Sunday, January 17, 2016

Bowie

Wrote my initial thoughts about Bowie's passing over on my Medium. There's a lot more I could have said, but I'll leave it with this.

In other news, thinking about migrating to a different platform for this site.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Tales From When I Had A Face Introduction



Just got the introduction online, with some of the in-progress concept art. Enjoy.

We're shooting to have a near finished version of issue 1 (of 4) done by the end of 2016. Interested publishers or parties, feel free to get in touch.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Tales From When I Had A Face Title Mockups



Still poking away at the inner title page for issue 4, The Spring Tree. The title fonts still remain dummy, I’m not set on that at all.

Meanwhile, still going through a full editing pass on the MS of all 4 issues, and Peter’s working on concept art. Shit’s going to take years to finish. But that’s what it is.

Collab (background 3d): Alexey Andreev
Model: Jenna Kraus

More Tales From When I Had A Face work in progress. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Do You Even irl, Bro?


Have you ever thought about how you will vanish from the world?
If you do, you might appreciate an immediate irony in that our digital simulacra are the very things we’d need to delete to disappear from the world. Being shut offline has a different significance now than it did even just 10 years ago. What does that deletion actually mean, and more importantly, what lies under the anxiety that would drive us to “delete ourselves” in the first place? If virtual deletion silences the real, can we finally say the one has subsumed the other — or more accurately, can we rather say that virtual and real has been shown as it really is, a false binary?

Read on Medium

Thursday, October 15, 2015

This Is Not A Game (Really)

I spent a lot of the mid-00s involved in various ARGs and transmedia narratives. For those that don't know, it's essentially a mix of role-playing, media production, and puzzle solving in various mixtures, using email, telephones, social media, physical objects, glorified treasure hunts, you name it. Many of these narratives involved secret organizations or societies, or governments doing nefarious things with the media. Post- MK-ULTRA, that sort of thing. "This Is Not A Game" was a phrase touted a lot in that sphere, also the title of a book by a co-conspirator (RIP).

Toward the end of my time working on ARGs, I started seeing more and more corporate buy in -- which was somewhat silly but not necessarily too offensive on its face, and really nothing new since 'I Love Bees' or 'the Art of the Heist' were interactive promotions for Halo and Audi respectively. But I also started seeing clients proposing what amounts to black hat SEO, crowdsourced by the game. For instance, if they wanted to bury a competitors Google rank, they might suggest constructing a narrative that involves certain keywords in an unrelated way. It's too complicated to explain here -- and probably not of interest -- but Google's Panda put an end to that particular strategy. But the point remains, people were getting more wise about astroturfing and constructing layered narratives, where for instance the game you thought you were playing might serve a completely unrelated function.

Fast forward 5-10 years... I've been noticing a ton of what seems like manufactured content around Russian involvement in the Syrian conflict that doesn't jive with anything else from more  (theoretically) reliable sources. Putin riding missiles of victory and single-handedly routing ISIS, etc. And they are being churned around social media in these odd patterns, before entering my view by frankly na├»ve Americans -- no offense you guys -- so I was backtracking them, and happened on a thread discussing this very thing. And this:

The Agency (it's worth the read)

So I read this shit and I have to check my head to make sure I'm not wearing an aluminum foil hat. But yeah. This connects some dots.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Glorious Revolutions:

READ: The Whole Series To Present In It's "Glory" (reverse order) 


All free on Rebel News, consider joining our Patreon so we can continue to produce independent news, editorials, and activist reporting. 




I still remember when the Wall fell. November 9, 1989. If you were alive, you remember.

A newscaster on the television, his image warped and tattered by static around the edges, was talking about the end of nuclear threat. It was a revolution of culture, some said. Then President Reagan appeared, and took credit for the fall of Communism.

Revolutions leave an indelible stamp on those lived through them. But how did a falling wall end the Cold War, let alone stanch the tide of violent revolution? This is the kind of rhetoric we are fed. We’re given the pieces to this puzzle, but never told what image they’re supposed to make.

