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The Evolutionary Perspective
Daily Archives: October 27, 2019
Posted: October 27, 2019 at 3:45 pm
It dawned ominously, the day of the great Greta climate strike in Vancouver. Rain and wind pummeled the lower mainland while emergency sirens echoed across the city. Even the crows were nowhere to be seen, presumably riding out the storm in their Burnaby roosts, not willing to make their ritual morning migration across Metro Vancouver.
But by the time Canadas young climate hawks took to the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery in mid-morning, the sun was beaming down and the wind seemed only to sharpen the short, moving testimonials delivered by each young plaintiff in a newly-launched court case of kids suing the federal government for putting their lives at risk.
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The opening statements were a last-minute addition to Sustainabiliteens planned events for the day. A day in which the global phenomenon of #grrlpowered climate strikers was going to get public assistance and support from Indigenous leaders and Canadas Establishment Greens. The adults had arrived and would lend their long experience in movement organizing to give the kids an added boost.
And, in many ways, Vancouvers intersectional, intergenerational climate strike was a great success. The David Suzuki Foundation, in particular, distinguished itself. Under the new leadership of Stephen Cornish, the foundation allocated real resources towards rearguard support for the youth, in whatever way the kids deemed most useful.
Others played useful roles as well. Greenpeace provided wizened, battle-hardened logistical expertise. The new Extinction Rebels served up volunteers of all ages as parade marshals for the day.
Most visibly, First Nations leaders turned out in great numbers, anointing the strikers with songs, blessing them with moral standing and sharing the teachings of elders passed down through timeless Indigenous generations.
But, as an organizing moment designed to swell ranks and propel momentum, the day was a mixed success. Impressive numbers turned out to see Greta in person. Vancouver Police Department estimated the crowd as large as 15,000 strong. It felt like the numbers peaked even higher, so perhaps a quarter of the Fridays for the Future march that blew away all expectations four weeks earlier.
The crowd was buzzing with school-aged teens, beaming moms escorting younger kids, bemused dads shouldering tots and others of all ages, brimming with excitement, radiating relief to no longer feel alone and crazy to finally feel sane in a world that has, seemingly forever, appeared deaf to the warnings of scientists and blind to obvious calamity.
But the pre-march remarks would take a strange, tone-deaf turn. An interminable list of adults took to the microphones, dominating the first act of the youth climate strike. Many were the usual suspects from previous decades of dour climate demos. Environmental elders held forth about the old days. Veteran activists castigated the teens and toddlers for their institutionalized, systemic racism at the march one month earlier. Speakers ranted about respect while demonstrating none, either in tone, or for the organizers, or their audience.
The speakers were a marked contrast to the buoyant pair of emcees. Two engaging local teens who repeatedly thanked everyone for coming out, obviously thrilled by the size of the gathering. But, the crowd grew increasingly restless with long-winded lectures about well, various important issues, as the event slipped further and further off schedule. It was, by the end, more than a five-hour long affair (without a Porta Potty in sight), purportedly organized to grow a movement of kids and activate their parents and grandparents.
One woman, clearly feeling browbeaten, leaving long before the march could begin, was muttering about never in her life having had to weather so much narcissism in a movement.
It was all perfectly understandable. First Nations activists have for so long been denied platform or voice to address brutal grievances. Movement elders have struggled for much less long, mostly ignored and dreaming of just such an uprising, one worthy of humanitys eleventh hour.
But the long-time activists are not helping this movement to flourish if their contribution is to suck oxygen from the spirit of youth. There is so much promise in the current zeitgeist. I marched with a friend who described fascinating research about the power of movements that harness bookend generations: when the girls and the grannies, the kids and the seniors, converge those of us in the middle dont stand a chance. That pincer may yet pierce the complacency and inaction of leaders who still dither and delay while our planet burns. We should give it every chance of success.
Thankfully, Act One of the climate strike finally did come to a close. The march began. Vibrancy returned. Teens fanned out through the marching masses leading call and response. Kids waved handmade signs full of creative irony, blunt assessments, and not a little raunch.
Weaving its way through the downtown core, the enormous crowd palpably affected shoppers, intrigued citizens and quizzical tourists. The bike cops couldnt help but grin as drivers in stranded cars and blocked intersections surrendered to the moment, cheering and honking in support of Vancouvers Sustainabiliteens and the thousands of Canadians who had rallied to the school strikers conch calls.
Upon returning to the central square hours late, the momentum faltered worryingly again for awhile. Another procession of adult artists and speakers took to the mikes. Scattered chants of Greta, Greta began to intrude. Frantic moms broke away, racing for the mall bathrooms at Pacific Centre, towing anguished kids clutching at their bladders.
But the undeniability of this amazing global youth phenomenon broke through in the end. The Tsleil-Watuths impressive Will George, who has emerged from the Trans Mountain pipeline Watch House as a powerful voice of terse clarity, handed off to Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.
It had been hard to make out what previous speakers were saying across the restless masses but the Grand Chiefs curious intonations and compellingly humble statesmanship quieted the crowd.
He began speaking about his 40 years leading rallies in that same square. The Grand Chief proved, as he has so often, to be both wise and canny as well as a very compassionate leader. He struck exactly the right tone, leading the crowd for just the briefest of moments into reminiscence before launching towards the future: But I have never seen such a crowd gathered here before!
And, finally, it was time. The Indigenous leaders draped a ceremonial blanket on the shoulders of tiny Greta. And she, hesitantly, took the microphone.
You will have seen her speeches before. And probably the one she gave in Vancouver on Friday. It was her trademark combination of awkward oratory, earnest statistics and searing truth. If the adults really loved us, is still haunting me. Greta was a class act, acknowledging the stolen lands and leadership of First Nations and endearing herself to Vancouver by quoting repeatedly from the speech Severn Suzuki delivered to the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, then just 12 years old herself.
On the way home, I noticed the crows were back. The windstorm was still gusting and great murders of them were dancing the sky a glorious maelstrom of corvid ecstasy.
Along Broadway, I ran into a friend, still in rubber boots and wrapped in raingear. She was crestfallen thinking that Greta hadnt spoken at the rally. She had come early, was inspired by the lawsuit kids, listened to all the pre-march speechifying, chanted herself hoarse through downtown and, at some point, long after returning to the square, she figured that Greta just wouldnt be speaking that day, for some unadvertised reason. Tired out, she had headed home.
She perked up considerably as I described Gretas talk. And she said shed probably be willing to come back again. But, next time, cant we just let the kids get on with it? she asked.
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Posted: at 3:45 pm
It began as these things often do on Twitter. Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted a picture Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong on Oct. 4. What started as a pro-democracy tweet by an executive most NBA fans couldnt pick out of a lineup quickly turned into a firestorm at the intersection of sports and politics. In doing so, the fans have provided the current generation of superstars a battleground for protest in which theres real cash at stake and the ramifications will affect all future political speech coming from the sports world.
Activism is nothing new in sports, but the current generation of superstars have avenues to express themselves that were inaccessible to those before them. But that trend has been coupled with a rapid monetization of players public personas. There is no better example of this than LeBron Jamess recent attempt to trademark Taco Tuesday. Combined with the NBAs rise globally, it was only a matter of time before politics and finance came into conflict.
Which brings us back, of course, to Daryl Morey. Within days, the Rockets joined Winnie the Pooh and Tiananmen Square among the casualties of the Great Firewall of China; China Central Television and Tencent Holdings Limited stopped airing Rockets games, and the Chinese government asked the NBA to fire Morey. When the league refused, every Chinese sponsor terminated their deals, and the TV ban extended to all games. While that ban has now ended, the Rockets remain off the air.
