Blogging Saves Lives!

According to CNN, anyway.

The story piqued my interest because it's about a Berkeley grad student who narrowly escaped Egyptian jail by Twitting (tweeting? Twittering?) 'Arrested' to his blog. Ah, the powers of technology. And just think of Berkeley's next superlame recruiting slogan (though I can't imagine it could get worse than "Do U.C. Berkeley?" Get it? Get it?): UC Berkeley: Turning Ordinary Dorks into Global MacGyvers.

Not going to lie, I feed off of Berkeley news and Craigslist ads to keep myself going as I pitifully procrastinate invisible piles of papers to write.

Speaking of which, I cannot afford to live in the Bay Area. Despite the housing market crisis (or because of it?) rent has not remotely stabilized in either Berkeley or Oakland. Half the landlords are charging far, far too much (come on, $2800 a month for a barebones 2BR more than 2 miles from campus?), a quarter are expensive but understandable, and the last quarter is suspiciously affordable ($10-1300), probably because those apartments are dumps or you will get shot walking home from the mini-mart to which it is so conveniently located near.


Check me into a mental institution now.


Just for the hell of it (and at the behest of a boss to whom I have always been rather loyal), I decided to add another major today. I also plan to complete it in two semesters. Welcome to the department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies!

Secretly, I've always sort of felt at home in the department. I've worked there longer than I've been a rhetoric major and despite having only taken one 9-person class in TDPS, I could profile the academic interests of more students in the theater department than I can in my own.

Part of completing the major includes stage managing for the rest of my college career to satisfy participation requirements. At those words, I am sure my roommates are choking on their Camparis, because I am fairly confident that I exasperatedly declared after strike last fall that I would take it easy in every subsequent semester.

Stage managing is the antithesis of "taking it easy."

I've known it was hard work since my sophomore year of high school, when I began stage managing. Despite being markedly more experienced about it now than I ever was (I've come a long way from leaving post-its on an actor's locker), I find that no matter how good I felt I was my job, after every show there's something new to learn.

I guess that what keeps me interested. Or I'm a masochist.



As the Daily Clog points out, Yale academic artist Aliza Shvarts used herself as a performance piece and runs into parallel ethical issues as the Vargas piece.

I certainly hope Intellectual, Philosophically Controversial, And Often Misunderstood isn't the next school of contemporary art.

McSweeney's lists aren't even this good

I've been thinking about ethical and philosophical issues facing the art world today, and I know this sounds pretentious, but I am not kidding you, my interest in such a dorky subject is legitimized by a Facebook group about it discusses, pragmatically called, "Prevent the 'Artistic' Death of an Innocent Animal-SIGN THE PETITION!".

These 410,000+ group members advocated against Guillermo Vargas' recent art installation piece entitled "Eres Lo Que Lees" ("You Are What You Read"). They believed that it was completely atrocious that the artist would consider displaying an emaciated dog as the subject of an installation art piece. The crucial assumption the protesters made, of course, was the link between the images of a tied, starving dog they saw on the Internet and the (incorrect) news stories that suggested the image's subject was the art piece, not the performance of the image of a starving dog.

It's clearly the artist's on how consumers assume facts based on images we see proliferated around us: we rely on narratives suggested by images that may or may not be true. The artist was not, in fact, starving a dog and calling it installation art. Vargas was, in fact, proliferating the image of a dog starving on a YouTube video, "press" images, and other unconfirmable sources of media.

While the point of the art piece, as the title of the piece makes clear, deals directly with press and Internet proliferation and how we always assume the worst because of what the images are suggesting (or, rather, what we assume by our own subconscious narrative-making), the issue at hand is the fundamental misunderstanding these 410,000+ students had while imperializing the issue on all their friends.

I applaud their efforts to think in the abstract about the potential philosophical dilemma presented by the notion of live presentation of animal abuse as art (versus representation of such things in films, etc, which is totally different). But somehow, I don't think Damien Hirst's job is on the line quite yet-- least not from these folks. Here are some choice quotes from Facebook group commentary, which I promise I did not make up, and I apologize for including the last one which is comically long (last names omitted due to irrational fear of lawsuit):

From Colleen S., E. Michigan-
Yeah, I've seen something like this before, but what was it? Oh yeah, the HOLOCAUST. Thousands of people collected, subdued, and starved to death. Was that an artistic masterpiece? If you call this art, you'd have to call Hitler an artist, I mean after all he was trying to make a culturally altering statement as well, right Shiggmasta? It's not art; it's sadistic, immoral, and completely disgusting. This poor creature did not deserve this, and neither does any other animal on the planet.

From Kaylee M., Armada Area High School-
I agree with Colleen S[-----} on this. Saying that this is art is saying that the Holocaust was art. If I were the artist I would've tooken the dog to the vet. and let him get fixed up. [Hidden grammatical error: Kaylee also misspelled Colleen S.'s last name. Plus two points!]

From Telisha P., E. Kentucky-
whoever is doing this is going to hell.

From David M., Wash. College-
[posted as several posts, separated by author's own "(cont...)" notes.] While I will say that most humans obviously value human life over animal life, it does not make this situation any less cruel. I have read several posts on the pictures of this group, and the ones that support this as a work of art, I respect your opinion.

