Posts Tagged ‘culture’

The Creep

December 7, 2017

Ever notice how stereotypes never really go away? Of course you don’t. That’s because the messenger is usually forgotten once we’ve heard the message. This association of the the stereotype with the message, the ideology or behavior generally takes for granted that the messenger will be unemployed, once the message is dealt with, thus having no more to contribute to the discussion. But stereotypes are enterprising entrepreneurs who don’t care to find themselves in the ranks of the unemployed. They migrate and switch sides. Sometimes hopping back and forth like mercenaries shifting allegiances for whoever pays the most. Case in point would be the police in America. Seems like forever that they have been trying to shed the 1930’s strike buster stereotype with its black leather boots, belts and cudgels. That “stereotype” also concurrently played out across the Atlantic, much to the chagrin of the FOP. So the stereotype hops from shielded black clad riot police to shielded black clad neo-Nazi’s in Charlottesville, indifferent as to the right and wrong of where it appears (It doesn’t help that the rural Bundy crowd dresses in the same camo that the urban SWAT team wears. Or is it urban SWAT teams wear the same camo as the rural Bundy crowd? Fashion statement? Doubtful, not much greenery in the urban setting). The 1950’s stereotype of the nuclear scientist who holds the future in his hands has re-emerged as the 21st century’s corporate government economist. The racial stereotype that cost Emmett Till his life has switched sides to become the contrived image of racial integration and harmony found promoting a lot of consumer products. “Silent march in Poland honors man who set himself on fire” by the AP, 11-6-17, reported “Hundreds of people marched in silence Monday to honor a man who set himself on fire to protest policies by Poland’s ruling party that he said are destroying the rule of law and democracy in the country.” Significant was “Many of the marchers dressed in black and carried signs around their necks that said “I, an ordinary gray man.”” Not too many stereotypes for ordinary middle gray around today. Why’s that? It is important to dress the part to enact the role, part of what makes the stereotype such an effective (and unnoticeable) messenger. Remember Fidel Castro? Who could forget the cigar and the military green fatigues that he always wore, and that his brother inherited. Talk about militancy! That look was picked up by countless tinhorn dictators in how many revolutions – from Idi Amin to Hugo Chavez. Even today we find demagogues appearing on stage wearing military fatigue green, and not because it’s cold, but in order to turn up the heat. Stereotypes, they slowly creep in where you’d least expect them.

Steve Bannon

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Why I Would Prefer Not To (Talk To My Brother)

May 25, 2017

Guns and butter, part of the political choice. Butter comes from the milk of a cow which grazes on the earth. Guns originate with metallic ore, part of the composition of the very same earth that nourishes the cow. Both are a product of human ingenuity and skill, labor and work. Guns and religion, part of today’s American politic. Unlike guns or butter, religion is never considered a “product” of human ingenuity and skill, labor and work. Religion, by definition, is not of this earth though found extensively upon it, and only within the social make up of its human inhabitants. Many human-like behaviors, social or individual, are “found” with other creatures populating the earth. Religion has yet to be identified as one of them. Religion is not attributed to ants, ospreys, whales or the great apes. Today, the American politic swirls around loyalty and fidelity. Religion without these is not. Religion, not being of the earth, begs a different origin. The Judeo/Christian creation myth charges humans with dominion over the earth. It likewise requires fidelity and loyalty by doing what you are told. This link of loyalty and fidelity with “to do what you are told” runs deep within Western social evolution. It is fundamental to law, military organization and government institutions – the stuff of politics. It is not integral to the free market though capitalism is lost without it – the stuff of violence. Religion placates the disparity. For those who have done what they are told, loyalty bestows the social self esteem that bonds a brotherhood. Semper fi. In this all, the gun is very telling. Within the cliché of “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is the creation origin account that humans have been given dominion over the earth along with the onus “to do what you are told.” The implication of human ingenuity and skill, labor and work having some say has no cotton with this religious perspective. Guns and religion differ fundamentally from guns and butter in that they are not the same. Guns and butter are products of human interaction with the earth. Guns and religion compliment each other, make demands on each other, excuse each other. Religion sanctions the human to differentiate the gun from any intent. Since it is of the earth over which humans maintain dominion, the gun is unintentional. Only humans are held responsible to do what you are told. And killing is telling some being to die. Along with cows, the gun is part of the dominion humans have been given over the earth, as it (the gun) is of the earth. The gun is simultaneously exceptional in that it enables dominion over the earth. Religion privileges its use by providing an alibi, an excuse. “To do what you are told” is just such an alibi. Loyalty becomes sacrosanct within this brotherhood of the gun. “To do what you are told” now has become a, if not the, political choice. To which Herman Melville’s Bartleby responds “I would prefer not to.” What other response is there when politics has become guns and religion?