As for the NBA ecosystem, the responses have been mixed. Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and star player Stephen Curry gave noncommittal statements, despite being on the forefront of the leagues political zeitgeist. Rockets star James Harden even apologized for Moreys comments. But the most inexplicable comments came from the greatest current NBA player, James, who criticized Morey as uneducated on the issue and for being selfish by risking league interests.
It might be too far to call players hypocritical, as some have, for being vehemently anti-Trump James famously called the president U bum in a 2017 tweet and yet remaining silent about China. After all, one can sense players discomfort when asked about a foreign protest movement theyre likely uninformed about. But it delegitimizes future NBA activism most of it being positive if players submit to such a clear attack on the league.
As for James, Fox Newss Laura Ingraham was wrong to say he should just shut up and dribble last February. But that wouldve been preferable to Jamess comments, who condemned Morey, while those in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and across China face draconian human rights violations daily speak louder than LeBron ever could.
Its futile to ask billion-dollar corporations to worry about anything other than their bottom lines, even the NBA. But the players face a responsibility today that they will often face again, and appeasement can only defer it. Maybe its unfair to make this comparison, but since James was willing to monetize shut up and dribble into a documentary of that name about the history of sports activism, its one hes welcomed. Muhammad Ali gave up the prime of his career to protest the draft. Colin Kaepernick lost his career protesting police brutality. Tommie Smith and John Carlos were expelled from the 1968 Olympics for protesting racial injustice. To James, it seems Space Jam 2 was more important. But to the rest of the league, we can only ask: What are you willing to lose?
Posted: at 3:45 pm
Mike Watt occupies his own niche in the space and time continuum of punk rock. He seems to belong everywhere and nowhere, simultaneously. Although he graduated high school in 1976 and fervently took the alternative path out of stadium rock clichs by honing jazz-spiel punk escapades in Minutemen, his work ever since has been quite an immersive tangle of styles, legacies, and inputs.
That is why each of his gigs, including White Oak on October 24 with the Missingmen, is tantamount to a one-off experience. One never knows what might be unleashed. The table is set. The pot stirred. And what erupts is likely to be mesmerizing and off-kilter, like a blend of the unknown. He might unveil a Roky Erickson cover while convening and careening through his latest output or pull out a momentous Minutemen flashback.
Watt's music often nods to endless syncretism and unstable hybridity alchemy in the sonic shape of free jazz, hard-cut funk, flexing punk, wonky experimentalism, and bursts of trad rock. He also offers a spiritualized special combo of vigor and craft too, forWatt is unafraid to tether his performances to a higher state of mind.
It all began when Watt was a youth. Music was a way to keep him and guitarist-singer D. Boon out of trouble, behind doors, safe from fights in working class San Pedro, CA neighborhoods in the port town.
My pop was an enlisted man. I grew up in Navy housing where we were taught we were all sailors' sons. I found it trippy how civilians organized how they lived. You know how you think the whole is world is how you're growing up ... I didn't know any officers' kids, so we were kind of segregated that way, attests Watt.
Yet, that same music eventually opened the doors to punk rock and clubs that were ... trouble spots.
D. Boon's ma had us make a band to do that, stay in his bedroom after school. We were 12, recalls Watt. When we joined the movement, we were 19, different situation. There was scary stuff in Hollywood in the later 1970s, but yeah, there were and are still in my Pedro time. I would not blame the movement for that, though. The movement helped us discover music could be used for expression.
The first gig Watt witnessed was T. Rex, yet one of his biggest influences became James Jamerson, who helped anchor the Motown sound, as well as visionary jazz pioneer John Coltrane. As such, Watts own musical melting pot has cohered around a blend of black and white musical legacies.
John Coltrane said he thought musicians were looking for some kind of truth, and I like that. James Jamerson's bass always aided and abetted the tune, while he still had his own identity, and I also like that. My life is full of mixing stuff, I'm into it. You're right.
Those expressions became explosive. His career seems to segue fluidly between markers on the musical highway. Early on, Minutemen proved immensely influential, maverick, and tireless in their pursuit of making tunes that mattered both to discerning critics and open-armed fans galore.
Band members seemed as if they punched the clock like regular Joes and wore their flannel influences, like Creedence Clearwater Revival, with determination. However, they also produced a bewildering array of tiny torpedoes musical haiku of the punk variety: brisk, poetic, condensed, and high-charged songs that still feel inventive and inchoate, from propulsive hard-fast Fanatics to the slithering snare drum background of Anchor to the rusted-edge crunch of Cut.
They performed the improbable Dr. Frankenstein too by marrying the likes of first-wave English art-punk minimalists Wire with the bombastic glare of Van Halen. Literally, they morphed the stadium rockin enormity of Aint Talking Bout Love into a minute and half thirty second gut punch that resonated and rioted, like a murky, roughhewn dot dash Morse code signal of garage rock attitude and homespun anarchic tendencies.
After the death of singer and guitarist D. Boon, Watt weaved through projects like Dos, with Kira Roessler of Black Flag fame, in which they both played bass, but he found even a louder footing in fIREHOSE. At first, they seemed akin to a lite version of Minutemen, plumbing through tunes that were smart, poetic, and dizzyingly syncopated, which set them apart from much college rock mumbling doldrums.
fIREHOSE adopted most of Minutemens limber musicality, though dropped some of the searing politics. Though, during the first Gulf War, they unveiled Wires Mannequin. The original, cut in 1977, served as a critique of empty-minded, energy void, bone-thin beauty models but was recast by fIREHOSE as a protest of the slaughter underway. So, when the line Youre a disgrace catapulted through the room, it was like a chant against the powers-that-be that treat human bodies as no more than mannequins in war zones.
fIREHOSE cemented themselves in the alternative rock zeitgeist, alongside Dinosaur Jr. and Meat Puppets, making albums brimming with guitar tours-de-force, like Flyin the Flannel, yet they still left room for idiosyncratic indie pop, like the Do-It-Yourself musings of Daniel Johnston, whose "Walking the Cow they warmly embraced.
And after fIREHOSE said goodbye, Watt's musical footprint was fecund. His solo albums have been complex, condensed arrays of music probing as evocative and conceptual as they are spirited and singular. They include the musical Rubiks Cube known as Ball Hog or Tugboat?, featuring armfuls of different artistslike Eddie Vedder and Dave Grohl;the profoundmusical overview of his father, Contemplating the Engine Room;his own near-death journey evoked on The Secondmans Middle Stand; and the Minutemen-esque Hyphenated-Man.
Yet, he also joined the Stooges, one of the most beloved proto-punk groups ever to unleash blood-curdling yelps, savage guitar wallops, and Detroit-greased beats. With Iggy Pop at the helm, and Mike Watt replacing Dave Alexander (who died in the mid-1970s), the reformed outfit felt limber and sinewy, as if age had only honed their chops. Unfortunately, since then, death has made a maximum impact on the original line-up, leaving Iggy, who began his musical journey as a drummer, as the lone force.
Yeah, Iggy is the bow of the boat, and I miss the Asheton brothers and Steve Mackay very much. James Williamson was very nice to me and so was the Stooges' helper men. It was a righteous classroom to learn as much as I could from, and I think of those cats all the time. I like the way Iggy charges hard and at the same time is always thinking about stuff. I think Iggy being a drummer has a lot to do with what he is, yeah. I think anyone doing drums can benefit from it, I really do. Damn, I wish I could work the drums ... I think I would be a better bassman.
