A blog dedicated to art, entertainment, language, and culture.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Worms

I stood under the overhang of my college apartment building, smoking a cigarette, waiting out a storm, and watching a stream flooding down the hilly sidewalk.  With it came waves of nightcrawlers desperately flipping around, trying to grow fins or trying to understand what cruel fate had captured them.  Although, it was more likely that they were not thinking much at all.

I would spend the next morning pacing this sidewalk and scooping the survivors up to move them to safe patches of loose dirt.  Hopefully, they would be grateful and live out the rest of their lives wiggling freely underground in their happy worm utopia... but more likely, they would not be thinking much at all.  However, it doesn't really matter to me what worms think.  Since those rainy college days, I've missed few opportunities to transport lost worms from the burning concrete back to their natural habitat.  Why?  Well, it seems a little unfair for the worms to be trapped upon the barren wasteland humans unintentionally carved out, which serves as a mass grave for our faceless, little friends.

I think it is good when a worm is swept by running waters into a river or creek, to be devoured by fish.  It is good when a worm is forced out of the ground and carried to a nest to feed squawking, infant birds.  It is good when a worm finds itself swarmed by tiny ants who deconstruct its bloated body to feed the horde.  But it seems wrong to let them shrivel in the sun until they are nothing but a charred corpse.  That is why I still pace the sidewalks and streets today, trying to rescue worms from oblivion.

Last Saturday, I walked to the store.  As I passed a group of teenage girls waiting at the bus stop, one let out a horrified shriek.  She leaped away as her friend stomped violently at nothing less than the dreaded carpenter ant, who was diving in and out of sidewalk cracks in order to evade certain doom.  I'm not sure what offence the ant had committed, but I doubt it was worthy of the death penalty.

On the return trip, I came upon a poor earthworm sliding across the sidewalk.  It was headed in the entirely wrong direction.  Perhaps it had been forced to the surface by the hard, dry Summer soil (I wasn't sure and I did't care).  So, I leaned down and as my fingers tapped its side, the worm writhed with panic.  At that same moment, a woman walking behind me released a fearful scream that scared me half to death.

I think this is how the screaming woman saw worms

And this is how I tend to see worms
Meanwhile, the great old ones floated dully through space, glaring down at our earth with unblinking eyes.  Ammutseba turned toward his fellow, Bugg-Shash, and hissed out words that could drive a man's mind to madness.  It spoke of destruction.  It longed to consume the star of earth and all life with it.  But, Bugg-Shash paused.  It watched three simple-minded beings, existing within calm and happy lives, inexplicably going mad with terror.  Humored and pleased, Bugg-Shash suggested another system to Ammutseba, who was anything but picky.  Thus, the earth was safe for another cycle.

Recovering, I swiftly shoveled the worm into my hand and tossed it into the grass.  This only caused the woman to scream one more time.  I didn't want to seem angry or humored with her reaction, so I put a look of extreme confusion on my face and dashed off.

As the corn-fed country boy from the sensible land of Ohio, I am not used to people being afraid of the "decent" bugs.  The nightcrawlers, carpenter ants, and moths keep this world running smoothly and typically avoid conflict with the giants when they can.  I forget many people don't grow up sitting outside at night, watching the moths and fireflies bang stupidly into the porch lights, and feeling kind of bad about it.  I forget that people don't grow up learning to hook worms.  But then again, I didn't grow up in South Korea, where I saw an open-room filled with skinned cow heads!  The harmless nightcrawler probably shouldn't bother too many people here.

Maybe these ones just didn't get to the market very often...

Monday, July 23, 2012

When It's OK to Tear Down a Statue

I love statues. I love 'em! When I visit a city or park... or anything... the first thing I look for are statues. Normally, I don't like to look too much like a tourist. Even when it's unavoidable, I still don't want to come off as a gawking stranger that does nothing but take in the "prettiest" parts of a place and leaves. After all, a culture is far more than just the landmarks they put up for other people to see, and it can be way more fulfilling to find the hidden corners of a town, instead of sticking to the tourist traps and beaten paths.

That's all crap when I'm standing in front of a statue! This is especially true when the statue is ridiculous or silly, and the person or thing it is meant to commemorate is an extremely arbitrary figure nobody remembers, not even the people of the town, and they have to be reminded who he is every time an outsider points it out. Nobody cares about the Wright Brothers' patent lawyer, but my beautiful hometown of Springfield, Ohio celebrates his life with a statue. It's probably pathetic and maybe we can all laugh at it, but it's also genuinely wonderful. Why not celebrate obscure historical characters?! It's way more fun to honor the memory of Emperor Norton I than George Washington, because we all know George Washington... we've been there and done that. But those little, obscure people you might not know can inspire a different kind of pride and a different kind of interest.


