art for all

51. Art Making and Technology

March 14, 2022 Daniel Gregory and John Muir Laws Season 3 Episode 51
art for all
51. Art Making and Technology
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This week John and Danny spend some time geeking out over the moon while weighing the pros and cons of combining technology with art. Listen along as they discuss a few of their favorite apps while talking about the solar system and things far far away. 

From Season 3 of "art for all," the Sketchbook Skool podcast. Join artists/authors, Danny Gregory and John Muir Laws in rich discussions about the creative process.

Get your free ebook and essays at DannysEssays.com


Danny Gregory:

Hi, welcome to art for all the sketchbook school podcast. I am Danny Gregory, founder of sketchbook school and an author and a, I don't know, a guy draws. And does a podcast with his friend, introduce yourself, friend.

John Muir Laws:

Hi, I'm a friend. I'm John we're laws. Let's try that again. I'm John Muir laws and I am a scientist with the sketchbook and am really interested in the intersection of art. And attention and mindfulness and thinking,

Danny Gregory:

oh, really? You've expanded your spheres of interest. Well,

John Muir Laws:

if each time I introduced myself, layering it on, I thought of something else.

Danny Gregory:

And I like the Yankees outfield. And by the way, I like a shrimp. So yes, I don't particularly like shrimp or the Yankees outfield. I don't really have an opinion about the Yankees, but a few bits of business. Cause we don't really do business on this podcast. I've been listening to podcasts a lot and you know, for many years, and this is a certain kind of genre of podcasts, which I think our podcasts has fallen into, which is the guys sitting around having lunch. Unedited conversations. Right? I think that's this I've tried other kinds of podcasts. I've tried creating other PI podcasts that were like tightly engineered and had sound effects and, you know, were fully edited and tightly scripted and all that. I'm just too old for that. Now I think, I think it's come down to just prefer to sit around with you and just Jabber about whatever comes to mind

John Muir Laws:

and this, this, this format, at least it's fun. So it's something that I look forward to each week. So I'm all for that, that, that, that loose format. Also, if you try to get me reading a script because of my dyslexia gets kind of interesting because when I'm trying to go with the script, I ended up getting off.

Danny Gregory:

Right now. I appreciate that. And I think, honestly, I just I think that from what I hear from people, they're kind of just listening to this idly in the background. I mean, there may be people who are sitting there with headphones on taking detailed notes and listen, hanging on our every words. But I don't think there's a lot of those people. I think most people are busy doing other things. You know, they're chopping vegetables while we talk or they're sharpening pencils or they're napping. I

John Muir Laws:

dunno if that is you with your heads on headphones, on, we've got mad respect for you. We know who you are and we love you. And this is shout out to our friends.

Danny Gregory:

Exactly. Cause we're busy taking notes and wearing headphones. So why shouldn't you like, why, why should we have to do exactly. But one thing, speaking of that, I think that it would be nice if we heard from people now. And then, so this isn't a complete echo chamber because I think there are people who listen to this and watch this. And they're nice enough, by the way, to leave comments on our YouTube channel in case you didn't know if you're only listening to this, the audio version of this, we also are making a video version of it as we speak. And so if you'd like to see what we look like when we're talking, if you'd like to see what kind of headphones John is wearing, you can, you can come to our YouTube channel schedule, school, YouTube channel, and you can watch them there. But but speaking of feedback, I think it would be nice. If anybody had a question for us, a suggestion, a complaint, a withering criticism, whatever it is, write to us at a newly setup, email address, which is podcasts. At sketchbook school.com sketchbook school is spent with us. K two Ks sketchbook. That's a K and school that's. Okay. So schedule school.com a podcast that's scheduled, sold.com. You can write us, send photographs and I don't know, Bitcoin,

John Muir Laws:

the crack in there.

Danny Gregory:

If you have a crack in that you'd like to attach to an email and send it to us. We will be glad to receive it. I think this is the new, the new chapter in our lives. We've done a dozen of these episodes and now we're welcoming the world into, into the studio because I think it's appropriate because you know, the CDC has said a, you don't have to wear a mask. Most of you and B you're allowed to email the article podcast. I'm not sure about the second part that the CDC explicitly said that. It seems like the kind of thing they would say. Right.

John Muir Laws:

I, I, I think that it is a, an appropriately, socially distanced safe activity that that would also promote positive social engagement. And so that would be good for a second because I think it's going to go to all around. All right.

Danny Gregory:

That's excellent. Good. Well, I'm glad that we agree on that. So yes. So anything you want to say to us, write to us, I'll remind you about this later on, because you're probably jogging right now. So we'll also put this in the notes, so you can find it at the podcast at, I mean, it's fairly intuitive email address. I, I came up with it myself. I'm quite pleased with it, cause it was a good one. Thank you. So speaking of how, how has your week been since last we spoke?

John Muir Laws:

The week has been. Good. I have been, I've got sort of several creative projects that I've been playing with. And I think the most interesting is that I have been geeking out with the moon. I a young friend of mine said, you know, like let's, let's, let's take a closer look at what observations we can make about the moon. And I took that seriously and I have been trying to when weather allows to, to follow what the moon is doing and think about interesting ways of recording that and documenting it in my nature journal. And yesterday was a lunar extravaganza for me every, at first, every half hour. And then every hour I was out making moon observations and putting those in my. And what I'm particularly interested in is trying to, to find patterns that I see that I didn't expect and then try to reverse engineer those with. So if that's what I'm observing, what is going on in the relationship of the sun, the earth and the moon to make me see those patterns in the sky.

Danny Gregory:

So to telescope,

John Muir Laws:

I've got a pair of binoculars and I do have a telescope, but for, for most of this, I haven't needed the telescope. But the, my, my critical tools were my compass. And also my I've got some ways of, of estimating that the height of the moon in the sky. So I was, here's what you're let me, since you're, let me just tell you how I was kind of geeking out on this. What, what his thinking is. So I've made several observations in the moon, and what I've noticed is that as the moon rises, and then it goes across the sky and sets what if you imagine the moon as a clock, that clock face as the night goes on, or the day goes on, it rotates as the, as it's going through the sky. So imagine if you had a moon coming up, hold your hand in front of you to make a letter C and then rotate that clockwise. The position of that C is going to be moving as the, as the day or the night goes on, as it moves across the. And

Danny Gregory:

Preston, isn't just that same Crescent every time.

