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You met me at a very strange time in my life

7 Dec

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3 Dec

“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

(Haruki Murakami)

Note to Self

25 Nov

I was never good with words

Most times, ‘something else’ might be at the polar end of what was intended
Maybe then, it’s better to keep silent?
But in other times, silence is no respite

Inebriation

13 Nov

Between roles

10 Nov

 

 

Alt+Tab on Repeat

7 Nov

Procrastination

Scavenging for meat when there is no carcass in sight
Picking at bones when there is no meat left
Foraging the forest for traces of the bones
Ending it all by clearing carcass through the process
Looking for something that cannot be found?

Everything comes full circle, but I’m not back where I started when I first began

Nostalgia on Repeat

3 Nov

Why do we feel nostalgia? And are infinite entertainment choices changing the way we look back?

Certain problems never disappear. Sometimes that’s because there’s no solution to whatever the problem is. But just as often, it’s because the problem isn’t problematic; the so-called “problem” is just an inexact, unresolved phenomenon two reasonable people can consistently disagree over. The “nostalgia problem” fits in this class: Every so often (like right now), people interested in culture become semifixated on a soft debate over the merits or dangers of nostalgia (as it applies to art, and particularly to pop music). The dispute resurfaces every time a new generation attains a social position that’s both dominant and insecure; I suppose if this ever stopped, we’d be nostalgic for the time when it still periodically mattered to people.

The highest-profile current example is the book Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past, written by the British writer Simon Reynolds (almost certainly the smartest guy to ever earnestly think about Death in Vegas for more than 4½ minutes). Promoting his book on Slate, Reynolds casually mentioned two oral histories he saw as connected to the phenomenon (the grunge overview Everybody Loves Our Town and the ’80s-heavy I Want My MTV). Those passing mentions prompted writers from both books to politely reject the idea that these works were somehow reliant on the experience of nostalgia (nostalgia has a mostly negative literary connotation). But this is not the only example: The music writer for New York magazine wrote about this subject apolitically for Pitchfork, essentially noting the same thing I just reiterated — for whatever reason, this (semi-real) “nostalgia problem” suddenly appears to be something writers are collectively worried about at this (semi-random) moment. The net result is a bunch of people defending and bemoaning the impact of nostalgia in unpredictable ways; I suppose a few of these arguments intrigue me, but just barely. I’m much more interested in why people feel nostalgia, particularly when that feeling derives from things that don’t actually intersect with any personal experience they supposedly had. I don’t care if nostalgia is good or bad, because I don’t believe either of those words really applies.

But still — before a problem can be discarded, one needs to identify what that problem is. In my view, this dispute has three principal elements. None of them are new. The central reason most smart people (and certainly most critics) tend to disparage nostalgia is obvious: It’s an uncritical form of artistic appreciation. If you unconditionally love something from your own past, it might just mean you love that period of your own life. In other words, you’re not really hearing “Baby Got Back.” What you’re hearing is a song that reminds you of a time when you were happy, and you’ve unconsciously conflated that positive memory with any music connected to the recollection. You can’t separate the merit of a song from the time when you originally experienced it. [The counter to this argument would be that this seamless integration is arguably the most transcendent thing any piece of art can accomplish.] A secondary criticism boils down to self-serving insecurity; when we appreciate things from our past, we’re latently arguing that those things are still important — and if those things are important, we can pretend our own life is equally important, because those are the things that comprise our past. [The counterargument would be that personal history does matter, and that the size of one’s reality is the size of one’s memory.] A third criticism is that nostalgia is lazy, lifeless, and detrimental to creativity. [The counter to this would be that even those who hate nostalgia inevitably concede it feels good, and feeling good is probably the point.] There are other arguments that can be made here, but these are the main three; if you’re “pro-” or “anti-” nostalgia, a version of your central thesis inevitably falls somewhere in this paragraph. And in all three cases, both sides of the debate are built around that magical bridge between art and the experience of being alive. It’s always based on the premise that we are nostalgic for things that transport us back to an earlier draft of ourselves, and that this process of mental time travel is either wonderful or pathetic (because that’s certainly how it feels).

But what if this is just how we explain it? What if nostalgia has less to do with our own lives than we superficially assume?

What if the feeling we like to call “nostalgia” is simply the byproduct of accidental repetition?