But, sometimes it might be the wrong time to have a statue someplace. A prime example of this is the one of Joe Paterno at Penn State. Paterno is a relatively unknown person on a global scale. Plenty of people outside the US know who George Washington is, and even if they don't, he is still a national icon who will be remembered for as long as the United States has people living in it. He's essentially immortalized as part of the American identity. Nobody in England is going to forget Queen Elizabeth I, nobody in South Korea is going to forget Sejong the Great, and nobody in the world is going to forget Beethoven or Gandhi anytime soon. These people are interwoven into histories and cultures as extremely important. But, most people will never know the name of the Wright Brothers' patent lawyer...and I've already forgotten it. And the same will probably be true for Paterno.

If you don't know who Paterno is, you might not have been living under a rock, but he was still pretty big, American news a little while back. He was a very talented football coach who did a lot of good in and for the community surrounding Penn State. He also covered up the horrendous actions of a pedophilic assistant coach, which caused him to be fired in disgrace only months before he died. It was the last chapter in his legacy, and a very sad one for such a beloved figure among locals and football fans.

A statue of Joe Paterno was built in 2001, and it has now been taken down. In a statement the President of Penn State said that they would be taking down the statue because it "has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing" (Huffington Post). That's a pretty good reason. Maybe, Penn State needs to take down the statue, so people can forget... or at least, not be forced to think about it every day on the way to class.


As I said earlier, 'those little, obscure people you might not know can inspire a different kind of pride and a different kind of interest'. We call them "local heroes," and it can be particularly hurtful when a local hero fails in such a big way. We tend to love our closest communities the most because they affect and influence us far more than any other body we may belong to, so people who believed in or loved a local hero might be distraught, resentful, or in denial about such heavy, recent failings.

Perhaps in the future, the Joe Paterno statue will be returned to Penn State. That might sound terrible to some people, but eventually there could be reason to celebrate the good and fun again, instead of dwelling on the bad. Lots of famous people made some pretty big mistakes. Lots of famous people did some intentionally terrible things. But, time allows us to overlook those, even if we are aware of them. It's possible to do that.

Personally, I think it's a great statue. Joe Paterno has an iconic look, and it was captured perfectly. Somewhere they have probably tucked it away. It's in some dirty storage space and will likely rust and collect dust for years. That just makes my weird, slightly creepy tourist-photographer impulse all the more intrigued. I want a photo of that sculpture where it is now. There's something tragic and beautiful about seeing something meant to be on display, meant to be admired, shoved to the back of some closet in some basement. Down there, the statue becomes even more obscure, even more fascinating, and even more precious than any monument to George Washington bathed in sunlight.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Art of the Angler Fish

Yesterday, I spent some time looking for images to accompany my post about angler fish and I found a ton of really cool art work. I knew I wasn't going to be able to use most of it, so I've decided to make a second angler fish themed post. This time just focusing on the awesome art one can find scouring the internet.


This picture was found on Etsy and might just be the cutest depiction of an angler fish in the history of the world. In my last post I described the angler fish as being a seductive ray of light in the darkness, yet only a trap. Here, the artist takes a far more optimistic view of the creature, describing it as "a light in the dark - cute angler fish, icon of hope in a deep dark and troubled ocean."


When I was searching for images, I wanted one that depicted the glowing lure with as little of the actual fish as possible. The above is the one I went with. It's actually a beautifully terrifying angler fish mask by Deviantart artist mesmithy (presumably). There are a lot of angler fish masks across the web, but this is definitely my favorite.


This was, kind of, my runner-up for the light in the dark. It's an extremely minimalist image of the fish. You can find this picture and it's sister by Kairi292 over at Patch Together.


It's ridiculous just how complex pumpkin sculpting can be. As I kid, I would just carve a happy face and toss in a candle. This pumpkin by David Arsenault must have taken an incredible amount of time and talent.


Probably my favorite of them all, this piece is called "The Great Angler Fish in the Sky" and was a collaboration between two Deviantart artists CricketWings and littlegreenelf10. There's a European dragon bursting through the clouds and releasing a torrent of fire in the shape of an angler fish... for some reason. It's pure nonsense, but that's what makes life fun.