John Muir Laws:

So, so, so the, the, the, the Crescent is, well, first of all, we all kind of know that the face of the moon changes. So the Crescent is getting larger. It's getting smaller depending on what phase you are in, and then you have the moon, it comes up facing one direction, and then it goes around and it's facing change it. Yeah. It rocks in the sky. So I was trying to get the degree of rock and and then I so here's what my, my, my, my plans are. So I've now got a bunch of drawings, sort of showing the degree of rock over time. Then can I, from that figure out how much How much that moon rocks per hour. And so is it going through a full position change every 24 hours or is it a little bit more, is it a little bit less? And the and what I'm I'm I'm gearing up for is I've got sort of an, an international group of nature, journaling friends on next, next month when the moon is a fairly hefty Crescent coming up in the morning, I'm going to try to get people across the globe and the Northern and the Southern hemisphere to all make moon observations throughout the day. From the Northern and the Southern hemisphere at all sorts of different latitudes. So what's it going to look like on the equator? What's it going to look like close to the poles? We're going to find out and that's a cool idea. I think I'm really excited about it and there's, there's, there's all sorts of like things I didn't expect. I expected the sun would rise in the same place that the moon rose. So I got out and I watched the moon rise and I thought, okay. I think that the, the I'm now waiting for the sun to come up in the same place and then a different part of the sky lit up and the sun came up in a totally different spot. And then I track the position of the sun across the sky and the moon across the sky. The sun went much higher in the sky than my moon. And so then I'm thinking, all right, art is the plane that the moon is. Orbiting in, is that not at right angles with the with the rotation of the earth. So I, I never really thought much about this before, and I probably have seen diagrams showing this, but none of those stuck in my head, but now that I'm seeing this different pattern, I'm thinking like, okay, what could cause that? And so I'm first going to try to figure out as much as I can from my own observations, then bring in some international observers and then I'll probably end up looking for answers in books and things and trying to see how I can get those things to kind of square up. But that has been my. My, my moon geeking this week and it's been fun. So, you know,

Danny Gregory:

my brother-in-law works at Arizona state university and he runs the planetarium there. Whoever told you that

John Muir Laws:

I did not know this.

Danny Gregory:

Yes. So he runs a planetarium, which is like, basically he has a database of the entire universe in a hard drive and it's like this inquiry and heat. So he can go to any spot in the universe, look in any direction at any time. In history and take you through so you can go, like, if you want to see, like, what does it, what does Saturn look like from Venus 2000 years ago, he can take you and show you.

John Muir Laws:

Yeah, that's, that's, that's, that's hard because you've got, cause the, the positions, the relative positions of the stars now is if from an observer on earth is different than what the Greeks were

Danny Gregory:

looking at. Yeah, exactly. It's all, it's all different, but he, he has this, these really powerful computers that do that. And then he does I think it's monthly. Is it? Or maybe it's other every other week series on zooms. I think about a thousand people can come to this thing. And he does a thing about what is going on in the night sky tonight from here in Phoenix. So he does a show and people actually tune in from all around the world, not just from Phoenix, but he and other and the students who are in this department, they will talk about phenomena. They'll talk about all kinds of stuff. And they'll, they'll say like, this is what you can see now. And yeah, it's pretty cool. And he, you know, Arizona, Arizona in general is sort of an epicenter of celestial observation just because I don't know, there's just a lot of planetariums here and the

John Muir Laws:

dark skies.

Danny Gregory:

Right? Exactly. So not, not really here in Phoenix that much, although certainly better than it was in New York. And during the beginning of the pandemic, we would spend a lot of time watching it. And actually he pointed out to me, satellite. Like, if you lie out, like I was floating in the pool and he was like, well, that's a satellite. And I was like, really? How can you tell? And I started watching it. I realized like, yes, it doesn't behave like a star and it's moving across the sky. And you look back at that. It's always going to be at the same point. And there's a basically like a road that all these satellites are going along, that you can sort of find, you know, there's little lights that are just moving, which is pretty cool.

John Muir Laws:

The, the international space station is visible from

Danny Gregory:

totally. And they, there's a guy in, there's a team actually in their department that has for several years now been scanning the moon. So they have an satellite that orbits the moon that does these high, high definition scans of like. Foot of the moon. It's just, it's just like a scanner just keeps going round and around the moon, scanning it and building a database, a 3d model of every square inch of the moon. And so they'll have the whole moon captured in a computer, so you can zoom around and go anywhere. And of course the moon never changes. Like there's no, you know, the wind doesn't change. The mountains don't change, nothing changes. So you can have this very accurate 3d model of

John Muir Laws:

the moon. That's fun. And also those guys are

Danny Gregory:

also, they were in charge. They worked on that. The, is it James Webb? Satellite that just went up. They were involved with the launch of that and that's it traveled a million miles in like six weeks. It's insane. Yeah, it traveled so, so fast. And then they also worked on the Mars Rover. And in fact, he's been building this, this model of a Mars Rover to go in this sort of lobby of their space. So yeah, it's, it's a lot of cool stuff, a lot of interesting things to do with space

John Muir Laws:

stuff out there. So if I wanted to get on that monthly call or zoom meeting,

Danny Gregory:

I can send you a link and we can probably post it here,

John Muir Laws:

put it in, in the chat. Yes or no. In the chat of the the show notes for, yeah,

Danny Gregory:

it's called school of earth and space exploration. That's the name of the school. And it's a zoom free zoom webinar that they do and you just register for it. Then they send you the link to it and it's on Wednesdays. It's like every other one. But yeah, it's pretty cool. Then the ESU Marston exploration theater, virtual night sky presentation.