The Sparta, Newark’s Introduction To Trans Culture

September 30, 2016

The latest reincarnation of Newark’s Sparta restaurant will sing its swan song at the coming out celebration of the currently-being-renovated Crystal Ballroom, 31 West Church, Friday, September 30. Analysis finds this appropriate enough, completing the cycle of life or wheel of karma (depending on your conviction). In the 9-26-16 Advocate (The Sparta looks for aid one more time) Barrett Lawlis reports: “The restaurant opened in 1900 as a combination restaurant and candy store. It has a storied history, often closing and reopening over the years. In 2012, Chris Ramsey opened the Sparta with the plan to use [it] for more than a restaurant: to use it as a transitional workplace.” Indeed, anyone from out of town looking for a good place to have breakfast (or lunch) would have had The Sparta as one of many choices in downtown Newark prior to the roundabout dig. The storefront signs, and those inside, gave all indications of an enterprising restaurant. Service was provided, and there was always coffee. Sometimes the out-of-towner might be struck by the slim pickings to be had to go with the coffee, or the ambiguous staff service when ordering or paying. The unfamiliar diner might sometimes be surprised by the establishment’s varied ambience – sometimes busy restaurant with an energetic and boisterous “meeting” taking place in the center, sometimes an almost classroom structure of instruction accompanying a customer’s request, other times an Edward Hopper “Nighthawks” tableau in the middle of the day. And then there was the variation in environment – from various community activisms posted to art and music venues. Should the unfamiliar customer venture to inquire as to any of these things, she would be summarily educated that The Sparta was not what it appeared to be. Rather, it was the establishment upon which something entitled Project Main Street found place in Newark. She would be informed that where she stopped to get a meal (and coffee, did we mention coffee?) was really a transitional workplace for Project Main Street; that much of the staff and management were volunteers, that The Sparta self-identified as a community center, and this was an enterprise where the customer did not always come first. Repast completed and back out on the streets again, she might be scratching her head, wondering why there was no signage of such to be seen from the street. Analysis finds that the days of The 3B School of Beauty, where the customer knew upfront that her hairdo was going to be part of a learning process, disappeared with the school. Ready or not, Newark has received an introduction to trans culture.

The Good Is To Be Done Because It Is Good, Not Because It Goes Somewhere

May 1, 2016

The Washington Post headlined the passing of Daniel Berrigan (Daniel J. Berrigan, pacifist priest who led antiwar protests, dies at 94, Colman McCarthy, 4-30-16). Politics from the past involving figures not noted today. The cliché is that history is written by the winners, those who are successful. After the various comings and goings of success in the last twenty years, from the first Clinton presidency Dot Com economic hysteria through the Bush years financial meltdown to “What do we do with the Basket Building?” and today’s “it’s not the economy, stupid!” presidential politics, Analysis can’t help but wonder how, or what kind of history can or will be written. Within that context it was refreshing to read the obituary. An obituary refreshing? Several days prior, PBS Newshour ran a segment entitled “Artist Theaster Gates turns Chicago’s empty spaces into incubators for culture” (4-26-16). The end of the interview brought the following exchange:

“JEFFREY BROWN: His newest project, undertaken in his position as director of arts and publics life at the nearby University of Chicago, extends the idea to an entire city block, a burgeoning art block in the Washington Park neighborhood. It includes an arts incubator for cultural groups and classes in woodworking and more for young people.

THEASTER GATES: As you finish high school and go to college, come back for the summer, go back to college, come back after you graduate, that it’s really that relationship that will make these buildings work over time.

