Work and play

Because I just made a “to-do” list, and because I’m running an Intro to Games Studies class this semester, so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about play, angles of definition, what the opposite of play might be—the quick answer is “work,” but saying work is the opposite of play is “cheap,” as J. Huizenga put it. He also said:

“Since the reality of play extends beyond the sphere of human life it cannot have its foundations in any rational nexus, because this would limit it to mankind. The incidence of play is not associated with any particular stage of civilization or view of the universe. Any thinking person can see at a glance that play is a thing on its own, even if his language possesses no general concept to express it. Play cannot be denied. You can deny, if you like, nearly all abstractions: justice, beauty, truth, goodness, mind, God. You can deny seriousness, but not play.”

For Huizenga, play is always voluntary. Work is voluntary, though it might not seem so. We are all free to not work, in the sense of a job that produces income, and in the sense of an avocation as well, something we work at without desiring profit. I could, if I chose, stop working and live in public shelters or the woods, eat from soup kitchens and dumpsters, and refuse to write or make music or do anything that might be construed as productive, but the physical and emotional cost this would exact is daunting. So, most of us choose to work, and in the overwhelming majority of cases, the contract we enter to obtain our income excludes play, explicitly or implicitly. One must do what one is told to do, or at least produce what one is told to produce. Of course, everyone plays at work, and often enough one must play to get work done, because play is freedom, it is the unconstrained thing, that which the unprepared-for contingency calls into being. That’s why the recent trend in corporate culture to make work more like play is so grotesque—the terms of the work-for-income contract, the one we enter into when we take a job, are underwritten by the undesirable outcome of not working. Work is voluntary, but only in the slightest sense; it’s as close to compulsory as one can get without becoming outright slavery. So, this is deal offered: within the terms of this near-compulsory contract, you are free to “play” as long as you fulfill the contract. That is not voluntary, it’s a parody of play; play’s voluntary essence makes enforced play ugly and unnatural, like persons made to dance like puppets. Still, I’m sure the work-as-play model will take off, given the popularity of video games. The amount of money made by the video game industry is something folks steeped in corporate culture are trained to notice, and the number of people entering the work force whose skills have been shaped by playing video games—hand-to-eye coordination, visual thinking, goal-oriented puzzle solving, etc—is exploding, thus managers will increasingly make work more like playing Far Cry 3, because it will make workers more productive, and then every workplace will do it, because they are birds on a wire, those MBAs. The fact that earning level-ups for upselling and getting badges for improving workflow is just a new iteration of the 37 pieces of flair means it won’t work in the long run, and people will quickly grow weary of “play,” as defined by the workplace. I still think play is the key to getting past corporate culture, and the old industrial definition of “work” that it rests on, but I’m not sure how.

To Do List

I understand the symbolic import of New Year’s eve/day, the turning over of a new calendar, leaf, rock, what have you, but I never much felt it, every day is the start of a new year. But, in keeping with my plan today to update all the various websites I shepherd, here are some artistic plans for 2014 (mostly so I remember to them):

>Release 2 CDs, 1 by each of the bands I am in (Pants & the Family, 2Rabbit). With favorable winds, by the end of January.

>Publish a novel, The Emissary, and a book of poems, Straddling the Sibyl. Both in March, with a party to launch.

>Recruit some other authors for Pski’s Porch Publishing.

>Finish my third novel, and a board game to accompany it.

>Finish 2 books of poetry, 1 comprised of 100 sonnets, 1 a novel-in-verse about Louis Armstrong.

>Finish listening to all the damn CDs I own.

That’s good for now, and I can update the list as I finish or add items. Enjoy the next 12 months.

 

 

Whence we revel in the objects of our revulsion…

I’ve not read any of the Hunger Games books, though (or maybe because) I do like science fictional dystopias in general, but I have now seen the first two movies, and I’m troubled by something–though maybe I just don’t get it. It’s clear the Hunger Games is meant to be a social critique of some kind; the author says she was inspired by

channel surfing between reality TV programs and actual war coverage. On one channel, there’s a group of young people competing for I don’t even know; and on the next, there’s a group of young people fighting in an actual war. I was really tired, and the lines between these stories started to blur in a very unsettling way. That’s the moment when Katniss’s story came to me.

