Archive for entertainment

Letters to the Contemporary Age I

Posted in Art, Artists, Contemorary Art, Criticism, Pop-culture, Social Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 22 July, 2010 by endlessslug

Dear Post-modernism,

Are we done yet?

Have we not underwhelmed the intellectual world and utterly confused (for no reason) the general public enough to move on?  Can we put you to rest and nail the coffin shut so that no culture in the future will ever stoop to such a low cycle in art?  Early man was not even so bold as to make art entirely for himself.  I’m tired, so tired, of walking into supposedly “high art” galleries and uttering only “what a dick” to each exhibit.  Whatever happened to paintings which somebody wanted to buy because they were aesthetically pleasing to the individual and pleasant to display in public?  What’s so wrong with semi-nude nymphs feeding fountains in my front yard?  Post-modernism, is it still necessary to demonstrate the modern artists’ complete lack of knowledge of anything other than art trend and con-artistry?  When did artists become professional assassins of knowledge and thieves of culture?  When will we return to the days where a painter could talk to his or her ancestors or descendants about everyday things?  I recall a time when I could paint a pear and have it mean nothing else but “pear”; although that pear always said much more than that in complex understanding.  It meant more exhaustively: a pear which is there – a pear which is tangible, edible, tasty, delightful; a pear I want and will always want.  A pear my descendants will want and will say, “what a great pear, I understand that my ancestors enjoyed pears as much as I do.  I enjoy this painting.”  The funny thing is, Post-modernism, is that I hate pears.  But I can paint what it must be like to enjoy such a thing.  I see others eat them all the time.  About 50% of the lunch table in my old high school had pears for lunch every day.  But I explore what I hate about pears that others enjoy – and I paint pears for them.

And when did you shift from being about French Socialistic ideas about power relationships and into this self-righteous, selfish disaster all about yourself entirely?  “I, I, I, I, I, Me, Me, Me, Me, Me” – Shut up already, Post-modernism!  We ought to want our descendants to understand something about our times, sure, but in general, not specifically about “my time” as a human in this age.  We are part of a great lineage, a chain of kinship like everyone else.  All artists ought to spend time among non-western villagers.  Make things with them.  Learn how to make art for people, but not community art – this is for idiots (i.e., muralists).   Community art is lifeless and limited, like a tourist photograph, and is among the worst kind of you, Post-modernism.

So, are we done? Can we move on? Can we make distinctions between Modernism, Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, Post-Modernism, and Post-Post-Modernism?  Do we need a new “-ism” to describe this contemporary black hole of shock and self-centered-ness?  Can we paint beautiful things again and not gross, disgusting shock-value trash?  How is shock a power relationship? Because it affects people of all socio-economic and cultural levels? Sure, but you did not have to waste 50 years of fine art and artists on telling us this when it could have been simply written down in an article on a shelf, instead.

Sincerely,

Endless Slug

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Art Student Handbook, Part I.1: Expression and Self-Expression

Posted in Art Student Handbook, Social Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 21 June, 2010 by endlessslug

Artists should never express themselves in art.

This was one of the first lessons ever taught to me by almost all of my art professors.  “What?” you say…  Part of the problem with the arts and artists today – and here I’m referring to not only painters but also writers, musicians, and dancers – is the overuse of the concept of “expression” in their work.  We have been brought up in the contemporary world to hold a certain high esteem for any art work which is decidedly so unique to be a direct “expression” of what the artist must be feeling.   How can you trust this?  Art has become so self-centered over the last 40 years that a great disaster of a painting or sculpture is quickly defined as aesthetically pleasing.  Not because a disastrous painting is actually pleasing, but because such paintings invoke some sense of mystery or wonder in the viewer combined with some sense of:

Observation 1: It is ugly.

Observation 2: I don’t understand it.

Observation 3: The artist made it to show me.

Observation 4: Everyone else seems to be “getting it”.

—Deduction 1: I must be missing something.

—Deduction 2: The “art” must be coming from somewhere from which I am unaware.

Observation 5: It is expensive.

Observation 6: My confidence in the art world is insufficient as is my ability to directly criticize something because I do not want to look like either an idiot or a jerk due to immense public social pressure.

—Deduction 3: My sense of aesthetic must be incorrect.

—Deduction 4: Ugly must be beautiful when it is unknown to the viewer.

—Conclusion: Art, then, must be something out of reach of the common person, which I do not want to be, and entirely an expression of some instinctual utterance of thought and emotion, combined.

