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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Breaking news in today’s Wall Street Journal: having baby photos e-mailed to you can be really annoying. Working America is in the midst of “an onslaught of online baby exhibitionism, fed both by Americans’ increasing love affair with digital photography and their obsession with their children.” How do we know this? By 2009, 25.7 billion photos will be sent in e-mails, and “experts beleive that a significant percentage of these photos will be of babies or children.” Hmm, they might have been a little less specific; I’m surprised the fact checkers could verify that “significant percentage.” The story goes on to relate gory instances of birth videos and ultrasounds being disseminated via YouTube. What’s next? Smellograms of dirty diapers? Videos of the bris?


But really, how is this a problem? If this stuff bothered you, couldn’t you just delete the emails? If you can’t muster up the polite effort to look at a picture of a friend’s kid, that what kind of a creep are you, anyway? I refuse to accept that people are truly overwhelmed with the responsibility of responding to baby photos, but then again, I’m the sort of creep who never thought for a minute they required a response. Also, a bullet-pointed etiquette primer is provided for how to send photos appropriately, with such useful advice as “Make sure they are good quality photos.”


So okay, this is probably one of those bogus trend stories, with the half-conscious agenda of making it clear that the office is still basically a masculinzed realm, no place for family talk, baby photos, etc. (Though another article on the same page revisits and refutes the notorious 1986 Newsweek story that argued that women who hadn’t married by 40—who pursued a career, perhaps—were more likely “to be killed by a terrorist” than to get married.) But part of it resonated with me, because I’ve long had the feeling that Americans are obsessed with their own children at the expense of being able to muster up any interest in anyone else’s children or anything else at all in the world. Touting one’s children can seem the worst sort of narcissism, acting as though no one else has ever had children before and that one’s own experience is entirely unique to the universe simply because it is new to oneself. And the consequences of childcentric obsession is to atomize society that much further. Inevitable we prioritize our own families at the expense of society in what seems a perfectly natural act of selfishness that no one could possibly blame us for. Famliy feeling is the wedge driving society further apart from itself; it can be the spike into the heart of cooperation: Justice is irrelevent if our children end up with advantages. The irritation expressed at e-mails of other people’s kids is simply impatience at the very existence of those kids, when we all know that only ours really matter at the end of the day.


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Wednesday, May 24, 2006
by PopMatters Staff


FEATURED ARTIST
The Procussions


“The Procussions are set to saturate the globe with their B-boy energy and powerful message of positive change.  They are a multi-cultural group that not only break the normal stereotypes of what mainstream hip hop must be but as well aren’t afraid to discuss issues that other rappers don’t: rape, child abuse, neglect.  One example is “Miss January” featuring Talib Kweli which discusses the perils of having to say goodbye to a destructive relationship.  The three man crew consisting of Mr. J Mederios, Stro and Rez befriended each other while growing up in Colorado but now make Los Angeles their home.  With musical influences stemming from the Golden Era of Hip-Hop, to J Dilla to Megadeth, their sound is a style that reflects all genres of music.”  — Rawkus Records

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“Little Bamboo” [MP3]
“Cement Truck” [MP3]
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Cacoy
“Yoko Majikick Ono” [MP3]


The Like Young
“Dead Eyes” [MP3]
“For Money Or Love” [MP3]


The Black Angels
“The First Vietnamese War” [MP3]


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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I’ll admit up-front that I have a pretty strong revulsion toward tattoos on the purely physical level. When I see them, I don’t see a iconic imagery or cool Chinese calligraphy or anything, I just see pain. Indeed recently psychologists have documented cases of tattooing as self-harm, as an new iteration of cutting on oneself. Perhaps they are now receding back to the alienated subcultures from whence they came.


Once tattoos had a specific anti-social purpose; before they achieved their current semi-respectability, these marks of Cain served to show that one was unwilling to play along with society; one literally branded oneself as an outcast, voluntarily. Or perhaps a tattoo was supposed to prove that you had enough stature and undeniable talent (as a rock star or an athlete or whatever) to rise above what anyone might say about you. Or it was an emblem of solidarity amid a tightly-knit group, like a group of sailors or something. If you inflate and generalize all those motives you probably have an explanation of the 1990s tattoo boom, which in the process nullified what tattoos once connoted and left them signifying only that you were desperate enough to permanently scar yourself to be trendy.


