Updates from August, 2014 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • clairedonato 20:09 on August 12, 2014 Permalink |  

    Tabloid Selfie: Man Takes a Picture with Shark Before Deadly Attack 

    Poet and performance artist Kate Durbin shared this link on my Facebook wall, and a lively discussion ensued. The claim in this tabloid article is that a man took a photograph of himself before being devoured by a shark:

    Inspired by Talan’s “Embracing Banality” post, those of us discussing this selfie on Facebook reflected on what to call this type of (fake) selfie. Durbin suggested that it’s a “collective fear” or “collective fantasy” selfie, and I suggested “Thanatos selfie.” What do you think?

  • constancex 20:46 on August 11, 2014 Permalink |  

    re: Advancing scourge of food porn 


  • constancex 20:27 on August 10, 2014 Permalink |  

    August 8: Endeavour to Bareback 

    As a Gen-X American, I’ve accepted the Space Shuttle program as a sibling of sorts in my life. When S. S. Endeavour was being flown up and down the coasts, piggybacking on the back of a jet, it was just a lot of feels … these are some from my tumblr, th-endeavs-rides.tumblr.com



    Endeavs-sonogram ENDVR-kate-middleton

  • ccboca 17:45 on August 10, 2014 Permalink |  

    August 8: Embracing Banality: the inexplicable rainbow bunchie 

    Sorry I am super late with this one!! I don’t really take selfies so I opted for the banality question, and the celebrity scandal.

    The Rainbow Bunchie is just about the most puzzling and banal youtube video I have ever seen, and yet it is oddly mezmerizing and entertaining. What is is about the banal, is it perhaps that it is entertaining simply to consider that someone would play the same gif on a loop for 10 hours? An animated, pixellated fuzzy thing with happy tones repeating in the background. See here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZBWfyYtYQY

    Now tell me if you smiled? This incredible video has over 6 million views, and as far as I know a view isn’t counted unless someone got to the end of the video, TEN HOURS later. Even more unbelievable, the comment cascade:

    Captura de pantalla 2014-08-10 a la(s) 20.54.58 Captura de pantalla 2014-08-10 a la(s) 20.55.16

    As if it wasn’t banal enough, there is the banality of the amazement of oneself at the very banality of it. The rainbow bunchie, a classic. But banality on youtube seems to reign. Enter, the “Nugget in a buscuit” video that has 22 million views – that’s right. What is it about, eating a nugget in a biscuit, with a catchy tune and it is extremely repetitive. I can’t even begin to theorize this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mmdc9RIhmOI

    On the topic of Celebrity fail: That moment when Scarlett Johanssen fell, creating an ironic parallel to her song and endless fodder for netizens: here is the falling down video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvzvmI4EE3U

    And one of the best memes to come out of it…

    Captura de pantalla 2014-08-10 a la(s) 20.45.19

    Always good for a laugh!

  • clairedonato 14:24 on August 10, 2014 Permalink |  

    Embracing Banality: Food Porn & Anti-Porn 





    Here is a food porn-y photograph of my afternoon brunch: purple eggs, AKA a poached egg on a bed of mixed greens, arugula, basil, purple potatoes and heirloom tomatoes:



    As a juxtaposition, I abashedly present to you my messy cat Brix’s food and water bowls:


    The differences in these photographs are not difficult to see. First, the surfaces on which each meal is presented are markedly different: purple eggs are photographed on a sleek metal dining table, whereas Brix’s meal is served on a soiled tile floor. (Our kitchen floor is not this disgusting, I swear. :-)) Second, Brix’s food does not have the color palette of purple eggs—it is brown, brown, brown, except for her water, which is clear. Do the purple eggs’ food porn-ish qualities go hand-in-hand with their vivid colors? (See this color wheel as a reference.) Along these lines, Brix’s food is served in black bowls (one of which rests atop a patterned plate, which sometimes serves as a makeshift moat to keep away ants), not on teal Pottery Barn plates emblazoned with octopus patterns. Do we presume our house-cat has no sense of bourgeois aesthetics? Finally, the purple eggs are accompanied by a fork, a utensil associated with the human animal. Brix’s meal, on the other hand, is consumed by mouth, although this is not necessarily clear based on the photograph alone.