=========

Sure, there are some logical gaps up there, but I hope you see the point.  The problems in the art world today are complex and not easily solved, but I believe starting with new students brings the art world some hope.

Most art student’s I’ve met over the last ten years see no problem at all, other than the difficulty in being able to show their work at a gallery and believing that past artists had the same problem (this is untrue).  Following Harold Bloom, most of what we are told about art and artists is wrong or misunderstood – a misreading of the material from the past under a contemporary “lens”.  Let us begin to fix this misunderstanding with defining what exactly “expression” in the arts means:

Definition: Expression does not refer to “self-expression,” but is the act of making art itself; the act, not the resulting image.

Definition: Self-Expression is therapy and is not art.

Jeffrey Jones (Copyrighted for Education only)

I always refer back to a discussion between Jeffrey Jones, George Pratt, and David Spurlock.  For those unfamiliar, these men art contemporary illustrators of fantasy, sci-fi, and comic books, but they were both exceedingly well-trained artists from academies, universities, and the study of the old masters.  The following is an excerpt from Jeffrey Jones Sketchbook, compiled by Jeffrey Jones and George Pratt, Vanguard Publishing, 2000.  ISBN 1887591109.

[snip]

J:…This is one pet peeve I have with art – I never get time to talk about it.  It’s about self-expression being called art.  I think the worst – I’ll call it art for the sake of communication – the worst possible kind of art is that art that comes from self-expression.  The second worst is symbolism, but we’ll get to that later.  The worst is self-expression.

Art is all about communication.  It’s about what we have in common, not our differences.  The more different I am than the rest of the people, the less interested they are in what I have to say.  The more I can show them how we, as human beings, all see something, feel about something, experience something, the more valid it is as a piece of art…

…As an artist, it’s our job to somehow put this down and communicate it so people can look at it and say, “Thank God I’m not the only one!” That’s what makes art noble.  It includes people into places they’ve never been included before.  This is not a conscious thing at all – you just know it.  If you look at art and you feel good, it’s because you feel a part of something, not because you feel excluded.

P: You’re talking their language.

J: Exactly. And that’s why I hate people calling art “self-expression.”

P: It’s masturbation.

J: It is.  It’s self-abuse.  You’re sitting there talking to yourself.  It’s fine, it’s therapy – it’s not art.

S: Can you make an example of a well-known piece that’s self-expression?

J: If more than two people can relate to it, then it’s not self-expression.  By it’s very nature, it wouldn’t even be out there.  Woody Guthrie said it very simply, “All I do is tell people what they already know.” And that’s what artists do: they tell people what they already know.  That’s why self-expression is therapy and not art.

[snip]

I’ve always enjoyed this conversation and think to it frequently.  The best thing a student of the arts can do for him or herself is to learn:

1) how to draw.

2) how to use color, beginning with browns and earthtones.

3) how to draw anatomy of people

4) how to draw landscapes

5) how to use the technical materials of illustrators and painters

6) how to keep the therapy in the sketchbooks, which are later burned, and not sold online as “painting-a-day” bullshittery.

This will take time, and delightfully, these are craft skills, meaning that everyone, everyone, can learn them.

=========

Let’s return briefly to what expression means.  Expression in art is how one wishes to communicate.  I express a communication through paint or ink, sometimes comedy, for example.  The word “expression” is the best word that the current art world has for the act of making art.  The English language has a number of deficits due to our need to restrict the evolution of the language.  The art world, for English-speakers has always suffered due to our lack of emotive words and efficiency of though.  There is a connotation with the word “expression” though, that suggests that an expressed artwork is something thrown up publically for approval.  A serious artist should already know what the public ought to think about the work before any work is displayed.  When I hear the lay public refer to an art work as expression, it is very clear that they understand the word as self-expression with that mode of public shock or approval intrinsically attached to it.  But somehow, somewhere, at some time, art shifted towards appeasing a public eye, rather than communicating and dialogging with it.  Now, artists must shock or entertain, paint celebrities, paint pain, paint ugly, paint horror – in order to keep a mis-informed public interested enough to go into the galleries.  I hypothesize that if galleries accepted academy paintings again, we might see a slow reversal of public interest and hopefully, over time, a general increase in sales and profits for all, both in money and in beauty.

I urge you, new artist, not to bend to the whim of peer pressure, not to give up on developing your skills as an artist (it may take 20 years!), not to feel the need to masturbate your personal therapy at us and inundate the world with your quickly-decaying spunk, but to be patient, learn, listen, and experience the world in such a way that you can, one day, communicate back more universal experiences to us all.