John Muir Laws:

That sounds good. That sounds good. Anything that if you, you just start, so I'm now I'm so obsessed with the moon that I, you know, I I'm, I I've been seeing this, this thing kind of go around my entire life, but I've never really followed it. Like, you know, yesterday did this wonderful thing. So as I was sketching it, as the day went along every hour, I'm making another drawing of what I can see of the moon. And you could actually see it from hour to hour. And, and I've seen this from night to night, like, oh, you are now a skinnier moon. During the course of one day, you can observe it getting noticeably skinnier. And for my last observation, it, you know, it was, it was just, you know, harder, harder and harder to see. And then my last observation of the day yesterday, I could not find the moon. And so I know it was up there somewhere. And I, I was from the measurements that I've taken already. I knew where to look and even with my binoculars, couldn't find it. And that was also fun. Dolan by the Russians, probably those Rascals that in the, in the early morning hours, Venus was very bright above it. That'd because I had also measured the distance from the moon up to. To Venus then during the day for, for most of the morning, I could still see, even though the was, the sun was out, it was broad daylight. I go like there's Venus. I could still see Venus sitting up there in the, in the, in the daytime sky. Yeah. I love it. When you see the

Danny Gregory:

moon in, you know, like two o'clock in the afternoon, still up there. Yes. It also, it also, it's amazing how the moon, just the moon moves and reappears in, in rises in such totally different places. It's such totally different times. It's kind of startling sometimes that it's, you know? Yeah.

John Muir Laws:

Yeah. And, and this is also fun. Th the, the, the, depending on the phase that the moon is in, it will. It actually is it's really consistent that it changes when it is, is, is coming up. But for each let's, let's take the full moon. For example, the full moon always rises right at sunset. Oh, you'll never see a full moon rise in the middle of the night.

Danny Gregory:

It's true. And it's you see, it's so gigantic. So particularly when it's close to the horizon, it's so big. Right. And do you understand that phenomenon of why it is that the moon seems so huge when it's close to the,

John Muir Laws:

my, my understanding is, and this our let's say it's your, your brother is the astronomer. My brother-in-law. Yeah, my brother-in-law my wife's your brother-in-law. If you've got your headphones on while jogging, listening to this podcast, we want to hear from you my understanding is that it's that because we've got something to compare it to, right. When it's just up there in the sky, there's no point of reference.

Danny Gregory:

Right. But if it's a size of a building, then you're like, oh wow. It seems really huge.

John Muir Laws:

Oh, look at that tree. Yep. Yeah. When I came out yesterday in the pre-dawn hours to catch the early rising moon I the, the moon was already a little bit up in the sky and it was just behind this distant Palm tree. So it looked like there was this little stock going up to this kind of Truffula tree with the, with the moon in it. That was,

Danny Gregory:

that was fun. That's classic. Yeah. Cause, cause When you try and take a photograph of the moon, just like with your regular camera, it's always disappointing at best. It's a little kind of looks like a, like a headlight or something. It's not, you know, you can like this gigantic sphere and then you take a picture and it's just like, man, man,

John Muir Laws:

that's why we've got our nature journals and our journals to record our actual experience. There you go. And there's also something that's fun that the that astronomers do to get those beautiful photographs of the moon that show all the details and craters and all the nooks and crannies. I used to think that those photographs were taken during a full moon because you can see the whole moon. But if you think about it during a full moon, the sunlight is shining directly on the face of that moon so that there are no shadows. Yeah.

Danny Gregory:

Good point.

John Muir Laws:

And so it would just, all those, those would be lost. And if you think about for for our drawings, the most th when we, when we get the light angle down low, so it kind of rakes across an object that low light is really useful for defining form and showing shape very often in the middle of the day, when the sun is just blasting straight down, the shadows are less interesting, but it's the same is true on the moon. So to get those photographs that show all the craters, what they do is they take a photograph of a Crescent moon and right on the edge between the dark along the Terminator line between the light and the dark, there are cool shadows. And so they just take that little slow. And they put that onto the picture. Then they take, wait a little bit. They get the, the, for that shadow to move it a little bit. And then they take the next photograph. They get the next little slice. And so those are composite pictures, getting all the slice, all the slices along the, that, that shadow edge, which also sort of reminds me when I'm making a sketch of something. Where do I put the texture in? You're going to get the best kind of indication of texture with shadows close to the, you know, sort of, not in the highlight area, but close to sort of the Terminator edge where your, where the light turns into dark, right along that edge, you're going to get all your cool shadows, just like on the moon.

Danny Gregory:

That's interesting. So I to this wasn't today, the moon was not the theme you've hijacked. I jacked

John Muir Laws:

it within. Let's

Danny Gregory:

talk more about the moon. We spent 25 minutes talking about the moon. Well,

John Muir Laws:

any, but again, anything when you start just geeking out on it, hard, it it's just like the wonder of the moon. I feel like it's like the first time that I'm experiencing, like this degree of moon wonder, because using my journal, I spent I've spent a month and then yesterday, all day just going moon, moon, moon, moon, moon, moon, moon,

Danny Gregory:

moon, moon, moon, moon, sheer

John Muir Laws:

lunacy. Oh, that ah, there

Danny Gregory:

you go. So yeah, well geekery though was potentially our topic because our. That we had both agreed on was we will want to talk about technology. And it reminds me actually thinking, speaking to the moon, I'm thinking about like, one of the gizmos that I have on my phone is called sky guide, which is an augmented reality application on your phone. So you basically hold your phone up and it shows you what you may not be able to identify. So it'll, if you've typed in the moon, it'll tell you where the moon is, even if it's below the horizon. And then also it'll tell you everything you want to know about any star and you can click on the star and touch it with your finger and it opens up a window and tells you all that kind of stuff. So I've found, cause I really don't know much at all about any of this stuff, but, but sitting around in the, in the pandemic, in the backyard, staring at the sky as much as we can. I was really curious to learn, and my brother-in-law's taught me a certain amount about it, but I've found that having this app on my phone has been really useful. Is that the,

