I will be spending most of the month of July in China: in Beijing, and possibly also Shanghai and Qingdao.
The back-story is, that my partner M is going there as part of her Master’s work in folklore (more details on that when it’s link-able), and I, as generally-worldly-writer-and-layabout will be tagging along.
This means, that while my lovely spouse is occupied with her labor, I will be loose on the streets, ready to work for YOU, my small but loyal audience. Therefore, I am taking suggestions on things to research. Want something written about? Photographed? Visited, and documented? Found, and publicized? Well, I’m your POSZU. Send me a note, either in the comments, via email, or through Twitter (@interdome). Because how often do you have a research assistant/writer/jerk in Beijing, ready to work for you?
Note: I am also looking for PAID WRITING GIGS while I’m there. Email me and let’s talk. But while not making my fortune blogging, I’m happy to contribute to the majesty of the Commons. For the good of us all, and the gain of no one.
Here are things that are ON THE LIST:
And what else? No topic or project too small. Want a free CC-licensed picture of a particular building? I won’t photograph every single block in the city, but if you can present a compelling reason, I can probably make a day of it.
I have an idea for an entertaining essay about Hitchcock films, so I’m compiling a list. I’ve seen a few of them in my life, but I’m by no means an expert. Perhaps you’d like to help?
I’m particularly looking for films in which part of the suspense is related to whether or not the murder has/will actually occur(red). The existential quality of a murder, in other words. When do suspicions graduate into an actual crime?
Films I have so far are:
North by Northwest
I know there are more. Got a suggestion? Leave it in the comments!
From many sources frequented by discerning viewers:
Many things to notice here, in addition to the straight awesomeness of what is embedded. Something about the cinematographic separation of white and black. Put next to this:
There is something in paint, and what we expect it to do, and why we use it, and what we think about what it might mean. Something about white suits, about dark skin. About black skull-art work, and about white bone. I don’t know what it is, or if I would get any closer to it by thinking about it in words.
Maybe what I should do is make a music video that is visually not-altogether-not-alike to another video by what might at one time been a diametric opposite artist, but do so by covering a song that might as well have been another diametric opposite in another dimension but is now an inspiration, and do so in a way that completely represents an entirely different culture and place, in symbols that are apparent to nearly anyone anywhere in the world with the technology to view the video in the way the video is presented. I would have to make a video, because just listing these characteristics and proposing the idea is not nearly the same as doing it, especially when someone has already done it. But I couldn’t do it, and not just because someone has already done it.
Something about opposites, in the way they are like echoes.
This was done for Warren Ellis’ Remodel thread. I always like those, but I don’t draw very well. I do, however, make posters. This will probably be the only Steampunk thing ever to be found on POSZU. And, frankly, it’s not even a very good poster. But I wanted to play along, and so here it is.
I do like the mask though. In my vision, the Steampunk Batman franchise would use the mask as it’s Bat-logo.
Well, I thought long and hard about whether or not I should post this one. But here we are.
For starters, Cyborg Month is officially over. But more pressing than that, was the issue of whether or not I really wanted to admit that I’m that much of a geek that I not only conceptualized a poster to commemorate Cyborg Month, but then spent more than several hours bringing it into existence. This is probably bordering on the fan art territory, to be quite honest. And that is a slippery fucking slope.
But then I was looking at these awesome Czechoslovakian Book Covers, and I was thinking how it is a shape that book covers, especially for academic titles, are so serious with their design, and don’t venture into art quite so much anymore. I was also thinking of the ubiquitous conference poster, that anyone who has spent time in academia will have seen slathering the walls and bulletin boards of their department hallways. What an excellent opportunity for art! Here are posters that are going to be printed, regardless of whether they have anything on them. Why not use that as a space for artists?
So here is my contribution of a poster for the 50 cyborgs not-really-a-conference-not-a-book-either. Advertising something that is already over, without really advertising it, and mostly just contributing to general Internet over-exuberance. The scheme was actually something I came up with for a customer, that I can tell they will not like, but I liked it, so I wanted to actually use it. Looks like a vintage set of Uno cards, kind of. The draw 4 card especially, which I can’t find an image of on the Internet (only the current version). Oh, and the circuit diagram is actually a working circuit for a voltage amplifier. Yikes. Went there.
