Category Archives: Criticisms and Theory

The Problem with Reality

The analytic relies on the concrete physicality of existence, taking comfort in what can be tangibly experienced and conducted through the human senses of sight, touch, sound and taste. To the analytic, the ideas of metaphysics lies laughably beyond the realms of true logic and physical reasoning. Yet one could consider, and rather should consider plausibility beyond the comfortable personality of physical deductions. What do I mean? Let us consider the basis for our knowledge of the world around us. We consider reality with a predisposed consciousness. A consciousness molded through the innate conditioning of individual existence, conditioning by way of culture and those sub-societies therein, as well as through religion, nurture and personal nature. Thus the concept of “what is”, such as the beauty of a color or image, or the terming of “disgusting” or “delicious”, relies heavily on these innate biases within the human “being”. And so we can say that even what should be concrete and physical is not entirely so. What I mean by this is simple enough, but massively complex in nature. The innate biases of an individual acts as a lens through which they might contact reality. Each human’s unique variances heightens their sensitivities in different directions and to different degrees. What one person might notice, another may not simply due to their own personal contexts.

So where I am going with this is simply to illustrate that even though we may see something, hear something, smell or taste something, all that we physically process is also processed in a metaphysical way. Our unconsciousness is activated whether it be through the olfactory, or past experiences which have left deep residues in the unconsciousness of our minds. And this affects how we process the physical world. It is a link between the physical and the non physical, things we can seemingly explain and things that seem insurmountable to explain. It adds complexity to the nature of the world and realities as a whole. It confuses the accuracy of separating the physical from the abstract.

Symbiosis of Perfection and Beauty

I wonder what it is, sometimes, to have beauty. Is it perfect physicality or perfection of mind, or both. Perhaps it is the unifying of both ends to make a stronger strand of human. That brilliant two-ply line that quivers and shakes but does not break when pulled. Wrapping it around your finger you can tie it in a knot in an attempt to keep it secure, but the process of time only causes it to tighten to the point of painful suffocation. The finger dead, you must cut it off, losing more than what you originally had.
Sometimes I try too hard for perfection and forget the benefits of an imperfect reality. Room to improve, hopes of betterment, and a mutual camaraderie with my fellow man. Perhaps perfection is a symbiotic relationship rather than a state of being. We can not actually be perfect without each other, without God or Christ, or depending on your world view, simply a being greater and more pure than oneself. What ounce of chance do we have even dreaming of aspiring to this position of spiritual liberation on our own. After all, one must have a liberator to be liberated. You see, perfection has a comparative quality, its candor often overlooked by way of the prideful self-serving mind. Naively we believe perfection is a state we can achieve through trial and error, eternal life, or death. All of these self manifestations, all of these venues for achievement, inherently wrong. Off putting, perhaps, but truthfully, perfection is only attained through another perfect being. Seeing as we never start there, we can not EVER achieve it alone.

Berkley and Mob Protesting

I am trapped on a train, held hostage by the Berkley protesters near Oakland, California. Down the tracks people block not only the roadways and freeways, but also the incoming trains. Somewhere amidst the crowded Berkley streets a woman is going into labor in her car, unable to move because of the crowds.

Although I can appreciate their fleeting convictions over the recent police shootings, after twelve plus hours of transit and a morning filled with LA fires and hellacious traffic, my sympathies have turned quite selfish. As I sit here, dry eyed and glazed over, and quite honestly bored out of my mind, I’ve taken to considering the decency and intelligence of all this hullabaloo. Protesting is decent, but mob protesting is another story. And that’s what these nationally notorious events have become. Freeways and whole city blocks closed off, bus routes impeded and canceled, personal property damages, and not to mention groups taking advantage of the situation and the visibility to use the protests as a personal platform tool. Our conductor even excused the situation by noting we’d be remaining in Oakland to maintain our safety. ABOARD A TRAIN. For all the good these protesters are “intending” to promote, have they now caused a breech in safety to other citizens? Well, if we have to fear for our safety on a train, I’d say yeah.
The common denominator of all protests is violence. From one side or the other, violence is always somewhere in the mix. What baffles me, if only slightly, is that with the Ferguson protests and others related to it happening in other cities across the country, they are only making life more difficult for the rest of us. What is the need of running on highways,  or making rush hour even more of a hell for the commuters? People lose there jobs in LA if they’re late. Why smash windows, destroy personal property of those who have literally nothing to do with any of it? Human originality and creativity is obviously lacking here. There are many ways of protesting something, but these are often times over looked, partly, mainly, because they cost the protester more time and commitment. But here are a couple of options, they are more gentle and subconcious, but retain a lasting affect.

