Silent Strokes by Superhumanoids. Catchy, groovy, pscyh-pop – definitely a track for your makeout playlist. The human behind all this is Cameron Parkins, who interned at CC with me this summer, so I should add that its licensed CC-BY-NC for your listening & remixing pleasure.
Its been a while since my last post, but not for lack of things to say. Instead, my bandwidth for online activity has been consumed by two other endeavors. First, I gave the Harvard Lampoon website a complete redesign using Drupal. Its still very much a work in progress, and considering my attention span, it may stay as such for a while. But check it out, as we plan to update the content quite frequently (including comics illustrated by yours truly).
However, despite what my recent contributions to the Lampoon may seem, I am not back in Cambridge. My love affair with California is still going strong and I’ve decided to stay in Berkeley for the semester. Peace out, Puritans. Hello, beautiful hippie people.
And what have I been doing out here? Besides making lots of friends, art, and sourdough, I’m pleased to announce that I’ve been hired as a Business Development Assistant for Creative Commons, the awesome organization I interned with over the summer. I blog for them a couple times a week, so that’s definitely been eating into the energy I have for this site. More to come on what else I’ve been working on there, but for now I should mention that we just launched our Annual Fall Fundraising Campaign, and along with it, a slick site redesign. Those of you already familiar with the great work CC is doing, consider making a donation!
For the uninitiated, this video is a pretty good introduction to what Creative Commons is all about:
It usually pisses me off when old[er] people, particularly from publications like the New York Times, write about what’s wrong with the kids today. But despite a couple paragraphs of smug nostalgia in the beginning, Rick Perlstein’s essay What’s the Matter with College? strikes pretty close to my own experiences and observations.
Doug Mitchell was beaming, but his face fell when I told him about my conversation the previous evening with Hamilton Morris, a New Yorker finishing up his first year of college. His parents make documentary films. He attended a high school of the arts where “they sort of let me do whatever I wanted.” He is a filmmaker, painter, photographer, an experienced professional standup comedian. His life pre-college was exceptionally fulfilling, and he expected it to remain so here at one of the nation’s great universities. Then what happened?
“I hated it from the first day,” he told me. “People here are so insanely uncreative, and they’re proud of it.” His fellow students “had to spend their entire high school experience studying for the SATs or something and didn’t really get a chance to live life or experience things.”
What’s most harrowing was Hamilton’s matter-of-fact description of a culture of enervation – “that so many people hate it with a passion and don’t leave.” I heard similar things from several bright, creative searchers on campus – the kind of people in whom I recognized my own (and Doug Mitchell’s) 19-year-old self. I sat down with a group of them at the Medici Cafe, a campus fixture for decades, and they described college as a small town they’re eager to escape. “Everyone I talk to has that kind of feeling in their bones,” Mike Yong, a Japanese literature student, insisted. “Even if they’re going into investment banking.” Someone offered the word “infantilizing.” Murmurs of assent, then the word “emasculating,” to even louder agreement. One even insisted his process of political, social and creative awakening had happened, yes, during college – but not because of college, but in spite of it.
The Times is sponsoring an essay contest for students to respond. I don’t have much to say as, sadly, I pretty much agree with everything Perlstein says. On the other hand, I don’t see this as so tragic: My generation gets to have its “political, spiritual, and creative awakening” about 4 years earlier, and it happens for free on the Internet instead of inside the gates of exclusive campuses. Unfortunately, it seems like for many of my peers this awakening will never come, but that probably was always the case.
FOUR YEARS IS ENOUGH!
STOP THE WAR!
Harvard Day of Dissent
Today, Tuesday, March 20
Over 3,200 U.S. troops and 655,000 Iraqis have died as a result of violence since the beginning of the war on March 20, 2003.*
This Tuesday, students all across the country are speaking out on the 4th anniversary of the war. You can be one of them.
Schedule of Events:
10:00-1:00 – Science Center – Stop by the display to pick up anti-war patches and posters. Wear/post/spread your dissent.
12:00-12:45 pm – Vigil for Peace at the Harvard Divinity School.
1:00 pm – RALLY & SPEAKOUT at the SCIENCE CENTER. Come voice your opinion and hear faculty, students, and veterans speak out.
2:00-9:00 pm – CANDLELIGHT VIGIL on the steps of Memorial Church. Reading of the names of 3,000 US soldiers and 3,000 Iraqis dead.
All day – WEAR RED to protest the continuing bloodshed in Iraq.
And get ready for another big protest March 24th in Boston Common
*Figures from Iraq Coalition Casualties (icasualties.org/oif) and the Johns Hopkins study of Iraq mortality published in The Lancet:
Brief documentary by Mika about the problems with DRM and iPods, and how to “liberate” your iPod with Rockbox. Much of the footage is from Freeculture‘s iPod Liberation Party back in the fall, some of which I may have shot. Also, you can see me for a couple seconds towards the middle of the film. Check it out, and then consider freeing your own ipod.
