Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wishing All a Gaunt and Strange Halloween

My contribution to this week's Illustration Friday theme: "skinny."  If this guy seems a little creepy, consider him appropriate for the season.  I also think he matches the subtitle of Bungy Notes -- he is flexible, he is strange.  Happy Halloween, all.  Don't eat too many empty calories.

Following Piece 2.0 -- Day Five

My subject for the last day of @Platea's "Following Piece 2.0" is a self-identified curmudgeon and misanthrope.  His profile professes his revulsion for humanity.  Why "parasite" is part of his Twitter name, he never really clarifies.  Parasite did not post very much on Friday, concentrating most of his tweets in the early morning hours about his general disdain for Chief Justice Roberts and the damage the Bush Administration has done to the justice system.

With that good beginning, I was really looking forward to following him for a day.  So I was understandably disappointed when Parasite's feed went silent for the rest of the day.  I guess I got spoiled by the frequent tweets of my earlier subjects and their tendency to have something that significantly concerned them across the day.  In Acconci's original Following Piece, sometimes the people he followed went into private space quickly, making for a short report.  This cover of that work ran into a similar phenomenon today.  I would be a hypocrite, indeed, if I complained about anyone else's reliable frequency in blogging, micro- or regular.  My own presence in these virtual spaces is spotty and unpredictable. 

And this observation, both of Parasite and my self-reflexive turn, leads to an observation about significant differences between public space and the internet:  It is much harder for me to avoid moving through physical public space than it is to avoid public virtual  space.  At some point, I have to go get groceries (to say nothing of going to work).  My participation in public virtual space is always voluntary, is always optional (at least at this point in my life, at this point in our culture).  There is much to be praised about voluntary performance in optional public space -- issues of agency and communities of choice abound.  There is also a different sort of ethic and imperative of care involved in public spaces that we must share -- even more so when that public space and its practices must be protected from private interests and abuse (c.f. "The Tragedy of the Commons").  And that, I think, is what so concerns Parasite in his few insomniac posts -- the abuse of public service (i.e. the justice system) in the name of private interests.

Friday, October 30, 2009

3:09 a.m. Parasite provides evidence that Supreme Court Justice Roberts is corrupted by coal money. This keeps him up at night? 

3:16 a.m. Parasite asserts the Bush admin hamstrung the Justice Dept. with shills. He follows the legal system, apparently.

3:18 a.m. Parasite continues his expose' on Justice Roberts, who apparently wants to make it easier for judges to take bribes.

3:19 a.m. Parasite links to story of PA judicial system abusing juvenile offenders. He ties the abuse back to...Justice Roberts.

8:09 a.m. Parasite praises German health care system and wishes he only had to pay $25/mo for coverage. Would it buy sleep aids?    

Friday, October 30, 2009

Following Piece 2.0 -- Day Four

Today's subject for @ Platea's "Following Piece 2.0" is the very entertaining Craft Mom.  She runs a semi-popular blog of tips, ideas, and crafts for mom's.  Apparently she's been profiled by local media.  And she has a whole network of "blogger mom" friends that she communicates with on a regular basis.  As with my other subjects this week, she lives nearby in southern Illinois.

I was kind of amused when following her turned into a big psycho-drama about generating followers for her blog's Facebook page.  In fact, I found myself nudging my emergent protocol a little at the end so I could provide a little closure to the whole excitement of her attempt to reach 200 followers.  My collaborative experiment in following keeps encountering the importance of having followers in digital communities. 

Read this unexpected confluence alongside my experience of sharing my daily reports with my partner yesterday.  He finds the project engaging, but notes that I seem kind of mean in my characterization of the people I am following.  I will admit, I do go for the laugh a lot.  Even so, I do so for a reason.  I want to be very clear that I am not just retweeting someone's posted thoughts and experiences; I am reframing them, taking them up as partial narratives open to my own speculation and emphasis, my own creative play.  I fill in the gaps that are inevitable in a brief and chance encounter, whether on the streets or on-line (or on the "stweets," as @Platea would say).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

7:39 a.m. Craft Mom starts her day with the "fun" of learning about spiders, whether or not it is nearly Halloween.

8:14 a.m. Craft Mom circulates information for winning an HP Photo Printer. Free craft supplies are the best!

8:19 a.m. Craft Mom offers an idea to a friend for preschool show-and-tell for the letter A. She recommends "Aardvark."

9:51 a.m. Craft Mom congratulates a friend on achieving 200 followers for her blog. See? Folks like being followed. 

9:54 a.m. Craft Mom retweets a pic of gooey pastry. Is someone carb loading?

9:55 a.m. Craft Mom asks friend (again, apparently) if she can use her recipe for puff paint. She'll give her friend credit with a link. 