JEFFREY BROWN: There’s also a cafe and a bookstore where musicians regularly perform. On the drawing table, a large performance space for plays and concerts. And what’s the idea behind it, an anchor or an engine to grow, or how do you see it?

THEASTER GATES: So, maybe words like engines and anchors are good words. But I think first it needed to just be a place where culture could happen, that before we had to think about it as an economic generator or a cultural anchor, it’s just like, can I have a place to rehearse my play?

JEFFREY BROWN: Simple? Yes.

THEASTER GATES: Yes, absolutely. Can we have a place to make our music? Can our kids learn art here?” Gates final words in the interview:

“THEASTER GATES: What I love about art is that the power of the symbolic work has so much potential to do more than the thing on the ground. And so I think about ripples. I think about affect. I think about symbolism. But I don’t think that there are limits on what’s possible. Not only do poor people have a right to beautiful things, but people have the right not to be poor anymore. And I think that that feels like it’s worth making art about and fighting for.” (from the transcript)

Analysis finds this outlook, this reasoning to resonate with what Daniel Berrigan has to say at the conclusion of McCarthy’s obit: “In a 2008 interview in the Nation magazine, Father Berrigan echoed a line of Mother Teresa’s that spiritual people should be more concerned about being faithful than being successful.

“The good is to be done because it is good, not because it goes somewhere,” he said. “I believe if it is done in that spirit it will go somewhere, but I don’t know where. . . . I have never been seriously interested in the outcome. I was interested in trying to do it humanely and carefully and nonviolently and let it go.””

A New Normal Christmas Carol

December 3, 2015

(This is a re-post from 12-19-14)

The previous post (The New Normal 12-16-14) left Analysis in a most dystopian Yule time reverie. The religious admonition is to beat swords into plowshares. Christmas present indicated otherwise. The spirit of Christmas present toasted the excellent success of marketing firearms and ordinance to all. Plowshares are being beaten into swords. Small wonder law enforcement is becoming paramilitary. Christmas present disclosed there is a 50/50 chance that someone is carrying. Christmas past stepped in to remind Analysis of the NRA’s admonition that a world where all did carry would be a respectful one, filled with courtesy and deference. Christmas future pointed to a world where everyone assumes the other actually is carrying. Analysis found that everyone Christmas future showed had only one arm. The other hand tightly grasped the gun they carried. Analysis recounted that disease is always prevalent, that many ill procrastinate or simply do not wish to admit infirmity, and that mental and emotional disorders are very real maladies afflicting a given percentage of the US population at any given time. Christmas future showed it was only “common sense” to “be prepared”, vigilant for the ever present possibility of others using the firearms they carried inauspiciously, unannounced. No matter where the spirit of Christmas future pointed – the work place, the home, the halls of education or government – no one would collaborate, help or work with each other. It was impossible to “lend a hand” for these citizens of the future only had one. Without that hand, they would be completely disarmed. The spirit showed a citizenry where each was completely responsible for their own life. No one would assist the other. Releasing the gun hand’s grip meant losing the ability to defend one’s self, something now totally necessary given the future this spirit exposed. Analysis begged to be taken back.

“Last night I had a dream about reality.
It was such a relief to wake up.”
(Stanislaw J. Lec)

Beam Me Up, Scotty

November 18, 2015

Eliza Collins reports “Kasich calls for new federal agency to promote Judeo-Christian values” on Politico, Tuesday November 17, 2015. That day Ohio’s presidential wannabe Governor appeared at the National Press Club in our capital, and later interviewed with the peacock network, NBC. Collins quotes from the press club: “”U.S. public diplomacy and international broadcasting have lost their focus on the case for Western values and ideals and effectively countering our opponents’ propaganda and disinformation,” Kasich said. “I will consolidate them into a new agency that has a clear mandate to promote the core, Judeo-Christian Western values that we and our friends and allies share: the values of human rights, the values of democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association.”” With NBC he continues “”We need to beam messages around the world about what it means to have Western ethics … to be part of a Judeo-Christian society,”” Analysis finds this just all too rich for anyone living in Ohio during the Kasich years. Does he intend to expand the size of government? Replace the internet as the global exchange for information and ideas? Embrace Pastafarians? Is this an endorsement of Common Core? Nonetheless, the right to look was, once again, not included. Issue 2’s passing and all, still makes only a few “private” individuals privy to the inner workings of JobsOhio. Part of western ethics?

