CJ grabs his left thumb in his right fist and tugs his thumb straight down.
“What are you doing?”
“A kid on the bus told me this is sign language for poop.”
The best part is, the kid was right.
King Kong (1933, dir. Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack)
I was happy that I caught the tweet early when the Men of the Stacks calendar came out because it’s been fascinating to watch this project grow and blosson. If for some reason you haven’t heard of it, the website is here and they have a facebook page here. Thanks to some nice photography, some cute librarians and a good message, this project has taken off, been mentioned in international news outlets, hit boingboing, Oprah and the Village Voice. The calendars cost $5 to produce through MagCloud and are sold for $20 which means for every calendar that gets purchased $15 goes to the It Gets Better Project. There’s a thoughtful post by the MotS administrator Megan about bullying and jerks online and why this sort of thing is so important. My favorite thing is probably close to what Will Manley says, this is “an image buster with a sense of humor.” My second favorite thing about this is, hey, I know those guys! A lot of the fellas in the photos are librarians we’ve known online for years and years–Brett and Trevor and Von and Gabe are people I know, and the others seem like people I’d like to know–and so we can smile along with them and say “Way to go guys!” Can’t wait to see how this evolves.
Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Friday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:
Chris: Thought Catalog is the worst website and the best punching bag: “Can You Believe I Was Born in 1992?”
It’s not like superhero comics are generally progressive where gender and sexuality are concerned, but the stiffly written attempts at “sexy” that Laura Hudson decimates here look even more awful than usual.
Via Jami Attenberg, an outer-borough enigma: “It is possible there is some larger lesson for ailing newspaper sales in the sudden good fortune of The Suffolk Times and The Riverhead News-Review, two modest Long Island weeklies that saw an unprecedented sales spike last week as mysterious buyers swooped in to buy every copy they could.
Or more likely, newspaper officials guess, the lesson is very local: Either someone really, really wanted people to be able to read that week’s newspaper, or someone really, really did not.
The papers, which originally printed a combined 8,620 copies for newsstand sales, had to print 5,500 more to keep up with the demand, which seemed to come almost entirely from two customers buying up every available copy at $1.50 each from 7-Eleven stores and bagel shops from Calverton to Shelter Island…”
New Tune-Yards song! I was at this Pop Montreal show (and the one she played in Toronto a few days later), but the packed Ukranian Federation was hot enough to melt stamps off hands, so it’s nice to hear the track in a state of repose.
Margaux: I haven’t looked into the programming for Nuit Blanche yet, but I know a few of my favourite Toronto artists have projects happening. Ulysses Castellanos is doing something with fellow artists Malgorzata Nowacka and Margaret Krawecka called Hansel and Gretel at 99 Sudburry St. And the always hilarious and dead-on Life of Craphead (Amy C Lam and Jon McCurley) is doing something across from the Xbox store.
This seems important. Movie brains. (thanks to Matt Smif)
Whippersnapper Gallery, an interesting Toronto art space for young artists (under 30), is currently accepting “project proposals” for exhibitions in their street level project gallery, as well as project proposals for a special summer series of curated public installations.
I turned on the Canadian radio at lunch and Don McKellar was hosting the Q program. Happy day.
It’s Toronto’s (unofficial) mayor’s birthday today – happy birthday Maggie MacDonald! Let’s listen to her song “New Job” (just like the old one) or watch her sing “El Dorado”.
I’m coming to my understanding of the Occupy Wall Street moment by a confessedly retrograde avenue: namely, the low-middlebrow rantings of NPR sports commentator Frank Deford, who recently fretted about the broadening of an idiom that signal to him a “guyification” of everyday life—
How did everyone become guys? Remember, too, that a male guy was something of a scoundrel. And a wise guy was a fresh kid, a whippersnapper. In its most other famous evocation, men in Brooklyn said “youse guys.” Damon Runyon referred to hustlers, gamblers and other nefarious types as guys….
Understand, I have nothing against women becoming guys, too. I’m just tired of everything being guy-ish. Now we’re all just … guys. All guys are created equal. God is a guy now. Your father is just another guy. So is your mother. Guys, start your engines. Happy Valentines, my guy. A pretty guy is like a melody. We’re all the same guys under the skin.
Deford ends his complaint with a classically-styled curmodgeonly plea: “Yo dude, let’s stop guying.”
Listening to Deford’s complaint, my instinct was to roll my eyes. Yet another paean to language lost, I thought; yet another bitch-slap from the angel of history. And yet I reconsidered. For something about this “guyness” does seem diminishing. It’s not merely that we’re free to be ourselves; we’re fairly commanded to be Our Selves: to be restricted to them, limited to them, cordoned off and held captive in, of, and by ourselves. It’s a subtle and ubiquitous system of solitary confinement, the uncanny opposite of a panopticon (and to say that we’ve built it ourselves only perpetuates our captivity).
I caught a clearer strain of such concern a bit later in the day when I revisited “The Coming Insurrection,” an anonymously-penned tract taken as the manifesto of the riots in the Paris banlieue riots of Fall 2005—
“I AM WHAT I AM.” Never has domination found such an innocent-sounding slogan. …It is at the same time the most voracious consumer and, paradoxically, the most productive self, the one that will most eagerly and energetically throw itself into the slightest project, only to return later to its original larval state….“I AM WHAT I AM,” then, is not simply a lie, a simple advertising campaign, but a military campaign, a war cry directed against everything that exists between beings, against everything that circulates indistinctly, everything that invisibly links them, everything that prevents complete desolation, against everything that makes us exist….
