Monday, June 20, 2005

For Monday, Justify Your Existence

I keep trying to write the big "here's why Humanity is worth saving, little Heather" post just right and spewing my Riverside Shakespear and a zillion other sources all around the room, and I keep quitting because its not just right and I want it to be, because the defense of all humanity is Very Important. But of course, it ain't like there's a real audience here, so I'm giving up on Just Right, this is what I got right now. So it goes.

i say to you who are silent, -- "Do you see
Life? he is there and here,
or that,or this
or nothing or an old man 3 thirds
asleep,on his head
flowers,always crying
to nobody something about les
roses les bluets

EE Cummings

So that's Cummings on life. Poetry as defense of humanity is sticky, a little bit circular. We deserve to exist because we make sounds we ourselves think are pleasurable? So what?

But here's the thing. The old man that Cummings uses to stand in for life, the one with flowers on his head? That's Shakespear's Lear at the end of the play, mad and wandering, flowers in his hair. A lost king, rediscovering his humanity, a man made up by a playwright centuries ago who I can, in certain moments feel deeply wistful about. Mention Lear at certain times of the evening, and I'm likely to sigh, "Poor Lear."

So Cummings uses a sort of premordial hyperlink in his poem to reference another poem, and I link to both of them here and work them into yet something else. So together, humanity spins out of phonemes and pigments, out of ideas and out of pixels a whole other order, a set of intangible strings woven together to create a second reality running alongside and beneath the natural world. Nothing else in our knowledge does this. By doing this, we can create beauty that did not exist before.

This is the flip side of the Zombie bit I posted up last night. No one should believe that we, as people, are simply entitled to the spoils that our status as 21st century westerners deliver to us; at the same time, loathing humanity does not undo our crimes, they are (largely) in the past, the only positive direction is forward. We can create, we can share with others the possibility to create, we can be redeemed.

Go forth, and sin no more. Tomorrow, something about a video game or a damn TV show or something.

Sunday, June 19, 2005


So I watch Hotel Rwanda and, in the part when we first see shots depicting the ongoing massacre from the point of view of a man in a moving car, I begin to be reminded of an entirely different genre: the zombie movie. Shot for shot, much is the same in this sequence as in the opening of say, the recent remake of Dawn of the Dead. The protagonist speeds past burning buildings, noises of violence, and bloodied crowds of people moving in strange, alien ways as the fact that something strange and terrible has happened to his everyday world slowly dawns on him.

Obviously, I do not mean to imply the director of Hotel Rwanda was paying homage to George Romero or his more recent imitators. Rather, the violence in Rwanda reminds us that the horror of the Zombie movie is that it's plot is merely hyperbolic stand in for real historical events. That throught history, men and women have awoken to find their neighbors transformed into to something else... something that wants them dead. More horrific, it reminds us that sometimes men and women awoke to find themselves those very monsters. Like the Zombie, the mob can engulf us, as well as annhilate us.

I think it behooves us to remember, the zombie is already among us and within us. We are already Zombie, already dead, we must fight to create and protect beauty everyday for the rest of our lives just to ransom some shred of our humanity.

And even this, may not be enough...

Friday, June 10, 2005

Rappin' Shit like Saran

I was going to post a long, thoughtful essay justifying the existence of humanity to Heather but then I was up all night cleaning a spyware infection off my new computer (read: nuking hard-drive back to factory image).

I'm sure I'll regain my confidence in the rest of humanity, but if I ever meet any the fuckers who wrote nail.exe, I'm gonna (in the words of the Method Man) sew their asshole closed and keep feedin' 'em and feedin' 'em and feedin' 'em...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Summer Sidetracks

Ok, so my Summer of the Great Novel was temporarily diverted this afternoon to the Summer of the silly cartoon, thanks to a cartoon network Teen Titans marathon. Its a terribly silly show, but I have a weakness for super heros.

To redeem myself, let me offer this observation on evolving standards of beauty

Teen Titan Starfire, comic book version circa 1980.

Teen Titan
Cartoon version circa 2003.

So ladies, you no longer need freakish breast implants, but you do need to be veddy, veddy slender.

Me, I just dig girls with superpowers.

Strange Resonances

Ben, discussing the political phenomenon known as "astro-turf" (the creation of a false impression of "grassroots support" for an idea or policy via corporate front groups) brushes up against a central concern of my current "summer of the big novels" novel, Gravity's Rainbow. Namely the difficulty of discerning truth from falsehood, causality from coincidence, genuine from simulacra, perception from paranoia in a (post)modern world where we live more and more mediated lives. That is, lives more and more dependant on sources of information our senses cannot directly verify.

Slothrop, the novel's (sort of) protagonist, wanders across a ruined post WWII Germany, looking for traces of a strange mystery involving the V2 rocket. We stumble through the internet, a similarly chaotic space, trying to hunt down truth both personal and political based on facts we can rarely check for ourselves, and sources we will never meet personally.

So what do we do? Damned if I know. Often, like the Shamen and Scientists that pioneered the art of dealing with the world beyond our senses long ago, we find ourselves relying on strange resonances, complicated harmonies of thought and fact. This may trouble us, as we have all too many examples of the manifold dangers of blind faith readily available in the current discourse.

Let me suggest this. What seperates the wise from the foolish here is not some perfect method, some calculus of reason that will derive ahead of time the wheat from the chaff, the real patterns from the Virgin Mary's in the toast, but rather the ability to look at our connections and schemes, evaluate them in the light of changing conditions and evidence and say: "Yeah, about that idea... as it turns out..."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

News In Brief

Spoon, Gimmie Fiction = Good
Imogen Heap, Speak for Yourself = Good
(Why yes, I have been downloading the albums of bands from the OC soundtrack. Its about the only thing that show is good for anymore.)
The Album Leaf, In a Safe Place = Weird Instrumental Theme Music... not so good

83 degrees = Too hot to Jog

pipe = not a pipe

Music was not invented in 1900

For quite a while now, I've been meaning to post something about the recording industry's rhetoric regarding IP rights and music. I never quite got around to it, and now David Byrne has said most of what I would have said, and said it better than I would have. You can read it on his blog here.

