Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Steampunk Magazine Cranks My Cogs


I am a new HUGE fan of Steampunk Magazine. I found it through Steampunk Workshop, which is a fabulous blog I subscribed to earlier this month. There I found out about Steampunk Magazine which is published as a magazine as well as in PDF form, available free online.

While I'm a fan of steampunk, I generally not a fan of magazines, which is why the only magazine subscriptions I have were purchased for me. Generally, magazines, even about topics I'm interested in, can't hold my interest. I tend to find the articles without much substance and all the advertising and whatnot overwhelms my eyes so I tend to see most magazines as nothing more than fodder for my ongoing collage projects.

Steampunk Magazine
is 100% not like other magazines and I am soooo in love with it! It is a beautiful mixture of intelligent scholarship and creative works including drawings, stories and poems. Not only did I read almost every single article (which NEVER happens), but I also didn't feel cheated when I did so (which RARELY happens).

I have downloaded all of the issues but so far only read through the seventh and sixth. In them I read about the Luddite movement, microstates, gender and race in steampunk fiction, many various historical figures and/or occupations or events, some great short stories about flying to the moon and air ships and much, much more.

I'm jazzed about reading all this stuff because it turns out my interests were more Steampunk than I'd realized. It's the only genre/ideology that is inclusive of :

  • my lack of faith in existing governments to do anything actually helpful to the human race or to the environment
  • my belief that our existing systems will eventually (probably sooner than later) fail us
  • my hope that we can stop making technologies that are harmful to our environment and people (instead of using technology as an excuse for creating toxic products and by-products for capitalism's sake)
  • my love of history and historical costumes
  • my ridiculous romantic side
  • my obsession with uniqueness
  • my feminism and environmentalism
  • my fierce love of society's outsiders;
  • my desire to reuse and repurpose objects
  • of course, my freakish fascination with goggles
  • and my tomboy love of "going on adventures"

Anyway, this is all my way of saying that if you are at all interested in steampunk, you should check out this magazine. It is smart and fun and heartfelt and the most impressive periodical I have come across in maybe forever.

Related posts:
Anthropomorphized Animal Comic Books
Chester 5000 XYZ: Steampunk Electrosex Web Comic

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Leap of Faith


Yesterday was Matt's last day at Sherwin Williams (he stopped working at Ingredient a while ago when he hurt his foot), where he's been working for about 8 and a half years. He said it's been his "safety net" and that he's ready to move on to work he finds more fulfilling. So he put in his two weeks and now we're both unemployed together.

Monetarily, we'll have a nice cushion since he was invested in the company. He'll be getting stock and retirement money (and he just got his tax refund) so we aren't in any sort of money crisis. His stock/retirement funds will allow him to take a type of paid vacation before he has to start another job and he should be able to pay off some of his debt as well, which is great.

I'm really proud of him for taking this step, which wasn't easy for him. It certainly goes against what he's been advised to do. And in some ways, it doesn't really make sense for him to throw away a dependable, relatively well-paying job simply because it makes him miserable now.

On the other hand, you can't move forward until you're ready to leave something behind and Matt's super ready to move forward. We both feel almost freakishly optimistic about the future. We had a beautiful day together and I look forward to ALL THE TIME I will have with him now. I have the sneaking suspicion the entire universe is conspiring together to contribute to our joy.

Related posts:
Sleep Troubles
Missing Matt

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sociological Discussion: Music Videos and America

Today we're going to revisit the sociological discussion I began last week about two music videos: Lady Gaga's "Telephone" and Marina and the Diamonds' "Hollywood." If you haven't seen them, you can visit this post.

My friend Joe of Your Daily Joe was one of the first to comment, which was a great way to start. Keep in mind he's in The Business when you read this:

These videos are intentional poseur pieces. The people in the videos don't embody a lifestyle or attitude or mentality. They don't live it. They're just trying it on and seeing how it feels. Hyper-stylized, self-conscious, unrealistic. They celebrate the most superficial aspects of iconography. This is the Tarantino mentality. You're not supposed to suspend disbelief and buy into what you're seeing. You're supposed to see it as a work. You remain detached from it, and appreciate it for its studious understanding, reproduction, and implementation of ideas and images.