The excerpt of the “Coming Insurrection” above instances a Reebok ad campaign that ran in 2005-06, in which various athletes extol the virtues of relying on the self, believing in the self, perfecting the self — not in the old Emersonian sense of self-realization (an ideology already fraught with its own troublesome entrancements), but with the goal of being Number One. The raised forefinger, I’m beginning to think, will one day be understood as our era’s contribution to the vocabulary of gestural obscenity.
What have we done with our richly-intersecting borders? No longer is there any productive stratification, no longer any limit to scry between the edge of the body and the totality of global media. Fear of immigration; fear of socialized medicine; fear of not being famous — we find ourselves with alone with our fears, stripped bare on the darkling plain of transmodernity. Add the ever-growing fear of pandemic, and even the body’s cordons are thrown down—and in this abyss, in the nothingness, we finally learn to be our nakedness.
It’s in this context that the “guyification” Deford talks about ceases being an object of curmudgeonly complaint, taking on a more sinister cast. The criminal quality of guyness he instances is the key: through the second half of the twentieth century, the culture increasingly resorted to images of outlawry, the last bastion of effective liberty. It’s a tale told much better elsewhere than I can admit here. The culture saw its quarry hiding in thuggery, and relentlessly sought it there, turning the trappings of criminality into quatschy fun for people of all ages. Not everyone took up the look and feel in full, but the resonances leaked out adequately enough into everyday life. It’s the key to our predicament that John Berger elucidated in his recent essay in Guernica, proclaiming that “across the planet we are living in a prison.”
This is what the Occupy Wall Street moment seems to speak to: a desperate seeking for the lock on this cage of ever-improving selfness. It’s an early sign of a prison break; the cans are rattling against the bars.
Here I want to observe that the terms of resistance defined in “the Coming Insurrection” are distinctly feral in nature; among their advices, they recommend the following tactics:
¶Create territories. Multiply zones of opacity.
¶Travel. Open our own lines of communication.
¶Flee visibility. Turn anonymity into an offensive position (“No leader, no demands, no organization, but words, gestures, complicities. To be socially nothing is not a humiliating condition, the source of some tragic lack of recognition — from whom do we seek recognition? — but is on the contrary the condition for maximum freedom of action.”)
Feral habits offered in handy, outline form!
Isn’t it clear that “protest” as such — with its cordoned-off “free-speech zones,” its imprimatur-laden marches, its ritual handcuffings — has been fully domesticated? Power meanwhile pursues its nutriment elsewhere; indeed it has long ferally flown the coop, seeking its fluid and furtive ways in the stratospheric habitats of global finance and the tanks of neoliberal consensus. Anonymity, cunning, and incomprehension—these are the ways not of the protester, but the dissident, the feral creature of totalitarian ecosystems pre-1989. Now we, too, are beginning to discern the necessity of such habits of dissent.
Today, IBM surpassed Microsoft as the second most valuable technology company in the world. They are led by Samuel Palmisano, who must be the most underrated CEO in America.
How many profiles have you read of Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, Lee Scott, and Jack Welch? Too many, I’m sure. They are recognized as the brilliant CEOs who led their companies at massively successful times. No such recognition is heaped on Palmisano. Many people in the technology industry have a hard time remembering or naming him. Outside of the tech industry, he’s unknown.
Take a look at the chart above. (I came up with it to illustrate that Steve Jobs is far and a way the best CEO of at least the last 30 thirty.) The Y-axis shows the net income increase in millions of dollars from the first quarter of a CEO’s tenure and the last. The x-axis shows the total income of the CEO’s company in that last quarter. Basically, it shows both growth per quarter and the absolute size of the bottom line.
Hunting Birds at Night
Jean-Francious Millet 1874
“Don’t part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist but you have ceased to live.” Following the Equator Mark Twain 1897
Following the Equator
Mark Twain 1897
Where are you and what are you doing?
I am in Sofia, Bulgaria, I am teaching semiotics and hundreds of derivative matters at the New Bulgarian University.
Tell us about your course at the New Bulgarian University?
I am doing dozens of courses, the residual ones are on semiotics and philosophy of language, the dominant ones on semiotics of brands and marketing communication and the emergent ones… again on brand communication, but trying to introduce the ‘experience economy’ perspective.
How did you first get interested in semiotics? And the relationship between semiotics and brand communication?
Around 1990 I was at Bologna University studying Film and Drama. After my Thursday lecture on Aesthetics there were always crowds of students coming to listen to the next lecture, given by a with a beard and glasses. After some time I asked a colleague of mine:
- Who is this guy?
- How ‘who’? This is Umberto Eco!
- Who the f…k is Umberto Eco?
Then, you know, the ‘immigrant’ had to show that he wasn't stupider than the natives…From that semiotics and brand communication was a natural development. I started to teach at the New Bulgarian University 2 weeks after I graduated from Bologna. The label ‘the pupil of Eco’ was applied to me and this brand extension made it easy for me to get opportunities on various study programmes. I have started many courses, but only one has survived into the next decade – Semiotics of Marketing and Advertising. Actually before 1989 in Bulgaria there were no such things as marketing or advertising and New Bulgarian University was founded in 1991 (18th September, btw, Happy 20th Birth day NBU!) exactly to provide academic coverage to similar lacks in the social sphere, the arts and applied science. I was witnessing during these years how consumer culture emerged almost from nothing and brands were the major operators in the process. Brand communication was simply the most interesting subject of semiotic inquiry during this period and gradually I oriented almost all my interests there. My department started a masters program in Advertising and Lifestyles in 2007.
Your Sozopol summer school is one of the great events of the social calendar for academic semiotics. Can you tell us something about that?
