Friday, January 31, 2014

365: January

365 Photos: One photo per day for the entire year of 2014

Part of what I love about doing this is captioning the photos, but I also like how they look all in a row, uncaptioned and without context. So on my blog they'll be uncpationed, but if you want to follow along as I go, I'm posting on instagram [@alirachelpearl] and facebook.

This #10

I'm tagging this post as a This Post because I haven't done a This post in awhile. But really what is happening is that these are the various things floating around in my brain at the end of such a wonderful, inspiring, peaceful, and beautiful January:

1. I'm in a foundations of digital media course this semester through the Media Arts + Practice program at USC and the first thing we're doing is examining photographs and photomontage. My professor introduced us to a French street artist, JR, who uses large scale photographs of faces to disrupt physical barriers, landscapes, etc. One of his most fascinating [and potentially complicated] projects is called Women Are Heros in Brasil. JR gained access to a favela in Rio and began pasting huge photographs of community women's eyes and faces on the stairs and buildings there. If you've ever been to Brasil and seen a favela, you know that this is both a massive physical feat and a complicated political, moral, and sociological endeavor. I haven't completely decided where I stand regarding the politics and ethics of the project, but I am interested in the arguments to be made on all sides of the issue. And frankly, this is an aesthetically gorgeous creation. The eyes of women staring back at the wealthy and privileged in one of Brasil's most important cities.  JR posted this video of the project on his site:

And these photos:

2. This drawing on Chris Ware's agent's website that Ware drew of himself at a podium. I can't even express to you all the feels I feel about this [and about Chris Ware]:
SwoonSighShudder. I can't tell if I'm laughing or crying, but I know there's empathy, compassion, pain, and pity all mixed up in there somewhere next to a heaping pile of respect. Like, I want to see Chris Ware speak so badly, but I almost don't want to if this is what doing so will do to him. I love him. I love him with my heart.

3. I'm teaching a writing course this semester, the theme of which is Los Angeles & the American Dream. Yikes. To introduce my students to potential varying definitions of Los Angeles, the American Dream, and to give them some practice reading and analyzing images, I showed them Ian Ruhter's unbelievably gorgeous photo project, American Dream. The first photo in the portfolio of this project on his site has become maybe my favorite photo of Los Angeles of all time:
from the PDF of his project site.

4. Cadillac Desert. A four-part documentary series that aired on PBS once upon a time about the creation of the city of Los Angeles, its evolution from a desert wasteland incapable of sustaining much of anything to a lush metropolis. Most people know that LA stole a lot of its water in the beginning. But I for one never knew the real story, all its messy details, all its brilliant horror. We watched this in my Post-West Representations class this week and I learned that palm trees are not native to Los Angeles and this kind of uncomfortable fear of what I think I always knew deep down struck me.
from the LA Times article about the book on which the documentary is based
Talk about Building Nothing Out of Something [yes, I meant exactly what I wrote]. Talk about The Lonesome Crowded West. My continual anthems for the desert. That I've always been living in the thing I've tried over and over to run away to, that I've been living in its ghost, its ghost dressed up as opportunity and life and the opposite of the solitude I crave. Well, that makes all the more sense, and makes me feel all the more... I don't know, guilty? Honest? Uncomfortable? Complete?

5. One of the books we're reading for my digital media class is Galloway's The Interface Effect. We read the introduction of the book for this past week and though I find Galloway's argumentation style shifty and unstable, he said one of the most important things I think I'll ever read about the area I intend to study and write about for the rest of my career:
Thus when one asks "What is the possibility of video?" one is in the same breath asking "What is the definition of video?" Yet the com­puter occupies an uneasy position in relation to both definition and possibility, for in many cases the very words that people use to address the question of the computer are those selfsame words "definition" and "possibility." One hears stories about computers being "definitional" machines: not only does com­puter code operate through the definitions of states and state changes, but computers themselves are those special machines that nominalize the world, that define and model its behavior using variables and functions. Likewise one hears stories about computers being "possibility" machines: they operate not through vague estimations of practice, but through hard, machinic possibilities of truth or falsehood, openness or clos­ed ness, on or off. So I suggest that these terms "definition" and "possibility" might do more harm than good if our aim is to understand the machine and how it works. How can we determine the possibility of new media if new media are nothing but possibility machines? How can we define them if they are already cast from the mold of definition?
[emphasis is mine, because these are the key questions I think he's asking about an overdetermined, over-discussed, and over-defined subject matter]