If it wasn’t already painfully obvious in 1986, it certainly is now. No one should have thought that violent uprising was a thing of the past. The legacy of globalization has generally been more revolutions, not fewer. It’s as if, with every generation, we forget the lessons learned by those that came before. This “nightmare of history,” to refer to Joyce’s famous quote, calls to mind several essential questions. Are revolutionaries incapable of hearing the ghosts of the past? Is this forgetting itself the nature of revolutions? Finally, how can we keep others from using our own hopes and ideas against us? These questions are hard to answer, and any analysis is likely to sound irrelevant to those that have lived through the mute horror of violent conflict.

Still, we must wrestle with this legacy if we are to have any hope of freeing ourselves from it. The cycle of loss and vengeance itself is a crucible for revolutionary ideology.


Read The Series

Friday, October 9, 2015

Cultural Cartography

From Rebel News

We’re suckers for simplistic, captivating pictures, mostly because we don’t even realize that we’re being sold a “frame”; we think we’re just seeing “the way things are,” when, in fact, we are buying into a paradigm. That’s why, all too often, while trying to talk our way out of a problem we only dig deeper holes.
... Now imagine the picture holding us captive is a conceptual map that carves up the boundaries of ideas and disciplines, charting the course of intellectual history. A faulty map is the kind of captivating picture that is bound to mislead us. In that case what we’d need is a therapeutic cartography.
— "A Therapeutic Cartography," James K. A. Smith.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Symbols and Signs

Via. Rebel News





How can we decrease the commodification of these empty signifiers? We can continue to build spaces, both virtual and material, that can be utilized by people who share common goals. We can continue to evolve as people and avoid over-identification with easy to replicate symbols of identity. Our interests and digital footprint aren’t who we are. We mustn’t let the map of our identities — personal or social — become the territory. But the border skirmishes on that map are never ending.



This is far from easy. Products themselves have become secondary, as symbols have overtaken the things they symbolized. Fight Club parodied this tendency as the “Ikea nesting impulse.”

This is a challenge of modern life, but it’s hardly a singular observation. Guy Debord’sSociety of The Spectacle, now a standard text amongst neo-Marxists and counterculturists alike, deals with this matter in nearly aphoristic style,
The first phase of the domination of the economy over social life brought into the definition of all human realization the obvious degradation of being into having. The present phase of total occupation of social life by the accumulated results of the economy leads to a generalized sliding of having into appearing, from which all actual “having” must draw its immediate prestige and its ultimate function. At the same time all individual reality has become social reality directly dependent on social power and shaped by it. It is allowed to appear only to the extent that it is not.
We live in a culture where appearances count for a lot more than reality, and so it is little surprise that we may have a hard time actually making this distinction. We are what we seem. When Ludwig Feuerbach wrote the introduction to the 2nd edition of his The Essence of Christianity, he was speaking to Hegel and Marx’s world, the rapidly industrializing 19th century. But he may as well have been speaking of the present,
But certainly for the present age, which prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, fancy to reality, the appearance to the essence … illusion only is sacred, truth profane.
Symbols of success matters more than the things they represent. The symbol becomes the value, rather than the thing signified. The sports car, the expensive watch, the designer suit are all, from a utilitarian perspective, equally or even less valuable than items half their cost. Though luxury items such as these are said to cost more because of increased craftsmanship – which may well be true – the customer is still buying them because they are symbols of wealth and success. To have either of these on their own is not enough; the symbols are of greater value. We are performing wealth at one another.

Though this seems harmless enough in itself, a common indulgence of the upper class, it is the same mis-match of value (weighing the symbol over what is represented) that characterizes the ennui of our lives. Nihilist Arby’s quite simply wouldn’t make sense as a joke if we didn’t grasp this on an implicit level.

  Read Full Article for Glorious Revolutions series.  


Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Rebel Dollar

Digital painting based on street art by Trondheim. 

longform editorial over at Rebel News asks if it's actually possible to work against the Man if you are also working for him? 

Let’s talk about being a rebel.
Everyone seems to want to be one. But it’s not entirely clear what it means. Does it take camo- pants? A Che T-shirt? A guitar? Is it just doing the opposite of whatever your parents did? “Be an individual, a rebel, innovate,” so many advertisements whisper. They’d have us believe that True Revolutionaries think different. They use Apple, or drink Coke. We signal our dissent to one another with the music we listen to and the cars we drive. 
There’s something very peculiar going on here, something elusive and deeply contentious. 
In the 1997 book, Commodify Your DissentThomas Frank laid out a thesis that may appear common sense to those that have watched or lived in the commodified subcultures of the 90s, 00s, and beyond. A New York Times review comments, 
... business culture and the counterculture today are essentially one and the same thing. Corporations cleverly employ the slogans and imagery of rebellion to market their products, thereby (a) seizing a language that ever connotes “new” and “different,” two key words in marketing, and (b) coaxing the young effortlessly into the capitalist order, where they will be so content with the stylishly packaged and annually updated goods signifying nonconformity they'll never so much as consider real dissent — dissent against what Frank sees as the concentrated economic power of the “Culture Trust,” those telecommunications and entertainment giants who, he believes, “fabricate the materials with which the world thinks.” To have suffered the calculated pseudo-transgressions of Madonna or Calvin Klein, to have winced at the Nike commercial in which the Beatles' “Revolution” serves as a jingle, is to sense Frank is on to something. (After reading Frank, in fact, you'll have a hard time using words like “revolution” or “rebel” ever again, at least without quotation marks.) 
The urge to rebel fuels the same system they ostensibly oppose. Whether it’s in arms trade, or far less ominously, manners of dress and behavior, there are dollars to be made fighting “The Man.” And maybe making money isn’t always an altogether bad thing. But it is certainly a complication, especially for those espousing neo-Marxists ideals. 
As Guy Debord observed, “revolutionary theory is now the enemy of all revolutionary ideology and knows it.” Rebel movements are a counterculture, regardless of what they call themselves.

(This series will expand upon several earlier pieces I first ran on the Modern Mythology blog.)

Friday, September 4, 2015

Glorious Revolutions Part 2: Propaganda is the Editorial of the Masses

The Long March As Parable

With revolution still on our lips as we continue into the 21st century, it’s worth considering how rarely revolutions have worked in the benefit of the people on the ground.
Let’s consider an example from the previous century.  When Mao Zedong left Jiangxi province in 1934, he wasn’t yet the Chairman of legend. He was tall, thin from the life of a revolutionary, but already inspired a reverence in many of his idealistic followers. This was true, at least for a time, of his lover, He Zizhen. She bore him several children, and was forced to abandon more than one in the long march with the 1st Front Red Army to Shaanxi. They were fighting against the dynastic system on one hand, and the KMT on the other, who represented a mostly urban, classist alternative. They were fighting for the common people, and theirs was a just fight.
Or so they thought. In reality, few came out ahead after the long, soul crushing trek, aside from the figures history remembers, like Mao.
Women of the Long March, by Lily Xiao Hong Lee and Sue Wiles, paints the often bleak picture of the idealism and betrayal of these thirty individuals who, we are led to believe, are indicative of a generation. In the case of all these women, the dedication they felt toward the cause was hardened as much by material need and frustration with the status quo.
It was during this march that Mao was established as the revolution’s leader. Red Army soldiers starved, women were frequently abandoned unless they had attachments to important people, having guanxi, (connections.) Even this only went so far. He Zizhen was seduced and then quickly marginalized by Mao, but still had what was likely an atypical experience based on her relationship with the ascending leader.
Throughout their journey, which under his guidance was narrativized from a retreat into an inspiring odyssey, she had been nothing more than an occasional shadowy presence. While he became a demigod, she suffered physical and emotional devastation.
It would be reasonable to assume, for it is not recorded, that 25-year-old He Zizhen was not there to share Mao’s grand gesture toward history when he sat down at his rickety desk in Wayaobu to write a poem of celebration.
The Red Army fears not the trials of the Long March, one thousand mountains and ten thousand rivers. The Five Ridges but gentle ripples… Laughter in the thousand li of Minshan’s snows and smiling faces when the last pass is crossed.
There is always a danger in turning any individual life into parable or myth, but in a sense we can’t help it. Stories are how we understand the world. We must remain aware that narrative always conceals as well as it reveals, and often both at the same time. So the tale of He Zizhen and the other women that marched out of Southern China is nevertheless instructive, even if a totalising interpretation remains elusive. Were they, in the final reckoning, “brainwashed and suffering in silence,” after all? This is one of the challenges of coming to terms with history.

