Monday, 24 May 2010

Week Twelve: The Typification of "Drill, Baby, Drill"

Ya know if there were ever three words in successive order that would solve pretty much everyone of lifes problems, then it's "Drill, Baby, Drill." Profoundly potent, yet impenatrably sound in wisdom and Global Resource Preservation...and Stuff, they will ensue our Planets Reserve for generations to come and keep happiness in stock for as long as we need it, just knowing we always have enough.
But where we, that's right, the Oil issue...yes this must be drilled too...and I mean now damn it. We must drill like we've never drilled before, and after we're done we must drill some more.
For Oil is good, Oil is our friend, Oil will see us through 'till the very end. Hey that was pretty good, I just thought of that. For the future depends on our unlimited supply of Oil...Can't you see? Sure we don't pour it on our Corn Flakes, like we do Maple Sirrup in the morning, but, and it's a good but, if Oil were say a Pint of Guinness, not just any Pint of Guinness, but like a really nice Pint of Guinness, made from say filtered hops of Oil, instead of all that black sticky stuff that washes up on shore every now and again, I know I would definitely purchase a very nice Pint of "Guinness Oil", before leaving "The Barrell Inn" and rambling home for some of Mammys Shepards Pie. For Mammys are great for the Shepards Pie, and Mammys and Shepards Pies are also our friends. For they fill us up and make our tummies all better again when we're sick and not feeling very well. Yes...Mammys rock. But of course, Off-Shore Drilling and its necessity to our lovely Planet. Oil is one of our most precious commodities and must be garnished at all costs. Even if that means drilling deeper than ever before, and in Oceans that, and lets be realistic, there are no houses built on and there is no one walking wondrous Doggies on Side-Walks nearby. And wondrous Doggies are very wondrous, and are also, that's right...our friends. Some of the worlds leading Deepwater Drilling Contractors are currently hard at work drilling us some fine Ocean bedrock to keep our resources in towe. For instance, based in Houston, Texas, Diamond Offshore Drilling, Inc., a foremost Deepwater Drilling Company, owning and operating one of the largest fleets of Offshore Drilling Units in the world, consisting of a diverse inventory of 32 Semisubmersibles, 14 Jack-Ups and one dynamically positioned Drillship, has comprised a reutation on top of more than four decades of global drilling experience.
For information
The worlds largest Offshore Drilling Contractor Transocean currently holds nineteen of the past twenty-three world records for bedrock drilling in the deepest ocean waters.
For information
And of course, when all this drilling and penatrating is over why not take a leaf from Alaska's favourite daughter Miss Sarah, and have a well earned day out at America's most purest form of Sports Entertainment - Nascar baby, where, if you're not might just find yourself getting sucked right back into work again on "Them there" Pit-Roads.
Changin' tires of course....

Friday, 21 May 2010

Friday morning, Two posts only. You had days longer than the students who meet on Wednesday...

American Declinism - Obama's mission

In the article Obama and the end of Hegemonic Declinism taken from U.S. blog The Duck of Minerva, the writer discusses how America needs fundamental reform to "avoid a precipitous fall from grace". Written in July 2008, this was before the election of Barack Obama but his policies and the possible potential of his presidency drive the article. Examples of America's decline include a comparison with "the rise of China" and a "resurgent Europe" where even NBA stars are transferring to Europe for better pay. Both of these points suggest that America has lost its "edge".

The writer focuses on how in current World Affairs the recent phase of American Declinism has been attacked and it can be traced back to a general untertainty in regards to American politics. With its "political subtext", America's declinism has not only been caused by arguments over events but also by a fierce reaction to Bush's presidency. Statistics are given suggesting that the majority of Americans were dissatisfied with the direction the country during Bush's presidency as 80% of respondents said that the country was on the "wrong track". It is identified that this is a level of dissatisfaction that has not been seen since the early 1990s and the article emphasises how rampant declinism has occurred in America almost two decades on.