This quote kind of changed my perception of how I can and cannot approach writing a dissertation on electronic literature, narrative innovation, and the digital/analog.

6. This quote from Mary Austin's 1903 novel The Land of Little Rain:
"We breed in an environment of asphalt pavements a body of people whose creeds are chiefly restrictions against other people's way of life."
I think, not coincidentally, this novel was published in the exact same time period that the LA aqueduct was being created.

7. And speaking of deserts, my friend Jeff released the behind the scenes video he shot and edited about his upcoming film, The Circle of Abstract Ritual. It's his story, and also the story of the night we spent in the desert moving trees. You can even spot me in it if you know where to look.

Most nights on my bike ride home, I listen to The National's Trouble Will Find Me. I couldn't possibly wear that album out. January has brought me kumquats and yacht attire, champagne and nail polish, opportunity and the strength to broaden my scope of vision, reunion and clarity, invitation and compassion, and a glowing inside me that will hopefully soon be bright enough that I don't have to have the building manager come replace my bathroom light that went out while I was mid shower a couple nights ago. I have never been more excited to see what February brings me. I know that I'm bringing it love and dedication and probably some spinach and a Valentine's Day card.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The one day I was in Colorado between Malta and Los Angeles I had a massage [gift certificate christmas gift from my papa], had lunch with my brother at our favorite local mountain hot wing joint, sat in bed with my best friend while we said goodbye for the last time before she leaves for Indonesia for two years, and went to a recorded concert in Boulder where my two favorite hometown musicians, Nathaniel Rateliff and Gregory Alan Isakov, shared a stage. I can't find a link to the recording on the eTown website, but if I could, I'd show you two things: 1) the recording of the final song wherein Nathaniel and Gregory took turns singing verses and I went to my own personal music heaven because no two voices in the world epitomize home for me more than those men's voices do. It was the perfect departure present, especially since I won't be home again for six more months, which is the longest I'll ever have been away from Colorado in my life. And 2) the part of Nathaniel's interview where the interviewer seemed to be suggesting a definition of success that involved touring with famous bands and playing for large audiences. And Nathaniel explained to him that his definition of success isn't about money or material goods, it's not about owning a huge house or buying cool stuff. For him, success means being able to work with people he loves, whose work he respects. I've never heard another person so perfectly articulate how I feel about my goals in life. Maybe I'll write something important. Maybe I won't. I try to be a good teacher. I know I'll never make much money at this, even if I write something amazing and get hired by a top tier school. All I want from my success is to be able to work with the people I respect. AWP is coming up and I know so many people hate on its pretension, its chaos, its shameless bullshit, but for me, AWP is about getting to spend four days in the presence of people I admire. It's the closest I ever come to being with all my friends in the same place at the same time, and we get to talk about writing and about books, and even though it's exhausting, I would never miss it.

Anyway, so that my January posts aren't all so text heavy, here are some photos from my month so far--Malta & Los Angeles:

I've also decided to try and do the photo a day thing for 2014. But instead of posting each day on here, I'll just post them all at once by month. So, 31 photos coming January 31st. January has been the most peaceful month I've had in a long time and I've never felt more clarity in my life. That's an unrelated side note, but an important side note. Now back to listening to the new Damien Jurado album while eating pasta and zucchini. I've fallen in love with zucchini.