If Dogs Run Free, Why Not We…

April 16, 2004 at 12:34 pm | In yulelogStories | 4 Comments

If I had to tell what I’m writing, I couldn’t do it because I’m sick in bed with one of those awful sore throats (think 1000s of little razor blades, a million paper cuts, that sort of thing) which crops up as a symptom in some kinds of viral or bacterial illnesses. For those around me it manifests as a funny case of laryngitis, too, which leads them to make all sorts of jokes about how nice it is that I can’t talk…

So, before I go completely ’round the bend and make time stop its flow by enacting a hissy fit worthy of my inner child (ahem) — something along the lines of (whispered!) ranting about “why me? why me?” — just a couple of pointers. Joel has another installment of The Friday Corral wherein he “corrals” links to some of the interesting stuff he has come across this week. I was amazed by the first couple of Corrals, and this one is no exception: I’m impressed that Joel reads so many blogs, and that he honours this deluge of words to make the lists and categories and links and annotations that fill the Corral, remembering to include this or that, and pulling it all together weekly. Jeee-suss, it makes me feel real slow. There’s really good stuff there, check it out .

Second, Dave Pollard pointed to my piece about access to public parkland in Victoria vs Greater Boston with an entry entitled We Share This Land, and I commented there — possibly as a way of avoiding dealing with my own blog. I guess the not-so-secret corollary to my amazement at Joel’s corralling prowess is Guilty Conscience on my part over sporadic blogging here and even more sporadic responses to the conversations that do at times ensue, as well as sporadic reading of other blogs. To those of you who comment here, I do eventually try to respond, and I always appreciate it when anyone takes the time to comment.

Dave is extending the public access conversation in a thoughtful way, and he’s asking you to tell about your experiences in your community. As I wrote my comment on his blog, I was reminded of kids I knew of or had met in Beverly who didn’t know where Lynch Park was. They did, however, know where to find the Burger King and the Dairy Queen, the Malls on Rt. 128, their school, and the tvs in their homes. But they didn’t know the location of the public library or the public park, both within walking distance of their neighbourhood. Remembering this little tidbit made me speculate that we’re failing kids who know where the palaces of consumption and the palaces of indoctrination are, but the free spaces — the library or the park (and I don’t mean the park with its official “recreation program,” another group indoctrination activity, but simply the park as free thinking space) — those free spaces are increasingly elusive and unknown. That failure happens at both ends of the social spectrum: the overscheduled child, with no time for ruminating randomly in a library or enjoying unstructured time in a park, and the underprivileged child (I’m thinking specifically about the kids I knew of in Beverly) whose parents are functionally illiterate and who have never had bedtime stories read to them, who haven’t a stick of decent furniture in their homes, but who own tvs, and whose lives oscillate between the two prison palaces of regimented consumption and regimented learning. Yes, I knew of kids in Beverly whose parents couldn’t read (not immigrants, but American-born parents) and who therefore didn’t know what bedtime reading was. Just think about that for a second, you Readers: how reading, beginning with others who could read to you, has shaped your life, and imagine that factor wasn’t there.

Ok, now I’m off on a potentially dangerous tangent. You might now wonder why I’m dissing “palaces of indoctrination” where you might at least learn to read. Shouldn’t I champion schools? I won’t, not least because I think that we’re asking schools to do way too much. We keep demanding that they fix things they didn’t break, and when they fail, we demand more of the same. Schools have a key role in society (for too many parents under economic pressures, they unfortunately have too much of a custodial function), but they aren’t a panacea, nor are they completely free of culpability. They didn’t single-handedly tear certain social fabrics, schools didn’t create parental illiteracy, schools don’t bear lone responsibility for the peer-to-peer culture that convinces girls as young as twelve to service older boys sexually, if only to earn “respect” within their own girl-peer group (i.e., it’s not about imagination or pleasure, it’s about work and earning in the relentless capitalist mode). They’re not responsible (entirely) for turning some public parks and streetscapes into peer-structured institutional replicas. But then we think schools should be able to fix everything, and we get mad at teachers or administrators who aren’t miracle workers. When they fail, we demand longer school hours, standardised testing, and more and more homework, until the kids have no free unscheduled time left whatsoever. How about we get mad much earlier, at parents who plunk their young children in front of a tv early in the morning and use the tv as a babysitter throughout the day? Or parents whose lives are so thoroughly mediated and consumption-driven that they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if they and their kids found themselves in a public park or in a forest — without a radio, without a tv, with nothing except everything that nature and your mind provides? Would that help? Probably not.