Contrast this with, for example, filmmaking movements of the past. Sergio Leone was an Italian who wanted to make American movies - his western and gangster films are a unique blend of a desire to BE American, despite the limitation of being culturally Italian. The French New Wave films were an effort to take the best elements of American film conventions and use them as the building blocks for culturally French films. In both cases, a new form was born.

These videos are part of the on-going manifestation of irony in culture. They're not interested in creating something new. They want to evoke and recreate something cool. It's cool for coolness sake.

I mean, the video for "Telephone" has nothing AT ALL to do with the song. The lyrics are about being annoyed about getting phone calls while you're out at a club. The video is Lady Gaga's version of Quentin Tarantino's version of '70s exploitation movies... which were just low budget versions of movies with higher aspirations to begin with.

...But it's great. Lady Gaga is something extremely rare in the music business. She's someone with ideas. She set out to accomplish a vision. She's an artist, and her subject is celebrity. She's accomplished an impressive amount in a very short period of time. I'll be interested to see if she can sustain that over a long career.
Love his insight, especially about irony, intentional poseur pieces and the comparison with Tarantino.

My friend Bob of PIVOT POINT responded:
I concur heartily with what Joe has said--at least about Marina and the Diamonds. The Lady Gaga video first required me to "sign up" or "sign in" before viewing it. I don't like to "sign up" or "sign in" generally, so I skipped that one.

I couldn't help but contrast Marina's performance with those of other singers whom I admire, who sing nakedly from their guts, from their soul. You know they're intensely oriented toward hearing something unique and moving from WITHIN--and only then, as committed artists, do they strive to transmit, to translate, that inner passion outward to a rapt audience.

But here it's all about showing off--kind of smirkily guffawing in complicity with a subversive audience which smirkily guffaws back. What is it they say about Hollywood?--It's just high school, but with better lighting. Does everybody now slaver to be an American Idol, just so they can suck on their 15 minutes of fame?

I know when the Spirit moves me. I know what it feels like when the incandescent arc of inspiration leaps from a performer and sizzles right through my nerve ends, into my bones. That's what I'm after! "Painted cakes do not satisfy hunger."

As to what this says about our pop culture in general? It's all about consuming, isn't it? About buying and selling; about packaging the product seductively or sensationally in an uber- competitive marketplace so you'll stick out from the crowd and score big.

Marina's on the make, yet she's so cool, mocking,ironic and in the know--hey, just like us! In that respect, although she may be British, she's as cynically savvy and postmodernly American as virtual apple pie.
Showing off? Absolutely. I like his last line especially about American as virtual apple pie. That made me giggle.

Next Kim Williams added:
i'll second much of what has been said, although i'm not at all claiming that i could have said it so well.

my contribution is that although i see intense creativity in both of these videos - they just don't convey any message of substance (or at least interest) to me. in short - what's the point? a lot of work for shock that overshadows limited content.

random thought - does this 'art' parallel the same communication form shift we see in the surge of Social Media popularity? lots of noise - benign noise - with limited thought and reflection.
Some really good questions, which I don't think I have any answers for... but if you have some thoughts, my gosh, please tell us :)

Next, Do you see me? added:
I love the lady ga-ga video. I think she is to this generation what Elton John was to mine. Completely over the top, talented, attention whore, but has something to say. I don't see these as vapid shells or benign noise - of course I see social media as relevant as well. Telephone is a statement on the most pervasive modern technology the world has ever seen. Over a 100 years of putting our ear and mouth to a device to communicate electronically. I'm sitting in the MSP airport - the bastion of white, middle class America. Everyone is talking on a phone, but I suspect most have never heard nor seen Lady Ga Ga. I think her video is a lot of eye candy in which to wrap her message. Or maybe not. Maybe the prison setting is the metaphor for contemporary conventionalism of which the phone is the ultimate icon?
And, finally, my friend Ruth added:
The image of a beautiful woman scantily clad in the American flag - to represent America - is used in both videos, although it seems intentional in the second and merely incidental in the first. Both seem to be poking fun at the image, although Gaga's sense of humor is so wry that I think it gets lost under the snapping teeth and flashing eyes. Marina's tone is more playful, confiding, enough to convince me (an American) that she must be excluding me from her observations. I like watching these together; Marina seems to egg Gaga on.
All of those brought up so many more questions and thoughts about these videos for me that I'm sure I'll be pondering far into the future. Meanwhile, here are some of my thoughts about the videos:

