How to Procrastinate #2

#2 Misuse tools

vancouver street during a snowfall | digital photo through Brownie Hawkeye viewfinder

It is snowing again. This might not seem like a big deal, but since it’s snowing outside my window and that’s Vancouver out there, I can assure you it is. It’s snowing on top of the snow that arrived over Christmas and they’re not just those big sloppy pseudo snowflakes usually delivered to Vancouver, they’re the ones that mean business – the small, dry innocuous ones that slowly, deliberately and patiently bury your car and maddeningly delay your bus.


vanouver street in sunlight | digital photo through Brownie Hawkeye viewfinder

It hasn’t been continuously snowing since Christmas though. We’ve had the requisite rain, even a bit of sun accompanying a convenient dipping of temperature to ensure the rain and thaw-smoothed snow formed sculpted ice-ruts on all of Vancouver’s unploughed secondary roads as well as lovely smooth ice tracks down the sidewalks.


photo of a photo – vancouver alley | digital photo through Brownie Hawkeye viewfinder

What has this got to do with procrastination? Everything. When it snows here it feels like time stands still. Sounds are muffled, the birds are hiding and the only thing that breaks the quiet is the soft scraping of a shovel, wielded by the red-faced kid across the street who’s building a snow hill for his sled on the small, very flat lawn in front of his house. I admire his ambition.

It feels like I have all sorts of time to do useless things. Like the day will go on forever until the spell is broken by the impossible appearance of sun or the inevitable end of daylight.


shark jaw & root | digital photo through Brownie Hawkeye viewfinder

I found a Brownie Hawkeye camera at a garage sale on Bowen Island a few weeks ago. (Actually, Rachael spotted it, but didn’t feel like expanding her generous collection of film cameras so I bought it instead.)

The thing is a mold garden. The mold is even growing on parts of the outside of the camera. At some point I’ll take it apart and clean it – maybe at a time when I’m supposed to be doing something else. But for now, I’ve been taking photos with my old digital camera through the viewfinder. If I clean the camera, I’ll likely leave the mold and guck in place on the viewfinder – I like it. It’s like all the bits of mold growing in there give it a sort of soul and I’m fond of the ethereal effect.

So instead of finishing my studio organisation in anticipation of the first upcoming, productive week of the new year, I’m going to wander around the house with a cup of coffee taking mundane photos through grubby glass. It’s possible I may never run a roll of film through the thing. I think I like this better.

There was an episode of Spark the other week, about using items for purposes for which they weren’t initially designed. Or exploiting the function of an object in an unexpected way. The worst thing any one ever said to me when I was a kid was “It’s not designed for that”. I heard it whenever I got caught using an borrowed object or tool for a function not specifically intended for the purpose (which was often). As a kid I used to be incredibly frustrated by this. It was a hard thing to wrap my head around – that every thing had a specific use – the one that was explained on the box or described in the name. And yet there had to be more uses in the world than there were assigned tools. I knew that what it actually meant was “I don’t like you using my things”, but the choice of phrase struck me.  Situation aside, and examining the statement alone – it implies a very specific way of looking at the world – at things – at technology. We make a thing for a purpose and bind it forevermore to that purpose. Forget ingenuity, forget experimentation. Rules first. I suppose that’s why I love item #7 on the Spark list so much: “Users, not designers, are often the best at figuring out what technology is for”. It’s not that the items on the list are particularly profound or highly technical – it’s what they represent that is so wonderful. It’s the same spirit that drives independant developers to build things that turn an iphone into a sketching tool, a flashlight, a notepad, a dog whistle… As well as the spirit that allowed that situation to happen in the first place (opening a tool up to further development). And it’s the same impetus that caused us to turned a stick into a tool, a weapon, an instrument at the very beginning of it all, allowing people like me to wander around the house on a snowy day, creating digital images with the help of an obsolete piece of equipment used in a way it was not originally intended.