To me, Minutemen felt as if they linked to Beat Generation poets like Bob Kaufman and Allen Ginsberg, writers that could feel both surreal and absurd, electrifying and enlightened. So, when Watt began working with Charles Plymell, publisher of groundbreaking Zap Comix artist Robert Crumb and renown underground writer of his own work Apocalypse Rose, on performances on material such as Was Poe Afraid, they seemed to share some sensibilities about language and rhythm.
I love Charley and saw him in his Cherry Valley, New York town even konked in his pad. I'm doing an opera with Petra Haden using his "Planet Chernobyl" as the libretto, tells Watt. I used a lot of what I learned in Mr. Joyce's Ulysses for my first opera Contemplating the Engine Room and also from listening to Raymond Pettibon [artist first associated with self-published zines and Black Flag art] talk to me. I like his rhythm and way of putting things together. I was very inspired to learn John Coltrane was influenced by Dr. Martin Luther King's speaking for his "Alabama" tune. I think you're right: the arts and expression overlap in many trippy ways.
More currently, Watt has been featured on the new album Wall of Flowers by Mike Baggetta, which is very tender and spare at times, yet also rooted in free jazz too, especially on tunes like I Am Not a Data Point. Though instrumental, the theme of the work seems to be: music cannot not be reduced to 1s and 0s.
Meaning, music is one of the best ways to resist the digital age, to reclaim the human.
It's his album, and he wrote the tunes, Watt describes the release. As far as what I think about what you suggest: yes, I agree music ain't maybe the best when you try and reduce it to ones and zeroes. Technology threatening us? In the old days, you could use a knife to cut up a banana into bite-sized pieces or use it to stab your partner. Same dilemma with other human inventions, it appears to me."
Look at the way people are driving on the roads these days, a nightmare ... I saw it getting really bad about two and a half years ago, on my last U.S. tour.
So, as the roads grow more bewildering, hectic, and disorderly, Watt will continue to be restless, both behind the wheel as well as on his musical path. While many rockers settle for a sense of redux and repeat, playing the oldies and crowd pleasers to a slew of people holding up their shiny phones, Watt prepares for another leg of his obsessive journey that you would be wise to witness.
Mike Watt & the Missingmen is scheduled for October 24 at 8 p.m. at White Oak Music Hall, 2915 North Main. For information, visit http://www.whiteoakmusichall.com. All ages. $18 advance $20 day of, plus fees.
Posted: at 3:45 pm
Death anniversaries provide us an opportunity to reflect on the contributions of many great historical personalities, but rarely do we find a figure so recently passed yet so quickly forgotten as John Taylor Gatto.
Gatto was born in 1935 in the working-class Western Pennsylvania town of Monongahela. He passed away on October 25, 2018, in his adopted home of New York City. In his nearly 30 years of classroom teaching, Gatto witnessed first hand some of the most radical experiments in mass schooling that the world has ever seen. After being named New York City Teacher of the Year consecutively in 1989, 1990 and 1991, and New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991, Gatto rejected what he called the school religion punishing the nation and left his formal profession of teaching in search of a job where he didnt have to hurt kids to make a living.
From that day in 1991 until his death one year ago, Gatto wrote and spoke about his experiences in U.S. public schools in an effort not just to critique a system which he saw as beyond reform, but also to envision what education could look like in a truly free and just society. While Gatto gained a readership among certain sections of the homeschooling and alternative education movements, his piercing criticism of U.S. schooling and its link to the crisis of Western civilization deserves a much wider audience.
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Traditional education can be seen as sculptural in nature, individual destiny is written somewhere within the human being, awaiting dross to be removed before a true image shines forth. Schooling, on the other hand, seeks a way to make mind and character blank, so others may chisel the destiny thereon, Gatto, The Underground History of American Education
Much of Gattos writing is focused on the basic yet often overlooked distinction between schooling and education. At the heart of his work is the simple yet radical suggestion that mass schooling, a 19th-century European import to the U.S., is not the modern manifestation of the ancient concept of education but, rather, its diametric opposite.
In his magnum opus, The Underground History of American Education, Gatto traces the material roots of mass schooling back to the economic and ideological demands of a burgeoning industrial capitalism in Europe. Against the narrative of mass schooling as a noble attempt to educate the starving, backward masses, he exposes its true motive as a glorified daycare system for the children of parents newly coerced into wage labor.
With the destruction of the commons in Europe, self-sustaining production systems and their accompanying home-based education practices were obliterated in the quest for profits derived from the labor of a new industrial proletariat. Children who used to learn practical skills by working alongside their families and communities were forced into monotonous factory work with the advent of the industrial revolution. After child labor laws were introduced in the 19th century and extended in the 20th, the state had to find something to do with these unoccupied working-class children.
The answer was mass schooling. In 1839, Prussia became the first country on the European continent to enact a national child labor law. It is no coincidence that this North German state subsequently became the most important country in the development of modern schooling. Often described as an army with a country, Prussia took the logic of the regimented factory shop floor and military training camp and applied it to the development of a national school system.
This army with a country demanded malleable subjects rather than educated citizens, and it was for the production of the former that a new national school system was created. One of the most important pedagogues in the development of the Prussian system, Heinrich Pestalozzi, touted his approach as one that would mold the poor to accept all the exertions and efforts peculiar to their class. As Gatto put it, Pestalozzi offered them love in place of ambition. By employing psychological means in the training of the young, class warfare might be avoided.
If modern schooling was born in the militaristic milieu of early 19th-century Prussia, it came of age in the rigid class system of England and reached maturity in the colonizing adventures of the British Empire. One need to look no further than Friedrich Engelss 1845 book, The Condition of the Working Class in England, to understand the impact of the industrial revolution on Englands poor, whose living conditions dropped precipitously at the same time as mass schooling was being introduced in the country.
However, the English ruling class could not indefinitely exploit its workers on the basis of material coercion and physical force alone. In addition to building its factory system on the backs of slave labor in the Americas and the looting of resources in its Asian colonies, the British Empire used its vast dominion abroad to refine its psychological management of the young at home.
Gatto provides the example of wealthy Scottish Anglican chaplain, Andrew Bell, who lived in India in the late 18th century, where he took a keen interest in the caste system as a model for the modern English school. Bell admired what he saw as a rigid social hierarchy in Hindu village schools characterized by intellectual and religious instruction for a tiny minority at the top and caste-appropriate technical training for everyone else.
Bell devised the Madras System of Education based on his experiences in India. This system was subsequently deployed in Scotland in Bells own Madras College secondary school in St. Andrews, and later in England and the U.S. under a similar system known as Lancaster schooling based loosely on the ideas of English Quaker Joseph Lancaster.
The Madras and Lancaster systems, also known as the monitorial system, were characterized by large classrooms with students seated in rows overseen by a single schoolteacher. The teacher did not in fact teach, but, rather, served as a bystander and inspector who would form a hierarchy among the students and then let the so-called brighter ones teach the rest. It was the stratification of the new industrial system applied to the young.
By the 1830s, schools based on the Prussian and Lancaster models stretched from New York to Texas, with significant admirers such as Calvin Ellis Stowe, Harriet Beecher Stowes husband, who advocated for the adoption of a Prussian-style national education system in the United States.
