Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Practice, taller ants.

Yesterday I was sitting on the raggedy "black" leather couch, eating my lunch (<3 burritos) and glancing intermittently at the ivy facing me and the book in my face. Though I did not feel it at all (where did you come from, ya bastard!), a little brown ant somehow very quickly crawled up my arm and near the center crease of my book. I contemplated the things I would have normally done. Either brush it aside fiercely (certain death for the ant) or close the book and crush it (beyond certain death for the ant), then let it fall to the floor. I instead thought about the value of the ant's life as higher value than the book binding. I tried to coax it out of the crease by several means: first blowing, then with my finger, by slowly closing it without crushing it, and finally by taking a pencil from my purse and trying to guide it out. Alas, that fucker was so confused by the whole ordeal that it kept trying to hide itself as deeply as possible, so into the tenuous binding of the book it fled. As much as my father taught me to be absurdly respectful of books and other such actually valuable possessions, I purposely partly broke the binding of this book (which is invested in cultural understanding) so I could properly herd the insect onto my arm and then blow it onto the floor.

In all probability, it never found the pheromone trail back to the colony and perhaps died victim to a sole or a terrier's tongue within the foot surrounding, but I like dreams and dreaming.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Wider Lens

My sis's blog is over here. It's cool. She's posting a picture a day, starting yesterday, while she's in Manchester. The first one's a loo.

That's it for the moment. :)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Wayfinders

My sister just moved to Manchester, UK, for the next 13 months to get her Master's Degree in Visual Anthropology with an emphasis in ethnographic filmmaking. It sounds complicated but it's very closely related to the idea of making documentaries. Just think about it from the point of view of a cultural Anthropologist. It's pretty awesome, and I know she's going to do some amazing work, because she's someone who is constantly invigorated by people and knowledge. It's something that runs in the family.

As soon as she left, of course, I happened to be at the library and I picked up a book called "The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World" by Wade Davis. By reading the back, I knew it was related to Anthropology. Now in the middle of it, it's clear that it's completely anthropological, and closely related to my sister's field. Davis is actually a documentarian too, and has traveled the world to discover the different forms of genius that exist in cultures that still are often thought of as savage or uncivilized. The reading is fascinating. It's full of historical accounts, personal journeys, and fantastic descriptions of ways of life that are vastly different from ours yet incredibly complex and in many cases more egalitarian, efficient, thriving. The reason cultural diversity is important, Davis reasons, is the same reason biodiversity is. We have so much to learn from all different cultures and yet often the predominant or colonizing forces outlaw those things they don't understand. That idea has been taught to us since we were small, and so it gets tired, but it's still relevant, and Davis puts it in a fresh perspective.

So I've recommended the book to my sis and I'll recommend it to you, too. Another thing I'll recommend is to go to your local Public Library, walk without paying any attention through the non-fiction aisles, and blindly pick out five books. Many might be duds, but you'll get to learn about something you wouldn't normally seek out.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Note on Creation and Destruction.

I'm a guilty pseudo-punk. Intellectually, I despise the forces of modern slavery (corporate rule, sanctioned addictions, etc.) and the subliminal traps we as humans are born into. Concretely, I pretty much don't do a damn thing about it. I think a lot about changing that. A lot. I think about art's role in revolution and change, and I think about the creative power of community, and I think about the uses of current modes and tools in the fight for better ways of living for everyone. I think about the "I" versus the "we" and I think about creativity versus destruction. But I think. Part of the problem with that is that it doesn't even get to the physical, visceral "talk" point with other people. I just sit on it. Mull it over. Get angry. Post an article. Complain with friends about the obvious things through well-thought-through Facebook comments. And then let it recede, nestling into the little pacifist blankets in my brain to sleep until next month.

I mean, look at this, what I'm doing right now. I'm writing on a blog which a dozen people read but I don't update enough to expect them to, into the continuous self-purging noise of the internet, for what? A release? I guess that must be what it is. I have a hard time talking with people but I can be eloquent in text.  However, the obsessive attachment with non-physical, non-verbal interactions that riddles the globe and my generation especially is ruining the very spirit of life, empathy and real communication that is so key to actually changing anything for better. Yes, outrage spread by angry consumers can get demeaning shirts off the shelves, and can generate conversation about the horrible things that are being publicized all over our culture, but what about the things that are only experienced in reality? At the end of the day, the Western world is hooked into twisted machines of continuous insatiability while the third world uses water they shit in (and the wealthy dump toxins in) to make their food and wash their clothes. When it comes down to it, our culture is eating itself and we can't even really fathom what it's like to struggle in the way that people trying to survive actually struggle.

