Shadow of the Groundhog # 18: Why The Nos Always Win/s (or: The Numbers)


Numbers, numbers, numbers. How and why does it always come back to numbers?

Value as set by some external system always comes down to numbers, because value in its strictest sense is a mathematical quality: more, or less?

Dictionary definitions of value, seven in all:

  1. relative worth, merit, or importance: the value of a college education; the value of a queen in chess.
  2. monetary or material worth, as in commerce or trade: This piece of land has greatly increased in value.
  3. the worth of something in terms of the amount of other things for which it can be exchanged or in terms of some medium of exchange.
  4. equivalent worth or return in money, material, services, etc.: to give value for value received.
  5. estimated or assigned worth; valuation: a painting with a current value of $500,000.
  6. denomination, as of a monetary issue or a postage stamp.
  7. mathematics; magnitude; quantity; number represented by a figure, symbol, or the like: the value of an angle; the value of x; the value of a sum. a point in the range of a function; a point in the range corresponding to a given point in the domain of a function: The value of 2 + 2 is 4.

In fact all of these definitions, even the first, come down to numbers, because the moment value is acknowledged to be relative, one thing to another (e.g., a queen to a rook), the question of scale enters into it, i.e., a queen is how many times more valuable than a rook, and so on.

Therefore, the moment we agree to participate in a system of external values, we become slave to numbers.

This current (repetition of) crisis is caused by two things; firstly, I started creating a Patreon campaign to solicit financial support for my creative activities, because I have no source of income and before long all my savings will be gone and I will be screwed. So needs must & the devil drives, and all that.

Secondly, because of this, I was tallying up my creative activity over the past two years and discovered that the activity at my blog—the numbers—has actually reduced this year, not increased.

This means that, whatever I am doing, it isn’t working at the most basic level, that of increasing my numerical value (and therefore the chances of supporting myself).

I feel all broken up about this. I could start screaming and never stop. The groundhog is staring full on at his shadow now and there is no Sun in sight.

The not-very-hilarious irony here is that, when I want to scream about this, as now, the people I am bitching and moaning to are the same people who have stuck by me, or at least are currently, so what’s to gain by griping about this to you/them? And if I had the attention of the people whose attention I am not getting, then I wouldn’t need to gripe at them, either.

An infinitely self-cancelling paradox. Something isn’t right about this picture, right?

But what is it?

Be practical be practical, be practical.

There’s a place where money grows on trees; the only way to reach it’s on your knees.

There is no Moon; there is no world; there is no other. The only number is one, and one = infinity.

The title of a book & film I made for my niece’s 18th birthday; it was a sheer pleasure to do something for an audience of one, guaranteed to reach and be received and appreciated by its target audience. It was an almost stress-free operation.

Of course, now I have made the video public I am counting the hits and the likes, because the only way not to is not to look, and who can resist the desire to look?

Shut up already!

Don’t ever be a culture-maker unless a) you have no choice; or b) you can honestly and truly do it only for the joy of being creative.

In the interests of being more practical, then, let me ask a question of my “loyal readers”: in your opinion, should I mount a Patreon campaign and ask you-the-people to support my activities?

If so why? If not, why (the fuck!) not?

No answer at all will of course be received as a negative.

And so the No’s will always win—and by an infinite hair.

19 thoughts on “Shadow of the Groundhog # 18: Why The Nos Always Win/s (or: The Numbers)

  1. I could use the simple, wide and precise answer, ‘neti neti’. But I remember Amanda Palmer, have you heard about her and her art of asking? If not, please look at her ted video.

    Listening to this track produced by Tom Ze I thought on mentioning how he was forgotten, giving up music when by extreme accidental coincidence, Byrne discovered one of his old albums.

    And there it is, your campaign video seems to be set on private…

    • That touched me, thanks. Amanda Plummer is one of my niece’s most beloved influences, so that’s a completed circle, enough for me to un-private the page/video.

      It seems we have now left Zero.

