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Author Archives: David Thomas Peacock

Hello My AI Freind

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Life’s a funny thing. You spend years chasing some dream, hunched over a canvas like a dog with a bone, only to be left with a pile of paint-smeared rags and the nagging suspicion you might have missed the whole damn point. But then, sometimes, just when you’re about to chuck it all in, light hits that bastard brushstroke just right, and there it is – a sliver of beauty caught, a whisper of the world’s messy glory snagged on the teeth of your creation. That’s the pay-off, that fleeting moment where the pain of creation gives way to something… well, not exactly peace, more like a grudging respect for the whole damn, beautiful mess of it all.”

This text was generated from the prompt “Write a paragraph about art in the style of David Thomas Peacock.” I fed it into Gemini, Google’s LLM after hearing Andrew Huberman interview Mark Andreeson on his podcast.

My little off-the-cuff experiment resulted from Andreeson’s reference to 2021 as the year large language models stopped freely trawling the web for training data. I’d heard about this before, but a quick search doesn’t confirm it. Unsurprisingly, the history of training data sets for AI is not easily accessed.

Since I started this blog in 2017, I’ve often wondered if my musings had indeed been gulped up by toddler AIs. The text generated doesn’t entirely convince me, but it does bear some semblance to my writing.

Clearly, these things are just getting started.

More later…

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back (Part 4)

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You know that thing you’ve been working on? Not the fun thing—the one that you have to do to complete some project? The one you’ve been working on for what seems like forever?

Yeah, that one.

Well, it’s not over yet, and it’s not going to finish itself. So put on your big boy pants, pour another cup of coffee, and get to it.

For god’s sake—let’s finish this and move the fuck on.

This Can’t Be True

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”According to the World Health Organization, the average American can expect just one healthy birthday after the age of sixty-five.”

No Resources? No Problem!

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“Host,” a British horror film directed by Rob Savage and released in July 2020, could surely be the poster child for making the most of some rather severe limitations. Let’s start with my two-word synopsis: Zoom seance. Sure, we’ve all seen countless seance movies—but a remote seance on Zoom? I think not.

Shot at the height of the COVID lockdown, it must have made perfect sense at the time. Everyone had to work remotely, so why not make a movie out of a Zoom meeting? Sounds like a recipe for disaster—unless you can be ruthlessly creative. Creativity trumps (almost) everything, and clearly, this wasn’t a problem for the filmmakers.

This might be a good time to give my assessment of the results: 100% fucking brilliant. As a lifetime horror film buff, I’m not easy to impress, but this 56-minute film was absolutely terrifying. The actors killed it, working with a script outline that allowed for improvisation. Improvising scenes remotely? Surely that can’t be done, right? Wrong. The dialog and interaction between the actors was astonishingly realistic. Robert Altman would be proud.

Speaking of which, the actors did their own camera work AND stunts. Say what?! You heard me—I didn’t think it was possible either. But trust me, it is. I actually got chills watching it, and again, you don’t get much more jaded than me.

I’ve slowly become quite a fan of “found footage” horror. It provides a low-budget entry point for filmmakers hoping to break in, and this is a perfect example why.

Think you can’t do something because you lack the resources? Think again. Necessity is truly the mother of invention.

Validation: Internal or External?

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Internal: I like it, therefore it’s good.

External: Someone else must confirm it’s good before I know whether it has any real worth.

Here’s the thing: If you’re making any kind of art, presumably you’re making it because you’re compelled to express yourself. You don’t need anyone’s permission for that, nor do you need anyone’s approval once it’s done. So just make shit to your heart’s content, and measure its worth based on your own internal metric of whether it works or not.

Everyone wants other humans to see the beauty in their creations, but for the most part, it’s just not going to happen. And if the world’s indifference makes you question its worth, that’s not necessarily a bad thing—it might spur you to do better work. But you shouldn’t need the world to tell you whether your creation has any value.

Does it have value to you?

If the answer is yes, take a moment to admire it, then get to work making other cool shit.

Everyone else can just fuck off.

Why Blog?

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Writing is like a muscle—the more you use it, the stronger it gets. And therein lies the power of blogging: it’s a disciplined flexing of the connection between thought and language. If I commit to writing something and posting it every day, it forces me to form some (hopefully) cohesive thought and put it into words.

Then make it public. This part is super important—it keeps me honest and accountable.

The reality is that I’m not always sure what I post is useful for anyone else, but forcing myself to write something and make it public strengthens the neural circuits in my brain that express thoughts into words. There’s often no editing involved, so that’s a bit of a highwire act in itself.

But there are other benefits as well. The discipline of knowing I have to post something forces me to be actively engaged with the world around me. Creative types tend to live in their heads; daily blogging requires paying attention to what’s happening around me if for no other reason than I need something to post about.

There’s also this: I’m trying to put something positive out into the world. A very unstable, fucked up world where negativity seems to be the currency of the day.

