Tag Archives: books

Bibliophile or: academics and counter culture exude sex.

2_feat_070 On recommendation this week: Power Misses: Essays across (un)popular culture, David E. James, Verso (1996)

FTWL: counter culture, sociology, punk rock, post-modernism, fashion, change, progress, academia, nerds.

“The stance that began as a rejection of rhetoric and artifice, an attempt to affirm the sufficiency of plain speech and the everyday situation, itself became conventionalized. The anti-poem became the poem, the ordinary guy became a role.”

This is neither the first, nor the last time I will proclaim this: academics are sexy. Even sexier: academics writing about the socialization methods and outputs in popular – or unpopular – culture throughout the 1970’s to the mid 1990’s.

James’ anthology of essays about the power that counter-culture had on mainstream influences explores the many facets of counter culture, what informed the streams, and just how far it struggled itself into the mainstream. Taking   a    broad perspective encompassing art, literature, music, and the cultural style choices which had informed and are informed by these passions; James’ touches on everything from Andy Warhol, the early stages of the punk culture, how rock and roll was represented in ‘Nam, the Avant Garde movement, and my personal favourite: postmodernism in literature.

Media has grown and changed dramatically over the last four decades. Tapes had replaced vinyl, and radio became more and more prevalent as an open source for information and music. Radio and television allowed culture to be transformed, and transplanted at a rate unseen before. As FM became popular and artists vied for spots on countdown charts, a consumer no longer had to ensure they had spending fortitude to enjoy and consume the culture they desired. Instead, it was brought into hearts and minds across the world, easily and with low effort expended on behalf of the consumer.

Even though the Internet has become our society’s main aggregation of all things consumable, the old culture shifts still hold true. Switch mediums, and the use of Internet and radio become almost synonymous.

‘Power Misses’ is a collection that examines just this idea. Revolutions are cultural, as is the explosion of music as a commodity. This collection provides an insight that is more than a comment on society. It looks at the wheels of a media revolution from a cultural standpoint that is as relevant in today’s world as it was in 1989.


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Revolutions are like bicycles: If they are not in motion, they will stop working

June 12th, 2009: another shameful page in Iranian history.

On June 12th, 2009 the world watched as the powers that be in Iran legitimized clearly fraudulent election results, announcing incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be returned leader of the Iranian state – leader being used loosely in this context. Despite the spirited protests that occurred almost immediately after the results were announced, it should be understood that the president of Iran is an elected puppet with limited capability to enact any real change or wield any political power. The Iranian constitution mandates that the unelected Guardian Council can veto any law or legislation they do not support, regardless of the support received by any elected government. The elected government is little more than a highly contested puppet show, with the strings being pulled by the Guardian Council itself. The presidential election amounts to little more than competitive politicking for the right to lead a useless and superficially democratic government that acts as little more than a mouthpiece for the Islamic fundamentalist minority.

Twice previously Iran has elected a reformist government, in 1997 and again in 2001, as well as a reformist Majilis (the branch most alike Canada’s House of Commons) in 2000. Mohammad Khatami had stayed in power under large popular support, but was unable to enact any change or fulfill his elected mandate. Bills promoting democratic change and human rights were passed under the Majilis and signed by President Khatami but went un-legislated because of the veto power held by Ayatollah Khamenei.

The real attention must be paid to the progression within the Guardian Council and the inner conflict that has been bubbling to the surface since the June 12th election. Despite Ayatollah Khamenei’s call for a partial recount, little has been done to betray any real dissent within the all-powerful Guardian Council, and why would there be? They literally hold Iran by its neck and have little intention of letting it go from the looks of things. The loosening of that grip is the most the leaders of world can hope for and as for the people of Iran; the presence of those fingers is rarely forgotten.

The Iranian protests of this past summer are noteworthy for many reasons, although the sheer number of citizens who took to the streets is not one. Despite reports of hundreds of thousands, 1999 saw an estimated 750 000 Iranians march in a peaceful protest. Of course the 1979 Iranian Revolution will be held in the worldwide memory for its enormous and overwhelming example of human potential. The regime that came into place in the late seventies not only upset the macro political power within Iran and throughout the Middle East but also, and more horrifically, upset the micro family balance of power.

