a culture crisis

for the depraved

Category: Popular Culture

The World Just Got Dumber: A Vindication of the Arts

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Hello again,

If you follow A Culture Crisis – you know, on the off chance that you have nothing, nothing, better to do with your life than to read random shit I post on the internet – you’ll know I have been on a miserable essay hiatus this summer. Why? Because I failed to complete my graduate term work in the winter semester and have thus been forced to finish my remaining final papers throughout the summer. I am quite the go-getter, indeed.

As it stands, I have one paper left to complete in two days (woohoo!!). Since I have been on an essay hiatus (the purpose being that I would stay off WordPress so as to complete said essays), the intention was not to post until I finished all my work and thus would not feel ashamed of wasting time that could have been dedicated to pounding out essays. However, the internet has insulted me and my ilk – my ilk being anyone not in business and/or science (otherwise known as the employable assholes (just kidding… maybe not)) – and I am determined to say something about it, albeit to my limited readership.

Dear world, kindly stop undervaluing the arts and social sciences. All you prove when you do so is that you are an ignorant dick with no cultural awareness whatsoever. “But it’s true,” you might say. “You liberal arts kids are just plain unemployable in today’s world. Like, all you do is read books and stuff. You know, the world doesn’t go round because you read a book. You need to do something valuable, like becoming a capitalist scumbag. You know, that may be unethical and, as it turns out, counterproductive to creating an economically stable world, but at least you would be able to buy expensive cheese,” you might also say.

To that, I offer you the warm sentiment of my middle finger.

Why am I compelled into such an act of underwhelming aggression?

Because, lest you be in a liberal arts/social sciences program, you would not (most likely, in any case – there are some lovely cultural enthusiasts in every field) know just how incredibly valuable such programs are. I won’t tout the IQ comparisons, EQ comparisons, and other such tests for a few reasons. First, because I don’t feel like it. Second, because business majors would be shocked at the answers, and I don’t want to be the one to ruin your day, week, month… Third, because this is not a post about trashing the other. This is a post about mutual appreciation. There is value (and pay, believe it or not) in all practices, in all fields.

The next time you want to question the value of the arts, just remember, the arts are everything you look forward to in life. While people may love the work they do, it’s pretty much accepted that most people want to come home because, after all, work is usually rather tiring. What do you do when you come home? Turn on the TV and watch a movie – ART. Read a book – ART. Go visit an exhibition at your local gallery, outdoor expo, etc – ART. Plan a trip to Spain, or Italy, or France, where you can appreciate the beautiful architecture – ART, or the badass museums – ART. Going out to watch a play – ART. Head to a concert – ART. The list goes on and on. What do people not look forward to doing when they get home? Accounting and other math related things. People don’t come home hoping to analyze cells under a microscope, they don’t come home hoping to sit back and relax with some Turing codes. Not that Turing wasn’t awesome. But let’s be honest, you most likely don’t want to kick back with this after a long day of work (code buffs excepted):

No, you want to watch the Batman Trilogy, or maybe some Dexter. You want to read Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, or maybe catch up on Martin’s Game of Thrones. Recall that people usually say things like “that movie was so good,” or “that book was amazing!” People do not usually say things like, “calculating the taxes was so much fun! Can’t wait to do it again!”

All in all, keep that in mind the next time you’re off telling us liberal arts kids that we’re basically useless in the world. Instead, thank us for the entertainment and cultural validity we bring to a world that, without the us, would be monotonous and robotic drudgery.

You’re fucking welcome.

 

Read the offending article here

Community Conundrum: A Question Regarding Changnesia

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Before you read any further, this post contains season 4 spoilers. There, you’ve been warned. The rest is up to you.

So, here’s a question for all you fellow Community fans out there. I’ve recently restarted watching the series despite having already seen every episode (several times!) for the simple reason that it is witty, clever, and just plain awesome.

That said, I have quite a few reservations about the fourth season. I am obviously not the first to point this out, as the internet has pretty much made it clear that if you are not Dan Harmon, don’t try to be Dan Harmon. Season 4 shows us the extent to which “posing,” as they say, can only ever steer you wrong.

But apart from the failings of wit and nuance, something about the fourth season has really been bugging me. In rewatching season 1, I came across a long-forgotten character in the current days of season 4… Ben Chang’s brother!!! Remember him? Rabbi Chang?!

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So, Rabbi Chang appears in the season 1 episode, “Basic Genealogy.” Chang also mentions him in season 3. In the episode “Basic Impressionists,” Chang tells us that his brother got him freelance work as a security guard at a kid’s Bar Mitzvah.