You got it right, the ‘social calendar! We have organised this event since 1995 and it took a lot of time to realise that academics are quite boring if they are at the centre. Creating the right social atmosphere, using as a driving force the students creativity and their drive for self-expression is the key to success for both the academic and the social part. The other key factor is international participation, which creates unique conditions and qualities, unachievable within a single university group. Last but not least, we invite semiotic professionals from the business, who are another source of energy for the discipline and add value to the ‘gross semiotic product’ of the event.
Tell us about the image you have chosen to illustrate this interview?
My favorite semiotic brand! Of proved equity by demonstration!
What are your main ambitions professionally for the next two or three years?
To train my assistants to do all the jobs I am doing now! But this is impossible, so I shall focus on more realistic goals. Creating an international PhD program in semiotics would be great. Not the usual academic research PhD, but placing the doctorants in companies and organizations outside the university, making their research projects practical and useful for those organizations and even involving people from there in the evaluation committee for the defence. Thus we can start to export into society high level semiotic professionals, universal communication wizards…Also establishing a semiotic laboratory in our university (well, this is done), but developing unique brand research products and going in the Bulgarian market research market with them.
© Kristian Bankov 2011
Got some great feedback from this show, like this email: “your interview with Chris Kirkley was inspiring …great job ..its amazing because each time he played something i wanted to ask him a question and you asked the same question right afetrwards…i like his method of finding weddings by taxi ..what an optimist !! I love the idea that music ends up being spread by whatever technology is widely available in this case via the shitty speaker of a cell phone …soundwise not so different from transistor radios 40 years ago …some great music he found …hes a brave man”
you can listen up here :
As always, you can subscribe to the Mudd Up! podcast for downloadable versions, issued about a week after FM broadcast: , Mudd Up! RSS. Also useful: WFMU’s free iPhone app. We also have a version for Android (search for “WFMU” in the marketplace).
Still from Power Slave (1995) via FM Towns Marty
Dome’s Dome 3 came out September 30, 1981. Here’s “Jasz” from it.
The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art has a superb exhibit of Chicago Imagism up through January 15, 2012. I saw the Roger Brown exhibition at the Hirshhorn in DC when I was in high school, and his paintings have stuck in my mind ever since. He’s sort of a cross between De Chirico and a Sunday newspaper comic. And there’s some kind of Zenoistic “stillness within motion” thing going on. He paints a lot of disasters and a lot of skyscrapers, and sometimes disasters involving skyscrapers (as in “Sudden Avalanche” at left, or “World’s Tallest Disaster,” at right (which, by the way, is the cover image of Cate Marvin’s great poetry book of the same title.) Even the skyscrapers which don’t have disasters happening to them carry a certain sense of foreboding.
Many of the paintings in this show were gifts from the family of UW bacteriologist Bill McClain. McClain credits the Imagists with inspiring him to have good ideas about biochemistry. One more reason to go see this show!
CJ really liked it. We have a new thing we do at art museums — I tell him he should look at a painting and say to himself, “What question does this make me want to ask?” When he saw Brown’s “Skyscraper with Pyramid” (pictured in the linked profile of McClain) he asked why one of the people in the skyscraper was in color when all the rest were in silhouette. Good question!
Anyway, great show, you can see everything in a half hour (though many of the paintings are worth spending longer on) and it’s free. We’re lucky to have this museum in Madison and I encourage people to take advantage of it!
There’s finally a video for Animal Man’s “Do You Feed? (The Curry Song),” 31 years after it was recorded! Oh, sorry, did I say 31 years? Make that “weeks.”
Tom Tom Club’s self-titled album came out September 30, 1981. Here’s “Elephant” from it.
Virgin Prunes’ “Sandpaper Lullaby” single—the first installment in their A New Form of Beauty project—came out September 30, 1981.
Points and lines are among our most basic art supplies. Arguably they are simplified derivations of the irregular boundaries between light and shadow, or some arbitrary division thereof. Fast-forward several millenia and we see that, mathematically, it’s easier to describe a line segment than a smudge, and from there to spawn vector animations: explosions, superheroes, misfit toys, 3D versions of cave paintings…
However. In addition to precision calculations for special effects cinema, points and lines continue to have a robust presence in the analogue world.
Debbie Smyth deals with the built environment, although not in the way you might expect. Smyth creates her detailed, perspectival and mural-sized line drawings with pins and thread.
In the much-reduced online images, they are reminiscent of CAD outputs for city planning or landscape architecture. But zoom in — or, better — walk up to them, and their real 3D structure is revealed. The built environment is not only depicted in the representation, it is built into the drawing itself.
Thomas Pavitte’s linear exploration focuses on art history, that of the official western canon as well as the elementary school curriculum. Starting with the Mona Lisa (a strategy jump-started by Duchamp), Pavitte reverse-engineered the salient edges of the image to create a connect-the-dots diagram. Quite a bit larger than the original it outlines, there are 6,239 numbered dots — and drawing the lines between them took over 9 hours of work.
That’s a lot of extra credit.
The Exploited’s “Dead Cities” single came out September 30, 1981. Yes, in those days, guys like this could appear on TV next to the latest pop poppets.
Today's post is from Carole Joffe, author of Dispatches from the Abortion Wars: The Costs of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us. Joffe is a professor in the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco.
“Non-factually based statements” about Planned Parenthood and the HPV vaccine:
Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-MN: “I had a mother come up to me last night here in Tampa, Fla., after the debate. She told me that her little daughter took that [HPV] vaccine, that injection. And she suffered from mental retardation thereafter.”