Stare at a photograph of someone you dated long, long ago. The emotional reaction you’ll have (unless you’re weird or depressed or kind of terrible) is positive; even if this person broke your heart, you will effortlessly remember all the feelings you had that allowed your heart to be broken. This is real nostalgia: You are looking at something that actively reminds you of your past (and which exists solely for that purpose), and you’re reimagining the conditions and circumstances surrounding that image. But you’re probably not judging the quality of the photo. You probably don’t think, “You know, it’s impossible for me to tell if the composition and framing of this picture is professional, because I remember too much about the day it was taken.” You probably aren’t concerned with overrating the true inventive prowess of whoever snapped the photo. The picture is just a delivery device for the memory. This is why thinking about old music (or old films, or old books) is so much more complicated and unclear: It’s not just that we like the feeling that comes along with the song. We like the song itself. The song itselfsounds good, even if we don’t spend a second thinking about our personal relationship to when we originally heard it. Yet we still place this sonic experience into the category of “nostalgic appreciation,” because that seems to make the most sense.

Except that it doesn’t.

It doesn’t make sense to assume any art we remember from the past is going to automatically improve when we experience it again, simply because it has a relationship to whatever our life used to be like. We may not even remember that particular period with any clarity or import. These things might be connected, but they might also be unrelated. Obviously, some songs do remind us of specific people and specific places (and if someone were to directly ask you “What songs make you nostalgic?,” these are the tracks you’d immediately list). But so many other old songs only replicate that sensation. The song connects you with nothing tangible, yet still seems warm and positive and extra-meaningful. It’s nostalgia without memory. And what this usually means is that you listened to that particular song a lot, during a stage in your life when you listened to a smaller number of songs with a much higher frequency. It might have nothing to do with whatever was happening alongside that listening experience; it might just be that you accidentally invested the amount of time necessary to appreciate the song to its fullest possible extent. What seems like “nostalgia” might be a form of low-grade expertise that amplifies the value of the listening event.

Here’s what I mean: For at least one year of my life, I had only six cassettes. One of these was Ozzy Osbourne’s Bark at the Moon, which (as an adult) I consider to be the third or fourth-best Ozzy solo album. But it’s definitely the Ozzy release I’ve listened to the most, purely because I only had five other tapes. It’s entirely possible I’ve listened to Bark at the Moon more than all the other Osbourne solo albums combined.

Now, the first song on side two of Bark at the Moon is titled “Centre of Eternity.” It’s a bit ponderous and a little too Ozzy-by-the-numbers. It means absolutely nothing to me personally and doesn’t make me long for the days of yore; until I started writing this essay, I hadn’t listened to it in at least 10 years. But as soon as I replayed it, it sounded great. Moreover, it was a weirdly complete listening experience — not only did I like the song as a whole, but I also noticed and remembered all the individual parts (the overwrought organ intro, how Jake E. Lee’s guitar was tuned, when the drums come in, the goofy sci-fi lyrics, etc.). There may be a finite amount one can “get” from this particular song, but — whatever that amount is — I got it all. And this is not because of any relationship I’ve created between “Centre of Eternity” and my life from the middle 1980s, most of which I don’t remember or even care about. It’s because the middle ’80s were a time when I might lay on my bed and listen to a random Ozzy song 365 times over the course of 12 months. It’s not an emotional experience. It’s a mechanical experience. I’m not altering the value of “Centre of Eternity” by making it signify something specific to me or my past; I’ve simply listened to it enough to have multiple auditory experiences simultaneously (and without even trying). The song sounds better than logic dictates because I (once) put in enough time to “get” everything it potentially offers. Maybe it’s not that we’re overrating our memories; maybe it’s that we’re underrating the import of prolonged exposure. Maybe things don’t become meaningful unless we’re willing to repeat our interaction with whatever that “thing” truly is.

And this, I think, is what makes our current “nostalgia problem” more multifaceted than the one we had 10 years ago. This process I just described? The idea of accidentally creating a false sense of nostalgia though inadvertent-yet-dogged repetition? That’s ending, and it’s not coming back.

In the year 2011, I don’t know why anyone would listen to any song every day for a year. Even if it was your favorite song, it would be difficult to justify. It would be like going to the New York Public Library every morning and only reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Music is now essentially free, so no one who loves music is limited by an inability to afford cassettes. Radio is less important than it used to be (which means songs can’t be regularly inflicted on audiences), MTV only shows videos when no one is watching, and Spotify is a game-changer. Equally important is the way modern pop music is recorded and produced: It’s consciously designed for digital immediacy. Listen to the first 90 seconds of Rihanna’s album Loud — if you don’t love it right away, you’re not going to love it a month from now. There’s also been a shift in how long a critic (professional or otherwise) can be expected to hear a product before judging its value. This is especially true for albums that are supposed to be important; most meaningful responses to Radiohead’s The King of Limbs and Kanye and Jay-Z’s Watch the Throne happened within 24 hours of their embargoed release. When someone now complains that a song is being “played to death,” it usually just means it’s been licensed to too many commercials and movie trailers.

Now, no one can irrefutably declare that this evolution is bad, good, or merely different; it seems like it will (probably) be negative for artists, positive for casual consumers, and neutral for serious music fans. But it’s absolutely going to change what we classify (rightly or wrongly) as “nostalgia.” It won’t eliminate it, but it will turn it into something totally unlike the way things are now.

