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Aesthetics Culture

Day 876 and Americana

Americans have a tendency to think of themselves as the cultural norm. The default setting of media and movies and magazines has been the American empire. The world’s taste orbited our empire during nearly all television and cinema. I hear we Americans make our problems everyone else’s problems too.

It’s also a fantasy. Uncle Sam is a marketing gimmick. There is a propaganda machine even if it’s not organized by a sub committee of party loyalists. The vox populi push on our taste and our media industry will show them what is worth mimicking. Marketing works.

So it’s always amusing to see a bit of Americana marketed back to yourself. I saw this street advertisement for what appears to be a sincere sort of western show?

The Bosshoss Electric

I’m consuming an entirely different genre of Americana than someone in Frankfurt. Which I admit I’m not sure I fully understand as I think it’s maybe a sincere musical that has a western sparkly rodeo theme? Again the semiotics on it would require a critical theory degree. Which I guess you could get in the city of Schopenhauer.

Momma don’t let your boys grow up to be cowboys. Rodeo seems like a brutal pastime in a country with no social safety net or functioning medical systems. Maybe that’s why it can be romantic here in Germany. Maybe you’d get medical care if you ever came in contact with a bull.

Speaking of semiotics, I’m rewatching Yellowstone while in Frankfurt. Yes it’s amusing that the yuppie woman reclaiming her lost Western upbringing by moving to Montana is watching a soap opera about land barons outside of Bozeman. Simulacrum. Something that replaces reality with it’s representation. I knew Foucault would come in handy.

Dicke Butz authentic American cuisine
Categories
Aesthetics Community Finance

Day 863 Abstract The Pain Away

When I was a small child I attended meditation retreats with my parents. Hippies amirite? The particular branch practiced was some variant of Kashmir Shivaism, but I’ve got to imagine it was heavily edited for the consumption of white Boomers.

Who else would take a vacation to sit in silence, chant the Bhagavata Gita at 5am and practice sevā, all while having six year old children? Silicon Valley’s syncretic culture produces some weird hybrids. Seventies counter culture gave us some of the best religious revivals in American history.

If you didn’t catch the word sevā earlier it’s actually going to be the anchor of the post. Sevā as it was explained to me as a child at the ashram is selfless service. It’s work you do without expectation of reward. It is a dedication to others.

Practically it meant that anytime we lived at the ashram everyone contributed some set of work, mostly unskilled labor but not always, in the form of sevā. I did everything from food preparation and dish washing (working a commercial kitchen dishwasher is actually fun) to caring for some donated horses. I had fun summers as a child.

But the point was that everyone participated in some way to the functions of the ashram no matter who you were. And we did have some weird celebrities but that’s not the point. Sevā applied to us all. Though I’m sure glad I never looked too hard at the politics of finances of these ashtrays. Childhood innocence. As a child I just thought it was fun to contribute to the adult world.

But what I remember now is a sense of connection. That no aspect of these retreats was ever abstracted to far from me. The service was meant to bond you to an experience of a world bigger than yourself. And by recognizing that, you’d somehow connect more with others.

I try to remember that now when I am in lonely cities where every aspect of living with others is transaction. A food delivery service whisks you a meal in an hour in a country where you are an outsider without ties, bonds or service beyond the basic civilizational contract of capital markets.

The global cosmopolitan gloss of mobile applications have abstracted service away to the point where we can have an entire day of discourse about a man being sad a house cleaner washed a cast iron skillet but we can’t admit that we all pay for service as it cracks the facade.

We’ve got no sevā because that’s an expectation too great to hear. We can barely manage to pay a fee for service anymore. Imagine if we had to operate without intangibles. We can barely make Uber Eats function with taxes, tips, and services fees. Bless the markets for this freedom and curse it in the same breath.

Fuck the pain away? No, we abstract the pain away. No need to see who contributes anything. You can complain to a faceless chatbot cum customer service artificial intelligence about how some man on a bicycle didn’t deliver your order on time. The service lives below the machine now and has patience for frailty.

And yes I’m writing this because my Korean fried chicken and kimchi order got lost in a side street in Frankfurt for an hour or two.

Don’t worry the corporate entities that intermediated between me, the restaurant and the courier decided in my favor. The customer is always right as long as they have paid the fees to pretend that are lords.