Thirty years ago, the Islamic Revolution, amongst other legislative changes, suspended the Family Protection Law.  This law had been in place only a short while before it was abolished by the Islamic fundamentalist regime that took power in the mid seventies. Enacted in 1967 under Reza Shah, the Family Protection law abolished extra – judicial divorce and required polygamist relationships to have judicially granted permission, and only under special circumstances. While this was only a small restriction on the Shiria Law most Iranians abide by, it was still a restriction placed by a religious governing body which recognized rights of women under the law and the rights of women after they are married, a considerable gain in a region where human rights are rarely recognized for any persons. Journalist and Academic Haleh Esfandiari was one of the many women who immediately joined the countless causes to protest this loss of recognition and her actions have led to state suspicion and even jail time in 2007, at sixty seven years of age. One such cause, The One Million Signatures Campaign is a small example of the tactics used by women in Iran to protest and raise their voices under a system that goes far out of its way to restrict dissent.

As the world watched in 1979, human rights were eroded by the fundamentalist regime change, a regime change that created a new country out of Iran, a new country very few of its citizens understood or supported. In the last decade several notable, mainstream media releases have the caught the attention of many throughout the world. Texts such as “Reading Lolita in Tehran” depict the culture shifts experienced in the Middle East and bring to light personal and humanistic consequences as well as personifying the extreme lifestyle changes that were forced upon every member of those respective societies. “Persepolis”, a graphic novel written by Marjane Satrapi depicted her personal story of growing up as a young child previous to and during the 1979 revolution and the Iraq vs. Iran war, her experiences abroad and her return to Iran as a young woman in a land suddenly foreign to her. Adapted to film in 2007, widespread attention to the personal story of this ordinary young woman was suddenly paid and her life became a mirror of the many who felt trapped and betrayed by their nation.

A powerful symbol of this summer’s protests is a young woman who was idolized under the name “Neda”. Demonstrating the individualistic quality and fight for human rights, the death of “Neda” was captured in a thirty seven second video and immediately posted virally, spreading like wildfire through social mediums such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Instantly, millions of people worldwide were able to watch as the life was taken from a young woman by political authorities, authorities whose legitimacy is questioned by many. Regardless of the charade that Iranian elections are, citizens still vote and they vote to elect a political leader to convey their wishes, desires and needs to whichever governing body it needs too. The people of Iran deserve better than a suppressed and illegitimate election to elect a hand chosen political leader with dictatorial aspirations who does little to ensure the safety and prosperity of his people and more to push through and represent legislation based on religious fundamentalism.

Unfortunately, the protests did little within Iran. There was no regime shift and the Guardian Council remained supportive of Ahmadinejad as the Iranian president. Those who did speak up were quickly exiled or silenced. The most vocal and closest opponent of Ahmadinejad, Mir-Hossein Mousavi was rumored to be dead soon after the June protests gained momentum. The motivation for Ahmadinejad’s side to start this rumor couldn’t be any more transparent. The most notable member of the Guardian Council who spoke out against the illegitimate election results, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who was slated to be Ayatollah Khomeini’s successor but was cast aside in 1989, just a few months before Khomeini’s death in 1989. Despite continuing harassment of his aides and a six-year period of house arrest, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri has continually spoken out against the human rights abuses being perpetrated by the Iranian government. After the June 12th election results were released, he spoke out, saying: “A government not respecting people’s vote has no religious or political legitimacy.” His dissidence has not boded well for his family. Three of his grandsons were arrested this week for taking part in outlawed political rallies, along with several reformist clerics and a handful of other influential individuals who have vocally criticized the reigning president.

There is much more to the Iranian political unrest this past summer, and although I mentioned briefly the crucial role social media played in disseminating information to disenfranchised groups and individuals throughout Iran. This was truly a phenomenon that forecasts the important role social media can and will play in future political and cultural change.  Next week, Features will run part two, an in-depth look at the use of social media and world wide support for information sharing that characterized and shaped the 2009 Iranian protests.

