Musical interlude

December 20, 2003 at 1:22 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Musical interlude

Some time ago I mentioned that Elizabeth Fischer has put her music online. In case you haven’t visited lately, she has been updating and has now added links to the texts of some of the pieces. Go listen, read even. This is a great site with some great music.

Short notices

December 19, 2003 at 10:35 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

Joel has an interesting post on France’s banning of the Muslim hajib in schools and other secular institutions. I don’t want to yank the thread and pull it here, but I think it’s really important to think about this issue. Take a look. I don’t know quite where to come down on this myself, although I sounded off in the comments, but maybe there’s a useful conversation starting there.

And Doug has a great pointer here to “what a crappy present” and other sites.

Hiking on Mount Doug

December 19, 2003 at 2:38 pm | In yulelogStories | 3 Comments

I’m a very quotidien photographer, but the scenery around me is anything but quotidien. So I decided to post some pictures from a hike the kids and I went on yesterday. See the rest of the photos here.

Rock my video

December 17, 2003 at 11:31 am | In yulelogStories | 9 Comments

Thanks to Sheila Lennon for pointing to the news that Wesley Clark won Rock the Vote’s contest to create a video that would appeal to young people and challenge them to vote. As Sheila writes,

If you haven’t watched the videos, that may surprise you. If you have, you know that this is what did it:

Clark is sitting around a table with college students. he’s just said he’s pro-choice, believes in affirmative action, and, in the same no-nonsense voice, continues, “I don’t care what the other candidates think, I don’t think Outkast is really breaking up. Big Boi and Andre 3000 just cut solo records, that’s all” followed by a high-five to one student.

I’m just a half-observer of the election campaign, here, from my perch on the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island in Canada, and I don’t have any television access at all. Therefore these videos were completely new to me, as all televised images of the candidates are. Sheila provided the link to the Rock the Vote spots, though, and I watched them all in rapid succession. I thought these micro-ads were a minor revelation, given who won and who didn’t. There’s something very interesting going on.

First, the other videos typically used a now-hackneyed montage visual style which had originally been pioneered by avantgardes in the earlier 20th century: German dadaists, Russian constructivists, even Italian futurists. It’s a visual mode that then was used by avantgarde filmmakers and novelists of the mid-20th century when they wanted to question the stability, usefulness, and controlling aspects of traditional narratives that have a beginning, middle, and end.

Montage and the disruption of narrative was a beautiful idea, sort of like having a microscope with which to view individual ideas, ideas that could now stand out starkly, without having to be bound to a chain of events that forced them to conform to a teleology of ends.

It didn’t take long, however, for montage and rupture to be co-opted by advertising, with MTV and others putting the final spike into the coffin. Montage and disruption were no longer a poetic microscope, they became a cloak which made bondage and slavery to consumerism dazzling and spectacular. Instead of causing you to question reality, montage-style advertising just convinced you that it was easier and oh-so-much hipper to open wide and swallow.

I don’t know what Clark’s winning video says about the campaign, but goddamn, it has me feeling more optimistic about “the youth” of America. And a little frightened, too. I feel more optimistic because, by choosing this video as the winner, “the youth” indicated that they seem to be way beyond the grasping grip of the advertisers who continue to pound at them with a now unrecognizable, formerly early-20th century avant-garde style. Dean’s video, for example, was way down in second-place, and rightly so: it was a ridiculous pseudo-tribal, angry-but-feel-good punch-you-in-the-viscera and slap-your-eyeballs-till-they-spin-in-your-head, but not-allow-you-to-think spectacle. Ditto Sharpton. Ditto all of them, except perhaps for Moseley-Brown’s, which was a confused assemblage of “I”-thises and “I”-thats.

Clark’s video on the other hand announced a new style, and while I was glad to see it being used by a Democratic candidate, seeing it as so clearly superior to the other crappy video spots made me sit bolt upright, because I realized that this is the approach which smart conservatives/ Republicans have been deploying.

That’s what scared me: goddamn, I thought, is it really so bad that the conservatives are coming up with the newer, the more appropriately thoughtful and critical style? (For you see, your friendly pseudo-neo-marxist host here is intensely interested in all matters of style.) Style is the vehicle of substance; “MTV-style,” used by most of the other candidates’ videos to appeal to “the youth,” is empty, it has no revolutionary substance, it’s the vehicle of consumerism and of the status quo. And it’s a huge mistake for any progressive-thinking types to think that (1) “MTV-style” has to succeed simply because it’s “hip” (’cause it ain’t, really), or (2) that conservative Republicans are dumb (’cause they ain’t, really) just because they’re not into that “cool” MTV-style. Take a look at Clark’s video.

First, you the viewer are immediately positioned on the inside of what promises to be an issue, not on the outside of some glitzy surface spectacle pumped up with a driving beat. You-the-viewer are immediately asked to engage because the video opens in mid-sentence: Clark isn’t in a close-up shot, he’s seen at mid-range, as though you and he were sitting across from one another at a cafe — which is exactly where the filming takes place. You’re one of his discussion partners, and he’s saying something. He is answering something, a question. Wait, you’re confused, you didn’t know you had a question! He’s telling you that you have a question. You stop, you think, you engage. You think, “maybe I do have a question.” Immediately, the hook is in and you’re engaged, without a single bass-driven beat-note aimed at your hip, sexualized self having been sounded. Clark’s opening gambit goes like this:

Well, to answer your questions, no, I would not have voted for the Iraq war.