10:10 a.m. Craft Mom gets permission for the puff paint recipe. Dimensional art to follow.

10:15 a.m. Craft Mom decides her blog should try to have 200 followers too. Is offering a prize. I think I'll try to win it!

10:28 a.m. Craft Mom announces giveaway contest to facilitate reaching 200 followers for her blog. So that's how it's done!

10:45 a.m. Craft Mom tells her puff paint friend that she will be using the recipe to make a snowman postcard for her kids. 

11:00 a.m. Craft Mom needs 39 more followers to reach her goal of 200 for her blog. Being coy about what the prize will be. 

1:22 p.m. Craft Mom trying to win a giveaway prize by RTing a friend's message. This mom is really into winning stuff! 

1:43 p.m. Craft Mom is playing instant win games with her daughter, who loves it when the digital baby defecates in the bathtub.

9:26 p.m. Craft Mom links to a page of happy Halloween holiday treats. Um. Trick? 

9:30 p.m. Craft Mom is only 7 followers short on her blog. Okay, I misread. It's her blog's Facebook page.

10:32 p.m. Craft Mom links to a blog about feelings of community to be found at HS football games. With community in boldface.

10:35 p.m. Craft Mom is only 5 short of 200 followers. Will it keep her up if it doesn't happen by bedtime? 

11:59 p.m. Craft Mom must have gone to bed. Her blog's FB following: 197. Including me. Good luck finding more followers, CM.             

One more day of following to go.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Following Piece 2.0 -- Day Three

Today's subject is a law student at our local law school.  I was a little nervous about this one, anticipating that I might risk antagonizing someone with the expertise to cause me legal troubles for this experiment.  But I stick to my own protocol and the cautions of @Platea's prompt for Following Piece 2.0 and trust that I am truely not violating anyone's rights, legal or otherwise.

Both Acconci's following piece and this cover of it are meant to be a little unsettling, inasmuch as they investigate the fine line between public and private space, real or digital.  Like Acconci, I have not notified or asked permission of the folks I am following this week.  I do officially follow them on Twitter (although potentially I could track their tweets without actually clicking the "follow" toggle), so they could do the digital equivalent of looking over their shoulders to see me tweeting about them.  So far that hasn't happened; I am prepared to deal with it politely and professionally if it does.

I choose my subjects from a function on my iPhone's "Tweetie" app that allows me to view only local tweets.  I suppose I might have followed anyone on-line, but there is an extra component to my particular take on this project that, while keeping the following on-line, still flirts with the possiblity of an IRL encounter.  We trace our individual trajectories through a shared local landscape, but I am only following these people digitally.  In this way, I experience the porousness of real and virtual in similar ways to how the following pieces (1.0 and 2.0) negotiate the pourous boundaries between public and private.  Or, at least, that's how I am processing it all today.

Lawyer in Training presented an extra challenge: he tweets a lot in dialogue with fellow classmates and friends.  I wondered if I should focus on his side of the conversation alone or if I should consider, as the technology so easily allows, what his friends were tweeting.  I opted for the latter, although I kept my focus on the original subject.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

8:06 a.m. Lawyer in Training expresses concern that lawyers should have basic math skills.

9:21 a.m. Lawyer in Training laughs with friend over her child's pronunciation of "hymn" as "hymen."

11:02 a.m. Lawyer in Training finds Appellate Court arguments convenient. I'm sure that's a matter of perspective.

11:45 a.m. Lawyer in Training decides his class is improving and that he might actually be learning something from it.

11:49-11:54 a.m. Lawyer in Training and friends make fun of a fellow student's difficulty with fractions. 3 out of 4 lawyers are mean.

8:03 p.m. Lawyer in Training appears to be drowning in Torts. It doesn't sound fun.

8:46 p.m. Lawyer in Training shows an incredible memory for sports stats, particularly Aaron Rodgers's.

11:05 pm Lawyer in Training impressed with Phillies performance. Decides the series might be worth his attention now.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Following Piece 2.0 -- Day Two

Day Two of @Platea's "Following Piece 2.0."  Yesterday morning I scrolled through "Nearby" tweets on Tweetie and hit upon Otter Boy.  That's not his Twitter name, but it does include "otter."

Note on my emerging protocol:  I try to make this selection more or less at random, but I also check recent tweets to get a sense of how often the potential subject posts.  What's the point of following someone if they never go anywhere?  Assuming the subject seems to post with sufficient frequency, I follow the subject and tweet a summary of his/her tweets as I see them.  I also follow any links posted or that included in the subject's profile. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

7:17 a.m. Otter Boy chooses to wear Hollister. Shirt? Cologne? The whole ensemble?