First off I feel I should preface this by saying that part of the reason I wanted to discuss these is that I feel that even though neither of these women are taking what they're doing seriously, as Joe pointed out. However, I still feel that there is merit in examining the way they play with different ideas and images. I think that like children, adults also work through and grapple with ideas and concepts through playing with them. I also think that in many ways, musicians, like artists, are usually wearing some sort of (metaphorical) mask when they perform. And just like masks do for other cultures, the "masks" we wear also show our conceptions of the world around us.

Lady Gaga's "Telephone" I find fascinating because, to me, the video is just one long gender war. First off, the song itself is about women who are being harassed by their boyfriends, one assumes, while they are out dancing in the club. This might seem like a "so what" thing to some people, but to me, it is evidence of a particular frustration with women who can't go out and be trusted by their partners. This is based largely on a friendship of mine where when the girl and I went out to dance, her boyfriend would harass her through texts and phone calls, accusing her of trying to sleep around with the boys and the bar and even with me. He'd get completely irrational, full of rage, and incapable of believing anything she said. One night it got so bad that she called her service provider and changed her number while we were out. So, this stuff can get pretty intense.

The video imagery and ideas also demonstrate to me a clear tension between the sexes. First off, the video starts in a women's prison, a realm where men supposedly have no influence, but all of the women are scantily clad as if to fulfill a male fantasy. In this I see that women, despite what they're doing be it working out or being incarcerated far from the public eye, they still feel the pressure put on them by the males of society to be "sexy" in whatever way society is telling women to be (these days, apparently it's no pants.)

The second scene in the diner again shows a gender tension. Two women are "getting a man back" for being abusive or otherwise awful, the small interactions we see between them imply. And since Gaga and Beyonce are connecting themselves with "bad women" in pop culture visually (like convicts, Madonna, THE CHARACTER FROM KILL BILL, and Thelma and Louise), they take the "bad" way of dealing with their problems and poison him. But they don't stop there! They also poison the rest of the restaurant, implying that when gender relations break down, the rest of society suffers. And then she dances around the corpses in an American flag outfit. Don'tcha just love it? It's like Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burns.

I also think the "Let's Make a Sandwich Scene" is a great subversion of cooking shows, where women (usually) are taught how to cook for others. Instead, they're learning how to kill.

So maybe I'm reading too much into it, but that's what I mainly got out of that video, which is why it intrigues me so much.

Marina and the Diamonds "Hollywood" I like for how it plays with and mocks the American Dream. This is due in part to how I've lately been thinking about America and how ever since its conception it's been based on dreams that for the most part don't play out in reality, but they are dreams that still attracted innumerable immigrants to our shores and dreams which Americans still tend to believe in. Stuff like: if you work hard in America, you will get rich, which is only true for those with good jobs.

Anyway, that's the background I'm was coming from when examining this video. I find the imagery fascinating, because she's pointing out that the American ideal is youth (cheerleaders and football players), beauty (not a plain person to be seen here), money and glamour (shine and glitz and wastefulness) and celebrity.

I like how Marina basically just throws herself into a sea of red, white and blue and wades around in it, proclaiming how she's "obsessed with the mess that's America." Through her lyrics, she shows that she's aware that America isn't the dream we have of it, but that she is still in love with that dream despite knowing the reality, which is something I think that we all tend to do. She also sings "Hollywood infecting your brain," which I think demonstrates the power of our "dream machine" to spread American ideology and fantasy to the rest of the world.

