Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Birds, Baguettes, and Black Holes...

Did you hear the one about the Higgs boson particle that wanders into a patisserie and orders a baguette? She needed it go into the future to feed the pigeon who would "accidentally" drop bread bits into the speeding gizzards of the large hadron collider, thereby destroying it and saving the solar system from being devoured by billions of basketball sized black holes. No, really. This stuff can't be made up.

But this is old news. Seems like some other less benevolent HB particles have gone into the future to allow for the collider to get it's grind back on. Prepare Earthlings.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Times is rough...

In the market for a new newspaper. Not even a definitive one, since you generally need three or four sources to even begin to cobble a sense of what's happening in the world. But I've always started with a base coat of NYTimes because of its "paper of record" status and also out of nostalgia for my home state.

But look at this "above the fold" home page. Where is the news? I understand that times are rough, but is pimping out your prime real estate to garish advertising and a self-promotional video (that doesn't even load properly) really the solution?

Don't even get me started on the "voice" of the Times. Some of the hard reporting is ok, but a majority of the paper assumes that humanity's sole purpose is to live on Park Avenue and have endless disposable income to spend on cute tchotchkes and trips to places with great boutique shops. It's so offensive that I read on purely for the thrill of seeing how I'll be offended next.

Interestingly, the paper I've spent years making fun of, The Los Angeles Times, at least has a less cluttered website that delivers actual news, mostly unadorned with passing fashions and panderings to an obsessive adult cult of cool.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dawn of me...

Waking up at 5AM from a foggy dream with absolute clarity and insight into my life and the world around me. There's nothing quite like that feeling - the closest thing I know to actual enlightenment. It's as if some pure aspect or essence of being comes out of its shell revealing its radiant core and finally making sense of life and how to live it. Of course after solving the problems of the cosmos and the self, I fell back into a deep sleep only to wake three hours later to the hurried commotion of the morning and the comparatively bland feeling of total psychic normalcy. The essence was back in its shell.

(sculpture by Hiroyuki Hamada)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"Illegal flower tribute"...

I am absolutely fascinated by what's going down between Google and the Chinese government. Google's recent decision to pull its search operations from mainland China (www.google.cn) and relocate them to Hong Kong, is reportedly resulting in blocked content. My own findings do not confirm this. On the Hong Kong site I was able to search "Falun Gong" "Tiananmen Square Massacre" "Hu Jintao" and even "illegal flower tribute." Searching "Hu Jintao nude sex tape" however, did reveal that Hong Kong Google wont touch the sexy. (Interestingly, "vagina" is searchable, while "penis" is not!)

This incredible showdown between two superpowers, has prompted well-wishers from Beijing and neighbouring cities to lay flowers and candles in a tribute to Google at the company's Beijing headquarters. However it was soon discovered that flowers donated by previous visitors had been promptly removed by alleged "security guards." One security guard from the neighbourhood was reported saying that, in order to deposit flowers people would need to apply for permits; otherwise without approved permits, they would be conducting an "illegal flower tribute"...A phrase which deftly puts the "moron" back in oxymoron.

Honestly, I can see both sides of this one. Who wants a flashy Western company telling you how to run your country. Then again, if indeed we're all in this together, then I think depriving a billion or so of us of the entire headache that is the internet could make the playing field slightly less than level. Watching riveted.

Monday, March 22, 2010

All the mind's not a stage...

If, as the Buddha said, we are what we think, then where do we go to find the best thoughts? Inward, would be one quasi-mystical answer with an Eastern tinge, and of course there's some truth in that. But I've found that the quality of my thinking improves as I move through the world and encounter people, places, and things. Triggers abound out there.

Lately I've been wondering, how do we judge the quality of new thoughts? They arrive in our mind by the dozen, nonstop, un-vetted. If we're constantly auditioning and casting new thoughts as a director auditions and casts actors, what is our criteria for giving away parts in the theater of our own mind? Who takes the stage and why?