John Muir Laws:

yeah, I've got an app like that on my phone. You do? Okay. Yeah, I know. I, I, I, I think it is, it's brilliant. Yeah. You you'll hold your camera up and it's on, like, you're seeing the stars and it's like, here's the pattern you should be looking at? And the I actually brought out my phone when I couldn't find the moon. Yesterday afternoon I brought up my phone and said, all right, find the moon for me and held it up. And it said the moon is right here. And then it looked right in that spot with my binoculars. I'm like, I don't see the moon. And it, so it didn't help me out of that jam, but it was in that pinch. I reached for that little bit of. The, but the but, but still it's, I wanna encourage people to, to, to spend some time trying to learn those constellations, because there's something wonderful about seeing, once you kind of realize that there are these, these familiar patterns, or they will become familiar to you, you'll walk out at night and like, there's that the other night we were kind of getting home rather late. My daughter said, daddy, come look at a Ryan. And we walked down the street and we spent some time staring at a Ryan. And the she is she's very into Harry Potter. And so she knows also there are some stars that characters in the Harry Potter books that are named after after stars. And so we're like, oh, they're serious. And she's like, and that one, their dad see there that's Bellatrix and. Who's who's one of the, the, the, the narrative Wells in the Harry Potter land. Right. And you know, but, but then there are like, there, there are these, these old friends in the sky and the best way to learn those. This is actually kind of old school tech. There's a book, there is a book and it's called the stars of all crazy names. It's called the stars. And it's by see if you recognize this author, ha re remember ha rate, is that George curious, George that's right. The author of curious, George wrote the best book for learning the constellations and, you know, cause you can redraw those patterns any way you want. And he redrew them in ways that are easy to remember and easy to see and easy to find. And. So you got to bring your, your curious George author out there. So between that app and the star is by ha Ray, you can, you can really get good at identifying the constellations when you're laying there in your backyard. That

Danny Gregory:

is, that is pretty cool. I mean, my brother-in-law has also been working with native Americans and, and the sort of the, their view of the sky and the stars and legends and stuff like that, that they have. And all kinds of interesting ways that, that, that, that they use observing the stars and the planets to, I don't know, maybe it's to tell time, I'm not sure all the different things that they do, but, but obviously the stars and the plants mean lot to everybody. But going back to the theme that I insist that pushing on you, despite your Luna predisposition.

John Muir Laws:

You know, you earlier you did invite me to kind of take some sidelines and, and, and, and alleys, but maybe you weren't

Danny Gregory:

sending the meditation. I'm just sending it because we have, we have a, we have a schedule too. We have a railroad to run here. But I'm interested in, in talking about just technology, because I feel like certainly as a naturalist, there are technological tools that I imagine are useful. I mean, I feel like for me, like I found this app called seek S E E K. That is pretty amazing where you can basically aim it at. Plant or also theoretically at any animal and it really quickly, it, it breaks it down and says like, okay, this is the class and the final exam and that this and that. And then it'll say, okay, I've identified it as this. And I identified every plant in our backyard or using it in about 10 minutes. And it was really, really cool because I had no idea of how to do it otherwise, because, and then it also there's one that the Audubon society has for identifying birds. And you can just basically turn your phone on and record a little clip of bird Merlin. Yeah. And it's amazing at that

John Muir Laws:

too. Yeah. The Merlin app, you can, you hear a bird singing, you turn it on and you record that bird. And it'll say like, ah, I think you're listening to this and you want to hear some other birds singing that thing you can it's it's. So the, that little piece of technology is really fascinating. Apparently it's hard to do voice recognition software on birds. And so what they did to make it work is inside the phone. The phone is turning the sound into a sonogram pictures showing frequency over time, and then it's analyzing the shape of the picture. So it's turning the sound into an image then analyzing the image and using recognition software to identify your bird. Yeah, that's the Merlin app. That's, that's really useful. And.

Danny Gregory:

For birds. Yes.

John Muir Laws:

And did you know that they make that for

Danny Gregory:

bats?

John Muir Laws:

Oh gosh. Yeah. Yeah. My daughter Carolyn is so into bats. She loves bat, so she's, she calls herself bat girl. She's got tons of that stuff. My nickname for her is fruit bat. And so the but with, with this, you can the bats are making echolocation sounds that are beyond our hearing. So there's a little device that you can plug into your phone and then listen, it brings the sounds of the bat vocalizations down to frequencies that you can hear. So you can hear the bats around you going click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click. And then if you want to, it will also then analyze the patterns and timings and frequencies that the bats are vocalizing at and giving, give you their their, their thoughts on which species that is based on those vocalizations. And what is that called? That's called

Danny Gregory:

gonna bring it up here and they're saying that's

John Muir Laws:

the next step? That's right. I'm

Danny Gregory:

saying it's the joker. It's the penguin? No, it's the

John Muir Laws:

it's the echo meter from wildlife acoustics. And So there's little module that you plug into your phone. And so we can, we can go out and we can use that. And you can, you can, you can listen to the bats singing and they do this really cool stuff. So as they're, as they're kind of cruising around, they're going, and then when they start to get pings off of a moth, so they're there, they're listening for the echo of their own voice off a moth. That's crazy. And so as they get closer to the moth, they kind of go into these, these, these from these sort of separate staccato ones to these trills as they're as they're kind of getting closer and closer to the moth. And so you can hear when they're kind of in a feeding buzz, there'll be, and then you couldn't correlate that with their behavior. Cause you'll be watching the bat flying along and all of a sudden it'll take. This sudden change of direction. And during that time it's going these little trills, so, wow. That's cool.

