Monday, November 28, 2011

New York: Playground for Atoms

About a month ago I managed to take a trip to New York to visit my brother. The trip turned out to be a fantastic experience on many levels. I feel that I got a good sense of Manhattan and Bloomberg's New York, but not much else. In the future I hope to visit Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. As for New Jersey, well, I'm still upset about Bon Jovi. Same reason for me not visiting Canada because of Celine Dion.

Jokes of course.

I will be updating this as I find more interesting things to put up, for now I will start with a link to my youtube post of the Avatar Machine.

Marc Owens has created an "Avatar Machine" that I saw in New York at MoMA on October. 2011.

There is a headset that has a camera on a pole extended backwards by about three feet. The headset is connected to goggles with screens that show the person wearing the apparatus from a third person perspective. It was noted that when people put on the Avatar Machine they would imitate video game movements, such as exaggerating their arm movements or taking massive steps.

Besides enjoying MoMA I also toured the Occupy Wall Street setup at Zucotti park shortly before it was dismantled. A setup;

The city is about to get its first blizzard of the winter season. Police, in an attempt to remove occupiers, surprise the make shift village by taking away their generators. The blizzard hits - temperatures fall to the upper 20's as a sleet/snow/ice mixture beats down on the city for almost 20 hours. As the city is being cleaned and the sun finally exposes itself on the crests of clouds, I venture in to interview some of the people occupying and around the facility for a article I am working on.

Within moments you could feel the hostility. One man I interviewed, named Keegan, peddled away on a bicycle that supplied power to the tent. He had groups of people taking turns. As they took turns, a police officer approached claiming that the bicycle generator system was to close to the sidewalk. Keep in mind this sidewalk is sectioned off with iron gates and surrounded at all angles with row after row of police vehicles.

I didn't see a hippie drum circle, but I did find some regular drum circles, kicking some serious beats, well away from the occupy movement.

By far one of the most alienating experiences was visiting Time's Square. The most nonsensical thing I noticed about it was a row of stairs leading upward to...nothing. They were lit in neon red, flashing and tourists fought for a spot on this two story staircase to nowhere. I asked my brother what they were doing and he replied with "worshiping their god." I laughed, but also felt scared. Nearby a ticker on the ankle of a skyscraper read "the consumer remains resilient".

Sometimes it's amazing how things can appear based on perspective. Through all this, I found the footage I took of the occupy rally in Milwaukee to be the most awe inducing. Perhaps I am biased in some way, I have not quite figured out why I feel like this. Or perhaps I am not made to be a director? Either way, the reveal;

I don't like to end with anything to heavy or downsy in the blog format, so here is something I saw by Yoko Ono that made me smile:

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What I Have Been Up To

Update: well, someone purchased a couple months ago, so I have the domain up at; UPDATE: I now have as well. Rar!

Well, school has been kicking into a higher gear now that my contract with Milwaukee Film has ended. I'm also starting to get more shows lined up and Sandra is receiving more requests at galleries, so with that in mind, I have been working more on web design. Only Sandra's is done, which can be found here;

Mine is still in the works but can be found at:

The link to my (beta) site contains some audio and video material that I have been working on over the summer as well as show photos. Time for another beer, back to the books. Chomsky lives.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Filtered Notes from Underground: Censorship in Media