Let's continue down this road of nonsense by looking at this image by EvanLovejoyArt. Deep sea creatures have often been noted for their alien appearances. Most of the creatures in H. P. Lovecraft's works are similar to certain sea creatures. Astronauts beware. There may be angler fish in space.


Here's an angler fish themed car! This picture was presumably taken at Burning Man. There are few environments that seems less "angler fish friendly" than Black Rock Desert, but there it is.


I tried to find some art depicting the romantic lives of the angler fish, so we could end with something that didn't focus on the lure. It's always about the lure. I looked around for artwork depicting male angler fish, mating, love, anything. But the results were pretty much always the same... nothing. So what?! The angler fish doesn't need to be depicted as a romantic lead! She can hang in the background, lighting a deep sea love for her friends the snails in Kerzeleng by Kian Kiani.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Romance of the Angler Fish

Few creatures feel quite as alien and strange to human onlookers as deep sea fish.  From the gaping maw of the umbrella eel to the melted face of the blobfish, these underwater monsters fascinate as well as disgust curious minds.  Probably the most famous is the angler fish, a creature which tempts the imagination as a light in the darkness.  Believe for an instant, you are a tiny fish desperately floating through a barren wasteland, scavenging for a rare morsel of food.  You happen upon a thin light, a glowing promise of a sweet meal.  A tiny, helpless worm.  As you move to nibble on upon this mana, a spiky row of teeth swiftly clamps down around you.  That faint hope was nothing but a trap.


How beautifully metaphorical!  The angler fish has the charms of the devil and the face of a demon.  But, this siren's appendage is far from the angler fish's most bizarre or noteworthy aspect.  The romance of the angler fish might be an even more fascinating, even more frightening wonder.  Imagine with me again.  This time you are a man (if you are not one already) and you have been tracking across the endless barrens.  This time you are in search of love, a mate, someone to care for you and you can be with forever.  You meet a beautiful woman and fall head over heels for her.  You dive in for a smooch only to realize once your lips have locked, they can't unlock.  Soon your entire body begins to wither, and you melt away, reducing to nothing more than a fleshy sack of dangling testicles pumping semen into her body through your mouth.


People often make special note of certain birds that "mate for life."  They look at these species and see in them a "human quality" that only marginally exists.  What do those people make of this?  There is no denying, once the male and female angler fish mate, they will be together forever.  It's a bond stronger than marriage.

My previous story (searching barren wastes for love, etc) doesn't actually work if we are to assume the first place you kiss your romantic interest is the mouth...or that you are actually kissing her.  Instead, it's more like a bite on the small of the back or stomach.  Then an acidic goo creeps out and fuses your two bodies together.  At first, this was assumed to be a parasitic growth or different species latched onto the angler fish. It turned out this shrimpy vestige was a boyfriend.

Boy
Girl
The male and female of the species are grotesquely different from one another.  The female is our stereotypical angler fish.  These creatures operate inverse to how the androcentric society of any dominant human civilization sees the masculine generic.  Angler fishettes are big, dangerous, violent, and hideously ugly (perhaps their lone stereotypical female trait is the distinctly phallic lure, which they use to seduce and attract prey, not mates).  The males, on the other hand, appear as unremarkable, tiny fish with no anglers to speak of.  You could describe them as cute.

While the female angler fish survives via trapping (with lure and inward pointing, massive teeth), the male uses a keen sense of smell to locate females, and his primary goal is not to find delicious meals, but breed.  Survival for most species (...if not all), isn't simply the survival of the body, but the survival of the genes.  It doesn't really matter if our boy, the angler fish, fuses his being with the female until he is nothing more than a dangling flap.  His genes live on, and the species lives on.


When I found this incredible bit of (citations needed) information, I fell madly in love with the angler fish.  What was once little more than one of many strange curiosities of the deep, dark ocean floor, became something far more bizarre and disturbing.  People have clearly been looking at the angler fish as a creepy monster...

... from all the wrong angles!  Their process of breeding is infinitely stranger and infinitely more terrifying than the fish's famed lure.

Endnote: If you found the "androcentric society" paragraph off topic and out of place, I want you to look at this webcomic.  It is a pretty androcentric view of the angler fish, treating its existence as a slight against men everywhere.  Intent or not / funny or not.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mark Oxner's Amazing Attack Ads

Behold, the greatest political ad since the days of Goldwater and Johnson...