America's decline in "global power" is mentioned and again the article leans towards suggesting that America should adapt its policies to accommodate the "rise of the rest". However, others argue that such calls for reform are pointless as America's structural advantages in the sense of its "size, wealth, human and material resources, military strength, competetiveness, liberal political and economic traditions, flexibility, dynamism and capacity for reinvention" (<--- whoa!) matter much more than economic cycles, trade imbalances and Anti-Americanism and I have to agree; America always finds away to bounce back with so many of its "weapons" (advantages).

With canditates "running away from the Bush administration as either a maverick or agent of change", a renewal of American social purpose is suggested. Obama however capitialised on this not only in terms of renewing American hegemony, but politically as well. His message of "hope" and "change" triggered a "political awakening", especially among younger voters who were previously alienated from politics. Rather than presenting an American mission, Obama has presented a global mission; desipte the resulting actions loosely following a similar path of decline (such as more troops in Afghanistan), the social purposes of these actions are significantly different since they seek a more global purpose and "it is that renewal of social purpose that can arrest the very real sense of decline in the present hegemonic order".

Thursday, 20 May 2010

The Decline of America

Alan Dowd wrote an article in 2007 titled "'Three Centuries of American Declinism", which explored the idea of american declinism that has once again come to the forefront, with issues such as the growth of china and the other BRIC countries, and involvement in wars in the middle east stimulating speculation. Dowd however has taken the view that a lot of others seem to have online, that America is not in fact decline at all. Dowds argument is based around the idea that people have been predicting the decline of america for centuries and that it has yet to happen. He states that often it is actually during periods of american prosperity that declinists often begin hypothesising. The bulk of the article provides examples of when people falsely believed the US to be in decline. However towards the end he does state that "US primacy is neither inevitable nor a birthright", but again in conclusion dowd states that he feels that the USA is stilll far from the declining superpower that people make it out to be.
Whilst many people do seem to be talking about America declining, especially from a political standpoint, there seem to be just as many who feel that it is yet to have faced any serious opposition and that american exceptionalism is still prevalent.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Week Eleven: Declinisim In America - Good Night, God Bless & Safe Home...

The Grayscaling Monochromatic genre of the 1950's Communist Witch-hunt...surgically inserting its heat-embowling scapula deep within the nations Congressional Anals of Political Power, layering away the Adipose of often decent, non-associating Servants of history, in attempt to somehow prove some frivilous point of long forgotten, and/or irrevertant brush of mishap with left-wing Sympathizing Entities of the common distrust...or even any at all...reflects a once insighting instillment of fear and an Nation of Wondrous Saturday morning..."Howdy Doody Time" and "Memories Are Made of This". If still in any awe and wonderment of these Cryptic Sentiments....then lets decode. Likened to the Grande Olde days of the Salem Witch-Trials when only a finger was only ever enough, to send your longtime neighbour down Cherry Tree road, for a Swingin' ol' time, or even...non-hallucinagenic Stoning, because it happened to rain the evening before, just as he stepped out onto his poarch. Either way...a hot time in thee olde tavern tonight. U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy out of Wisconson...and his bottled brand of New and even easier than ever before to unscrew -"McCarthyism", and merry band of Sherwood's Finest Oversight Commity...were all a glow on the idea of Additional Camera time, whenever it came to the big 'C'. So what, if Saturday mornings would never be same again...
There'd still be a -"Whole lotta shakin goin'on." for those apples to fall and 'Them there' dancin' teddie bears to have their picnics crashed, honey-sirrup drained...and Cheese Sandwitchs eaton...Mmmm..yes..
In the words of Hannibal Smith - "I love it when a plan comes together.."
Directed by George Clooney, "Good Night...and Good Luck" takes a good hard look at this title-wave of time in an America...once too afraid to speak out in constructive opposition...or even any other form of opposition at all, for that matter...against this Character damning Medium of Communist Affiliation, known only on the grocery shelves of America's Foodways as - "Not right now,'s just a bit of neck pain...and besides Jaspers got that Dental appointment tomorrow at Doctor Henries."
Followed Stratigically by "You know he can't miss it...he's such a lovely man too...and ever so nice to Jasper..." And rolling knodding compliance...wondering why the Gates of Jericho aren't opening for buisness this evening...arrives the only reactional response...a man can instinctively shelter himself under..."Sure're right...I know." What were you thinking...right.
So when the lavastorm..(For lack of, yes another residue of Storm...beginning with the letter 'S')..Comes-a-swirling down on The Senators best laid plans for purifying the land of all Defectors to the cause, time's..indeed-a-waistin', and so The Senate Subcommities focus lands on Edward R. Murrow (David Stratharin)..for yet another Ribbon Round thee Olde Oak tree.
Poor little Jasper...
So what of the countries present state of modernity...and its relevence to a declined Financial, Social and perhaps even moral standpoint. The Sleeper Issues of the 2010 Elections...
From The New Republic...