So, she wants to make some kind of point about violence, and war, and our reality-tv-slash game show culture, and if I were to guess, I’d say she thought they were all bad things, or at least too much of them had saturated our media, most specifically the media made for younger people. So why revel in the violence to such a degree? She relies entirely on the things she critiques–violence, narcissistic culture, even economic disparity–to engage her readers. Again, not such a crime in and of itself; satire should, I think, revel in the objects it satirizes, but the satire here is so hamfisted I can’t even be sure I know what she is critiquing. Reveling in violence as a means to critique violence is not what bothers me, as long as it bites and has a clear message, whereas the Hunger Games seems like a very long commercial for acne medicine and archery supplies. I guess I’m not the target audience, and perhaps some real revolutionary thought will be born in the hearts and minds of the tweens I watched watch the most recent film. I hope so, but the first task such hearts and minds will have to attend to is realizing how they’ve been duped into complacency by things like the Hunger Games, which encourage viewers to feel: excited, by the drama and violence and explosions and whatever; indignant, that violence and celebrity culture is bread and circusing us to a most uncivil end; safe, because there are heroic women with pert noses who will come rescue us when things get dire, even though they don’t really want to, and she feels just as bad about all the starving people as we do. I have to swipe a quote from a much more thoughtful and better written article on Flavorwire (by Tom Hawking), since it helps clarify what I’m ranting about:

As Guy Debord wrote in The Society of the Spectacle, “The spectacle is the ruling order’s nonstop discourse about itself, its never-ending monologue of self-praise, its self-portrait at the stage of totalitarian domination of all aspects of life.”

And, in the USA, that monologue of self-praise includes stories of rebellion against totalitarianism–in the service of the same totalitarianism it pretends to threaten. Of course, reading and quoting Guy DeBord is part of that monologue as well…

Cds: 752) Louis Jordan: Five Guys Named Moe; 753) Jorge Ben: Africa Brasil; 754) Was (not Was): Are You Ok?; 755) Poi Dog Pondering: Volo Volo; 756) Deftones: Saturday Night; 757) Japan: Tin Drum; 758) Ella Fitgerald: Sings Cole Porter; 759) Handsome Boy Modeling School: White People; 760) The 2-Tone Collection: A Checkered Past; 761) Brinsley Schwarz: Original Golden Greats + Fifteen Thoughts of; 762) Cornershop: When I Was Born for the 7th Time; 763) The Jesus Lizard: Lash; 764) Goodie Mob: Still Standing; 765) Louis Armstrong: The Guvnor; 766) Boards of Canada: geogaddi; 767) Michael Hurley: Snockgrass; 768) Calvin Newborn: New Born; 769) Shuggie Otis: Inspiration Information; 770) Dexter Gordon: Best of; 771) TSOL: Change Today?; 772) Arabian Travels: 6 Degree Collective Series; 773) Various: Samba Soul 70!.