1. Write a book.

What people don’t realize is that libraries are still in business, and the New York best seller’s list is still in existance. Don’t leave those venues open to vapid creations like Twilight, that later are banked into movies and marketing tools  (see #2)

2. Make a movie or television shows/ Work in entertainment.

Movies and television are the apex of our modern cultural psyche. We watch them from childhood, and spend so much of our adult life consuming our spare time with them. If anything can affect change, especially on a subconscious level  where our “micro aggressions” stem from, than movies and TV are it. That, or  become a teacher. Either way, you won’t be able to afford a cush lifestyle, but you’ll at least be helping people; and wasn’t that the purpose of protesting, anyway?

3. Volunteerism

Take it one step further from just watching propagated news reports from channels with agendas. See social problems and the human condition first hand. And instead of getting angry and holding up signs, chanting and ruining others’ day by making them lose their job because they can’t get to work on time, or after 12+ hours of transit have to sit for 6 more hours on the train, or go into labor in their car because they are stuck in the street traffic you are causing, or lose their livelihood because you’ve destroyed their place of business, and etc… instead of doing all these things, go into the trenches and cause a change by investing in a person and being burdened with their problems and hardship, not self fulfilling group euphoria.

4. Become a police officer or work within the justice system.

Ensure the rights and justice of those you serve.

5. Elect officials or become one who help make the hard decisions.

It should be obvious how this is helpful.

Dedicate your life, not just a couple of days or weeks to the causes you seem so desperate to defend. Get dirty, embrace emotional turmoil and empathetic tribulation, not anger, annoyance, and self aggrandizement. It’s a  huge commitment, but it makes a difference without hurting innocent bystanders or causing more strain on the law enforcement. How many more people will be hurt, raped, or killed because the police meant to  walk those beats are rededicated to monitoring your cause? Don’t protest something you, and let’s be honest, haven’t really done all your research on with an objective lens. Don’t blend into the herd mentality. And PLEASE, please, stop blocking my train.

I’m not one to sympathize with law enforcement, but here is some perspective in light of a lot of mass media hysteria:

Grab a Bag, but not of Candy!

Happy Halloween! I’m not one for “fashiony” blog posts, seeing as there are enough of those out there. But I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to share a little collaboration that a sustainably minded brand, Looptworks, and everyone’s favorite (?) airlines, Southwest, have been working on. Where is the contact point of these two seemingly perpendicular companies? Basically, Looptworks is an Oregon based company  – not surprisingly- which works with other companies to re purpose their materials. For example, in the past, Looptworks has made laptop cases from excess neoprene from the wetsuit industry, up-cycled polyester backpacks,  and ipad cases from excess belt leather. Now that Southwest Airlines, in an attempt to create lighter weight more fuel efficient aircraft, is replacing their seat covers, Looptworks has partnered with them to take all that leftover leather from the previous versions  and launch a collection of “weekend” (aka duffel) and tote bags.

LUV-Seat-Sales-SheetNow the great thing about these bags is that not only are they pretty darn sustainable, but they are also retain the same attributes we prized as disaster-proof seat covers. Heck, maybe one day you may even need to use it as a floating device.  Another great thing is Looptwork’s Loopt4Life guarantee, which, in an attempt to never contribute to landfills is the company’s lifetime warranty on all their products. So send them back for repairs, but please don’t throw them away.

Finally, these bags are rather exclusive, and once the material is used up, that’s it. So get one while you can, support something great, and know you are keeping your earth and those around you healthy. Strange to talk about health on Halloween…Muhahahaha!

Also, check out the video to get a better vision for the product and the company:

Project LUV Seat – Repurpose with Purpose from Looptworks on Vimeo.