So there’s that.

Pig

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Released in 2021, Michael Sarnosky directed this quiet masterpiece starring Nicholas Cage in what is undoubtedly one of his greatest performances. The film subverts your expectations at every turn in wholly unpredictable ways.

As a lifelong lover of the medium, finding movies like this is a rare treat. With what must have been a sparse but very well-written script, the dialog is spare to non-existent—leaving the character development on screen in the hands of the actors. We’re well into the film before the character’s backstory is carefully revealed and slowly parsed out in a way that adds layers of unexpected depth. Just when you think the film is about one thing, it shows you something else, adding emotional layers that reveal a meditation on the pain of being a sensitive human crippled by grief, clinging to his memories, assuaged by his profound love of his pig.

Special mention must be made of Alex Wolf’s performance as his guide while they search for his kidnapped, beloved truffle pig.

I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but if you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat.

In this life, no one comes out unscathed.

At Least AI Is Reading My Short Stories

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Things are progressing quickly with LLMs. Not that long ago, I tried uploading some of my flash fiction and AI was completely unable to understand any inferred meaning. It could read the words but had no idea what I was writing about.

Now it’s giving me thoughtful feedback on character development and plot points, mapping interiority to story form, and highlighting foreshadowing.

From dunce to sophisticate in a few months.

Hang on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

The Style Of Writing Called “Breezy”

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”There is a kind of writing that sounds so relaxed that you think you hear the author talking to you. E. B. White was probably its best practitioner, though many other masters of the style—James Thurber, V. S. Pritchett, Lewis Thomas—come to mind. I’m partial to it because it’s a style that I’ve always tried to write myself. The common assumption is that the style is effortless. In fact the opposite is true: the effortless style is achieved by strenuous effort and constant refining. The nails of grammar and syntax [word order] are in place and the English is as good as the writer can make it.”

– William Zinsser

And Now for Some Bad News

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Due to the trauma-inducing effects of today’s post, it has been permanently redacted from the records.

Hint: I just listened to investigative journalist Annie Jacobson’s interview with Lex Friedman on her new book, “Nuclear War: A Scenario.”

I loathe trigger warnings, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to issue one here. If you want to sleep tonight, or ever again for that matter, don’t listen, and for god’s sake don’t read her book.

Takeaway: If there is a nuclear strike on the U.S., pray that you and your loved ones are vaporized in the initial blast.

Now go hug the people you love, and if you can’t, make sure you tell them you love them.

Everything else is out of your hands.

The Nexus of Art and Commerce (Part 1)

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Artists are compelled to make cool shit. What happens to that cool shit after they make it is, for the most part, a complete mystery. It’s just not how their brains work. They want people to enjoy and maybe even have their lives changed by the thing they’ve made, but how to get the stuff in front of those who might be inclined to love it is about as clear as string theory.

For anyone involved in the arts, I’m making a generalization here, but it’s an obvious one. The history of the music business is littered with painful examples of the worst kind of exploitation imaginable.

This is where artist management in music and agents in the literary world come in, negotiating and brokering deals that are mutually beneficial for all parties involved, helping the artists navigate the world of commerce that is necessary to get the good stuff in front of the consumer.

Something most artists are poorly equipped to do.

In the best of all worlds, this is what would happen. In reality, a whole lot of great shit never sees the light of day. And if it does, it’s bought and sold while the artist is simply chewed up and spit out of the gaping maw of the entertainment machine, no different from an outmoded widget.

The intersection of art and commerce is a dangerous place, best navigated with powerful allies.

All of Us Strangers

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Andrew Haigh’s fantastic movie from 2023 is a great example of non-linear, open-ended storytelling that packs quite an emotional punch. One you won’t soon forget.

Love, regret, shame, grief—in other words, the human experience—give the film its universal appeal, albeit one that will require a nearby box of tissues. There will be tears, but their source may surprise you.

I love this kind of storytelling—it’s as if you have access to a window into the most private reaches of the aching pain and beauty of what it means to be human. All told in a kind of fever dream where reality itself becomes a fragile, malleable construct.

It’s heartening to see films like this released. Highly recommended—you won’t see anything else quite like it.

In The Game

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As a writer, “selling” your work is a brutal affair. All arts are the same, really, so what writers go through isn’t unique. At least we don’t need permission to work—god knows how actors deal with it.

By “it,” of course, I mean rejection.

I’ve been writing and publishing short stories for a few years, so I’ve learned to develop a thick skin when it comes to rejection. But rejection of a short story is not the same as rejection for a book. It’s not even the “time invested,” it’s just so goddamn personal.

The characters are so real, it’s almost like I’m letting them down, if that makes any sense.

But here’s the thing: if you can’t buck up and take the hit of rejection, you’re not even in the game.

So that’s what I keep telling myself.

It also helps that I’m starting the next book