I feel like people are not enjoying the hilarious and absurd chaos that is the entire American experiment right now. There are Deep State operatives leaking absolutely wild stories and forcing regime change while aides are outright puppets and meanwhile during a joint press conference with the Prime Minister of Israel, our clowns-ass leader singles out a reporter and thanks her for being nice to Melania—and this is before answering a direct question about the rise of anti-semitism in the United States since the election by gloating about winning 306 electoral votes.1
Small changes to procedure get drowned out by the piles of bullshit that are coming from Washington by the truckload, but they matter. Sean Spicer introduced four new seats in the press briefing room which, if you watch the press conferences, usually take questions from conservative talk radio in markets like Phoenix, Dallas and Palm Beach. They allow for time to pass and the narrative to fracture more and more.2
To understand the administration you really have to follow it day to day, minute to minute. With the amount of conflicting narratives—from slightly different to downright opposing—exploding after just weeks, soon there will be such a pile of information out there that maintaining any coherent discussion about policy will be near impossible.3
(Just think of this: it’s barely possible to keep track of this shit and congress isn’t even involved yet, but this could be due to Paul Ryan being a piece of shit.)
This is truly a fascinating fucking time, and it’s likely to last a bit longer. The Reagan experiment brought us to this point and now so much has changed since The New Deal that nobody on the moderate left has a viable path forward that doesn’t end up entrenched in the same mess that got us here: an influx of capital to every outlet of power.4
And, even if you don’t enjoy the surreal nature of our real-world politics, at least there’s enough gossip to make anyone start fitting tin foil hats. Personally, I say put your hands in the air like you’re on a roller coaster and just enjoy the fall, because chances are what comes next is going to be much, much worse.
Since it’s just too fucking early to think about the implications of Mar-A-Lago members posting photos of and details about the guy in charge of the Nuclear Football to Facebook, let’s talk about love. Or what they’re selling it now as, anyway.
American Consumer Holidays are weird, because they aren’t really holidays. Valentine’s Day isn’t really a declared celebration of love, it’s an advertising campaign.1 Halloween takes a beautiful foreign tradition and makes it about buying candy. Days dedicated to parents are more about buying cards or neck ties than giving the parents a day off from work. These are just examples to show how entrenched capitalism has become in our sense of humanity; our very notion of celebration starts with purchase power and opportunity as opposed to creative expression or individuality.2
At 34 now, I’ve had a fair share of relationships with a variety of women and nothing I’ve ever seen advertised on television or the aisle of a store remotely resembles how I’ve felt about them.3 The reason our world is so fucked up is because of how money has consumed our concepts of value. This mechanism of consumer power being a metaphor in our personal relationships (i.e., what you buy for Valentine’s Day being a reflection of how you feel) takes our most intense and personal feelings and attaches a social value scale measured in trinkets and flowers that we watch die.
I’ve been watching Planet Earth II and one of the segments constantly featured is a mating ritual of some weird-ass species. On Valentine’s Day, all I can do is imagine a Planet Earth like documentary about humans, but instead of talking about the instinctual nature of a desire to impress, David Attenborough instead says, “The human. With the ability to conceive original thought and create unique objects, there are seemingly limitless ways to express emotion. Despite these advantages, their decisions on how to display an appreciation for their most intimate relationships often fall to the expectations of the cultural status quo; a gutless view of love often designed by slick advertising campaigns. An early dependence on these social traditions will at first appear ironic and unique until they join the rest of year-to-year life as a heartless custom. Eventually, the relationship serves only as individual reinforcement that each partner would be worse off without the other.”
Run through walls for people you love. If they really love you back, the bricks and dust will be a sign enough.
For some reason this always makes me think of the stamp problem in AI.
I always struggle to imagine the vast potential for the impact of the internet on humanity, simply because part of the development of the technology includes the random event that is human response. We still don’t even really study television1 and its impact; the idea that these mediums are simply inventions and not integral aspects of human behavior is dangerously ignorant.
Marshall McLuhan died in 1980—before he could really expand Understanding Media to the new world of the internet—which is unfortunate because I’d be fascinated to hear his thoughts on exactly what type of medium it is.
A hot medium is one that extends one single sense in “high definition.” High definition is the state of being well filled with data. A photograph is, visually, “high definition.” A cartoon is “low definition,” simply because very little visual information is provided … Hot media are, therefore, low in participation, and cool media are high in participation or completion by the audience. Naturally, therefore, a hot medium like radio has very different effects on the user from a cool medium like the telephone.
The internet is many things, and thus provides for many means and causes for interaction. By McLuhan’s standard, at some points it would be an entirely hot medium, providing the user with all necessary information with a relatively low participatory value. But other times the internet serves as a research conduit, with the user having to bound from point to point to aggregate information, a high value for participation.