The New Normal

October 2, 2015

[This is an Analysis re blog originally posted 12-15-14]

It has been two years since Sandy Hook. In Columbus Ohio shootings are a regular feature of each night’s news. Nationally, mass shootings, involving many victims, are now likewise pretty regular reporting, be it for reasons job related, domestic incidents or just totally incomprehensible subjective malfeasance. But let us speak of other things. Refrigerators are pretty ubiquitous. Who hasn’t got one? Usually they are used to store food. Sometimes medicine, sometimes cold cash (like the corrupt politician in New Orleans some year back), sometimes paintbrushes or chemicals, fishing bait, etc. I mean, if you got the thing, and it is right there, why not? Equally ubiquitous are motor vehicles like cars, motorcycles, ATV’s, OK – golf carts and riding mowers. Take a spin? No problem. Feeling a little down or edgy? Go out cruising the highways to clear your head. Hormones coursing through your bod? The car is right there. Likewise news reports of teen age drivers “too” happy getting in wrecks, of people “too” drunk doing likewise, of road rage and domestic assaults, etc. The vehicle is right there, like the frig. Why not? On a par with frig’s and cars would be mobile communication devices. Cell phones, smart phones, etc. are totally ubiquitous. Lonely? Just need to touch base? Kill time? Be sexy? Arrange a meeting? Change a plan? Let someone know what you think? Vent? Bloviate? Slander? Spread lies, gossip or rumor? Threaten? Etc. The phone is right there. Why not? Besides, we all have a right to free speech, don’t we? Can’t take that away from those sending texts. Threats to free speech are usually accompanied by, you guessed it, more speech! In an essay entitled “The Death of Gun Control: An American Tragedy” Charles W. Collier writes “In the course of any given year (twelve-month prevalence), some 26 percent of the adult population of the US meets the criteria for suffering from at least one “mental disorder.” [footnote references Ronald C. Kessler et al. “Prevalence, Severity and Comorbidity of 12-month DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication,” Archives of General Psychiatry 62; 619 June 2005] With civilian gun ownership at around 47 percent, this means that well over 10 percent of the population suffers from a mental disorder and owns a firearm, which works out to something on the order of thirty million people (again using the most conservative estimates). This prevalence of mental disorders, gun ownership, and their combination – these all count as “normal,” in a sociological context.” (Critical Inquiry Autumn 2014 pg. 111) Collier footnoted a Gallup self reported gun ownership poll from October 2011. A recent Pew Poll reports that 52 percent of Americans say protecting gun ownership is more important than restricting it.