I will ask, however, was Hitler trying to make a statement about those he starved and had murdered en masse during the Holocaust? Could one call all slaveowners in history "artists", then? Obviously (because I know those of you with an opposing view are rolling your eyes and freaking out), these people never viewed themselves as artists. However, if we categorize the above photo as an artwork, a masterpiece that exhibits a situation in the world and humanity's resolve to fix it, cannot the things I have mentioned also be seen as art? Now, who would dare call slavery and the Holocaust "art"?


I believe sometimes in this world that we, as a collective western civilization progressing into the twenty-first century, we thoroughly enjoy breaking the boundaries of the past. We watch television shows that make mockery of things that were once revered, and we listen to music that would make the lowest bottomfeeder of the Victorian era blush, and so on. But that is a television show or a song. You may choose not to watch or listen, and your ignorance will cause no physical or other kind of pain. When we become too desensitized to the power and responsibility attributed to breaking boundaries, we ourselves become a steamroller that pushes through and destroys the beauty of this world. Will we destroy boundaries until the chaos of some borderless world (in the philosophical and physical sense) comes to be?


What Mr. Habacuc should realize is that his artwork is lacking an evalution of importance and need. Does this work even *need* to exist? It is a dog, and it is without voice or language. Yet it does have feelings, emotional and physical. One of the criterion used by the US federal government for judging obscenity in media is in regards to something's artisitic value. If all that can be said of the artistic value of this piece is that it can be used to make mankind band together to fight animal hunger, I'm afraid the argument falls rather short in light of the opposition.


Basically, all I mean to say is that this kind of art does not *need* to happen. A poor animal (and that includes snake, vulture, etc.) should never become the focus of humanity's art in this way. Would you give praise to an exhibition of ants dying in insect gas, just because it happens everyday and you want to bring attention to it? This is clearly, in my opinion, the wrong way to use art. It is a violation of Art, and all the beautiful things that it has given to the world through centuries and generations.

I apologize for this rant; I never do this on facebook, trust me!

[p.s. this was posted between 5:30-5:31am]

From Jordan G., Edina Senior High School-
re: all those comparing this to the Holocaust:

you are idiots. you trivialize the deaths of 10 million+ people to try and make a point about the death of an animal. you sicken me.

[Glad to see the Holocaust still being taken seriously. Seriously.]

Thanks for sticking with me. I don't know if you paid attention this long or whether you also take pleasure in the irony of an installation artist's successful performance piece, but in any case it was good to get it off my chest and maniacally laugh at fellow Facebook members.

I say fellow because there is plenty to mock me about. I just found that video on the Internet, and if you know who I am, you can probably find me (circa 2004) in the first segment.


By the way,

This is the theme-photo for my birthday's dinner party next week.

I expect it to be een prima feest (no guarantees on proper Dutch grammar), though I may have undertaken a bit more than two hot plates, a microwave, and a toaster oven can accomplish for upwards of 20 guests.

For such a small school, the parties sure get big...


-The dryer is broken, and I have approximately negative three items of clothing I could potentially wear.

-25% of my final grade in one class comes from group work: in other words, other people. Another 10% comes from an in-class presentation about one field trip which, due to my trip to Scotland (and I don't regret that part one bit), I will be missing.

-I was the only Californian cleaning the bar yesterday, and one of a few who stupidly ordered the Thai Curry Chicken-- the only lame item on the menu at Wok to Go.

-I have still not mailed Jake's birthday present. The good thing about this is that I can mail Jake's and Cassidy's together now that I will miss both birthdays.

-I have still not found stamps to mail already-written postcards that I bought and wrote in Spain (though I did manage to mail my parents theirs with the one stamp I did find on my desk).

-Firefox keeps "unexpectedly quitting" (at this point, I should say "expectedly quitting"). It pretty much happens all the time, but I don't care unless it involves me uploading photos I have painstakingly selected for uploading to the Flickr account I have, to date, neglected. I've stopped bothering to report the error to Firefox because every time it asks what I have been doing, I just say "existing."

-Must go to group meeting, delayed because one member (not surprisingly) missed his train to meet us.


Getting the ball rolling

Before you nay-say, I know. I know I have neglected this blog fairly extensively. In that time, my plants have died and my fictitious children have starved. I've basically fallen off the planet into the warm caprices of a particularly studious academic building and some very annoying schoolwork.

I've been trying to write, even to procrastinate, but I am at a loss for where to begin again. Spelunking in Menorca? Returning to dining hall? Realizing that student government elections are no different between a 600-person school and a 30,000-person school, except in the former the likelihood of getting a free beer for your vote is much higher. And also chalk is completely impractical in a country that rains twice a day.

It's sort of like I've been holding the refrigerator door open, staring blankly at the plenitude of available snacks. Which do I choose first?

Except the refrigerator is getting more and more full of options, and I'm not eating any of it and in this extended metaphor I begin to lose my bearings on the English language and regress to a time in my childhood when things were much simpler.

I'm headed to Scotland to visit my friend Elizabeth next week, a trip I am very much looking forward to if for no other reason than to please my mother, at whose behest I have accepted a mission to buy golf-themed things for the men in my family.

And also because I am getting antsy sitting around, drinking beer and doing homework all the time.