  2. In my artistic endeavors, the ability to support myself has increased along with the number of people who’ve become involved on my side of the equation, rather than solely on the consuming side.

    Today there are a large number of people involved on my side of the equation and my chances of doing a creative endeavor for a living are strong – it was not that way at any time in the past. The people that are supporting my art today are doing it not because of my overwhelming talent (though I’d love to think this), but because they are all involved in some way on my side of the equation, and are therefore personally invested in my success.

    The consumer of my art may love it and genuinely want me to be successful, but they have no personal stake in my success and so their efforts to help will inevitably be much less.

    The main down-side to bringing others in on “my side” is that I lose absolute control over what is produced. But in my experience, as long as the people involved are friends, or at the very least trustworthy, then what is received still exceeds what is given so the small trade-off feels worthwhile.

    It is my perspective that this is the nature of successful art in the modern era, it is no longer a sole artist creating and the world consuming that individual’s product – if it ever was truly like that. The picture that comes to mind is of concentric circles of interworking systems. The artist is at the center of the circle, and by creating these additional circles it strengthens the overall “system”. Like a body and its organs.

    I think you have something interesting and new to add to this culture and you deserve to support yourself with your art. Plus I would personally love to see your wrench get thrown into the gears of this society. But the only thing I really have to offer in assistance is what insight I might have gained on my road. And my insight is that it is very important to get others involved on your side, to create a network – a network whose pieces all have a personal investment or stake in your success.

    I hope none of this comes off as advice from some sort of pedestal – when it comes down to it I have no idea what I am doing, I’m truly a piece of wood in the waves and I’m fine with that. But perhaps something in this story can be of some help.

    • This may be behind my desire to encourage participation/collaboration. And of course the only time I was able to support myself via creativity was at SWEDA, which was similar to what you describe, even down to the concentric circles.

      In the Amanda Palmer Ted Talk, one thing that stood out for me was how she turned a “small” fan base (25,000 people who bought her first album, the company considered it a failure) into a support network that (not to reduce it to numbers again) was willing to put up over a million dollars to help her do her thing. In other words a number that was seen as a failure from one perspective was sufficient to bring about spectacular success once it was re-framed.

      As mere consumers, those 25,000 were ineffective; as collaborators, of a sort, they were hugely effective.

      I seem to be aiming for a more collaborative relationship with “my readers” – which always feels weird to write like that as if that was all you were – via the Kubrickon, but if so there’s still some rough spots to iron out. This is why I continue to “fish for replies” – seek counsel even – from the people who are receptive to what I am doing, not merely to increase the collaborative aspect, but also to develop my own sense of what’s working and what’s not.

      Maybe the Patreon project is a way to formalize this potential relationship and ask for volunteers-as-patrons, as in collaborators to work in a more private space, with the slightly odd twist that you’d have to make a token offering to support the project to be part of it.

      Reminds me of when I went looking for a job at Co$ – and was told I’d have to pay to work there!

      Unfortunate analogy, but there you have it….

  3. That is the most heartfelt gift I’ve ever seen, actually made my eyes a little watery. Happy birthday to Emerald!

  4. As a gamer, I am always looking for value, in each and every play that is made.
    And to be able to judge value, you must first know your goal. In gaming it is easy. The goal is almost always to win.
    To give yourself the best possible odds availible in order to crush your opponent.
    This could in some situations be going against what seems to be the single move with the most value in it as it seems, in order to down the line get the value lost back aswell as some sort of extra profit.
    In other words, sacrifacing the queen to a rook might seem like bad value, atleast to those who are not able to see that this sacrifce could be a calculated move to get the greater value down the road in form of the victory.
    And if victory was the goal, then the most value could actually have been to sacrifice that queen when it was right to do so, despite that it must have looked like a dumb move to those who did not understand it.

    You need to figure out what you seek, what your true goal is with what you are doing.
    Only then can you truly judge the value in a move and its outcome.