So here we are. I’m a geek; cyborgs are awesome; and I spend a lot of time rotating and re-sizing vector art on the computer to amuse myself. If you are a cyborg geek as well, you are welcome to a full-sized PDF of the poster, available here. Everything on POSZU is Creative Commons Non-com, Attribute, Share-alike, by the way.
Well, I think it’s safe to say that doing these posters is some of the most satisfying work I’ve been up to lately. So satisfying, that I’m running out of Twitter-quips to turn into posters. If you’d like to compose something witty and succinct, hit me up @interdome, and maybe if you sound as self-satisfyingly sardonic as me, I’ll immortalize you in a poster.
Today’s poster is inspired by @djrupture, who hasn’t been tweeting as much lately, but if he starts doing his breakfast posts again, then I will most definitely have to do a breakfast poster. “Breakfast posters”: the future of digital print. Forget direct mail. Breakfast is where it’s at. You heard it here first.
Now, I am not the major Terminator fan that is nailing his ass to the wall. Well, at least not exactly. You see, I am not a fan of the Terminator, that is to say the T-800: not even as an anti-hero. What I am a fan of, is the film, The Terminator.
And this is the ambiguous technicality on which I will make my case. Not the technicality that Jonah Campbell mentions in his footnote–that in fact, yes, there is dialog in the film explicitly referring to the T-800 as a cyborg. I am referring to the film itself–the film, The Terminator, is a cyborg. This is the ambiguous part.
Because, a film is not a cyborg any more than the character of the T-800 is a cyborg. In the same way that the T-800 is not so much a classic cyborg as it is a special effect, a movie melange of various horror themes involving technology and human mortality, as Campbell describes, it would be disingenuous and perhaps a pretentious stretch to claim that a work of culture is such a cybernetic feedback system.
But I am a dealer in post-structuralism, and disingenuous and pretentious are two of our main product lines. So here goes.
There are two features of any film. (There may be more, but let’s start here.) There is the plot, or narrative of the story being told, and there is the aesthetic form of the film. One might isolate these into content and form, but I wouldn’t go so far as that. I only separate these two aspects at all, by means of their function for delivering the culture-item itself to the viewer. Film excels at delivering this distinction. There is a quality of film, which I could delve into in a whole other essay, that still attracts the eye, and pulls it in to its artistry, even without the smooth sugar of plot to help it down. Perhaps it is in the timeline of film, the fact that film will progress even without a story. Or maybe it is the moving, visual quality that attracts the attention. I see this most explicitly in Eastern European and Russian film. Tarkovsky, Vertov, Tarr. The ability to just look, without saying anything.
Even Western blockbusters and spine-tugging B-movies still tap into this feature of the media. Horror films, by the fact of hackneyed and predictable plot rendering its narrative aspect practically moot, let the image and spectacle of violence, music, and anxiety build to avant-garde levels. This is the way we are introduced to The Terminator–as another sci-fi afternoon at the movies. An unbeatable villian, from a future where all is war. He guns down cops without a thought. And he will not stop until he kills one particular woman.
But there is more to the film than meets the eye, and it is not just the red eye of a machine burning beneath a suit of flesh. There are little tidbits scattered throughout the film. These are small things–little bits of aesthetic that could be easily missed in the pulse-pounding chases and the furious suspense and the eventual violent release. But while your endocrine system is responding to the plot, your aesthetic systems are responding to these small elements. The naked male body of a body-builder, triangulated between a vitrivian man, steroid experiment, and zeitgeist politician. Punks on the edge of society, receiving their just comeuppance, or meeting their (no) future? A female sex object, that will not take off her headphones, even during sex. A motor scooter–the closest we’ve come to a jet pack in the automobile age. Exotic reptiles, kept as pets. Breaking a date on a friday night. A joke, in the form of an answering machine message–”machines need love too.” Cops addicted to nicotine and caffeine. Targets assassinated according to their order in a phone directory. The announcement of one’s own death delivered live over broadcast TV. Los Angeles, home of Hollywood, Blade Runner, dystopic future prison-states and other natural wastelands. Vehicles and weapons, interchangeable, dumped as soon as they cease to function. A synth soundtrack–the fusion of futurism and current culture, an entire history to itself. A bar called Tech-noir. Dogs as man’s best friend, and machine’s worst enemy. Mutilation without pain. Killing sprees. Fast speeds. Robots as toys. Robots as manufacturing workers. Robots as distractions. Robots meant for killing robots. And a Polaroid camera: an image, an emotion, and entire life developed in the briefest of market transactions that will become a key piece of history, to those who will live to see it.
