Thursday, December 2, 2010

Moving in New and Exciting Directions!

Ok.  Actually, its just a boring direction.  I just thought I'd announce that in the interest of not sounding like an annoying pedagogue, I think I'm just going to save my blog for general news updates and cut the lecturing.  What do you think?  If you're looking for post-pomo diatribes, the library is a good place to start.  Everything is generally free there.  That's socialism for you, I guess.  Though, I don't particularly relish the idea that my tax dollars are used to purchase Twilight books.  I guess that's socialism for you too.  Anyhow, that's all I wanted to post.  Over and out.  

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Post-Post-Modern Pop (2 of 5): The Blue Raspberry Dilemma

This blog post is the second in a series of five on weird time wasting post-Post-modern dilemma's.  We pick up with Blue Raspberries.  What's the deal with them, huh?

If you're in the same generation as me (give or take one) you're probably familiar with the Artificial Flavor Equation Table (or AFET as only the coolest refer to it).  It is as follows:

purple = grape
green = green apple
red = cherry, strawberry, fruit punch, or water melon
yellow =  banana or pineapple

One thing all of these have in common is that the actual fruit preceded the artificial flavor.  That is, each fruit had an artificial flavor created based on it.  There is one exception, though, a rogue flavor: Blue Raspberry.  Give yourself a moment while your mind is totally being blown. 

There is fruit called grape.  They grow in bunches and exist in various colors and sizes.  When you see a gallon of "purple drink" at the grocery store, you know that means "grape".  You could say that purple, then, is a symbol for the real life grape.  This is generally the way things go: first comes the original, then comes its symbol.  What makes blue raspberry so wacky is that the symbol "blue" for blue raspberry popped up without an actual blue raspberry.  

Consider another example of the symbol cropping up without an original attached.  You're probably familiar with those plucky pals Phoebe, Rachel, Monica, Ross, Chandler, and Joey of the sitcom Friends.  In a certain episode Rachel gives birth to a baby girl.  Joey is holding her and inspired by the babies cuteness he exclaimes, "She looks so real!"  Everyone looks at Joey perplexed.  Joey responds to everyone's glare by saying "Well,you know what I mean".

  The strange thing is that we do know what he means, or at least how he feels.  Maybe Joey was thinking of the Gerber baby, a baby doll, the movie Look Who's Talking, the baby from the e*trade commercial, ad infinitum.  Regardless, Joey was thinking of the concept of a baby, or the symbol for baby, rather than Rachel's actual infant.

Joey mixed up real life with the representation of it in a very obvious way (and we do the same thing all the time with blue raspberry).  But how often does it happen to us in a more subtle way?  When I look back on most everything in my life, the mundane and the monumental, I've seen happen before in movies, advertisements, tv shows, music, and so on.  My life has generally been represented to me before the original has played itself out.  My wife tells me that the way I look and act reminds her of Michael Sera.  I can't tell if its coincidence or if I subconsciously mimic him. 

In a world that is more than full of symbols and representations, it feels like it's becoming impossible to tell which comes before which and which is real and which isn't.  To oversimplify things: it feels like there's a camera taping me watching a show about me watching TV.  If that were the case, what would be my life and what would be the show?

Next: (3 of 5) The Brangelina Dillema

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Post-Post-Modern Pop (1 of 5): The Goofy/Pluto Dilemma

This blog post is the first in a series of five on weird time wasting post-Post-modern dilemma's.  We start off with the Goofy/Pluto dilemma.

What I listened to while typing: Caribou - Odessa (check out the widget to the right ->)

I know a lot has been said on this issue (you're probably wondering if this is even an "issue" - Yes.  It is.).  So Goofy is a dog and Pluto is a dog.  Weird.  We get it.  It was probably just poor planning by the Imagineers.  There are a few things, though, that I wonder about.

Social Hegemony
The special relationship between human and dog is the ultimate display of man over animal (or something like that).  The special relationship between anthropomorphic dog and regular dog is just plain weird.  In that respect, Pluto's role in relation to Goofy isn't so much 'pet' as much as it would be 'slave', right (Disney s&m comes to mind)?

Now, if Pluto spoke to Goofy while he walked him, that would be too strange, wouldn't it?  Otherwise, their relationship isn't very weird unless you really think about it.  That says a lot about the way we view (or don't view) domination.  Yeah, I'm serious.  Mostly.

