Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Some Recycling

From the Why Didn't I Think Of That Dept: We here at the JoDI have realized via our bettors that we can leverage our core competencies and utilize our vertical integration to maximize the value we represent to you, the reader. To whit: I'm feeling lazy so here's some bits and pieces from some of my past posts at plastic.

The corrosive effects of pornography correspond roughly to the degree that porn is a market product, and therefore inherently conservative. "Whoa", you say, "that's a stretch: I mean, aren't conservatives, you know, all religious and shit?" If there is one thing that social conservatives in the US defend more virulently than their hypocritical embrace of that social revolutionary Jesus, it is the glory of the marketplace. To believe that pornography reflects a representative sampling of sexual mores is to believe, for example, that television is an accurate reflection of society at large. But by and large, pornography presents a jaded, banal, tawdry picture with a heavy emphasis on violence...just like tv, the biggest market there is.

The unhealthy attitudes toward sexuality in much of pornography likewise mirror the same repressions of the libido that have historically been applied in order to make compliant workers: We are sinners; to redeem ourselves we must be industrious and suppress our "baser" desires. This is the triumph of Calvinism over paganism, of abnegation over pleasure, that has been a hallmark of the church, the school, the civic group: to create the social conditions that produce wealth for the few and the social order that maintains the arrangement. But because sexuality cannot be completely repressed, it is allowed a thin diet of illicit consumption. And it just so happens that a lot of money is to be made by pandering to such malnourished and deformed desires. So the cycle continues. But it is the fruit of a conservative environment.


There will always be partisans of film, (such as myself) who find the delayed gratification and the tactile pleasures of the medium essential to the charm of the art. Film will, for the foreseeable future, continue to be manufactured, although on a much smaller scale. Those who choose to use it will come to be viewed with bemusement as curious throwbacks, much like people who now still make daguerreotypes or autochromes or bitumen prints.

The advantages of the new technology for amateurs and professionals are obvious: in-camera light-balancing, instantaneous feedback, and the elimination of the need for toxic chemicals, as well as the satisfaction of avoiding the middleman when you plug your camera directly into your printer/computer to make your prints. The immediacy of digital photographs, and the need for a darkroom which is thereby obviated, make such cameras now essential for print journalism.

But those advantages aren't as clear cut as they may seem. Printer ink costs a fucking fortune (not to mention the paper) and is just as toxic as that developer/fixer combo you just got rid of. The archival qualities of the inks are relatively untested. And the biggest concern is the transferability of formats over technological time. It's great that you've got your masterpiece saved as a TIFF file, but who's to say that computers 50 years from now will be able to easily read it? Printing from a negative is a fairly simple technical process that can be done with easily found materials. Digital technology adds several layers of complication.

But the real problems with digital photography are more philosophical. The ease with which people may immediately delete forever a picture perceived in the moment to be unworthy means that posterity may be left with only the most prosaic images. And while the formal conventions of any given time may later become interesting anthropology, one potential loss to historians is the serendipitous "bad" picture that turns out, in time, to be quite beautiful. While in library school, my wife worked on a project to catalog the photographs of Bayard Wooten in the North Carolina Collection at UNC Chapel Hill. She says that some of the most compelling photographs that she encountered in the collection were "bad ones" that were never intended for printing or publication. But because they were imparted to a semi-permanent medium, they lived to tell their tale.


I find it ironic that people consider commercial media to be "free market" and public broadcasting to be on the dole, when the funding mechanisms of public radio more accurately reflect the dynamics a true market: people paying directly for what they consume. It is commercial radio that operates under what is effectively a massive subsidy from advertisers in order that consumers may have it "free". It only costs you, the listener, your time and brain cells.


previous commenter [who, by the way, is a dick]: There is a tendency to be overly-romantic (and sickeningly nostalgic) about "Mom-and-Pops"...Maybe I can buy my nails at OSH and Mom and/or Pop can be freed up to do what they'd really want with their lives. Maybe when Mom and Pop close their little hardware store they'll open a boutique record store that just sells old jazz on vinyl...

Well, here's my non-nostalgia-tinted complaint: There is no longer a hardware store in my town other than Home Depot. At the old place, the people who worked there liked it, were vastly knowlegeable, and were probably paid a decent wage. The profits of the store stayed in the local economy. They were conveniently in town and when I was done with my errand I could go to the sandwich shop across the street and shoot the shit. Now when I need some hardware, I have to drive to Outer Light Industrial Wasteland and deal with overworked, sullen and not very helpful drones who, if not "on break", are nearly impossible to locate and more often than not don't know the answer to my question anyway. They aren't paid decently and the store's profits go straight to Corporate Headquarters in Faraway State.

And just maybe Mom and Pop really loved running that hardware store. Maybe it was their contribution to a sense of community that, while priceless, is still tangible in its continuing erosion.


The reason that mainstream Christian rock culture doesn't even acknowledge Danielson is the same reason "secular" music that sounds like theirs gets the leper treatment from corporate media: it just doesn't fit the format.

Danielson's music is compelling to me, a flaming atheist, because it is original and interesting and deeply felt. I love the Louvin Brothers for the same reasons, even when they are singing about sin and damnation, because their convictions suffuse their music with such passion and originality. "Christian Rock" bands, on the other hand, are shite because they are primarily market products, no matter how sincere their convictions

Interesting music is made from contradictory impulses. Ira Louvin was a gospel singer who was also a philandering drunk, and I suspect it was largely because of the tensions between his faith and his nature that he made such searing art. And let's not forget some other "secular" rock songs about Jesus that are far more compelling than any of the goateed jerkoffs singing about Jesus the brand. To name a few: "Jesus Christ" (Big Star); "I Just Want To See His Face" (Rolling Stones); "Jesus" (Velvet Underground); and, of course, "Jesus Is Just Alright" (the Byrds).

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Rolling For Dollars

Perhaps I'll share with you later the story of how today I unwittingly tracked dogshit throughout the very elegant, expensive, and art-filled house of a museum patron while doing a location shoot of some of his glass pieces, but right now I need to say something about this abomination.

I don't know where to begin. We've all seen "mobile advertising", those trucks that just drive around for no reason but to circulate a fucking billboard in a purely ingenious American combination of waste and effrontery. But my friends at MAP have really pushed the envelope. With their Tri-action™ signs--wherein the front, side and rear panels of the truck are comprised of triangular slats that rotate distractingly every few seconds to reveal a different advert--they've added 'significant traffic hazard' to the mix.

The thing is, to most people, this probably seems like a stand-up, clever enterprise. Really shows some get up and go. I mean, people spend more and more time in their cars, right? Why not take advantage of that and take the message to the people. An honest dollar, right? And really, in a landscape that is as generally degraded and toxic as ours, what's one more vessel in the shitstream?

RADIO UPDATE: I'll be on the air again this Saturday, from 6-8pm EST, playing music for the demographically insignificant, if you care to listen or collaborate.

Monday, March 07, 2005


What I find most notable about the Giuliana Sgrena episode is not the singularity of the circumstances (this certainly hasn't been the first innocent victim of trigger-happy US checkpoint troops), nor the claims by Sgrena that she had been targetted for reprisal because of the US opposition to the practice of negotiating with kidnappers in Iraq, but this: that the Italian government (led by the pro-business, friend-of-GW conservative media mogul Berlusconi) worked valiantly to secure the release of a national who was a journalist for a communist newspaper.

Why do I find this notable? Can you picture GW sending the Secret Service to rescue Katie Couric, let alone Amy Goodman (for want of an example of an actual US communist), from kidnappers abroad?