The backdrop of my teaching debut was a predicament without any possible solution, a deadly brew compounded from twelve hundred black teenagers penned inside a gloomy brick pile for six hours a day, with a white guard staff misnamed faculty manning the light towers and machine-gun posts. This faculty was charged with dribbling out something called curriculum to inmates, a gruel so thin [that this school] might rather have been a home for the feeble-minded than a place of education. Gatto, The Underground History of American Education
The story of the U.S.s adoption of a European mass schooling system designed to foster a rigid class system while at the same time sublimating class warfare is a pivotal development in Gattos history of American schooling.
That mainstream abolitionists like the Stowes were early advocates of European mass schooling in the U.S. is telling. James Baldwin wrote in 1949 that Harriet Beecher Stowes novel, Uncle Toms Cabin, has, at its core, a self-righteous, virtuous sentimentality which is the mark of dishonesty and the inability to feel. Stowe opposed slavery, but, as Baldwin put it, could only do so by robbing the Black man of his humanity. Only then could she mold him into the proper subject: docile, uneducated and forbearing.
As educator and writer Jerry Farber wrote in 1969, these qualities encouraged in the Black slave are nearly identical to those fostered in students in 20th-century American schools. Indeed, by understanding Calvin Ellis Stowes passion for the Prussian forced schooling system alongside his wifes portrayal of Black people in Uncle Toms Cabin, we can see a direct link: a schooling system that would control what students would learn was necessary to manage and mold potentially revolutionary Black youth after the abolition of slavery.
It is this connection between schooling and white supremacy which Gatto understood. He taught for years in working-class Black schools in Harlem, and observed that black kids had caught on to the fact that their school was a liars world, a jobs project for seedy white folk.
Instead of modifying the curriculum for these students in order to prepare them for their presumed subordinate social role, Gatto challenged the scientific religion of schooling which believes [Black people] to be genetically challenged and presented a rigorous education focused on strong reading skills and critical discussion of fundamental questions in history, philosophy and literature.
By refusing to lower expectations for Black youth in school and eventually rejecting the racist school system altogether in favor of autonomous institutions such as Marva Collinss groundbreaking Westside Preparatory School in Chicago, Gatto provided a concrete example of what an educational program for the abolition of whiteness might look like.
A rapidly growing homeschooling movement is reviving a long tradition of family and community-based education, particularly among Black Americans who have been historically barred from or discriminated against in the school system.
The net effect of holding children in confinement for twelve years without honor paid to the spirit is a compelling demonstration that the State considers the Western spiritual tradition dangerous, subversive. And of course it is. School is about creating loyalty to certain goals and habits, a vision of life, support for a class structure, an intricate system of human relationships cleverly designed to manufacture the continuous low level of discontent upon which mass production and finance rely. Gatto, The Underground History of American Education
Gattos challenge to modern schooling and white supremacy is made possible by his critique of scientism, or the ideology of science and the scientific method as the one way to truth. Just as racism crafted for itself a scientific justification, so did forced schooling make its case in scientific terms. By stripping these systems of their ideological basis through a critique of science itself, Gattos work opens up new ways to think about education, freedom and genius.
The cult of scientific schooling in the U.S. reached its apex around the beginning of the 20th century, when technocrats sought to apply the principles of Taylorism, or scientific management, to the public school classroom. Sociologist Edward A. Ross captured the turn of the centurys zeitgeist in his 1901 book, aptly titled Social Control, writing that, Plans are underway to replace community, family, and church with propaganda, education, and mass media. The State shakes loose from Church, reaches out to School. People are only little plastic lumps of human dough. In other words, the student not only can, but should, be kneaded into the proper shape, and there is no better institution to complete this task than the school.
Gatto critiques what he calls empty child theory, or the idea that children lack human nature or individual spirit and can, thus, be molded to the needs of modern society. In this conception of the human, each individual is but a stand-in for a particular social category to be experimented on in the name of technological efficiency and scientific progress. As Gatto puts it, scientism has no built-in moral brakes to restrain it other than legal jeopardy.
Just as the forced sterilization of Carrie Buck was ruled legal by the Supreme Court in 1927, the Carnegies, Rockefellers and Fords threw their money behind radical experiments in the transformation of human nature in the first half of the 20th century. If the adult body was a legitimate subject for scientific experimentation, the childs mind was even more appropriate: experiments on a developing psyche in school might even render bodily intervention in adulthood superfluous.
Twentieth-century scientific schooling is best described as the social experiment of inculcating into children what Gatto calls the seven lessons of school teaching. These lessons of mass forced schooling merit lengthy quotation:
It confuses the students. It presents an incoherent ensemble of information that the child needs to memorize to stay in school. Apart from the tests and trials, this programming is similar to the television; it fills almost all the free time of children. One sees and hears something, only to forget it again.
It teaches them to accept their class affiliation.
It makes them indifferent.
It makes them emotionally dependent.
It makes them intellectually dependent.
It teaches them a kind of self-confidence that requires constant confirmation by experts (provisional self-esteem).
It makes it clear to them that they cannot hide, because they are always supervised.
Or, as Rockefellers General Education Board summed up in a 1906 document on scientific schooling:
In our dreams people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present educational conventions [intellectual and character education] fade from our minds, and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. The task we set before ourselves is very simple. We will organize children and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way.
Such a sentiment is a natural byproduct of a scientistic worldview which rejects the spiritual aspect of the human. Gatto points out that this aspect can be repressed, but never destroyed. Those who cannot handle the dehumanization of the school system any longer often simply drop out, prepared to face the brutality of a labor market that is at least honest about its intentions to teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way. Others quit early with great success, as the lives of high school drop-outs Thomas Edison, Thelonious Monk, Mark Twain, Aretha Franklin and many others demonstrate.
Each individuals special genius cannot be accounted for by science, though scientific schooling has done an excellent job of leading students to believe that they do not have one. For Gatto, it is the sacred narrative of modernity, of which mass schooling is an essential (if often unquestioned) component, that has become a substitute for the message of the Nazarene. Indeed, the idea of a conflict between secular schooling and religious education is a false one: Modern schooling is a religion, and has merely supplanted the Church as the primary institution of education.
Gatto points out the irony that it was the churches, particularly those of the Anglican and Quaker variety, which laid the foundation for their own decline by encouraging the expansion of mass forced schooling. They failed to see and still fail to see that the logic of modern schooling is at odds not only with the revolutionary spirit of the Gospels, but also in contradiction with the teachings of all the worlds great spiritual traditions.
These traditions consistently affirm that the human is much more than a little plastic lump of dough, something, to return to Baldwins essay, resolutely indefinable, unpredictable. It is in this indefinable and unpredictable nature of the human being that genius resides. As Gatto writes in his 2010 book, Weapons of Mass Instruction:
Ive concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress genius because we havent yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.
The U.S. school system like the capitalist system that made it necessary has outworn any use it may have had in the past. It has reduced the human to a number, to a social category, to mere physical matter to be toyed with at the whims and fancies of experts. To challenge the assumptions of modern schooling is to remember and reaffirm the spiritual strivings of the human being.
John Taylor Gatto encouraged us to draw on both tradition and imagination as we work to envision education for a world in which freedom and justice are placed above technology and efficiency. With increasingly shrill calls for universal preschool leading up to the 2020 presidential election, Gattos history and analysis of the true motives of U.S. schooling could not be more relevant. Though he is no longer with us today, we would be remiss to neglect his insights a year after his death.
