Wednesday, January 28, 2009

1984 by George Orwell

I love dystopian fiction. I was reading this at this office I work at and a co-worker saw it and was like "isn't that a book you have to read in highschool or something?" I said yes. "and you're reading it just for fun?" yes. "you're scaring me!" I have no idea what she meant by that. Anyways I told her that I mainly read theory and dystopian fiction and she said she had a book I would love and then gave me a hardcover copy of a supermarket shocker book called toxin. I skimmed it and it was probably the worst book I have ever read in my life. It freaked me out to think the the general populace probably finds that tripe super compelling and a page turner. Is this what people really read? I could go into details, but this is really about 1984, not about toxin. While reading 1984 I kept realizing how much I had made this and brave new world into the same book in my head, the overall theme is similar, but you know, different books.

It was really creepy reading this book and continually comparing it to your normal everyday life and seeing how many parallels there are. I also love how influential this book has been on language, like calling things Orwellian and such. I feel like this is a book that pretty much everyone has read at some point in their lives, and I really like revisiting it, even though it happens to be one of the most depressing books ever.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

what i am reading - the torah

i am trying to go a year reading the weekly torah portion and some commentary on each portion. but i didn't start at the beginning of the hebrew year with genesis. i started with exodus.

anyways, that's what i've been reading and will be reading 3 nights a week for a year.

favorite books of 2008

my favorite books i read in 2008 was "marooned in realtime" by vernor vinge and "revelation space" by alastair reynolds. both of them fit into what they might call "hard sf" and involve really really really long timelines that occur over millions of years. marooned in realtime is a murder mystery where the murder is finally solved at the very end of the world.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Favorite Books/Blogs/Columnists of 2008.

None of my favourite books of 2008 were published in 2008. Most of them were published long before it. But I still think they are vitally relevant to what happened in 2008- the perpetuation of dehumanizing domination in all its insidious forms- and what should/ has to happen- dramatic/revolutionary change- because they go a long way in describing why and how domination happened and why- but sadly not how- society should change.


Theodor W.Adorno- Prisms, Critical Models, The Culture Industry and Other Essays. The Dialectic of Enlightenment.

Walter Benjamin- The Arcades Project, One-Way Street, A Berlin Childhood, Critique of Violence, Fragment on Capitalism.

Alain Badiou- Polemics.

Guy Debord. Society of the Spectacle.

Frantz Fanon. Black Skins, White Masks. Wretched of the Earth.

Henri Lefebvre. Critique of Everyday Life vol 1,2.

Karl Marx. Capital vol. 1.

Pier Paolo Pasolini. Poems/ Essays/Movies.

I did, however, read blogs and columns published in 2008. In my mind they supplement the books and help me try to understand what is going on and why on a day-to day-basis.



Dead Voles

Dissenting Historian

How The University Works

Infinite Thought

Institute For Conjunctural Research

James Wolcott’s Blog

Le Colonel Charbert

Lenin’s Tomb

Rough Theory

Sit Down, You’re a Bloody Tragedy.

Socialism and/or Barbarism.

Columns by Naomi Klein, John Pilger, Norman Finkelstein, Vijay Prishad, Tariq Ali, Gary Younge, Thomas Frank and sometimes Robert Fisk, Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Unmarketable by Anne Elizabeth Moore

I realize this has been reviewed already. Whatever. I really like books about marketing theory and analysis and stuff, and I like stuff about what selling out means now, basically totally fascinated by these things. I think I read the article in punk planet that this book grew out of, and I remember it being really amazing. This books use (overuse) of the term "integrity" really got to me but whatever, doesn't really matter, maybe I'll go into that later.

First of all, I would like to point out that D.I.Y. and underground media existed long before me, and that it's possibly romanticized heydays occurred before I came of age, so I just have this weird idea that "not selling out" was more important at some point, and that surviving (paying rent and eating regularly at the same time) was easier without a job at some point and that touring was not such a gaping financial drain at some point. Ok, so these are the ideas I function off of, but I was fully not there so I don't know.

Anyway, the first thought off of the top of my head is that I found it interesting that the artists she spoke to that had participated in corporate marketing are (I'm pretty sure) artists that are attempting to make a comfortable living off of their art and not holding a day job. In this sense, in the original sense of "not selling out" and integrity, these artists "sold out" or whatever when they decided they wanted to make a living off of their art. I didn't feel like this was fully pointed out, and it really changes the context of a lot of the ideas written in this book. It seemed like the idea of what integrity is is pretty well defined in the beginning as something that comes from a burning desire to create, and I'm not saying the artists she talked to don't have an insatiable need to create, but they do definitely want to not have that day job, and they want their craft to pay their bills.

It was interesting to me that the marketing plan case studies gone over in this book were put in the context of being entirely and fully aimed at underground twenty-somethings. My thought on campaigns that are "aimed" at the underground is really much more about helping the mainstream have that bad rebel streak in their life. It doesn't make sense to market to punks really, not to say that it's not working, because I think it is, but the idea of a company putting so much money into an "edge-y" marketing campaign along with the money to be sneaky about it (people do get paid to figure out the best way to make it seem like a corporation is not involved) or whatever just to win over a couple punks is ridiculous to me. Punks are the added bonus. Basically, these type of marketing campaigns that are "just trying to win over punks" are truly built for mainstreamers to have some touch of rebelliousness or hipness in their lives. We're (punks) kind of trendsetters, remember? The theory is this, if you get the punks who are dancing on the line of mainstream edge-y and underground whatever, then all those vanilla folk who want that danger and rebellion and hipness and fuck you to the man in their lives, can have just a little bit. So maybe they'll buy a pabst or something.

The idea that mainstream and D.I.Y. intermingling is a new thing is weird too. It reminds me of some annoying kid in one of my classes that would vocalize about never having heard of major pop culture iconic things. Tobi and I talked a bit about how most punks grew up paying attention to pop culture to some degree, and to act like mainstream and underground are two different planets that have had no interaction until whenever is a little weird.

Also, this is random but that whole major threat ad campaign being explained away as being a marketing plan made by Minor Threat fans to promote something they love - skateboarding - is utter bullshit. I'm not even really a minor threat fan and I could tell you in my sleep that they definitely don't want that iconic image of their band used to shill anything ever, so I have a hard time believing that anyone who was a fan could think that would fly for a second. Bullshit. I mention this because I felt like in the book it's treated as a valid excuse, and not just a valid excuse manufactured by marketing spinners and it's totally bogus.

This whole subject is really complex, it's like when the punks (the band) managed to get sponsored by sparks and all it really meant was that they (sparks) would give us free sparks whenever we threw "warehouse parties" which were really just house shows. We would charge at the door with the promise of bands AND free sparks and then give all the money to the bands. Our whole idea was that we were ripping off sparks, and really we were in a lot of ways, we were paying touring bands decent amounts of money at parties where most likely everyone would have been drinking sparks anyways, but it was still kind of weird. Basically, everyone can come up with an excuse of why participating with corporations is all right, everything from "I loved this when I was a kid" to "wider distribution" to "I need money" and whats a valid excuse and whats not is really vague.

Also, it's important to point out that all these D.I.Y. kids are producing art constantly, and if you want a stable income with benefits that involves doing art? Most likely you are working in advertising.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

What were your favorite books of 2008

Not necessarily published in 2008...but what you read in 2008. I'm compiling a list.