Okay, so now that we’ve established that Chang has a brother who exists somewhere in the world, when this whole Changnesia thing takes place, does nobody notify him? When people begin to doubt whether there ever was a Chang, does nobody contact Rabbi Chang to put an end to these shenanigans? When Kevin ever so (un)convincingly tries to establish himself within the Greendale community, and since there is already doubt about Changnesia in the likes of Jeff, why doesn’t he, or the Dean for the matter, call the other Chang to tell him that his brother’s gone bat-shit-cray?

If I have somehow missed some revealing detail somewhere along the way that explains all of this, for the love of God, tell me what it is. If there are no such details, but this whole Rabbi Chang evasion makes sense in some way, also let me know.

However, operating on the idea that there is no such missed detail, that this shit doesn’t make sense, and that the season was simply poorly put together, I have to wonder to what extent this mess has to do with the lack of Dan Harmon’s presence and the meticulous care he put into constructing a coherent and cogent (and, of course, super quirky) narrative. I don’t know how much influence he had in how the fourth season was produced (though to my knowledge, that is very little to no influence), but I just don’t see this as something he would have let slip.

On that note, though, Dan Harmon is back! NBC has asked him to return, along with Chris McKenna, as executive producers for the fifth season! Read the full article on DH’s return here.

In any case, if you have answers to this Community conundrum, kindly share. Or share your season 4 frustrations! Either way, I’m all ears.

How Not To Be Productive: A Guide for Supreme Distraction and Laziness

Hello internet folk. Allow me to share with you my incomparable guide to achieving and maintaining impressive quantities of laziness and new levels of sheer distraction for distraction’s sake. Whether you are a do-gooder who is always motivated and whose work is always turned in on time and you’re looking for a way out of that hell hole, or whether you are simply looking to refresh your skills in I-don’t-give-a-fuck, I’m certain you’ll find this post particularly insightful. Whatever your (lack of) motivations may be, I’m just glad to help a brother/sister out.

The Guide:

1. Think of some task you have to do. Do you have a 30 page paper due relatively soon? Do you have a project analysis to hand in? Do you have to grade your students’ more than shitty assignments? Whatever it is that you have to do, I want you to think of it, and create a mental picture of yourself performing this task. Well done. Now tell that mental image to kindly fuck off because it has no business involving itself on our journey to absolute laziness.

2. Meet your new best friends: your bed; your couch; your laptop, iPad, or technological haven of choice; pillows (trust me, you need your  pillows); and everybody’s favourite, sweatpants. As an English student, I feel as though I should suggest a book, but let’s face it, that shit’s just too much work.

3. Acquaint yourself with Savasana, the most awesome yoga pose ever. Otherwise known as Relaxation Pose or Corpse Pose (a little morbidity never hurt anyone, right?), Savasana involves lying down on your back with your limbs outstretched, and hanging out that way for 5 to 30 minutes. A word to the wise: always choose 30 minutes.

4. Take a tip from Joey and Chandler and never get out of your super awesome and comfy chair for anything. Even if Rachel tells you she’s taking her top off, use a spoon as a makeshift rearview mirror to ensure that she isn’t lying prior to exerting any effort by turning around.

5. Takeout, takeout, takeout. On the day of supreme laze (yes, it’s a word), one does not cook. One uses their technology of choice (see #2) to order food instead. I have no meme for this, so enjoy a somewhat relevant photo of a yummy bowl of spaghetti. This could be yours if you simply call and order, b.

6. Whilst laying in bed, or praciticing some Savasana yogi-style, play some Enya. Know that Enya is appropriate in any of the following situations: relaxation mode, facial and body treatments at the spa, Stellan Skarsgard pulling a torture scene in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Lord of the Rings themed party, etc.

7. Form a laziness encouragement and support group. This involves getting your friends together for collective napping and pantry-grazing.

8. On that note, embrace nap time. You always have time to nap. Just like you always have room for dessert. Or how you always have time for one more episode…

9. Speaking of episodes, start watching a new television series, preferably one that is old enough so that it has enough seasons to sustain your laze and graze mood for an extended period of time, but not so old that it’s irrelevant, because then it doesn’t matter, and if you’re going to be lazy, at the very least, make it count. My recommendations: Community, Arrested Development (it’s back on Netflix!!), Lost (utter disappointment, but addicting for an impressive amount of time), Dexter, True Blood (straight up ho-dunk camp), Game of Thrones (seriously, get on this boat), Mad Men, etc. Also, you could learn a thing or two regarding the mastery of exerting the least amount of effort possible from Jeff Winger.