Unintentional Plebeian Insults and “Free Time”

Posted in Anthropology, Art, Artists, Criticism, Games (other), Leisure, Pop-culture, Social Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 3 March, 2010 by endlessslug

The other day, a friend of mine asked me, rather innocently, “[Endless Slug], what do you do with all of your free time?”  This person believed, incorrectly, that the Slug does jack shit all day and lays around thinking the world owes him a favor – at least that’s how I began to interpret such questions from the plebeians a while back.  The question itself was immediately insulting and then was further hurtful when I discovered that my friend actually had a job lined up but he wouldn’t be starting the job for another couple months.  So until that time, he had nothing to do.  Well, Boo-Fucking-Hoo.  I did not and do not take the question as some sort of direct insult, as I said I believe it was very innocent a question, I don’t think he even expected an answer.  Many people are unaware of what the reactions of a person might be and responsible parties such as myself whom have dealt with questions like this many times before “roll with it” and move on.  I, and many like me, are the abnormal population and we deal accordingly – or flip out if the abnormal is also an asshole.  In other words, there’s no reason for an unemployed artist to be a dick to the stupid, it just makes them hurt and angry when they realize they’re stupid.

This event got me to thinking a little – resulting in this post you are reading.  What does the Slug do? How do people interpret the behavior and actions of the Slug? Why can’t the Slug seem to find a job anywhere? What’s wrong with the Slug?  In an attempt, then, to diffuse some misconceptions, I’ll tell you what the Slug does from day to day.  But first, we must make some distinctions:

Definition of “Free Time”

I’ve had to re-check my data about how people actually understand the concept of “free time”.  I believe now that the plebeians understand the concept as: Time out of [my] life which I freely give to pursuits which offer no return on investment. Optionally, it may also mean more simply: unprofitable frivolousness.  “Frivolousness” meaning inherently and intrinsic to the capitalistic understanding of “unprofitable” creating an automatic tautology within the phrase itself. Thus, one cannot exist without the other.  Frivolous = waste of time only because there is no profit.  If there were profit, this behavior becomes cognitively elevated to something like “competitive leisure activities we can discuss at work and are socially acceptable”.  For example, playing Halo 3 is not frivolous, nor a waste of time, while making a pastel drawing is.  Now when [you] one reads what I just wrote, you’ll think about it and probable argue automatically.  Probably because you’ve never thought about it before.  So I ask readers to not simply attack based on your personal experience but take what I said and see if it holds in terms of how people use the concept of free time and leisure in their daily activities and cognition.  What does it mean to a larger audience?  Then we come one step closer to understanding science, and therefore understanding the role of the artist.

“Free Time” as defined and understood by me is simply: Time when I have no worries and may rest.

“Hobby” Vs. “Professional Research and Development”

The general public has a very loose definition of the arts.  Even many contemporary artists, especially those in the postmodern currents, have this same “loose” sort of view.  Artists in all fields struggle daily with the public assaulting them with ignorant Protestant-Ethic/Capitalistic views on the arts, namely that the arts are nothing more than a hobby unless you’re a ‘genius’ or ‘lucky’.  In my experience, there is no such thing as a genius, all the masters were well-trained in what they were doing, not accidents or supernatural anomalies.  A hobby, as defined by the general public would be a purely self-interested, impractical endeavor resulting in no returns on investment, except personal fulfillment. We can’t blame the public for those views – most artists they probably know are fairly impractical and often broke.  I’ve been the direct subject of ridicule countless times as someone who seemingly ‘does nothing’ or ‘does impractical things’.  But people judge on surfaces.  What artists do, however, is not a hobby but professional research and development. We seek to better our understanding of the arts, the economy, history, politics, knowledge, the sciences, other cultures, and ourselves through our work with our mediums.   Artists are scientists.  We observe, develop hypotheses, and produce our art which acts as a living hypothesis which is tested with each reader, viewer, or participant.  Art is a lifetime commitment and an undertaking which cannot be stopped once it has begun.  Artists never stop thinking.  I spend countless hours thinking, stressing, going through scenarios of what to produce, what to communicate with another person – and we need experiences.  When you, Mr. General Public,  see an artist out at a bar, a pub, a restaurant, at a dance, or play, or just walking around the mall, they are not being lazy; we are researching, observing, thinking – constantly.  Or, at least we should be.  I have no respect for the ‘painting a day’ artists, for example.  These people are a waste of life, doing little but pissing out hobby-art directly for profit.  Sure, sometimes a day-painter has an eye and can make some nice stuff for a Midwest-suburban kitchen, but so what? An anomaly ultimately with no function but to fill a trash heap when the owners move.  I spent almost a decade as a Social Scientist in Anthropology and learned that anthropologists are often treated the same – as if they do nothing but eat, travel, and talk at the public about ‘things no one cares about,’ while sociologists and psychologists take jobs which should very rightfully be attributed to anthropologists only because the public has no idea what anthropologists do.  It’s a shame and an embarrassment to human knowledge.  The idea that literature specialists get the myth-analysis jobs is also in that same category of ridiculous.  Definitions are pointless without observations of meaning, behavior, and function.  There is a pattern.  It is not God, idiots.