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Week Ten - The American Psyche Series
In an artical from The American Psyche Series in The Guardian on the 23rd of August, 2008, George Saunders looks at Superhero movies and why we're seeing such an insurgent wave of these blockbusting epics of invincibility. Firstly drawing on a - "Perasive sense of impotence in the face of disappointing goverment, and/or global warming.." for a possible explanation of reasoning as to why, but then giving his own "Feeling" that maybe people just like seeing men in tight clothes and capes doing impossible things. Which just so happens to be good enough for me, as I too, rather like being dark, intense and optionally rude whenever I'm having a bad day, with a set of constantly chiseled Abs under my T-Shirt, than be twenty-one with a starting to show pudgey tummy, lying on the couch watching football, whilst wearing my favourite Chelsea Soccer Jersey, numbering whatever and heading for a future Five-A-Day, and Twelve Step Program for more improved self-esteem. Thanks but I'm fine where I am. The first of a distinguished list of Super-fit fellow Saviours of the human condition, to arrive on Panoramic Widescreen, is "Iron Man". From Saunders' semation - "About a man whose super power is, you know, he's made of Iron." Profoundly true it is. The second worthy participant, and my personal childhood favourite - "Batman". Psychologically, the darkest of knights by far and away, and a without question or competition, the most mysterious, eccentric and esthetically enigmatic of all the Round Table of Superhero-dom. Third place sees in Eric Bana's"The Hulk", later of course, played by Edward Norton for some reason in the Sequel. Haven't seen that one yet. Once more, a fine example, just remember kids -don't make him angry. Fourth place on down is pretty much an esthetically depressing ride to the bottom of the connective tissue hill. With the first award of the evening going to "Typical Man". Socially accepted now as the generally alright, untill that fourth or fifth pint of beer, then something stupid comes unconsciously pouring out, then feeling bad, has another two to try and drink the mistake dry, and try and correct it, only to end up realizing, the real reason he showed that night has left with her girlfriends an hour and a half ago, and has decided to take that new job offer over in New York next week and won't be back for six months. Still however, the comforting response of Rene Russo's - "Maybe you should try and be saddled somtime. Smell of rubber, sting of a whip." to Kevin Costner's laid-back West Texas Driving Range Pro in Ron Shelton's "Tin Cup", forever warms the heart of mothering love, care and influence, and heartens the confidence within.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Week Ten - Something To Hide. "My Flamboyant Grandson" Narrated by Art Spiegleman.

This is one of the chosen Short Story exerpts, narrated by Art Spiegleman, from George Saunders' book - "In Persuasion Nation", entitled "My Flamboyant Grandson", at the Convention For The Something To Hide Book Fair For Writers & Artists Against The Surveilance State.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

George Saunders on "The Average Joe"

In this artcle posted in September 2008, the epicentre of the hype surrounding the Presidential Elections, Saunders speaks about the constant referal in regards to 'Average Joe'. Saunder' is quite right, it would seem that this 'Joe', and his 'Soccer/Security/Hockey Mom' wife, spring up in every political rally; speech; or just in general rhetoric. He also seems quite angry at the use of this 'Joe' and the character that he portrays, because no-one is 'Joe' in his eyes.