These two statements, the first by Jon Kyl, a U.S. Senator, the second by Michelle Bachmann, a Congresswoman who is also a Presidential candidate, have each received wide public attention. Each of these statements is blatantly untrue. These statements are a disturbing reminder that the field of reproductive health is particularly susceptible to politicians playing fast and loose with the truth in order to curry favor with social conservatives.
Reproductive health services have always stirred controversy, intersecting as they do with issues of sexuality, morality, parental rights, and so on. But it was during the presidency of George W. Bush that the attacks on this aspect of health care—especially abortion care—became increasingly disengaged from the truth.
As I have detailed in my recent book, Dispatches from the Abortion Wars, the Bush Presidency was marked by scandals such as government websites being pressured to list false information on the alleged links between abortion and breast cancer, and the purported ineffectiveness of condoms. An investigation of the curricula used in federally funded “abstinence only” programs found shocking evidence that some 80% of these programs gave misinformation to young people, such as “sweat and tears can lead to HIV transmission.”
The reproductive health community hoped that with the transition to a new administration these egregious distortions would stop. And in some respects the situation has improved. In the thank-goodness-for-small-favors department, we can be gratified that government websites no longer post such gross misinformation. But clearly, as the two quotes above make clear, untrue and irresponsible statements about reproductive health matters have not gone away in public discourse.
In the case of Senator Kyl’s statement, Planned Parenthood restated its frequent claims that abortions constituted 3% of its services, not the 90% the senator had claimed. The incident concluded, to the delight of many late-night comedians, with a Kyl spokesman acknowledging that “the senator’s remark was not intended to be a factually based statement.”
In the case of Congresswoman Bachmann’s “mental retardation” claim, this statement clearly proved to be a costly, possibly fatal error for her politically. Numerous commentators, including medical authorities, pointed to the complete lack of evidence for any link between the HPV vaccine and retardation. Bachmann appeared to worsen the situation when she responded to the growing backlash by stating defensively, ”I am not a doctor, I’m not a scientist, I’m not a physician. All I was doing is reporting what this woman told me last night…”
Why do these untrue statements matter? After all, presumably most people—most importantly, the millions of women who go to Planned Parenthood for contraception, cancer and STI screenings—know Kyl was massively off base. Michelle Bachmann’s statement was roundly disputed by experts and seemingly has damaged her political fortunes. Nonetheless, I believe statements like these do very much matter. The normalization of lying about health care issues by prominent figures is a very serious breach of trust, and degrades our culture as a whole.
More specifically, these statements point to two different ways in which the field of reproductive health can be weakened by such deliberate distortions. In the case of Planned Parenthood, the attacks by Kyl and numerous other politicians who have sought to demonize the Federation have created a clever rhetorical trap, where the defense becomes, as shown above, that “only 3% of what we do is abortion.” In a version of the old “have you stopped beating your wife” question, these attacks succeed in further marginalizing abortion from other reproductive health care services in the public’s eye.
The serious damage done by Bachmann’s HPV anecdote is best illustrated by a headline that appeared shortly afterward in the New York Times Science Section: “Remark on HPV Vaccine Could Ripple for Years.” The article makes clear the dismay felt in the public health community about this incident.
In simplest terms, as the author puts it, “When politicians or celebrities raise alarms about vaccines, even false alarms, vaccination rates drop.” The HPV vaccine—most effective when given to young girls at ages 11 or 12, before they have started sexual activity—was already quite controversial, because some in the public felt it was a “license” for promiscuity (and there is increasing distrust of vaccines generally among some parent groups). As a result, even before the Bachmann remark, uptake of the vaccine was below expectations. Now, as a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics quoted in NYT article put it, “These things [politicians' misstatements] always set you back about three years, which is exactly what we can’t afford.”
Photo by rachel a. k. on Flickr used under Creative Commons.
A version of this post appeared on the ANSIRH blog.
For President Abram Lincoln. For Vice President Hannibal Hamlin
H.C. Howard 1860
So besides the midnight previews, what else accounts for this extremely fast editing technique you use? I mean, your movies really do scream along.
We are very nervous people. That’s why our movies go faster than other movies. I think we were a little bit faster than normal people in those days because we felt like we had to tell a longer story in a shorter time.
Fifth in a series of posts — in honor of his birthday, TODAY — tracing Marc Bolan’s musical and philosophical development.
1973: the pressure’s on. Still the kids scream, still the ether crackles, but “Solid Gold Easy Action” has been supplanted at Number Two in the charts by “Jean Genie”. Damn that David Bowie! “With no disrespect to David,” bitches Marc loopily, “it’s much too soon to put him in the same class as me. I’d give Slade that credibility but, without being arrogant or unfair, I certainly wouldn’t give it to David. He’s still very much a one-hit wonder, I’m afraid.” Yes, without being arrogant or unfair. No question that Marc is feeling it, though — so what does he go and do, at this Bowie-menaced moment? He goes and writes one of the hardest-charging, most arse-involving rave-ups of his entire career, a handclap-crazy pop grand mal with a riff right out of the Tony Iommi Book of Heaviosity — close cousin, really, to Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut” (released the previous year). And I defer again to Mark Paytress, author of the superb Bolan: The Rise and Fall of a 20th Century Superstar, and his description of the intro to “20th Century Boy” as “a bellicose brace of blocked E chords.” What a sound! What power! What tone! Marc produced this track himself, and my only quibble would be that farting-along saxophone — it tends to smudge the clean lines of the riff. But forget that. To pull off the boy/toy rhyme with such flair, at this stage in the rock’n’roll game, is a sacramental gesture, and Marc is here prostrate at the altar of himself. As are we all. Happy 64th birthday! (PS: As a bonus today, and an especial tribute to Marc-as-vector-of-heaviness, we additionally feature Glenn Danzig wrapping his lycanthrope’s moan around “Buick Mackane”.)
