Wednesday, May 25, 2011

We Are the Pop Art of Our Internet Times - The Cultural Significance of Facebook Photography

A classic from Quakecon 09, entitled "Glasses and Myspace are for Dorks."
    I like myspace-style, self-taken, in-front-of-the-mirror, you-can-see-the-cellphone-camera-in-the-shot photographs.

  There. I started the blog. I was trying to think of a clever way to begin, maybe pull in some social commentary. But the truth is, I don't really want to say that Facebook and celebrity culture are creating a detrimental effect on society, giving everyone a venue from which to over-indulge in gross displays of self importance. I don't want to say that, because everyone is saying it. I also don't want to say it because I am a fan of social media-style photography - the easily mock-able icon of our times.

Fefe - she's tech savy, game playing, zombie killer.. and also my successor as XFX Girl.

  Think about all the times you've heard the myspace-mirror shot scorned, or used in a snarky remark. Or used as the subject of a cartoon or parodied on Youtube. I can mention "those girls who post pictures of themselves posing in the mirror", and everyone knows exactly who those girls are. But I've got those photos. And you probably do too. The things we make fun of incessantly.. well, there's a pretty good chance that those things are our very culture.

Christa and I always said "You know you had fun if you've got the picture to prove it..." Why not prove you're having fun, right here, right now, in real time?

  I like old photos because they are a glimpse into the time. I analyzed the the old checked curtains in the background, the flannel shirt my dad is wearing in an early 80's 110 photo. I stare at the corn shucks at my great grandpa's feet. I flip through the boxes of photos at antique stores sometimes, looking at scenes of people who aren't anything to me in particular, and I look at the clothes and the poses and the objects that give the photo some sort of setting.

Even classy blogs like In Pursuit of Pretty Things do it.

The Facebook shot shows us living in "the future". It is a world where everyone carries their own little piece of technology. We can show or share something across distance instantaneously, we can have visual conversations across the space that separates us and the cultural differences that come from that space. With the death of film as the primary way to document our lives, we now have greater leeway - we do not have to ask the question "Is this special enough to keep through the rivers of time?" We can document insignificant moments - the very moments that I wonder about as I look at old photos, the moments that photographs were not then spent on.

Photoshoot styled to look like Facebook photography - Kitagawa Keiko for Cybershot S006- more at Unleash the Geek.

  I know that some people are concerned with the "reality tv" nature of internet culture - everyone wants to be famous, or just act like it on Facebook. Everyone has a podium from which to create their own image. And that is what I think is great about the current we are swimming in. There is a readily available canvas there in the digital era. There is no need to create visions which lack an audience. With the ability to easily reach viewers, there lies potential for so much more than poserism and blatant sexuality. Yes, those things are seen in the digital sludge. But if given a blank space that can be easily shaped into whatever you choose to present, why not make it beautiful? Why not choose carefully the things to document? And at the same time, why not choose haphazardly the moments to capture... because we cannot quite know in the moment the importance of the things that we think are far too casual to be art now.

PoppyD's What I Wore Today is almost nothing but this.. and its awesome.

  But I digress. When I was twelve, we took posed photographs carefully, trying to clear any disruptions in the frame, and arranging every variable to get the most of the finite 24 spaces we could use. When I was 14, the internet was a luxury which I sometimes got to take a turn at at school, choosing topics of research papers just for the purpose of being legitimately allowed to read something interesting online, and when I was invariably pulled away from it I would think "If I had the internet constantly available, how could I ever be bored?"  When I was 15, I ran with my sister and our friends to a stranger's farmhouse looking for help after a car wreck - an event which inspired my dad to get us cellphones at a time when pagers were still a status symbol.

The glimpse into Stacia's room is clean, clean, clean.

Now, I carry a tiny computer in my back pocket. I customize its capabilities with an infinite number of free programs. I have never had to think about whether or not its memory may be filling up with photos from its camera, which takes pictures that look as if they were taken by a device that is primarily a camera. But I carry three other cameras as well, 90% of the time. The blue digital point-and-shoot with a flash that can blaze through the dim of bars and clubs, the tiny hand held Vado video camera with a purple patterned finish, and the serious looking "real" video camera that is still, in this day and age, the size of your palm. I edit video easily, only ten years after I dreamed of being able to go to college to learn the unapproachable skills of turning footage into something coherent. Yes, I set out to participate in my contemporary times, and I have done it up.

Dancing in Miami.. putting the dress on the interweb.