    I was born in the early 80s, and to me and i would guess a big part of my generation and those close to it, paying for intellectual property seems silly. We download the tv shows and movies we watch, our music and what we read. (Long live the piratebay!). Many would call this cheap, and wrong, and even compare it to actual theft.
    But it is actually none of those things, it is just a difference in attitute and perspective.
    A view that greed or the search for profit never ever should stand in the way of the evolution of the internet or how we consume culture as a specie.
    Most of theese so called pirates do actually support the content they really like with there money, in forms of donations or the buying of a physical copys of something that you watched for free in digital form.
    I think, atleast to me personaly, the thing that annoys the most is when someone is trying to force the money out of you, or else exclude you from the content. When it is voulentary, it is a totaly different thing and you can pay if you liked it. Then many will do so. There is for example proffesional gamers who stream there content on twitchtv and have viewers in the numbers of like 20 000 people watching them play games on a live stream. And you would be amazed how much donations theese pro gamers gets from the viewers (the same people who are considered as cheap thiefs to many.)

    I am starting to lose focus on what this reply was about.
    So to shorten it:

    No! I really dont think you should start taking a subscription fee or similar in order for people to access the content you provide. All you would turn to is another John de ruiter or dave oshana (I have so much valubale information to share with you, but ofc I wont, not unless you pay me for it. Else I wont let you know!) Or like David Icke who somewhat claims to be here to help save humanity, but in order to hear him speak on how it could be done you need to pay the ticket fee of 80 dollars.

    To me, that does not seem genuine.
    My advice is, add a donation option to your site. Make it voulentary to support you and your work.
    Do not exclude people who either cannot afford, or do not want to pay for various reasons.
    Try and make more money of your physical books, hey why not even start selling an autie culture t-shirt or something.
    Even promoting and selling some questionable thing like colodial silver or such would be better then exluding non paying consumers.

    And the way you ask this, tells my poker sense that you allready feel the awnser to your question.
    You are just hoping that the approval of others would make you change your view.

    It should never be about the money, during the years that I was playing my best poker (and won the most money),
    was the years when I played for the pure joy of the game.
    Today when I play poker, I play for the money, the joy I felt about the game is gone. And my profit is ofc way lower now, then when I did not play for the sake of the money.

    I hope you can find another way to support yourself (donations, selling physical stuff and so on).
    If you start depending on your work to make money, I am sure it wont be as good or interesting.

  5. Thanks for all that b-net (formerly bnet hater?).

    To clarify, the Patreon campaign doesn’t (necessarily) entail any special privileges for patrons, nor does it imply putting a price tag on the creative product. It’s donations more formally, and regularly set up, as a way to show support and help make it possible for me to continue creating stuff.

    Selling physcul stuff is a good idea, too.

    Regarding the idea of a private or exclusive space, this might be a good idea at some point (it worked in the past) but again it doesn’t necessarily have to be fee-dependent. Are you averse to the idea of a private online space, at all? (Some people were, re: SWEDA). I ask because it’s something I am considering now along with the other stuff.

  6. edit: And to be clear. with donations I do not mean some big money bomb campaign begging everyone you see for money 😀

    But just add a donation option in a visible place on your site with some text similar to “If you like this artist and his work, please feel free to donate, food is expensive nowdays”

    There is a big difference in gentle asking, and begging or demanding.

    And according to my experaince. Most people are willing to drop a 5 or a 10 from time to time to support what they like.
    Aslong as it is not demanded from them.

  7. my edit was written before reading your reply.

    And i would guess the patreon campaign your refering to is similar to donations, but with regularity?
    like in a subscription? 🙂

    SWEDA was before I found out about you, and I dont really have much experiance of private online spaces, atleast not with member fees, sense I tend to stay away from things that like to have my money on regular basis.

    Always good to consider all options thought, and one thing does not necceserely have to exclude another.

    Also I have no idea how the demographic of your readers look like.
    Maybe most of them are older then me and have no problem with “old fashion” payments.