    • Jeff T. Johnson 19:01 on August 10, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      i’d love to be eating purple eggs right now, but worry about that dangling fork. both inviting and precarious, like a shaky balcony at sunset.

      i worry about stepping on the edge of the white dish and flipping the cat food into the water dish, and how that would not help dissolve the catfood particles pasted to the floor.


  • lisacramp 17:56 on August 9, 2014 Permalink |  

    Embracing banality: the sad squee 



    The first photo is “squee” because it shows a kitten hugging his toy pug. The image is aesthetically pleasing in color and framing and the kitten appears to be innocently cuddling an equally adorable toy. (If the lighting was slightly brighter and there was a bit of soft focus editing it would be even better)

    The second image is not “squee” as it shows an old cat with poor lighting. There is nothing interesting happening in the photo. He’s just looking at you and also quietly dying of cancer (really). And now you’re sad and that makes it very anti-squee.

  • Talan Memmott 08:39 on August 9, 2014 Permalink |  

    changing contexts, becoming… 

    I was thinking about meme-mixing in the contexts introduced in the embracing banality post… how a narrative could be developed through changing meme contexts, through a sort of becoming… perhaps, as before and after images with very little captioning.

    The image below moves from squee to anti-foodporn while maintaining the same subject.  Perhaps moving from the banal to the uncanny.



    Squee becoming Lunch



  • ajabine 08:05 on August 9, 2014 Permalink |  

    August 8: Banal as all get out 

    peanut butter in a jar apricots for jam

    I spent 10 years as the editor of a food magazine based in Portland, Oregon, a city that is renowned for its foodie obsessions, which I played a role in promoting and abetting. I was an active participant in and advocate for the FLOSS ethos–Fresh, Local, Organic, Seasonal, Sustainable. My friends’ photos of their foodstuffs still clog my FB feed like hair clogs a drain. I still participate in the food culture. I take snapshots of food in restaurants, I share pix of my tomatoes ripening on the vine, and my social activities revolve around group food projects such as making apricot jam (as shown here). But I have plenty of days when I eat popcorn for dinner. At least it’s not disgusting microwave popcorn. And sometimes for breakfast I eat a spoonful of peanut butter. I know, it’s CRAPP–Corporate, Revolting, Antisocial, Processed, Pollution-based.

    • Talan Memmott 08:14 on August 9, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I like the acronyms.


    • aklobucar 08:19 on August 9, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      But it says 100 % natural.
      Popcorn for dinner usually comes with a side dish of pure cinematic pleasure. Growing up in the 70s, I can remember that at least 3 out of 7 family meals per week came from fast food franchises. I fondly recall the day my father allowed me to move up from the quarterpounder to the big mac. For years, we all respected that particular dish as “belonging” solely to the patriarch of the household.

      Liked by 3 people

    • ajabine 17:29 on August 9, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Maybe your dad was simply on a tight budget? But if he managed to turn your Big Mac promotion into a rite of passage, that’s pretty cool.


  • aklobucar 07:48 on August 9, 2014 Permalink |  

    Embracing Banality: Biological Urges to Squee? 

    Could be the combination of tousled, moppish hair, the sad dark eyes they offer you – in combination with their tight grip on the spongee, soft, wide tool.


    The outstretched hand, never satisfied… The mouth slightly parted, again always open, receptive, ready to accept whatever you are able to donate…


  • Talan Memmott 12:37 on August 8, 2014 Permalink |  

    Embracing Banality 


    cultureAlienation Capital
    Perhaps there is too much content. Or, everything is content just as everything is art. Then again, maybe culture has become contentless, and what is exchanged and consumed are mere tokens of and for content; these tokens of/for content being granted a dubious objecthood in what could be considered a Baudrillardian system of “symbolic exchange.” If we look at memes as exchange objects, tokens, or currency we may want to consider how they “resist capitalist values.” Certianly, memes in this regard are not produced with monetary profit in mind but they may in fact reflect and reinforce cultural values while resisting or obfuscating utility.

