Little Boxes of Glowy Fake

  March 12th, 2017

 
 
 
     Great post the other day by Ross Douthat in the NY Times (“Resist the Internet”) about what it would look like to put some controls on our largely unfettered use and abuse of the internet (which means our use and abuse of handheld smart devices, since that’s increasingly what the internet means for most people). Made me think about these little portals, these glowy rectangles that have increasingly assumed more and more power in our lives.
     (Warning: Old-man get-off-my-lawn screed approacheth; back out now if you’ve had your fill of this kind of thing) It used to be on the subway that, at any given moment, a handful of people would be staring at their little gadgets. “Handful” turned into “some”. “Some” became “half”. Now, most mornings, it’s a depressingly clear “most”. Most people standing or sitting, necks craned, staring at their pocketsized diminishments of reality, these dinky sheeny holes displaying their dinky sheeny objects. Compulsively caressing, petting, stroking their screens. Like they were wee flat beasts that needed constant reassurance. And these are capable, smart New Yorkers who know better, who deep down know that it’s basically an erosion of the human spirit to choose to live in the thrall of these overpriced little gadgets, huffing and puffing away on the consumer hamsterwheel, chasing after the next upgrade & OS & Yosemite this and Lollipop that. Capable, smart New Yorkers who know all this but give in anyway, shrugging & grinning “can’t help myself” gotta like/retweet/follow Bejeweled triple bonus Flappy Bird double swipe zoom-in zoom-out look at my favorite photos scrollscrollscroll.
     (Just like smart people who knew better than to binge-watch shit reality shows and humiliation shows when they started to creep into the collective unconscious years ago, who helped create our current debased cultural moment by consuming & thereby normalizing that televised pustulence — knew better but did it anyway because it’s “a train wreck” that they “have to watch”; because it’s their “guilty indulgence.”)
     Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m not against technology, or mobile smart devices. Tech is a tool. I’m against the irresponsible over-use of them, the voluntary submission to them so that they are no longer just helpful tools, means to ends, but ends themselves. I’m against handing our lives over to smart devices while doing little more with them than using our fingertips to scroll through Pinterest galleries, mind-deadening Facebook feeds, and shitty video games (all the while basically handing over our privacy and life details to third party data brokers and, really, in this age of WikiLeaks and infinite data persistence, anyone else online who wants them).
     So, case in point. This guy sat down next to me the other day, healthy looking jogger-Dad type, smiley. Seemingly good disposition. White earbuds in. Instantly, upon sitting, he whips out his glowy portal and starts racing through imagery. Not pausing once. Just swiping through his family photos, kids photos, cars, motorbikes, Hallmark animal card greetings, landscapes, images of inspirational quotes, 1-2 seconds of random video clips. Such rapidfire unthinking supercaffeinated whizzing through so much visual data.
     I was dumbfounded. Was this guy registering anything? What could he possibly be doing with all this visual data whizzing by him at such a speed? Just channel surfing gone mad, but it’s not even like he was cycling through TV channels with the reasonable chance of stumbling upon developed content offerings, maybe a movie or a televised drama, i.e. something external and with possible redeeming intellectual and cultural value of you that can communicate back *to* you. No, he was just media surfing his own fucking life, not even using his $700 device (with $100 monthly plan) to do something other than stare back in the mirror at himself.
     And that, in a nutshell, sums up many folks’ usage of mobile smart devices (which is another of way of saying: that sums up what many people do for alarming chunks of the day). I.e., curating & living within sprawling unedited virtual galleries of the narrow world of selfies and selfies of loved ones. And favoriting Instagram brunch shots.
     I will be accused of hyperbole. I will be reminded that, in using portable smart-devices, not everyone on a morning NYC commute is wasting time, running away from something more important or growing disconnected from external reality with time-wasting junk-tasks. I will be reminded that some are watching movies or TV shows. Maybe movies or shows of high aesthetic merit. Movies or shows … displayed on a screen the size of a fucking playing card. Which of course invalidates the entire experience. Like listening to a symphony through a cheap transistor radio with bad batteries: you’re cheating yourself and the art. Don’t do it.