All pain in the above transaction was abstracted away into some governance structure that decided it was worth 25 euro or so. One presumes some public market agreed on the price. I guess I did too. We all did.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 837 and Hairless

Many moons ago, I ran an advertising network for independent publishers. Our niche was lifestyle content like fashion & beauty. It was in the early years before social media had gotten beyond blogging and someone like me could be considered an influencer. During these halcyon years, I was loaned a Tria laser hair remover device to review on my own blog.

If you aren’t familiar with the basic concept, you can permanently remove hair by killing the hair follicles with laser light. It works well if you are fair skinned with dark hair. I don’t recall exactly the terms of my original use but my ambition was modest. I wanted to shave my legs less.

I was the kind of woman for whom one cool breeze would make my freshly shaven legs prickly. I needed to shave daily to keep things smooth and I found that to be inconvenient from a cost and time perspective. So I set out with this handheld laser zapping my lower legs every two weeks. I did this for a total of twelve sessions. And fuck it if I wasn’t surprised that it worked.

I went from having daily dark hair growth on my legs to maybe having do a proper shave once a week to get rid of the light fuzzies. I remain astonished it worked. Sure it took a couple months of use and it’s not perfect but I’ve regretted not using it on other areas ever since. It really cut down on shaving. So recently I decided to buy one. Yup, I spent $499 on a laser to remove hair.

It’s my intention to laser off the hair on my armpits and my “undercarriage” if you will. They call it a bikini area but let’s be honest. I want to have a permanent Brazilian wax. I am going to laser my lady bits and my back door. Assuming I can reach it myself.

I’ll happily answer questions about this as I go about the process. Some of what I intend to do is beyond what’s recommended but thanks to Reddit and gossip I’m pretty sure it’s entirely possible. So feel free to ask me. Or not. Up to you.

Categories
Aesthetics Media

Day 829 and Parasocial

As you may have seen in past posts, I am a fan of reality television. I believe it shows us a lot about popular culture and the human dramas that resonate this us.

There is something about being let into someone else’s life that is perhaps too titillating to resist. If you watch you will begin to empathize. And as we are social animals we will want to engage. We project some of our own things onto other lives that we see only dimly through the filters of editing and Instagram accounts.

I’ve been watching Love is Blind with a group chat. To say that the messages are spicy is an understatement. We are all engaged in the high human drama of dealing with your bullshit, finding a life with someone, and seeing your boundaries with a partner. Basically it’s trauma porn. You are seeing people’s open emotional wounds. But it’s also edited to make you feel that way. And we want to look because we might learn something about ourselves.

So the last weeks I’ve spent a bunch of time having opinions about Kwame and Chelsea and Micah and Paul. I care about what happens. And not just because someone’s mom is a stripper. It’s no wonder I’ve developed a parasocial relationship with television characters.

I’ve started to care about them because I see myself in them. But it’s messier and weirder so it’s safer. Surely we are better. And yet we see ourselves in them. It’s empathizing with humanity. And quite honestly I think more of you should watch these shows. It’s good to recognize the breadth of human love as revealed in all trashy glory that is reality dating shows. Honestly it’s fucking art.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 793 and Pretty Skills

My mother has always had a gift for aphorisms. I am grateful she has this talent as I’ve been able to simply repackage her wisdom and look much more talented than I actually am at delivering pull quotes. Brevity is the soul of wit and my mother is very witty.

One of the pithy witticisms I believe I learned from her is a classic take on beauty and class being more fungible than we are led to believe.

Pretty is a skill set

Me and/or my mother

If you’ve ever hung out with a bunch of rich girls and wondered why they are all hot consider the dilemma solved. It’s a skill that is cultivated. Like any skill you cultivate or with time but also money. And if you are rich and white the path to beauty is a lot shorter than you might realize. It’s pretty fucked.

I’ve been lucky enough to cultivate this skill set over time. I’ve come to rely on it as part of my arsenal. But I’ve also got a bit of a cranky body so I’ve not always been able to consistently practice the various skills required.

And sometimes life just gets in the way. I look like a fucking mess today. After a week cooped up in an air conditioned room in Mexico with trips outside for slightly traumatic family emotional bonding, I look like shit.