  8. Maybe not. Atleast not as the only way of income. But maybe as a supplement.

    Ive HEARD, that alot of pornstars have voluntary subscription areas on there sites, for the “fans” to get extra conent aswell as interaction with the porn star.

    Question is, how do you implement a similar area to this site without turning into an intellectual prostitute.
    Maybe by offering nothing extra at all to the patreons, then it would still be a donation. and not a payment for extra content.
    Question is though, if there is not enough visitors for donations to work, would a subscription system reallly work in the long run?

    Or, maybe it is not that bad to be an intellectual prostitute and provide extra content to paying members. It is not like someone is forced to buy it.
    I guess it comes down to personal opinions, views and morals.

    And I made most of my money by winning it from others ( who many times were suckers, gambling addicts and people playing for money that they could not afford to loose.) I guess one could argue some sort of immorality to that, And I could only defend it with, that they was never forced to play me with there money.

    I guess the same logic could be applied to selling extra content aswell. Aslong as it is voulentary. It is not really that immoral.

  9. but as a closing statement to this issue.

    To me personaly, I still find it annoying when sites add member sections with extra content.
    When I see people or radio shows or whatever that I once liked, “going big, in order to spread the word/make money”, they often lose some sort of athmosphere to them. And I get this urge…like with red ice creation for example…that I should subscribe just in order to rip every fucking thing in the member area and then spread the rips for free on the internet for everyone who wanted to listen to that second hour of the interview lol 🙂

  10. If I do set up a private/members only space at some point, it will likely not be for extra content but as a workspace for people more interested in participating in the creative process; so tho there would be extra content, they would also be contributing to it. And probably not a price tag on it (unless you consider $1 a price tag, which is the minimum monthly donation at Patreon).

  11. Aah, I actually like that idea.

    When I was a teenager, I was a member of a small socialist party here in sweden.
    And we sold a monthly “news paper” called Offensive to people on the streets and such.
    We took like 3 dollars for it, but for those who did not have much money or wanted to pay 3 dollars, they would get it
    for 1 dollar instead. And if the person rly wanted our paper but had no money at all on them, we would often give a copy for free.

    It seems like an none greedy solution you came up with.

    Infact I hear the old socialist “propaganda” from my teens ring in my head now “In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”


  12. That’s a real mouthful. Can you restate it in your own words so I can understand it better? (I have a tone deaf ear when it comes to politikal rhetoric.)

    Glad we found common ground. You have strong ideas about money as a corrupting element, which makes you a good test subject/sounding board for this latest proposal.

  13. No, I dont rly talk politics anymore.

    But today was the first day since 1958 that it was decided to be a re-election here in sweden.
    So lets take it as a sign to make an exception to talk politics today then.. 🙂

    What Karl Marx ment with that statement, was that in order for socialism/communism to truly function as intended, there must be certain changes in the current consensus of labor and the individuall. (A new consensus, a consensus to grow wings) as someone said 🙂

    To me personally, Socialism is more of a philosophy, then a political theory.
    And it is the idea of bringing us further together (as opposite to capitalism that like to take us further apart).

    You talk about the Human organism and animistic reallity and such. And it is actually very similar to what true socialism is and like to bring us back towards.

    It is the idea, that the only way towards paradise for all of us, is to “create” or return to a collective earth.
    Not an oppresive state like most communist attempts turned into, either by self-corruption or sabbotage.
    But a true paradise where people work and live for a sake, a sake of communion with there fellow earthlings
    and the universe.

    • “Bringing us further together” is a sort of liminal use of language. I like it.

      I was raised my rich socialists; for me it reeks of hypocrisy and deceit; but I understand your point, that the underlying meaning is, or can be, helpful.

  14. I would guess it is easier to see the hypocrisy and deciet in such upbringing.

    I was raised by a single working class mother in a ghetto to Stockholm.
    I lived among the backsides of capitalism.
    Crime, drug abuse, pshycolocial sickness, people forced to work shit jobs to shit pays.
    Friends being sent to prison for trying to put food on the table and so on.

    I would guess that it set the tone for my political views early on.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s