Should we expect schools to be able to fix the Death of Imagination? Why should any child get excited about learning to learn if he or she can’t exercise his imagination freely? Free imagination isn’t “earned” and broken imaginations can’t be fixed institutionally. Perhaps the parks and beaches and nature itself, not the institutions, need to become more proactive: Ents, ent away, kill your tv….

Ok, I really amn’t feeling too well and I need to stop right now, I’m ranting again. I guess Children’s Liberation is my not-so-secret revolutionary subtext, it pushes all my buttons. Kill your tv, go find the park instead. Find the streets, the cafes. Amble, and figure out if your flanerie has any imaginative revolutionary potential left. Meander, avoid the straight roads leading to the Palace.

PS: And yes, the irony of lying in bed with a sore throat and linking to those lurid examples of peer pressure didn’t escape me. See, I gots imagination!
PPS: Of the parents I heard about who couldn’t read, and therefore couldn’t read to their children, I heard that they also didn’t tell their children stories. That is, it’s not the case that they had an oral repertoire to replace the missing book-based one. So, perhaps one of the ways the Death of Imagination takes hold is when people in intimate relation to you don’t make stories a part of the relationship?

Some Canada – US differences: why privatisation is against the law (according to the Book, anyway)

April 12, 2004 at 9:35 pm | In yulelogStories | 7 Comments

Since I can’t really describe how gorgeous it is here (this picture isn’t current), I won’t bore you with clich�s, but yesterday W. and I were walking together along Dallas Road, which is a stretch of public parkland south of Beacon Hill Park, high above ocean bluffs. It’s also the “dogs off-leash” zone, year round. It’s within walking distance of most of Fairfield, Rockland, and downtown, and it’s where everyone goes to parasail, parasurf, parachute, and whatever else has to do with feet and sails — bikes, rollerblades, and other such conveyances are officially not permitted here, but of course they are allowed on the road itself and in every other part of Beacon Hill Park. Dallas Road is a long, narrow stretch of oceanfront park, parallel to the main street, at least a mile from Clover Point to Mile Zero (perhaps more, it meanders), and there are huge additional lengths of it on the eastern and western ends — to Ross Bay (and beyond) in the East, and to Ogden Point in the West. These areas are officially “on-leash,” although if your dog’s selective listening devices are marginally functional, you can probably beat any K-9 officer who might be out there looking to earn the City some money. Whenever I’m out here, as well as when I’m out in the suburbs, at Thetis Lake, or in East Sooke Regional Park, or on Mount Doug, or down at the seashore at the foot of Mount Doug, on Oak Bay’s Willows Beach, or even in the Uplands‘s Cattle Point, I always have this tremendous feeling that just fills me up to the point of joy: “This is mine, it’s all mine, it all belongs to me, and it belongs to you, and to you, and to you, too! It’s ours, ours, ours!” I feel gracious out there: “How do you do?, lovely to see you, I hope you, too, are enjoying our beautiful land!” All my hostess anxieties, with which I am riddled beyond reason when at home, are blown away, as if by the wind. This meadow?, this mountain?, this ocean?, this view? Yes, it’s mine, and it’s magnificent, isn’t it? And I know you must believe this, because of course it’s yours, too! We share this! One of the very first things that W. and I noticed when we