Of course, everyone with tattoos always insists how personal they are, and there must be some truth to that. But still they seem a symptom of the loss of faith in subtler, richer means of communicating things about oneself—to others and even to oneself. It’s a sign of a crisis of belief. A tattoo is perhaps a way to signal that you really mean something; it’s a way of swearing on someone’s life, only you substitute your own skin for that someone. It’s a drastic way of committing oneself, one that seems to suggest that just your word isn’t enough to show you really mean something. Tattoos are a way to make communication seem less like bullshiting and more like action—doing something instead of just yapping about how much you love your girlfriend or how cool you think your car is or how into some band you are—but the 1990s proved tattoos could be a form of bullshit too.


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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Brian Montopoli’s CBS blog post “I Use The Shuffle Feature Because I Like To Shake Things Up” lampoons the press coverage of the non-story of what’s on a politician’s iPod.  Good for light piece at the end of a news broadcast but not earthshaking stuff for sure.  That is unless you subscribe to the theory that we are what we listen to.


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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I ran these before on the old blog, but with little time for writing today, I thought I’d trot out a slightly revised version of them again.


1. Commercial fiction exists to justify the status quo and make such justifications be experienced as pleasure, either through flattering the reader for his ability to predict what will happen, dignifying his customary circumstances or positing fantasies that dovetail with the commodities markets have to offer.


2. Commercial fiction thrives on the reader’s isolation, which allows his fantiasies to develop unchecked in the channels provided by the fiction and allows for a more absorbing suspension of disbelief. This corresponds well with how the consumer society depends on isolated consumers to permit a wider array of unnecessary purchases and to allow unsubstantiated claims about products and the lifestyles they purport to provide go unchecked. Resistance, even to the flimsy premises of genre fiction and advertisements, requires social organization—you need a network of communication outside of mass media to set up a discourse counter to it. Isolation, on the other hand, streamlines acquiescence.


3. Vicarious participation is a prerequisite of both commercial fiction and commercial societies. In both instances we must be prepared to enjoy our emotions more thoroughly through proxies than through direct experience of nature or society. We must be prepared to choosed mediated forms of experience, because of the illusion of control it affords us, over direct, spontaneous, unpredictable “natural” experiences.


4. Plausibility may be redefined within the realm of commercial fiction to suit the consumer society’s requirements. Reading commerc ial fiction reconfigures the plausibility threshold so that only matters inconsequential to commerce and consumerist fantasy are rejected as “unrealistic.”


5. The question of the commericial novel’s form may best be seen as a problem of industrial design.


6. The commercial novel was one of the first commodities, and as such, it contributed to the notions that acquiring goods constitutes a story itself. The dream world we enter in fiction is akin to the dream lifestyle a product, typically branded, hopes to posit for us via its ads. A story unfolds, closure is obtained (the good is purchased) and a new story must begin. Commercial novels, in being utterly worthless after they are read once, are emblematic of consumer goods generally, which become beside the point once the pleasure of acquiring them has been acted out. (Example: the home espresso machine. Note how many of these you find in thrift stores.)


7. Our facility at enjoying commercial fiction, adopting to its conventions and enjoying its foreshortenings and its illusions, the clockwork execution of its familiar formulas, makes us able to enjoy shopping more—the necessary pre-purchase fantasizing, how ads are metonyms for powerful narratives illustrating our values, how there can be a dramatic arc to our shopping experience, how the invisible hand is really a kind of deus ex machina.


8. Connoiseurship in the market—the quest for distinctive goods—has roots in the connoiseurship of feeling experienced vicariously through the earliest commercial novels and the taste in reading it allows to be expressed. The cult of sensibility taught culture to value the calculated display of feeling and find nothing inauthentic in it. Authenticity was brought to the surface as a set of signs.


9. Pleasure does not preexist systems of distribution and consumption. It manifests itself through those systems; the shape pleasure can take is defined by those systems. The 18th century commercial novel is an artifact of first forms of pleasure enabled by capitalism. (Needs are “set free” by economic growth.)


10. For commercial novels as well as consumer societies, anticipation is far more important than satisfaction.


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