Sunday, November 23, 2008


I wrote a whole post, very long and researched, yesterday. Took in excess of 4 hours. Then the Autosave feature managed to help it disappear, all but the last two paragraphs.

I'm a little disheartened, but I'm going to recreate the post in the next day or two. Sorry for the delay... just have to get over the shock. And I do wish Blogger's help section was less depressing.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Blogs as Wunderkammern

I'm writing an actual academic paper which I will be presenting in February to the College Art Association's national meeting, about Blogs as Wunderkammern. I will be discuss the ways in which blogs emulate the same kind of exploration/bringing back oddities/presentation as the old Wunderkammern. The similarities go right through, including the re-emergence of systems of personal taxonomies defining the order of the collection, and the blossoming culture of exploration and idea-making.

With, of course, a modern twist. One of the things I find fascinating about this idea is the way that the vision of a Wunderkammer has become such a conceptual one; people seem to feel that it applies to all kinds of things. And, of course, blogging being a virtual medium, it follows that it should be a conceptual home-base of sorts.

I'm in the thick of trying to construct this paper, written of course in serious ArtSpeak, and it's really hard to wrap my head around the blog at the same time, though I keep taking rushes at a post on calculation through history. You'd think I could do it, given that the paper only has to be some 2,200 words long; but it's surprisingly difficult (especially given the way I seem to need to be dragged kicking and screaming to the keyboard). But no, my brain is curiously slow this month. However, I'll put the abstract below, and you can see what you think. Don't mind the language!

Though I think I've got a good handle on the paper, I'd welcome your thoughts on the topic. How is a blog like a Wunderkammer?

Abstract for Blogging as Wunderkammer:
Finding Authentic-ness in Virtual Collections and Personal Taxonomies

The contemporary perception of Wunderkammern has little to do with the ostentatious acquisition which drove the rich collectors who assembled them during the era of exploration and idea-making of the 16th and 17th centuries. At its most specific and physical, our contemporary vision is based on the aged and fragile remnants of the old Wunderkammern, which appear to us intimate, tactile and many-layered, with apparently whimsical taxonomies which depended on the personal world-view of the collector - very different from the sublime and overawing superstructure of the museums which they later became. In a broader sense, though, this image of the original Wunderkammer has become a metaphor for authenticness and a sense of wonder: something which lasts through history, full of mysterious meaning, presented in the intimacy of one’s home. And as a metaphor, it is appropriate that it be found in a metaphorical medium.

Blogging, more than any cultural technology, allows for an approach to wonder in an intimate and often apparently whimsical environment: bloggers present a collection of images, ideas, and objects in a style and order specific to his or her own vision: a personal taxonomy. The software encourages the collection to be accessed according to flexible parameters, allowing movement through different kinds of “rooms”, depending on the viewer’s interests.

Additionally, the blogging format invites blog collections to intermingle transparently: people can “add” to their catalog of items through blogrolls, blog memes, and, especially, polite appropriation: as blogs work with one another, greater Wunderkammern are created. A slow collapse in the authority of centralized taxonomies and top-down culture-making has left an opening for the re-emergence of personal taxonomies in a different era of exploration and the connection of ideas. Steampunk and Clockpunk are lively examples of subcultures that ignore the mass-market paradigm; participants are often as satisfied with virtual images of “real” things as they are with actually owning them, which appears to be less important than the idea of its perceived authenticness - unlike the original Wunderkammern, for which ownership was paramount, and authenticity secondary. The viewer is no longer simply an onlooker to another person’s riches, but a participant, invited not just to move through intimate collection-spaces in the same way people were invited to wander through the Wunderkammern of old, but to take from it and build their own.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Sigh of Relief

For the very first time in my life, I am proud to be American. Seriously.

It's a weird feeling. I feel part of something big.

Mostly, though, the wordless weight of millions of disillusioned souls have stopped rubbing, rubbing, rubbing at the national psyche. Now the voices have spoken, millions upon millions of them: the polling places didn't know what to do with the numbers; our system is set up for so much of the country to go unheard. And with this one gigantic moment of speech, of the exercise of choice, we are free. We get to choose who we are.

An exhalation of hope on a national - no, international - scale.

And with that voice, we say we believe in each other. We say we are, indeed, one people.

The sense of space is limitless; the sense of silence, and peace, and relief, immense. Like Maya Angelou said, "Even my hairs are happy."

(And ZeFrank, oh wonderous and silly man, has a great way to celebrate).

Saturday, November 1, 2008

It's All So Distracting

In honor of my inability to accomplish anything at all during these last few weeks of the election, I'm going to talk a little about people who are distracted. I feel like I'm holding my breath and trying not to be sick at the same time. And I keep dropping the many balls I normally keep in the air.

So - here are some famous examples of people who have been as I have been, these last few days.

There is the story in Struwwelpeter about Hans Look-in-the-Air:

"Once, with head as high as ever,
Johnny walked beside the river.
Johnny watched the swallows trying
Which was cleverest at flying.
Oh! what fun!
Johnny watched the bright round sun
Going in and coming out;
This was all he thought about.
So he strode on, only think!
To the river's very brink,
Where the bank was high and steep,
And the water very deep;
And the fishes, in a row,
Stared to see him coming so."

This is just one bit of a longer poem, but you can see the rest at Project Gutenberg.

Note: these stories are very funny and rather strange, and the Tiger Lilies did an opera based on the book, called Shock Headed Peter in English, which is really, really worth checking out if they ever perform it near you. Oh, what the heck, I'm distracted and scattered, so I'll include the video of the songs "Bully Boys" (really a pastiche of the whole opera) and "Snip, Snip" (intact):

I love this so much. What more could you ask for? 18th-century grotesqueness, marionettes, grubby creepy sets, accordion, demented falsetto singing, and LENSES...

Harrumph. Let's see, who else?

Well, there's Thales of Miletus, an early philosopher regarded by Aristotle to be the first philosopher in the Greek tradition:

"It is said that once he (Thales) was led out of his house by an old woman for the purpose of observing the stars, and he fell into a ditch and bewailed himself. On which the old woman said to him—'Do you, O Thales, who cannot see what is under your feet, think that you shall understand what is in heaven?'"—Diogenes Laertius, Bohn's edition.

Then, in the 2001 Darwin Awards, there's this:

"A 27-year-old French woman lost control of her car on a highway near Marseilles and crashed into a tree, seriously injuring her passenger and killing herself. As a common place road accident, this would not have qualified for a Darwin nomination, were it not for the fact that the driver's attention had been distracted by her Tamagotchi key ring, which had started urgently beeping for food as she drove along. In an attempt to press the correct buttons to save the Tamagotchi's life, the woman lost
her own."

To be honest, the world right now is about as strange and scary as the video above, and I'll be back after the election decision is made, brain (hopefully) intact, to talk about less important things.

Final addendum: EEEK! The Tiger Lillies are playing in San Francisco the day after tomorrow (November 3rd) at the Swedish American Hall. Yow! Looking at the reviews, though, it looks like it could be incredibly offensive. Be warned.