Gotta Serve Somebody

While reading articles in an academic journal recently, I was struck by how the mode of inquiry seemed derived from Management Science. The journal is written and edited by Humanities scholars and publishes articles about popular culture, yet almost every article, in the 3 issues I read through, eschewed any kind of moral or ethical argument in favor of describing the system that produces different works of art. I used to think this instinct toward systematization–in concert with a studied absence of moral critique, which I first noticed in academic literary criticism–arose from a disciplinary envy of the Sciences. The Humanities cannot prove things the same way the Sciences can, and for whatever reason, the proof offered by the Sciences has become much more valuable in the last 50 years. So, Humanities scholars have looked to a variety of systems to try and seem more objective in their scholarly work: linguistics, Marxism, structuralism, post-structuralism*, and so forth. Now, I’m beginning to think it’s not so much an envy of the Sciences, though that is surely a factor, but moreso an institutional need to appear more objective brought about by an increasingly Corporatized university system. More and more professional administrators, as opposed to scholars doing administrative work, demand the kind of proof (for advancement and tenure) that Management Science values: quasi-objective analysis of a system, preferably with some numbers of some kind, in which human beings are devoid of emotional content except inasmuch as that content is quantifiable, or is otherwise useful in helping describe the relative efficiency of a system. Management logic has become so woven into our culture, it’s hard to find examples unconditioned by it. Books and music and movies are massaged into being by editors and producers for whom quality and marketability are one in the same, celebrity identities are pre-masticated by the star-machine to the point that even bad behavior is carefully choreographed–even our speech, here in the US, is riddled with business speak. But at the end of the day, I supposed I’ve just made another system… except that my system is in the service of a moral argument: Management science has made us all less human, less able to live the best sort of life, one aware of what is meaningful and worthwhile, by causing us to see ourselves the same way that “science” sees its objects: as cogs in a machine, disposable, only as important as their ability to help the machine function.

CDs: 746) Bob Dylan: Blood on the Tracks; 747) DJ Spooky: Songs of a Dead Dreamer; 748) Van Morrison: What’s Wrong With This Picture?; 749) Pasty Cline: The Patsy Cline Collection; 750) Goldie: Saturnz Return; 751) Holy Modal Rounders: Too Much Fun.

* I know many post-structuralists made the argument that they were explicitly resisting systematization and hegemony, but come on, few scholarly movements were systematic in spirit and hegemonic in practice–everything but the claims they made in their books and articles.

GTAV and the Communist Manifesto (and Derek)

I found the Communist Manifesto on the list of free ebooks available on Kindle, so naturally I downloaded it, and read it on my smart phone. I’ve read it before, and each time I’m struck by how right on the predictions of captitalism’s demise is, and by the naivete of the solutions offered. Maybe naivete is not the right word; a pessimism that clouds the vision of human innovation, especially when it comes to maintaining a sick body politic, is more accurate. I was reading it on my cell phone, did I mention, a book that could land you in jail simply for having a copy in years past. I read this:

 

“Hitherto, every form of society has been based, as we have already seen, on the antagonism of oppressing and oppressed classes. But in order to oppress a class, certain conditions must be assured to it under which it can, at least, continue its slavish existence. The serf, in the period of serfdom, raised himself to membership in the commune, just as the petty bourgeois, under the yoke of the feudal absolutism, managed to develop into a bourgeois. The modern labourer, on the contrary, instead of rising with the process of industry, sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class. He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth. And here it becomes evident, that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society, and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an over-riding law. It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state, that it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him. Society can no longer live under this bourgeoisie, in other words, its existence is no longer compatible with society.

 

While sitting in a bar, waiting to play Twilight Struggle with my friend Bill. I finished it after hitting the pause button in the midst of playing Grand Theft Auto V. And somehow, I’m not confused, it all fits together seamlessly. Grand Theft Auto is satire, which is why it makes people uncomfortable (including me). It celebrates violence and licentiousness while making fun of it, and, more importantly, implicates us all in the culture it calls attention to. That is how satire is most effective, and I began to wonder how much of our culture is satire, how dominant a mode it has become. Surely reality TV is satirical, except for the poor bastards we’re all laughing at, and authenticity must be served on carefully defined genre platters. And then my wife and I started watching Derek on Netflix—yes, Orange is the New Black is cleverly written and snappy, the one with Kevin Spacey as a slimy senator has interesting moments of intrigue and meanness, but Derek achieves my most valued artistic effect in every episode: it makes me feel two or three conflicting emotions at once, while occupying my emotional and intellectual interest simultaneously as well. Satire is intellectual, no one cries about satire, and it’s rarely really gut wrenchingly funny. Many works of art can make me weep or laugh, or think about the human condition, but damn, Ricky Gervais, I wonder what Marx and Engels would make of you.

My bands are kickstarting recording project! Help fund us by buying a CD before we make it!