My hair is unsettled and popping off static electricity. I’ve got small pimples all across my forehead. I’ve got patches of eczema on my right chin. I do not appear to have the skill set for pretty today.

Normally I do my best to hide in these circumstances. Especially if I don’t trust someone. I don’t like looking like I lack skill when it comes to presentation. And it is often a sign of respect to look well groomed and beautiful.

In fact, today we’ve got a houseguest that normally I’d feel required to be at full skill set capacity around. And I just didn’t feel like it was necessary. And that’s a skill set worth cultivating too.

Categories
Aesthetics Media

Day 773 and First Contact

I’m a big fan of Star Trek. I have attended conventions, worn a Captain’s uniform for Halloween, and most damning of all, saw the reboot sequel on a first date with my husband. I am a huge nerd and some credit is due to Star Trek.

So I am aware that in the cannon of Star Trek’s first timeline it is Bozeman Montana where humanity makes First Contact with an alien species. I don’t want to spoiler anything but if you don’t know it’s the Vulcans you probably don’t care that I’m spoiling it.

Now I’m not saying I live in Montana because the aliens are coming, but I am fascinated by the role the Rocky Mountains play in alternative histories. It’s a particular nexus for science fiction. The future happens in the west and nothing is as canonically western as purple mountain majesty.

Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana are often settings for demilitarized zones, zombie apocalypses, and other plots appealing to the survivalist mindset. It helps to have nuclear missile silos and Cheyenne Mountain to stoke the imagination.

So it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that as a doomer I am absolutely thrilled that Montana has now been the center of two ridiculous science fiction narratives recently. We had the Chinese weather balloon last week and Saturday night we had a full on unidentified flying object “alien” invasion over Montana.

Whatever it was ended up over Michigan, but for a brief glorious moment we got to consider whether Bozeman Montana would be the actual site of First Contact. But it’s not yet 2063 and I haven’t invented the warp drive so I’m not holding my breath.

Categories
Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 758 and Two Sides

I somehow missed watching the Mandalorian when it came out. My husband isn’t really into Star Wars and I’m a Star Trek person so as just missed it. I started watching it today for the first time and I’m experiencing it somewhat fresh of its original release context.

But I’ve got a vague memory of the culture war issues that it triggered at the time. Somehow Gina Carano got coded to team red and champion of the downtrodden right wing. I honestly couldn’t tell you why except I think she mouthed off on Twitter. She sacrificed her career as a main character on prestige Disney tv show for shitposting. She thought she had social latitude that she just didn’t when working for Big Mouse. Shockingly naive if I’m honest.

That somehow everything has a side in the culture wars is a real tragedy of our time. Because a couple years pass and whatever dumb stunt that got you put on team red or team blue probably gets forgotten. Normal people have moved on and the discourse gets digested eventually into common knowledge. Memory is a fickle thing. Madeleines and Proust or something in that direction.

If you are team red you go into an alternate universe where apparently being a dick with a right wing slant on YouTube gets you 50 million dollar media deals. I assume there are as many opportunities as now being on team red is a real badge of honor and whole media ecosystems arise because it’s an actual demographic. Shocking somehow to some people but I guess I’ve always lived adjacent to team red. I’ve be always known you could make money on that audience.

I suppose the real tell is that if you are team blue you don’t really change ecosystems at all if you pick their side in the culture war. You get to maintain your plum gig at Disney. You do not have Ron DeSantis gunning for you. I hear that woke mobs come to get you but I’ve never actually seen it in action. The worst part of my chaotic evil leftist Twitter bubble stops at Taylor Lorenz though I am aware that a murky left exists beyond Chapo Trap House and I know about Tankies.

It just seems so strange to take sides in any of this nonsense if your aim is to make a living as a performer. Sure maybe you can cater to one niche or another. But really isn’t the whole point finding the things that bind us all in the human experience? I always assumed art was meant to transcend whatever petty shit happened while making it.

Categories
Aesthetics Travel

Day 750 and Interstitial

If you have ever stayed in an airport hotel or a particularly standardized corporate hotel, you’ve encountered the grand global homogeneity of acceptable hospitality.