Did you know you had that question? You do now, and, two seconds into the video, Clark has already succeeded in hooking you, because he has answered a question you didn’t even know you had. He’s done it calmly, because he has already placed you in that cafe. You’re sitting there now, listening to him answer your questions. You must have spoken at some point. You must have engaged already, and the video is simply picking up a thread, a stream that began a short while earlier. You’re in the middle of it. It’s not really about him, about Clark, but he’s placing you and answering your question. It’s about you, and about how you listen. You are listening to Clark.

See, that’s avantgarde strategy: to think about the spectator, the viewer, and to place her in a way that results in a new critical consciousness on the part of the spectator-viewer. Ideally, it results in thinking participation by the masses. Montage was just one way to do that, but it long ago reified into a fixed style, becoming the tired and cliched style-vehicle of advertising.

There was something really fresh in the Clark video — something canny, too, as evidenced by the references to Outkast: it’s not like Clark would be asking you really to give anything up. Things will go on as usual, but you will be able to listen to Clark…

Purity is highly overrated

December 14, 2003 at 12:22 pm | In yulelogStories | 5 Comments

Now that the Americans have captured Saddam, the Swiss and others say Iraq should return to full independent state sovereignty soon, while some Arabs (Jordanians, especially), who consider the murderous Saddam a “national hero,” are depressed that Americans instead of Iraqis got him. Why, I wonder, should it be about being intact, inviolable, sovereign, which leads to “healthy” national aspirations to be free of shame, “untainted” by dishonour, to be unpolluted and pure? Which leads to “justifications” for atrocious killing and violation, at which point sovereignty and inviolability go out the window again…? To me, it sounds like a huge family drama, where liberation from tutelage is the necessary goal. Personally, I see no other way forward except through absolute equal rights for women: the family has to become free of these cycles. It’s the necessary first step in interrupting the political cycles of violation and sovereignty. Shame, dishonour, humiliation, “assertiveness,” patria, me, you, I win, you lose, you win, I lose, no win. Sovereignty in Iraq? In Afghanistan? Ensure equality for women, let women assume leadership roles. Let the eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth mentality get laid to rest: it’s been providing an unpolluted purity that’s clouded our judgement for too long. Let female “pollution” become an accepted part of the body politic instead.

The glamorous blogging life…

December 14, 2003 at 12:02 am | In yulelogStories | 4 Comments

And because I’ve been having such a …lovely … weekend and all its …lovely days leading up to it have been so engrossing, I forgot to mention that Bruce at The River put together a bloggers’ awards list, and I …uh, won the best 2003 infusion of intellect award. Ha! That makes me The Ice Maiden, so don’t mess with me! Seriously, though, that was way-cool and I appreciate it totally. Thank you, Masked Bruce.

But now reality beckons. It’s midnight, it’s Saturday night, and I just, literally just, realised that I forgot to clean up the kitchen, as did everyone else, who have conveniently disappeared under various covers. Maybe I can go and infuse it with some nitroglycerine…. Or just forget about it?

Another public service announcement from your selfless host

December 13, 2003 at 8:34 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

This is my bit of public service announcement for the weekend — and I wish I could do more: Emma sings in a choir, Viva Chorale. They’re putting on a feast at the University Club — a Renaissance-inspired “Courtly Choral Feast” with a boar’s head procession and everything, to start at 6 pm on Tuesday December 16th. The choir is selling tickets, and if you’re in the Victoria area reading this, and are up for an evening of grand feasting with musical entertainment, please consider getting a ticket. Call the VIVA office directly at 250-472-2655 to buy your ticket — $43 for a fabulous buffet: choice of 5 salads (Greek, Waldorf, Caesar, Five Bean, Curried Rice); Roast Baron of Beef; Roast Turkey with Cranberry Sauce; Vegetarian Lasagna; Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes; Seasonal Vegetables; Fresh Baked Rolls; Fresh Fruit Platter, Cheeses, Mousse, Fresh Fruit Tarts; Tea or Coffee. Tip and GST included. Hey, it’s a deal, comes with choral singing, too! Consider supporting the choir…?

Someone tell Mark…?

December 13, 2003 at 8:15 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Someone tell Mark…?

For at least the past 7 days, I have not been able to access wood’s lot. (Mark: I see from referer stats that you have visited my site: I tried sending you email and it was returned as “undeliverable” and with “fatal errors”!) I can’t get to this site. And it’s very strange, as other people elsewhere can. Doug of Dynamic Drivel sagely suggested — after I contacted him via email — that it might be a routing error (huh?). I managed to get my husband Werner interested in the problem — he knows quite a bit of technical stuff, about as much as I don’t know, so …um, actually he knows quite a lot. Doug had suggested it might be a Telus problem, and given that Telus is majorly fubar’d up — in other words, they’re total idiots, everyone hates them, too — that was a possibility. (Our home IP is through, which eventually routes through Telus.) But it wasn’t Telus, as the traceroute Werner did went well past Telus; he went on, he pinged the IP address from our internet provider as well as directly from a Massachusetts source he accesses directly because of his work, and it was always the same: …nada. The trace times out, it dribbles away, the site is not accessible. This is driving me crazy. Now I just heard from Doug again that his traceroute search turned up the same situation: time out and so on. It looks like the server has a problem. Someone call, call Mark, get it fixed. I can’t stand to think of all the stuff I’m missing….

Think Different

December 13, 2003 at 7:35 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Think Different

Listening to Ella Fitzgerald give her best to the xmas spirit as she Wishes You a Swinging Christmas — it’s the only favourite around our house — Emma said, apropos of Rudolf the Rednosed Reindeer, “Boy, those other reindeer are real sucker-uppers.” Hahaha, she got that right! Nasty stupid buggers, the lot of them! Exclusionary thinkers, all; not inclusive at all.

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