Thursday, November 29, 2007

And I call myself cultured

The New York Times just released their 100 notable books list for 2007. I have read approximately zero of them, though looking back at previous years' lists is slightly less embarrassing. At least I've read a few 2006ers and 5s. I know that I shouldn't find these sorts of lists depressing, but I do. There simply isn't enough time in the world. You know you're a little depressed when everything seems to remind you of your mortality.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Shepard Fairey: Propaganda remix artist or plaigarist?

Mark Vallen has an interesting article on his site framing Shepard Fairey as a plaigarist.

From Vallen's site: [ Left: Fairey’s plagiarized poster. Right: Original street poster from Czechoslovakia’s, Prague Spring - Artist unknown 1968. The poster depicts a Soviet Red Army soldier in 1945 as a liberator, then as an oppressor in 1968.]

The research on Fairey's iconography is impressive and my hat is off to Vallen for putting the article together and sharing it on his site. That said, I wish the tone were moderated a bit. At times it's hard not to see it as the product of vituperative jealousy. Knowing the little of Vallen's work I do, I don't think that's the case; I suspect Vallens has less of a bone to pick with Fairey's riches and reknown than he does with a postmodern zeitgeist that levels everything to the same meaningless image goulash. I'm sympathetic to that view; I tend to be unconvinced by the third wave of any "ism" (marxism, feminism...) and deconstruction only goes so far. But even with me imputing those good motives to the critique, the article still comes off as too bitter for my taste. Maybe it's the effect of blogs. I am an unapologetic defender of blogs (no kidding), but there's a proper tone and approach for everything and "asshat" isn't a word that should be used outside of a rant (Note: Vallen doesn't use "asshat" anywhere in the article.)

But really, I didn't post about the article to criticize it. I wanted to post about it because it raises some really interesting questions. In this age of remixes and mash-ups, Vallen's article makes me wonder where one crosses the line from re-use and re-contextualizing to just plain stealing. Vallen mentions Roy Lichtenstein by way of contrast, refering to Lichtenstein's "Look Mickey" as an example of a painting that appropriates images but with the viewer's full knowledge of the source material. But then I think some of Lichtenstein's other paintings and they seem more similar to Fairey's to me in that they appropriate comic book panels without crediting the original.

In short, I'm not sure what to make of Fairey's relentless pillaging of images for his own productions. Is it simply plaigarism? Is it postmodernism? Is Fairey some sort of Commie Murakami or is it all just "rebellious patina and ersatz activism"? In my darker moments I wonder if a guy like Fairey really is a kind of radical, packaging fake rebellion and profiting handsomely off of his own particular marriage of leftist iconography and capitalist marketing.

[I'd like to note that in the course of today since first reading Vallen's article, I have come across two stories that are probably each worth their own blog post, but who has time. First, BBC reported a couple of weeks ago on teens who were arrested for stealing virtual furniture in "Habbo Hotel," a 3D social networking site. Apparently people pay real money for this virtual furniture (4000 euros worth in this case) and these kids used a fake site to swipe people's passwords and then take their "stuff." Second, Stockholm's Museum of Modern Art has discovered that its 100-some Warhol Brillo boxes are all fakes, whatever that means.]

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Site of the day

This is a pretty nifty new site that gives a quick look at the flight delays out of any given airport. Of course, if you're flying and worried about a delay, you'd be looking up your own flight number and carrier, but this gives a pretty good idea of just how much of a c.f. you're going to find at the airport when you get there. Good information to have.

I've decided I'm goyish this year

I'm sorry but December 4th is just way, way too early for a gift-giving occasion. I have determined to be Christian this year because I need the extra three weeks. Plus I don't know how to make jelly doughnuts, but I do know how to make peppermint meringues and cranberry poundcake so that works out too.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The key to happiness is low expectations

After working myself into a state of utter anxiety yesterday, the biopsy was really just fine. The worst part of the whole procedure is the lidocaine shots (or whatever the numbing agent is). My doctor rocks and the nurses were so nice that they even noticed I'd dyed my hair since my last visit. (They said I was "a breath of fresh air.")

But the really great news is that I was wrong: the nodule is the same as it was a year ago. It's really big, but no bigger than before. Dr. K just said that she was going to recommend an annual biopsy because that's the safest course of action. I should get results in about a week or so, but it seems like I don't have anything to worry about.

So now I am, headache and all, feeling pretty grateful. I guess that's the best thing about a day like yesterday. On a day like today I can say, "Hey, what a great day. I probably don't have cancer."

So very superfly

Via Zefrank comes this link to highlights from the 1975 JC Penny's catalog. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


So I have to go get my thyroid biopsied again this afternoon in a couple of hours and even though I know it will be fine (I mean, even if it's not fine, it will be fine, if you know what I mean), I'm nervous as hell. I don't know if it's the time of year (two weeks before my mother's yarzheit) or what, but I'm really antsy. I will be so glad when the thing is over.

A little back story for those who were not following along: Last year when I had my car accident, in the course of scanning my collapsed lung, they discovered a nodule on my thyroid. I had it biopsied about a year ago, and they didn't find any malignancy, but my doctor said I should have an ultrasound every year to make sure it hasn't grown or changed. Well, I guess it's grown or changed (I'll get more real information this afternoon) because she wants to do another biopsy. It's a needle biopsy where they numb your throat and then go in and take a bunch of samples from different spots (there is a sonogram tech there guiding the process too). I can't remember how many samples they take (3? 4?) or that much about it (love my ability to block out trauma), but I know it's more uncomfortable than painful--a pretty simple procedure. Nonetheless you would think I was having brain surgery for how I feel right now.