The aggressive ignorance of the non-artist world is compounded by artists themselves; namely, those artists comprising post-modern contemporary art, music, dance, and literature.  The rise of the middle class has saturated the fine art world with shit, leading many amateurs and folks without advisement to think that this mess of individualistic art is the ‘right’ way to ‘do’ art, namely, ‘anyway you want – you can do anything, no one can critique you because it’s yours’.  And so on.  What a load of elephant steamer.  To be an artist of any sort requires an intense public responsibility.  We cannot make art which is only for artists – although many people will make a few works in this realm; we do it to learn not to do it too often.  We must make art which communicates complex experiences to a public which will also experience the same things but have no ability to express or exchange the emotional complexity of such experiences.  This is what making fine art is all about.  On top of that, the work should be aesthetically fit to the message; i.e., it should be beautiful, relative to what is being said.

With that aside, here is a typical day in the life of the Endless Slug:

1 )  Wake up terrified due to nightmares about money and police, often because my roommates make early breakfasts and bang stuff on the counters below my bed which in my dream sound like people banging on my door.

2 ) Check email.  Each day, I receive 1-6 job rejections, 20-40 spam emails (many with false job opportunities for work-at-home or cash-collections scams), 1-3 career-builder style job lists full of jobs I’m either not qualified or over-qualified for, and my daily horoscope.

3 ) Check hits on my business websites and see if anyone bought anything.  After 11 months ‘live’, I haven’t sold a thing.

4 ) Deal with creditor calls.  Since I have no money, I stopped paying my credit cards.  I’ve dealt with it before, but seriously – Why bother calling me 10 times a day, per card, when it is clear that if I haven’t had a job in a year that constantly asking for money will result in nothing.  I will call you, people, when I decide to send a payment.

5 ) Check out the career-site jobs and apply to 1-10 jobs (I do a minimum of 5 every morning, since June)

6 ) Then I play some Facebook games.  Even this act is not just frivolous.  Part of my ongoing research is on leisure and game play so when I play, I analyze and track how shittily these people actually make these games.  They’re all very limiting.  I wish someone would hire me as a game consultant.  Seriously, I’ll make ya rich.

7) Then I decide whether I will work on a painting or work on a book project for the new business.

7a ) If painting, I have to check my lighting, materials, ideas, and whether or not anyone is cooking.  The cooking smells are so terrible up here I cannot work if anyone cooks, even myself.  It’s not that any of the food is bad, but for whatever reason, the scents collect into a terrible gas cloud upstairs that does not seem to vent.  I have a very sensitive sense of smell so it generally cripples me for a couple hours every day, whenever anyone cooks.

7b ) If a book, not much is required other than motivation.  If there were too many creditors or I had to discuss finances with family, the motivation to create is basically toast.

7c ) If I cannot work, I read and think.  Currently I am reading: poetry from Byron and Shelley, Romances of Chretian de Troyes (untranslated), Interviews with Francis Bacon (the painter), once a week I read a single short story from Guy de Maupassant, Dying Earth by Jack Vance (research), the Lais of Marie de France, the 1st edition AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide, books on setting up corporations and copyright laws, and methods of Maxfield Parrish.

8 ) around 6pm, I get some food and watch Attack of the Show.

9 ) Depending on the day, I might have a show to watch in prime time, it’s rare.

10 ) I work through AOTS and all shows, and continue to work until around 2-4am.

11) Around midnight, I get more food, usually something light.

12) I then make a decision of whether or not to stay at my place to go to the girlfriend’s place, or have her come by.  If I see the girlfriend, my production goes down to about 10% although her input on what I’m doing is valuable and important since I have few peer critics at the moment and I must always be careful – all artists must always be careful – that what they’re/I am producing is clear and understandable to the public and peers alike.  The g/f thus serves as a powerful grounding device. I urge everyone to get one or more.