                I’m flipping through the pages of Notes from Underground by Dostoyevsky, contemplating some of the idea’s that plagued the philosopher for so much of his life. A major question old Fyodor had was this; why are some people made for a seeming great existence while others a simple one?
                Dostoyevsky had a way of creating something new and with value in the world. His ‘Underground Man’ is a lazy creature, one that would rather sit idly by in a trance of inaction. Like all good philosophers, Dostoyevsky brings a slice of life that argues his point quite well; all of the actions the Underground Man can think of involve revenge on the society that made him insignificant. He would rather do nothing then contribute, as all his contributions would be harmful.
                In contrast I think of the virtuous qualities that a majority of print and news media claim to adhere to and the nature of investigative journalism. Mission statements range from “Fair and Balanced” to “Your News Network” to “Best Deals Around” and “Overstock Only”. Some even claim to offer “Real News” while others concentrate on “Reel News” and others “Real Deals”. And just like Dostoyevsky, I wonder how someone seemingly talentless can produce something such as a moviegoer blog about the latest Kevin Costner feature and manage eek out a living while another, more skilled individual, could be flipping the pages of their life through minimum wage. But I have a feeling, just like the Russian philosopher, that there are others out there. Others looking at media, from news to sales, wondering what really constitutes greatness. Not just in people, but in the products and art that they give us.
                Greatness is not found in the average journalists. For example, look at the Watergate ‘scandal’. Most journalists see this as a pivotal moment in their careers integrity where the journalists and news anchor fearlessly attacked the established government. But with Watergate came the start of the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTEL-PRO) of which the news media was not to report negatively on. Ever. The shame of this program not being reported by the mass media is easily evident. It is described as: 

“…a series of covert and often illegal projects conducted by the United States Federal Bereau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations. COINTELPRO tactics included discrediting targets through psychological warfare, planting false reports in the media, smearing through forged letters, harassment, wrongful imprisonment, extralegal violence and assassination.”