I could delve into each of these images and themes (and boy would I love to, if anyone read 10,000 word articles on the Internet), and unpack and interpret them and their cybernetic connotations for our culture. But, sticking to the post-structuralist promise, I will keep it meta. Each of these images is a cultural mechanism. A feedback loop in celluloid, plugged into our brains. Written in the programming language of Hollywood, Year 1984 AD. Together they form a cybernetic system, regulating the functioning of our aesthetic being, expressing a particular continuity through our emotions of fear, paranoia, and desire. Paranoia of a machine-man is a cyborg reaction. Paying admission to collective horror at simulated violence on a projected light screen is a cybernetic affect. Dancing in a dark, dirty dance club is a feedback loop. Falling in love at the end of the world is the expression of a pattern. Reading the coded messages in a film as part of the experience of viewing a film is culture, and our culture is part of a system, and the programming therein makes one B-movie into a film that defines not only part of an era, but part of us.
So, it is still perhaps disingenuous for me to say that The Terminator is a cyborg, if I am also going to argue that our entire culture of expressive media and consumption of that media is part of a cybernetic structure. But it is. Our notion of what cyborgs are, and aren’t, and what this might mean for our bodily integrity, our history/future, and our entertainment on a Saturday night, serve to prove the point, not only of cybernetic systems, but also of ourselves. We are the emotions we experience at the movies. What we want to show each other, what we want to see, and what we want to feel, is ourselves. Around and around again, always adjusting, always re-orienting, never quitting, as long as we’re alive.
In the end, we are cyborgs, starring with red eyes into a dirty mirror, and using a scalpel to pull a bloody bit of ourselves out, so that we can watch it fall into the water, and scare ourselves to death.
And we’re back with another Motivational Poster, this one completely without the courtesy or permission of @dcurtisj. Not to say he wouldn’t be courteous if asked–I just didn’t ask.
Love this slogan. M and I laughed about it for a long, tasing fifteen minutes. She tried to roll it out at work, but they weren’t having it. Too bad. No one can escape the future, so you might as well learn to like it. Hopefully this poster will motivate you for that.
This one has a lot to like. A symbol, ready for branding a tased future, pastel colors, and enough repetitive circles to make you puke. Which is a good thing, because if you’re puking, you are more likely to survive being tased. Really. There is scientific evidence to back this up.
I was enjoying it, until I scrolled down the text of the poem, and was irrevocably distracted from the text–which is a bit more challenging than the typical web browsing fare–by a glaring embedded Flash ad, shouting moving text at my face, in different colors and fonts to boot.
The Ad was for The Atlantic.
At some point, if they wish to consider themselves curators and not simply link-toilet pipes lined with ads, online publications and periodicals are going to have to rethink the efficacy of the standard model of online advertising.
I know this is a bad time. Venerable publications, such as the Atlantic, who “after 150 years of publishing, know a thing or two” as their ad reminded me, are distracted by the mortal problem of how to stay in financial existence in this new literary age, and so the minor points of CSS and ad placement probably fell low on the list of immediate importance. I would also excuse them the irony of having it be a squirming piece of self-advertisement, because the circulation of ads throughout a site is often at random, and had I loaded the page at a different moment, I might have seen a less-innocuous ad for a poetry collection, or a non-profit, or something else. Although, the fact that it was an ad for their own publication displaces the first mitigating factor, in that the ad clearly wasn’t generating much needed revenue for them.