Yuck. I hate this sort of thing so much.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Correction--How many zeroes in a trillion?

You may have noticed that "cost of the war" ticker in the sidebar of NMTE (you have to scroll down some way to see it). I had wondered a while back whether I should remove it because it just seemed unlikely that we were still spending at such a rate and I would hate to be posting untrue propaganda (true propaganda, on the other hand, I'm fine with). So then Shane forwards me this article which puts the cost of the war at 1.3 trillion dollars or $16,500 for a family of four.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The more things change...

I remember when I was a girl (12?), going on a walk-a-thon for ERA (the Equal Rights Amendment for you youngsters). I proudly wore the tee shirt to school the next week, and my math teacher said, "ERA--what's that 'Earned Run Average'?" I think he was joking to wind me up, and as unfunny as the joke was then, it's even less funny thirty years later (sigh--you are old Mother William) when I read an article like this one summarizing two recent studies by the AFL-CIO and AAUW that both report, yes, you guessed it, women are still paid less than men:
Whatever the occupation, no matter how well-prepared the women, no matter whether they outnumber or out perform their male co-workers, no matter how creative, talented or hard-working they may be, it's the same: Their median pay is sure to be anywhere from $16,000 to $34,000 a year less than that of men holding the same positions.

That amounts to about 40 percent less for female physicians and surgeons, for example, 30 percent less for lawyers, 25 percent less for college and university teachers.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

But how do you really feel, Keith?

Keith Olbermann has a scathing opinion piece at MSNBC on the Bush presidency and Daniel Levin. Levin, the acting assistant attorney general who was fired because he called waterboarding torture after submitting to the "technique" himself to ensure he wouldn't be talking out of the side of his neck like I do, gives the lie to the administration says Olbermann. If you're looking for a really articulate anti-Bush rant, click on over the MSNBC and give Olbermann a listen. Here's a sample:
All the petulancy, all the childish threats, all the blank-stare stupidity; all the invocations of World War III, all the sophistic questions about which terrorist attacks we wanted him not to stop, all the phony secrets; all the claims of executive privilege, all the stumbling tap-dancing of his nominees, all the verbal flatulence of his apologists...

All of it is now, after one revelation last week, transparently clear for what it is: the pathetic and desperate manipulation of the government, the refocusing of our entire nation, toward keeping this mock president and this unstable vice president and this departed wildly self-overrating attorney general, and the others, from potential prosecution for having approved or ordered the illegal torture of prisoners being held in the name of this country.


From the footer of an email I just received:

Frantic orthodoxy
Is never rooted in faith
But in doubt.
It is when we are not sure
That we are doubly sure.

Reinhold Neibuhr

Quiz of the week

Okay, I'm not usually one for quizzes, but this one is impressive:

Radar's Luxurious spa treatment or mind-numbingly painful interrogation technique?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Christmas is coming

I can't decide whether I should ask for one of these for Hannukah or whether I should get one for K (or both).

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Funny, I always thought class was about economics

Apparently not. It seems that "middle-class" is an adjective being used to describe, not a demographic defined by earnings, but by "values." In a story, strikingly titled "More U.S. millionaires are middle-class" Reuters tells us:

New research has found that more and more Americans worth at least $1 million want luxury goods such as yachts but otherwise lead family-focused, work-oriented lives.


[T]hese new millionaires adhere to middle-class values, earning their money rather than inheriting it, working 70 hours a week, and choosing neighborhoods based on the quality of schools.


"They spend their money on all the things that tie back to family values -- on the health and welfare of their family, career development, and as you move up the ladder they spend on leisure and luxury activities."
The article, though brief, is fascinating for the way that it tacitly imbricates earnings, values, and spending patterns. These people spend money on their families--and one wonders what this means exactly other than the fact that they purposely live in good school districts. And that apparently defines them as middle-class. There's so much wrong with that set of associations it almost feels unsporting to blog about it. So single or childless millionaires are unable to be seen as middle class because they are not "family oriented"? How stinking rich does a family man have to be before he can be seen as rich or upper class rather than middle class? And what about dirt poor people who invest what little they have in family-oriented things? Are they part of the middle class?

You get my drift here.

Though to be my own devil's advocate for a minute, the positive thing that can be said about the article is that it makes explicit what tends to operate under the surface in our culture--that class really is a function of culture as much as cash. My favorite French theorist (everyone should have a favorite French theorist), Pierre Bourdieu, argued as much about French culture/economics. (Note that Bourdieu called himself "left of left," and the tagline of NMTE at present is "left of liberal.") Were I not bone weary and trying to leave work soon, I would give a Cliff's notes version of Bourdieu's Distinction, my favorite book of his, but alas dear readers you are to suffer as a result of my haste and exhaustion. You'll have no such in-a-nutshell paragraph here. And the web is lousy for a decent Bourdieu page. At least I cannot find one. Really what you have to do is read him. It's a commitment, but it's not nearly as punishing as Habermas, I promise.


Conor comments below that he apparently is Kucinich, "whoever he is." So this quote of the day is from Kucinich and goes out to Conor.

"The center has shifted in our politics. I'm really at the center. And all the other candidates are to the right of me."
"This Week with George Stephanopoulos", ABC, August 12, 2007 (via Wikiquote)