New article for a-n News.
Tag: 21st century
My latest column for Sluice magazine.
Notes on two new exhibitions of work by queer artists.
New edition of Sluice magazine out now, May 2017.
An interactive, locative app intended to provide an insight into living with dementia.
b-side Festival, Portland, Dorset, 10-18 September 2016.
New (potential) live art project.
Discussions of economics and making a living from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden (1854):
SELLING AND AVOIDING THE NECESSITY OF SELLING
“Not long since, a strolling Indian went to sell baskets at the house of a well-known lawyer in my neighborhood. “Do you wish to buy any baskets?” he asked. “No, we do not want any,” was the reply. “What!” exclaimed the Indian as he went out the gate, “do you mean to starve us?” Having seen his industrious white neighbors so well off—that the lawyer had only to weave arguments, and, by some magic, wealth and standing followed—he had said to himself: I will go into business; I will weave baskets; it is a thing which I can do. Thinking that when he had made the baskets he would have done his part, and then it would be the white man’s to buy them. He had not discovered that it…
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Maybe one day somebody will explain why the people in tech advertising– especially white people in ads for east Asian companies– always seem to be deliberately portrayed as affectless, malfunctioning animatronic mannequins with a limited grasp of their own language (example 1, example 2). Surely the ideal user likes to see themselves as more human than their phone or gadget, not less? In this latest effort by what must be a Taiwanese company, judging by the surtitles and the reference to Taipei 101, an insane lady called Pretty Woman Smart Living talks to her finger like Danny from The Shining and never misses an opportunity to humiliate her boyfriend for his inability to do mostly pointless things with his phone. He should also stop cutting his own hair, or at least try looking in a…
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Lafcadio Hearn, in his Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan (1894), sums up nicely how I feel about the place over a century later:
“The largest steamer that crosses the Pacific could not contain what you wish to purchase. For, although you may not, perhaps, confess the fact to yourself, what you really want to buy is not the contents of a shop; you want the shop and the shopkeeper, and streets of shops with their draperies and their inhabitants, the whole city and the bay and the mountains begirdling it, and Fujiyama’s white witchery overhanging it in the speckless sky, all Japan, in very truth, with its magical trees and luminous atmosphere, with all its cities and towns and temples, and forty millions of the most lovable people in the universe… ‘And this,’ the reader may say,—’this is all that you went forth to see: a torii, some shells, a small…
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An 1890 cartoon by John Tenniel, in which the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street– the Bank of England, so called for the City of London street where it was and still is located– doles out free money to silly, naughty boys, AKA bankers. The more things change the more they stay the same, and all the other appropriate sayings…
Two nice details: firstly, the boys have been playing at cards (emphasising that they’re just gambling and can lose just as easily as they win, no particular skill involved) and secondly, the Old Lady’s costume is made of money bags and bank notes.
Portland, Dorset, October 8-9 2015.
Some good advice for writers who would like to get better and a comprehensive demolition of clichés by bad writers in William Zinsser’s book On Writing Well. As I point out every single damn time I do a post about good writing, forty years on from this book’s original publication, people are still making all the mistakes Zinsser pointed out as ancient and trite even at the time. Many a supposedly professional author or journalist is still allowing themselves to be “a writer lives in blissful ignorance that clichés are the kiss of death, if in the final analysis he leaves no stone unturned to use them, we can infer that he lacks an instinct for what gives language its freshness. Faced with a choice between the novel and the banal, he goes unerringly for the banal. His voice is the voice of a hack.”
Old never meets…
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I think a lot of the time weird Japan is weird, weird Japan knows it is weird and weird Japan is laughing about it, e.g.
“We know. It’s OK, go ahead and laugh. We know.”
But sometimes Japan apparently has no idea it’s peculiar and creepy to invent an AI talkbot bear called (I think) Himitsuno Kumachan– Secret Bear?– then have it introduced in a stilted, badly dubbed video by the 100 Yen Shop version of David Duchovny. Remarkably, even I can tell that the Japanese is even more stiff and unnatural than the English.
“Mr J” also visits a coffee shop to have a little chat with his bear, which isn’t a strange and awkward thing for a grown man to do, no, not at all.
Children are presumably the actual intended users for the product, as opposed to 100 Yen Shop David Duchovny. Here we see a genuine…
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If you search your heart you will recognise that your life has in truth been a sad and pitiful travesty because you’ve never found any way to conveniently inject bananas with chocolate sauce. Luckily Sonna! Chocobana-na is here to fill your bananas and to plug the aching abyss of your soul hole. そんな！チョコバナ～ナ: Sonna translates as “like that” or something similar, although I’m guessing they mean something more like “Such/So Chocobanana!”. You can also insert cream into your banana if you’re in the mood for even more symbolically charged fruit consumption than that which will ensue from the chocobana-na. You could try some jamu, or other gelatinous substances, but we need to face the fact that this product is called Sonna! Chocobana-na so I’m afraid you’ll just have to accept that chocolate is the orthodox choice. One thing to be said in the ad’s favour is that it’s relentlessly innocent…
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Valuing art and artists in the east of England.
During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia this May, enjoy this honest and unbiased video in which ORDINARY CHINESE PEOPLE have DEFINITELY NOT BEEN COACHED OR COERCED into giving their opinions of Russia and particularly of its “handsome leader, like President Xi”: Vladimir Putin. Show solidarity to COMPLETELY UNPROBLEMATIC COMRADES WHO ARE IN FULL COMPLIANCE WITH INTERNATIONAL LAWS AND TREATIES by eating bread, consuming dairy products, admiring Putin’s “big muscles” (not shown in these pictures), and repeatedly, SINCERELY expressing your desire to marry him. But REMEMBER to appreciate Putin’s big muscles only in a HETEROSEXUAL MANNER because he strictly forbids any reception upon his person of HOMOSEXUAL EYE BEAMS. Pity all countries which do not have handsome, shirtless, DEFINITELY HETEROSEXUAL leaders with big muscles. Presumably photos of Xi Jinping in his budgie smugglers are to follow shortly. You will ENJOY THEM and praise the…
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I’m sure there have been no end of articles and blog posts about ゼンタイ zentai: skin tight, faceless body suits. Originally they’re from Japan, of course, like many other cross-cultural mutations. The term is an abbreviation of 全身タイツ zenshin taitsu, “full body tights”. It’s also a safe bet that most of these articles fall into the categories of a) LOL weirdos b) LOL perverts or c) both of the aforementioned. Frankly, I would advise against uncontrolled internet searching on the subject unless you’re broad-minded because some of the people who are into it are absolute FREAKS and you might well see some obscure corners of the porn world that you’d really rather not. Also beware of YouTube’s “up next” autoplay…
Being an absolute freak is fine by me, actually (just wash your hands and probably have a shower too, before you do anything else) but perhaps especially for those who
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Even more from the series of Japanese short films about crafts and manufacturing, which was featured yesterday: this time the videos feature the making of clockwork and tin toys, daruma (達磨, the hollow good luck dolls supposedly modelled after Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism), oil pastel crayons, oil paint for artists, and mosquito coils.
The film about daruma shows equally fascinating traditional hand-made techniques, and slightly more industrial manufacturing of them. Even so, they’re all still finished individually just like the other items shown in these videos, the paint and the mosquito coils included. The pastel one is a bit tedious at the start, but if you’re an artist like me or otherwise just get excited about colours, stick with it and the one about paint for some huge, lush blobs of intense, glossy pigment erotica. The film about mosquito coils is initially rather alarming because…
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