Read the Full Article

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Glorious Revolutions Part 1: Lived And Lived Again

Tear Down the Wall

I still remember when the Wall fell. November 9, 1989. If you were alive, you remember.
A newscaster on the television, his image warped and tattered by static around the edges, was talking about the end of nuclear threat. It was a revolution of culture, some said. Then President Reagan appeared, and took credit for the fall of Communism.
Revolutions leave an indelible stamp on those lived through them. But how did a falling wall end the Cold War, let alone stanch the tide of violent revolution? This is the kind of rhetoric we are fed. We’re given the pieces to this puzzle, but never told what image they’re supposed to make.
If it wasn’t already painfully obvious in 1986, it certainly is now. No one should have thought that violent uprising was a thing of the past. The legacy of globalization has generally been more revolutions, not fewer. It’s as if, with every generation, we forget the lessons learned by those that came before. This “nightmare of history,” to refer to Joyce’s famous quote, calls to mind several essential questions. Are revolutionaries incapable of hearing the ghosts of the past? Is this forgetting itself the nature of revolutions? Finally, how can we keep others from using our own hopes and ideas against us? These questions are hard to answer, and any analysis is likely to sound irrelevant to those that have lived through the mute horror of violent conflict.
Still, we must wrestle with this legacy if we are to have any hope of freeing ourselves from it. The cycle of loss and vengeance itself is a crucible for revolutionary ideology.

Read the Full Article

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Theater of Ultra-Violence


On Wednesday, a man approached a couple talking on a patio, a man and a woman. It became apparent that the two were News reporters. How they spoke, the too put-together clothes and makeup all gave it away.  We see the scene in the first person, as if we’re watching Half-life or Call of Duty. This sense is increased when the point of view pulls a guns and fires repeatedly into the bodies of three reporters.
So runs Bryce Williams’ video footage that was discovered on social media minutes after the shooting. Traumatic real world violence, performed for the camera both on live TV and social media. We discovered his account moments before CNN did, so I didn’t know what I would find when I clicked it.
When I saw it,  for a moment, I couldn’t believe it was real. This is a common reaction even in the midst of real violence — somehow the surreal cuts in. But soon I lost myself in my job as an editor — getting the story up, seeing it’s updated, pushing to social media, reacting to the reactions…
Nevertheless, this troubling sense of cognitive dissonance grew through the day. Especially as I heard all the same narratives over and again on CNN that always follow a violent tragedy. When we talk about psychology we are always talking about the killer’s motive. Were they a loner, a disgruntled worker, a jilted lover? But we never hear a dialogue about mass psychology, or about our relationship with violent media that gets past this surface level. We never talk about how we are all a part of this theater.
So, I don’t want to talk directly about what happened yesterday. Instead, I want to explore the related, larger issues in a way that never seems to get on the news. And maybe that’s because it’s too complicated, or that it doesn’t have simple answers. Those aren’t good enough. It’s a conversation we should be having.
Let’s begin not with the violent act itself but in the fall out, and how we talk to each other about traumatizing media.

Full article