Mark Oxner wouldn't be getting my vote if I lived in the Floridian district he is currently running for, and that's not because I don't love his ads.  They're great!  Especially the one above.  It's an obviously and intentionally hyperbolic comedy commercial, where, as I hope you have already noticed, a disinterested grandmother explains to her naive grandchild that life has taken a horrible turn after Alan Grayson and his liberal cronies took over the world!

I think we should address the important question: Is that ad real?  Yes.  It is.  Somehow, through the monotone acting and extreme exaggerations about the future, this is what a real congressional candidate thought should be run against his opponent.  He has even stated, "I’m happy with how it turned out. There was a little bit of fun in the ad–the ad was intended to make the point through having a little bit of fun."  Was the point to be a parody of a political ad?

Even as a parody this wouldn't really work.  Most stories follow a pretty simple narrative structure where they open fairly small and build to a climax.  In comedy this might be leading to a punchline.  You start with something not particularly unrealistic and slowly insert crazier and crazier ideas until it seems completely ridiculous.  So the three points used should probably go Gas Prices or Gun Restriction, then the other, then Ban on Lemonade Stands.  Instead, the ad begins with the craziest idea first, then moves into the others.  It doesn't make structural sense, and that's just one reason it is so damned corny and so damned wonderful.

Oxner is probably digging his grave with ads like this.  Even when they're being light-hearted, I want to be able to take my politicians a little seriously.  I think the audience has learned what kind of man Oxner is from his ads, instead of learning about his opponent... at all.  He's the kind of man who thinks banning guns is a bad thing, but then portrays the man who would ban them as gun wielding...  I can't figure out if he has a point to make or if he's just a troll.

None of the ad should actually need explaining if you just want something cheesy and insane to laugh at for a few minutes, but if you were wondering why there was a cartoon parrot at the end, you should watch Oxner's USS Obamaboat ad!  Then you'll understand all...



Source

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Magic of Cow Heads

There is something wonderful, if not magical, about seeing something you have never seen before, even if that something is a room filled with skinned cow heads…


I took this photo while wandering the open market of Gangneung with a friend on an extremely hot day when there was little else to do.  The aforementioned cow room was plainly sitting in the open with no effort to conceal it, surrounded by fellow shops selling similar dead animal parts, some letting them float in tubs of water, and one particularly horrible place where the smell of a boiling, fatty goo made us noxious.

The typical middle-class white neighborhood does not have these luxuries, or rather, does not put them on display.  Sure, there are a few farmers’ markets, but their presence is not well felt.  The market in Gangneung, on the other hand, sits in the center of the downtown and sprawls quite a distance in every direction, woven into the streets.  We are more accustomed to super markets, which are about as super as they are actual markets.

The super market is a single entity surviving on a massive scale.  Every Wal-Mart is essentially identical and controlled through the same hierarchical structure.  By contrast, an actual market is a collective, where merchants and tradesmen sell goods.  Each shop sells specific items (tools at one, clothes at another, fish at the third) and there is no larger corporate body governing their actions.  As mentioned earlier, it was a very hot day and many sellers were lying down and watching TV while fanning themselves or sleeping.  That wouldn’t fly with Wal-Mart management.

The super market is notoriously big and kept relatively clean.  The massive, block shape of a super market allows lots of room for shelves, of course, but it gives the overwhelming feeling of emptiness even when irritatingly crowded.  Then the white and sterile surroundings amplify its unnatural place in the world, where food is not displayed outside of extremely sanitary conditions and the ugly process of slaughter is kept hidden away.  It is a dull, lifeless giant.  But please, don’t take this as some kind of political condemnation of Wal-Mart or any other dull, lifeless giant.  My point here is that they are boring!

The open market is anything but boring.  It will keep you guessing as to what you could see (or smell) around the next corner.  Instead of being isolated into one walled-off block, they are living and moving, part of the streets and part of the city.  They are dirty with flies circling dead fish and cow heads.  One shop even flaunted this potential grotesquery to middle-class, American whites by displaying a smiling pig head someone had drawn eyelashes on.  You could not describe the market as bland or uninteresting.

Of course, I, being a massive hypocrite, do most of my shopping at the local Homeplus, where my fish is usually filleted and my pigs don't stare back.  But I stand by my adoration for the lively open market, because of its uniqueness or perhaps its a stark contrast to my normal shopping experience.  Instead of existing as a sterile environment where one can escape the brutal realities of non-prepackaged products, it celebrates them.