Bystander Effect

Last night my friend and I were on an 11pm bus from Westwood to Santa Monica. We’d just finished up at an LA pre-fashion week event, invitation by my coworker, Jenny. It was at the W Hotel, lounging poolside and munching cupcakes as fashion models strutted past. It was nice to see a show again as it’s been months since my last, and even better to see creativity still blossoming in a place so stagnated in the past by the denim and t-shirt industry. But the moral of the story remains yet on that 11pm Blue bus ($1 rides by the way). As we sat near the back exit we watched, dazed by the evening’s hour and previously consumed Diddy Riese ice cream sandwiches, as a woman in a stained, deep blue T-shirt and shaved head boarded the bus. She sat down and as  we continued vaguely gazing, I realized and began to wonder why we were not pulling off again. Before I was fully aware of what was transpiring, the bus man began telling the woman to get off. Just as she stepped out, I realized the situation; the woman had not paid the $1 fare.

What consumed me for the remainder of the ride was that I had not acted on the instantaneous reaction to getup and chase her back onto the bus after paying for her fare. It was a dollar, and I’d paid more than that for an ice cream. Because here’s the thing, this momentary laps of initiative alluded to a pattern I have found myself in for the past month.

There are A TON of homeless vagabonds chilling out in LA, Santa Monica especially, as it is a great place to be homeless, if ever there was a place. Southern California is decently clean (okay, smog is bad), temperate, close to the beach, and to be honest there are always full dumpsters or people rich and laid back enough to dole out a couple cents. And the homeless aren’t very confrontational, they just kinda hang out.

Well, the pattern I was speaking of earlier was this nagging little problem of self conscious do-gooding or “Bystander Effect”. See, when I witness someone in poverty, whether monetary or other, I have a genuine desire to help them out, but I hate if others see. I don’t like just giving change to pan handlers, but I don’t mind buying them some food. On my walks from work to get lunch there is a particular fellow who has obviously lived his life wild and sits under shaded awnings or by the local coffee shop, head down, quietly living, as I pass by. I have a desire to give him my lunch or a drink, because it’s been hot, but something stays my action. In this instance I believe it is a fear of his rejection or of the public eye watching me. Another occasion was at a 7-eleven last week. I went in to get some food and when I came out, this homeless man asked for a hot dog. I said, “Yeah, sure.”  He asked to come in too, and I said yes, of course. He was nice, not looking for anything besides a hot foodie and I had him order what hot dog he wanted.  The weird thing was that I knew everyone was looking at us, perhaps judging him for his need and lack of ability to self sustain,  and observing me like I was perpetuating the problem of homeless neediness. That old adage “feed the dog your scraps from the table and he’ll never stop begging”. But it was probably just me in all my self consciousness. The closest reasoning I can come to is that I can’t stand if people think it is a superficial act of derived kindness, because it’s not. I also just don’t like being stared at by strangers.

Today, as I scrolled through some online art forums (www.textileartist.org) I found a great piece of fiber art work by June Lee dealing with this “Bystander effect” as she calls it:

“Korean artist June Lee’s haunting mixed media installations deal with uncompromising subjects such as isolation and alienation. Her brightly colored sculptures are created by wrapping plaster casts in thread and fabric. These unique patterns and colors represent individuality and estrangement from society. Through her work June explores the phenomena of the Bystander effect, in which individuals do not offer help to a victim when in the presence of others”.

bystander effect

Back to the girl on the bus.

See, that woman on the bus that I didn’t help out because of a societal fear might have walked around all night. If she had no way of getting home, or whatever her circumstance was, she may have even been brutalized. Our actions or lack of actions have an affect on those we do or do not interact with. Mine may still be perpetuating an old man’s thirst or have cost a woman her safety one night.