Two Johns

September 26, 2015

Big news in the nation this week. No, not the visit by “Frankie of the animals” (still in progress), nor even the more grossly under rated, under reported, and very much pre-arranged and designed to undermine visit by the leader of Communist Capitalism (Gasp!), Xi Jinping. It needs to be noted, it must be noted, it is significant to note that, upon arrival, the dyed in the wool (red) “Communist” Capitalist Xi Jinping first met with his fellow Capitalist leaders (though belonging to another “party”. Which one?) while the ostensibly Marxist Francis chose to expend significant time and personal capital on interaction and exchange with “the masses” (both kinds). What a digression! John Boehner made the news by withdrawing from his leadership position along with his role as representative of a staunchly conservative and Republican western Ohio district. Boehner cited the inability to lead his party in the U.S. House of Representatives, or rather, the petulance within his own party created by his leadership, for his exit. (Thank gawd it wasn’t another “to spend more time with his family”!). It is significant (and ironic) to note that Kim Davis’s argument of being elected by her constituents to serve her constituency never entered the resignation decision making process of the leader of the U.S. House of Representatives (the contract theory of representative democracy. You remember, John Locke. So much for the sacred contracts with America. Now the only ones that matter are the financial kind. Forgive the digressions of Analysis. Sigh). John Boehner identified with representing the aspirations of his party, though he always campaigned for re-election as a candidate claiming to desire representing the people of his district, promoting the good of them all, but (of course) not in “common” (an arcane term employed repeatedly by the Marxist Pope in his addresses but completely lacking within the speeches of our own Capitalist political leadership. Oops, another digression). Fellow Buckeye John Kasich has not opted out of political leadership. Rather, he continuously celebrates rounding up more financial backing and big name endorsements, though he is slipping markedly in the polls of likely Republican voters. The reader can decide which is more important in the run for the roses, er, White House. It cannot go without note that the two Ohioans (the potential future president as well as the third in line of accession) were significant factors of super PACs and organizations like ALEC in the architecture of restoring America its greatness. Now making America great again has been copyrighted and branded as personal property by one of the candidates in the struggle for leadership of the Republican Party. This conflict has become openly contentious, on all levels, both ideologically as well as personally. It is significant to note that along with being President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping is likewise Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and General Secretary of the Communist Party (that is, he leads the party). Unlike China’s Communist Capitalist struggles for leadership (and direction), the openness of the Republican turmoil informs the under rated and under reported contest by the “other” U.S. political party. Like anything having to do with the Chinese Communist Capitalists, what the Democratic Party is about is simply assumed to be predictable, not unexpected, of no news coverage worthiness. Like Xi’s visit, it has no infotainment value. Other aspects likewise parallel the two ongoing international party events – mostly in secret and behind closed doors, mostly about image, protocol, and ritual recognition (OK, so no Nobel Prize winners this time). Pundits (so far) have failed to take note of the significance and impact Boehner’s resignation has, and will have on the John Kasich candidacy for president along with the “winning” of Ohio, even if Kasich is NOT the nominee. Let Analysis be the first. With Boehner’s resignation, Kasich’s central P.R. hype, his message, his appeal, his core reason for being the next president of the U.S. has become irrelevant. It now has come down to representing and serving the party, not the demos (the root of the word “democracy”).

Ten

August 3, 2015

When the SCOTUS Citizen United decision came down some years ago everyone wondered what impact this would have on democracy, elections. Speculation ran rampant from what the value of an individual vote was (in U.S. dollars) to a government totally independent of the window dressing votes – a politics of high finance. Now the dust seems to have settled and some of the nitty gritty, everyday actualities of this decision are coming to the surface. For one, we have the marketing of government much in the same manner as the marketing of utilities, hospitals or educational facilities. No, we’re not talking about government programs but private enterprises like electric or natural gas providers, hospitals or clinics, public, private, charter elementary schools. The choices are extremely limited and usually “predetermined” (in an accident most injured folks won’t rise up on the gurney and tell the EMS personnel that they want to go to Saint Ann’s and not Grant). Branding is what a large chunk of what private companies’ marketing/promotional budgets strive to establish. With government’s need to act with the speed of business, we see vague, L.L. Bean style feel good ads marketing a political party (“if that makes me one, well, it’s not such a bad thing”). In addition to this, we have the entire creation of entertainment venues in order to “soft sell” (subliminal marketing) the products of that political party – much as Disney or Pixar create animation movies to be able to market Star Wars Light Sabers or Buzz Lightyear PJ’s, or action FX movies with no plot or story specifically created for product placement or rollout (fashions, transportation or technology). Now we have the continuous marketing of Fox’s upcoming reality game show “the First Debate”. Only the top ten will make the stage! Who will it be? All the news sites (including NPR and PBS) have been promoting the roll out of this new entertainment venue much as they do for Harry Potter books or Star Trek releases. To say it is brilliant marketing would be an understatement. The projected summer reality show is cut from the same cloth as American Idol, Ultimate Survivor, Dancing With Cigars and other such “competitive” shows where winning or losing can make or break the entrants careers. And of course, it’s still winner take all! This is what Citizens United looks like in real time where democracy is now “enhanced” by being marketed with value added entertainment for a quality voting experience. These premiums make anything unbranded unsaleable and irrelevant (you can even bundle your vote). Governments create markets (don’t believe it? Check out NAFTA, the Trans Pacific Partnership, the Outlet Mall coming to 36/37 in Delaware county, as well as Newark’s own Canal Market District). With Citizens United we’ve begotten the marketing of democracy with brand loyalty determined to be THE critical issue of any election. Who will make the stage in Cleveland for Murdoch’s Fox network summer block buster? Who will have the most shelf space on stage? The front runner has the highest brand recognition, who will win the tenth spot? What will be Apple’s next tech “must have” differs little from who will make the debate ten. This fall, freedom will be on the ballot in the form of an amendment to the Ohio constitution granting marketing exclusivity to ten, and only ten, brands.