Another thing I found interesting was that she says that "The American Dream is the American queen" which doesn't leave any place for men in the American Dream. Men don't feature too prominently in her video, except as support cast (the football with the cheerleader, the faux Rebel Without a Cause with the faux Monroe), and since overwhelmingly men are still in most of the positions of power in the US, I find it odd that in her idea of the American Dream they don't seem to have a place at all.

So those are some of the things that made me want to discuss these videos. Thank you so much to everyone who took part! And, of course, if you still have something to say, feel free to do so in the comments!

Related post:
Let's Have a Sociological Discussion

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Monday, April 19, 2010

3 Visions in Glass Now at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

A quick note before I jump in: There's still time to add your comments to my sociological discussion post before I respond to it. I'd love to hear more opinions. The comments that have come in so far have been great!

While I was at the Nelson-Atkins Saturday with Matt and a friend of ours, we saw a new temporary exhibit called "Venice. 3 Visions in Glass." Personally, I'd been a bit burnt out on glass art after being in Seattle where there is SO MUCH GLASS ART EVERYWHERE but this exhibit still intrigued and delighted me, partly because the glass work was so very different from the much-aped Chihuly.

The exhibit is composed of glass art from three different artists all from or working in the city of Venice, Italy, a place that has historically been associated with unique glass pieces.

YOICHI OHIRA
According to the gallery guide, Ohira is "a Japanese artist who has worked in Venice for many years... In his pieces he strives to capture or represent 'music without sound.'" His pieces included vases made out of so many pieces of different colored glass that they look like kaleidoscopes and vases that held air bubbles inside them.


LAURA DE SANTILLANA
A native of Venice who learned glass techniques from her grandfather, De Santillano's pieces were some of my (other) favorites. Using minimal forms and colors, she creates pieces that are like glowing paintings. These are so vivid and evocative that my friend and I just wanted to lick them! She also makes sculptures that resemble the many plastic bottles that wash up on Venice. While the first type of her work was my favorite, I enjoyed seeing both.


CRISTIANO BIANCHIN
Bianchin's work was the least interesting, in my opinion. His sculptures are very simple "reductive glass urns" that Matt thought looked like something you could buy at Pottery Barn (due, in part, I think, to Bianchin's use of woven stuff around his glass). Personally, I found little to inspire interest in them, except that some were topped with found objects discovered in Venetian flea markets. Those objects really made the otherwise plain urns eye-catching and intriguing in the contrast between materials. Sadly, I couldn't find any images of those to share with you.

The exhibit
runs through August 15, so you have plenty of time to see it.

Related posts:
Daughters of India: Fazal Sheikh Photography
Bloch Building Declared 2007's Top Architectural Wonder
Luminecence: My Recent Visit to the KC Sculpture Park

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Happy National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, which I shoulda mentioned when I was giving away my ebook, but I totally spaced on it. One of the ebook recipients, Elizabeth Cunningham of Elizabeth and Mauve and a novelist, included one of my poems in a recent post, which is full of lovely poems and insights about poetry as a writing form.

Also to celebrate National Poetry Month, the local and online publication, Present Magazine, is having an open call for poems. They were kind enough to feature four of mine, which you should go check out. They are newer than the poems in my book, so you won't be reading anything old if you click through.

It's exciting to be connected with others who are poetry lovers. My friend Bob Savino, for instance, who also happens to have a blog where he posts his poetry, art and meditations. It's well worth checking out, especially since his meditations "unpack" the meanings in his poems.

Two other poetry blogs I enjoy are Blue Autumn, written by my friend Gena, and Imaginarium. They are both good worth a look (and a subscription).

Also, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is having an event called "Sensory Feast: Poetry and Visual Art" tomorrow! It's a workshop for writing poems in response to visual art, an exercise I have always enjoyed. I can't find it on their online calendar, but I know I saw it somewhere and RSVPed to it, so it's definitely happening. It may be too late to sign up since it is tomorrow at 10-Noon, but just in case it's not, you can try RSVPing to bharris AT kemperart.org.