8:01 a.m. The Hollister decision pays off as Otter Boy receives immediate positive attention at school.

2:20 p.m. Otter Boy tweets about the science of light. The comment is in quotation marks, suggesting it is something someone else said.

4:15 p.m. Otter Boy notes, with excessive sibilance, that he is at the dentist.

4:48 p.m. Otter Boy gets confirmation from the dentist and praise for his vampire teeth. Plans to celebrate tonight.

4:49 p.m. Otter Boy expresses adoration for all he has accomplished and everything he will ever do. I think I need to change dentists.

5:38 p.m. Otter Boy expresses emphatic appreciation for T-Pain and disdain for Twitter. Not sure what the connection is.

9:25 pm Otter Boy listens to music in the dark. Remembering the Dentist (perhaps), opens wide and says, "ahhh." 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Following Piece 2.0 -- Day One

In keeping with Vito Acconci's original "Following Piece," I am uploading the following data for today's subject in my contribution to @Platea's "Following Piece 2.0".  I suppose if I were really following Acconci's protocol, I would send this report to an artist friend selected at random.

I found "Local Band Dad" (my name for him) by scrolling through the "Nearby" tweets on my Tweetie account.  I posted each entry separately to Twitter today.  The time stamp refers to when Local Band Dad made his Tweets (with one obvious exception).  I followed only his public activity on Twitter, including links he provided on that account.  With those caveats, I present today's report:

Monday, October 26, 2009

7:28 a.m. local dad talks to walmart greeter and expects a humanitarian award for the effort.

7:33 a.m. local dad lusts after lime green Ford Pinto and expresses subsequent disappointment in his Beemer. Sarcasm?

8:47 a.m. local dad posts pic of son with security blanket blearily watching morning cartoons. Doing own following piece with his kid?

9:00 a.m. checked out local dad's MySpace page and learn that he sings lead vocals for a local band. Rebranding as "local band dad."

11:22 a.m. Local Band Dad proclaims love for his father.

1:00 p.m. listened to mp3s of Local Band Dad's band on his MySpace page. Liked it. Wish band was playing somewhere public this week.

5:50 p.m. Local Band Dad posts Fred Flintstone-like gibberish to Twitter. Excitement about the end of the workday or baby talk?

Also in keeping with Acconci, tomorrow I will find a new subject to follow.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fast and Not Fast Culture

It's been a hard Saturday.  I participated in a quickly organized local "Climate Action 350" today and dealt with quite a few denialists.  Well no, that's not quite accurate.  I dealt with one particular denialist who wasn't really a denialist.  More a nihilist.  We're all gonna die.  We can't do anything about it.  That old saw.

It is with this experience that I turn to Illustration Friday's theme for the week: "Fast."  Holding a sign about catastrophic climate change to motorists speeding by on their way to some Saturday appointment, it's hard not to see our culture's addiction to speed, to getting there fast, to instant gratification.

It is important, then, to remember that other meaning of fast -- to go without. To voluntarily starve oneself, to subsequently slow down.  To understand what you have, what you can consume by choosing not to, even if only for a short while.  The general consensus among the climate change mitigation opposition is that the problem is now too big, that no one will make the sacrifices necessary to have any meaningful impact.  Sure, we can identify the need to get back to 350 ppm carbondioxide, but it is harder to agree on what we need to do to get there.  And harder still when we are all too wrapped up in our recession woes to think of giving up anything more, to even consider climate change legislation that might add $100 to your yearly household energy bill.

And then this.  If I just live fast enough, live hard enough, I can keep from thinking about transgenerational problems that loom large but offer no confirmation of immediate gratification.  We cannot solve human contributions to climate change easily or quickly.  So live fast and die hard.

Or not.  I choose not, even if the boys zipping by in their four wheeler in a cloud of dark exhaust flip me off and call me faggot.  Sorry boys, this is not a problem you can run from. 

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Covering Acconci

The good folks at @Platea are at it again.  As a cover of an earlier (1969) performance/conceptual art piece by Vito Acconci, @Platea proposes "Following Piece 2.0."  Where Acconci would follow random strangers through the public spaces of Manhattan, @ Platea is interested in how that same experiment might play out in the public spaces of the Internet, particularly but not limited to Twitter.

It was an interesting concept for Acconci, and it is definitely an interesting experiment for the Internet Age.  @Platea provides a closing caution about performers not violating privacy laws and not partaking in stalking or cyberstalking.  Even so, it is the kind of work that might remind us of how public the "public screen" (DeLuca and Peeples, 2002) actually is in a time when some folks expect their actions on the internet and social netorking sites to remain somehow private.

