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Bootleg Golden Books, My Small PEZ Addiction & A Tiny Rant About AI “Art.”

Bootleg Golden Books, My Small PEZ Addiction & A Tiny Rant About AI “Art.”
Chewbacca, Santa, Baby Yoda, Mandalorian, Dracula, Elf

These are my daughter’s bath toys. Their names, according to her, from left to right: Bacca, Yanta, Baba, Papa, Dadaluaaa, Buddy.

I had posted this picture on my instagram stories twenty days ago, but stuff on there goes so fast, I figured I’d add it here, feeling like it kinda needs to live forever and not just a quick, tiny ant in an endless march of ants we consume as entertainment.

What also goes fast? What she calls them. Each day their names are getting more defined, better pronounced. They’re more them. She’s more her.

Her latest snack-love is popcorn, which, when she tried to say it the first time, came out as Buddy. So now Buddy is both the Elf PEZ and what she says as she stands in front of the pantry, pointing up and yelling. Buddy,  Buddy, Buddy.

The other morning she woke up and instead of the traditional Mama or Papa, we heard from the other room Buddy, Buddy, Buddy.

I’m trying to be very restrained (for me) in adding PEZes to the collection, but last week while at Target I couldn’t help but pickup my own childhood favorite Spider-Man. His name, now? Na-Na-naaa.

Next week it might be something different.

Golden Books and Their Knock-Offs

Time is more in flux now than ever for us. How long have we been playing on the floor with this puzzle? Must be an hour. Nope, only ten minutes.

How long has it been since she learned to walk and talk? Not even a year.  

How long have we been reading the same golden books? Forever?

The love of reading has already taken hold in her and it is glorious to watch. Her patience reading even the longest books is more than my own. I often leave the words on the page and begin making up my own stories to the pictures to speed things along.

It has me remembering my own childhood — how I’d setup a “bookstore” of my own formidable collection of Golden Books, laid out all down the hallway, covers-up in rows and rows. Our entire ranch-style house’s thick brown shag carpet would be a tile floor made of Golden Books laid edge-to-edge.

“Dad, dad, come shop at my store!”

Sometimes, I’d stack them into piles based on what back they shared, creating three-dimensional bar graphs before I knew what bar graphs were (perhaps that’s why I love Excel?). Golden Books are magical. The size, the binding, the life in each and every one of them.

I don’t have any left from when I was a kid, but we’ve already assembled a pretty good collection of them for her. We are constantly on the look-out for more good things to read, though. I fell down an eBay rabbit hole the other night saying out loud as I browsed, “yup, had that one. Had that one, had that one,” until I came cross some knock-off ones, “woah!”

I had no idea there were bootleg Golden Books—I never had any when I was a kid—but of course there were bootleg Golden Books. Any time there’s something successful and iconic, there’s those who will try to capitalize on the hard work of others. There are always people who are gonna take shortcuts.

Shortcuts in Life and Art

I’ve experienced it myself a few times; the amount of bootleg Reading is Sexy merch has died down, but at it’s Rory-fueled peak, it was insane, and the I Survived A Meeting copies happened almost instantaneously to the point that few folks even realized Will was the first to coin it.

I gave a semi-impassioned Creative Mornings talk seven years ago about how there was a culture of image theft and copying and bootlegging online, and things really have only gotten worse since then. The new wave of tools let you not just steal folks’ art one piece at a time, but wholesale copy their entire body of work and create “new” work in their style.

Those folks then have audacity to claim they “made” the art. Typing into a prompt “Do dragons like this dude does dragons” is not creating art. I’m sorry, it’s not.

My art might infringe on Disney's IP.

I can’t draw. I’m not an artist. Heck, I don’t even really consider myself a writer. But this all seems wrong to me. Morally wrong.

Is it legal? Is it within fair-use? Maybe? But that doesn’t make it right. At least not to me.

These systems took entire bodies of artists’ work, without permission, tagged the artists and let people steal their entire oeuvre and raison d'être in seconds*.

*I used multiple french words so you’d know I’m serious.

Now I get why people want to play with shiny new toys; I love toys. I love computers, I love playing with the latest tech. I get it. This is fun! I even get why people would make systems like this – look what’s possible!

What makes me mad, I guess, is that I’ve already seen people online use these new tools, try to sell the work off as their own, claim “they’re just like Photoshop or Illustrator” — now maybe your copy of Photoshop is different from mine, but it is not even close to the same thing.

Photoshop and Illustrator still require the hand of the artist. They require you to actually create or modify things you’ve made; can you smooth things over or color things in easier, or make circles more perfect, sure, but they don’t wholesale take someone else’s images, magically, mix them with a thousand other images and let you type in some words to generate something new.

At least not yet.

Look at all these google results I made!

Is there skill in crafting a good search request to find exactly what you’re looking for online? Of course.

Would you say that you created the results?
That the pages you link to are yours?
Of course not, they’re obviously the people’s who made the actual pages.

Is there skill in creating prompts in Stable Diffusion to get the exact results you’re looking for? Of course there is.

But please, for the love of god, don’t call it your art.
It isn’t, it is the work of the people who actually made the original images.

It lacks the soul and character of the human hand. It approximates it, tries to copy it, but it isn’t it. You can tell.

Nick Cave - The Red Hand Files - Issue #218 - I asked Chat GPT to write a song in the style of Nick Cave and this is what it produced. What do you think? Verse 1: In the depths of the night, I hear a call A voice that echoes, through the hall It’s a siren’s song, that pulls me in Takes me to a place, where I can’t begin Chorus: I am the sinner, I am the saint I am the darkness, I am the light I am the hunter, I am the prey I am the devil, I am the savior Verse 2: I walk the streets, with my head held high I’ve got my demons, but I’ll make them fly I’ll dance with the devil, and I’ll play his game I’ll be the one, to call his name Chorus: I am the sinner, I am the saint I am the darkness, I am the light I am the hunter, I am the prey I am the devil, I am the savior Bridge: I’ve got the blood of angels, on my hands I’ve got the fire of hell, in my eyes I’m the king of the abyss, I’m the ruler of the dark I’m the one that they fear, in the shadows they hark Chorus: I am the sinner, I am the saint I am the darkness, I am the light I am the hunter, I am the prey I am the devil, I am the savior Outro: So come with me, to the edge of the night Where the darkness and the light collide We’ll walk the line, between the good and the bad And we’ll see, who comes out on top in the end.
Dear Mark, Since its launch in November last year many people, most buzzing with a kind of algorithmic awe, have sent me songs ’in the...

As is often the case, Nick Cave said it all better, more artistically, and even more succinctly over on his Red Hand Files describing it as “a grotesque mockery of what it is to be human.”

A bunch of essays, photos and thoughts by Pat Castaldo.