<Optional Nights> Other nights are more social.  Two to three nights a week, I fence or teach fencing at the local University.  I usually go back to work after I come home.  One night a week, I run an AD&D game which I’ve done every Wednesday since 1995.  Even playing this game, as my players will undoubtedly support, I research, test, develop, and work, trying to make the game better and better – constant refinement.  To my players, the game is a hobby, to me it’s a professional work as well as continuation of oral tradition – it has meaning beyond simple personal fulfillment.   One night a week, I have a Tacos and Buffy night.  During this, I still analyze and lecture to my poor friends about theme, character, plot, story, myth, legend, tricksters, what have you.. and then go pass out, hopefully with a fit girl and a Cabernet by my side.

And that’s my day.  There is no free time.  I’m not even sure what free time even is for me.  I do many things, most professionally for a time.  I was a musician, a drafter, a roofer, a produce guy, a warehouseman, a demolition man, a painter -both fine and houses, a film critic, an illustrator, a publisher, a writer, a college teacher, a world-traveler, a critical reader (is there any other type?), a restaurant manager, a cultural anthropologist, a researcher of language and culture and space, and according to my Indonesian friends, a lover.  I learn things every day and can never learn too much or enough.  I spend all of my time trying to learn everything I can – not necessarily to be ‘better’ than anyone, even myself, but to know and to improve everyone else.  I don’t do this for me, I do it for you.  I like compiling data and figuring things out.  If anyone’s seen me teach, you’ll see what the result is.  I’ve actually been told that to attempt to improve those around me is an act of pretentiousness or arrogance.  Seriously?  When you force it upon somebody with a claim that you are somehow, without error, correct – yes this is pretentious and arrogant.  I, as well as most artists, want to interact with you though, we want you to give us some data. We are proposing hypotheses, not theories, and always a hypothesis backed up with much empirical data.  We hope to develop theory through experimentation which we can only do through human interaction and interaction with our work – so give it to us.  To make work which works for only a select group of people is limited and also pointless other than for learning experiences.  The best art in the world is functional for everyone within a cultural and era limitation, if not now, than later with age and experience.  We all read Hemingway in high school, but few ‘get it’ until they’re 24, 35, and 40 years old.  Go read it again.  See what’s changed.  I don’t expect my friends in Romania to understand Hemingway, however – at least in the same way.  With the arts, we must always think diachronically and culturally.  This means, from geographical culture to culture and over time.  Good fine art changes over time with you, it is not necessarily easily understood, it takes time, experience, and life to ‘get it’ sometimes.

So.  No, I don’t work in the traditional Americana sense.  It’s not that I don’t want to – I search for jobs every day, from McDonalds to the FBI, but nothing has come through, nothing has worked out.  I make no income, I owe lots of money, I have little to give back to anyone except a small game I run weekly and some nice art people are downloading for free.  But don’t ever think that I have any free time, or that any artist does.  I wish my mind could have free time, to not be stressed, to relax, to play a video game once in a while (I don’t even/can’t even do that), or to just generally enjoy any given minute of my day.  Instead, my brain is on constant overdrive.  From the moment I wake up until late at night when I cannot sleep, the brain doesn’t stop stressing, criticizing, wondering, worrying, thinking.   As I thought about writing this entry, I asked myself that same question which started all of this – Slug, what do you do with your free time?  My honest answer: I hope.  But unlike the American Spirit’s way of thinking, in my experience, when there is no free time, there is no hope.

Personally, I’ve always thought everyone else but me had immense free time and money, both of which they wasted.  I still think this.  I see people every day wasting money on pointless pursuits of personal fulfillment which accomplishes nothing except get you people to the next day.  This is partly why I get so insulted when someone accuses me of being, well, a slug.  It’s the people with the least money who could use it the most.  I give back, if allowed to.  This concept of hard work = financial success, is a complete lie.  Although, due to my cultural training, I struggle every day with thoughts such as, “today will be the day when all my work pays off…”  But I know it will not, and will never be.  Many of my friends and acquaintances repeat the mantra of “something will turn up…”  Well, friends, I’ve been looking for a professional job, every day, since May of 2000.  I was able to land a job teaching at a Community College, but damnit if that wasn’t a huge scam.  I’ve rarely seen a business rape it’s employees as much as that place.  And it does not help that every day I’d have to drive an hour to teach 70+ students about my chosen career that they care nothing about and will go off knowing nothing and getting way better jobs than I.  To Hell with that abuse and trauma.  Interestingly, I do have an open invite to return to teaching whenever I like – apparently I was one of their best instructors.  Sure, I cared about the institution, my field, and the students.  My bad.  I didn’t know I was supposed to not give a shit and just collect a paycheck before returning to my Wal-Mart day-job.  I quit that place – partly due to the above reasons, partly due to that I was supposed to have a new job but that fell through, very badly.  Some might say I just “play the game” poorly, but I feel like I was never invited to play at all.