10. When you eventually come to tire of your newfound TV show addiction (which will sadly happen once you realize that it’s been 4 days and you haven’t showered and that thing you smell is you), fear not, for there is still hope for you. You don’t need to ditch the TV entirely, just switch it up a little. By that I mean m0vie marathons (i.e. awesomeness). Suggestions: Marvel’s Avengers series, James Bond films, Jane Austen films (don’t hate), Harry Potter series (seriously, don’t hate), Pixar films, American Pie, etc.

11. Go to bed. Ignore alarm. Sleep in. Just remember, if there is in fact some task you need to attend to:

8 Things More People Should Be Doing

1. Use your “inside voice” whether you are in fact inside or outside. It doesn’t matter, home slice, just keep it down.

2. Whilst at Starbucks, kindly order a reasonable drink that, at the very least, the barista can get on his or her second-and-a-half try. You might, instead, consider what your venti-extra-hot-non-fat-half-sweet-light-whip-five-shot-espresso-frappuccino says about you as a person. No joke, I met a lady in line at Starbucks last week who was “a little tired” and actually ordered this drink. That’s 5 espressos… and a pleasant amount of sugar… let’s leave that there.

3. Recyle, recycle, recycle. Especially when it’s more than convenient. I get that while it might be less enticing to recycle your plastic bottle when their is no recycling bin in sight, nor relatively near by, it strikes me as just plain foolish to throw your bottle in the trash when there is a recycling bin immediately to its left (or right). Really, though, it’s right there.

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4. Read the news. Not CNN, though, because let’s be honest, that doesn’t count.

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5. Be critical! Not judgmental. Those words don’t mean the same thing. What I mean is: use your brain power. Analyze things. Don’t intake a bunch of bullshit passively because you have no will to think. Instead, do yourself, your community, and the world a favour and use your brain. It is in there for a reason. Think through things that are hard to think about (politics, religion, theory, news, beauty, music, philosophy, literature, etc.) and come to your own conclusions. I can only hope those conclusions won’t be bat-shit-cray.

6. If you aren’t already, start watching Mad Men. Firstly, it’s a brilliant series that is exceptionally well-written (thank you Matthew Weiner & co) and brilliantly acted. Secondly, as a quick Wikipedia search will show you, it has won 15 Emmys and 4 Golden Globes. That means that someone obviously agrees with my first postulation. Thirdly, the show’s aesthetics are spot-on, and the colours are very captivating (I’m particular about colour, as it turns out).

7. Read. Novels. Poetry. Philosophy. Novels again! Don’t let literature die! I’ll post a solid to-read list soon if you need ideas. But seriously, in the words of Nike, “Just Do It.” Though, don’t be like Hipster Ariel because, let’s face it, she’s annoying and a bit of an asshole.

8. Like my blog if you’re feeling generous. Shameless plug, I know. Don’t judge me.

Commodity Fetishism (Or Things I am Obsessed With)

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A look into my life through my current obsessions.

1. Oliver Goldsmith Manhattan Frame (as worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and newly relaunched)

2. The Great Gatsby soundtrack

3. Sperry Topsider Angelfish (Gold)

4. OPI Avoplex Cuticle Oil To-Go

5. Butter London Melt-Away Cuticle Eliminator

6. Diptyque Figuier Candle

7. Caudalie Beauty Elixir

8. Talula Van Nuys Jacket

9. Starbucks Iced Caramel Macchiato

Generation Jobless: An Institutional Problem

Generation Jobless: A Documentary – CBC – Doc Zone – Episode – Generation Jobless.

First off, watch this documentary. Or rather, watch it if you are one or more of the following:

1. 20-30 years old with a university education and are sh*t out of luck trying to find a job in your field

2. A soon-to-be university graduate in utter fear of being the above

3. An info-junkie who is simply interested in things that probably don’t concern them

4. Annoyed with the world and in the mood to blame things on the institutions and, of course, capitalism, the creator of all our problems. (Also, this happens to be me sometimes… or most of the time lately – don’t judge).

5. Bored and chilling in your room with your cat (No, I am not a cat person. That would be you — yes, you there, hanging out with your cat as if that’s a lovely thing. (If you can’t tell, I am not a huge cat person – more on this later)).

Cue the Comments:

This video has recently been on my “recommend to friends” list. Perhaps because its contents directly relate to my life and the life of many of my friends as soon to be graduates from a graduate program in the humanities (See: Thesis Hatement – Slate Magazine). While the video comments on many aspects contributing to the generation of, not just unemployed, but underemployed graduates, there is one particular bit that frustrates me most.