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Size Matters: A Conversation on Storefront for Art and Architecture’s History with Founder Kyong Park – Archinect
Posted: at 3:45 pm
Arlene Schloss reading to a crowd as a part of Performance A-Z, 1982. Image courtesy Storefront for Art and Architecture.
For art and architectural venues, growth is a commonly accepted measure of success. As the story usually goes, an upstart museum or gallery begins life small and then, with enough reputation and investment capital, gets a larger and larger space; with expansion and higher ticket sales comes the ability to support ever-larger shows that reach a broader public. But for New York CitysStorefront for Art and Architecture, however, a small, irregularly-shaped 868-square-foot space provides a physical constraint that has long been a key part of its ability to showcase relevant, vital exhibitions.
In an extended interview with Kyong Park, Storefront founder and director between 1982 and 1998, we take a look at the origins of The Storefront for Art and Architecture.
Located just north of Manhattans Little Italy and Chinatown neighborhoods, Storefront is a small, wedge-shaped exhibition space located across the street from a wedge-shaped park. Since its beginnings, it has always been a storefront with street frontage at ground level. With this key distinction embedded in the name itself, Storefronts mission has been kept consistent and has allowed it to represent an international and local community with a curatorial reach much larger the gallerys modest size. Like retail storefronts in the e-commerce age, which serve both to display products and physically represent the massive behind-the-scenes machinations that power global consumption patterns, Storefront is better seen as a physical manifestation of a much larger dispersed community of architects and artists both in New York and the world more generally. For a scene with no real local place to convene outside of school events and public lectures, Storefront represents an independent living room for the community to come and hang out in real life, in one place. Today when discourse increasingly is carried out online and via decentralized platforms, the existence of such a dedicated exhibition space is even more crucial for concentrated acts of community intervention and response.
The history of Storefront stretches back almost 40 years to 1982, when it was founded by Kyong Park at 51 Prince Street, across the street from where the McNally Jackson bookstore is today. Organized with artists Arlene Schloss and R. L. Seltman, its introduction to the community included 26 consecutive evening performances every day from local artists as part of a show called Performance A-Z. Artist Shirin Neshat joined in 1983 as co-director, contributing to many exhibitions throughout the next ten years (catch her massive exhibition at the Broad in Los Angeles, I Will Greet the Sun Again from October 2019 to February 2020.)
The early years in the 1980s saw many solo exhibitions of then-rising, now-famous architects and artists such as Neil Denari, James Wines SITE, Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, Lebbeus Woods, and Dan Graham. But the exhibits that really gave Storefront its identity were the community-focused exhibitions which addressed problems currently in the zeitgeist, such as anexpos on homelessness, ashow on queer space, apublic housing exhibitthat doubled as a movement to save Adam Purples Garden of Eden on the Lower East Side from demolition.
These early efforts also showcased proposals of Eric Owen Moss, Alison Smithson, Morphosis, Zvi Hecker, Lebbeus Woods, Neil Denari, and Diller + Scofidio. This focus carries through the more recent era. In the wake of Occupy Wall Street, for example, Storefront organized a series of events, including a public call for ideas to meet and discuss how to move forward following the Great Recession of 2008 and the resulting global realization that capitalism is inherently unable to create a better world.
Today theyre often hosting panel discussions, tours, book launches, talks, original exhibitions, events, and more. To see a full schedule of upcoming events, make sure to check theirwebsitefor more information. Since Park's tenure, Storefront has been led by a number of leading architectural curators and thinkers, namely Sarah Herda, Joseph Grima, and most recently Eva Franch i Gilabert. Jos Esparza Chong Cuyis the current direct of Storefront, sinceEva Franch left to lead the AA in 2018.
I first visited Storefront for Art and Architecture for the first time in 2014. At the time, Marc Fornes / THEVERYMANY and Jana Winderen had an installation in the gallery called Situation Room. It was a perfect introduction to what I feel Storefront promotes spatially, because from the outside you could see pink Fornes metaballs poking out of the open facade panels and upon entering it became an experiential exploration of the neon pink form and ambient soundscapes surrounding you. As sensually striking as it was, it lacked the political and contextual discourse that some of the early shows had such as Homelessness at Home in 1985 or Adams House in Paradise in 1984. Despite this, it did demonstrate to me the power of an exhibition space that refuses to be a typical blank white box- something thats been consistent at Storefront even before the current home was renovated by Steven Holl and Vito Acconci in 1993. I wondered if being a foil to the ubiquitous empty white space was how it was conceived from the beginning, and if you could talk about the origins of Storefront and the types of shows you wanted to put on that you felt were absent from the art and architecture discourse at the time.
Well, you know, it was 1982, almost 40 years ago. The world changes a lot in half a century. Performance A-Z was actually organized by my partner, Robert L. Seltman, an artist who I started Storefront with. It was really he who actually conceived of it and organized the performances. I knew some other people in the show myself, but it was his brainchild.
The reason why I want to mention that it was a different time is because I think that may have just as much to do with the making of Storefront as anything that I have done.
New York at that time was really coming out of rock bottom. Almost all American cities underwent economic decline and depopulation. New York was not immune to it. It almost went bankrupt in 1974. Really nobody wanted to be there unless they had to. Its a bit of an exaggeration, but It was also a place where people would escape to from other places, drawing eccentric people that didn't really fit anywhere in the country.
I say country because at that time New York was really national. It didn't draw many people from outside of the US as it does now. It was a reversal of Kurt Russells Escape From New York, where instead of escaping from a maximum security prison, people who needed a fresh start or to leave their home town would move to New York. It was a kind of collection of chaos and anarchy. There were all these vacant storefronts on the lower part of Manhattan that were comparable to loft spaces today because they were large spaces that artists could turn into a studio.
The first Storefront opened at 51 Prince Street. It was about 350 square feet. I paid 250 dollars a month for it back then and by the early to mid-2000s, a while after we had moved to the current spot on Kenmare, it was already up to five or six thousand dollars a month being rented to a Tibetan boutique store. A lot of artists moved into these spaces, obviously living there illegally, and some of them started turning them into shops and self-run galleries here and there; in Little Italy there were several of them.
There was a sense of community there, and so, with some friends like Robert L. Seltman and Arlene Schloss, we decided to introduce the gallery to the city through a series of 26 performances by different artists. Certainly, at that time, neither myself nor the people in this community paid any mind to becoming wealthy and famous as many do today. It was more about making art, being part of our community, having a place to meet. It was a social-cultural space as much as, you know, an aesthetic-cultural space.
After surviving for two years, we became a legitimate 501(c)(3) and then started getting money from New York State Council of the Arts. Soon, people beyond our local area south of 14th Street started to pay attention and it became more serious: with a broader audience, Storefront became more legitimate and started to build a more solid, successful programming history.
It started very naturally from the socioeconomic conditions of New York City at the time and more than anything else I must say that I had no idea about what I would do when I came to New York at the end of the summer of 79. I had no intention to open a gallery. It wasn't something that I had in mind explicitly to do, so I credit the city itself, the community, and the culture as the true founders of Storefront.
What was the architecture scene like this around the time? Rem Koolhaass Delirious New York came out in 1977, describing New York in the '70s as an anarchic, unscripted place without any prescriptive theory. This might have been true to a visitor, but the reality is that people had been there for a long time producing culture, imagining futures, writing about the city, etc.
Well, I didn't really hang out with architects; I hung around with artists. At the beginning of Storefront, architecture in New York was very provincial. Not even national-provincial, just New York City, by itself.