Finally, if I didn’t offend enough yet:

Fuck Haiti, fuck Chile, fuck little poor kids somewhere in the so-called 3rd world that you don’t know, donate to the one you do know: The Endless Slug. Click here to send me some money so I can live. If you can’t donate, do me a favor and fail at something important today.

-The Endless Slug

Another Bags Sighting!

Posted in Pop-culture, Social Science with tags , , , , , , , , on 27 February, 2010 by endlessslug

For those of you following this ridiculousness, I posted about a “Bags” arcade game a few months ago and the post drew a number of emails of sightings of these things across the country.  I just found yet another machine while picking up some lasagna from the local Pizza Hut.  This brings the number of Bags machines within 5 miles of me to 5.  Yes, five.  I would love to see the sort of revenue these things actually pull in.

Shallow Experiences and Imagined Communities

Posted in Anthropology, Art, Criticism, Pop-culture, Social Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 5 January, 2010 by endlessslug

How do we define the difference between rich or deep experiences and those experiences which have little to no direct impact on our lives?  Secondly, how do we make another understand that there is, in fact,  a distinct difference?  And further, how do we explain that these richer, fuller experiences do not have to have anything to do with religion although people often immediately point at some sort of spiritual or religious explanation when having a meaningful relaitonship with an experience.

These are some thoughts which keep me sleepless sometimes.

It occurred to me one day that these new generations of people are very ignorant with no change in behavior in sight.  We are constructing a culture of pure ‘stupid’ in the full definition of that word – I do not mean it as a slight but as an observation.  I consider myself rather stupid when it comes to using Adobe Illustrator, for instance.  But the difference between me and the rest of the society I seem to find myself in, is that I strive to improve on that stupidity, at least when I am aware of it.  And thus, my epiphany: When unaware, the public continues as if there are no problems in the world at all – which relatively, there are not.  We cannot argue.  The cell-phone and text-message phase of human evolution is a dangerous step towards extinction.  I don’t mean extinction of the species, but of something else: extensively shared meaning.

Sit in a Wal-Mart sometime and watch the teens walk around with their cells.  Try not to be creepy, please.  You’ll observe that the act of being with friends at the store, the act of being at the store at all, and the act of meeting people is far outweighed with the personal interest involved in the text messages which will erupt on their phones every few seconds.  This is because there is a much more intensively personal imagined community occurring in their minds (cf Benedict Andersen).  Why would anyone pay attention to the world they are currently walking around in when much more important things are happening between the space constructed mentally between texts – the text-web, as I sometimes call it.  So many experiences of life are being completely ignored – so many social skills are going unlearned, undeveloped, as people Twitter, ironically, about what they are currently doing, sometimes so quickly that the Twit is posted before the action even occurs.

One might argue that with new technologies and innovations, new behaviors and identities will form.  Sure, I cannot disagree.  I also text message, use Facebook, obviously blog, and have occasional public conversations on my cellphone.  But with the use of these handy tools, I understand a certain context for them.  I have had life experiences which did not include these things.  I have had many experiences which were deep to the core of my character and have developed me in much more rich and powerful ways than I expect any of these kids on celly’s will ever in their lives – and I am sad for them.

-To a point.  Instead, I look elsewhere, for others like me.  I thought I could find them in the art world, where they used to be, but the art world now is ridiculously involved with itself and its little shallow messages to itself.  Fine art today is like a sad kid who sends himself text messages in a language he does not understand, but up high so all can see.  Bravo.

Moral: Get off your damn phone and talk to a human you don’t yet know.  Then, get their number.  You are not anywhere near as important as the act of direct interaction between people is.

The Depths of Douchebaggery

Posted in Pop-culture, Social Science, Video Games with tags , , , , , , , on 15 December, 2009 by endlessslug

Check this out folks:

The Bags Arcade Experience

The Bags Arcade Experience

Do you see what I see?  Look again; look three times!