And I suppose I should end this post with a poem, since I just keep talking about them:

Deconstruction

I've lived so long inside this miracle of ours,
I sometimes forget to be amazed
that any one person can know and love so much of me.
I spent my life building boxes within boxes
to hide myself from the world
that found me as terrifying as I, it.

In exchange for acceptance, I cut out one tiny part of myself
and presented it as the whole, a living synedoche.
Small as it was, they ate it right up but disliked the taste of me.

But you, with eyes as embracing as the skies,
you beg for more and I find there is always more to give.
I've been busy deconstructing the barriers built within
to let you ever deeper in, finding fragments so covered in cobwebs
that I'd thought them long gone.


With my new-found wholeness,
I want to envelop you completely,
blanket you with a cover of love.

©2010 R. May Evans

Related posts:
Truth, Love Blood and Bones Available Now!
Time Lines: Local Poetry Anthology
Poetry Exercise of Yester Year

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Let's Have a Sociological Discussion

So lately I've seen two videos that heavily use very American iconography and they've gotten me thinking about the way we define ourselves as a culture. So I want to talk to you about it.

The first video is one you've all probably seen, or at least heard people talking about, Lady Gaga's "Telephone." Lady Gaga is 24 years old and grew up immersed in music pop culture.

(Click to see embedded video)

The second video is "Hollywood" by Marina Diamandis, aka Marina and the Diamonds, a 25 year old Welsh singer who lives in London, and cites several American musicians as influences.

(Click to see embedded video)

So, boys and girls, riddle me this: What do these two videos say about American culture? about the influence of movies/media? about gender roles and gender relations? What do you think of how the American flag used? Does it make a difference that the second video, stuffed full of American iconography, is made by a UK singer? Would it affect you differently if you thought it was made by an American? Also, how do they buy into and/or manipulate popular images/concepts for their own celebrity?

Feel free to cite sources.

I'll tell you my thoughts in a later post, but for now...

DISCUSS!

Related posts:
On Running Away from Femininity
Eve, Revisited

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Support Local Agriculture (Badseed Farm)

This winter the Badseed Farmer's Market has been an awesome resource for local produce, so I'm a huge supporter of the Badseed Farm whose owners organize the market.

Because theirs is an urban farm, they have been facing problems with the City because of zoning. To help with this, I'm posting information they sent me as a supporter. So please help us/them out and keep local urban agriculture growing!

"Farmer Brooke" wrote:

For nearly 6 months, a dedicated group of community residents, farmers and gardeners have been working with the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture, the Greater Kansas City Food Policy Coalition, the City Planning Department, and Councilman John Sharp (6th District) to create proposed changes to the current zoning ordinances which restrict the excellent benefits that urban food production has to offer. These changes will nurture and protect home gardens, community gardens, and "urban farms" like BADSEED.


On Thursday, April 8, Councilman Sharp introduced the resulting ordinance to City Council. Council members Bill Skaggs and Melba Curls and Mayor Mark Funkhouser were co-sponsors. You can find the full text of the ordinance at:

http://cityclerk.kcmo.org/LiveWeb/Documents/Document.aspx?q=gwQ25M6kfLBpQAH2KArtCVQTuNiMyZkVhPHNtnlPCMYJ%2b2FvKs5bOtLbpVG3Tq5a

It will now go to the City Planning Commission, the Planning and Zoning Committee, and, sometime in late April, to the full council for a final vote.

I am asking for your support in getting this ordinance passed! There are several ways you can help:

1. Write a letter to your City Council Representatives and the Mayor to urge them to vote yes.

I have [written] a sample letter which you are welcome to use or revise as you wish.

