Art as Retort and Real-Time Communication

Posted in Uncategorized on February 18, 2012 by travisbicklesmohawk

A new meme going around I thought was pretty clever.  Of course it gets overplayed in ten seconds like everything else these days, but it still was a pretty cool little joke.  I’m sure you’ve seen it so there’s no point in explaining it here. Just look below; you’ll know what I’m talking about.

This one I made was in retort to the first one I saw about Taiwan.  It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t good–I don’t know, it was very bland, no real meat to it, and maybe being an old git with OG status here, I felt a more honest, accurate summation was in order.  So this is my retort.  And I discovered through the process of doing it that it’s harder than it looks.   So props to the first Taiwan guy for going for it as well.

But the whole thing is more interesting than just this or that present ‘meme’ of the moment.  A lot of these things are symbolic and pictographic.  And as one person makes a version of something that hundreds of others are also doing at the same time, he’s entering into a dialogue completely ruled by symbolic communication.

I think that’s awesome.  I mean, it will necessarily cheapen art, but it will make it more real and influential.  And creatable by the masses.  Jumping on the viral moment also gives you a chance to get on something that people are, for the moment at least, prone to paying attention to and forwarding on to others.  There’s a politics to meming it seems, and once something is seen and assented to as already being in the category of “meme”, it is much more likely to be forwarded on than just the sweet knock-knock joke you bust out on Facebook.


How to Be Certain for Dummies

Posted in Uncategorized on February 17, 2012 by travisbicklesmohawk

Mankind seems almost programmed to enslave itself.  It needs and craves certainty so much that it is willing to settle.  Throughout history, people of every stripe and class have tossed away their open skepticism for beliefs, words, and rituals bearing no actual connection to the physical world at all.

Think about it.  At some point back in the day, some dude killed himself for Zeus.  He did something to piss Zeus off so much that he felt he had to go and run himself through.  And where’s Zeus now?   Who the hell kills themselves for Zeus?  Or what about Chantico, the Aztec goddess of hearth fires, personal treasure, and volcanoes?  Yeah, that bitch.  You just know some dumbass Aztec, some time in the past, jumped into a volcano for Chantico.  Smooth move, idiot.  You were supposed throw yourself in the hearth fire.

Marx was only half-right.  Religion may be the opiate of the people, but that’s only because Certainty is the heroin of the brain.  The feeling generated by being certain and without doubt is so powerful that everyone wants it and most are willing to do anything to attain it.

Imagine being aware on a rock in space where there are no real rules other than death, disease and gravity.  Imagine that it is totally up to you what you do, where you go and who you go with.  There is nothing stopping you from giving someone a hug.  There is also nothing stopping you from hitting someone over the head with a rock.

It’s too much freedom.  It’s too big, too vast, so open that it gives you the shakes if you feel it for too long.  There is no obvious, inherent certainty to any of it.   No real understanding of what to do with ourselves and know this is the “right” thing to be doing.  So people look for an answer, a specific reason to the Why, a specific way to do the What.  And nine times out of ten, they look externally for it, in culture, tradition, and law.

At first, the mind is truly and honestly motivated to find the “Truth”, the right thing that leads to the right kind of Certainty.  Upon failing this (which is the lot for 99.9% of us if the Hindus are to be believed) they will then take anything they can reasonably delude themselves with.  If it sounds ok and it makes you feel good, just cover your eyes to the parts you can’t quite figure out and be certain that this is the tried and true path to everything that is right and good in the universe.  After all, look around you.  This place is packed to the hilt with a bunch of people that are all certain about the exact same thing you are.  And they look the same and have all these special words and everyone knows them together so much that they can break into group songs and dances.  This shit is Real, and if you got any doubts, ask that guy or that guy or that guy.  Same answer.  This is the Truth.

The greatest challenge for human beings, and the day they would truly evolve as a species, would be the day that they became truly ok with not knowing.  Because Certainty is a bullshit quest to begin with.  So much of what we call the “problems of the world” lie inherent within the quest for Certainty.   The dilemmas humans think they will overcome by attaining Certainty are those created by that very same search for it.

At the very center of “knowing” lies an existential prejudice that colors all of life.   Knowing creates Certainty, and Certainty is singular and peculiar.  It is this and not that.  Ego attaches to this Knowledge, this Mastery, and indentifies with it.  Now I have It.  Now I own Certainty.  My path is This and not That.  Your path, being different than mine, becomes That.  That cannot be right because I am Certain in this.

And that right there is the first moment in every second of history.  At least the stuff we record and pump into our children’s heads in schools.  Two groups of people, both singularly convinced that the Certainty their deity doled out was the true Certainty and not the illusory Certainty possessed by their enemy, met on an open field….