Danny Gregory:

Absolutely. That is interesting. Because I was reading about, there's a thing where you can train your dog to understand words, and then you, there are buttons that you can program that's right. So you can buy like a big plastic button and you can program it so that you give a word to the dog. And then if the dog, the dog will hit the appropriate button. So you can have different buttons that the D S that are tied to different words, so that the dog it's only, if you see that word, that that button works. I think that's how it works. So you can, so there's a whole, like, kind of. Cult of training your dog to understand words, and these buttons are the way that you do it. I clearly don't know a lot about it and I haven't trained my dog to do that yet, but yeah, that seems sort of useful too. Because there also, yeah, cause I think there are also things where you can have a color that a dog can vocalized certain words. Yes. There's something like that. And maybe make, I

John Muir Laws:

think the question is, yeah. With, with, with, with that, we have to, to be really, really careful thinking about what the animal is actually perceiving in meaning and understanding like there's these sort of famous cases of people being confused about about. Animals ability to, to understand things. And we want to sort of project our human language and understanding onto other species as well. There's this wonderful case of, have you heard of clever Hauns yes. The horse clever Hans, the horse who they thought could do all sorts of elaborate mathematical computations and to understand music theory and all these, these, these, this crazy stuff. And what the horse was doing is actually looking at scanning people's, which is also equally amazing with scanning people's facial expressions, to know when to stop stomping its hook and then was rewarded. The so if clever Hans couldn't see people's faces. Clever Hans couldn't do any of these things. But I wonder if this,

Danny Gregory:

well, I can, I can tell you a bit more about it because while you were talking, I have looked, I'm looking at the American kennel club website, which I'm sure wouldn't lie to us. And they're talking about a book that was written by a woman named Christina hunger, a San Diego based speech language pathologist. And so here's how the buttons work. Each button is pre programmed with words that her dog can select between to communicate wants, needs and thoughts. So for instance, if the dog wants to go and pee, there's a button that says potty and the dog knows that if I want to pee, I push that button, right? Because you can train it to say, like, I want a snack or I want this or that and eat. You can have a whole series of buttons and the dog. And when the dog pushes the button, You record a word into it. And this dog she's written a book about it. The dog has like 40 or 50 of these buttons and it knows it can say all kinds of things. And apparently it can sometimes combine buttons to, to create more

John Muir Laws:

complex thoughts. You'd have to be really, really careful about how you research that and analyze it because, you know, we, everybody wants their dog to be communicating with them on all these levels and it would be easy to over read into that. The

Danny Gregory:

also decided that you don't want to hear what the dogs is like if I train my dog and I said, if you push this button, it will say snack. She just puts the button all day

John Muir Laws:

pushing that snack button

Danny Gregory:

until you run out of that. I mean, that's always, the thing is like, if your animal could talk, it might not actually be that interesting. It might be like having like a three-year-old that sort of, sort of be sort of interesting, but after a while, like not that interesting.

John Muir Laws:

One of the more kind of interesting kind of dives into this were the, the, the, the Alex studies with Alex, the grey parrot and Alex was A parrot owned by, by Dr. Irene Pepperberg and she and her team of students first, you know, taught the parrot to talk, which is no, you know, it was nothing particularly special because everybody can say Polly wants a cracker, but when Polly says, Polly, want a cracker does poly mean I am poly. And it is my desire to have that cracker. Or is that just something that, you know, if I make this sound, I get a treat well with the Alex studies, they would, they, they were, it had all these wonderful controls to figure out what exactly does Alex understand? And. How is Alex, is Alex just essentially parroting things back or is Alex actually using language? And it turns out Alex was using language. Alice was using very sophisticated language and could, and they were able to determine that Alex could actually do all sorts of abstract thought where that there wasn't just that objects around had, were made out of different materials. And you could do, you could describe the same. You could look at an object and say, what material is it made out of? And the Alex wouldn't just sort of say, that's the triangle, it's the triangle. But let's say the triangle is made out of metal. You'd say, what, what material? And also go like, that's metal, what's the shape triangle, right? Or how many corners? Three. Right. And then on this tray, how many things are made out of wood? And so, I mean, that's. They're able to kind of do a really kind of deep dive into exactly what Alex the parrot could understand. And it's, it's, it's incredible what Alex was able to do. And is a good example of, of an organism that is clearly using language, but they needed to really tightly control things. Because if I'm thinking my dog is really intelligent, as in, is communicating to me, I'm going to interpret everything that my dog does in that framework. And confirmation bias is, is, does brutal things to our ability to kind of think and, and perceive. So if you're, I would say that I would wait for people to do some really kind of carefully controlled studies before making any. Any leaps in thinking about what my, what is going on inside my dog's head, right then I won't bother. Oh, no, no, but you could be that person. You could be that guy.

Danny Gregory:

But I'm just saying

John Muir Laws:

it, but, but that would be an area where you'd want to just realize that. So that we don't have another kind of clever Han's like experience going on. Well, what about that?

Danny Gregory:

Chimp, Coco?

John Muir Laws:

Yeah. Using language. So, so, so Coco, the chip was using language. The, the, and Alex, the parrot was using language. And. The Alex, the parrot you'd have to kind of get back into the studies, but they're, they're able to figure it out. I think Alex understood the concept of zero and this is that's a, that's a clever bird bird.

Danny Gregory:

That's good. That's hilarious. So what about map, map technology, right. I'm sure you use maps, right? When you're doing what a transformation that's made the ability to go anywhere. Right. And, and have a map it's like, you never need to get lost again, never as long as, as long as you're within range of

John Muir Laws:

Yeah. When I go out backpacking, I like to have a seven and a half minute USG graphics, service, topographical map in my hand, and a compass physical, physical, a physical map. I don't I, I like the process of land navigation with it, but I think that that is perhaps more just because it's a, that's a personal preference of mine. But I mean,

Danny Gregory:

they're amazing. They're amazing hiking map. You know, that trail, I forgot it's called all trails, you know, where you can kind of go to really remote places and, and, and have incredible degrees of, of detail and information.

John Muir Laws:

Yeah. The, the GPS systems that are now built into our telephones are absolutely. Amazing. And, and also, I, I I'll use, I'll use those sometimes I'm drawing, I'm making got a page in my journal and I want to sh I want to draw a map view of the point. Raise peninsula is showing the location where I am. And so I can just, I can now pull out my phone go, boop, boop, boop. And. A map view of where I am appears, and then I can zoom out and then draw that larger point res put myself in as a little locator map. That's really cool. That's that's fun.

Danny Gregory:

So there's something gaining more or losing more with this capability?