left Vancouver in 1985 to live in Greater Boston, was that all the pretty areas were off-limits because they weren’t public, they were private. The Boston Common was the lone exception, but it’s not that vast a park, really, given Boston’s size. On the city’s fringes, wealthy individuals had built their houses — call them cottages, call them mansions — along the soothing, vivifying oceanfront. The roads on the stingy bits of few and far between publicly accessible beaches were studded with “resident parking only” signs, meaning that if you came from out of town, you weren’t welcome — and “town” of course meant that if you were from Lynnfield, you couldn’t park in Lynn (but then you quickly learned you didn’t want to anyway), and you sure as hell couldn’t park in Swampscott. Every single bit of lovely land — something pastoral, something with a view, something soothing to the soul — appeared to have been bought up by some individual or by some corporation (possibly a municipality), which immediately put up strictures to keep everyone else out. Try going to Manchester-by-the-Sea or Beverly Farms, both in Massachusetts, sometime in the nice-weather-season and see if you feel welcome… For W. & me, coming from Vancouver with its huge Stanley Park prime real estate public park, its massive areas of public access to beautiful areas (Spanish Banks, UBC and Wreck Beach), this privatisation was a massive shock. We couldn’t believe it. All those years in Greater Boston — seventeen — I longed for that kind of access again, although, truth be told, I learned how to covet. Boy, did I learn how to covet. Isn’t there a Book somewhere that says, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s land”? Doesn’t that Book suggest it’s a sin to covet? Yet when you live in a privatised country, how can you avoid learning the lessons of coveting? My experience outside Boston’s downtown core was thus: during the off-seasons (i.e., Blizzard and Mud), I would be allowed to park in Manchester-by-the-Sea’s Singing Beach parking lot, but during the season (Triple H: hot hazy humid), I wasn’t allowed to because I lived in Beverly and my car didn’t have the required “resident” sticker. During the off-season, I was allowed to park on Beverly Farms‘s West Beach parking lot, but during the season, I wasn’t allowed to, because West Beach had incorporated as a neighbours’-only private beach that enforced its rules in the summer. F$%king incroyable! During all seasons I was allowed to park in Beverly’s Lynch Park, but the only reason Beverly had such a gorgeous oceanfront park was because some rich guy (Lynch) bequeathed money to the community for the purpose of establishing a public park. The community hadn’t planned on or for this kind of amenity. (And if you’re not a Beverly resident, it will cost you $10 to park your car there in the summer — that’s the 2002 price.) And there’s the problem: if some rich guy gave land (or money for land) to the community, the community struck it lucky. But if there was no provision of the sort, the community could screw itself. Failing such a provision, the community members can drive around and oggle all the private estates, and covet, covet, covet. Most importantly, a sense of community doesn’t enter into that particular spectator sport (individuals coveting individualistically) since it’s impossible to define parameters: desire is such a wide-open, porous activity. Well, I suppose it keeps the dynamo of the private capitalist psychology humming. But you have no idea how it works its work on your very soul until you’ve lived in places where its logic is interrupted, even if only imperfectly.