More Lonely Planet covers – southeast asia and the American heartland

Posted in Uncategorized on February 17, 2012 by travisbicklesmohawk

Having fun making Lonely Planet Covers. Picking on China.

Posted in Uncategorized on February 17, 2012 by travisbicklesmohawk

I’ve always loved Lonely Planet cover photos.  You’re doing something very essentialistic when you pick one single photo to represent a country and an entire way of life.  You schism off into the stereotypical almost right out the gate.  So then you try not to.  But you can’t avoid it.  What are you gonna do?  Put a picture of a soda can on the cover and say ‘Peru’?   I don’t think so.  It’s Machu Picchu all the way.   Or some natives.

Information Killed My Girlfriend With a Chainsaw

Posted in Uncategorized on August 22, 2011 by travisbicklesmohawk

The information deluge has gotten so out of control that there’s really nothing left to say.  Any piece of information, any tidbit of data (no matter how wise or sagacious it may be) is swept away as quick as it came.  Every face, every fashion, every way to do the do gets its 15 seconds of fame and is then ushered back into the oblivion from whence it came.

Information no longer carries a specific meaning.  The rapidity at which it flows renders all messages moot.  When 70 people are massacred in Norway, it’s the top story for maybe a week.  7 days later, some new Horror of the Century gets its brief moment in the sun.

At a physical level, the sheer size and amount of information generated on any given day has left an imprint over all of life.  The number of messages shuttling through the atmosphere at any moment is truly dizzying.  No longer is there true silence.  Man has created his own mystical sound, his own synthetic version of the Hindu Aum.  And like Aum, it never shuts up.

But it’s not really Aum at all.  It’s more like the scream of the approaching demon as it nears the cabin in Evil Dead 2.  In the end, it will possess our hands and force us to cut them off.  We will make do with chainsaws on arm-stumps in the world where hyper-technology and its screaming pulse “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!…..” breaks into our homes, possesses our girlfriends, makes us chop off their heads and lock them in vices, start up our chainsaws with our teeth and scream, “You’re goin’ down!”.

Welcome to the world of tomorrow.  Silence has been gone for centuries.  The hum of wires, wireless devices and more recent silent technologies creates an ungodly buzz that only your subconscious can hear. Too much information has driven man insane.  Its sheer amount has destroyed all meaning, and its sheer size has created a world of invisible waves blasting in, through, and out of every part of your body at all moments of your life.  If you’re a guy, it knots up your vas deferens like a shoelace.  Females will experience Sahara-like dryness of the vaginal cavern.  Other mammals can expect to shit out their intestines.

All Aliens Are Robots

Posted in Uncategorized on August 14, 2011 by travisbicklesmohawk

It’s becoming pretty clear that homo sapien sapien is going to be the last stage of organic human evolution.  Biology’s glacial pace will no longer have the time in needs to makes evolutionary changes; humans and their technology will always beat it to the punch.  By about 100,000 years.

For example, before humans naturally evolve lungs more powerful and resistant to modern toxins, technology will have solved the issue synthetically 1000 times over.  You’ll be watching slickly edited ads for the Eager Breather Superlung Implant well before evolution ever gets around to considering the issue.  And it will be like that for everything.  You’ll have microchip implants allowing you to see in infrared, bionic limbs for super-strength, and mini-machines cruising your colon shooting poo chunks with lasers.  There’s no way evolution will be able to compete.

The next stage of evolution is non-organic.  Humans will create themselves as a hybrid of machine and living organism.  And the balance between those two poles will continually be sliding in favor of machine.  Sooner or later, people will be basically just robots.

But what you got to consider is that all the while as this personal enhancement technology is going on, so too are the other discoveries in all the other fields of research.  By the time people are robotic, they are also off-earth, using their mega-long life spans to sit on ships plunging into the vast blackness of space.

And it seems to me that this would happen to any mortal, organic form that had brain stem enough to crawl out of the wild and make something of itself.  Sooner or later, as its technology evolved, it would begin to use what it knew to make itself impervious to the things that kill it.

Organic matter is in a flux that always ends up decaying away.  It’s fragile and easily subject to the other powers of organic nature. Synthetic technology, on the other hand, is durable, resistant to many stressors that would crush an organic life form, and can last an indefinite period of time.  So by the time this other creature, this alien, was able to make a spaceship and plunge into the blackest regions of space, it too would have used its own discoveries to turn itself synthetic.

