. Me and Corey hang out, then I go home and the next day I browse craigslist Missed Connections for that day’s writing ideas when I stumble on a posting by a woman who says, “You were so beautiful. You were hanging out with that weird guy who’s always playing guitar.” There you go, even when I’m playing guitar, I’m the “weird guy who plays guitar” and my friend is “beautiful”. If I paint I’m not a real artist because I’m “too logical”. If I write a book it’s not a “real book” because it’s about programming. Being a nerd is at the bottom of the hierarchy because no matter what I do, my nerdiness coats my creative output with the hot sticky air of the uncool.