Wilder and wilder

April 11, 2004 at 11:13 pm | In yulelogStories | 4 Comments

“Nobody’s perfect!” It’s been a vacationing type of weekend around here, with both kids — but especially about to turn 13 son — quite sick with some sort of coughing, fevered bug, and lots and lots of really warm sunshine and sweet-scented air because of the weeks and weeks of blooming stuff we’ve been having, while the coughing, fevered bug just kind of slowed everything down to the point where it felt all lazy and calm, like a vacation. Sweet scents of lilac and clematis and late narcissi occasionally gave way to the medicinal smell of Vicks Vaporub. Bed-rest. Don’t work or get all bothered. Unwind. It was actually really lovely. We are, in these latitudes, embarking on what I call The Bright Times, with no rain in sight (the regular annual summer drought now starts in spring already), hardly a cloud ever, warm temperatures, and sun that comes up at the ungodly hour of …uh, when I’m asleep, and which sets later and later and later in the day. By June it will be setting after 10pm. For now, in April and with Daylight Savings Time, there’s just lots and lots of day until it feels like for a lark someone made off with your eyelids. And while I don’t really feel like blogging, because my subject will be light, which makes me feel lousy because out there everything is so heavy right now, I changed my mind just enough to pass this on: that I did see tonight on dvd the funniest film ever. It’s a Billy Wilder comedy (he of Some Like It Hot fame, for those of you born just yesterday) called One, Two, Three (or: Eins, Zwei, Drei — say it like you mean it, das ist ein Order!). It was made in 1961, around the time the Berlin Wall went up. James Cagney plays a Coca-Cola executive stationed in Berlin — this Yank is supposed to be from Atlanta, right?, but you know he’s only half-kidding when he says that Atlanta is just like Siberia, except with mint juleps. I love Wilder’s films — even Sunset Boulevard, which has in the past had the uncanny effect of always putting me to sleep the first 5 times I (didn’t) see it: as soon as William Holden’s car started climbing the road, I was out like a light. Film noir is so dark, I have a hard time keeping my eyes open. Now that I’ve seen Sunset Boulevard a couple of times while awake, I too am a fan of Gloria (“Norma Desmond”) Swanson’s famous line, “I’m ready for my close-up,” but it was an acquired taste. Some Like It Hot is famous, of course. But One, Two, Three is hilarious in the best sort of way, and Liselotte (“Lilo”) Pulver (did you know that Pulver means “powder,” but the kind used to make firecrackers and dynamite?) might not be Marilyn Munroe, but she’s snappier and smarter, even while playing the stereotypical “dumb blond.” The film was so funny, it actually made me a little sad that we seem to have “advanced” to the point where no one can get away with making wisecrack movies about current politics in quite the same way that Wilder and his team was able to in ’61. And now, knowing that no one’s perfect (as Osgood Fielding III would say), I’m going upstairs, ready for my close-up, testing the Umlaute….

Fundelupa b-day

April 9, 2004 at 9:29 pm | In yulelogStories | 3 Comments

Happy birthday to Fundelupa (sorry, I can’t find your email link…). While you’re there, check out her Elders of Pannon link — it’s a hoot! Go, Hungary! And as usual, great photos, too.

C’mon, confess!

April 6, 2004 at 10:41 pm | In yulelogStories | 11 Comments

I had a “virtual – real” overlap moment tonight while at S.I.D.E.S.‘s School Planning Council meeting. It wasn’t my idea at all, but somehow, another parent brought up the subject of “lurking” on websites, and that she lurks on my blog, too. We agreed that lurking is a fun and useful thing to do, and so far, so good. However, the vice principal of the school had her laptop in front of her, and the principal, sitting next to her, asked “You keep a blog?” Before I knew it, the vice principal had my website up and I watched the expression on her face turn serious. It wasn’t until I got home that I realised she might have been taking in the illustrations I used for the Orgasms make you smarter entry, and that the principal would probably look it up eventually on his computer. Gah. Oh well, at least they weren’t self-portraits….
But seriously, pleasure is good, so I’m not about to change my attitude on this. I have, however, been wanting to write something about why many sites devoted to sexual “exploration” make me want to hiss and spit, and possibly throw rockhard crabapples at the webwriter’s private parts. And lo, I found just the thing while reading a wonderful article in the current (Spring 2004) issue of Art Journal, “Between You and Me: Man Ray‘s Object to Be Destroyed,” by Janine Mileaf. She deftly summarises Michel Foucault‘s critique of sexual discourse in relation to Man Ray, but Foucault’s insight is equally applicable to contemporary pop culture, burbling memoirs, to the proliferation of sexual discourse on the various erosblogs, and to — gulp — blogging and its pursuit of “voice.” So let me reproduce Mileaf’s summary for you-the-reader’s delectation: it will save you reading the entire volume of Foucault’s The History of Sexuality (New York, Vintage Books, 1980) and will, I hope, convince you that Foucault was totally, completely on to something:

Man Ray’s strategies of self-exposure conform to the ideology of the confession as theorized by Michel Foucault in The History of Sexuality. Since the sacrament of penance was codified in the Middle Ages, confession has compelled speakers to acknowledge their most shameful and degrading thoughts and actions in order to gain absolution. Initiated under the guise of religion, the confession has become a fundamental component of everyday speech, invisibly governing not only the realm of morality but also “justice, medicine, education, family relationships, and love relations.” [Foucault, p.59] The obligation to confess has been decentralized and naturalized. No longer associated solely with the church nor understood to emanate from any one origin, the need to confess now takes up residence in everyday conversation and daily life to an extent even Foucault could barely imagine. In every instance, the speaker is asked to articulate that which is most difficult to reveal; the privileged topic, of course, is sex. Yet the ubiquity of confession has not cleansed or purified society, but rather produced an excessive accumulation of sexual information. For Foucault, then, confession converts corporeal experience into discourse. Western society equates truth with the revelation of sexual transgression.
(…) …it seems crucial, in the present moment of increasingly humiliating and relentless public avowals and disclosures on talk shows and reality television, to consider Foucault’s analysis of the societal control that is rehearsed in the act of confession: “The agency of domination does not reside in the one who speaks (for it is he who is constrained), but in the one who listens and says nothing; not in the one who knows and answers, but in the one who questions and is not supposed to know. And this discourse of truth finally takes effect, not in the one who receives it, but in the one from whom it is wrested.” [Ibid., p.62] The confessor speaks, but is ultimately made to conform to societal norms.
[p.8, Art Journal, Spring 2004.]

Understand this: whatever is translated into discourse is instrumentalised as social control. It is not the case that chatter about your sexuality or your neuroses or your deepest darkest secrets makes society a freer place. It instead makes it a more fully explored, more discursive place, which in turn contributes to mechanisms of control. People and their exposures are turning into social maps, we’re less multi-dimensional and increasingly flattened into a one-dimensional discursive space. At the same time, however, I would add an idealistic qualifier that probably wouldn’t sit too well with Foucault: while your confessions strengthen societal mapping (and hence control), there is the one-off/ one-in-a-million possibility that they just might liberate you, individually. It probably happens very rarely, but therein lies the dialectical rub. People might yet be capable of surprising others. Just (ahem) remember to use your hands….