The visible cameras in these photos give an insight into the personal, portable technology that is now common place in our lives. It is so common place, that the cameras, or more often, cellphones, in these shots are attractively colored or adorned. Objects which - even within my lifetime- would once have been thought a novelty on their own are now so normal that we individualize them to combat their normalcy. I value their appearance in the photographs from a strictly historical standpoint - we preserve pictures of things which rapidly change, which will be cast off. And then there's something philosophical about the brazenness of not even attempting to hide the fact that a photo was self taken, or by extension, that the viewer is looking at a photograph and not simply being drawn into a scene.

This actually is from a gift guide hawking the phone. But its so culturally relevant, they're even using the theme to sell shit!

 In the 1920's, there was much concern about the Charleston, the unruly girls, and the illegal booze. Its hard to argue that no one was ever harmed by alcohol or brazen sexuality. But out of the climate that undoubtedly did provide some people with a hard surface to wreck themselves upon also came the insight of Fitzgerald and Edna St. Vincent Millay. It is with that faith that I continue championing the social media style " mirrored self portrait with digital camera" and the internet uploading 3g culture it represents. Its the faith that I can both participate in and document my times and the culture around it, all the while maintaining the perspective to see outside of it.

I <3 Droid photography THIS MUCH.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Accidental Brewriot - A Sunday Drive.

  "Let's just get in the car," says Ryan, after much debate on where to go and what to do there. We comply, and are soon driving south. At first I speculate that Ryan has chosen Ft. Worth, but he turns onto a frontage road where I expected a merge left. We drive through Oak Cliff, commenting on the houses and the scenery, and what a street could be like, filled out with interesting businesses.
   As we creep into Bishop Arts, we see an unexpected crowd - a mix of sunglasses, bare shoulders above summer dresses, hipster shoes and small plastic cups held aloft. I read a snatch of writing on a sign- "Homebrew Teams.. "
  "I think its a Beerfest."


  In line for wrist bands, I wished I had worn less and debated on whether a wrist band for beer samples is a good investment for a liquor person. Fifteen minutes later, we were armed with the proper supplies for the Bishop Arts Brewriot Homebrew Festival: wristbands, cups, and marbles for voting.

Paparazzi shot:  Jesus shoes and little dog.

Sweet Maggie cider was my favorite. The chocolate porter I had was also good, and not too chocolatey, but I took no pictures and cannot remember who it was by. :(

Ryan and Thom can't resist Uncle Buck's.

Rahr girl pours a Summertime Wheat - I want to like Stormcloud just for its name, but I know I could never love an IPA. 

Paparazzi shot: One of the best neighborhoods for checking out ink.

Paparazzi shot: slouchy tee shirts, chillin by the car.

 Ending the excursion on Lockhart's patio - after generous $3 Jameson shots.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Videogame Controller Earrings: A Random Etsy Search

  Etsy.. it's the place to go if you want something a little too odd to be easily found in a store. Its also the place to find earrings that look like the exact variety of videogame controller you use.. because no fangirl would be caught dead in jewelry that doesn't match her console.

   Sadly, I won't be buying any earrings.. there doesn't seem to be an iconly recognizable symbol for the PC gamer in the same way that the controller is the "banner" of the console gamer. At least, not one that makes a good earring anyway.
Clay Super Nintendo from TheClayCollection - $23

CsCharms calls these "Retro Videogame Controller Earrings". I applaud their avoidance of copyright infringement. $14.95

Black 360 controllers from BouncyCreation - The bargain of the group at $9.

Atari controller graphics by Ambergee80 are my favorite, because of the more subtle nature of the design. I actually think she could do a nice PC gamer version - maybe wasd keys in one-color stencil style? A gaming headset might work as well, or even a full keyboard if the detail can be done that small.  $23

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Effingham, IL, 1981, Sartorialist Style...

I was scrolling through The Sartorialist today... ( and the vintage photos he does reminded me of this old photo that my sister dug up for Mother's Day on Facebook.

There was some Facebook debate over what town this was, but my mom remembered it was Effingham and knew what street she was standing on and what direction she was facing. Mom is 16 or 17 in this photo.

When I was a young teenager and I first saw this photo, I liked it because I got a kick out of the idea that my mom, despite her sometime protests about our spaghetti straps, had in fact once worn a tank top, in public, with her shoulders and collar bone showing. (By the time I was 13 or so,  I had no memory of her ever wearing anything that showed sternum or carried risk of bra strap exposure, despite her being still approximately the same size she was in 1981.)