I was in Ed Debevic’s a few weeks ago and stumbled upon this disgrace of humanity: A stand-up arcade machine simulating the game of bags.  I use the word “game” loosely.  In an age where classic arcades are dusting away into nothingness, I was shocked to find a new machine, then punched in the face with this new machine’s subject matter.

For those of you unfamiliar with “bags”, the game is a college-town phenomena whereby you throw bean bags into holes.  We’ve all played this game at family gatherings at one time or another, and it’s surely safer than lawn jarts, but the college fratties a few years ago side-armed this game for their own drunken devices.   In the college town I live in, you could not drive a block without seeing a great sea of bags boards and douchebags standing outside with beers, acting older than they were, girls nowhere in sight (except those fugly ones that can’t help but hang out with boys n’ beer), and trying very hard to be “the best” bags game on the block.  The game was sort of designed as a means to socialize – something to do when you are drinking with friends.  It sounds somewhat like a fine idea as some sort of activity instead of just standing around, but in practice (thank you anthropology), socialization rarely happens except with good friends.  Instead, you find that classic suburban subtle conspicuous consumption.  You can actually show off your friends to the neighbors and your social prowess, thus intrinsic sexuality, by simply grilling some burgers, drinking beers, and standing on either sides of the sidewalk throwing bags.

Of course, no phenomenon goes untouched in capitalist world right?  The next year, local folks’ yards were covered in locally constructed bags boards and bags as a means to make a few bucks from the incoming second-rungers who needed quick bags boards before anyone else.  I have no idea how economically beneficial this act was.  I can only assume it did not work out as planned as we rarely see any of these yard sales anymore.  But then again, these folks who tried to make and sell the boards were just hopping on a fad – a really poorly thought out and ultimately shallow fad.  Besides, they missed the point: you were supposed to make your own boards.  Making a bags board is an easy thing – any amateur idiot with a hammer and five-minutes to spend at lowes can build a set.

So we come now back to the arcade machine.

I scream this: What the shit?.  Seriously? No, no, SERIOUSLY?  What undergrad with a business degree and a friend in computer science came up with this disaster?  I can’t believe this thing actually makes any money at all except from really young kids who don’t know any better or by sheer novelty.  Is this one of those “it’s so bad, I just have to play it once…” sort of games?  Needless to say, I did not play it.  I actually couldn’t even stand in front of it for more than about 20 seconds.  I had to send a friend of mine back in with my cellphone to take a quick pic of it since I couldn’t even look at it again.  I should point out that the machine looks like a modified Golden Tee game, which it probably is.

But have we come to this?  Here is my analysis of what this machine means:

1. We have now decided to video-game every aspect of reality.  I just used “video-game” as a transitive verb and I don’t know if that is cool or not.

2. We have run out of so many ideas that now even the simplest games in the history of the world need to be created just to keep game designers in business, mostly from novelty games like this one.  It’s a downward spiral – we play games, want new ones, but are so distracted by our current games that we are not getting the life experience necessary to construct a reason to make new games, thus down we go making games based on this limited perspective to be even more limited, furthering the limitations set by the original anti-precedent…. and so on.

3.  Douchebags are flourishing.  This “nerds are cool” phase in contemporary US society must end soon.  I believe that when we legitimize nerd-dom, the folks who are usually maintaining the social power in social circles cannot maintain their hold without a slight ‘give’ of credibility in nerdiness.  Essentially, in order to be socially superior or even equal, I must confess to some sort of secret geek thing I do, thus again setting that anti-precedent to damage that status-quo.  The more it gets damaged, the more we’ll keep seeing douchebags appear.  Guys, girls, get on up!

4. People still take the easy way out.  This was the best idea for an arcade game you had? Seriously?  Why not tag? Jarts? Horseshoes? Yo Gabba Gabba scream-singing? Putting your clothes on in the morning? Standing? Channel-surfing?  Staring Contest? Even Facebook games have more of a challenge than Bags.

Well anyway, this post was a bit ranty.  But I had to share this with someone.

========= UPDATE!=========

Dateline 12/31/09

I have received numerous emails from folks – some I know, some I don’t – informing me of other sightings of these horrendous machines all across the United States!  Happiness overtakes me with a knowledge that my eyes and mind are not alone in worrying about the state of the contemporary world, be it in art or otherwise.  People have been sending me images of these “games” as well.  I thought I would share one…

Bags at Fattys

This photo is of a bags machine at a bar.  Thanks to Hepcat for sending me the pic.  I enjoy waking up to pain when I check my email.