    This phenomenon may be called alienation capital, in which value is secured through expenditure (see Bataille on General Economy) – through “the share” (as in sharing) and the perpetuation of the share (further sharing). As the token becomes further removed from its original source, through progressively more anonymous sharing, its value increases as cultural artifact. (That is until your grandmother shares it through her aol email account)

     The (Text) of (Culture) in the Age of Networked Redistributabiity
    The loss of aura around memes is paradoxically what makes them interesting. Through symbolic exchange they are both inflated and depleted of significance. What makes a meme popular is what also allows it to fade. In addition, in regard to image macro memes there is no original to be considered, as there is no originating holistic author of the meme in and of itself. Memes are formed from appropriated textons to form the distributable, distributed, received scriptons. (see Aarseth) As such, memes as tokens, even in their most vocative form, are a sort of currency.

    By the time a meme becomes a meme it is already the banal ruin of its vocative form. Yet, they remain potent as cultural tokens and this is how they perform what I will here call THE UNHEIMLICH MANEUVER.

    Memes, in general – and I am speaking not only of the artifacts but also the social phenomena around them, reside uncomfortably between the banal and the uncanny. They can be strange and unfamiliar; they can be so common as to be ignored. They can evoke either/both immediately laughter and/or a scratching of the head. That said, social media sharing has become such a commonplace performative act that the redistributability of memes may be their most banal condition. Still, this action both reifies and rarifies cultural values by being either/both exclusive and/or inclusive.

    Banality as Uncanny

    FREAKYCelebrity Fails
    “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that… Yes, yes, it’s the most comical thing in the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will, in the beginning. But it’s always the same thing. Yes, it’s like the funny story we have heard too often, we still find it funny, but we don’t laugh any more.”
    — Samuel Beckett, Endgame


    Justin Bieber pissing into a restaurant mop bucket.

    Justin Bieber, Lindsey Lohan, Amanda Bynes, and countless other celebrities have been involved in scandals and fails. Sometimes it is the unfortunate paparazzi shot, other times it is just being caught being a doofus. In our idolization of celebrity we suspect that stars live a charmed life, which is why we find their failures so fascinating. These falls from grace, the buffoonery and failures of celebrities connects us to them while simultaneously distancing us from them by allowing us to project our own potential shame and disgrace upon a celebrated other. Their virality is based in the humor we find in their disgrace. Though for ourselves we may think of these acts as disgraceful or banal, for the celebrity there is no such thing as bad publicity. Ultimately, these actions are banal, reproducible by anyone. What makes them interesting is the performer more than the performance.

    Emphatic Selfies

    “Become who you are!”
    ― Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra


    Selfies are everywhere. Everybody does it. They may be the most popular form of (in particular) smartphone photography. They can be affirmative for the person taking them; they can be annoying for the people subjected to them. They can capture significant moments, but these moments may be completely banal for the other. That said, there are variations on the selfie that mitigate the monotony of the subject, while emphasizing the insipidity of the form.


    Wishful Thinking

    The two examples to the left are representative of mitigation as inflation. They speak volumes as to the perceived cultural value of selfies as projected self representations that exceed reality while maintaining the selfie framework. We might want to call both of these image “Wishful Thinking” selfies. These images are manipulated, however poorly, to make a statement, to project something other than the self – the self-image. Of course, self-image is part of all selfies, as is wishful thinking. People share their best face, mostly. But, these images do something else. They expose their illusion, projecting want over worth. We must wonder if the creators of these images believe in the success of their illusions.