We must surmise that all aliens would be robotic.  Which is funny, because many of the science fiction stories see them as slimy and reptilian.  The imagery is a hyper-advanced version of an earthen creature pretty low on the evolutionary scale.  E.T, Predator, Independence Day, V….they’re always so juicy.

Which is bullshit.  No way aliens are juicy.  No moistness emits from them because all their orifices were sealed up generations ago.  Aliens would be only slightly less machine than the spaceships they flew around in.

Let’s Talk About Zombies..

Posted in Uncategorized on July 28, 2011 by travisbicklesmohawk

Horror movies are best when they manipulate our true, modern fears.  Though the surface of the story may appear to be monsters and gore, underneath, the filmmakers toy with the anxieties people possess about actual things happening in the present day.  For example, Frankenstein (though first a novel, not a film) was going after readers’ fears of scientific and technological progress when its mad scientist used a lab and scientific tools to reanimate a sewn-together corpse and create life.

A machine gone wild, an individual breaking down or broken by society, mother nature in all its animal and terrestrial fury— the psychological foundation of anything a filmmaker puts up on screen to scare the shit out of you has always rested on a real concern, a real fear, a real terror.

The horror genre is a wide open field; there’s something for everyone.  You got your movies about human knowledge gone wild, your “nature strikes back” stories like Jaws or Anaconda (which while technically not horror, did have Ice Cube going toe to toe with Jon Voight in a world of giant snakes and gianter booty—utter horror any way you slice it).  You also got your “social outcast gets revenge” fliks, a la Carrie and Friday the 13th.  And then there are those that touch on mystical themes, like dreamwalking, seeing dead people, or going all-out on your hymen with a crucifix.

One sub-genre, however, has stood out in recent times, blowing all other horror films out the door.  Zombie fliks.  What were originally just a bunch of wormy, low-budget corpses staggering the streets in search of teenage brains, zombies have since chomped down on the jugular of horror cinema, ripping off its dome and feasting on the goo.  You got zombies in everything now.  Civil war zombies.  World War 2 zombies.  Science-mutated zombies.  Zombies in space.  Zombie father/son comedies.

No longer are there set places, times or reasons for zombies; no longer is there a standardized form.  All the rules have been thrown out; it’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt…(a dude I knew who was writing a zombie short story for Creative Writing class got his ass kicked in front of Del Taco).

The most peculiar part to me of the whole zombie phenomena is the change in social role that the zombie has undergone these past 20 years. Before, back in the days of Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living, zombies were known for eating the brains of the socially corrupt. They would go after some asshole cop, or some pot-smoking kids getting it on down by the lake.  And they were always the reanimated corpses of dead people.  Some supernatural event created them and they wandered about aimlessly.

But these days, zombie fliks are more often about genetic or viral catastrophes. Researchers were pushing the limits of science, they got a little too brash, a little too arrogant, pushed the experiments over to the bad place, and shit got out of control.  Zombies are once again manmade creatures. The results of scientific error and vanity.  The new Frankensteins.

We’ve come full circle.  We love and respect our science, but at the same time we fear its awesome powers.  We see what it has done; we fear what more it will do.  Science out of control.  Fear of what new psychotic gadget will be created and find its way into the hands of the bad people.  Fear of the next new health pandemic. The next war.   And then there’s the environment (which has been affected by science, as well).  The next earthquake.  The next tidal wave.  The next flood.

Back in the day, we used to think we were the shit.  We had monster fliks about stupid monsters chasing stupid people and eating their stupid brains.   Nothing could touch us, so we would titillate ourselves with horror porn about out-the-grave zombies who could never even take down a suburban town, let alone influence public policy.  But today’s modern zombie influences public policy by destroying the entire earth and sending every normal human running for their lives.  But there’s nowhere to go.  It’s a fools gambit.  You’re fucked.

The old time horror movies served as cautionary tales, warnings against excessive ego or acting in a derelict fashion.  You smoke pot, you get decapitated.  Do it in a hammock with a girl you just met, expect a pitchfork to the abdomen.  And with zombies it was the same, except they ate your brains.  Now, it’s barren wastelands at the end of time and every human is, as I said before, right-fucked.   Modern zombies wander post-apocalyptic landscapes so much that it might as well be said to be a part of the modern zombie itself.  They seem to be invariably tied in with a mass breakdown in social order.

And that is what we fear, really.  Chaos created as a result of civilization itself: its science, its overpopulation, its destruction of the environment, its mental health.

The modern zombie stalks a world where humanity has failed and is being systematically exterminated.  It is the monster of choice for an exhausted people, people who see themselves powerless in the face of the world their minds have created.   And what better way to ameliorate the pain than watching heads ripped off and brains consumed?

None, as far as I know.