Airwave bedroom at a Marriot in Prague

This aesthetic owes a debt to Silicon Valley and the way we’ve sanded off peculiar edges and smoothed over individual characters to make the real world’s brand book as consistent as our virtual ones. It’s called Airwave.

If you enjoyed the silky sameness of a WeWork or a perfect Airbnb or the reclaimed wood counter at a third wave coffee shop in Prague or Frankfurt, you’ve enjoyed Airwave.

If you travel enough, you find the aesthetics comforting eventually. As if your entire palette or taste profile was subtly sifted into the window of preferences set by an art director at an advertising agency in Brooklyn or Amsterdam.

Soothing sameness

Sure you seek out newness and novelty, but also you are glad for the suite at the just nice enough Marriot which delivers you a club sandwich with a request to room service. Remember when Jonny Mnemonic screamed for room service? If you are of a certain age I bet you do.

Ah the height of luxury for a data currier criminal of cyberpunk legend is now the expected outcome for the rootless cosmopolitans. Who is to stay which of us as a worse dystopia?

Categories
Aesthetics Media

Day 748 and Molly Millions

I’ve been rewatching the excellent Amazon adaption of William Gibson’s The Peripheral. I’ve said if before but no single artist has had a bigger impact on my aesthetics than him. As the father of cyberpunk, his impact looms large over the computing industry.

Molly Millions is a cyborg in William Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy which includes the famous Neuromancer. A dark brunette, she has mirror shade eyes and razors under her nails. Molly is first introduced in the shorty story Johnny Mnemonic which became a Hollywood thriller with the same title. In the movie, Molly is renamed as Jane but is fundamentally the same character.

The cover of William Gibson’s Neuromancer with Molly Millions.

In Johnny Mnemonic we have an entirely new aesthetic for Molly Millions as Jane. The brooding inaccessible brunette is replaced with a curly haired blonde played by Dina Mayer.

Dina Mayer as Jane in cyberpunk style.
On the far left, a strong jawed and sharp featured Jane in a cyberpunk bar
Dina Mayer as Jane

I personally loved Dina Mayer’s energy in Johnny Mnemonic. She brought a kind of girl next door folksiness that brought a lot of humanity to the problems of being a cyborg. She was light where technology dictate a darker aesthetic. Cyberpunk needed a Betty. I assume some of this is related to the creative direction of photographer (of Men in Suits fame) Robert Longo but it could have easily been Dina Mayer’s rising star in Hollywood. I hadn’t thought much beyond it until I watched the Peripheral.

But now all I can see in the Peripheral is how much Flynn Fisher (as played by Chloe Grace Moretz) looks like Dina Mayer’s Jane. In my fantasy, it’s like I’m seeing the first woman Willian Gibson ever loved. It almost makes a romantic of me imagining a world where a curly haired blonde mattered to him. But the essence shared by Moretz and Mayer is hard to deny.

Chloe Grace Moretz as Flynn Fisher

Chloe Grace Moretz as Flynn Fisher

Chloe Grace Moretz as Flynn Fisher

I see a lot of little similarities between the two actresses but it’s ultimately the affect. The bold lip and the harsh pulled back hair is contrasted in softer moments with wild curly halos and warm inviting features. Flynn is a southern girl. I’ve got no idea if Jane had a heritage. But now I’ll always wonder why the dark mirror shaded women of Neuromancer became a blonde.

Categories
Aesthetics Travel

Day 743 and Wandering

I took some time to go wandering today. I’ve been in Prague for six days but it’s been such a mess I haven’t actually felt like I’ve been in the city.

I like to get to know cities by walking. If I’ve only been in a cab or an Uber I don’t have a sense of place. I need to walk to feel like I’ve landed in a place. While I love a good resort destination now and again, I find it hard to feel grounded without being able to roam.

I wonder if being raised in a small town affected this at all. I wasn’t really a suburban kid. We had suburbs in my town but you still went to a downtown core where kids would walk from the library to the high school to the pedestrian mall. Walking was entertainment for my teenage years.

Now as an adult I find nothing more liberating than just walking for as long as you can. Being wedded to a destination or a GPS mapped route feels too much like having to do something or be somewhere. But wandering around with no place to be tastes like freedom. You are still in charge of your own life if you can go for a long walk with no purpose.