At the time, people basically made theoretical stuff: paper architecture, drawing architecture, imaginary architecture, mainly headed by the New York Five: John Hejduk, Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, Charles Gwathmey, and Richard Meier. They ran the show and some of them had institutions- Hejduk led Cooper Union, Eisenman at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, and so on. Their work was highly recognized throughout the country and probably beyond, but its prevalence showed that there was not a lot of work for young people, so for those like me, there was more of a drift toward art.
I wanted to hear about your conception of the first shows like the Gowanus Canal and Adams House in Paradise. I was wondering how the early curation direction was conceived and if it was a part of any 10-20 year plan for Storefront.
I have always had a very political radical interest. The shows you mentioned were projects that I initiated from Storefront. I have to give a great deal of credit to Glenn Weiss for Adam's House in Paradise. He was spearheading that project as well as Homeless at Home. Also, he was quite involved in that as well and other projects like DMZ, Project Atlas, Before Whitney, and After Tilted Arc. For these, we set up the concept and then invited people to propose an alternative critical discourse about re-examining status quos or current conditions. We wanted to attack the mainstream.
The solo exhibitions by artists and architects were to promote the cross-disciplinary relationship between art and architecture. We constructed a community where artists found interest in architecture and architects found interested in art. This has always been a reflection of myself, actually. I think that kind of crossover really was the key ingredient to pulling together a community that was unique and very committed.
[Eventually], The solo exhibitions switched from artists to architects, with almost half of them not from New York, or the United States, really. I think that Storefront had an interesting dialogue between something small and something large. We were quite small but we had large ambitions. We recognized that we didn't have to be big in order to do big thingsI remember some newspaper articles saying "Small Storefront Puts Museums to Shame" or something like thatWe challenged that notion of scale, almost ridiculing some of the big institutions for being very small-minded. I like this antagonistic role that I play.
Thats interesting to see that a stance on growth was always integral to how you saw Storefront. As you know, many institutions are built on a model of expansion where you acquire more work, see an increase in foot traffic and subsequently in ticket sales, which in turn then allows larger exhibitions, and so on. Infinite growth.
Thats the modern/American culture. The growth-forever model was criticized in the 70s by the Club of Rome reports which suggested in its place a more sustainable economic model rather than an annual growth in GDP. That idea of growth you speak of is a very modern, American belief where you build, grow, buy assets, and become a multinational conglomerate, continuing to buy more subsidiary companies and so on.
Did you pay attention to the Oslo Architecture Triennale this year?
No, I dont follow architecture very much.
The curation was about degrowth, promoting alternate models that push back against the idea that the continuous growth intrinsic to capitalism is a good thing, and that eternal growth is natural. The curators said the same thing, that GDP is a really poor measure of progress because it only measures a few myopic statistics.
[GDP is] a political tool just as much as an economic indicator. There are a lot of challenges regarding the legitimacy/accuracy of GDP as a statistical measurement, just as much as there are around SAT or the No Child Left Behind policies. Its not surprising to hear that about the Oslo Triennale. Architects have been enjoying one of the greatest building booms in the history of human civilization, nobodys really complaining about it. That may be coming to an end sooner than we think because we simply cant make billionaires anymore. Its not sustainable.
Storefronts existence all this time, to me, represents a challenge to the dogma around growth. It has always been small and has successfully stayed small; I wanted to hear how this was maintained. Did you havea plan for expansion once it moved?
No. I know we didn't have any plans except for the annual goals to go out and to get funding for the next year. During my time, I kept it small. Financially, its now much more substantial than it was during my time. Since I left, it became much more organized with a lot more funding. I dont know what the annual budget now is, but mine was, at its largest, maybe $250,000 a year. There was really no ambition to make it into a museum of any type or to make it larger. I felt that we were doing well enough and within our means. Maybe they could expand today but things are much more expensive now.
Just down the street is the New Museum, which moved to its SANAA building in the mid-2000s and is now slated to have an addition designed by OMA New York. For a while now, it has been oriented towards growth, accepting large donations, and building up an increasing collection. Its workers just unionized to increase previously unlivable wages that had driven up turnover. Since it was founded not too long before Storefront, just down the street on Bowery, it makes me wonder if you ever tracked yourself in relation to its continuous expansion and acquisitions.
Small is good. I didnt really pay much attention to the New Museum. It was already quite big in my time. It was a space in the corner of Broadway and Houston which was not a small space.
Its not just about size, its about the ambition of people in relation to power. The ultimate aim for people with fame is power, thats why people go to New York. Just as much as the growth-forever economic model, people are driven by fame and fortune which makes a nice recipe for bigness.
There was a great article in The Guardian that came out earlier this year by their architecture critic Oliver Wainwright about the state of real estate investment and speculation in NYC embodied in the super-tall pencil skyscrapers.
I mean they gotta put money somewhere right. Cash in the bank doesnt do as well, as Thomas Piketty told us in Capital in the 21st Century. I think they just dont have enough places to put the money. Their price tag is not because of the market or the construction costs or fees. Theyre inflated in order to put money away.
I heard someone say once that the art market is one of the last safe spaces for money laundering.
I would turn and go the opposite direction, it was one of the first money laundering tools and has proven to be a very dependable one historically.
Thats my concern once architecture reaches a certain scale. It is inevitably tied in obligation to foreign investments. And in growth, more generally, comes a concession to those forces that require more capital to reinvest, more financial obligation if you dont want to stay small. You stepped down from directing Storefront in 1997 and went to Detroit. Could you talk about why you decided to leave?
That was a year or so after Giuliani became the mayor and when the city started to become what it is today: gentrified, Americanized. In the early 1990s, things started to change and chain stores moved in. I remember the first one was Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Before this, like I was saying before, New York was a bunch of misfits that didnt belong anywhere else. And then with gentrification you started to get outside Americans coming in to find jobs. Gentrification really used art and culture as an appetizer to convince people to come back to the city, after white flight and suburbanization in the 1950s. I really didnt want to be a part of that. I started Storefront as an independent voice but now the city was beginning to use its presence as part of its political economy; we were only useful to them for the economic and political purposes that attracted outside investment to reterritorialize the inner city. I didnt like it. So in the mid-1990s, I started to go to Detroit because I was doing projects like Detroit is Everywhere and working with Cranbrook Academy of Art. I started meeting very interesting people, totally disconnected from society, extreme urban pioneers. They were off the grid, not just infrastructure, but socially and culturally. They were just on their own. I got very interested in their work and I felt that maybe I could be more useful in Detroit than I would be in New York. Even though I had started Storefront, I had come to realize that as independent as it could be, it could no longer be as experimental as it once was. I saw in Detroit a place to be experimental again.
I think that explains the reason why I started, what I did, and why I left. I think the problem is larger now than I ever imagined. Its the whole world. The way I think about the future is not very optimistic. I think were about to enter a historical moment where our comfort, our expectations, and ideas no longer matter because we are not trying to determine our future anymore. History is the ultimate determinant and we cant do anything about it, its become more of a destiny.
In the face of all this, what do you think the role of small scale art curation would be? Can we only react?
I think we have to start small again, to challenge big agendas, big companies, big institutions, including politicians. We have to find small groups of people that create challenges to authority.
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Posted: at 3:43 pm
Zombieland 2: Double Tap has the soul of a shooter game.
It first reunites us with the four apocalypse survivors from the original film; now theyre not getting along, even with their fine new HQ at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The mad-cow-disease-ridden zombies have evolved into subspecies: plodding dumbos nicknamed Homers, and crafty Hawkingsas well as a new breed thats super-fast and hard to kill.