John Muir Laws:

Well, it depends on what we're using and how we're using it because there, there are you know, for instance, if you have the Sikh app and you say the purpose of this is to help me identify flowers and then I know the flowers, so I don't have to really look at them anymore. You're going to have a much more shallow experience. Then you would kind of, you know, pulling through books and looking carefully at the flowers yourself, rather than have the camera of the phone, look at the flower for you and identify it. You would actually have to look at the parts and count the parts and go like, well, this one is actually fuzzy down here on the stem. And then, so it's not that one. I think it's this one. It is this one. I think that, that I like things that very often the technology can make some things fast, but very often there's richness in slowing down and paying attention to the flower. And if your camera and the phone is the only one who really gets to see the flower, but you don't just go to you and go like, oh yeah, that's a forget me. Not now. I can forget that because the next time I need to know just like, oh, what's that? Oh, it's I forget me not. I think you're I think that that is. A an experience that you're, you're going to be missing out on a lot of the depth and the beauty of the world. Being able to, to walk along the trail and to know the birds by ear and go like, oh, I'm hearing this bird over here and I'm hearing this bird over here. The goal is actually to be able to do that yourself not and the, and, and, and learning how to do that through the phone. You know, that there's that bird, I can't find it, you know, who is that like, oh, it's you that's, that's convenient, but the old school way to do it would be, as I write that down in my journal, I'd have a visual, kind of a Sonic gram that I would write out of a bird song and I would call it mystery bird. You know, G and and then I'd be walking along some day and like, oh, there's mystery bird G again. And because I had paid careful attention to it, that COOs stick pattern would jump out of the sound environment because I paid so much attention to it. I'm going

Danny Gregory:

to disagree with you just for the hell of it. Because I think, yes, I agree that if I'm a, if I'm a really ardent naturalist, that would be true. If I'm more and more casual observer, which I am of gently, most things, you know, I find that like looking up at the night sky and trying to identify stars is always been really difficult for me to do. And I'm not interested enough to really push it that far. I remember when we lived in New York, we had, there was a bird that. Would start singing it certain times a year at about 4 45 in the morning. And we called it the jerk and start singing and it would wake us up and we wake up and it's, oh, it's a jerk. And it meant that like the sun was probably gonna rise in about 20 minutes, but it was, it was earlier than we wanted to get up. So we always knew the jerk. We have no idea what bird it was. We'd never saw what a Mockingbird might've been. I don't know if they have those in New York. I mean, we have a million of them here, but the jerk was just, you know, and then, so I think that what technology has allowed me to do is to, to know enough, to be not dangerous, but know enough about something that I would otherwise, not that I would not know anything at all about. And I think that that's been true of a lot of forms of technology. I mean, the ability, for instance, Shannon. To be able to be in a restaurant and a song comes on and you can pull out your phone and you can identify the song. You know, I think in a lot of cases finding that any kind of trivia, like there's been a lot of times where I've been like talking about something on YouTube and suddenly somebody is obviously like Wikipedia and what I'm talking about and correcting me in the notes. That kind of thing happens a lot where basically information. Is really readily accessible. It doesn't mean that knowledge is knowledge is different, but it's possible to find out anything. And I always wonder about, you know, the kinds of things that we used to learn in school, that there was a kind of a premium on learning dates in history class, you know, learning formulas in chemistry class. All those kinds of things are now sort of archaic. Even learning a language, right? When you can whip out your phone and put, turn on Google translate and basically have anybody, you know, anything anybody is saying just instantly being translated by your phone. It means learning languages becomes a quaint sort of thing, but unnecessary.

John Muir Laws:

I, I, my guess is that. You are stretching the point to make the point that you, that you don't feel that there's no reason to learn Spanish because there is but, but this technology is useful and it can be really helpful. So I'm not a Luddite. I don't think that the technology is bad, but I think that we should learn to speak other languages because it opens up a different kind of connection and understanding with other people that I don't think that you can get intermediated through an app. And also it challenges our brains to be continuously growing and thinking. Before we had GPS systems in our cars, my sense is that I had a better geographic sense of the spaces between things and and sort of the relationship of, you know, one little town to another. Now, when you just sort of plug in the destination, you're not having to kind of look at, at, at the maps and sort of visually think about things. I, I use the GPS for driving around in my car all the time. But it is a different experience than navigating other ways. I don't think that it's an equivalent experience to. Be able to have a conversation with somebody versus be able to get your app to say, where is bathroom? I,

Danny Gregory:

I th I get your point and I'm partly, I'm I'm disagreeing with you for the sake of having conversation, but I'm also, but I also think, you know, life is finite and there's only so much that we can do. And so, yes, it would be true that if we eliminated a lot of these things that we have adopted for the sake of convenience, you know, we might be able to retain certain skills and you know sensitivities that we're being deprived. Right. And we could go back to the days when everybody knew at most a hundred people in their entire lives, right. And most people didn't travel more than five miles from the place that they were born. And most people, you know, had this much more limited experiences of the world. Whereas now we have so much access to so much stuff. And I, I admit that we have, we are losing skills and things because of that. However, we're also gaining all these skills. Right. So when you talk about the connections that we have between people, that language affords us. Yes, it's true. But there's many, many ways in which we are now connected to other people that never used to be the case, regardless of even if we're all speaking English or even if we have you know Plugin in our Chrome browser, that's instantly translating everything we're saying so that we can speak to other people. I mean, all those things are available to us. And I think it's a, I think it's a, you know, it's a, it's a trade-off I think the fact that it's easier to have a shallow understanding of a much broader amount of information is probably better than leaving it to the experts. I think, you know, and I think, I mean, I'm, I'm a champion of jacks of all trade as it were, you know, I, I believe in, in having kind of medium amounts of information and medium amounts of skills in lots of different realms and not being an expert in particular because I think it makes life more interesting. And I like being a delicate. So it doesn't mean that there isn't room for experts, but I just think that the knee jerk reaction that says while we're giving up this stuff is I'm not on board with that. Yeah.