Original published:September 24th, 2009. Features Editor, The Meliorist, University of Lethbridge. Volume 43, Issue 03.

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Downtown Owl or: Chuck Klosterman writes fiction, this time for real

Downtown Owl

Downtown Owl

Today, while listening to a favorite podcast, This American Life, I heard that Chuck Klosterman is releasing a new book, a work of fiction (which is in contrast to his previous works of…semi-fiction? Hard to pin down but that’s for another nerdier, booky post). Downtown Owl comes out September 16th of this year and I am pretty stoked to check it out.

Like many, I have a somewhat love/hate relationship with the writer who many credit with making hipsterness apparent and complete obsessive nerdieness sexy. Although a brilliant writer, there are times I feel that he essentially masturbated on some pages, bound it in a book cover and convinced a publisher with nerdy, overstated and eloquently delivered prose on why he should get a book deal. Other reads I completely and totally fall in love and want more more more.

This article from The 941 is a pretty good interest getter and while I DO NOT agree with his comments on Foer or Palahniuk, his article does pique my interest for the upcoming work of Klosterman fiction. As does this excerpt found on minibookexpo.com:

“Somewhere in North Dakota, there is a town called Owl that isn’t there. Disco is over, but punk never happened. They don’t have cable. They don’t really have pop culture, unless you count grain prices and alcoholism. People work hard and then they die. They hate the government and impregnate teenage girls. But that’s not nearly as awful as it sounds; in fact, sometimes it’s perfect.”

Interest piqued? Pre-order it from Amazon, or just wait ’till it come out. Whatevski.

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I just hope this doesn’t kill me..

Once again, poor blogging me.

A valid excuse:

I recently got back from Edmonton, where I had a meeting with the Minister for Advanced Education and Technology with other members of a little known Alberta student lobby group, CAUS ( Council for Alberta University Students). A wicked experience, especially for someone as young as myself. I never cease to wonder at the many amazing opportunities that I have been able to seize through my own institution of higher learning.

This has little to do with what I really want to post about.

A wicked comic site recently posted this great little ditty on the all powerful Superman… so, Superman sucks?

My first foryer into the comic world actually came from what I believe the proof of how my new comic obsession stemmed from my incredible nerdiness. A wicked book, Men of Tomorrow, which I purchased by chance as a gift had me locked, stoked and barreled into this world of intrigue and political connectedness (look, I did actually find a somewhat suitable connection…). The story on Superman being one of the key rabbit holes. The background of the creators, the business dealings, the shady yes men involved and most of all the constant struggle for artistic integrity. If you know the plot, you probably pick up what I am laying down and if you don’t, I highly recommend picking up Men of Tomorrow, if for no other reasons than just sheer dirty business.

sidenote – this pretty interesting op-ed came out in a recent issue of the NY Times about the negative side of the lifestyle of professional blogger’s. Check it here.

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Bent spines and broken corners

A great article on some of 2007’s best works in comic art/graphic noveling:

“Super Sizin’ It: Eisner Judges Reunited for a Best of 2007 Extravaganza”

Gave me quite a list of things I want really really bad.

Also, the website it is posted on is called book slut. Which I enjoy. I have developed a theory over the past few years  about book readers. There are two types in the world: The carnal and the chaste. The chaste book readers read as if they are 10 years old and are about to be caught with their pervy uncles dirty magazine. They do not bend the spine, they wipe thier hands each time their finger tips get a little sweaty, and god forbid if a corner is turned…. The carnal book readers (which I am fully one) read as if the book they are carrying could be ripped out of their hands at any given moment and thrown on the book fire circa. 1948. These folk READ a book. The spine is bent, sometimes even broken. There is writing in the book, even in pen. Pages are marked on the sides from gripping so hard. It has been carried around in a backpack for a couple weeks and even has….gasp…turn down corners. Now, I am not making an aurgument for either sort. I am just saying that I like my books to look like my books. I know in the ever growing library my roommate and I co-own, I can tell my books from hers by just feeling the wear. They have a certain personality. Plus then the diving up is a lot easier. No one would want my pen marked, bent cornered, spine broken books anyway.

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