Flip Side

Its been roughly 2 years since I’ve posted anything here. And it’s about time I picked this up again.

A lot has changed. I no longer live in DC, and am happily domiciled in Chicago. It took me 5 months of detox to forget about the stress DC brought to my life, but I am a better person for it. :D I look forward to the conversation, even if it’s me talking to the great wide abyss of the internets. and now, for something truly fun: http://www.instructables.com/id/Unicorn-Poop/

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picasso it ain’t

My husband regaled this story to me while we were visiting a friend in Chicago and going through a Matisse exhibit

Picasso is sitting in a cafe, drinking a coffee, when a man walks up to him and says, “Mr. Picasso, I was wondering if you’d be willing to draw me something on this napkin”. So Picasso obliged, and in several moments had drawn something on the napkin supplied by the man. When Picasso turns the napkin over to the man, he simply states, “that will be 2 million dollars”. The man, confused at this, asks, “but it has only taken you 30 seconds to draw on that napkin.” Picasso responds, “But its taken me 30 years to draw that in 30 seconds”.

As an active member of the gaming community, I wonder if we don’t sometimes forget what really goes into art. I bring this up because there has been a recent rehash of claims made by Roger Ebert (yes of film review fame) that games are not art. As he stated previously:

But I believe the nature of the medium prevents it from moving beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art. To my knowledge, no one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great dramatists, poets, filmmakers, novelists and composers. That a game can aspire to artistic importance as a visual experience, I accept. But for most gamers, video games represent a loss of those precious hours we have available to make ourselves more cultured, civilized and empathetic.

His most recent conversation on this subject culminated in this article in his journal. Kellee Santiago gave a talk for TED at USC and tries to attack this very notion of “are games art?” Personally, I have yet to feel that an entire game can be considered “art” with few, if not one exception. But my interest in this article has more to do with Ebert’s lack of reasoning as to why Kellee is wrong and my eventual siding with Ebert.

The lack of reasoning is easily summed up in one of the comments to the post that he “simply doesn’t get it”. If Ebert doesn’t understand the mechanics of the game beneath what he is being shown on a clip of play through, he’ll never understand what people are trying in vain to tell him. It’s as if Ebert himself were trying to discuss why Jaws was so pivotal in the horror/thriller genre to someone who simply doesn’t care about a dolly zoom effect and what it’s influences were on modern film making.

Perhaps that is where people have gone wrong. My proposal to anyone who wishes to convince him otherwise, would be to recreate a movie frame by frame in a 3D environment. My feeling is that he’d still reject this.

Ebert never once defines “art” for his argument which should also be a clue to those who continue to try to convince him he is wrong. If he presents no point to contradict, there is no argument you can engage him in. Simply disagreeing with his opinion means nothing.

Now, while I don’t agree with how Ebert is presenting himself in this argument, I for one, have to agree that games are very rarely art. His one point about many aspiring artists draw many wonderful nudes, but it doesn’t mean they achieve the artistic recognition of someone like DaVinci or Picasso.

This brings me back to the Matisse exhibit. In this exhibit, we explored how Matisse came to be Matisse. Much of what was on the walls were early scribbles and sketches. Over and over and over again he would draw the same paintings, advancing his style, reworking lines, and thoughts and elements within. This is one thing I think every artist does. They continually rework their craft, ultimately developing their unique look and feel. They become (in the words of film) auteurs; authors of their own medium.

Have games gotten to that point? Do we have many auteurs in the industry? Like movies, games have huge budgets and thus huge crews, but ultimately they are carrying out the vision of the director or lead developer. And there is a new theory out there that suggests games fall under a new kind of authorship, one that is explain in the Studio Auteur Theory, where it is the studio one works for that will create the authorship of the works. But this seems a little flawed to me as auteurship is over different genres of films, different characters, different worlds. Most studios keep to what they know best: EA has its sports franchises, Blizzard has WoW and Diablo, Valve has Half-Life,  and Bungie has Halo.  However, even in these studios, we still only see a handful of masterminds behind games that can continually reproduce works that are both interesting and engaging. People like Sudo 51 or Masaya Matsuura creators of the games Killer 7 and Chime are a rare breed in an industry where the craft is more about deadlines and bottom dollars than seeing a vision played out. The amount of time spent perfecting a game is exponentially larger after release. (hence all the updates and “patches” we download each time we load up) Films don’t have that luxury. And with that comes a need to get it right the first time out. Is that where the “art” lies? Can art be a fluid thing? Can you change a canvas once its hung on a wall, and still call what it is “art”, if what it was before was “art”?