READ similar HiLobrow series: ANGUSONICS — the solos of Angus Young | KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM — 25 Jack Kirby panels | MOULDIANA — the solos of Bob Mould | SHOCKING BLOCKING — cinematic blocking | UKULELE HEROES
Gone are the days when traveling abroad would mean being overwhelmed by the glitz and glamour of consumerism. India has caught up with the West in the 21st century. This time when I travelled to the USA, what struck me most was the Culture of The Line!
I observed how automatically people fell into a line in the West. There was no push, no shove. Just a quiet, polite, patient standing in a queue. The concept of ‘personal space’ of leaving a foot of gap between the first two people in the line seemed so alien. In India, half a dozen of people would have fitted in that ‘space’! I was taken up by the order, the discipline and the silence in the movement of the line in every walk of life in the West. Just like a ‘well-oiled machinery’ of the human race!
Come to India and the chaos hits you. Of course, there is a line but there is no concept of line in the Indian psyche. Like sardines, we stick close behind each other in a mile-long line. With much push and shove, we jostle to get our way in the line. Anything it takes to get ahead in the queue. There is much action, noise and chitter-chatter around the line.
Some trying to break ‘Into’ the line, others trying to get order into that line. Some striking a conversation with the stranger behind to pass the time. What a stroke of luck it is to find a ‘friend’ in the line, who quietly squeezes you into the line!
This difference in the behavior of standing in a queue made me reflect on the two cultures.
A line is symbolic of the discipline of systematic, linear order. Paradoxically, Indians seem to display no linear order in public, and yet they are culturally conditioned to a ‘linearly sequenced’ pattern of life.
“Vishnu is God that organises the world. Society comes with rules and regulations, roles and responsibilities, milestone that give life direction and standards that create hierarchy.” – Dr. Devdutt Pattnaik
For Hindus, life is a sacred journey in which each milestone, marking major biological and emotional stages, is consecrated through sacred ceremony. Rooted in the samskaras [16 rites of passage that punctuate the symbolic line of life in Hinduism], Hindu Indians are conditioned to live by the prescribed code of conduct and customs within the complex social matrix. Each relationship in the extended family structure is given a unique name, with defined roles and responsibility. There is order, discipline and respect inherent in the Indian culture. And we all are bound by it, no matter how modern we get.
My question is why is there such a lack of order and discipline in the public space? Why are we in such a tearing hurry to ‘get ahead’, when as a nation we do not have the competitive streak to win? A paradox! It forces me to think deeper on the psyche of the Indian line culture….
Is it the number game? A population of 1.2 billion is credited to India.
Yes, people, people and people. Everywhere you go, you see a sea of people….that’s India for you! We have intrinsically been a ‘society of scarcity’ as opposed to the ‘society of abundance’ of the West. Out on the streets, we are competing with millions for the same resource. We are struggling with the constant fear of getting left behind in the daily rat race of living.
The ‘society of scarcity’ keeps us on our toes, with the mind ticking all the time. There is nothing predictable when people rub with people in the sea of emotions. The Indian mind is forced to think of creative, innovative ways around the constraints. How do we get there before others take it? How do we stretch our rupee? Nothing comes easy. The ingenious Indian mind is known for its ‘jugaad’ – i.e. “what ever it takes, I will find my way around…I will find ‘my’ solution around this situation.”
In a country where no two days are alike, where the systems may not toe the line, you will quite often hear people say: “Yeh desh Ram bharose chalta hai” (this country runs by God’s Grace.) And we carry on in faith…
There may not be the ‘conveyor belt efficiency’ of linear order in India, there may seem no method but there is a method in the madness that is real, palpable, organic, spontaneous and creative.
© 2011 Aiyana Gunjan
One of the greatest of all violinists, DAVID OISTRAKH (1908-74) carefully assayed exuberance and diffidence to thrive as a Soviet artist. Born to Jewish parents in Odessa, he began musical studies at age five and his graduation program from Odessa Conservatory included Sergei Prokofiev’s then recent violin concerto. Moving to Moscow, Oistrakh married, had his son, Igor, with whom he’d later perform, and began teaching. The war made Oistrakh a legend: he performed in Stalingrad, won the Stalin Prize, premiered Prokofiev’s violin sonata. Afterwards, Oistrakh became one of the U.S.S.R.’s leading cultural ambassadors, touring widely — KGB agents in tow — and making scores of recordings, all combining his superior technique and intellect with searing emotionalism. (See the finale of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto below). Yet questions remain about the passions of David Oistrakh. Former students and friends recall his storytelling, jokes, love of chess. Others — mostly non-Soviets — question Oistrakh’s non-dissident politics, as some do those of his friend Dmitri Shostakovich. Is this fair? Recall here a conversation late in Gravity’s Rainbow between Russian intelligence officer, Vaslav Tchitcherine and German industrial spy, Wimpe:
“Revolutionary suicide, fine. But look: if History’s changes are inevitable, why not not die, Vaslav? If it’s going to happen anyway, what does it matter?”
“But you haven’t ever had the choice to make, have you.”
“If I ever did, you can be sure—”
“You don’t know. Not till you’re there, Wimpe. You can’t say.”
“That doesn’t sound very dialectical.”
“I don’t know what it is.”
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Dave Arneson.
READ MORE about members of the Partisans Generation (1904-13).
No! Despite my generally positive outlook when I posted this question back in February, and despite the wholly satisfactory last three weeks of the season, the Orioles did not win 77 games, as the CAIRO system projected, let alone go .500, as some of the more optimistic projections had it. They won 69, just three more than last year. What happened to a team that looked much better on paper than the 2010 squad?