  • Deb Hermann, 1st District At-Large, Deb_Hermann@KCMO.org
  • Bill Skaggs, 1st District, Bill_Skaggs@KCMO.org (express our gratitude for his co-sponsorship of the bill!)
  • Ed Ford, 2nd District At-Large, Ed_Ford@KCMO.org
  • Russ Johnson, 2nd District, Russ_Johnson@KCMO.org
  • Melba Curls, 3rd District At-Large, Melba_Curls@KCMO.org (express our gratitude for her co-sponsorship!)
  • Sharon Sanders-Brooks, 3rd District, Sharon_Brooks@KCMO.org
  • Beth Gottstein, 4th District, At-Large, Beth_Gottstein@KCMO.org
  • Jan Marcason, 4th District, Jan_Marcason@KCMO.org
  • Cindy Circo, 5th District At-Large, Cindy_Circo@KCMO.org
  • Terry Riley, 5th District, Terry_Riley@KCMO.org
  • Cathy Jolly, 6th District At-Large, Cathy_Jolly@KCMO.org
  • John Sharp, 6th District, John_Sharp@KCMO.org (THANK HIM FOR HIS LEADERSHIP ON THIS!)
  • Mayor Mark Funkhouser, mayor@KCMO.org (express our gratitude for his co-sponsorship and vision on this)

2. Send this information to anyone you know within KC city limits who you believe will support these revisions. Feel free to forward this email, or create your own with these attachments.

3. Get local groups of which you are a part (churches, neighborhoods, clubs, etc.) to speak to our council representatives in support of the revisions. Both our individual support as well as group support will be helpful tools in influencing our representatives. I or someone else from the planning group would be happy to come share with your group, or equip you to do so.

4. Attend the upcoming public hearings as a supporter:

City Council Business Session: Thursday, April 15, 2010, 1:30 p.m., 10th floor, City Hall City Plan Commission: Tuesday, April 20, 2010, Exact time to be announced, but will be around 9:30 a.m, 26th floor, City Hall (Council Chambers)

Planning & Zoning Committee of the City Council: date to be announced (late April or early May)
For more information, including suggested letter and fact sheet, or if you have any questions about this process you can contact Brooke at brooke AT badseedfarm.com.

Please help support our local, urban agriculture!

Related posts:
Eat and Be Satisfied
You Are What You Eat

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Bits & Bobs

Painted this on my wall last night...

The cephalopods and I want you to come to my art show tonight! Details are on Wednesday's post.

Plus! Today is your last chance to leave a comment on Monday's post to receive a free copy of my poetry ebook "Truth, Love, Blood and Bones." Which, if I say so myself, is really good. Also other ppl (the few, the brave) who have read it seem to like it too - even if they're not normally into poetry like my friend Nick.

Special Note: Stephanie, I know you already left a comment, but I can't access your email through it so please hit me up at reddvenus AT gmail.com and I'll send your copy along.

And then, for no particular reason other than I think you should see them, here are my current favorite music videos:
Marina and the Diamonds "Mowgli's Road"

(Click to see embedded video)

Little Boots "Remedy"

(Click to see embedded video)

Meg "Precious" [It gets REALLY good half-way in]

(Click to see embedded video)

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

May's First Art Show

You are cordially invited to a
Second Fridays Event
April 9 from 6-9 PM
at
Central Avenue Arts
Kansas City, KS, 66101

I will be showing my collection of paint and pastel Magical Cephalopods, including some never-before-seen ones. Most of the pieces are for sale, but some aren't either because I can't stand to part with them (yet) or because they're already owned by someone else.

There will also be other artists who use the lofts in this space, displaying their work.

I would really love to see you there, so if you can, please come!

Related posts:
The Story of the Magical Cephalopods
Wordless Wednesday: Magical Cephalopods

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Free E-Book


Sorry I dinna post on Friday. Blogger wouldn't let me.

Anyway, to make it up to you (or to coerce ppl in to commenting) I'm going to give away a free e-book of "Truth, Love, Blood and Bones" my recently self-published poetry chapbook to anyone who leaves a comment on this post before midnight on Friday, April 9.

So, comment away.....

Also, I'm headlining at a one-night-only art show this Friday. Details to come!

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