The voters can relate to him, and use him as some archityple design when it comes to referencing and representing a stereotypical-middle American, who probably owns a pickup, more than five different guns, watches Fox for its balanced and fair representation on news events, used to play 'football' in college, etc etc. Saunder' instead offers a more updated, and horrifically true portrait of 'Joe'.

"The average Joe" hadn't had a beer with either Bush or Kerry, and in fact had gone from beer to whiskey because his home was in foreclosure, and his investments had vanished in the stock market swoon, and two of his sons were in Iraq, and he was fading fast because he had cancer and no health insurance."

I also drew a relation between this American idea of 'Joe' and how their politicians 'relate' to them personally, and the constant nudges by David Cameron in this years election campaign; how he is one of 'Us' and how he 'understands' how much 'broken Britain' has effected him, and so, us/me.

To be honest, when I first read this article, I decided that Saunder' was 'looking into it to deeply' and was simply taken away in a sudden outburst of anger towards a system that he does not agree with, but I can see that he is simply applying the same ethos from 'Inpersuasion Nation' into his Guardian article. His anger and argument is overstressed, and seemingly blown out of proportion, but conveys a complicated and, almost, hidden message.

George Saunders on advertising

This article is the second of 3, in which george saunders discusses the "utter stupidity of advertising". He talks about living in a world dominated by advertising, using an exaggerated example of a manger scene that has been sponsored by a number of different companies and corporations. He then goes onto to talk about making an advert for his own column, using it to show how he feels Americans are easily influenced by what is shown on telly. The idea of the USA that he gives is one of an image obsessed culture, in which "nobody reads anymore", and whose behaviour is governed by what is shown to them.

George Saunders - 'How To Write a Kids' Book' / Baby Translator? There's An App For That!

In this Guardian article posted in May 2007 taken from George Saunders' 'American Psyche' series, he focuses on teaching readers how to write a childrens' book. He claims that that it's easier than writing an adults' book due to children being "dumber" and knowing "fewer words than adults". Saunders continues to condescend children by describing them as "powerless" as they "toddle through an oversized world without a clue as to what's going on" and having "such limited experience of the world that it's easy to trick them". To illustrate this point, he suggests if a talking rat with dreams of becoming a great poet appeared in an adult book, the adult reaction would be of surprise at the rat's choice of occupation since "no one wants to be a poet any more" whereas children wouldn't have an opinion about it since "they don't even know what a poet is". This absurd example emphasises Saunders' satirical tone in regards to the contemporary American vision of super-intelligent youth.

Interestingly in his follow-up article, Saunders' deliberate underestimation of children is clearly intended to provoke a sensitive reaction as he recalls reactions to his previous article. These reactions range from parental defensiveness due to their children being described as "dumb", to sudden realisation from parents that their children are smaller than they are, to the concerns revolving around writing a story about a chair as the main character being a simple task yet writing a story about an animal is not so simple. Once again, these absurd "reactions" appear to be fictious, but their meanings satirise the American stereotypes of pride and stupidity. This is emphasised by Saunders' step-by-step instructions on how to write a story about an animal which is referred to as a "freak" due to his physical appearance which resulted in his community being glad when he had "flown the coop" to southern California, a place known for its "openess". The satirical nature of this plot is targeted at the American stereotype of superficiality while the animal's choice to move to California in order for acceptance is ironic as California is notoriously known to be a superficial state flocked with "beautiful people".

Both of these articles relate to the story I have chosen from Saunders' collection of stories 'In Persuasion Nation', 'I CAN SPEAK!'. This story is written as a rambling and oddly personal business letter in response to an unsatisfied consumer who has purchased an 'I CAN SPEAK!' system, a mask which is put over the heads of infants to make their voices come out. The intention of this is to make the customer feel as if they have an intelligent baby, however the letter explains how the system only gives that illusion. This mask can be seen as a metaphor for America's descent into a fictional world of consumer bliss and ignorance as the role of children are merely sources of entertainment and distraction for parents.

