November 29, 2007

Have you seen the flags of freedom?
What color are they now?

Jules DeBalincourt, United We Stood, 2005

Mimicking the graphic design of 1940s newsreel credits, Jules de Balincourt’s United WeStood provocatively harks back to a time when US patriotism was untroubled and convincing. Painted in vibrant colours, de Balincourt renders this logo strange: transplanting history to a contemporary context, its significance is lost amidst graffiti and disco era reference. Made with spray paint stencils and tape-ruled brushwork on wood panel, de Balincourt’s authoritarianism suggests a lurid sub-plot of make-do survivalism.

* Black Friday Die Die Die. excerpt:

"Is this why they hate us? Why we hate ourselves? Is this why we seem to have no real idea who the hell we are anymore, or what it means to have a humane and thoughtful national identity, and therefore we happily scratch and claw and fight our way into giant fluorescent-lit hellpits for a chance at a $29 DVD player and some crappy plasma TVs and a pallet of heavily discounted spatulas?

"More broadly: Is this why we're suffering such a general feeling of ennui and disgust and apathy in the culture right now, the nagging feeling that we have no center and God has abandoned us and we therefore simply cannot consume enough goods and technology to try and fill the void? The answer seems rather obvious.

"I don't even know what Kohl's is. I'm guessing some sort of mass-crap superstore, like Best Buy or Target or T.J. Maxx or a weird amalgam of all of those and it doesn't really matter because last Friday they opened at 4 a.m. for the mad rush of Black Friday shoppers, because if there's one thing you want to do when your body is groggy and sleep tugs at your heart and your dreams have turned vacant and sad, it's grope cheap waffle makers before sunrise."
"Some say Christmas day most accurately captures the true nature of the American spirit. Some say it's Easter. Or the Fourth of July. They are all wrong. Black Friday has become, far and away, the most glorious expression of the true American idea, the gleaming capitalist leviathan at its most violent and orgasmic. Deny it at your peril.

"Every year, there are new layers, new strata of absurdity. This year, retailers were reportedly angry that there are now a few blogs dedicated entirely to Black Friday sales, and those blogs were posting secret inside info on which particular items the various stores had marked down for the supersale, those bait-and-switch items on which the shops willingly take a huge loss in order to lure in shoppers in the hopes they will grab not only the $8 electric skillet but also an expensive digital camera and what the hell, a new stove and a drill set and a car."
"More importantly, I also just read the disturbing piece in the New Yorker about the massive new oil boom, how the petroleum titans are right now stampeding into Canada to lay claim to the land and build massive facilities for the extraction of a heavy hydrocarbon called bitumen from the enormous deposits of tar sand found there, in order to convert it into synthetic crude oil.

"It is but one of a slew of new, hugely destructive oil-conversion techniques. They say there is enough bitumen intermixed with the sand that, if extracted and converted on a mass scale, it would guarantee sufficient oil for generations to come. Until recently, the extraction process was prohibitively expensive. Not anymore. As long as oil stays at or above $100 a barrel and people unflinchingly pay 4 or 5 bucks a gallon for gas, well, this brutal new technique will be insanely profitable indeed."
"This was my counterpoint, that until there's a profound shift in how we approach the world, in how we view the goods we buy, in how Black Friday and the rape of Canada are grossly, inextricably connected, we cannot effect much change. Much as I love the green movement and the Buy Nothing movement and the Slow Food movement and all the rest, in the face of the countless billions still to be made by raping the planet for oil, they're merely the equivalent of trying to water the rainforest with an eyedropper.

"There was only one thing left to do. We both raised our wine glasses for a humble toast to the belief that man is, at heart, a deeply benevolent creature, and that a true sea change is coming (we just can't quite see it yet), that we as a species will wake up and see our way clear very soon, if not sooner. I'm quite sure we finished the bottle."

* David Berman/Silver Jews news:

-- From the SJBB: Apparently DCB will be speaking at the Corcoran Gallery in DC February 28, 2008 likely relating to the Jeremy Blake exhibit that will be closing a few days later

-- From Drag City: title of the new silver jews record: Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea (LP/CD DC358)

* Beautiful short film previewing Jami Attenberg's forthcoming novel The Kept Man. Watch it.

* The Caribbean are playing two shows in Pennsylvania this weekend. Check them out if you are in Philadelphia (Tritone, Nov 30, 2007 8:00P) or Pittsburgh (Garfield Artworks, December 1, 2007 8pm)

* "Americans like to talk about (or be told about) Democracy but, when put to the test, usually find it to be an 'inconvenience.' We have opted instead for an authoritarian system disguised as a Democracy. We pay through the nose for an enormous joke-of-a-government, let it push us around, and then wonder how all those assholes got in there." -- Frank Zappa


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