John Muir Laws:

I guess the way I would break that down is that life is finite. Yes. But you are also, so there's, there's richness that you can have by, by sort of sampling a little bit from a lot of things. There's a different kind of richness that you get from spending time and soaking into a moment or a place. So. My camera allows me the ability to take snapshots throughout the city. As a matter of fact, I could put my camera on a drone and have it whiz around the streets more quickly than I could walk and to record in HD all sorts of details of, of, of, of Venice. Or I could sit by the side of a canal for two hours and sketch and paint and talk to the people who are passing by and looking over my shoulder. And that experience would be profoundly, profoundly different. There are times when the technology does allow us to do different things. So for instance, sending that little drone up and kind of getting a a pigeon's eye view of, of the, of the, the, the Plaza that's, that might be interesting, but the, but just because something is fast and it allows me then to do a bunch of things quickly there's also going to be a cost to that. And I think that you then are not going as there's a tendency to think that then the goal is to do a lot fast and sort of that, you know, the idea of fear of missing out as opposed to taking your time and kind of, sort of having a slow food experience with. With where wherever you are and whatever you're doing.

Danny Gregory:

Yeah, I mean, I, I don't, I don't disagree with you. I think, I think it's not an either or situation though. I think that's right. I think it's like you can skim the surface and then you can dive deep. You don't have to choose. You can, you know, you, it's kind of like, you can have a relationship with somebody where you text message them and you send them four words, you know, eight times a day. Or you can see them once every three months and sit down for three hours and talk to them. Right. You can have, or you can do both, right. You can have both kinds of conversations with the same person. And, you know, I think technology. Technology makes a lot of things easy. And sometimes that easiness means we take important things for granted, or we forget to go deep because, you know, again, like why read a history book when you could just go to Wikipedia and look something up, if you need to know it well, because there's a certain pleasure that comes from reading a history book and from getting that context and that depth. But you know, it doesn't, I don't think it's an either or situation. I think, I think that technology allows us to be alive and awake and connected in amazing ways that I think gives us much more understanding of other people. It's ironic that we're living in a time that there's a certain amount of intolerance that we're seeing for other people, you know, broadly. But I think that intolerance has always existed in human beings. I think we always tend to be suspicious and intolerant or other people, but I think the connections that we make with other people. R that it's enabled by technology is also really important and profound, and is probably going to contribute to saving us as a species because we can collaborate because we can connect with people around the world and we can also find commonalities and similarities. Again, thanks to technology. I don't have a lot of patience for people who are just dismissive of technology in any room and it's part, because I think the technology is fantastic. I mean, I just think it's just a fantastic creation. I think the, I think this is the greatest time in human history to have been alive. And, but I also, I geek out about technology. I always have, you know, I mean, I've learned to write basic code when I was like 14 in high school. I've, you know, I've got. Websites my whole life. I've been an early adopter of technologies of so many kinds. I just think that the art of technology is fascinating as a thing that's being built. And I'm always, I dunno, I think the people who are resistant to technology on the face of it, I just don't do that. I don't know how to use that. I'm not interested in wearing that. You know, I don't need the latest, this and that. I, I'm not that impressed by that as an argument. I just think that it's a cool thing that people make. That is really interesting. And so, as a result of that, I'm always interested in what technology is doing and where it can lead us. But I do acknowledge the price that we pay for certain aspects of it. I just think that price is less than the benefits.

John Muir Laws:

Yeah. I, I use lots of technology in my life. And so I think. That the you're saying you're, it's, it's not, it's not a choice either, or, but it's a yes. And, and you just do want to be aware that these different, how you interact with something will change the experience that you have. How you interact with someone will change the experience that you have if you are if you are and, and things that, but I think it's also, we want to remember that we, as human beings are not stuck with the capacities and the abilities and the skills that we currently have. We can still learn how to How to cook, we can still learn how to juggle. We can still learn how to speak another language. We can still learn to identify Birdsong, our capacity for learning things is really amazing. And we're not locked into just what, what we have. So I'd say that also don't if you're saying yourself, like I can't identify constellations it may be that you've never, you've never pulled out. Ha Ray's book. If you're saying like, I can't do math, it may be that the teacher that you had who sort of exposed you to math is somebody who. Made it all about speed computation rather than thinking in ideas. Or I can't draw, I can't draw, you know, it's, it's a skill that we can, we can develop.

Danny Gregory:

But I think technology can make it easier to do that. In other words, digital tools can help you develop analog skills, right? You, you can learn to play the ukulele by watching a YouTube video. You know, so I think that, I think the technologies is technology. Technology is a tool. Like I think about a screwdriver, right? A screwdriver. I can undo a screw with a screwdriver, then I could, or I could get like an electric screwdriver or I can get a screw driving attachment from my drill. Now, if I don't use it properly, I will strip the. You know, or I will damage the thing that I'm trying to unscrew, but if I'm able to use it properly, I can remove screws much faster. And so I know how to use this tool and I use it properly. So a tool can be damaging if it's not used properly, but understanding when and how to use it is, you know, just part of, part of the, the drill as it works in, in learning to use it. So I think, I think that, I think there are certain types of technology, like social media that is definitely a devil's bargain, right. We, we have, there's certain benefits that we've gotten from it in terms of connection, but there's definitely a heavy price that we're paying for it as it's. Poorly managed and out of control and is driving wages between us and misinforming us. And, you know, it's, it's, it's too powerful and,

John Muir Laws:

You know, and I find it really powerful disinformation machine. Yeah. It's, it's it's and also sort of, to sort of, it's also a powerful tool for confirming and reinforcing. Any idea that I, I have, doesn't not not saying for, for fact checking things, but for if I want to find, like, if I've got some idea, I can very quickly find somebody who agrees with me, it just makes me feel that I'm more right. Exactly.

Danny Gregory:

Confirmation bias. Yeah. But I think, but it's like, it's like the internal combustion engine incredibly important technology transformed us as a species. And now we're paying a heavy price for it, right? Because it's affecting the environment. You know, I think that that's every technology you could go back and you could say the, you know, the invention of fire has the ability to destroy things, the invention of the sword or the arrow, all of our inventions and our developments. They have the ability to destroy us as well. You know, nuclear weaponry. I mean, this just goes on and on the technology is, is a tool. It's an innovation. It helps to advance us, you know, and just to bring it back to our topic. Art-making and technology, you know, I think that there's a lot of technology tools that I know that I've resisted, I've resisted digital art making. I did for a while. 'cause I just didn't like the examples that I saw of it. I also, there were certain things that are built into making things with a computer that kind of detracted from my analog experience of drawing with a pen. You know, so if you're drawing with a mouse sitting at a computer it's a different experience than drawing with a pen on a piece of paper. And I remember when I first started to encountered procreate on the iPad, which is a drawing tool that allows you to really, it's like an endless art supply store that you have you know, and you can try, you can water color and you can oil paint, and you can draw with every possible pen and brush imaginable. The, it took me a while to come to an understanding of it as a tool that it wasn't a way of simulating analogs tools. It was a way of doing something different company. But still really powerful and flexible. And, and with time I was able to make it as expressive and emotional as I was with a pen and a, and a brush. What are your feelings about digital art making technology?