Saunders is not the first person to satirise America's contemporary perception of infants, however. Homer Simpsons' brother Herb regains his fortune through his baby translator invention in an episode of The Simpsons, 'Brother, Can You Spare Me Two Dimes?' in 1992. A similar and more contemporary example is from Saturday Night Live's 'Weekly Update' where one headline includes a new baby translator application on the iPhone. These can be seen as simple parodies of American consumerism as they derive from TV comedies, but the baby translator is clearly an idea that is ingrained in the American consciousness which emphasises how Saunders' vision may be satircal, but somehow seems frighteningly inevitable.

Funnily enough, after writing this I searched for a few more baby translator clips and realised that the baby translator application for the iPhone really does exist after watching a review of it on KLTV News - neither though it is a novelty app, it is clearly intended to impress people and therefore suggests that Saunders' 2006 vision has indeed become inevitable!

As its product description states:

"Impress your friends and family with the latest electronic gizmo that us Americans humans have been dreaming about for generations!" - George Saunders in disguise?

Friday, 7 May 2010

9/11 Conspiracies

I was looking for some sympathetic video of 9/11, but I found a lot more videos hinting to conspiracy theories.

This video is completly nuts; it's all mad. They're just mental.

9/11: Budweiser tribute / 'How to Save a Life' tribute

Aired only once during the 2002 Super Bowl, Budweiser's 'Clydesdale Respect' commercial pays tribute to those affected by the tragic events of 9/11. The minute long commercial features the beer company's trademark team of Clydesdale horses trudging across snow in New York until they stop to gaze upon the city's skyline and lower their heads on bended knees in a gesture of respect. The Super Bowl has long been one of the most watched television programs and therefore one of the premier venues for advertisers. Although most Super Bowl commercials are of the upbeat variety, Budweiser's commercial during the XXXVI Super Bowl was of a decidedly different nature in its moving sentiment. Shown five months on from the attacks, this commercial is just as moving as tribute videos loaded with footage of the attacks themselves. The simplicity of the emptiness of New York, the cold of the snow and a sensation of the seasonal transition between the Autumn attacks and the Winter creates a melancholy tone and allows the audience to pay respect to the victims of the tragic event in a reflective way.

The video above is a user-made commemorative video of 9/11 created 7 years after the attacks. I have selected it as it slickly incorporates dialogue, archive footage of the twin towers, real footage of the attacks, public responses and reconstructed footage from the Discovery Channel of inside the towers which gives the video an "inside" feel. The song which accompanies the video is The Fray's 'How to Save a Life' which is a fitting tribute to all the heroes that lost their lives trying to save others. Several users comment that the video looks like a movie and while I agreed with them I wasn't surprised when I saw it was made in 2008. A few years after the attacks I began to ponder when credible films and dramatisations would be made of 9/11. Of course there is United 93 and Oliver Stone's World Trade Center, but there has been little focus on the Twin Towers' attacks themselves since it is a very sensitive issue in America. However, it is inevitable that these films will be made eventually and I feel this video directly suggests that. Part of contemporary American identity is the desire to see gritty reality which is exemplified in the popularity of YouTube and to some extent news reports too.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

9/11 Tribute Video

The video compromises of a number of photos both of during the attack and the aftermath. Nowadays when the attack is mentioned its normally in conjunction with something to do with islamic extremism and the USA's relations with the middle-east. Yet this video focuses solely on the human implications of the tragedy, as opposed to the political or international ramifications. Sound clips interject the video, with people telling of escaping the buildings and helping others as well. This theme is prevalant thoughout the video, with pictures of people helping the injured, and in particular a number of images of the firefighters who helped in the aftermath in the attack. It seems that, at least for the person that made the video, that the 9/11 attacks were defined, and should be remembered in terms of the people who lost their lives and the way people banded together in their time of need.