Got Culture?

July 14, 2015

New publication (2015) entitled Culture Crash: the killing of the creative class by Scott Timberg is a worthwhile read. Through interviews, expose’s, statistics and critiques Timberg orchestrates an account of creative class exit. Akin to Hilary’s “It takes a village”, Timberg shows that “It takes a creative class” to have a culture. A coalescence of new technology, corporate capitalism and an economics of deliberate income disparity results in the loss of livelihood and future for innumerable artists, musicians, writers, designers, journalists, photographers, etc. Timberg maintains the creative class is more than these. It also includes the de facto curators, critics, creative savants, etc. found owning or clerking bookstores, record shops, video/movie/DVD outlets, clubs, media publications, etc. Anyone engaged by any aspect of art, production or reception, comprises what it takes to make culture. That group is disappearing. Aw, c’mon, new technology has liberated us so that greater and easier access to the production/reception of art has become a reality for all. And it has. Only that reality pays just shy of nothing. (““You know how many hits you need on Spotify to make the minimum wage each month?” the roots-musician and University of Wyoming economics professor Jason Shogren asked. “More than four million.” “The young, tech-savvy cellist Zoe Keating has done everything digital cheerleaders advocate: she self-releases her music, has 1.2 million Twitter followers, and, in 2013, between two million You Tube views and 400,000 Spotify streams, earned from both services a total of about $3,000”” pgs. 94-95). The handful of people owning the servers amass millions. Timberg describes this new bent displacing culture as “All or nothing.” Top sports competitors receive “All” while others who made the event possible by competing (the also rans) get “nothing.” Capitalism is competition. But art is not. Easel painting and golf may share being solitary endeavors. Who appreciates a painting on the lowest score (par, below par or over)? Remember, the culture critic has also been discarded as expendable, replaced by critiques of box office draw, marketing expertise, brand viability, number of likes and increasingly “personal “ algorithms (Timberg points out that within the entire U.S. there are only 2 dance critics employed by publications. Art students are instructed to create a brand for themselves.). This “All or nothing” economy results in deliberate income inequality manifested by superstar musicians, actors, journalists, and block buster ”hits”, top ten writings, songs, movies, etc. mostly by the same producers. Celebrity obsession displaces mega lotto dreaming with its Horatio Alger promise of being a winner (again, the mindset of all or nothing). Whatever happened to jazz, the great original American music form? Shush, no Ken Burns, please. Jazz receives no air play on corporate controlled radio (with predetermined play lists not compiled by the station’s DJ). It has vanished from accessible TV and film and is not covered by corporate media owned publications. Performance venues, like clubs, are few and far between. To be a young jazz talent today is to live out of your car. Marketing may have made P.T. Barnum a great circus impresario but it doesn’t make music. For Timberg, culture is the glue that holds a people together, gives them a commonality accessible to any and all, keeps them from the isolation that perpetuates social catastrophe.

This book is a must read for those troubled by 2015’s Newark Famfest (which, in keeping with Timberg’s insight, was never reported on after the event, never critiqued). Famfest embodied all the elements that Timberg attributes to the crash of culture and the demise of the creative class. Corporate executive committees determined production oblivious to the everyday workings of any pre-existing “creative class” (as though the class was guaranteed to manifest itself to ensure a success). Organization followed the deliberate income disparity economy of paid community leaders and “others”, totally promoting and relying on new technologies for event promotion, communication and coordination. Analysis agrees with Timberg – once it’s gone, you cannot create the creative class through some Donald Trump Apprentice program. Contemporary American culture was prefigured by the Grand Old Opry’s Minnie Pearl who made it a point to leave price tags on all that she appeared in.