Of course, if you hate nostalgia, this seems like good news. “Excellent,” you probably think. “Now I won’t have to listen to people trying to convince me that Pearl Jam’s No Code is awesome, based on the argument that they used to listen to Pearl Jam in high school.” From a practical standpoint, there’s no historical loss to the genocide of self-made nostalgia; the Internet will warehouse what people’s minds do not. (Since the Internet is a curator-based medium, it’s also a naturally backward-looking medium.) People won’t need to “remember” Pearl Jam in order for Pearl Jam to survive forever; in 500 years, we will still have a more complete, more accurate portrait of Eddie Vedder than of Mozart or John Philip Sousa or Chuck Berry, even if no one in America is still aware that a song titled “Jeremy” once existed. It’s uncomfortable to admit this, but technology has made the ability to remember things borderline irrelevant. Having a deep memory used to be a real competitive advantage, but now it’s like having the ability to multiply four-digit numbers in your head — impressive, but not essential.

Yet people will still want to remember stuff.

People enjoy remembering things, and particularly things that happened within their own lifetime. Remembering creates meaning. There are really only two stages in any existence — what we’re doingnow, and what we were doing then. That’s why random songs played repeatedly take on a weight that outsizes their ostensive worth: We can unconsciously hear the time and thought we invested long ago. But no one really does this anymore. No one endlessly plays the same song out of necessity. So when this process stops happening — when there are no more weirdos listening to “Centre of Eternity” every day for a year, without even particularly liking it — what will replace that experience?

I suspect it will be replaced by the actions of other people.

Connectivity will replace repetition. Instead of generating false nostalgia by having the same experience over and over, we will aggregate false nostalgia from those fleeting moments when everyone seemed to be doing the same thing at once. It won’t be a kid playing the same song 1,000 times in a row; it will be that kid remembering when he and 999 other people all played the same song once (and immediately discussed it on Twitter, or on whatever replaces Twitter). It will be a short, shared experience that seems vast enough to be justifiably memorable. And I don’t know what that will feel like, and I don’t know if it will be better or worse. But I’m sure it will make some people miss the way things used to be.

(via Chuck Closterman)

Hero? Down to Zero

31 Oct

This is how certain pieces of information can lead to a 180degree-repulsion. Sad, but then again it’s better to know sooner than hold him in high-regard for a huge part of my life and later realize how foolish I had been. 

Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living

From formaldehyde-immersed sharks to diamond-encrusted skulls, Damien Hirst as become used to taking flak from traditionalists.

Less than welcome have been the accusations of plagiarism, the latest of which were detailed today with claims that no fewer than 15 works produced over the years by the self-styled enfant terrible have been allegedly “inspired” by others.

While Hirst has previously faced accusations that works including his diamond skull came from the imagination of other artists, the new allegations include his “crucified sheep”, medicine cabinets, spin paintings, spot paintings, installation of a ball on an air-jet, his anatomical figure and cancer cell images.

Charles Thomson, the artist and co-founder of the Stuckists, a group campaigning for traditional artistry, collated the number of plagiarism claims relating to Hirst’s work for the latest issue of the Jackdaw art magazine.

He came up with 15 examples, with eight said to be new instances of plagiarism. The tally includes the medicine cabinets that Hirst first displayed in 1989, and its development in 1992 – a room-size installation called Pharmacy.

“Joseph Cornell displayed a cabinet with bottles on shelves called Pharmacy in 1943,” said Thomson. Nor were Hirst’s spin paintings or his installation of a ball on a jet of air original, he said, noting that both were done in the 1960s.

“Hirst puts himself forward as a great artist, but a lot of his work exists only because other artists have come up with original ideas which he has stolen,” said Thomson. “Hirst is a plagiarist in a way that would be totally unacceptable in science or literature.”

Aggrieved artists include John LeKay, a Briton who says he first thought of nailing a lamb’s carcass to wood like a cross in 1987, only to see it reproduced by Hirst. Lekay previously claimed in 2007 that he had been producing jewel-encrusted skulls since 1993, before Hirst did so. Lori Precious, an American, says she first arranged butterfly wings into patterns to suggest stained-glass windows in 1994, years before Hirst.

Imitation may be flattery, but not when Hirst is taking both the financial and artistic credit for their ideas, say Lekay and Precious. LeKay has never sold anything above £3,500, while Hirst’s set of three crucified sheep was a reported £5.7m. Precious’s butterflies sold for £6,000 against Hirst’s version for £4.7m.

While Hirst is one of Britain’s richest men, LeKay cannot live off his art. Accusing Hirst of being dishonest about where he gets his ideas, he said: “He should just tell the truth.”