Just like Matisse, there may have been 6 or 7 versions of “Bathers by a River” but only one remains on the walls of the Louvre.

More thoughts later….

….it changed the movement.

One of the better parts of my job is to attend classes that are bi-continental. In short, I’m a disk jockey of technology support. I work in classrooms around GU campus and perform maintenance and support tasks all day. One part of this job involves classes with our sister school in Doha, Qatar. Every morning I sit in on classes that are being taught using an RPX room. This week, there is a class called Jazz, Civil Rights, and American Society taught by one Maurice Jackson. Love this Prof. He is someone I feel I grew up with. Great pride in his culture, great love for everything his culture has struggled for and has devoted his life to understanding the ins and outs of it.

When I was a kid, high school specifically, I spent a large amount of time devoted to the study of Detroit. I was born and raised there, and still to this day would LOVE to go back. But I’m sure if you know anything about Detroit, it’s that its been hit hard, harder than most anywhere else, because of the economy. In other words, I can’t find employment there. (major sad face). Any way, in thinking about all these music posts, and how music has always come to affect me, I have but one influence to place the blame. Detroit. What this has to do with Prof. Jackson will become clear in a minute (I hope). Now Detroit is/was/will be the center of Motown sound. In my mind, Detroit invented the 1950’s and 60’s rock and roll sound that is so popular today. Many hours were spent by Quincy Jones and Chuck Barry to perfect the songs you and I know as the hits of those two decades. In fact, it was one of the first know instances of a QC panel for music hits.

What Detroit also is, is black. Unless you live under a rock you already know this. 90% black to be correct. Why is this important you ask? If you know anything about this culture, you know there are three things of great importance, that while can be stereotyped for all sorts of bad, are still true from my growing up in it and are truly good:

God, Music and Barbecue.

1. God means EVERYTHING to this community. As Steve Harvey once said, “We love ourselves some God, don’t we? Ain’t nobody love God like black people.” In terms of this post, think mostly of the hymnals and the power of music in a church.

2. Music is a way of life. Music is involved in almost all aspects of being, which I think is reflexive of the first in this list.

3. BBQ. Now this is not in the sense of eating fried chicken and ribs and watermelon.. Please get that image out of your head right now… Lets all grow up shall we? No. This is more of a sense of community. While media will often portray this culture as being one without male figures and mothers having babies out-of-wedlock, the truth of the matter is, community is the core of their values. Again I think this is reflexive of the first in the list. BBQ is just a means to get people together.

Back to Prof. Jackson….

While setting him up for his class he pulls out the PBS special Let Freedom Sing. I have the soundtrack to this as it is just AMAZING. It documents the history of music in the civil rights movement and its influences on the movement. One song in particular has stuck out and that is called “Change is Gonna Come” written by Sam Cooke, but performed by Otis Redding (Sitting on the Dock of the Bay fame). If you don’t know this song, I highly rec checking it out here. Listen to the way Otis strains with the third chorus. honestly, if you knew nothing about the movement, this song and his voice will tell you all you needed to know.

Originally (according to Wikipedia) this song was written by Cooke after hearing Dylans “Blowen in the Wind”. It moved him so greatly to hear a song written by a non-black about racism that he basically went home and said, ya know, there’s nothing that’s gonna stop this change from happening. The song was born.

The song, very much a departure for Cooke, reflected two major incidents in his life. The first was the death of Cooke’s 18-month-old son, Vincent, who died of an accidental drowning in June of that year. The second major incident came on October 8, 1963, when Cooke and his band tried to register at a “whites only” motel in Shreveport, Louisiana and were summarily arrested for disturbing the peace. Both incidents are represented in the weary tone and lyrics of the piece, especially the final verse: There have been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long/but now I think I’m able to carry on/It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.

(wikipedia)

The truly sad part of this story, Cooke never heard the song recorded. He died before it was ever put on tape. But it changed the movement. Aside from “We Shall Overcome” this is the single most widely recognized song to represent the struggle of the civil rights movement.

Sitting there, watching the film again in class, made me want to just rant about how awesome it is. One song. One song among many, but one song stood out and changed the movement. CHANGED THE WHOLE MOVEMENT. How incredible is that? Remember when the sheriff down in Birmingham released all the “disturbers of the peace” freedom riders from jail? He said he did it because the singing was driving him crazy. That’s right. People would sing as they were being beaten in jail cells. Sing as people poured milk and trash all over their hair at sit-ins. Sing when they were being hosed with fire hoses. Sing sing sing.

Film’s make me leave my living room and games transport me to other worlds, but ONLY music makes me feel invincible. Unstoppable. Hopeful.