It’s pretty simple, actually. The 2011 Orioles were a bad team, but they were bad in a really different way than the 2010 Orioles. I thought the changes in the lineup looked really promising; and I was right! This year’s Orioles scored almost 100 more runs, in a low-offense year. Last year they scored the second-fewest runs in the league; this year they were in the middle of the pack.
What went south, of course, was the pitching. The 2010 Orioles didn’t have good pitching; they allowed the second-most runs in the league. This year’s team allowed 80 runs more than that, worst in the AL by a large margin. Why didn’t I see this coming? I suppose because the Orioles got a ton of innings last year pitched by guys 25 or younger. Not great innings — in many case slightly below-average innings — but adequate, major-league-level innings. Young pitchers at that level usually get a little better year by year. But ours got worse. Bergesen got worse. Arrieta got worse. Matusz, the most highly rated of them all, got a lot worse. In fact, Matusz and Tillman were bad enough to be sent down, which meant that we were giving starts to guys like Jo-Jo Reyes, another young pitcher who was mediocre before, and got worse. I don’t know if it’s bad luck or if there’s something terribly wrong with the development process for pitchers.
Tom Scocca suggest that crappy defense is to blame when every single pitcher seems to get a little worse. That fits with the sense I got from listening to the games, but it’s hard to know how big the effect was. The Orioles’ BABiP against was .305; pretty high, but not enough, I think, to explain by itself why we allowed a half-run more per game.
Third Grader’s Letter to President Ford
Early Morning Mist
Jane Cooper 1974
Charles Street Mall, Boston
Anonymous Analytics, a faction of Anonymous has moved the issue of transparency from the political level to the corporate level. To this end, we use our unique skill sets to expose companies that practice poor corporate governance and are involved in large-scale fraudulent activities.
Many of your pieces are concerned with race and identity and confront those issues through technology. In your 2001 piece “Blackness for Sale” you were asked to remove the auction from eBay because of its inappropriateness. Thinking about growth of identity and social networks on the internet over the last decade, do you feel that it is important for artists to continue to make political work that engages the internet and other new media?
While our early sound art works like Sexmachines, Automatic, or the Uli Suite were not about race/identity, certainly many of the early Internet works were. We would say that race itself is a technology, and so making work that looks at how issues of race or identity play out online is a way to highlight this fact. The Internet is by nature a contested space, so any work that engages with this terrain is of course political. Many of the questions we started asking in the late 90s around narrative structures, technology, and identity seem to remain relevant today, although the ways in which we engage with the networks seem significantly different. When we made “Blackness for Sale” and other “net.art” over a decade ago, many people saw the web as a place to try on masks and to play with other identities. Today, through social networking sites, people are flooding the web with personal info and living with what might be best described as a bloated databody. So we do find that social interactions on the web create a territory for which commentary is as necessary and as fruitful today as it has ever been.
Your collaborative projects frequently mine narratives and characters from history and transform them using sound, performance, and new technologies. In your recent piece “Four Electric Ghosts: an pera-masquerade” you even blend a 1954 novel by Amos Tutuola with Pac Man. What do you find inspiring about mixing what might seem like disparate pieces of culture and history together? And do you feel that engaging history with new technology through your art helps the public gain a new understanding of their own position in culture?
Our work is not so much about new technologies as it is about finding personal ways to examine persistent questions in our culture, and then making that process accessible. We do strive to make work that invites audiences to reconsider their / our positions in culture. Many of our projects combine elements from two “root texts” and we’ve sometimes referred to the idea of mixing with two turntables when working with the two sources. When we engage the video game as an element in our work, it is because narratives in that medium resonate with us, not just the technology. For example, when we started workshopping Four Electric Ghosts, our second opera-masquerade, we were moving away from the online work. We wanted to reimagine “downtown New York opera” and to create a piece that responded to intersections in some old texts that we found particularly compelling. As we were looking for a place to develop these ideas, our friend, composer and, computer music pioneer Paul Lansky introduced us to Toni Morrison, and we were thrilled when she invited us to come work on our project there in her Atelier program at Princeton.
While basing this project in pop songs and prose, we wanted to look at the video game as a kind of folklore and the novel as a game system. During our research phase we interviewed a number of interesting thinkers, including Laurie Anderson and Cornel West, about hauntings and invited students to think with us about the narratives in video games and what it would mean to flip to perspective of both the Amos Tutuola narrative and the video game from the people to the ghosts. After that workshop we ended up writing a completely new story and working with a great group of artists including dancers (from Angela’s Pulse & Urban Bushwomen), musicians, and designers in realizing a production at The Kitchen. (The project is now touring and the book, DVD, and album will be out this fall). The notion that both old media and new inform our sense of storytelling was there at the beginning, but the audience for the stage performance (or the album or the book) doesn’t have to use new media or necessarily care about media theory.
You’ve experimented with a wide variety of mediums over the past 13 years. Have you developed a preference for any specific medium or mode of presenting work? In your process of ideation, does the content dictate the medium or do the the form and idea inspire each other?