Is a "good" thought one that makes us feel good? Is it one that reflects our biases, feeds the psychic light show, avoids our denials, and doesn't make us nauseated the next day? Does a good thought perform well? Does it withstand the hot lights and judgmental audience and shine from within? Does it distinguish itself from other thoughts using all the tricks of the performance trade?

I could go on but my point, my discovery, is that film and theater metaphors aren't always the best way to understand or attempt to control our thoughts. I'm working on a new one, a mind metaphor that avoids any anxiety-provoking flood imagery, which makes it all the harder. You'll be the first to know...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

You do it because nobody else will...

It was about the frame. How far you can push it? How close can I get to something using the camera? There has to be an environment that allows you to look at something new again. Bobby was in my psyche from childhood. Making the film there wasn't much call for words. So let's not talk. Let's just look. Let's just follow. Let's observe before we make a judgment about anything. Let's just allow people to enter a space and look with their eyes. Listen to the architecture, the sense of space. The architecture makes the images. In cinema, people have so much knowledge all you have to do is present them with the information they already have and allow them to fill in the space. The director's job is to make people lean in. They're dancing with ghosts.

- Steve McQueen on his film, Hunger, about Bobby Sands and the Irish "Troubles".

Brutal, beautiful and unsettling, Hunger uses violence to disquiet viewers’ laid-back moviegoing habits. - NY Press.

(Feces smeared cell in the Maze prison, near Belfast, during the Dirty Protest.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Piñatalab strikes!

Very informative and super-fun piñata presentation and smackage over at the always inspired Machine Project last night. Ace Piñatrix SBW held the packed house spellbound with a concise history and personal interpretation of all things piñata oriented. The crowning moment was when a tiny piñata angel walked in randomly off the street and swung the coup de grace that shattered the green horse head and brought the splendid innards outward.

Creepy and deeply funny piñata commercial here.

Check out Piñatalab!

("Ten nanoseconds before..." photo by Paul Gachot)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fergut and the Timepieces...

OK, I'll share with you a movie idea... It's about a serious weightlifter who is also a struggling fine watchmaker. You see there must be some people who only want two things from life - and those two things might not coincide. In the movie, our hero, Fergut, seen above, goes into a deep depression because he keeps dropping the tiny watch parts or crushing them in his big fingers. His boss, Doli, is a shrewd effeminate man. "Fergut," says Doli, "this might not be your calling," as once again the 834 parts of a Vacheron Constain Tour de l’lle chronograph go spinning across Fergut's zinc work station, and scatter onto the pristine white flooring with gentle pings.

Making a choice of time over body, Fergut decides to alter his form once again - through careful weight loss and a regimen of vegan cuisine and Bikram yoga. He binds his fingers in platinum mesh. As happens, his body alteration takes his mind and his soul along for the ride. In time he becomes a slight man with skin like a Shar Pei, and his passion for watchmaking is gone. High-end timepieces seem gaudy and overly precious to him. He buys a $24 timex digital and heads back to the gym.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Skafish as a baby...

The internet is great. The most obscure thing becomes mundane in a nanosecond. Case in point, take Jim Skafish. The most famous musician I know without a wikipedia page. To be honest, I can't say I know a single note of his musical oeuvre, but I can say that his outstanding face made an impression on my young self sequestered in a verdant world of nice pert noses and people. And so there is Skafish as a baby. Did you ever think you'd encounter a Skafish as a baby photo before you encountered him as a man photo?

It comes as no surprise to me that yours truly would inherit a Skafishian nose by psychic proxy. I thoroughly willed myself a nose that would take me away from all of those perfect people who bored me to sniffles even as a pre-teen. Which is to say I would have been about twelve when this image came into my life, thanks to some culturally advanced and/or deviant older brothers. (btw, get some of those if you can, they make life so much more interesting and complicated).

What do you need to know about Skafish? Absolutely nothing. But if I've piqued your curiosity at all, and you need to know in that internet groping way, well, I'm sure this site will be of great assistance.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Who wants to be in control?