Holing up in the White House, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) is happy to be the king of America, digging up such artifacts as the .45 automatic Elvis gave Richard Nixon (this time, its Elvis that Tallahassee is besotted with, not Dale Ernhard). Wichita (Emma Stone) cant handle the nerdiness and neediness of Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg). Even if he is more or less the only man in the world, she cant accept the Hope diamond he presents as an engagement ring. Interestingly, no one in the film seems to know that the gem is supposedly cursed.
Little Rock (Abigail Breslin, her Little Miss Sunshine days behind her forever) is now the bitter former-child-actor type incarnate: stocky, husky-voiced, seething and looking for a boyfriend.
The restless ladies steal the Beast, Tallahaeess antlered death truck, and race off for places unknown. The menfolk pursue. On their respective roads, the separated gangs encounter two new stereotypes: one is Madison (Zoey Deutch), a pink-clad and moronic blonde mallrat. Little Rock meets Berkeley (Avan Jogia) a Namaste-ing hippie who, now that society collapsed, can pretend he wrote Blowing in the Wind. Berkeley knows of a refuge called Babylon where people can be cool, vegetarian and nonviolent. Its a tower-top fortress that once was a 20-story hotel; of course they eventually need rescue by a John Wayne-like figure who is no stranger to violence.
On first sight, Little Rock almost murrays Berkeleywe learn thats the slang for killing a human when you think theyre a zombie. (Murraying references the best scene in the first Zombieland, if you dont count Little Rocks impatient explanation about how Miley can be both herself and Hannah Montana. In that scene, Breslin made the post-apocalyptic drive across a zombie-blighted U.S. the same as any other family car trip, asking Are we there yet?)
Before the gang gets back together, theres a detour to a pseudo-Graceland, a tourist motel run by Nevada (Rosario Dawson). Dawsons million-candlepower smile is a glad sight in a sunless and sour movie. Here also is an expansion of a keen gag in Shaun of the Dead (2004), where the squad of survivors, crossing through the North London backyards, sees their doubles heading in a different direction on their own zombie hunt. Director Ruben Fleischer (who did the original Zombieland) spins this one shock of recognition into 15 minutes of deadzone yack. A macho Luke Wilson (as Alburquerque) bumps his cowboy-shirted chest against Tallahassee, while his sidekick Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch) hangs with Columbus, comparing and contrasting their fussy rules, which appear in gold letters above them.
Those are the jokes, along with the alleged comedic-relief Zombie Kill of the Week awards, demonstrating creative way of mangling the walking dead. One, set in Italy, almost displays some wit while destroying a 846-year-old monument.
Nihilism and the movies referential mania wear you out. There wasnt enough energy in the first Zombieland to channel into a sequel, and there was little left undone. Moreover, it hasnt been 10 marvelous years of travelling that got us to this weedy Midwestern wasteland, with its ambulatory corpses spilling pixilated glore.
Its natural that Zombieland: Double Tap gives all its characters capital city aliases. The film is the product of a pissed-off and divided nation which can view the mindless, useless eaters as symbols of either the Demon-craps or the Trumptards: zombies, fit for nothing but two in the skull.
Directed by Ruben Fleischer. Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin. (R) 99 minutes.
A New Tom and Jerry Live-Action Movie Is Coming Next Winter, So Start Preparing Your Mouse Traps – Gizmodo
Posted: at 3:43 pm
Watch out, Jerry!Image: Hanna-Barbera
Cat vs. mouse, the most ancient of conflicts, a microcosm of the dark nihilism of nature. A harbinger of the cruel fate waiting for us all at the end of the line. Or perhapswait, no, its just a cartoon. One of the most well known and moderately beloved: Tom & Jerry, a series of Hanna Barbera shorts that has since turned into a series of bizarre adaptation decisions, bad reboots, and baffling crossovers.
Now, Tom & Jerry is back. Weve heard rumblings of Warner Bros.s upcoming reboot, one of those CGI/live action hybrids that were all the rage a solid decade ago, for a while, but now we know that its coming, and its coming sooner than we think. As the Hollywood Reporter explains, Warner Bros. has moved the release date for the film from its slated 2021 date to December 23, 2020. Which is a pretty surefire guarantee that, yeah, this one is actually getting off the ground.
So lets take a look at whats coming, which hopefully wont traumatize our writers the way the last Tom and Jerry adaptation did. Directed by Tim Story, the film is actually being made with an all-star cast including Chloe Grace Moretz, Michael Pena, Ken Jeong, Rob Delany, Jordan Bolger, and Pallavi Sharda. Itll tell the story of a hotel employee (Moretz) trying to evict Jerry from a hotel room, which he lives inas a mouse? Or as a mouse-person? Im somewhat unclear here on the level of realism. But to get Jerry out of the hotel and secure her job, she turns to Tom, that devious old cat. And thus does the dark cycle continue.
Tom and Jerry comes out December 23, 2020, and may God guide us free of the cruelty of natures bloodlust.
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Posted: at 3:43 pm
Joaquin Phoenix arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "Joker." (Photo by Jordan ... [+] Strauss/Invision/AP)
Joker was recently crowned the highest grossing R-rated film ever, an unexpected success for the low-budget, non-traditional take on the iconic Batman villain. But theres another comic book antihero who was making headlines last year for massively exceeding expectations.
Octobers domestic and international box office records were first shattered by Venom, and now, Joker, both films wildly surpassing even the most optimistic expectations.
But the two titular characters share a surprising amount in common ...
Both supervillains are a dark reflection of their rival superhero
Venom and the Joker are intimately connected to their archrivals, Spider-Man and Batman, more so than most supervillains.
Venom is the anti-Spider-Man, sharing the webslingers sticky powers, but devoid of Peter Parkers sense of responsibility. Even his costume, a black, monstrous version of Spideys suit, highlights the differences and similarities between the two.
Likewise, the similarity between Batman and the Joker is often commented upon in the films and comics, as both are eccentrics dealing with trauma in their own way, Batman choosing a life of law and discipline, the joker embracing absurdity and nihilism.
In some depictions, the Joker is created by the actions of Batman (The Killing Joke), or vice-versa (Joker, Tim Burtons Batman), each entwined in their rivals origin story.
Same with Spider-Man, who traditionally creates Venom by discarding the symbiote that was embolding his worst qualities, enabling rival reporter Eddie Brock to take up the mantle of Venom.
Both were overanalyzed and judged before release
Most fans were very cynical about the prospect of a Venom-centered movie that didnt feature Spider-Man, viewing the superhero as integral to Venoms existence.
Sonys wobbly track record, combined with an amusingly unenthusiastic Tom Hardy interview, ensured that the film that was widely mocked before it hit theatres. After watching the film, the general consensus was that Venom was indeed a bad movie, but far more entertaining than it had any right to be.
Joker, on the other hand, was picked apart by thousands of think pieces long before the film hit cinemas, with critics proposing that the film was a work of unparalleled genius, dangerous and potentially inspiring to mass-shooters, or a silly, self-serious story about a depressed clown.
The conversation quickly turned hysterical, sparking genuine security concerns, and igniting audience interest, who couldnt ignore a film that had proved so divisive. Im still confused over the pre-panic; the film proved not to be an ode to incel anger, as some claimed, but a clear condemnation of austerity. And frankly, not worth the fuss.
