Crit

Examination, analysis, appreciation.

World’s Greatest Carl Sagan Quote

2011.06.30
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“SOMEWHERE SOMETHING INCREDIBLE IS WAITING to be known.”

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Oh, How I Miss John Lennon

2011.06.26
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IT’S GOOD TO JUDGE FAVORABLY, if one bothers to judge at all, and yet I sometimes feel that if I see one more pair of hipster horn-rims, I’m going to scream so loud they’ll hear me on Mars.

Perhaps I’m judging too harshly — it may well be simply a postmodern alien ovipositor. Either way, I hope it’s not terminal. Or any more contagious than it apparently is.

Since The Metaphorager exists where time is fluid and frames are a matter of perspective in addition to holding one’s eyeball extenders, I should note that one of my ancient colleagues (will) comment(s)(ed) about the functionality issue — that they are “comfortable on my face and built like a tank so I can’t very easily destroy them.” Functionality makes great points with me, and to be fair my friend is not the sort of self-serious nerd I’m writing about, or in the case of this post, occasionally am.

No, what I’m talking about is the same compulsive nonconformity which had all us liberal-arts majors wearing John Lennon frames in the 1970s (hell, I still do) — it’s the style of the thing that I wonder about (why this? why now?), not the thing itself. Horn-rim glasses have become a sort of deconstructionist face-bullhorn, not unlike a Dobbshead or a Monty Python lyric or any other of the ten thousand signs of instant nerd recognition. In that, they’re useful — but in their prolificity they have also become something of a visual cliche.

To be honest, there are more important things in the world to bother about than other people’s choice of eyewear. (I could get back to talking about religious visions or writing, for example.) But if nothing else, I hope I’ve happily answered for some lonely soul the burning question, “Is it just me?”

(On the other hand, they look great on women. But then so does everything.)

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And Now, A “Word To Bring Back”

2011.06.20
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PERFORCE.

- Definition:1 (obsolete) by physical coercion 2 by force of circumstances.”
- Used in a sentence: “As the VCR is currently recording Deep Space Nine, we must perforce view Firefly on DVD.”
- Why: Because sometimes, “really really really” just won’t do.

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Why Eclectic Spirituality Will Not Endure Half So Long As Traditional Religion

2011.06.20
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NO HOLIDAYS.

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Consensual Art: Do Not Screen

2011.06.17
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Fig. 1.

THE LAST MAIL-ART PROJECT I “did” was a series of one or two audiocassette collages with (sub)genius co-conspirators Alan K. Lipton and David Wilson circa 198x-199x. We’d record a bunch of weird stuff and send it on to the next fellow to “see what [he] could do with this here tape … rearrange it, delete anything, add anything” (as David growled at some random 3 a.m.). Listening to it evolve, with bits of past tapes peeking through the mix like enigmatic epitaphs, brought a satisfaction like no other: an aural jigsaw puzzle assembling itself from cracked refractions.

That spirit of collegial creativity is one of the ideas behind Do Not Screen, a website which purports to present the contents of a mysterious red box in the “vast remoteness of Northern Michigan.” The contents included hundreds of cut-up 16mm film strips and a variety of other documents, some retrieved from envelopes marked “DO NOT SCREEN:”

Rather than re-assemble the film myself, I am, in the spirit of analog, snail-mailing frames from the film as well as a url with a corresponding activation code to scholars, students, theorists, film buffs, cultural anthropologists, writers, artists, editors, and others. In collaboration with the Critical Media Lab, I will manage a database that will reassemble the film in its proper order, with each frame-series (the strips of 12 frames) being activated as frame recipients log onto the website and enter the unique activation code that corresponds to their film strip. The more people who enter their frame numbers, the more complete the film will be.

Under a lens, the strip I received in the mail last week seems to show a group of 50 people dressed in cold-weather 1940s businesswear standing around someone’s backyard. The accompanying handwritten document, brown and crisp with age, was a labor receipt for ash retrieval and ditch filling. The whole exudes a creepy and cool aura, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

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Click A Laugh A Day

2011.06.16
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“COMIX” IS TO “COMICS” AS Zippy the Pinhead is to Snoopy, or Robert Crumb is to Jack Kirby: irreverent satire rather than bemuscled superheroes. The Internet has made it easier for would-be comix artists to reach an audience, and the following examples never fail to provoke in me either laughter or deep thought (or both). It’s easy to get lost clicking through “back issues;” you have been warned.

1. XKCD. Stick figures with brains and a heart. Probably the most accessible high-intellect and -soul pieces I’ve seen since the original Howard the Duck. Most of the math jokes are over my head, but it’s a tribute to the artist that they’re still funny.

2. PeanuTweeter. Random tweets replace the Peanuts gang’s word-balloon speech for an effect that’s ironic and wistful in a Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead sort of way.

3. Garfield Minus Garfield. As it says — a Garfieldectomy leaving the other characters intact. What’s left resembles one young man’s solipsistic fever dream, horrid and wonderful and cutely disturbing.

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Sign In A Radio Newsroom, c. 1993

2011.03.16
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SAW THIS WHERE I FIRST interned as “Neal Ross.” I was naive enough then to think it merely humorous.

Cub reporter: “If it’s news, I report it.”
Old journalist: “If I report it, it’s news.”
Newsman Emeritus: “If I don’t report it, it didn’t happen.” When I report it, it’s history.”

(Thanks to “Bob” for the correction.)

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Looking Back on Apocalypse

2011.03.13
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HOW STRANGE TO SIT IN 2011, and wax wistfully nostalgic over the heady nihilism of Repo Man. Had we but known …

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Free Metaphor: “Don’t Poke The Squid”

2011.02.24
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STUCK FOR AN ANALOGY WHEN your well-intendeds provoke a horrible mess that you should have known better than to bother with? Then “Don’t Poke The Squid.”

Squid are lovely, largely inoffensive creatures who flash and lurk throughout the ocean’s vasty deep. They have eight tentacles and two arms; all appendages have suckers, some jaggedly toothed. They flail something awful when disturbed, and can entwine sperm whales and dance them to death. What chance has an unwary swimmer? Thus, for your own safety and health, “Don’t Poke The Squid.”

(Usage of this metaphor is subject to payment via pizza or Paypal. Thankee sirormadam, and g’blessye.)

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Cinematic Question: Shifting Allegiances

2011.02.10
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SINCE WHEN, IN THE MOVIES, did the Romans become the good guys?

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Ship Geeks Ahoy

2011.02.09
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IF YOU’RE CURIOUS ABOUT LIFE on the other side of the foghorns, waste no time in clicking on marinetraffic.com — a global, scalable, real-time map of the world’s shipping traffic, from cargo and passenger vessels to navaids and tankers to tugs and pilots. Each is labeled with specifications, course and speed (if applicable) and destination. (Think of it as a very stately air-traffic control diagram. Which makes me wonder if there’s one for air traffic … clicketyclickety … yep: flightradar24.com. Cool. Limited, but cool.) With this in one window and the Califonia Highway Patrol’s dispatch logs in another, I feel like a secret peeker at the world’s gears.
(Thanks to Friend-of-the-Show Steve Marler for sliding this my way.)

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Words Mean Stuff

2011.02.08
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A SHORT LIST OF WORDS which, through overuse, have been consigned to the meaning-deficient self-parody heap:

Blatant
Flagrant
Offen(sive/ded)
Rabid
Sexist
Racist
Controversy
Security
Freedom
Democracy
Republican
Terrorism
Diva

(There are others, but these are what I found in this morning’s newspaper. Additions and substitutions welcome.)

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