                I stopped for a moment the first time I read “assassination”. I always assumed that was something other countries are supposed to do. I also don’t remember these things being discussed when I watched the memorial pieces honoring the day the Watergate scandal broke out. But the aggravation over what is deemed as an acceptable cultural ethos goes even further.
                Greatness is not found in times of war. During the first Iraq War there were multiple peace treaty requests sent by the opposing forces. Both US and British governments made mandatory that no news media could report this fact as the US would not respond to any requests for peace or surrender.
When the US invaded Iraq without UN consent during the War on Terror, UN head Kofi Annan claimed that the US action was “illegal” and a warcrime against humanity. Since the most recent poll at the time showed that 63% of Americans believed we should only invade Iraq with United Nations support, this news story was also prevented from entering headlines. The White House, a ‘hub’ for news sources, told them it would cause the average American citizen discomfort. So they should refrain from action, just like the Underground Man.
                Greatness is not found in our solidarity, as we are lacking. Notable international news outlet Al Jazeera was recently denied reporting from a Texas town for the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. The reason is that Al Jazeera posted images of Iraqi dissent during unannounced, unexpected and prolonged US occupation during the second Iraq war. This brought the organization such a scarlet letter that they are unable to report news from some locations.
                Greatness is not found in scientific reporting or consumerism. With scientific study, there are often times situations where a scientists will feel they cannot release findings due to the results being unpopular in the current political landscape. Such an act could remove funding from the project, thus causing the Scientist to be replaced and lose their job. This was most noted during the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt during the testing of hemp production, of which whole scientific teams were fired in efforts to create fears over a non-existing threat. But it’s even easier to find examples of self censorship on the consumer level.
Online gaming magazine Kotaku ran an article in August of 2011 for an Alien Ware laptop priced at over four thousand dollars, stating that it would “revolutionize” computers. The same components could be purchased and made by an individual with rudimentary knowledge for under half the price of the model that received “Editor’s Choice”. Additionally, more powerful laptops are available from competing manufacturers at lower rate at the same quality.
When viewing the website I noticed the article had many negative comments. Some users felt the reviewer essentially “ran an ad for an overpriced piece of hardware”. This is an example of how an online magazine that prides itself in delivering news and pricing on gaming related materials is actually more concerned with the ads listed on the sidebar, with the articles and the content become secondary and almost useless. I’m beginning to wish we had more Underground Men. But the question remains; why would so many companies, ranging from The New York Times to Wired commit acts of self censorship that are detrimental to their reader base and where can greatness in humanity be found? To explore this it is important to understand the propaganda model as presented by Herman and Chomsky.
                The propaganda model has five ‘filters’. Ownership is the first filter, which is the profit seeking imperative of the dominant media corporations. For example, in post World War I Britain newspapers existed that critiqued capitalism's and corporate influence through newspaper’s such as the Daily Herald, Sunday Citizen, Daily Mirror and News Chronicle. All of these publications became absorbed into other publications until they were phased out completely. Comparatively, many modern news outlets are operated under an umbrella corporation, General Electric being one of the largest. Research shows that for the past fifty years media has shifted to a more capitalist approach.
Funding is another filter, which is generated through advertising. Products are catered to certain affluent readers who buy a newspaper or read a website. For most publications, news, articles and reviews are looked at as “filler” to manipulate their readership to see advertisement, which is the true content. In essence, people reading most magazine, blogs, newspapers and websites are the product which is sold to a business that buy advertising space and work on algorithms that compile demographic data. The data on the website, the “art”, the “news story”, has now become secondary. Dostevesky’s inaction is starting to make sense.
                The third filter is sourcing. News is sent through terminals, such as the White House, Pentagon or the British Parliament. These news sources thus rely on these hubs for all their information. Products are reviewed through press kits and hyperbole, none documenting hidden costs or true alternatives. A reason for this is due to corruption. For example, videogame companies Ubisoft will fly their critics out for week long spa vacations, but will revoke such treatment if their titles receive a bad review. Most products offered from articles such as Readers Digest and Wired are actually readily available and much cheaper, online and off. Which brings a moment to discuss the fourth filter, flak.
Flak is what Chomsky and Herman describe as; “…negative responses to a media statement or program. It may take the form of letters, telegrams, phone calls, petitions, law-suits, speeches and Bills before congress, and other modes of complaint, threat and punitive action.” The best known example of this is the US-based Global Climate Coalition (GCC). GCC was a firm that was established to attack the credibility of any scientist who made claims of global warming. Supported by the US government, this firm was made up solely of giant gas and automobile companies, including Ford and Exxon.
Greatness cannot be found in human rights. Another example of self-censorship is found with the Occupy Wall street effort. Even though thousands of letters have been written to major news organizations, such as CNN and Fox News, they refuse to report on the now weeks long occupation of wall street by protestors. During my research I could only find one AP news reference to the event, which was 32 words over two sentences at the bottom of its web site. Independent news sites show video footage of peaceful protestors being assaulted by police officers.
The final element of the propaganda model is called the “War on Terror”, formerly “Anti-communism”. This is modeling fear by creating an ‘other figure’ that is deemed intrinsically evil or extremely dangerous. For example, during the first Gulf war British tabloids read with headlines reading “Smash Saddam!” while the Sunday Times would call environmentalists ‘eco-terrorists’. In the cold war this other figure was communism while in modern times the other figure is Islam.
Greatness cannot be found in charity. When the Haitian earthquake struck in 2010, most Americans saw pop stars begging for donations from the poorer masses. The United Nations, fueled with profits from NGO donations, set up a sanitation system that has been found directly responsible for a Cholera outbreak in Haiti. This disease has killed over 300,000 unprepared people, more than the original earthquake. In an almost comical setting, the news media reports that the United Nations efforts were a success in Haiti.
I put Dostoevsky’s passages back on the shelf. I feel confident that I know what separates a Watergate from a COINTELPRO or a $1,300 machine of the exact same specifications from a $4,000 one.  It isn’t hard work or fate, but a lot of luck and timing. The propaganda model details the problems with our media and how intake information, but it’s what one does with that information that matters. Only when creating a system that has as much freedom as the press did after World War I will we avoid censoring ourselves and providing non-creative fiction.
I just wish the filters of propaganda would sit as idly by as the Underground Man, allowing for a clear representation of what it is to be and why we should act at all.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Modern Americana - Part 2 - Charles Bukowski

"Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I'm not going to make it, but you laugh inside — remembering all the times you've felt that way." - Charles Bukowski (all continuing quotes are also Charles Bukowski (except "parenthesis")).