The Truth Behind the Character- Costume Awareness

As I take my first real steps into the thankless field of costume design, it has been brought to my awareness  by a fellow, senior designer, that costume design is one of the least recognized of all the parts of a production, especially in film. May I say, I am not surprised. Every costume shop or crew I have come in contact with or heard of, has been under budgeted, over scheduled, and under appreciated. Costumes are treated like a commodity by the actors, and yet they remain an utter necessity. The time logistics of styling, or building an outfit is always ludicrously underestimated by other directing portions of the production team. Costuming also requires more than just ideation and construction, it also requires intense organization and maintenance. You can be bullied, stepped on, used and often pushed to the side, ignored by viewers and overshadowed by the ego of the directors and actors. It is, at times, a very thankless job. And often, if you are good, your work is almost invisible. Why? It is a common saying that  good costuming  is when the viewer doesn’t notice it. The costume is as much a part of the character as his speach or manerisms.  They should never detract from the character by attracting too much attention from the viewer. Costumes should never stand alone. Just like fashion in our daily lives reflects our inward voice, conscious or unconscious, costumes play the same integral part in character development.  They are the voice and the psychology of a character,  and they can be symbolism tools as well. They can invoke nostalgia  through contextual references to which we personally identify and are often how we remember a character or even the actor who plays them. Think, James Dean – red jacket, blue jeans, white shirt or  Dr. Who: each reanimation brings with him new character quirks and costume ID.  Even Marilyn Monroe can hardly be separated from that white “Seven Year Itch” dress.

A recent acquaintance gave me this very real, very recent scenario to which she was privy. At the comic con – I believe here in LA- the new Wonderwoman costume for the upcoming Superman Vs. Batman movie was revealed. Talk and recognition went in many directions: the actors, the director. But even though the designer of the actual costume was there, not a word was made in reference to him. The funniest part was that many of the  characters we identify with in the contemporary superhero world have been, partially, designed by him.  Anybody know his name? No? Well, you’ll find out as we progress.

This has lead me to begin a new series of weekly posts about costume designers in order to bring awareness and recognition for the hard work they put in. Not to mention the integral vision which they help to develop and translate on the screen or stage.  If it wasn’t for costume designers and the quiet and often tedious work they do, the characters we know and love, would be much different. Each week I’ll post about one designer, some of their background and some of their identifying work. Hopefully, by the end of this project, I will have created a nice little forum of information and inspiration for both viewers and fellow costumers alike.

Ignorance Always Wins

Ignorance is a hard thing to argue with.  Perhaps it is why so many of our hot-button topics of debate leave us breathlessly unfulfilled and without resolution. Ignorance on both sides of the discussion. In fact topics which span the depths of the human existence, religion, philosophy, science etc  can never, at least not yet, really be completely resolved .  It is a side affect of a closed mindedness and a lack of ability for our generation and global community to pursue discussion based dialogue rather than debate and argumentative dialogue. In fact most people don’t even understand the difference. What is dialogue anyways? The sharing of individual context, the optimistic belief that contemplation can be a shared endeavor?  At best, we show mediocrity in understanding our own context; when in communication with another individual (harboring their own personal context) at any time, we come in contact with foreign material and a knowledge and experiential base  almost completely, save for cultural dependencies, and even there, different from our own. It is a book we have never read and for one to say he has read every book  in the library, is an obvious liar in the most narcissistic, ignorant way. Assertion of superior understanding betrays ignorance in itself. It suggests that there is no other facet to be explored about a topic. To think that anything is that simply understood is a juvenile assertion.  Here is a quote that better exemplifies this point. The willing blindness of ignorance. Or rather, the necessity for ignorance in debate.

“I argued with a scholar and won. I argued with an ignorant person and lost.”- Imām al-Shāf’i

“An ignorant person does not care about the truth – he will not follow any logic or hold himself to any etiquette. It’s like a person who plays soccer, picks up the ball, runs as fast as he can and dives head first into the goal. When you explain to him that he is wrong, there are rules to follow, he can’t carry the ball with his hands, he yells at you, calls you names and says, “Goal!” -Suhaib Webb

Now I’m not sure if I agree with the  idea of telling someone they are “wrong” as there is always some shadow of truth in the development of an opinion, even if the outcome is skewed. Consider Jung, Nietzsche, or any other great philosopher/psychologist. Even science shares this same characteristic. A finalized opinion or theory may be later proven wrong, even after being considered right, but the process taken to come to the conclusion is not wholly discarded. It is still legitimate and utilized.

There is always more to say on this, but I’ll leave that for further personal thought.