Pop on over to the @Platea site to sign up to follow and report on folks.  There are suggestions there for what this on-line performance might look like, but those suggestions certainly do not exhaust the possibilities.  As with Acconci, the art here lies more in the reportage than in the following.  And if you have problems with this sort of art, feel free to start a conversation here or there about your misgivings.  

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Cry in Ink

These images on the page (whether digital or a literal piece of paper) -- are they some deeper sign of the psyche in turmoil?  Should we worry when dark images emerge?  Are these warning signs, threats of danger, a cry for help?  Or is there just something to black ink on white paper that brings out the darkness?

I'm informed here by Rob Schrab's introduction to Jhonen Vasquez's Johnny the Homicidal Maniac anthology.  Or influenced.  Let's go with influenced.  Schrab writes of violent comics in general and JTHM specifically, "Take a deep breath, give your monster a high five and put him away.  You've just used an evil fantasy to keep you civilized and sane." 

It's true.  In my doodles and nascent attempts at comics, I always find a surreal sense of the macabre bubbling up.  At best, it is only wierd.  More often -- and perhaps more often of late -- those images can take a decidedly darker turn.  If I draw a flower, I feel compelled to draw thorns.  Lately those thorns form on tentacle-like roots, and more often than not seem to be seeking to skewer the offensive nose that would dare to stop and take a sniff.  It's an old pattern.  As a student in those liminal and strained middle school years, I would create elaborate assembly lines of torture and death for my teachers.  Not that I hated my teachers.  Not that I ever wanted to wear a black trenchcoat or bring a firearm to school.  Never even close.  But something about that illicit use of the margins of my notebook for dark fantasy made the regimented life of school tolerable.

Big surprise.  Now I am the teacher, although in the halls of academia more than grade school (inasmuch as there is a difference).  And yet I still doodle and draw.  I take minutes in meetings and transcribe their content.  Would that I included the marginalia drawings that often accompany them!  Aye, that would make for an interesting meeting with my dean.  Prior to digital transcription, my notes are often darkly illustrated manuscripts.  And then, of course, when I should be grading or working on a paper, I often retreat to a world of scrawled line-work and black ink on paper.  If my homicidal creations raise a bloodied axe, the only thing I am killing is time.  Dark thoughts, perhaps, as I commit a kind of slow professional suicide through a not very ambitious use of my precious time.

But my time is precious -- to me, specifically -- and it seems to be slipping away faster and faster with each passing season.  I think these doodles are a kind of cry, but not for help.  More like a howl at the moon, a reminder that in the depths of overwhelming administrivia, there is always something else I would rather be doing.  Not something grim, necessarily, but something pleasurable in its grim subject matter, something transgressive and inappropriate, something at once neat and messy.  An indulgence, perhaps, an abandoned talent that won't go away (not that I really want it to).  A fascination that flirts with relevance in my professional life, but often as not retreats to the safety of avocation, of escape, of much needed release. 

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Doodle Delusions

It's happening.  My pages are slowly losing words and gaining images, ink blobs, and confusion.  My dreams are pouring out through the pen, but in unexpected combinations and confluence.  Today's fantasies are brought to you from one current and one older doodle journal.  Both address dreams and the penetrable boundaries between fantasy and reality.  Both show the exhilaration and anxiety (often combined) that swirls in my brain, my inner life a flash/cut of half-formed forms and ideas seeking completion.  Enter at your own risk.

(You must be this high to ride this ride...)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Blog Dialogue

In searching other blogs that do drawing and whimsical illustration work, I came across the wonderful ArtSpark Theatre site.  Susan Sanford offers quite a delicious collection of post cards from her "free-associative visual journey," including an illustration challenge.  She provides the following incomplete image:

The instructions are simple: finish the drawing in whatever way you see fit.  I will admit that I could not resist this invitation -- or even wait until I had access to better art tools to do a better job at the concept that came into my head almost immediately upon viewing the prompt.  Although blog dialogue is inevitably asynchronous, I felt an immediate need to respond.  Plus, well, I am enjoying the idea of doing more art on my own blog and, being the perpetual student, I respond well to assignments.

Here then is a spontaneous response -- done by hand with materials immediately available and then processed somewhat in an older version of Photoshop:

 Susan, I love your blog and its multiple links.  I think I am going to enjoy playing your art games in the future -- I know I enjoyed this one. And now I am off to see the other entries -- I didn't peek before I finished mine!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A McCarthy Comic

So my not-so-secret dream is to be a cartoonist.  I don't mean as a profession necessarily, but just as a regular practice in my life.  It seems like a blog is as good a place as any to post work, and so here goes.  I doubt you can read the following short comic as it reprodces here, but if you click on it, hopefully it will enlarge to a more reader friendly size.