All I have to do is listen.


Half as Hard and Twice as Good

What a fantastic notion! My sis put this up as a post last week or the week before about Sara Groves’ song Twice as Good and I simply can NOT get it out of my head. I feel compelled to send this to every female I know. I have no idea why. Once again I see myself unable to explain what I feel, however this song has nailed it on the head. I just love the idea of things being half as hard and twice as good. I think back on some really crap times in my life and the people who have gotten me through them. How horrible it would have been to have done them alone. I also think we don’t tell each other enough how awesome a friend one is. We need to do this more often. We need to reaffirm the aged old idea of everything that is good in me, is because someone like you is in my life.

While my sis continues to say she knows little of friendship, I find this quite ironic. I can’t speak for everyone in her life, but what she knows about friendship from how she’s treated as a friend, I can guarantee that most would say the same about her and how she treats us. I think most people learn about friendship this way. Many times it works the other way around, where you have not so good friends, and thus you don’t understand friendship like others do. This song pretty much is a guide for anyone who doesn’t get it, or doesn’t know what to do. How much simpler could it be than to strive for half as hard and twice as good? No matter what that entails, that’s your pleasure as a friend. Make things half as hard and twice as good. Yeah. I likes.

The Lyrics:

When I am down and need to cry till morning,
I know just where I am going.
When I’m in need of sweet commiseration
To speak out loud.
Raise a glass to friendship
And to knowing you don’t have to go alone.
We’ll raise out hearts to share each other’s burdens
On this road.

Every burden I have carried,
Every joy–it’s understood.
Life with you is half as hard,
And twice as good.

With my good news you’re dancing on the table:
Baby’s born, to celebration.
The joy of life, oh what a sweet communion,
Shared with you.

Every burden I have carried,
Every joy–it’s understood.
Life with you is half as hard,
And twice as good.

Every burden I have carried,
Every joy–it’s understood.
Life with you is half as hard,
And twice as good.

I know we’re growing older,
Can you imagine what that will bring?
It’s all a mystery to me now,
Except this one thing:
It’ll be half as hard, and twice as good.

The Book of Face

I’m not one to get into the debate about privacy on Facebook. You put stuff up there, anywhere really, on the internet and you have no more privacy. But what I do find fascinating are the “conversations” I have on Facebook, compared to some one else, like my brother. Many times, the posts that go up are articles or comments about some worldly issue, and before I know it, I’ve got 42 comments, a philosophical discussion and minor education about something I didn’t know before. My brother on the other hand posts things like “I am king” and that’s it.

What brings this up is my mom. She has joined the book of face and after what was supposed to be a joking comment of “you never post to my wall, I feel unloved”, she posts this in reply…

How can you feel unloved? I talk to you 10 times a day!! I don’t want the rest of the world to see my opinion. I feel very strongly (you Know this) that my privacy is protected and I also still can’t figure out what gets posted for the world to see :) I don’t understand much of the single statements or comments posted and really don’t care enough to find out besides I really philosophically disagree with posting on a social networking site, but I Do Love You!
The part that I love is the “I feel very strongly…that my privacy is protected”. It struck me that even though I’ve followed the debate on both sides I really had no idea people actually believe not only that they should have privacy, but that there IS privacy at all to be protected.

How do you see privacy in spaces like this?

Mixed Tape

So I’ve built this cd for my Italian sister but the mix is really quite excellent. If you read the post before, the cd is based on a couple of conversations I’ve had with her about how many heels my head is over in love with my husband. Like I said, music does what my mouth can’t. I know there’s a “that’s what she said”  joke in there somewhere, but I’ll leave that to others. :)

Playlist:

What a Weird Feeling This Is…

So I’ve been married for exactly 6 months today. And what a ride it has been. I was trying to explain to my Italian sister why I can’t wait for her to experience this once she’s 6 months in. All I could do was play a soundtrack for her that pretty much summed it up. Words rarely can do justice to what I feel towards my beau which is why I am so very thankful for music. And that’s not to say that others couldn’t express the same feelings, I’m just not that articulate. Been listening to the Moldy Peaches a lot with some Sonic Youth mixed in. An odd combo but it works I think. One is mostly lyrics, and the other is mostly noise. One is super campy/cheesy the other is as cynical as it gets. It keeps my ears on their metaphorical toes. So as a parting gift, here are two songs that are playing in my list as we type/read. Enjoy.

Sonic Youth: Incinerate

Moldy Peaches: Anyone Else But You

Anyone Else But You, Moldy Peaches