Monday, September 7, 2020

Bye Ming

By request, one last look at my best friend in Malaysia, Ming Thein.

I never had many kind words for Ming, he always seemed to be a faker, converting a mild talent for graphics, a penchant for overprocessing, and a case of logorrhea into a modest little empire that was never as big as he pretended it was. Then he teamed up with Robin Wong, one of the least interesting photographers on earth, that relationship died on the vine slowly, and now the whole enterprise has simply gone under.

Let's go take a look, though. We haven't peeked in in a few years, maybe in his old age he got up to something interesting. Let's look at his last think piece, "What is Creativity" shall we?

Well, that first sentence is a bit inauspicious, seeing as it doesn't seem to mean anything but it certainly uses a lot of words. No, not quite, he seems to be claiming that loads of people claim stuff is "creative" when it's not, but it's anyone's guess WTF the second clause means. To be honest, I can't even make out what is in need of such treatment. Is is the non-creative stuff people are doing? I guess.

So we have a strong Ming start here. He basically jumps in slamming some vague population of rubes as not creative, as neverthless claiming to be creative, and doing things which would be much improved by creativity if only said rubes were not so un-creative.

Whatever. We already knew Ming was a prick, so moving on.

Un-creative people think "creativity" is just unstructured randomness, truly creative people see it as a careful and structured process I guess, and naturally Ming has enormous experience that is relevant here and is just the fellow to tell us all about it.

Fuck. Next graf.

Pissing on uncreativity as mere rule following or whatever, yeah yeah uncreative people suck and are boring. Back to Ming for a bit how he spent the better part of 10 years (which we may take to mean 2 years or so, because Ming has never done anything except blog for anything close to 10 years, but perhaps he means blogging is uncreative), anyways Ming remains the perfect person to tell us all about whatever.

Graf 3 has nothing I can see about how great Ming is, thank god, but does contain a labored but very ordinary definition of what creativity is.

Onwards to something about Lego (not to quibble, but let me quibble, it's LEGO) and then to something about how breadth of knowledge, even across disciplines, can give you more stuff to be creative with, ok. Sure. I mean, obviously? Some sort of connection to life, but I'm pretty sure he just said loads of people (presumably all those boring people he worked for) are uncreative, so clearly it's possible to live without being creative? Not sure what he's going for with THAT, but he definitely wants to throw in "biomimicry" because, wow, cool word. I bet he's using biomimicry in his watches.

Incredibly labored paragraph about how designing watch movements is like designing photographs. Labored because the two have nothing in common except that you're making something to look at. You could make exactly the same analogy between designing watch movements and designing wedding cakes. The main takeaway here is that Ming is a meticulous worker and now he's desiging watch movements!!!! (no, he is not, stand by)

Photograph with a long caption that details the cosmetic changes Ming made to a bog-standard watch movement ("bridges and plates" means the stationary parts) salted with a vague insinuation that he could design his own movement (no). There is obviously an existing industry to allow a high degree of visual customization of watches so anyone with enough cash on hand can start a watch company. MING Horology is, by all accounts, doing very well. But then, MING Photography was allegedly a bustling operation as well.

Next graf. Stupid argument about how breadth of knowledge is better than depth for creativity because it enables non-linear advances. What? I mean, sure, breadth is good, I am all for it. Better than depth? Are horses better than jam? This, of course, segues into more about how great Ming is, and also how much he's grown because, you guessed it, he's got breadth albeit not a lot of depth. So I guess he's making non-linear advances by banging off the shelf watch movements into attractive cases. I mean, sure, the watches are nice, but I'm not seeing a lot of non-linear advances here, we're not exactly inventing time travel. Connection to curiosity which seems a little iffy, but OK, I can see it. The leap Ming makes here is awkward, though. Anyways, ends on this wierd 1+1=5 (more creative?) as opposed to 1+1=3 (creative, but not as much?).

Something something curiosity. We're wandering pretty far from creativity now, not sure what the point is. Beginning to sense that leaping from creativity to curiosity was a mistake, because this isn't making a lot of sense. Everything is awful, and people are stupid, curosity (and, I suppose, creativity?) are crushed by society, government, and stupid people. I think. Honestly, he's just rambling at this point.

Last graf thank god. At this point we've fully conflated curiosity and creativity, the lack of one is equivalent to the lack of other, and everything is horrible without people who will ask "why" like an innocent and yet very broadly knowledgable child, I guess, because asking "why?" and making shit are basically the same thing?

Big finish, "those of us who have had.. know it cannot be turned off.. we are awesome forever and ever and by we I mean myself, of course, yay for me."

So, yeah. Typical think piece from Ming. A lot of words and circumlocution to hide the fact that it's a mixture of roughly equal parts dictionary definitions, stupid conflations, and auto-hagiography.

I can see liking the dude's pictures, right? I mean, they have a crispness to them, and sometimes real graphical oomph. I found them facile and empty, but that's me, right? These fucking words though, god. I can't imagine anyone actually fought their way through this trash in a serious way. They skimmed it, and it sounded Real Smart and Maybe Some Day I'll Give It A Good Read. It's not Brad Feuerhelm levels of gibberish, since most of the sentences mean something, and often there is a sort of forward flow if not an actual argument.

The comments suggest that the few people who tried to read it made it to the second, maybe third, paragraph.

There is no way, though, that you will be rewarded for your efforts here.


  1. You nailed it! Pretentious gibberish, and a fairly low level example of the genre to boot.

  2. Pleased to know you do requests! I've got a little list... (they never would be missed).

    Somewhat like the Keith Richards of photo-blogging, you have read these people so we don't have to. For which, many thanks.


  3. I took some time with Ming's portfolio after this post and it occured to me suddenly how similar it is to Ctein's work. The classification, the composition, the attention to detail and the lack of emotion. I also wanted to say "lack of personality", but it could well be that they're both the type of persons who'd produce this kind of work (systematic if not scientific, craft over artistic traits, etc).

    PS: I'm talking about photos, not writing. I've never been able to seriously read anything by Ming except maybe some lens reviews looong time ago when they seemed important.

    1. Does he even have a portfolio though? He bangs on and on (and on) about "curation", but he seems to publish pretty much every shot he takes. Andyes, I don't really like saying this, but his photos seem to be just construction, devoid of any passion, empathy or continuity. He certainly has a style, but "robotic efficiency" doesn't really do it for me.

  4. MT is a technocrat and as such wasca much better lens reviewer than photographer, thinker or writer.

  5. I had a couple of interactions with Ming. He was communicative, but I rather uninterested in the lore of photography.