Sunday, July 15


After a brief perusal of the first quotation collections that came up on a Google search, I couldn't find an attribution for, "History is just one damn thing after another," so I'll instead open this post with a similar line from The History Boys. This gem is delivered by Rudge while being questioned in preparation for his Oxford interview (you'll have to imagine the thick English accent). "How do I define history? Well it's just one fucking thing after another, isn't it?"

History, if taken as the summation of all recorded events, may be that way but only because there is no end it is moving towards, no philosophy of action. An article I recently read did postulate the necessity of perceiving populations as super-super-organisms for evolutionary studies, which suggest the possibility of some observable guiding consciousness, but that's beside the point. Our lives don't have to be just one fucking thing after another, but they will become that way if there is no intention in our lives, if we do things without a reason.

Recently, I've taken up black-and-white, film photography as a hobby. My dad gave me one of his old camera bodies and a few lenses for Christmas, and I finished a photography class a few weeks ago. The practice has appealed to me immensely, and I've kept up with it, having spent three hours developing four rolls and printing negatives last night.

Why do I do it? What makes it more than a distraction, another fucking thing that just marks the time before I die? What is my philosophy of photography?

From what little reading of done of some the masters, Arbus wanted to peer into the relaionship between the subject and the photographer and their environment. As much as anything else, it seems like Uelsmann just wanted to see what he could pull off.

As for me, I want to capture some of the beauty of everyday life. I want to frame something that one sees everyday but continually fails to notice so they do notice it and how wonderful it is. The phrase, "Stop and smell the roses" is cliche, but the sentiment is the same. If someone sees one of my pictures and leaves to find something on their way home, that's about all I want, as far as photography goes at least.

The only difficulty now is getting that good.

Thursday, July 12

The Gutenberg Galaxy

If you haven't heard of the above work, no big deal, unless, that is, you fancy yourself some manner of media theorist. In that case, for shame. Having heard of it and never read it is not such a problem. The thing's a beast; dense and requiring a fairly decent background in both history and philosophy to understand the nuance of his philosophy. It's a seminal work in the field, written by the inestimable Marshall McLuhan. No matter your position or interest in the subject though, you have doubtless heard the phrase, "the global village" or, possibly, "the medium is the message," from its sequel Understanding Media.

In all likelihood, the source you heard this from is either arrogant or moronic, though a combination of the two certainly is not out of the question. Perhaps they knew of the phrase's source and were trying to garner some respect or thought they understood the phrase without reading Galaxy. Let me make this clear: "The global village" is not a self-explanatory concept. It means a bloodly lot more than the world is getting smaller. It's not witty or clever. It's dense and complex. The idea of the global village goes deep into McLuhan's theories of civilization, orality and literacy, ideas that simply aren't captured in those two words. In using that phrase, McLuhan was doing a lot more than ramming some words together. He was capturing the essence of a philosophy.

Want a moral from this post? Know what you're talking about. I offer this three-step program. First, stop speaking of "the global village." You don't know what it means. If you still want to use it, read freaking The Gutenberg Galaxy. Once you're finished, read commentaries on it or get into an involved discussion with someone who has because it is very doubtful you, like it, have a complete grasp of it, much less understood it in its entirety. Or, you can take the lazy route and just modify all comments upon "the global village" with, "Keep in mind I've never read McLuhan."

Just needed to get that little bout of misanthropy out of my system.

Monday, July 9

A modest proposal as regards education

Turns out having more free time in the summer does not necessarily translate into more blog posting. I don't even intend for this to be much of a post. Am, however, pressing on with my short fiction. Sorry if you were greatly anticipating whenever I said I would have a rough draft up, but yeah. As you can see, that didn't happen. Instead, I am now opting to work on four stories simultaneously. Quadruple the fun, that is, if I get them to a point I like.

To get to the title of this particular post and away from my less interesting plans, I would like to propose that the classic works in all the arts, from creation and criticism, to journalism, be given less attention at all levels, excepting 300- and 400-level undergraduate classes and all graduate programs. but the highest levels of education. In their place, absolutely abysmal works should be presented. I'm thinking Catwoman alongside Kubrick's best and soft-core grocery store porn in between Vonnegut and Updike.

Besides the fact that these sorts of things have their own quirky charm for me, I feel I do have a couple of legitimate reasons for this call. First of all, how are you supposed to judge the highest summits attained when you don't have no idea what it's possible to scrape off the bottom. Freshman year of high school, Shakespeare was really underwhelming. A playwright and poet popular enough to warrant his own section at Barnes and Noble really did nothing for me. I could appreciate that he has a way with words, but that's about it. How could I respect a man when I have no idea what drivel he rose above and continues to do so? Just a little context would be nice.

For people with aspirations in some art or another who have finally realized how great some of these people and their creations are, there is an opposite problem. They/I become overwhelmed. The screw-me-because-I-have-no-chance-of-measuring-up-to-them-in-any-possible-way mindset takes hold. Seeing the lazy/insipid/uninspired attempts of other artists serves to mediate this feeling a bit. Besides, good art typically only reveals competence. Those artists we still study today are the revolutionaries. Holding up their works as the greatest the world has e'er seen will inspire more imitators than true artists. Show the budding writer a lifetime of cliches and the young composer something that has been done a hundred times before, and let them run wild, knowing what not to do.