The least we can say is this: in the Disney universe all dogs are not created equal; basic rights are only afforded to dogs similar to Goofy.  This situation doesn't seem all that odd to us because it's actually rather familiar.  Given, we don't have other humans as pets (I don't know about you, but I don't), the dynamic between Goofy and Pluto is very similar to the basic dynamic of popular domination in the real world.

I know you're all cool about rights and stuff, like "human" rights and what not.  However, the Goofy/Pluto relationship reveals something sinister and nefarious (and evil and malicious (and odd and negative adjective worthy)).  Though we may all say "human" rights, what's really meant is "human (like us)".

You may say "Now, hold on a cotton-pickin' second, Danny"
and I'd say, "No, you hold on!  'Cotton-pickin''?!  That's my point exactly!"

In Goofy's world, all it takes to deny a character of inalienable rights is to deanthropomorphize it (or if you'd like a word that I didn't make up: dehumanize).  As long as Pluto isn't like Goofy, all is ship-shape in the Disneyland (or should I say dixieland?).

That's the tie to the real world (which may also aptly be called Disneyland).  To deny someone inalienable rights (and not start a riot) an/the establishment only needs to dehumanize a people.  The first instance that comes to mind is American slavery.  This was done in a very real way, when African-American's were not only dehumanized but were also commodified -  metamorphosed into products to be bought, sold, and owned.  Most American's were okay with not affording rights to these people - after all, in their minds they were a 'thing'.

Naturally, this was an extreme situation, but the subtleties can clearly get out of hand when addressing people that may be especially susceptible to this dehumanization.   These types of people are often also the most vulnerable,  such as children, the elderly, minorities, prisoners, those with mental disabilities, those with mental disorders, and so on.

It can be easy to subconsciously think of such persons as somehow "less-human".  We consider ourselves "typical" humans and such one's aren't very similar to us at all. They would somehow, deserve less rights and thus, be further exploited by the system that stripped them of dignity and rights.  It can all get out of hand real fast, or just stay under the surface of discernment and hand out oppression in subtleties.

Goofy, I'm ashamed of you.

Next: (2 of 5) The Blue Raspberry Dilemma.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bestiary. Not bestiality.

I've typed and deleted this blog post three times now.  I'm in a blog funk.  A blunk.  Or a flog.  Whatever.

I'm having a hard time segueing into what I want to talk about.  So I'll just start it this way:

Speaking of solo art shows...I got one!  I have my first solo art show coming up in NYC.  There's a little snag, though: I've sold all of my paintings.  I guess that's not that big of a problem.  I just have two months to come up with a series of paintings.  Starting the first painting of a new series is terrible.  I feel the compulsion to reformulate my entire theory on art and aesthetics with each new series.  Maybe I just don't have the strength of character to have some overarching idea of what art should be. 

Anyhow, I've been obsessed with bestiaries.  No, not bestiality.  Bestiaries.  It's like a catalog of animals (and some trees and stones) made for really rich people in medieval times (not to be confused with the dinner theatre of the same name which is much more fun than the real deal).  I've wasted many hours reading one that's been scanned and translated here.

Medieval people had some really wild ideas about animals.  For example, they thought that when peacocks died their bodies would never decompose (if that were true wouldn't the world be filled with peacock corpses?  It doesn't take a genius, medieval people), or that lions would reach down their throat with their paw to pull out food if they ate too much.  They also thought that elephants, lions, tigers, and others all mated face to face (little known fact: the missionary position was originally called elephant style).

What makes bestiaries even more interesting is their spiritual nature.  Medieval people thought that not only was the Bible the word of God but that the natural world, too, expressed the nature of God.  Obviously, a lot of it is weird or silly because of inaccurate ideas of animals (there was no Jack Hannah in the 12th century).  Okay, all of it is pretty silly, but nonetheless sort of poetic.

I thought the raven was interesting.  The Aberdeen bestiary said that ravens will not feed their young until they see their black plumage.  Apparently, their black plumage is supposed to represent the shroud of sin.  Bad, right?  Not exactly.

In one sense, it says that the bird can represent the devil.  The ravens are known to first pluck out the eye of its prey, then eat it's brain.  According to the bestiary, the devil and sin first blind a person to what's wicked, then devour their mind, that is, their way of thinking.