John Muir Laws:

There's you know, there are people who are absolutely brilliant with it and do beautiful things and it's, it's just different for the stuff that I do. Part of it becomes impractical because I'm going out in the, the wet I'm going out doors and in cold conditions in wet conditions and, you know, following a squirrel and looking for what it does and wanting to take notes about that. If I'm trying to do that on my tablet, I'm endangering the life of my tablet. The and, and more and more the, one of the first things that, that the interface of them, or we're so kind of clunky that it got in the way of the drawing process, right. And now a lot of that is getting out of the way and it's becoming much more intuitive and that people are able to do absolutely great stuff. Just for, but for the specific kind of thing that I do the analog is at this point more useful to me because it's not going to run out of battery. It is not going to get damaged by the sun. It's not going to get damaged by the cold. Course it can get damaged if I drop it in a river, but that did happen to one of my journals and But the but a tablet would have been in even worse shape.

Danny Gregory:

Yeah, no, I think that, that makes sense. And I think I, I imagine you use digital technology when you put a book together, it's, it's absolutely it's essential. I think things like Photoshop are really valuable tools. I think also technology, I mean, we're using technology digital technology right now to have this, to record this conversation. I think recording, you know, sound music, all those kinds of things. Digital technology is incredibly useful and democratizing certainly with video production. The fact that anybody with a phone is able to make a video that they can share with the world is an incredible transformative power that was unthinkable 20 years ago. You know, that, that, that idea that, that a phone and YouTube, you know, you can be anywhere in the world and you can make a video easily. I think For me being able to read a book on Kindle has been really powerful as well. I read a huge amount of books. I can take a book out of the library at three o'clock in the morning. If I wake up and want something new to read, you know, I think all those things are, are really great. And you know, so I think it's, it's a very, very powerful force that we still need to be smart about. We still need to be aware about. And I think as artists we need to, I think there's two sides of it. As artists, we need to be open to new ideas. That's an essential part of being creative, I think, is not to have closed your mind down to any tool that could be. But similarly as artists, we need to retain our connection to the now we need to be present. We need to be able to be in touch with what's going on around us. We need to not just get into into a fog and technology can, can fog us easily fog our, our brains with with its power. So, so I think it's, it's, that's my response to it in the end is to recognize its value to embrace its value, but not to be blinded by it too.

John Muir Laws:

And I guess I would tag onto that, that each sort of each medium that you use comes with it. The essentially the user experience is going to be different in these different sorts of things. So if I am and, and also. With different, with different sorts of tools in your hand, the purpose of what you're doing changes. So if you have an app in your hand that allows you to very quickly identify flowers, you might think that then the goal is to identify flowers. If you have a journal in your hand that allows you to record information, and then you might think that your goal is to document your observations and to observe the flower more great, more, more closely. So yeah. So each of these technologies is going to give you a different, a different experience. And you touched on this, but being aware that built into some of these technologies are very intentional and deliberate human conditioning protocols. If I'm sort of going after kind of likes and hearts and comments and subscribers, the way that I'm going to interact with the world through that technology is different than if I am motivated by let's say an intrinsic curiosity of the moon. Right. And The, the social engineering that is happening in many apps the people who are designing that are the cutting edge of human, cognitive psychology, they know what's make what makes us tick. They know what kind of keeps us there. They know those sorts of things, and they get paid for kind of getting us to spend more time in that app environment, clicking those sorts of things.

Danny Gregory:

And what are their motivation? The motivation behind the tool is not what it seems to be on the face of it. It is, it is,

John Muir Laws:

it is

Danny Gregory:

accomplishing. I mean,

John Muir Laws:

social media is okay, then changes the way we interact with other phenomena, right. That I'm calm I'm then then I'm say chasing likes and shares, and that is different than say the motivation of. Wanting to connect with a place or people or other living things on the deeper level, you know, the, the objectives of the people who made that app may not be something that is good for you. Good for the planet to good for your community. Right.

Danny Gregory:

Right. You'll be like a dog clicking a button to get a snake to be Pavlovian about it. So. All right. Good. Well, I think we have, we have, I think this is an interesting area to talk about, and I think we've done a reasonable job of, of at least touching upon some of the main points. So thank you for, for joining me in doing this. I want to remind people again, write to us podcast@sketchbookschool.com. If you have a technological device that is capable of sending emails, Send us one. Tell us what you think. Tell us what you'd like us to talk about. Tell us that you have a question, whatever it is. We look forward to

John Muir Laws:

disagree with us. Yes. In a respectful way. Yes,

Danny Gregory:

yes, absolutely. If it's not respectful, we'll we'll we will, we will delete it with prejudice. So yes. So write to us and maybe we all in future episodes address some of these emails on, in the, in the broadcast. Let's see. Let's see how it goes. Hey, thanks very much, Jack. It was fun to chat with you again.

John Muir Laws:

It was fun to chat with you as well today. I can't go out and watch the moon because it's now. If by yesterday afternoon, it was so thin that it had disappeared on me. There's no moving for me to observe today. So we've got all this time on my hands. That I'm glad I got a chance to hang out and talk with you.

Danny Gregory:

Well, I'm glad I could keep you busy. That's good. This has been the podcast with Danny Gregory and John your laws. We'll see you next time. Bye-bye see you next time.

Intro
Email podcast@sketchbookskool.com
Geeking out over the moon
Sky guide
Seek and Merlin apps
Echometer from wildlife acoustics
Alex the parrot
Diletantism
The price we pay for information
The pros and cons of technology
In conclusion...