The fact is, this lack of communication — or rather, actively ignorant communication– between institutions, not to mention the immensurately unconscionable greed of capitalist industrialists (they are everywhere these days – literally polluting the population with their ideological reifications), has created an economic landscape that reproduces the conditions that subject us to its power, and what’s worse is that we partake in the reproduction. We propagate a discourse of autonomy and individual responsibility, tell ourselves that it is up to us (and only up to us) to ensure that we secure a position that will sustain and support our lives, blah, blah. And if we don’t manage to do this, we are the only ones to blame. We didn’t send out enough resumes, we didn’t work hard enough in school (what’s an A- worth these days), we didn’t volunteer and intern enough (as if interning is a viable and feasible option – see video). All to say, if we aren’t succeeding, then we aren’t trying hard enough.

But let’s briefly take a moment to shake ourselves out of this hideous lie.

Go ahead, shake yourself out of it, spirit fingers and all.

Now that you’re somewhat more alive then you were some seconds ago, let’s chat about a few problems surrounding such a discourse of individual responsibility. It is made up, or “fictitious,” as Pheobe from Friends would have it (season 3!). By whom, you ask? By your resident  capitalist shirker, who, to be fair, comes in all shapes and sizes, but in this particular case is probably your university president, potential employers (though they aren’t quite that, since next to no one is in fact (ethically) employing) and, of course, your faculty dean. Your president and your dean can accept as many students as they can muster into your program, jut out as many graduates as possible, all in the name of higher enrolment and higher funds. Your potential employer can then go on to outsource jobs, offer jobs to less qualified people (they don’t cost as much because, of course, people are commodities), or they can offer the position to your mom or dad or aunt or uncle (what up, baby boomers?!), or they can offer you a position and seriously underpay you …

Insert oozing sarcasm here: But sweetheart, if you don’t get that job, it’s your fault.

Recall, capitalism is only maintained through its capability to produce commodities, but it must also reproduce the social relations governing production that subtend the material relations of the system even as they are products of that system through the internalization of ideology. Translation – Universities produce commodities, those being the university graduates. But they must equally produce the rhetoric that the to-be-graduates internalize in order to buy into the institution in the first instance. And once we buy in, graduate, as commodity, is consequently reproduced. Ah, the circle of life capitalism.

I recently attended a conference in which a friend of mine presented on the problematics of the institution’s appropriation of therapeutic discourse in order to manipulate students into internalizing the construction of individual responsibility to achieve economic success. This might be the worst part of this whole jobless nightmare. The purpose of therapy is to help you deal with your life, to help you through stress, to make you feel better (we can chat about this in more detail later). How perverse is it, then, when capitalist institutions manipulate a discourse meant to help alleviate the very real burdens of stress, both mental and physical, in order to trick you into buying into a system that will in fact reproduce and propagate this stress?

I won’t name which university website this came from, but note the problematic, singularizing language inherent in its discourse:

And ironically, nearly every North American university mental health centre is seriously lacking.

In the end, economic success is not something that is attained by the individual. If there exists the individual, and the individual only, then there is no economy. The space of economy is fundamentally and necessarily communal. Without community, there is no economy. We exist in a condition whereby the act of the one inflects the life of the other – this is the nature of society. And considering that our institutions are a part of our communities and thus partake in the economic exchange — for better or for worse — ask yourself: is it really all your fault?

P.S. I think this video is only viewable in Canada, but I’m sure it’s posted somewhere else on the web, if you are now oh so compelled to see it!

Graduate School or Game of Thrones?

Image(source: http://www.phdcomics.com)

If you are a fan of the Game of Thrones series, you will find this funny — even exceptionally funny.

If you are a fan of the Game of Thrones series and also a PhD candidate, you laugh because it is, of course, funny.

For about a minute.

And then, something really shitty happens.

As the reality of this comic hits you, very much like a cast-iron pan to the side of your face, you wallow in misery as you see your life compared to the gruesome (but ever so entertaining) war for the throne of Westeros. We fight for the nearly-extinct tenure track position, dreading the day we decided to apply for graduate school, as though that was a clever idea. “Yes,” we thought, “I will get my PhD and become a professor! I’ll teach for 5 hours a week, and have my summers off, and research things I’m interested in, and read all of the books ever! And life will be fantastic!”

Until someone tells you, “Um, no. You fool, a PhD is the worst thing you could ever do to yourself. Run away now! Do it! Run like Forrest and don’t come back! Get a real job, one that won’t break you into teeny pieces until you are shattered and broken and there is nothing left of you to be found!”

That lovely piece of advice came to me in this Slate Magazine article: http://slate.me/ZDw2Ol

Ah, the misery of disillusionment.

Enjoy (or don’t!), but at least now you know!

And happy Game of Thrones Sunday!

Watch This

 

 

I won’t say much, because he says it all, but watch this. Watch this, and learn something.