However, it then it says that the raven can also represent preachers.  It says that preachers must first teach their parishioners of their sinful state and the need to repent before they can feed them spiritually.  Like the raven that (supposedly) wouldn't feed it's young until it saw it's black feathers. 

I thought this good/evil duality was really interesting.  The raven didn't symbolize good or evil - it symbolized both.  There are many examples of this throughout the bestiary.  The owl represented the wicked sinner who rejected the light of truth and refused to leave the night of gross sin.  But the night owl is supposed to also represent Jesus who willingly stayed in the darkness of a sinful world to save sinners.  Again, the good/evil duality.

Ok, I'm done with the theology lesson.  I thought this would be a good starting place for my new series.  I decided I'd make a modern bestiary. 

A modern bestiary would have to show a disconnect with nature, though.  The modern world of production and consumption is usually at odds with (or at least indifferent to) the natural world.  Even the "green movement" seems to be at odds with the natural world.  It seems to be about being the environment's savior or doing as little damage as possible rather than realizing our place in it.

Also, whereas the old bestiaries were overtly spiritual, a modern one should be uncomfortably nihilistic.  Not only nihilistic in the "I can't believe in God  after what I've seen" sort of way.  But also as Debord reffered to giving the modern spectacle the power that we formerly assigned to the devine.  That is, a modern consumption culture nihlism.

Obviously (or obscurely), our view of the natural world and modern nihlism are connected.  I won't explain how, though.  Hopefully this new series will.  I hope you like it.

What I listened to while typing: Caribou - Bees

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Slavic Faulkner

After speaking with my parents I'm left wondering and fearing what catastrophe I'll inevitably meet.

My life, thus far, has been boring.  Exceedingly boring. I am shy, insecure, and prolifically phobic.  A boring life suits me well.

I'm in the middle of doing research for a book I'll one day get around to never bothering to write.  I'm planning for it to be like an Eastern European Absalom, Absalom! (sort of like a Slavic William Faulkner novel).  I'm scouring the last four generations of my family for any melodrama or perverse tragedy.
I anticipated finding very little to work with.  My parents only told me a few stories repeatedly as I grew up.  They clearly weren't hiding anything.  I assumed there was just very little to tell.  It turns out, though, that the stories were neither boring nor being hid.

Only a few questions produced tales of Nazis, curses, stabbings, gypsies, infidelity, refugee camps, communists, night time border crossings, and so on.  Further, that's only the Balkan-tip-of-the-iceberg: my father has a bad memory and my mother isn't very interested in stories involving her home town (and I haven't even spoken to my grandmother or aunt yet(!)).

I have enough fodder for writing to get started (as an aside, why do they call it fodder; isn't fodder poop?).  All this fodder now has me asking "why is my life exempt from all of this excitement?"

Perhaps my life will have some watershed moment of tragedy.  The generations of family will forever know me as "Danny.  Creek swimmin' Danny.  The one that died from the amoeba.  Yeah, that one."

Don't get me wrong: I don't envy the action.  I also realize that the only thing I'm probably doomed for is quiet.  My protective parents have coddled my fears and capitalism has me running on a faithful cycle of produce and consume.  My time has been saved for a story sans adjectives.  That's fine.  I've come to terms with it.   

But if I do get tired of the quiet boredom when I'm old I'll just do something crazy and everyone will mark it up to senility.  "Crazy old Danny.  He pushed off in a little sailboat and never came back."

what I listened to while typing:  Devotchka - Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Yarn, Guts, Sailors, and Stories

Gather 'round.  Let me tell you a story  Before the proverbial chicken and/or egg there was the story and/or fire.  Was fire discovered to warm the storytellers or did storytelling start from sitting around the fire?  To be honest, for this blog post, that detail doesn't matter: that's another story (pause to laugh).

Stories not only retell our past, but they actually create it.  Honestly, what is the past until one person relates it to another person (or themself)?  Nothing, right?  Time moves forward with the perpetual present annihilating the past at every moment.  Storytelling creates it again.  Ooooh, mysterious (try saying that out loud, it sounds better).   

There's something massively entertaining about a good story, a tall tale, spinning a good yarn.  Further, there's actually a good tale about "spinning a yarn" that's nearly as ancient.