It’s pretty organic. We usually begin each work with some sense of the needed tools for the work, but as the idea unfolds, the approach will often shift, and over the years patterns emerge. We come from making music and poetry and later came to study and make art. Right now our work is divided into three overlapping categories: media-specific works, intermedia suites, & opera-masquerades. The media-specific works might appear as an isolated series of media art works, poems, or songs. Our Black.Net.Art actions is one example. This includes Blackness for Sale (2001), The Interaction of Coloreds (2002) and The Pink of Stealth (2003). Another example is African Metropole / Sonic City — a series of sound art works based on multiple sites on the continent. Our intermedia suites are meditative, non-narrative projects made up of multiple intersecting modules — usually poems, music, a sound installation, and video works centered on one theme. Examples of this kind of work are Big House / Disclosure (2007) and a new work American Cypher, which is being commissioned by The Samek Gallery and the Griot Institute at Bucknell University. The last category are our “opera-masquerades”. These projects are narrative & song-based works which have at the core a new music theater performance, but include related gallery and book modules. Four Electric Ghosts and The Sour Thunder are examples of this kind of work. Because we have these different ways we produce work, we of course consider our ways of inviting an audience to engage whenever we embark on a new project, but the form for each project ultimately depends on what that project demands.
“Big House / Disclosure” takes an interesting approach at uncovering the ties that link contemporary culture to important moments in history. Reflecting on the “big house/disclosure” project, do you feel that engaging a project in the dynamics of social space changes your original ideas about the content of the project?
Big House / Disclosure is the kind of project that we hope will provide some surprises by design. It may help to describe the project. The piece included performance scores, graphics scores for musicians, and poems. But the largest part of that work was a 200 hour public sound installation, the sound for which depended on the words of the unpredictable public. While the work is broadly about the architecture of slavery, at the center of the work was a 2002 Chicago city ordinance – the Slavery Era Disclosure Ordinance. This ordinance states that any company (banks, agricultural companies, textile manufacturers, etc) wishing to do business with the city must disclose any historic ties to the slave trade. And while the law requires compliance, there is no penalty for any company admitting to ties to the slave trade. So the audio for the house song was made up of original house music (software synths and drum machines) and oral interviews with Chicago area residents, who answered questions about the recent ordinance, images associated with slavery, and house music. The sound installation played for eight days in the halls of Northwestern Art History building (and streamed online); it was programmed so that elements of the music changed in response to the rise and fall of the stock prices of companies involved in this disclosure. It was certainly surprising to hear how few people knew about the ordinance. We were fascinated by the range of responses from local citizens, specifically in regards to questions about who holds responsibility for the legacy of slavery. We were also shocked to hear many of the Northwestern students defend the rights of corporations. But the point of asking questions is to hear the answers. So while we wouldn’t say that our original ideas about the content of the project necessarily change when our projects are interactive in this way, we have found that artworks that invite an engagement with the public necessarily broaden our sense of that public. We are, in fact, reaching for that kind of experience.
Some of your new projects take place in theaters or larger spaces. Given your interest in multi-character narratives and skill in generating your own sounds and scores do you see yourself performing in even larger spaces? What would be your ideal performance space?
We plan to continue to continue developing our opera-masquerades. The size of the venue must directly relate to the piece and the scale of each work will vary, but to answer your question: the ideal performance space — large or small — is one in which we have an opportunity to create a sense of communion with the audience while expanding all of our horizons. We’ve spent the last year writing and workshopping a new work as resident artists at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center and we hope to show that piece in New York sometime next year.
How long have you been working creatively with technology? How did you start?
We both began programming BASIC on TRS 80 computers in middle school and we later took a computer class together in 7th grade. Keith later got into synth programming and worked as a hip-hop / R&B producer. His interest in electronic music led him to study the work of Olly Wilson (hear his piece Sometimes from 1976) and Paul Lansky, and later Nam June Paik, and he began to make sound art. Mendi, meanwhile, wrote songs with Keith and poems on her own. Later teaching herself html provided her with a way to experiment with poetry. Our first collaborative self consciously “new media” work may have come 1996 when we composed our first “telnet action” — a conceptual piece asking for participants to send us their favorite everyday sounds. The process expanded from there.
Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them?
We explore the concepts that interest us with whatever tools we have.
Where did you go to school? What did you study?
Mendi received a BA in English at Spelman College and a Ph.D. in Literature at Duke University. Keith received a BA in Visual Art at North Carolina Central University and an MFA in Sound Design at Yale University. We should note that we were each greatly influenced by and have benefited from being witnesses to each other’s education over the years.
What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology?
We find terms like “traditional” and “new” and even “technology” quite difficult to parse when taken literally. More importantly, we don’t separate our creative practices by the technologies involved. At root, concept always matters. In that way, yes, it’s all related.
Are you involved in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)?
Our work is intermedia work — which is to say that music, writing, image making, community activities, and concepts are all part of whatever work we do.
What do you do for a living? Do you think your job relates to your art practice in a significant way?
We make art. We exhibit and perform. We talk about our art at a wide range of cultural institutions. We teach. Keith is a professor of Integrated Media Arts in Department of Communication at William Paterson University. Mendi teaches on poetry across media, sound across the arts, literature, and critical theory in the department of Humanities and Media Studies at Pratt Institute. What we teach is directly related to our practices, though our students often use the lessons toward different ends.
Who are your key artistic influences?
We have a wide variety of artistic influences, but some of the key ones include Aimé Césaire, Keith Piper, Nam June Paik, Harryette Mullen, Bill Viola, Pharoah Sanders, Adrian Piper, Pablo Neruda, Sonny Sharrock, Toni Morrison, Vernon Reid, Benjamin Patterson, Isaac Julien, Abbey Lincoln, Public Enemy, Coco Fusco, George Lewis, Laurie Anderson, Paul Lansky, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, and Bill Fontana.
Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With whom, and on what?