But all of these details aside, this is a problem that must be solved. And it will be, eventually. I don’t believe that the combined traditions of literature throughout the culture of the human species is going to die off because of ebooks, or web ads, or poorly designed internet magazines. If we lose our capacity for literature, it will be because we as a species will have lost it as we evolve towards being a non-literary animal–or de-evolve, depending on how you look at it. It will not be that technology made us do it; it will be that our literature allowed technology to do it. And because of this, and because I don’t think we’re going to lose our literary aspects any time soon, I can comfortably say that the format for web publishing WILL change. Because this cannot be the way that it is. People like Coates will continue to love Williams Carlos Williams, and continue to use the Internet to share this love. But the Flash ads cannot and will not stay. These ads will be shed from the margins of literature, like water off a duck. The two are simply not co-existent with each other, and between the two, literature is the one with a deeper emotional root. Flash ads will be evicted from the flanks of literature, pulled off like a lamprey and squeezed like a tick, driven back to the literary exurbs among music videos and cat pics, where they belong. And no one will be sorry.
The reason I say this, is to plead with the web editors of The Atlantic. Reject embedded Flash Ads now. Think about your curation. Because that, presenting literature as literature, is what you are supposedly doing. You are responsible for adapting the literary glands of humanity to this new technological thing we have invented. We can clearly see that Flash ads have no place as buttresses for literature, so take action now, and be the first to expel them from our poetry-loving sight. Flash ads are snap bracelets. They are tamagotchi. They are the current thing that everyone has, so grocery and dollar stores are stocking tons of cheap knock-offs to try and make a quick buck. Cheap knock-offs that cut your wrists with rusty, elastic metal bands that have ripped through their neon plastic coating and have to be recalled. The stores that stock this trash do not have a business model. Their model is they sell anything people will take off the shelves, and get throw out what they won’t. This is not curation. This isn’t even the fine art of desire-marketing, the age-old industry of pornography and prostitution. This is offering to sell someone your shoes because they said they liked them.
Remember that you have a product, and that is words. Remember you have a form, and that is literature. This will be the content and the form for as long as there are people around to read it. Define the words you publish by the way they are presented, because this is how and why people will come to consume them. If you have to advertise, then advertise. But don’t let the advertising fuck with your message. Because then advertising has become the message, and this message is shining in your face like a five year old with a flashlight.
Embedded Flash ads will go the way of the animated gif. Make no mistake. So get your literature out now, and early. Those whom you curate for will thank you.
Another motivational poster, though not from Twitter, this time. M, my partner, just read The Ask by Sam Lipsyte, which she enjoyed. She also enjoyed my other posters, and so she asked me to design a poster around the text above, which she thought was a hilarious line from the book. That’s the line, as near verbatim as she can remember. I don’t normally do requests, but she gets that privilege. Though let’s be honest: if someone had a request, I’d probably do it (if I could think of something.)
InDesign practice-wise, the logos were the easy part. Doing the speech bubbles took forever, trying to shape all those tiny curves. Anyone know of a preference setting so that the Zoom hotkeys will zoom on the current view, not on the selected object? If you do, let me know over Twitter, or something. (@interdome.) Was getting car sick from scrolling around.
So now she has this lovely poster to grace her bedroom door. I struggled with this one for a bit, until I hit upon the icon theme. It ends up fitting nicely with the “motivational” qualities of the rest of the series. We’re thinking of surreptitiously hanging these up and grocery stores. You could think of it as a guerrilla art campaign to “Ban the Bag”, or we could just be jerks. Either one is really fine.
If you are as tickled by it as she is, even though you are not my partner in the eyes of the State and therefore required to act with at least brief bemusement as required by law, you can download the full PDF here.
Another motivation Twitter poster, words courtesy (and all of these are without permission, I might add) of @AmericanRoulete.
As you might be able to tell, I like minimal. For some reason, I was thinking airline advertisement. I wanted to make the faded curves fade on a gradient, but I ran out of time. Anyway, it’s kind of more jarring this way, and jarring is good, as long as it isn’t amateurish. But too late for that anyway.
At the very last minute, I decided to make it work on its side as well, which I might like better, but I can’t really tell.
Looks even more like an airline ad now.
You can print it out and try flipping it around for yourself, with the PDF, here. Feel free to try it with art facing the wall. That might even be best.
This poster could be better, but I have so many paths on the pasteboard now it’s making everything slow and irritating, so like that, it’s done. I wish the center colored heptagons were 3D, like a prism, but it is what it is. I don’t want any of these to take more time than I can devote in one day.