A bit of memoir: portrait of a child with different men

April 5, 2004 at 8:13 pm | In yulelogStories | 4 Comments

Comments in my blog entry about the “Hyenas on leashes” (Violent anachronism) made me think about my own racism — latent and overt? — which in turn made me think about my first encounter with an African. An actual encounter, that is, not a mediated one. Since we didn’t have a tv until I was nearly 7, acquired in time to let me watch (unsupervised) coverage of JFK’s assassination, mediation doesn’t enter into my story in the guise of technology, because my first encounter was with a real person. But there was still plenty of mediation, as there always is. Until I was 3-point-something, I lived in D�sseldorf, Germany, with mother, father, and six older sisters. We lived in an apartment in the Altstadt, the downtown core, within walking distance of the K�nigsallee, the shops, the hubbub, the red light district. Actually, we lived in the red light district, or on the edge of it, 1 Bergerall�e. The street was “sanitised” much later, to make way for upscale gentrification. By the time I was 3, my oldest sister was on the point of going to Tokyo to marry her Japanese fianc�. She had met him in D�sseldorf, which had (has?) a large contingent of Japanese business men (and women, now?). Naotoshi worked for Sumitomo, a huge banking & business conglomerate with corporate offices in Germany. To have a close family member marry into Japanese culture was an unusual event for a family of my class and ethnic background at that particular historical time (1959/60), and even though I didn’t understand all the complications, I knew that my sister didn’t particularly like German men (she said they were “crude”) and that Naotoshi was “different.” Nao was educated, a graduate of Todai (Tokyo [Imperial] University); he was well-off. We were uneducated, and rather sternly, threadbarely poor. Nao’s mother was proud of the red tinge in her black hair — not the typical “blue-black” — and she was mortified that her son was marrying this cheese-eating, curd-smelling penniless gaijin. My father had some difficulty [sic] accepting his new soon-to-be son-in-law, too. All this I somehow picked up, on the side, ears wide open. Nostrils, too. Flared outward, everything, a regular little information vampire. I learned: There was danger in difference, obviously. Stepping out of line meant erotic electricity (my sister loved her fianc�), and family anger, and separation (she was moving to Tokyo, and then they were going to be posted to Brussels, which, while closer and practically family grounds — my paternal grandmother was Belgian — was still a l-o-n-g way from the boonies we were on the verge to moving to). But not quite yet at this point in the story, for at this point my family and I were still in Wirtschaftswunder D�sseldorf, not yet in the little hicktown in the sticks which we moved to when I was 3-point-something. My sister was not yet in Tokyo, not yet married, and still around to take me along to “teas” at department stores where she met her man for court and spark purposes. By the time I was nearly 3, my radar was tuned to “difference” because of all the stuff that was different around me. It was different to be taken to tea — Nao was paying, which was different; my family hardly spent money on teas in department store restaurants. It was different to be taken to tea by a sister who was old enough to be my mother, and who looked like my mother, but who was with a man who didn’t look anything like my father, and who, unlike my father, laughed a lot. Other people noticed this, too, I could tell because they stared at us, and perhaps my sister took me along for purposes of normalisation. It occurs to me now that these people must have thought that I looked different because as a group we did. It’s possible that these people didn’t necessarily differentiate between me and we. Or between anything really. And I remember that one time I mortified my sister because, while she focussed on courting and sparking, I took one of the empty teacups and toddled around to all the other tables, panhandling for change. By her reaction I could tell this cut too close to the bone: because we really were poor, begging — intentional or not — was henceforth verboten. I still have difficulty asking for anything. And so, settle on the time around 1960: I’m about 3 years old, and something else is different on this day. My father, not one of my sisters, is taking me to the shops, to the department store. It rarely happened that I went out with my father, but perhaps my sisters were engaged elsewhere, or perhaps he was taking me with him on an errand. We were riding the escalator, a contraption that inspired me with trepidation. I would spend long seconds trembling at the start until I managed to snag a step and actually plant both feet on the same level. Then I’d relax a bit before another anxiety attack hit in anticipation of having to negotiate my way off the escalator. The exit off the dreaded contraption often happened via a socket-wrenching jerk of the arm, a kind of “flung” sensation that landed me on solid ground. Since our apartment was a third- or fourth-floor walk-up, escalators were very different, and they made me anxious. Chugging up the escalator, trying mentally to prepare myself for an at least partially graceful removal of my short person off the monstrous mechanical contraption, I fixed the top of the moving stairwell. And there he was, on the next floor coming into view. A very tall black man, pausing at a display. Nostrils flaring, eyes wide — mine, that is, not his: I must have realised that he didn’t look Japanese at all! Nor did he look in the least like the other gray-white men all around. He saw me staring and staring and staring (my father had by now executed the socket-wrenching arm-jerk maneuver and I was standing close to him), and he laughed out loud. Nao liked to giggle discreetly, but this man laughed, very loudly. I was simultaneously upset (he was laughing at me), and comforted (he was laughing), and prissily offended (why didn’t he giggle discreetly, like Nao?). My father made apologetic remarks — the laughing man was American, and there was no doubt something political in my father’s conciliatory remarks — and we moved on, with me turning my head to keep the black man in sight. He was the only black person I had ever seen, and he looked really different amidst all other differences. But his laugh, while boomingly different, made him seem like a highly normal human being. I kept staring, which seemed like a natural thing to do, even though it was rude. In my head I was triangulating how he was different from Nao, and different, too, from the world of women-sisters I was used to, and how different it was that my father, not one of my sisters, had taken me out. All in all, it was a different day, but somehow the idea that difference has to do with me, not “them,” was rooting in my head. It was after all I who had seen that man and who had singled him out with my greedy eyes. And it was my lucky-different day since it was my child-self that had made him laugh, which was as good an introduction to deeper difference as any. PS: Who is Caterina Valente, in the image above left? My sisters’ heroine. Mediatrix of the time.