     What else do people do to justify their gadget-addiction at 730 AM? “Reading” work PDFs, online news, digital books, digital textbooks. Indefensible right? How could you slag on that. Easy: to read a digital text is a sad, impoverished experience compared to holding and reading an actual book or magazine, and only excusable in the pained or infirm (hardbacks are heavy). As for viewing 8×11 documents on a smartphone — the absurd, painful process of zooming in and around a PDF on a dinky screen bears so little resemblance to the practice of reading a printout in your two hands that it becomes another alien activity altogether. It’s such a bizarre self-imposed hobbling. Print the fucking page out and take it with you and read it. Seeing someone zoom in and out of a PDF by breaking it into quadrants in order to view it piecemeal on their micro machine is like seeing someone buy a pair of ash-covered glasses and get excited that there’s this little corner of one lens where the light can shine through. “Holy cow, this is so cool, my shit-lenses let in a micron of sun! Check this out man! Wanna try em on?”. Take off the glasses and live. And hold something in your hands when you want to read.
     Now, smart devices used in moderation can do all sorts of obvious good. The potential for edification and meaningful interaction is limitless. Good things to do with your very expensive little glow-portal: a) use the voice memo function for journalling or music composition; b) use the notepad function to jot down notes; c) use an electronic dictionary and/or thesaurus; d) use the camera and video-camera (to take occasional, selective photos and clips, not to document your every waking hour); f) listen to good music (full quality audio files, no garbage mp3s); g) communicate via SMS (aside from “I’m bored LOL”).
     See? Never let it be said that I’m a total luddite asshole; asshole I am, I just like mobile smart-devices to know their place, which is as non-essential accessories to actual living (notice how none of the functions I listed is irreplaceable via some low/non-tech means). They are merely optional helpers that are designed to be turned off and put away when we’re talking to people, walking around in parks, sitting down in front of your stereo listening to a full record, having fun at a party, hell, being OUT IN THE WORLD. The second you start feeling you “depend” on your fucking $700 card-deck “second brain”, the second you feel like your life would “fall apart” if your phone got stolen, is the second you need to look and the mirror and ask yourself whether your dignity is worth your convenience, and if it is, don’t have kids, and if you had them already, for Pete’s sake, teach them a better way to be.
     So back to nice-seeming jogger-dad dude. There I was, next to this entranced super-swiper, & I felt like a prick judging him. But judge I did, because that’s our job as humans: develop principals and boundaries and hold ourselves and others to them. And so I wanted to ask this dude, “Hey, hey man, are you okay? Can you slow down and breathe? Can you look around a little? Do you know where you are? Look, look up, look at that design on that dress, look at that beautiful kid’s face in that stroller, look at that shitty MTA poem on the placard on the wall, look at that badly carved graffiti from 1987, look at that woman’s gorgeous ass (be smart about it), look at that dead roach, listen to that train conductor’s weird voice, listen to the weird, cool drones and grinds of the speeding train, listen to the conversation of the teens a few feet over, breathe, feel your feet on the floor, feel your ass on the seat, listen, feel, smell (okay, don’t do that, it’s an NYC subway after all), look, but for fuck’s sake look anywhere but down at that rectangle. Because that’s not life. That’s fake, that’s a debasement, that’s a reduction, that’s a cheapening of you, that’s could be your coffin.”
     But, of course, I didn’t say shit. I was too busy isolating from the world, failing to pay attention to its beauty, and running away from my daily stresses in my own special way, safe & sound in my crappy low-tech solace bubble: trying to solve crossword puzzles while getting melodramatically worked up over a stranger’s habits.
     Man … I’m going to be in subway commute heaven when the intra-ocular Google View-Field implants arrive.
     Oh and get off my lawn.