The Sound of Color

The connection between sound and color and their relationship with beauty is an impressive concept. While I was in  Europe this spring, studying philosophy, I was introduced to the expansive concept that beauty correlations intertwined many feilds of thought and theory, such as math, art, language, and the subconcious senses. While beauty is not always visible in a certain field, it’s visual beauty can be revealed through other forms of articulation, for example; math and structural design, or sound and color. Beauty and image is translatable from forum to forum. This TED talk gives an example of this, through the eyes and ears of a 100% color blind man who has developed a way to hear color. It is also interesting and realizable that while beauty may be present in one forum, it is lacking in another.  For example an ugly image may portray a beautiful concept, such as redemption and etc. Here Neil Harbisson relates how beautiful sound does not always go along with a pretty color combinations. Take a look:

Movie Elements: Crime and Mystery

I recently, and finally, watched “Basic Instincts” an icon in it’s own right. It’s reputation precedes it and the brutality with which it deals with genre cliches had me wincing. Maybe I’m just soft, but the gratuity of both the sexual and violent elements in this rather hard boiled crime thriller disturbed me, even with modern day comparisons. Not one for wanton violence, gore or sex, I did, however, enjoy the film.

As I have been researching what elements within a genre makes a film enthralling,  for example, what makes a romantic comedy work or not work and etc… I have been blowing through movies like Charlie Sheen on coke. So let me share some things I think make for great crime and mystery flicks.

1. The Hero is not such a good guy.

Here we can reference the classic “hardboiled” character sketch made famous by Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe of The Big Sleep, brought to life on film by Humphrey Bogart. Why make the main man no saint? Well, it’s rather more identifiable, if you think about it. Our hero deals neck deep in the scum of the human race, daily; no one can encounter that dark world and come out alive without a stain.

2. The real bad guy is rarely the main suspect but often exposed early on, under the radar.

I mean, this makes sense. If it was that easy to figure out, than it wouldn’t be worth watching for an hour and a half. However, when I watch crime and mystery flicks, I’m always amazed at how quickly my father can predict the outcome of the film, and here’s why. The key to solving the case is always slipped in early, unobtrusively and in a very passive way. And that’s what makes it so darn frustrating. For example, in Basic Instinct, the connection between Catherine and Elizabeth’s character is that they are both psych majors, Catherine becoming a writer and Elizabeth a practicing professional. One makes up “stuff” and the other puts it to practice. There are other clues, but I’ll leave that to you to find. The obvious is that it’s never obvious, unless it’s obvious… tricky huh? You’ve got to be a great story teller to make that work.

3. The main suspect is in some way linked to the actual bad guy.

ie. Elizabeth and Catherine’s relationship- Basic Instinct, Evelyn Mulwray and her father- Chinatown, Vivian Rutledge, Eddie Mars and Carmen- The Big Sleep.

4. Sex/sexuality must be involved.

This genre deals with a lot of the dark side of people. Lust, one of those deadly sins, is always a key motivation and often a tool used to solve the mystery, especially in Basic Instinct. Femme Fatale, anyone? By the way, love doesn’t usually win out, and mostly just brings about death ie. Chinatown, The Big Sleep (book version), and even Basic Instinct, although that ending is left somewhat ambiguous to me.

5. The hero always has a mysterious past.

This is probably one of my favorite habits of this genre, and along with  1. reminds me a lot of classic westerns. The mystery of the hero’s past is as important to solve as is the overall investigative mystery, and they are always somehow intertwined. Key plot points which solve parts of the overarching case inevitably unearth facts about our hero and as he grows closer to solving the crime/mystery, we become closer to solving the mystery of our hero. So, you get double for your money!

6. The ambiguity of good and evil.

Again, this strays back to 1. After all, if our good guy isn’t such a good guy, it leaves the door wide open to questions of  morality and right and wrong. Of all the genres, I’d say that this one is probably one of the most redemptive and human of all. It’s more than just about justice for a crime, but also about the justice in forgiveness and exoneration of the hero. Justice is, in itself, and open subject and often left to question.

