Archive for June, 2002

Monday, June 24th, 2002

“Toca toca toca… Goooooooal!” “Gee Bob I think you’re getting the swing of it!”

Bruce Chatwin, in Songlines, describes a theory held by some anthropologists that Aboriginal songs sung in the Australian outback— and which, for their sacred cultural role, few westerners have been privileged enough to hear—are a map. A set of directions for day-long Walkabouts that preserve historically significant travels. Aboriginies, after all, have 40,000 years of culture behind them. (They’re our oldest remaining culture.) Songs articulate and capture the footsteps over land, up hillsides, down and across riverbeds… Animal songs, too, are territorial refrains, either marking territory or describing it (as in the case of whalesong).

Soccer commentators have the choice of describing action, or accompanying it. I prefer the Spanish style of commenting, which does the latter. One hardly needs to see the game; commentators dribble dribble dribble, cross, dribble, pass, shoot their way through the action, giving it rhythm, capturing its pace, modulating speeds in their speech to mimic the game’s action. Mimetic soundtrack, in the world of film making (where soundtrack corresponds to action seen). American commentators, instead, talk about the game, providing insights to strategy, player biographies, tactical analyses… Voice over, in the world of film making.

Sound is a medium of movement. And in commentating as well as in sacred song, it sounds better when it unfolds movement rather than suspends and captures it for analysis.

Monday, June 17th, 2002

“Thus, as Adam Smith argued in his Theory of the Moral Sentiments, the individual must phrase his own concerns and feelings and interests in such a way as to make these maximally usable by the others as a source of appropriate involvement; and this major obligation of the individual qua interactant is balanced by his right to expect that others present will make some effort to stir up their sympathies and place them at his command. These two tendencies, that of the speaker to scale down his expressions and that of the listeners to scale up their interests, each in the light of the other’s capacities and demands, form the bridge that people build to one another, allowing them to meet of r a moment of talk in a communion of reciprocally sustained involvement. It is this spark, not the more obvious kinds of love, that lights up the world.” Erving Goffman

Friday, June 14th, 2002

The other night at a meet and greet of writers, over wine, cheese, and a post-institutional marching (sic) band, I was comparing travel notes with a woman about Eastern Europe before the change. She told me how her hosts in East Germany (a country at the time) had procured each of the tiles on the walls of their one bathroom through a network of smugglers in the West. As if to show that through a wall designed to keep them in, they had tiled a wall on connections that snuck through. We marveled at how economic webs and networks have served societies long before the web and the internet.

How easily we forget, sometimes, that what fascinates us about the new is only an angled reflection of what we already do.

Wednesday, June 12th, 2002

Last night watching the world cup match between England and Nigeria, we wondered about how it was that suspense persists even in slow motion replays. The play is shown from different angles and each and every time it almost seems as if it could come out differently this time…. When we’re presented with movement, we take it in as an event in motion, in the process of unfolding. Even when we know its outcome. Slo-mo replays not only allow us to see the event in greater detail and with added precision. They engage us once again in its suspense. For fans, they are a great way of stretching out the excitement of a thrilling moment by an act of repetition. Where movement is involved, reproduction is production.

Tuesday, June 11th, 2002

What does a brand brand? A product, a service? Or an expectation—a guarantee perhaps? Brands allow us to expect from the future more of what we experienced in the past. They represent continuity and consistency over time. That’s why we trust them. Brands help us to filter out the signal from the cacophony of noise that clamors for our attention. Brand is the sedimentation of experience in the form of a representation: a sign of trust.

Saturday, June 8th, 2002

Flipping through photos

Have you ever noticed as you’re flipping through photos that there are those people who seem to produce the most consistent face every time? a beaming smile, a grin, perhaps a face made over and over again? Some of these people are photogenic. They earn that accolade from their talent for producing consistent results when captured on film. These people simply never look bad.

What is it that differentiates these people from the rest of us? From those of us who seem to suffer bad hair days, blank expressions, the look of somebody half-stoned or just aroused from sleep? Most of us are caught in between expressions when the flash commits us to emulsion. The lucky few never seem to blink.

Faces are in constant motion. It’s said we can produce over 5,000 different facial expressions. Photogenic people put on their best face for the camera. They stop movement in its tracks, step out of their physical and social setting and into a position masked for the camera. Photogenic people, and I’m jealous of them for it, have internalized the look of the other and are capable of putting their own faces on pause. What’s strange about this to me is that most snapshots are meant to capture a situation, an event, a now. And yet the best-looking people in snapshots are those who know how to step outside of now and produce an ever-lasting face. Is this how we become our technologies? By internalizing the permanence of photography? Is this how our media stars produce sound-bites? Is the art of the artifact knowing how to produce one for the medium?

Monday, June 3rd, 2002

“Obscenity begins when there is no more spectacle, no more stage, no more theatre, no more illusion, when everything becomes immediately transparent, visible, exposed in the raw and inexorable light of information and communication.” Jean Baudrillard

Monday, June 3rd, 2002

This is a test, nothing more, nothing less.

Monday, June 3rd, 2002

The Shoreline Amphitheater billoboard by the freeway is advertising this upcoming show: Poison/Cinderella. I wonder if opening bands are chosen for the fit of their names.