Democratizing the Arts

Back in the day to be in the arts was a risky career choice. Hence the term “starving artist”. I was told this when I was a kid but it was like holding up a red cape at a bull. So I chose a career in music. I began my professional career at age 15 when local musicians had a problem finding available drummers for their weekend gigs. This even required getting an approval from the national offices of the American Federation of Musicians.

I stayed with this as principal career still playing regular gigs, often 5 or 6 nights a week until early 1989. That’s when I got too busy with my second career of computer programming. The new career provided stable and good income and I thought I had it made for life but that turned out not to be true but will be the subject of my next blog post.

These days I hear a lot about the “democratization of the arts”. This has become possible through things like YouTube where anyone can make a video and post it to PC based recording studios that rival the professional ones I recorded at 40 years ago. The documentary PressPausePlay deals with how this phenomena floods the market and makes it difficult to “stand out”. People armed with consumer camcorders and Digital SLRs now make feature films. They often use the “literary conceit” that a principal character got a camcorder for their birthday and has been a pest videoing everything including an adventure where everyone was lost or killed. This allows for low budget and amateur looking footage. Some of these films are very entertaining and often more so than ones produced professionally for millions of dollars.

I’m glad to see this happening and like some in my generation I attempted to make films using the family 8mm camera. This went to a sideline when I put effort into writing and performing music instead. In the late 1970s I did acquire a used Bauer Super8 camera for $25 and later a Chinon sound project which I was going to dub the soundtrack too. I still have some of the Super8 small films from that time.

But this all went to the sidelines until around 1991 when I acquired my first camcorder a Canon A1 Digital. Again it was mainly used for family and company parties. Most of my “movie” production was limited to 2D animation. In 2003 I bought my first HD camcorder the JVC GR-HD1. These days you can buy a better camcorder (well the JVC did have an excellent lens but looked like 16mm film) for under $100. And these days I do have some videos on YouTube under another “stage name.” Most of these have been done with 3D animation software such as Reallusion’s iClone.

Point is I’ve been able to see first hand the “democratization of the arts” and how the market is flooded. Indeed I’ve had exchanges on forums with old professionals crying about how hard it is to make a living nowadays. They too were used to time like when local musicians needed someone to fill an empty chair as players were few and far between.

Interesting how times change.

Changing the Scenery

An update to my personal site was long overdue. I had checked out a variety of different templates and open source web design systems to update my JyotishTools.com site. These included Bootstrap, Jekyll, and MiddleMan. I settled on Hugo as it was just an app to install and runs from the command line. With the other systems you need to make sure you had all the correct versions of Rails and Rake. Since Hugo is an app it takes care of all that and runs using Go.

I had also used Octopress for my JyotishTools.com blog but then found Michael Henderson’s port to Hugo of the Octopress theme. I’m also using it here with some modifications, specifically to make the site completely use relative addressing. Apparently most of the themes for Hugo are developed by folks who host sites on GitHub and it may not work well with relative addressing but my web host prefers it (plus it makes things simpler).

My previous JyotishTools site used PHP to build dynamic pages. Had someone with site building experience had looked over my shoulder about 10 years ago they would have asked why I was doing that? In the first place it made changes to the site simpler. Updates instead of authoring a whole page allowed for updating sections. But still the site was static so maybe I could have done that all locally using Python to build a page the same way and then upload the changed pages. Here around 10 years later and even better tools and languages that’s what I’m doing.

Another reason driving the change was that more and more of my JyotishTools.com users were logging in via mobile devices and so I wanted a theme with responsive design. Both JyotishTools.com and this site use themes that do that.