    Selfies Gone Wrong

    We may also want to look at “selfies gone wrong” and how they accidentally, or incidentally critique the selfie form. They two images on the right are prime examples of “selfies gone wrong”. The top image is by now quite well known as the meme “Bae Caught Me Slippin”. Emerging in 2012 as a photo fad it continues to be popular online (a Google search of the term produces over 70,000 results). The lower image is perhaps just unfortunate and embarrassing. What both of these selfies have in common is a lack of subjective awareness of surroundings. The primary subjects in these images seem so self-absorbed they have put on blinders. These sorts of selfies could fall under the category of FAIL. And, as potential memes, this makes them successful. As Beckett says, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

    A relatively new trend in selfies is the “Cellotape Selfie”. Though the images follow the selfie framework perhaps more closely than the “Wishful Thinking” selfies, which embrace digital manipulation (beyond filters), “Cellotape Selfies” take a more manual approach. By applying cellotape to one’s face, the subject’s features are distorted beyond recognition, sometimes with horrifying results. cello
    Where the “Wishful Thinking” selfies are about inflating self-image, and “selfies gone wrong” are failures in awareness of surroundings, these images are entirely intentional. As a photo fad, these images may more closely align with peformative memes; in that, in action is taken, and what is distributed is documentation of the action. Nonetheless, “Cellotape Selfies” are emphatic, producing commentary on the selfie as self-promotional, on its form and cultural value.


    The Antithesis of FoodPorn
    Certainly, foodporn is a meme. And, to some degree it may be considered a second order selfie. Is it really about the food? Or, is it again about self-image – “I am here eating this, and you’re not.”?

    What if we switch this around… Perhaps to state, “I am here eating this, and you should be happy you aren’t.” This provocation could create images similar to the “Cellotape Selfies” – producing commentary on the form while resisting its aesthetic sensibilities. In fact, there are a number of sites that provide just such imagery, most notably Cooking for Bae (instagram) and Someone Ate This (tumblr).

    Both of these projects offer up image after image of unappetizing food, and it is the shear volume of these images that makes them both intriguing and uncanny. We are both attracted and repulsed by the images and their banality is reinforced by our own familiarity with failed culinary experiments.

    NOT foodporn!

    NOT foodporn!

    Squee makes me Squeamish
    “Dessert without cheese is like a beauty with only one eye”
    ― Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

    OMG! SQUEE!!!

    OMG! SQUEE!!!

    Now for some sugary dessert.
    I selected the above quote because of its reference to cheese. Because, what we are going to talk about here combines sugary sweetness with extreme cheesiness.

    The urban dictionary defines squee as “A noise primarily made by an over-excited fangirl.” As it is associated with memes the term carries extra references to images of cute animals, baby animals, funny animals. It is perhaps fitting that the term be applied to both an unrestrained, uncontrolled, excited reaction and to animals, and we may want to consider squee as a subject for animality studies. But, we won’t do that here and now.

    Images that fall within the domain of squee generally provide an overdose of saccharin sweetness – of vulnerability, of smallness, of innocence. They are banal in their lack of cynicism; they are uncanny because of the human reaction to them. It is the mysterious kinderschema – oversized head, large eyes, round cheeks – that makes squee images meme-worthy. That said, squee, our reaction to squee images may be biological rather than cultural.


    Do one or more of the following and post it to the blog using August 8: Embracing Banality as the category:

    — Create a Cellotapeselfie. Create a selfie. post the images side by side. Discuss the differences.
    — Create a selfie. Manipulate the selfie. post the images side by side. Discuss the differences.
    — Consider what would be anti-squee, post the images side by side with a squee image. Discuss the differences.
    — Create a foodporn image. Create a anti-foodporn image. post the images side by side. Discuss the differences.
    — Find an image of a celebrity scandal. Reproduce the image using yourself or friends as the subject. Discuss the differences.

    • ccboca 08:56 on August 11, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      The cellotape selfie might have been tempting for about 10 sec, till I thought about the fact that the tape also has to come off!


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