Nail-up, Pin-up, same difference: meet Image Boy

April 3, 2004 at 10:42 pm | In yulelogStories | 4 Comments

In today’s Toronto Star, What a trend we have in Jesus by David Graham:

…celebrities, including Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck, Ashton Kutcher and Pamela Anderson, have been spotted wearing “Jesus is My Home Boy” T-shirts and baseball hats. The shirts and caps appeal to religious and fashion types, explains Chris Hoy, a partner in Teenage Millionaire, the company that sells the shirts. “We were looking for pop icons of the 21st century and Jesus topped the list.”
(…)
Barbara Atkin, fashion director of Holt Renfrew, makes it her job to stay ahead of cultural trends. “We are fascinated with Jesus now because we are searching for comfort, hope and meaning in a fearful world,” Atkin says. “Whether people buy the message or not, they are clinging to the symbols.”
(…)
In the wake of the ’60s anti-war movement, Jesus was portrayed as a pacifist (Jesus Christ Superstar). But now, in our current violence-obsessed culture, Mel Gibson’s vision of a bloodied action-hero is “a reflection of the savage quality of American life,” says Fox, who argues that in the film Jesus appears more super-human than divine.
(…)
Media critic Neal Gabler, who has written several books on popular culture, has drawn a clear distinction between Jesus and God. The reason Jesus has become a celebrity and God has not is simple, he argues.

“There’s no decent visual for God.” [More…]

It was ever thus. (And, shameless self-promotion in wake of Gabler’s pithy summary, see also my other entry re. iconoclasm and Gibson’s movie. I really appreciate Gabler’s use of the word “decent” here. Right on.)

Tangled Up in Pink????

April 2, 2004 at 1:50 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

I’m stunned. Never thought this would happen. Bob Dylan is making commercials for Victoria’s Secret. In today’s Wall Street Journal, Brian Steinberg writes that Bob Dylan Gets Tangled Up in Pink:

A mustachioed Mr. Dylan, 62 years old, appears in a new television ad for the sexy chain’s “Angels” line while models cavort to a remixed version of his 1997 song “Love Sick.” Mr. Dylan spent two days on a shoot in Venice after Victoria’s Secret approached his label, Sony’s Columbia Records. The concept was suggested by Leslie Wexner, Limited Brands’ chairman and chief executive, says Ed Razek, Limited Brands’ president and chief marketing officer.

The TV spot debuted this week during “American Idol” on News Corp.’s Fox, and is expected to air on various channels for about three weeks, according to Mr. Razek. The commercial, created in-house, may return in the fall, he adds.

Mr. Dylan once sang of “Advertising signs that con you/Into thinking you’re the one/That can do what’s never been done/That can win what’s never been won/Meantime life outside goes on/All around you” in his 1965 song “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).” Now, some fans are distraught: “I’m going to have to go blow my brains out,” says John Baky, curator of a collection of Dylan material housed at Philadelphia’s La Salle University. [More…. nb: WSJ might require registration/ subscription]

Violent anachronism

April 1, 2004 at 12:37 am | In yulelogStories | 9 Comments

Since I just wrote something about houses and bodies and frightening transformations and medieval fairy tales and classical myths, I have to add that I found David Weinberger’s link, offered on March 29 in his posting Hyenas on Leashes, beyond bizarre. (N.B.: I’ve never gotten the hang of doing trackbacks, sorry if this one doesn’t work, and that particular permalink doesn’t seem to want to work either, but at any rate, David’s entry is March 29 1:23pm.)

He links to this, which comes via a Dutch site that offers 2 additional pictures. Take a look.

These particular combinations of man and animal looked to me like some kind of awesome (and really scary) medieval bestiary, or an illustrated mythology: griffons, centaurs, that sort of thing. Not that medieval bestiaries scare me, but these photos looked scary the way some medieval peasant might have been awed by a bestiary. They looked fantastic and unnatural somehow, and I’ve been trying to jog the old brain to come up with why they should appear as such (to me, anyway). Is it the implied violence? But then, why would a Darth Vadar style futuristic get-up inspire less fear …? And the latter does inspire less fear in me: pictures of guys in uniforms with big weaponry don’t have the power to frighten me in the same way. Why? Because we’ve become used to our technologies, which are packaged largely as consumer goods, to be the purveyors of a violence and disruption we believe we can tame economically, but when faced with an image that reaches back in time, a whole new frisson makes its way up the spine? Shouldn’t the guy with the automatic weapon be scarier? Do we think that the guy with the automatic weapon is somehow “nicer” or saner than the guy with the hyena on a leash — just as we think the guy with the pitbull is probably unbalanced? But why think anyone with an automatic weapon can be trusted?

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