The long and short of it (my words, not Byrne's, though I think the Byrne piece is along the same lines) no matter what an RIAA rep tells you, Music Was Not Invented by A Room Full of White Guys Early in the 20th Century. Music is a fundamental part of the human experience, at least as old as speech, maybe older. If tomorrow the Recording industry was removed from the face of the earth by a gang of vindictive Haxor Pirates, music would persist, it might even thrive.

What makes me so confident about that? I mean, if you listen to the friendly anti-piracy folks the only reason music is created is because of the tasty monetary incentives they offer, incentives based on their ability to sell recordings for profit. Bullshit. As I alluded to earlier, musicians found working business models before recording, and as Byrne discusses in his entry many at the turn of the century thought the technology enabling recording would destroy music. It didn't, and technologies threatening the profit margin of recording won't do that now.

Further, in a completely unscientific guess, I would venture that 90% or more of all musicians in the world see little or no profits from recordings of any kind. The big boys and girls on MTV aren't the only ones making music. A vast pool of nightclub players and other musicians who will likely never be known outside their local areas suit up every night and go out and play for tips and free beer. Some might sneeringly call this "lesser talent" but my father (a rank amature) still cranks out a version of "Don't Let it Get You Down (Its Only Castles Burning)" I prefer to the "real"
Neil Young recording. Some small musicians may do it hoping to cash in on a contract with RCA someday, but more do it because the music is what they have to do.

To go a tiny bit beyond what Byrne suggests in his piece, let me float this idea. If tomorrow the recording industry went away, might some of the cash currently being plunked down on $18 CDs (that mostly go to corporate profits, not to artists) be spent out in local communities, at bars and coffeehouses where local artists play? Might less recording actually mean more music?

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Heavy Summer Reading List

In the spirit of self-centeredness that is the core value of blogistan, here's my (very hopeful) Summer Reading List. Feel free to comment with suggestions...

Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow
David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization
Marcel Proust, Swann's Way
Vladimir Nabokov, Invitiation to a Beheading

Where my Dogs At?

Here's a shout out to some friends and fellow travelers in this grand Gibsonian trans-post-human experiment that is blogspace. Once I figure out the template doo-dad I'll post these on a sidebar.

-When I met him he was a sober Republican, but college girls and the worker's beer soon fixed that. Now he's a centrist half mad with the love of reason . I'm confident there's a cure for that too; in the meantime if you feel like lucidity, this is the place to find it.

-Are you a Democrat in the Great State of New York? Do you need to get involved? Well, you can always give the Eliot Spitzer campaign a hand. Want more ideas? Just check in with Shelldog and get the local scores.

-The bastard love child of Neal Stephenson and the guys from Mythbusters shares his explorations of evolutionary theory, electronics, the greater Rochester metropolitan area, Intellectual Property law, and the innards of a 1963 Sears Allstate motorscooter here.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Deep or BS?

The constantly accelerating growth of information storage and retrieval technology makes memory simultaneously more ephemeral and more persistent.

Survey of Japanese Animation: Samurai Champloo and Paranoia Agent

If you want to make an ass of yourself at a geeky party, just crib my handy reactions to Adult Swim's Anime line-up! I'm watching these as Cartoon Network broadcasts 'em, so reactions are on what I've seen thus far:

Samurai Champloo:

From the folks who brought you Cowboy Bebop, except this time instead of Jazz and Space Cowboys its Hip-Hop and Samurai.


-What you'd expect from the Bebop team in terms of Animation and Soundtrack. Puuurty.

-As it turns out, (note to self: compose future post on the why "as it turns out" is a key phrase in English) the Samurai Swordfight can only be captured in an animated medium. Who knew? Blood 'n missing limbs aplenty.


-Characters seem (thus far) a tad repetitive.

-Episode pacing is a little off, things seem to only get rolling about 25 minutes into a 30 minute episode. Granted, the average "Buffy" episode only started resolving anything at minute 38 of 42, but it somehow got away with it.

Paranoia Agent

Here's the NPR review that first alerted me to the series:

After the first episode, I pretty much concur with the NPR commentator. Pluses and Minuses some other today, for tonight lets just say its a far more daring look at mediated culture than anything I've seen produced in this country, except maybe No Maps For These Territories but I'm not sure it should count.

Is it just me, or do characters in more recent Anime look a lot more Japanese (and more human, for that matter) than their earlier counterparts?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Survey of English Literature: Thomas Pynchon

As part of this Blog's educational mandate, I will be posting very, very brief explanations of authors I'm reading, the better for my (wholly imaginary) readers to make asses of themselves at parties.

Imagine an ordinary orgasm. There's a slow build of tension, leading to a sudden climax. Ok, ordinary narrative plot structure is like that ordinary orgasm. Now imagine the best climax you've ever had, only instead of being built to, you get it a fraction of a second at a time, randomly spaced over the course of four days of continuous intercourse. That's a Pynchon novel.

Lookit! an update!

Did I mention I suck at doing things on a "every day" basis. I gotta work on that. In that spirit, some quickie updates, hopefully I can at least keep these coming on a relatively consistent basis.

-Nobody tell the administration about this trust inducing neurotransmitter or we may see a new, strange EPA mandated addition to our air conditioners in the near future.

- Yoda on Bill O'Reilly. Little guy does well for himself. Would anybody an exploratory campaign committee for Yoda form?

-Get your crazy, old, scientologist fingers off Joey!