Live in the City Where the Sun Beats Down: Dallas does have a music scene.

When I first came to Dallas, I hated it and thought it was a city of assholes who said mean things under a veil of politeness. Now, I get pissed off when people complain about Dallas. (Turns out I was just in the wrong line of work.)

My current annoyance is hearing people complain that there's no music scene here. It makes me think of the gruff longtime waitresses who were my coworkers in my formative years and their expression "They'd rather bitch than eat when they're hungry." You can see a good show in Dallas. Or you can talk about how cool Austin is while not going out to support the music scene you have right here.

So here's a taste of the music scene you can participate in right here... (maybe I'll continue this theme in future blogs? Who knows, I'm very unreliable.)

First up - Hello Lover.

Hello Lover gets to top the list because I have recent video of them, and I've seen them play more times than I can count and its always a good show. Also, they have a charismatic seven-foot-tall lead singer who dances. The best way to find Hello Lover is to see them live - their internet presence (and the sound in my video) doesn't do them justice. But I like their taste in posters.

St Patty's band flyer - art by J Schaefer, reference photo T Stead

 If you disregard my advice to just see them live, or if you need to figure out how to do that, theres Facebook : and Myspace:

This brings me to my next introduction- a venue: Club Dada, also seen in the above video.

Dada is off again, on again, off again, now its on again. It's part of the tradition of Deep Ellum legends that are closing down, but this one won't stay dead. Its a good place to see a show - either a local band, or see a bigger act in a smaller venue.

 Favorite bands I've seen there: Hello Lover, Lucero, The Riverboat Gamblers, Record Hop.

One major, MAJOR complaint about Dada though: The bathroom situation. There are a total of two toilets available, and shows here do fill the house.

Website at

Friday, May 6, 2011

Whatever Happened to my Rock n Roll?

If you don't recognize it, the title is a quotation of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, a band which abjectly DID NOT suck in concert. I would like to keep on writing about thier show, but at this point it wouldn't be current.

The live music highlights of my April in Dallas were both at Granada. One was a band I'd wanted to see for some time and whose catalog I knew well. The other was a band I'd recently taken a liking to, whose Rock Band 3 song I knew well. Unfortunately, both left me disappointed.

The Raveonettes was actually not what I would consider a bad show. I had a pleasant time, and for the most part, the music sounded good. However, persistent back tracking and a lack of life in the show itself (they basically stood, and played, and were always back lit so that the view was pretty much their still silhouettes the entire show) prevented it from being what I'd call a good show. I didn't leave wishing I hadn't come.. but I must admit, I was hoping to leave converted to being a huge fan of the band, which did not happen.

The Kills show had almost everything The Raveonettes lacked. There was life in the show, Alison Mossheart strutted around like a badass, and in general gave the crowd what they wanted. The crowd ate it up. Except for me. I discovered that while I sorely felt the lack of swagger in The Raveonettes show, a heavy pour of swagger wasn't enough to carry The Kills. Despite being a fan of the band, I couldn't delude myself that the over-played, almost cartoon-y distortion sounded good. And then there was the factor that both shows had in common: the goddamn back tracking.

To a degree, I do wish I hadn't gone to see The Kills. In a sort of way, I still wish I was wishing to see them live, and hearing all the positive remarks from people who have seen their show, not realizing that I would sorely disagree with the apparent majority on the experience. After these two lack luster musical experiences, I also find myself wishing I'd started doing rock show video diaries earlier, when I was on a roll and would therefore not have to piss off all the rabid internet fans of the bands. (BTW, The Raveonettes also win the rabid fan pissing contest - their fans largely will not hear the possibility that they did not play an awesome show and want to blame user error. Judging by the amount of people who attended the show, the rabid fans exist in far greater numbers on the internet than IRL. Which is too bad, because if more of them bought tickets, perhaps the band could afford to hire more touring musicians and quite the stupid back tracking. The Kills on the other hand, have no trouble selling tickets.. and still I'd advise them to pick up some guns for hire.)

I'm about as anti-government interference as anyone I know, yet I find myself tempted to say that I think shows should come with a label that makes clear the amount of backtracking additives they include. In fact, I'd like to say it, as it'd be a comfortable level of inflammatory, but actually I'm too super serious about both my politics and my music to risk the suggestion that I want interference in one by the guys that brought you vehicle inspections and the TABC test. ("GiNGer Ale? I want Shomething shTRonGer!")

(also on the blog i share with a few ex-gamerioters -