Dont judge a movie by its melodramatic early reviews.
Both are mediocre movies carried by a charismatic star
Neither Joker or Venom are great movies, by themselves; Venom plays like a forgettable superhero flick from the early 2000s, much like Daredevil, while Joker has a confused, half-hearted theme, so vague that critics and audiences all had their own, wildly different interpretations.
Joker wasnt an example of clever, ambiguous storytelling, but a movie that wanted to make a strong political statement and was too timid to say anything of substance. Not to mention, the story of Arthur Fleck isnt nearly as tragic as it tries to be; the sad clown schtick is pushed to the point where it becomes unintentionally amusing.
That being said, both Joker and Venom were extremely entertaining, primarily due to Joaquin Phoenixs fantastic performance, and Tom Hardys caricature of a New Yorker. Both men are dancing to the beat of their own drum, elevating their otherwise-dull movies by their larger-than-life presence.
Without Hardy, Venom would have surely bombed; the eccentric actor didnt let a flat script and silly plot hold back his bizarre interpretation of Eddie Brock. And without Phoenix, the audience would have seen right through Jokers thin veneer, and realized that it was little more than a homage to superior Martin Scorsese films, with a comic book label slapped on the cover.
Both movies prove that charisma can elevate mediocrity, to an almost supernatural degree; just look at how Marvel built an entire universe out of Robert Downey Jr.s personality.
Both tell the story of a societal outcast accepting, and embracing, their differences
Theres something strangely wholesome about both of these movies; Venom is the story of a man who loses his job and his girlfriend, due to his difficult and abrasive personality, but forms a brotherly bond with an otherworldly creature who lives inside him.
Joker tells the story of a powerless man who inspires a citywide riot, finding solace and identity through meaningless violence. Unlike traditional superhero movies, which see a normal person embrace a new strength, Joker and Venom tell stories of outsiders accepting their hideous flaws.
Eddie Brock is now a permanent host to a parasite that like to tear peoples heads off, a relationship which makes him look as though he talks to himself. Arthur Fleck decides that his outbursts of laughter and violence are something to be proud of, and while he might be deranged and delusional, its hard not to root for his twisted triumph toward the end of the film.
If cinema is going to be flooded with superhero movies (much to Martin Scorseses dismay), its nice to see the stories of antiheroes, and outright villains, doing well at the box office.
Despite what certain critics seem to believe, unlikable and immoral protagonists are not harmful; theyre a fun fantasy.
Both characters fall under Rule 34
If it exists, there is porn of it.
The trailer for Venom wasnt just viewed with derision; the glossy, salvia-soaked creature proved oddly appealing.
I dont know if its the orca-esque pattern, the flexible tongue, or the animalistic attitude, but the monstrous Venom somehow managed to ooze sex appeal. At least, for some people.
Amusingly enough, Joker provoked a similar reaction, the films pop culture footprint even extending to Pornhub, with no less than 741,000 searches involving the word "Joker" in the first 4 days following the film's release, proving once and for all that Phoenixs Joker is not an incel.
If anything, hes a chad.
Posted: at 3:43 pm
For most Attack On Titan fans, they couldn't imagine the anime being handled by anyone other than Studio Wit. The studio in question has been with Attack On Titan, helping to deliver stunning visuals that have assisted in propelling the franchise to the top of everyone's minds during its current three season run. However, Studio Wit is hardly the only legendary animation house around, and one fan artist asked the question: "What if Attack On Titan was brought to life by Studio Ghibli?"
Reddit User Pluma91 shared this amazing fan art that imagines what Eren Jaeger in his Titan form and Historia would look like if they had been brought to life by the legendary studio responsible for such classics as Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Howl's Moving Castle:
Hilariously enough, this crossover would have zero percent chance of happening, mostly because Attack On Titan simply doesn't fall within Studio Ghibli's normal workload. While most of Ghibli's output has been life affirming, uplifting stories that ultimately share the charm of both the magical and the mundane, Attack On Titan is full blown nihilism. The story of the remnants of humanity within the walls is so bleak and dire that it can be difficult to watch!
While Attack on Titan has wrapped up its third season, a brand new season following the story of Eren Jaeger and the other members of the Survey Corps will be dropping next year. In the manga, the war between Marley and Eldia continues to heat up, with the events and story beats continuing to get darker and darker with each passing installment. We don't foresee the Studio Wit production crossing over with Studio Ghibli any time soon, but we've certainly seen crazier things in our life times!
What do you think of this amazing crossover piece between Attack On Titan and Studio Ghibli? What anime crossovers would you like to see happen in your lifetime? Feel free to let us know in the comments or hit me up directly on Twitter @EVComedy
Attack on Titan was originally created by Hajime Isayama, and the series has since been collected into 23 volumes as of 2017. It's set in a world where the last remnants of humanity live within a walled city in order to escape the danger of the Titans, a race of giants monsters that eats humans. The lead character, Eren Yeager, ends up joining the military with his two childhood friends Mikasa and Armin after the Titans break through the wall and attack his hometown. Now Eren, Mikasa, and Armin must survive in a world where they not only have the Titans to fear, but the very humans they are trying to save. You can currently find the series streaming on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Saturday nights on Adult Swim's Toonami block.
Posted: at 3:43 pm
In the world of Guts, Casca, and Griffith, weddings don't tend to happen that often. The world of Berserk is one that is rife with pain, suffering, demons, and more blood and guts than nearly every other anime franchise in existence. The series, which has been running since 1989, is a cult favorite with fans begging to see how the tale of Guts finally comes to an end. Recently, fans managed to incorporate Berserk into their wedding ceremony in an ingenious way!
Twitter User Wooflings shared the hilarious pictures from the wedding where the officiant decided to slip in a copy of the Dark Horse Berserk manga release, with the hardcover release managing to replace a Bible that was otherwise going to be used in its place, and most surprisingly, no one noticing:
As mentioned earlier, Berserk can definitely be a rough franchise to follow. The amount of blood and gore, and nihilism, that permeate the lives of Guts are almost overwhelming with the "Black Swordsman" attempting to get his revenge on Griffith, following the Eclipse wherein the latter sold out his army of mercenaries, the Band of the Hawk, for power.
The relationship between Guts and Casca was originally one of the bright spots of the series, with the pair fighting battles alongside one another and, slowly but surely, discovering their feelings for one another. Of course, this all changed during the Eclipse, where such terrible things happened to Casca that the former member of the Hawks lost her mind. Following Guts on his journey of revenge, it was only recently that Casca regained her faculties and managed to become the character that fans one grew to know. Though her mind is restored, it's clear that the horror of their past is still haunting Casca.
While the anime ended with the second season of the revival, it's unclear when Berserk will be returning with a new animated series, though the manga is continuing to run strong, having finally ending its long hiatus.
What do you think of this hilarious Berserk easter egg in this wedding ceremony? Will we be able to see the final volume of Berserk worked into a future wedding in our lifetimes? Feel free to let us know in the comments or hit me up directly on Twitter @EVComedy to talk all things comics, anime, and Berserk!
Berserk was originally created by Kentaro Miura for Monthly Animal House magazine (now Young Animal) in 1989. The series follows Guts, an immensely strong warrior who is known for his massive sword. Guts lives his days fighting in a demon-infested medieval world where corrupt nobles rule. The hero is plagued by demon assailants thanks to a curse he had branded on him, and Guts continues to fight in order to keep a vow. The man promised to slay a former friend of his who became a demon and ripped away Guts former life.
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