[Posted by C Way on March 12, 2017]

Comments

[file under: Non-fiction & Essays ||| SLAGS ]







Kalief Browder (poem) – C.Way

  January 24th, 2017

 
 
 

KALIEF BROWDER


Unscrew the bolts anchoring your A/C to the wall
           
          I stand behind
          Words rise up & crowd my throat
                    like a clump of blind baby piglets 
                    smelling the teat
          All swallowed back down

Work the air conditioner, deliver it
    to the bed of pillows you've prepared on the floor

          1,000 days

          I picture you in your box
                    unfed, filthy, dreaming of a loaf's end-pieces
          your hand through the slot, waving your completed worksheet
                    asking for someone to grade it
                    "Miss! I got work for you!"

Squat down, peer through the new hole
    Noonday sunlight slides in
    Watch a green bottle fly
          swoop in, swirl, leave

          Summer nights with the heat vents baking
                    your 12 x 7 oven
                    Kevin next door with the disintegrating laugh
                              slamming his forehead into the wall

          Thirty times told: No trial, Soon, Soon
          Half of your mother's words over the phone
                    blotted out by sobs 
          And your hand still holding the slot, 
                    waving, waving, always waving 

Stick your arm out, checking clearance
    Feeling drips from an A/C above

          Over and over, you work on bedsheet nooses
                    using your teeth to make strips
          getting a little better each time
                    And when they cut you down they beat you
                              because a hang-up means more paperwork
          And when they don't cut you down
                    they say "Jump, Go ahead and jump" 


Gather your yellow braided sheet cord
     from its cache in the closet

          You're out
          but no 3.5 GPA or donated MacBook Air or Haldol
          can stop you from waking
                    at 4 AM, sweating through your clothes 
          punching holes in your wall
          trashing your TV because it's watching you

                    Because your hand never got out
                              of that slot 
                    Waving, waving, always waving

Take the sheet-cord, start to gauge its length

          Biking home from school last summer
          Beats in your ear, crisp loving night
          Sweet hour when the black wave 
                    was ebbed
          When the white swarm 
                    was quiet
                    a hive of cold bees 
	
Wind it, cinch and pull, blood starts to swell your cheeks

          Kalief
          I am hungry, hungry, always hungry
          I don't know what to do with this hunger
          But talk to you
          And say that it is not justice I ache after
          I burn for us all 
          To stop choosing fear & shame 
          Over love

          I am behind you
          The words become unstuck

          I am so proud of you 
                    for not taking the deal 
          For sharing what happened
          You did not get to learn what you should have 
          But I have learned 
                    integrity and courage from you 
          You fought 
          You are good


Crabwalk up the opening
    launch yourself feet first
    get stuck, scrape your back, shimmy through
    drop, hear yourself gasp like it's someone else

Other sounds

Plane way overhead rumbling through the sky

Your sneaker heels skittering the brick

Rosa's pink-dyed poodle
          barking at nothing in the hall

That new kid
    Playing video games next door
    Throwing his controller against the wall again
    Screaming


                                          Chris Way, Nov 2016


[Posted by C Way on January 24, 2017]

Comments

[file under: OTHER WRITING ]







[Untitled]

  December 5th, 2016

 

 
Hi everyone,

     I hope to be back soon. I will leave you with a handful of things to think about, inspired by Trump’s election, the ugly build-up to it, and its aftermath. They don’t all have to do with who won, who lost and what might happen in the coming months and years, not in any direct sense at least.
 

***

     Choose love over fear. Choose love over shame. Whenever you feel yourself getting angry, pause, just for a half-second, and choose love. Decide to do this. Behind every outburst or action or policy we come to regret in ourselves or others is a subconscious decision to allow fear, shame or anger (the latter being typically a facade for the former two) to drown out the voice of love. Let this counsel speak to you as a parent, lover, liberal, conservative, Trump-supporter, Trump-despiser, human being. Let this sacred decision always guide you in your relations to others.
 

 
      You are not your past. You are your present. You are now. Don’t ever let anyone — including yourself — try to fix you to your past, lock you in place like a statue. We are all growing, living, flawed beings who make mistakes, suffer, and learn, and change.
 