Modern - Of or relating to recent times or the present.  Characteristic or expressive of recent times or the present.  One who lives in modern times.

Americana - refers to artifacts related to the history, geography, folklore and cultural heritage of the United States.

Charles Bukowski - American poet, 1920-1994.

Sometimes when I take a walk outside I see garbage along the outside perimeter of my house. So I walk down, pick it up and throw it away. Every now and then when I'm doing this, I'll see someone drive by and throw out more garbage than I am picking up.

Okay, I'll admit it. I love garbage. You have to if you live in this society. But I wish everyone could keep the place where they live aesthetically consistent, consistent to change, but not the change of "lets go eat at McDonalds" and then glorious step number two; "lets throw these McDonald's wrappers out our car windows. Roll them down electronically." There is so much energy and time wasted just in the fact that McDonald's exists and that people eat there. The fact that they throw greasy purloined bags, soaked from soy and carbon sprays in with all my shit that I use and throw away or shit out? I can't wait to have backyard so I can start composting, which will remove most of my trash anyway, and then I'm only a DIY incinerator away from feeling better about myself. And better then you fuckers who will be using toilets. That's right. I'm excited to poop into a box and burn the poop.

"An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way."

Usually when someone presents an idea, they will use such other ideas as "thesis" and/or "theme" and/or "motif" and/or you know we could do one of those bits where the sentence keeps moving with that structure of and/or and "parenthesis" (well, just parenthesis. They do exist and I made them) but I'm sick of writing that way. Well, the theme today is 'collage' and right now I'm trying to write one. But let me tell you about my favorite kind of collage. The collection and/or anthology (parenthesis " ").

"there are worse things
than being alone
but it often takes
decades to realize this
and most often when you do
it's too late
and there's nothing worse
than too late"

An interesting thing about collections and anthologies is that they have a consistent theme. For example,you have styles associated with times. Realism and ideas of objective reality happened around the romantic period and it has this theme due to being a response from the industrial movement. Of course, everything I just said could not be true, which means its a bunch of horseshit. A funny thing about collections, most of them that are focused on the theme of great poets will only pick a few, if any, 20th century poets. A good reason could be the time it takes to discover greatness. Consider composers; it used to take hundreds of years to discover a great composer, now it only takes about a hundred. Of course, everything I just said could not be true, but its fun to feel like an intellectual. Why is that? Some part of our horrible human condition I wonder?

"Boring damned people. All over the earth. Propagating more boring damned people. What a horror show. The earth swarmed with them."

No matter. The point I'm "putting at" (as I sure ain't driving at it) is that there is always one 20th century poet that everyone agrees on. I hope. There might be some intellectual out there who is ready to trump me on this one. I am ready and willing to be trumped. My light research has shown though, all signs point to Charles Bukowski. It's not a sign that you necessarily have to frown at, either.

"Drinking is an emotional thing. It joggles you out of the standardism of everyday life, out of everything being the same. It yanks you out of your body and your mind and throws you against the wall. I have the feeling that drinking is a form of suicide where you're allowed to return to life and begin all over the next day. It's like killing yourself, and then you're reborn. I guess I've lived about ten or fifteen thousand lives now." 

But, like all old MC's I used to idolize, he isn't perfect (NSFW?).

Bukowski is/was another example of what a majority of America is comprised of; frustrated, intelligent people, with no medium or agency (until he started writing, which was later in his life and required a bit of luck (doesn't it always?)). He is someone proletarians should claim (he worked in the US mail industry most of his life), especially if intellectuals are so quick to. He could become another Charles Baudelaire ("A tale of Two Chucks"), who is also kind of like the Tupac of surrealism but turned into a Catholic pretty boy (even though all his poems are about fucking - well, until the ones released posthumously (hence the Tupac comparison)).

Bukowski. Some kind of genius. Some kind of horror. I'm glad he wrote most of it down. 

Note: I found these quotes from Google Reads. Heres a link to the poetry reservoir.