Actually, the phrase "spin a yarn", meaning to tell a story, isn't that old.  Sailors started using it in the early 1800's.  They likened telling tall tales to other laid back activities like spinning yarn.  There's something else quite telling about this comparison, though...maybe.

Yarn is long, pieces strung together, and in turn constructed into a garment.  I'm sure you can draw the similarities between narratives and yarn yourself.  The symbolism between the Jungian archtypical woman spinning yarn and telling stories, chatting, gossiping, and bragging of their families is no accident (or maybe it is...I don't know).  I can't help thinking that the yarn we spin somehow builds something much bigger.

Interestingly, yarn comes from the Old German word garn which means yarn.  Sorry, that's not the part that was interesting.  The Old German word garn comes from the Greek word chorde.  Chorde also meant string, which is also not interesting (trust me, I'm getting there).  To be more specific it meant something string-like in an animal: the intestines (yeah, string used to be made from cattle gut).  When someone says "It struck a chord with me", whether they know it or not, this is the chord they're referring to.  This "chord" refers to a literal gut reaction (not a guitar chord, like I thought).  The connections between chorde, yarn, and storytelling are dubious but I'll choose to believe there is one (to at least add intrigue and enigma to my life).

This yarn doesn't end, though.  Chorde in Greek gets translated into hernia in Latin.  When you're done laughing we can move on.  I'll wait.  Ok, hernia refers to a different kind of storytelling.  We usually tell of past adventures and exploits.  Hernia actually meant "rupture", as in when the intestines rupture out of the belly (just like it means today).

Soothsayers in ancient Rome would split an animal down the middle and tell you your future.  A story of days of future passed (Moody Blues in the house!).  These stories have been told by ancient Roman soothsayers, by the Etruscans before them, the Greeks before them, the Persians before them, and the Babylonians before them.

Were the ancient soothsayers and gut reactions swimming in the collective subconscious of early 19th century sailors when they started asking they're pals to "spin a yarn"? Meh.  I dunno.  But it's nice to think that it was. It's romantic to think that it's one thread in a multi-millenia long story; a thread that weaves in and out of some larger psychological cloth...or maybe someone should just yell "shut up hippie!".

what I listened to while typing: The Flaming Lips - Time (Pink Floyd cover)


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Zine Reviews!

It's time for some good old fashioned zine reviews!  This is my first one (so please go easy on my tender ego).  Reviews are something I feel guilty for not putting in my zine.  I don't have a good excuse for not putting it in there so I won't bother you with any.  Anyhow, please check out these awesome zines and the distros they can be found at (links at the bottom).  These zines aren't exactly new, but I love them so I thought I'd share them with you. the reviews!

Letters to Wassily
 I may hold this zine dear more than any other. It may only be the strange personal coincidences but it effected a very familar amalgam of emotions. I typed out all of the coincidences, realized that they’d only be interesting to me, and deleted it. So on to the ‘emotions’ portion. Letters to Wassily is made by Shae, an awesome zinester out of Florida. Shae describes this zine in part as “Vignettes about my past, two fictional interviews with my dead Romanian poet lover, dream symbols & other various nothings”. Though it sounds all over the place, the zine is actually very cohesive like the same color in different mediums. You’d be hard pressed to say what the zine is ‘about’, however the mood is a definite one. Give this zine some time when your heart is slow, and you’ll pull out healthy amount (if there is such an amount) of catharis. I promise. You can pick it up at the Black Light Diner Distro. 

Map of Fog
This isn’t Tony Bennet’s San Francisco. If you left your heart in this zine’s San Francisco, it was literally. Map of Fog is disturbing in a way that is good for your character. The first article that really shook me was “Jumper at the Hyatt” which is probably what you think its about. He writes in a way that isn’t overly gritty or sentimental. It makes the story very easy to see. The second is “Lead to Gold” - an interview retelling a stabbing in Mexico.  It's the near casualness of the telling that makes it frighteningly real in a way melodrama never could.  I'll let the rest of the zine surprise you.  It'll have you pausing and thinking.  I picked it up from Parcell Press.  

Check out these cool distros for seriously cheap and seriously independent reading.  These are a few I like to visit:

what I listened to while typing: Joanna Newsom - Bridges and Baloons