7. The use of color to create mood and symbolism is key.

Now here I get a little artsy. But honestly, color and costume are artistic points which hit us as viewers in a way we don’t even realize. Color scheming lays the groundwork for the subconscious atmosphere of the film and is especially powerful in the crime genre. The original crime/mystery genre had the advantage of black and white film noir, and today, we can develop upon that idea of color context by using color as symbolism. In Basic Instinct you notice the color of the investigators, usually browns, greys and other neutrals; no stark colors and especially no white. Catherine wears white, perhaps to symbolize her actual innocence, her claim to innocence, or as a sardonic admission to her actual guilt. Roxy where’s black, so we know from the get go that there’s something up. Yet it is Elizabeth who is the biggest success. Her neutrals, verging on the darker side (and note, her completely black undergarments which are “revealed” during the violent scene with Nick in her apartment) are nothing that would tip off the audience to her guilt. Well done costume and artistic team…well done. The best psychopaths are the ones no one notices till the very end at their reveal, even though the clues are everywhere along the way. Next time you watch one of these films, notice the color usage and think about what it is trying to say or emotionally evoke.

Of course, there are so many other elements that I’ve completely omitted from this list, but I do think these are some of my favorite attributes in the crime genre.

Have a favorite crime/mystery movie? I’m always looking for new, good watches, so share them in a comment. If you have another genre you’d like to hear about, comment below and let me know!

The Value Memory

Think of a yard sale. People on the spot early enough to wake the birds, human hands worming their way through the excess “junk” to find those priceless vintage pieces they know they can, possibly, sell on ebay for a hefty sum. Yard sales can tell you a lot about the collective human psyche. It can be in the varying demographics of the shoppers or the price-haggling and clingy value assurance of the sellers, who, sometimes reluctantly,  cast off things that once meant something to them which, when unearthed from the cobwebs and laid out on tables for the review of shoppers, still elicits sentimental desire in their owners.

Living in the rurals of central Virginia, I, along with about a dozen other families, participated as a seller at a community yard sale. It’s a great way to put out something that people will actually come to, as most country folk live too far out with too few neighbors to make any kind of dent in their collection of once treasured items. The day was hot and humid and people were sweating as bad as their cold glasses of soda. But sitting and people watching from 6am to 2pm gave me more than just a killer sexy tan. It allowed me the time and opportunity to really observe humans in action, in a venue which is, in our modern culture of “buy-and-trash”, quickly fading to a back-shelved mode of public trade. It’s a fast paced philosophy here in America, so I won’t bog down this 5-minute-flash-read blog post with extraneous, albeit relevant “thought and theories”. The topic I want to discuss, breifly, here, nipped my heel  while I was pricing our items and bartering with shoppers.

Product Value Retention

Man, this could go in so many directions. I can think of a couple Masters theses right now. Okay, we see values go up and down across the board; you buy a computer, a car, an article of clothing and the price depricates simply because it’s now been purchased. And that leads us to another one:

Ownership Value

Once purchased an item develops value for the buyer for a variety of reasons. Sometimes there is a lot of stress, searching, and saving up time involved in a purchase, or the item developed a sentimental value for the owner (think baby items, clothes, cars, houses, pictues etc.). Whatever it is, product values often deprecate upon purchase from a buyer’s perspective,  while owner value of a product goes up.  See the fun little dichotomy?

So that is the beauty of this whole little “heel bite” I had. You see yardsales amplify this dichotomy to pulsating reality. I could visually see my mother tremble as she tried to maintain a relative value for her wares. My own value ratios even fluctuated depending on the buyer. If a child wanted to purchase some of my glass figurines (all collected while I was a child myself and often at Flea Markets and other second hand events) the value of the figurines would diminish while value in the shopper’s satisfaction went up. Reversely, if the buyer was an adult, product value sentimentality flipped.

Another, more concrete, form of value deterioration vs. retention was on actual product genres. For example why do electronics depricate at a slower rate then clothing or books? I could whip out a couple answers right now, but that’s a book in itself. All I know is that I sold a 10 year old $130 stereo for $20 and my $150 Jeffrey Campbell boots  from 3 years ago didn’t even get a look at $5.  And that makes me want to write a whole lecture on trend-buying, the fast and frugal illusion, and quality extinction in fashion. Ignorant consumers. It’s weirdly connected: it’s a yard sale mentality in a mass marketplace. Ignorance of value on so many levels. Of course, until it goes vintage…;)