Over the years we’ve been fortunate enough to work with many talented folks across the arts. Keith started his career working behind the scenes doing small bits of tech work, studio sessions, or sound design work for folks coming from performance, including R&B singer D’Angelo, choreographer Bill T. Jones, NEA 4 performance artist Tim Miller, and actress/playwright Anna Deavere Smith. Those early experiences with other peoples projects, while not proper collaborations, were extremely valuable.
We recently produced a text-sound compilation album, Crosstalk, that included new work from a range of artists including Vijay Iyer/Mike Ladd, Guillermo Brown, Peter Gordon/ Lawrence Weiner, DJ Spooky, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Tracie Morris, and Pamela Z among many others. We are currently working with painter Iona Rozeal Brown on her piece for Performa 11 in New York. Iona is probably best known for her iconic paintings combining Japanese Edo period imagery with blackface and hip-hop elements. We also work regularly with sisters behind Angela’s Pulse, Patricia McGregor (Associate director of Fela! on Broadway) and Paloma McGregor (Urban Bushwomen & Dance Exchange).
Do you actively study art history?
Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which authors inspire you?
We are big fans of scholars like Daphne Brooks, Alondra Nelson, Kobena Mercer, and Richard Powell. We’re drawn to areas of study by the ideas more than by the cult of personality. That said, we have learned a great deal from artists who write art criticism, philosophy, and critical theory, such as Adrian Piper, Toni Morrison, Coco Fusco, George Lewis, Guillermo Gomez-Pena,, Richard Kostelanetz, and Dick Higgins.
Are there any issues around the production of, or the display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about?
Every moment has its own challenges, irrespective of media. However, we do have some questions that have come up in our practice and we know that many other artists and media art organizations including Rhizome have wrestled these questions for years.
- What is the significance of the work considered a new media work as its medium ages?
- When can the work be best understood?
- What role does the “aura” play in new media art?
- Does the novelty of what has been called new media take away from the art’s potential for visceral power?
- Should new media art privilege technological sophistication or conceptual rigor?
- How do we access works created for outdated platforms?
- How do we archive works in media with an unidentified a shelf life?
We also have questions about the audiences’ relationships to intermedia works. One the one hand, the beauty of the intermedia artwork is that it can speak to many contexts. On the other hand, it often falls to the artist to teach the audience to find poetry in the gallery, for example, or to find art in the concert hall. And it is sometimes challenging for audiences familiar with the traditions of art in only one medium to read the entire work. This issue is especially weighty when we recognize that the audience necessarily includes curators, presenters, and critics, as well as other enthusiasts. Our answer has been to take the works to centers of activity for each of the practices we engage, but we ultimately hope to see audiences show more interest in the arts generally.
Why do we call the place where you plug in a telephone a ‘jack’? It’s kind of strange when you think about it. It doesn’t look like a person or the thing you use to prop up a car while you change a tire. It’s just a specifically shaped hole. So, how’d it get that name?
I stumbled across the answer to this question in James Gleick’s spectacular book, The Information. Here’s Gleick’s capsule history:
George W. Coy, a telegraph man in New Haven, Connecticut, built the first “switch-board” there, complete with “switch-pins” and “switch-plugs” made from carriage bolts and wire from discarded bustles. He patented it and served as the world’s first telephone “operator.” With all the making and breaking of connections, switch-pins wore out quickly. An early improvement was a hinged two-inch plate resembling a jackknife: the “jack-knife switch,” or as it was soon called, the “jack.”
The patent is now available online. It begins, “Be it known that I, George W. Coy, of New Haven, in the county of New Haven and state of Connecticut, have invented a new Improvement in Electric Switches.” But the jack-knife switch itself was not invented by Coy. That honor goes to Charles Scribner of the Western Electric Company.
We love our tech etymology.
"What do you see from the window of this apartment?"From Hume's Essays, more particularly the essay "Of Simplicity and Refinement in Writing":
(That's what it had looked like to me.)
"Is this part of it lit?"
"Yes, dimly . . . There's a streetlamp."
"And what can be seen near the streetlamp?"
"Of which sex?"
"Two men, a woman. . . She's wearing pants and a cap, but you can see her breasts under her sweater."
"What is this lady's name?"
"Her name--or at least what they call her--is Joan Robeson, or sometimes Robertson too."
"What does she do?"
"She's one of the fake nurses who works for Doctor Morgan, the psychoanalyst whose office is in the Forty-second Street subway station. The other nurses are blond, and . . ."
"But what is she doing here, now, in the bushes bordering the park, with those two men? And who are those two men?"
"That's easy: one is Ben-Said, the other is the narrator. The three of them are loading cartons of marijuana cigarettes disguised as ordinary Philip Morrises into a white Buick."
There is no subject in critical learning more copious, than this of the just mixture of simplicity and refinement in writing; and therefore, not to wander in too large a field, I shall confine myself to a few general observations on that head.
First, I observe, That though excesses of both kinds are to be avoided, and though a proper medium ought to be studied in all productions; yet this medium lies not in a point, but admits of a considerable latitude. Consider the wide distance, in this respect, between Mr. POPE and LUCRETIUS. These seem to lie in the two greatest extremes of refinement and simplicity, in which a poet can indulge himself, without being guilty of any blameable excess. All this interval may be filled with poets, who may differ from each other, but may be equally admirable, each in his peculiar stile and manner. CORNEILLE and CONGREVE, who carry their wit and refinement somewhat farther than Mr. POPE (if poets of so different a kind can be compared together), and SOPHOCLES and TERENCE, who are more simple than LUCRETIUS, seem to have gone out of that medium, in which the most perfect productions are found, and to be guilty of some excess in these opposite characters. Of all the great poets, VIRGIL and RACINE, in my opinion, lie nearest the center, and are the farthest removed from both the extremities.