Although LeKay recognises that artists have always found inspiration in each other, he says the great ones adapt ideas to create works with their own individual and original stamp.

He said: “Damien sees an idea, tweaks it a little bit, tries to make it more commercial. He’s not like an artist inspired by looking inwards. He looks for ideas from other people. It’s superficial. Put both [crucified sheep] together and … it’s the same thing.”

In the 1990s, they were friends and shared exhibitions, which is when Hirst may have seen his sheep. Since then, LeKay has become more interested in Buddhism than material wealth, so he does not plan to seek compensation.

Precious recalled her pain at seeing Hirst’s butterflies in a newspaper: “My artist friends and collectors called to tell me they couldn’t believe the similarities between Hirst’s work and mine, and … at first I too thought it was my work.”

Although the patterns are not identical, she said: “It’s the same material (butterfly wings) and the same idea (recreations of stained-glass windows).”

Without the funds to pursue legal action, she no longer produces butterfly works.

It emerged in 2000 that Hirst agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to head off legal action for breach of copyright by the designer and makers of a £14.99 toy which bore a resemblance to his celebrated 20ft bronze sculpture, Hymn.

David Lee, the editor of the Jackdaw, says Hirst’s compensation was an admission of guilt. “The fact he was willing to fork out the money is an indication that he knew he was plagiarising the guy’s work.”

Hirst declined to comment.

(via Guardian)

Sincerity

30 Oct

Nobody notices anyway

19 Oct

Youth is wasted on the Young

12 Oct

You can observe a lot just by watching

1 Oct

“Don’t worry. Even if your rent is due, it won’t happen all at once.”

28 Sep

“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

Talking to a glass wall, you hope for a reflection
A person agape
Hitting the ground, all it can do is swim
Except it asphyxiates
Doesn’t make sense? Life doesn’t make sense

Effluxion

21 Sep

So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell,
Blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
What have we found
The same old fears
Wish you were here.

Claim your humanity

20 Sep

“You wake up at Seatac, SFO, LAX. You wake up at O’Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, BWI. Pacific, mountain, central. Lose an hour, gain an hour. This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time. You wake up at Air Harbor International. If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?”

Reality TV

18 Sep

Woman seeks a divorce husband because he’s too nice.

And made her gain weight because he can cook.

“It just don’t make sense”

(via Divorce Court)

Art of Insult

8 Sep

Marc Chagall on Pablo Picasso: 
“What a genius, that Picasso… It’s a pity he doesn’t paint.”

Willem de Kooning to Andy Warhol (at a party): 
“You’re a killer of art, you’re a killer of beauty, you’re even a killer of laughter. I can’t bear your work!”

Francis Bacon on Jackson Pollock: 
“Jackson Pollock’s paintings might be very pretty but they’re just decoration. I always think they look like old lace.”

Banksy when meeting Robbo: 
“Never heard of you.”

Linder Sterling on Damien Hirst: 
“Dead butterflies, cows, horses, humans, sheep, and sharks — it reads like the inventory of a funerary Noah. How many halved calves suspended in formaldehyde does the world need? To my way of thinking, none.”

Frida Kahlo on the European Surrealists: 
“They are so damn ‘intellectual’ and rotten that I can’t stand them anymore… I’d rather sit on the floor in the market of Toluca and sell tortillas, than have anything to do with those ‘artistic’ bitches of Paris.”

William Powhida on Takashi Murakami:
“…that hack Murakami trying to consume the market whole and ended up designing handbags…”

James McNeil Whistler on Frederic Leighton:
“My dear Leighton, why do you ever begin yours?”

Michelangelo on Raphael: 
“Everything he knew, he learned from me.”

Skii to Charles Saatchi:
“You could do-it-yourself.

(via FlavorWire)

Expiry dates

6 Sep

Cop 223: Any canned pineapple that expires on May 1?
Cashier: You know what day it is today?
Cop 223: April 30?
Cashier: Right. You think we sell outdated stock?
Cop 223: There’s still two hours to go.
Cashier: No one takes that risk. Get something fresh.
Cop 223: People like you are hung up on freshness. You realize what goes into a tin of pineapple? The fruit must be grown, harvested, sliced, and you just throw it away! How do you think the tin feels about that? 
Cashier: Buddy, I only work here. Who cares about how the tins feel? What about how I feel? Loading, more loading, unloading… How I wish tins wouldn’t expire! It’d save me loads of work. You like expired tinned food? Help yourself! As many as you like! On the house!

[223 leaves the store]

Cop 223: Somehow everything comes with an expiry date. Swordfish expires. Meat sauce expires. Even cling-film expires. Is there anything in the world which doesn’t?

[223 gives a can of pineapple to a passing hobo. The hobo looks at the can and throws it on the ground]

Hobo: It’s expired.

#7

2 Sep

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