Living the way we do causes a lot of anger and repression. We are one psycho bunch of people. More than half (I'd be willing to bet at least 3/4) of us have some sort of psychological issue or mental disorder. We're grossly unhappy, and many of us, especially the young ones, react in almost a knee-jerk fashion. We want to destroy what's making us unhappy. Many of us are smart enough to know, even just in fragments, what is responsible for pushing in on all sides (other than our own selves, of course). We know it's that boss who won't let you take a break on your job because you don't smoke, that logo that keeps insisting you won't be able to live without an iPhone once you get it, that movie that reiterates exactly how a woman and a man should act and present themselves. But it's bigger than that. We just lash out at the small stuff. Sneer at the Apple employee. Tell people how awful the movies and how fake the actors are. Hold a deep contempt for all the smokers who stand outside and talk about things you couldn't care less about. Maybe we sometimes take direct action. Spraypaint the crap out of a billboard. Spit in our boss's face with the final straw. Egg the producers. Destroy. Even if it's well-prepared for and thought out, it's still knee-jerk.

One of the concepts I dealt with a lot in art school was destruction as a form of creation, and vice versa.  Burning a house fertilizes the soil, etc. Destruction brings renewal. It's something I definitely agree with, generally. In fact, I'm sick of making art that just adds more stuff to this miasma. As much as new images seem constantly needed (especially on such an image-heavy environment the world is in now), the value of the image is a far, far cry from the value of genuine experience, and the ecological impact of artistic materials (including computers, production, and more, not just paint and canvas) weighs out the value of that image, to me. The spraypaint that was used to "subvertize" is horrible for the Earth and for our health. The eggs used to pummel the bigwigs were taken from probably abused chickens, a total waste of unrealized life. That window you smashed cut up the feet of a little boy walking through the street in his sandals. Using bad destruction as symbolism is dangerous too. You want to smash your TV? Go ahead. The chemicals in there will make people sick and kill plants and curious animals. This kind of "destroy" mentality is counter-active.

The emphasis needs to shift from selfish anger to active responsibility. The same goals can be accomplished, but through means that benefit or at least stabilize the people, animals, plants and geography around. Yeah, it might take more time, it might mean scratching ideas that would make more sense because they "work with the concept more aesthetically". But ultimately, we have to ask ourselves what is more important; the individualistic triumph of cleverness, or the ethical, communal triumph of intelligence. It's a weird place for us to come from. Considering we are continually told to be ourselves, screw the crowd, and that everyone is out to get us, it's hard to think of others as our allies. But I think it's high time we do that. Not by following the masses, but by seeking out genuine companionship, responsible ways of creation, and honest, open dialogue.

Cynicism ain't gonna get us very far. In fact, I believe that's the biggest problem with the portion of the youth who can actualize change. We gotta stop smashing our Stratocaster on the stage floor and start putting it in the hands of a thirsty young girl. It will make far more difference. In a spectacle that proclaims as its mission, "MORE, MORE, MORE!", we need to become the louder voice, screaming, "WE CAN DO BETTER!" What is better than more? I'm not sure, but I know some things that go into it. We're sick with an absurd hunger and the doctor's telling us there's no reason to change our diet. He doesn't even acknowledge the tapeworm comfortably inside. We have to tell him we know it's there. We have to become the doctors, the teachers, the students, the explorers, the crafters, the farmers, the builders, the ambassadors and councils that determine our own well-being. I know I've got a long way to go. I'm writing a blog post that I'll post on my Facebook wall in hopes that someone reads and comments. But I swear, I want to make a change. I want to try to engage people in conversation. I want to learn what people have to offer, no matter what their background. I'm just so sick of all this... stuff. I want to experience reality, or at least the quasi-reality we're offered, to see what transformation needs to happen, through creative, responsible destruction and construction. I don't like being so cynical, as easy as it is. Anyone else?