2 Tons of Gravel

Sounds intimidating, no? 2 tons, that must be a lot of gravel, #2 crushed, for those scoring at home. It will be dumped in my driveway on Weds, to fill holes in my driveway. It’s not that much, really, enough for about 20 feet of rut… I’m so excited. Summer is withering into Fall, time to spread the gravel.

Pski’s Porch Press will be releasing 2 books in the Fall (1 novel and 1 book of poetry), 1 in the Spring (poetry), that’s the schedule thus far. Send me an email and I’ll come read from them in your house or yard or local tavern.

The 2 bands I’m in (Pants and the Family and 2Rabbit) are getting ready to launch a Kickstarter to get some $ for recording. We need gigs! Anyone looking for bands to play cool as shit original music also send email, we’ll come play.

email is marcpski at gmail dot com.

CDs I’ve listened to, as I try to listen to all the ones I own:

721) Arab Strap: The Last Romance; 722) Living Colour: Vivid; 723) TV on the Radio: Return to Cookie Mountain; 724) Sunn 0))): Black One; 725) Ian Brown: Unfinished Monkey Business; 726) Los Lobos: The Town and the City; 727) Smallfaces: Here Come the Smallfaces; 728) Bad Brains: Black Spot; 729) Fishbone: The Reality of My Surroundings; 730) Cafe Tacuba: Un Viaje; 731) The Gun Club: Fire of Love; 732) The Cardigans: First Band on the Moon; 733) In Yo Face: History of Funk, vol 2; 734) New York Dolls: NY Dolls; 735) The Congos: Heart of the Congos; 736) Matthew Sweet: Altered Beast; 737) Aaron Neville: my true story; 738) Bonnie Prince Billy: The Greatest Palace Music; 739) The Holmes Brothers: In the Spirit; 740) King Britt presents Sylk 130: When the Funk Hits the Fan; 741) Vasthi Bunyan: Just Another Diamond Day; 742) Malcolm McLaren and the Bootzilla Orchestra: Waltz Darling; 743) Warren Zevon: Excitable Boy; 743) DJ Spooky: Riddim Warfare; 744) MIA: Arular; 745) Cibelle: Cibelle.

 

Pretty pretty

“An aesthetic response to forms is essential to the attainment of an authentic subjectivity and a creative self-illuminating awareness that is immersed in nature beyond the vacillations of personal emotion”

–Heine

 

The judgment of a thing as beautiful is typically predicated on comparison, that the characteristics of the beautiful thing are superior to another, flawed, less beautiful thing. Thus, beauty and perfection are aligned, beauty is the expression of the most perfect example of a thing, which strikes me as very Platonic. A better understanding of beauty, one that I’ve worked toward possessing without articulating it, is one of recognizing that everything is an example of perfection, and hence of beauty, and the hard work is not in discerning value by comparison with other things of the same class, but in being able to recognize, fully, the beauty of anything, in and of itself. So, a splotch of whitening bird shit on the sidewalk is beautiful in and of itself, though of course it is in a different class of things from a painting, or a symphony, or a skyscraper, or genetically modified seeds. I include the last because there are a whole class of things that I want to exclude, to say there is nothing beautiful about genocide, or torture, or my neighbor punching her six year old child in the head, surely there is nothing beautiful in these things. In fact, to say a thing is beautiful as not the same thing as saying it is right, though it’s very difficult to not make that leap, and the danger of trying to see the beauty in that which we fight against is a fatalism, the idea that we shouldn’t fight against something because we recognize it as beautiful, as perfect in and of itself.  Beauty is also not static, however, nor is perfection, and raging against a thing—murder, say—is not distinct from understanding its beauty. I can look at the Execution of a Viet Cong Guerilla and feel the horror a life ended, the sheer visceral shock of the blast, the wincing surprise on Bay Hop’s face (is death always a surprise, even if we see it coming? Is not belief in our own end something beyond human comprehension?), the offhanded nature of the act, and this horror does not mean that the photograph, first of all, is not beautiful and perfect, for it is, a moment of time as complete as every other, or even that the action itself is not beautiful, that is, as an act of brutality, it is meaningful, even is only to remind us of what we must fight against and, while it is not pleasurable, it is satisfying in it’s complete ugliness. I guess that’s what I’m trying to establish, that ugliness is not the opposite of beauty, it is simply a characteristic of beauty, a kind of beauty that we must work harder to recognize. Once we recognize it, we recognize our how much the thing is part of us, and we it, which sounds rather Buddhist: beauty is an act of apprehending, without attachment, how the qualities of a given thing engage the perceiver, for this engagement removes the distinction between thing and perceiver, even if the thing is repulsive, even if it only lasts an instant. Fatalism is not the necessary outcome of detachment, compassion is, so the apprehension of beauty leads to compassion.