This wild inconsistency within the very nature of how we, as individuals and a collective at differing levels, interact with the internet has already thrown the world into discord and it’s only been 20 years. From social media during Arab Spring to news bubbles and fake news and Brexit and Donald Trump, these are scenarios which share similar threads in the intangible influence of the internet being pushed into our tangible reality.2
As if the world wasn’t already pretty fucked from centuries of influence by aristocrats, kings and the church, we’re on the verge of being able to upend all that and there’s this sizable portion of the world that would rather just adapt the internet to fill all the potential consumer niches capitalism can dream of. This is the problem with the internet: it offers the aggregate sedation of the entire cultural past of humankind under the same hierarchies of physical power as well as the option to leave it all behind. When enough people declare themselves on one side of that line or another, we’ll arrive at the future.
I’ve been showing a variety of new work at First Friday pop-up shows for the past few months; I am looking forward to some upcoming solo shows as well. This was on display in January, a 30″x40″ portrait of nobody in particular.
(My apologies for the shitty photograph; all I had at the time was an iPhone.)
Q: This is the correct response when someone who hasn’t made up their mind yet about the Berkeley protests and this asshole getting punched in the face asks you if it’s OK to resort to violence against fascists.
A: What is, Yes?
Liberals and violence don’t really mix, unless it’s a silent complicity regarding President Obama’s drone program. In recent weeks there’s been a huge debate on the left regarding whether the more visible black bloc actions should be condemned. (Again, I find it kind of fucked up that the democrats would condemn violence against Starbucks windows more than it would Standing Rock protesters, but nothing is surprising anymore.)
For just a second, let’s set aside the fact these are hate and fear-mongering Nazi fucks we’re talking about. Just think about the general human experience. What’s a subject people talk about? Time. Sometimes, time travel. When people talk about time travel, what usually comes up in the conversation? That’s right, killing Hitler. Going back in time and resorting to violence in order to prevent a series of events so fucked up that it’s likely none of us today can truly conceive the intensity of horror induced.
Anyone would go back in time to kill Hitler. So, one week in to President Trump and some Nazis get hit in the face? Good.1 It shows there will not be a complicit population and if there really is some coup-like psychology at the top, we will not let it play out without resistance.
South Park is saying what is only obvious on the rest of late-night comedy: there’s nothing funny about any of this. Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee … it’s not that there isn’t funny material out there, it’s that they’re basically just reading the news, emphasizing how fucked we all seem.
The art world, now beginning to react to the Trump administration properly, obviously must change with the new social circumstance. Everybody seems to think this has to come in protest art (which it should, but that’s obvious).
Art can be a subtle but authoritative voice in times of social unease. I remember in 2002 seeing Thursday play in Jacksonville, Florida where they were met with an equal amount of cheers and boos for denouncing the drums of war the Bush administration were beating. I was shocked that so many at a punk show would respond positively to the potential invasion of Iraq·but the fact remains that it was the show that made two distinctly separate ideological groups gather together.
These days, I figure we’re in a bit of a similar situation. There were suggestions to start book clubs in the wake of the election, but this would really be an opportunity for galleries, cafés and other venues to try and work with local artists and communities to open up a dialogue. Everyone is already talking, and art provides both a space and a provocation for conversation, which sounds to me like the opportunity for a collective and large national movement to form in the interest of self-governance and destiny.
The rogue waves set off by the Trump administration have been probably the most fascinating part about all this. Particularly, the concept of ‘normal.’
Immediately after the election, there was plenty of rhetoric regarding the ‘normalization’ of Donald Trump as President. (These op-eds have continued.) More recently, a rather perfect Jezebel post spread about, the entire contents of which are the sentence This is not normal.
And I wonder, what is normal?
NPR, the Atlantic, the Times. They’ve all done a great job navigating waves of newsworthy events. For the most part. Today, they all took Donald Trump to task over a botched military operation in Yemen, which ended up with casualties on all sides.
The reporting of the story doesn’t bother me, nor does the outrage echoing from the streets. What bothers me is exactly that these are not our normal reactions.
The time we are in is not normal; this much is true. However this misfire in Yemen is illustrating more that the ‘normalcy’ we had before was a press and public ready to ignore a horrifying drone program which incurred a fair share of tragedy.
No, Donald Trump as President of the United States is not normal. Yes, it is important to remember that. After that, though, ask what really was normal before—and why it all came crumbling down in the form of this political dumpster fire. (Here’s a start: Normal was a news industry owned by media corporations so hell-bent on advertising revenue they gave Trump $2 billion in airtime. Even news directors admit their own likely role in his electoral win.)
This is not normal, and it is not good. But what we had before wasn’t great either. What is important is surviving what is to come, and building something better from what remains.