 
      Stop allowing fear and anxiety to rule your decisions and policies. You cannot foam-cushion every playground. You cannot helicopter over every child. Let kids (and people!) take risks. Risks lead to strength, growth and authenticity. Let children fall. Let children get bruised. Let children get sick. If you raise children in an atmosphere of fear and in a psychological bubble, one spawned directly from your own neuroses, they will grow to be weak, enervated creatures unfit to challenge the dark times to come. On a related note, parents, please, look inward. Understand your own traumas and behavioral issues before you have children, or as soon as you can after you do so. We all come to be parents as imperfect beings, true. But the least we can do is put in heavy effort as early as possible to put ourselves in a position to separate your own baggage from the child.
 

 
      You may come to think of your life as you behind a wheel, not sure how you got on the road, making sure to swerve away from this rockslide, that pothole, always dodging and going away from something, always fleeing something. Stop. Park by the side of the road. Take out your map. Recall where it was you had to go. Must go. Where you need to be to fulfill yourself. Be the you you are meant to be, that you know deep down you have strayed from. Get back on the road and drive there, directly. Reclaim agency. Stop reacting and going away from, start deciding to go towards.
 

 
      Never try to evacuate uncomfortable feelings from your mind. Never uproot fear, shame, guilt. It won’t work. You only empower them, you only inflame them by doing this. And they come back stronger. They come back with panic attacks, they come back with backpain, headaches; they come back to take over. There is only one way to engage with difficult emotions. Sit with them. Acknowledge and name them without judgment or haste or need to get rid of them. Accept them. Invite them back whenever they want. You will watch your neuroses slowly diminish in their hold over you. In their power over you. In the act of giving them voice, letting them hold office hours with you, not trying to annihilate the, you will have won. You will have broken down the partitions and compartments you’ve been erecting for years — no longer will you have musty basements, attics and trapdoors hiding the secrets of feelings you’ve been avoiding for so long. You will have regained integrity with your spirit and, with that, some measure of peace.
 

 
          Slow breath in: the longing to remove someone else’s pain, grief, suffering (could be an animal, could be a family member, could be someone you read about on the news). Slow breath out: your specific wish of comfort and happiness to the very same people, animals or nations you’ve chosen. This is Tonglen meditation, and I paraphrase it from Pema Chodron: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwqlurCvXuM — and I ask you to try this. Add it to your daily meditation. Or do it whenever your own feelings overwhelm you. One antidote for difficult emotional pain is shifting to healing someone else’s.
 

 
          A thought experiment. Pretend you are God. Pretend that all humans are your children. Pretend you have arisen to the din of their fighting. Pretend you come out to witness all we have seen in recent months. Demagogues stoking hatred and espousing the abuse of women just to get elected. Ad agencies disseminating inflammatory fake news right before an election just to generate ad-revenue. Candidates for office of leader of the free world failing to talk about actual issues — the environment, women’s rights, gun control — and reverting to identity politics and zingers. Your children spying on each other. Denouncing each other. Blaming outside forces and countries. Too separated and afraid of people different from each other to talk or relate, hungry instead to deepen the divide and stoke the fires of their own bias and rancor. What do you do? You’ve awoken to a house in such disarray, overwhelmed with such clamor, such brutality. What do you do? You grieve. You are enraged. You ask everyone to stop. And then you ask everyone to listen to each other. Just listen. Because they are all your children. They all deserve to live. They all are cut from the same cloth. The pain of one is the pain of them all. The joy of one is the joy of them all. And none of them will live in harmony — the peace and harmony you dearly wish for them — until they learn this. And, in turn, they will never learn this until they slow down. Become quiet. And just listen.
 

 
      Before you die, do one thing to make the world a more beautiful place.
 

 
      When we do things we don’t like, or have feelings that scare us, we put them in a box or basement. We run away from them. When people do things that scare us, that are awful, we do the same thing. We call the rage-shooter a monster, fit to be executed, and drop them from our minds. Every awful feeling we have deserves the disinfectant of sunlight, of exposure, deserves to be understood and accepted — that’s how we heal. And every person who does something awful *must* be studied and understood for us to heal as a community. There will always be weak-minded people too afraid to do this. Ignore them. Study those who act out in awful ways, their upbringing, their environmental context, their writings, their pain, what makes them human and *not* a simplistic horrorshow villain, it’s the only way for us to grow as a race and heal our collective psychological wounds.
 