 

CDs listened to by me (yes, they are all beautiful, though some are pursuing a model of beauty that makes me sad): 700) The Byrds: Box Set (forgot how much breadth there was to this band); 701) Steely & Clevie : Play Studio One Vintage; 702) Cocktails for Two: Romance With a Twist; 703) Guru: Jazzamatazz; 704) Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada; 705) St. Etienne: Tiger Bay; 706) Teddy Pendergrass: Greatest Hits; 707) Lovage: Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By; 708) Bad Religion: Stranger Than Fiction; 709) Redbelly: Scraps; 710) Kinky Friedman: Kinky Friedman; 711) Various: Songs of West Side Story; 712) 3 Mustaphas 3: Heart of Uncle; 713) Parliament: The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein; 714) Can: Ege Bamyasi; 715) Julie London: Sophisticated Lady; 716) Forest for the Trees: Forest for the Trees; 717) Cat Power: The Greatest; 718) Iris DeMent: Infamous Angel; 719) Loudon Wainwright III: Here Come the Choppers; 720) Alison Moyet: Essex.

 

Moving

Hey hey, new(ish) book of poetry by me available!

No Tribe, No Tribute
poems by Marc Pietrzykowski
Print: $13. 82 pages.
ISBN-13: 978-1479212637 ISBN-10: 1479212636

I am about to start moving this blog, the Pski’s Porch site, and also my music sites to Rebelmouse, in order to spend less time dodging spam and phishing posts. If you’ve never tried to host a website, you’d be surprised how many people think posting “Hey, love your site! I’ll be sure to share it with all my friends” and then linking it to “bigtit.cialis.xxxcom” will somehow work. I guess it must. So, sometime in the next few weeks, on to Rebelmouse.

Cds listened to (I can see the end. The last 2-300 or so are stretched out before me…):

672) The Staple Singers: Collector’s Edition: 673) Souad Massi: Deb; 674) Iggy Pop: Nude and Rude; 675) Rosemary Clooney: Sentimental Journey; 676) Michelle Shocked: Captain Swing (so sad, watching folks go mad); 677) Me’shell Ndegeocello: Plantation Lullabies; 678) The Pogues: Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash; 679) Taraf de Haidouks: Taraf de Haidouks; 680) Gogol Bordello vs. Tamir Muskat: J.U.F.; 681) Joan Armatrading: Me Myself I; 682) Mum: finally we are no one; 683) Bascom Lamar Lunsford: Ballads, Banjo Tunes, and Sacred Songs of Western North Carolina; 684) Candy Kane: White Trash Girl; 685) Cowboy Junkies: at the end of paths taken; 686) David Bowie: The Singles, 1969-1993; 687) k.d. langAll You Can Eat; 689) Burning Spear: Creation Rebel; 690) Screaming Females: Ugly; 691) Freddie King: Live at the Electric Ballroom; 692) Fishbone: Chim-Chim’s Badass Revenge; 693) Meat Puppets: II; 694) Radiohead: OK Computer; 695) Jerry Lee Lewis: All Killer, No Filler; 696) Genius/GZA: Liquid Swords; 697) The Latin Playboys: Latin Playboys; 698) Renegade Saints: Fear of the Sky; 699) Prince: Lotusflower; 699) Ron and Kay Rivoli: Rving is the Life for Me!. #700 will be a Byrds box set.