You kick and claw your way to the top. Of what? Your own fantasy of self worth? Has having power and control ever not been the ego's favorite sport?

A spate of recent "enlightened" documentaries and books seem to be spouting a similar message: that we should question the powers that be as to why they want to be in power. I'll buy that. The kinds of people who wield power are often the kind of people who are willing to do the kinds of (not very nice) things it takes to get power. Except for Brezhnev. He understood.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

If you've got it, flaunt it...

As a man with a certain amount of Russian blood, this viral video, exhumed from the vaults of Brezhnev-era Soviet TV, tickles deep into the DNA. I'm a big fan of late Soviet aesthetics. Love those radios with enormous knobs, awkward angular cars, scratchy polyester suits, ill-conceived haircuts, and palettes of color that you might find in a pile of rotting potatoes. They were trying, and failing, with such amazing results. I can get lost in reverie, imagining, for example, the shape of the antenna on top of some Soviet family's television as they watched this - perhaps not unlike the wire "sculpture" seen in the video itself.

I'm also interested in the cultural journey this joyous little clip has taken, from genuine family entertainment in '79 to ironic You Tube opium for the masses in '10. Compare and contrast the 3.2 billion years of life on earth that led up to the triumphant making of this video and the shifts in our perceptions in the 31 years since its debut.

Btw, the intro title roughly translates as: "I am very happy, indeed I finally return home. It fulfills Edward."

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Sleeping together...

We cling to consciousness as the defining feature of our humanity. And yet every night we willingly let go of it, the entirety of our species lies dormant, completely without consciousness for approximately 8 our of every 24 hours. And every morning we get our consciousness back, effortlessly. We pick up right where we left off, no questions asked. When we think of ourselves we think of our efforts and our struggles and our history and plans for the future, and yet a third of the picture is miraculously absent. How amazing!

(photo by Spencer Tunick, who else?, idea inspired by Antonio Damasio)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

How does it feel to feel?

Hey. Feelings have feelings too... What I mean is that we always talk about feelings in this abstract way. Point to happy. Point to iffy. Point to slightly mischievous. Now point to your spine. Your feet. Your neck. Physical zones of our bodies are verifiable sources of actual feelings. As in - my heart is pounding and my stomach feels like its bloated with battery acid and my head is ringing like the sultan's gong. When one feels good or bad, of course it has some psychological basis, but often there's a strong physical component as well. I'm saying that your ingrown toenail might be causing the dull frustration that's been coloring your behavior.

It's a twist on the old, well-meaning advice - if you want to be happy, smile. But in this case we don't control an action that yields a feeling, it's the reverse: you will exhibit mild panic because your nerves are currently gagging on adrenaline. Or you will feel delusions of grandeur because your brain is taking a bath in the dopamine of invigorating music. Or you feel existential nausea because you ate three heaping plates of "tofu medley" at the Hare Krishna temple.

("Napalm - Can't Beat The Feeling" by Banksy)

Monday, March 01, 2010

Let the salmon of illumination spawn...

Mediocrity. Bad stuff. It settles for a kind of living death. It lets go of the reigns of our enthusiasm for life and our yearning to experience it fully. It blindly insults those around it by offering a low ceiling to those who want to stand tall. It isn't interested in our interest or in being interesting. It's a tragic compromise that trades joy, laughter, and tears, for a bubble of gunmetal grays.

I heard that a person once actually dared to say, "I'm mediocre." And in that second, in that sad and wildly-inaccurate confession, the universe shuddered. Off the richter scale folks. And looking at this person, I'm told you could actually see billions of bioluminescent spores of excellence and genius straining against the gravitational force of this dulling self-hypnosis. Like a shimmering school of wild salmon swimming furiously against a brown tide of self-doubt.

The prisons we create for ourselves are often invisible. At some level you know you're in jail, but you've forgotten why you put yourself there, and worse still, you've forgotten that there's a world out there literally waiting for your own brand of greatness.