 
      Live a life less shameful than yesterday. I think I’m cribbing that from Mary Karr; at any rate, it isn’t mine.
 

 
Survive and serve.
 

 



[Posted by C Way on December 5, 2016]

Comments

[file under: Non-fiction & Essays ]







Art of the Week – ‘Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle’ (2003)

  November 23rd, 2016

 
 
 
 
       (click for zoom-in)
Thornton Dial 
 
      Thornton Dial (American)
       Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle (detail) (2003)
       Plastic soda bottles, doll, clothing, bedding, wire, found metal, rubber glove, turtle shell, artificial flowers, Splash Zone        compound, enamel, and spray paint on canvas on wood

 
 
 
 
Thornton Dial 
 
      Thornton Dial (American)
       Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle (2003)
       

 
 
 
 
      Above is “Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle” a work by Thornton Dial (1928-2016), a self-taught U.S. artist who created assemblages on a large scale.
      “Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle” (detail of which is shown first): a tremendous, fearsome work. A scaffolding of intertwined, twisted, knotted bedsheets (?) create a criss-crossed webbing through and around which emerge flowers, prints of flowers, plastic pop bottles that resemble flowers, and other floral elements, with the whole of the work dripping mustard & crimson. The title, in conjunction with the visceral nature of the colors and textures, and the frayed edges and slices in the fabric, suggest birth, violence and death. A ghostly infant hovers in the top left quadrant; her patina, posture and draped body seeming to confer an air of classicism and modesty. Close observation of the work’s details amply repay the viewer with an endless fund of visual interest.
      What an achievement, simultaneously chaotic and controlled, capturing the conflation of violence, the birthing process, and nature’s fecundity — and also suggesting a kind of organizing principle or geist observing and animating it all.

 
 
 
 
 

MORE INFO:

For more of Thornton Dial’s works, please check out his profile at www.soulsgrowndeep.org/artist/thornton-dial.



[Posted by C Way on November 23, 2016]

Comments

[file under: paintings/drawings ||| sculpture ||| Visual Arts ]







‘Thank you, Kathleen Hanna’ – by Jess Barnett

  November 20th, 2016

 
 
 
(Following is an excerpt from a great piece on Hanna by artist Jess Barnett, please click-through to her site to read the rest!)
 
 
 
I woke up the other day thinking about Kathleen Hanna, who, for those not in the know, was/is the main force behind Bikini Kill, Julie Ruin, and Le Tigre, in that order (although since 2010 she’s been working on her project The Julie Ruin). Having not yet seen The Punk Singer, I don’t proclaim to know the intimate details of her life — in fact, most of what I know outside of her music comes from Wikipedia and articles I’ve read about her (she grew up with a strict father but loving mother who supported and even joined forces in her interest in feminism at any early age; she has Lyme disease; she’s married to Ad Rock; she had an abortion at age 15 and obtained the money for it through working at McDonald’s; she was a stripper for a while years back; oh, and she might as well be Superwoman, as far as I’m concerned).
 
 
kh 
                                         Vintage Kathleen; image courtesy of Austin Chronicle
 
 
But as any rock fan knows in their hearts, all of these facts are moot points when it comes to the passion such a person can generate thanks to their music. Here are a couple of background facts about me: When I entered my sophomore year of high school, I was having an identity crisis. I didn’t want to be the cute, shy, somewhat dorky blond girl I’d been known as up until then; I didn’t want to be just “pretty” (hell, I no longer wanted to be pretty at all); I didn’t even — at least at certain points — want to be female. (To be clear: I did not harbor thoughts that I should never have been female — I just didn’t want all the baggage that came with being as such.) I surrounded myself with friends who shared similar confusions, mostly girls but with the occasional confused dude thrown into the mix. We snuck out of our houses at night (well, I did) to drink alcohol and cough syrup and listen to moody music such as Underworld’s “Dirty Epic,” Depeche Mode, and, of course, Bikini Kill. 
 
 
(Read the rest of Jess’ piece here.)



[Posted by C Way on November 20, 2016]

Comments

[file under: Music ||| Non-fiction & Essays ]