-slug

A Note on New Legos

Posted in Art, Toys with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 10 November, 2009 by endlessslug

I thought a small rant about Legos would be perfectly in order for a blog about the state of fine art today.  Legos are not necessarily a very refined art, but Legos are a hell of a lot of fun to play with when not in the studio.

Construction Legos

I was watching Nickelodeon today when a commercial for the new(ish) construction Lego sets came on.  I’ve seen this commercial a few times before but today the commercial struck me as odd so I paid a little closer attention.  Why would Lego make construction Legos?  The toy is a construction-based toy.  They’re just advertising in a literal fashion, what the toy is for.  This seems redundant and really can’t be selling well.  Let’s say you are a kid with tons of legos sitting around – are you going to purposefully NOT finish a few sets in order to create a construction theme scene?  Construction sets seem to communicate a message of “please, only half-play with me”.   Now, I am mostly criticizing the idea of creating construction zones in your playset.  The trucks themselves (cranes, bulldozers, steam-rollers, etc.) are all just fine to have around.  Countless hours can be lost running your little protagonists after your villainous antagonists through construction sites, so in this respect, these toys are just fine.  But we really don’t need half-built buildings.  We have many other sets we can just leave unfinished instead, and with better parts.  So, Lego, lets rid ourselves of the buildings and just sell the trucks.

“Modular Design Sets”

Legos, until the early 2000’s were lots of fun to build.  Buy a set, dump the pieces into a huge box (usually provided), and then spend hours sifting loudly through hundreds of little plastic pieces as your little construction grows from chaos into form.  It was always a pleasure to see how the Lego designers would come up with new ways in which to use old parts and how they would solve construction problems.  Less is more.  Unfortunately, through the 90’s, Lego began introducing many pieces which were form fitted for specific purposes.  How they are able to afford so many specialized pieces is beyond me.  Due to the special purposes, many of these pieces are functional for nothing else, ultimately limiting your creativity with them.  Also, over the last ten years, Lego has shifted to this Modular Design idea.  The MD idea is that you build a model in smaller parts and then assemble all the smaller parts into a larger set at the end.  Not only does MD kill creativity, but it also makes the models much less stable, less thought out, less enjoyable to build, and less fun to play with.  I note specifically the Y-Wing for the Star Wars sets – the Ultimate Collector’s version.  In this model, you build the cockpit, fuselage, and engines all separately and then snap it all together.  It was only minimally interesting to build,  but the final model was very unstable.  I had it on display for a couple months in my old apartment and every day, someone would knock the table and the whole thing would collapse.  Over time, the side engine pods weighed down so much that they noticeably sagged and could easily become detached.  A $150 building toy/model should not fall apart constantly and generally look like shit on display.  The same could be said of the Tantive IV.  The UC Tantive’s engines were barely connected.  It was just ridiculous.  Whoever designed that should be fired out right.  Finally, the Star Destroyer UC was hollow.  It’s plates were connected by magnets!  This is a damned Lego set people, I paid for LEGOS not for magnets connecting a lego false front.  Of course, I wouldn’t expect the thing to be solid plastic, that’s also nutty, but seriously… this was the best design?

New Town Models

In positive news, Lego has been putting out these new town-based sets for the past few years.  These include the Green Grocer, Market Square, and Cafe Corner as well as a few other new ones and similarly themed sets.  These sets are all really well designed except for the lower floors of some of them which are only half-built.  By half-built, the floor is a split-level which would normally go below the street level, but since Lego hasn’t come out with their sewer sets yet, the floor only appears as if it goes below the street from the windows but is actually cut-off at the street level like any other model.  While it doesn’t matter too much, you are making toys folks, not purely models.  Or at least come up with some sort of noticeable differentiation.  The modular design of these models works generally well, but again there’s something “missing” from building the sets.  I think it’s the fun value.  Still – awesome sets and I hope to see many more.

Numbered Bags

What the hell?  New Lego sets come with bags with numbers on them.  The numbers indicate the order by which the Legos inside are to be built.  I don’t remember being 8-12 years old, but I seem to recall that I never had a problem with this before.  In fact, I’ve seen new kids actually use the numbered bags and do everything by the book because they don’t know any different and choose to follow the directions instead of the chaotic method.  Again, something is lost here.  It seems geared toward quick construction as opposed to working out problems, finding the correct pieces, shape differentials, and time management.  Knock it off Lego!  Let them make a huge mess!