The Church of Satan

Not to be confused with the devil worshipping beliefs and practices of Satanism, The Church of Satan is a religion generally followed by Agnostics and Atheists. Founded by Anton LaVey in 1966, the CoS derives from Pagan principles including the earthly aspects of life. Due to the CoS' Satan being pre-Christian, the practices and rituals of the religion have few similarities with the Christian or Muslim concept of Satan as it is viewed as a force of nature rather than a living deity associated with Hell, demons and profound evil.

Some of the Satanic Rules of the Earth outlined by LaVey include acknowledging the power of magic, avoiding harm to children and refraining from killing animals. It is clear that CoS followers hold life in sacred regard as Satan represents love, kindness and respect to those who deserve it. Satanic Sins on the other hand include stupidity, pretensiousness and self-deceit. The focus on the individual is apparent in the CoS and the belief that "no redeemer liveth" highlights how each person is their own redeemer, fully responsible for the direction of their own life. LaVey once stated "Satanists are strange creatures. We know the idea of an omniscient, all-powerful God who watches over each of us and listens to each of our prayers is an irrationality and a deep offense to any advanced mind. We see no evidence of justice or answered prayers in the world around us. If the Judeo-Christian "God" is all-powerful, all-knowing, he's damned churlish and incompetent." His attack on Christianity makes a valid point, however it is notable that Christianity remains to be the dominant faith in America. This shows that the majority of Americans hold traditional religious beliefs which have ultimately assisted in shaping American identity, despite the emergence of other religions.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Week Nine - The Science of Tom

If yawl've ever wondered what there could possibly be left to spend wisely on, after that six-bedroom house is paid for, those three German-engineered Sports cars, including that Phantom Black Audi R8, with Oxygen Silver Side-blade, are all finally tucked nicely beside each other, and in the Order you want the too, German Shepard Keiser finally has that second floor to his dog-house, that he's been barking after for the last five months, and the Air-Guitar Shaped pool finally has the Swastika-laiden marble layed down, then look no further discerning dignitaries of leisurely life. The Church of Scientology is for you. For a reasonably substancial donation, you too, can take your very own place amongst the Feast of the Immortals, a selected gathering of only the finest, purest and most Obediently Character-worthy of Stand-up guys and gals. With a simple auditing, you will experience a Colonostomy like you've never experienced before, that will forever-more, leave you free, and uncorrupted of any harmful toxins, and emotional doubt you may have previously picked up in your former Spawn-infected, Fornicating life of Selfishness, and over-indulgence. This Cleansing of Soul & Mind will leave you born again into an entirely new state of Emotional Enlightenment and Self-Awarness, transforming your whole being into a new, and improved Pillar of Propriaty, and goodness. Selfless in your ways, you will now undertake a series of tasks to prove your continuing loyalty to the Jedi-Federation. For instance, keeping watch for infultrating elements seeking to destroy Davinia Province, maintaining strict boundary-lines between the Chief Ketchup and the Heinz Ketchup in the Cooler (I'm more of a Chief Brown Sauce man myself actually), and most importantly of all, always making sure your younger understudies have a trusty mop in their hands to clean up the mess, whenever you squirt over the Chunky Chips and out onto the floor below. Yes, the hartships you'll encounter shall seem great, but only for a while. For when that day of true immotality arrives, and heaven opens its Pearly Gates and tips down its hat, as you stand on that breath-taking mount in reciet, you and yours will forever-more enjoy the fullest of benifits, and continuing comfort of that six-bedroom, Ocean-view Veranda house and Air-Guitar pool, those German-engineered high-performance Sports Cars in the Garage, including the Phantom Black Audi, with Oxgen-Silver Side-Blade, and best of all Chunky Chips, with a lifetime supply of Chief Brown sauce in the fridge ready for topping. Mmmm....