Free Culture talk this Wednesday:
Governments worldwide invest billions of dollars in research every year. Yet the results of this researchâ€” a treasury of medical knowledgeâ€” are mostly privately owned and sold only to those who can afford the costly article fees or journal subscriptions. While there have been several movements in the scientific community to fix this problem, solutions for the social sciences and humanities have not been explored in depth.
Opening Up to Open Access
A Discussion with Gavin Yamey, Public Library of Science
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
7:30 – 8:45 PM
Sever 202, Harvard University
Cookies, brownies, and drinks will be served.
For more information about PLoS, please see http://www.plos.org
One of my favorite writers on one of my favorite fascinations. More than just an overview of the various cults and fringe religious/spiritual movements America has seen since the 60s, Paglia argues that Western rationalism’s insistence on ignoring “Dionysus” (religion, spirituality, nature) has left a huge void in our culture and psyche. Thus, until our intellectual and artistic leaders acknowledge and embrace humanity’s need for ritual and mystery, cults and other dubious institutions will thrive. But don’t take my weak summary as a substitute for the essay. It’s long but oh so worth it, if only because Paglia is such a damn good writer.
Hence the religious dissidence and secessionist tendencies of the 1960s were simply a new version of a long American tradition. The decade’s politics loom large partly because demonstrations, unlike inner journeys, were photographable and indeed often staged for the camera. Today’s young people learn about the sixties through a welter of video clips of JFK’s limousine in Dallas, Vietnamese firefights, and hippies draped in buckskin and love beads. Furthermore, the most fervent of the decade’s spiritual questers followed Timothy Leary’s advice to “Turn on, tune in, and drop out” and removed themselves from career tracks and institutions, which they felt were too corrupt to reform. The testimony of those radical explorers of inner space has largely been lost: they ruined their minds and bodies by overrelying on drugs as a shortcut to religious illumination.
The absence of those sixties seekers from the arena of general cultural criticism can be seen in the series of unresolved controversies in the last two decades over the issue of blasphemy in art. With the triumph of avant-garde modernism by the mid-twentieth century, few ambitious young artists would dare to show religious work. Though museum collections are rich with religious masterpieces from the Middle Ages through the nineteenth century, major American museums and urban art galleries ignore contemporary religious art-thus ensuring, thanks to the absence of strong practitioners, that it remains at the level of kitsch. And the art world itself has suffered: with deeper themes excised, it slid into a shallow, jokey postmodernism that reduced art to ideology and treated art works as vehicles of approved social messages.
The article is not without its flaws of course. Burningman is a glaring omission; a massive celebration of nature, sex, and art that is known for its participation by many really smart people (like the founders of google) in addition to the usual new-age types. And her solution, that universities should make the core of their education comparative religion and culture, seems a bit backwards and Apolloesque. Myths are passed down through storytelling and ritual; the classroom strikes me as an impotent setting for the cultural change Paglia calls for. I want tangible ways to channel Dionysus; active artists, thinkers, and activities to re-inject myth/spirituality/whatever-you-want-to-call-it into our culture. Some people/things who have done that for me in some way already:
- Francesca Lia Block (author- fairy tales, paganism, magic)
- David Lynch (filmmaker- transcendental meditation, iconic bizarreness, dreams)
- Brian Jonestown Massacre (band- psychedelia)
- Clifford Pickover (author- pop writing on the intersections and wonders of science, religion, consciousness, and art)
- Rick Strassman & Alexander Shulgin (researchers- psychedelic drugs)
- Pedro Almodovar (filmmaker- femininity, sexuality, myth, beauty, religion, sensuality)
- Neal Stephenson (author- east/west dichotomy, collective unconsciousness, past & future, relationship between art & technology)
Who/what is on your list?
Thursday was the National Day of Action on Open Access (I’m a bit late with this post). To celebrate, I designed some informational bookmarks for the Free Culture groups at Harvard, MIT, and Northeastern. We distributed a few hundred of them in college libraries. This was my first project using Inkscape and I am quite pleased with the application: simple, intuitive, well-documented, and open source. Vector graphics are a super way to work. One nice perk of Inkscape is the ability to cleanly export to Adobe Illustrator format, which hugely simplifies dealing with the printer.
In the spirit of the day, I used not only open source software, but also Open Clip Art and free fonts (Dustismo and Nimbus), so the project is totally free. I’m so glad that creating decent-looking desktop publishing on Linux is now painless. In 9th grade, I spent days trying to get pretty fonts to work with Gimp, and now they’re just an apt-get away. To be fair, that was 5 years ago and I had no idea what I was doing. But now I don’t need to know squat. Yay!