2009年9月19日 星期六

Plato vs. Grand Theft Auto

Delightful! Someone wrote Hellenic philosophy fan-fiction of Plato and Aristotle discussing Grand Theft Auto: here.

Summary of the article -- art and theather (video games included) have allegorical responsibility to represent the Platonic ideal of Moral Good, since humanity learns via mimesis, imitation -- sometimes even, yes, imitating art rather than life. So distributing games that allow the public to inhabit the roles of Claude The Bank Robber, CJ The LA Gangster and Tommy Hitman Coke Dealer is no good. Keep in mind that the Ancient Greeks were a backward people who did not have postmodernity nor our refined American taste for deriding and ironizing the art/theater/TV/games we consume, so maybe they did indeed believe and learn from all the art they watched, including the Hellenic version of GTA starring Paris the Serial Womanizer Who Brought Dishonor & War to His Kingdom. In that case, that's hilarious.

"Our Literary Climate"

We drunkenly debated the rivalry between N+1 and McSweeney's (two of the most prominent new literary magazines) this weekend. We were at a bar and my bud started dissing N+1, not knowing that one of N+1's junior editors was present, and so the argument went-

This sounds arcane and silly on paper but if you give a shit about the present literary world there's actually a trail of fascinating-as-fuck articles on the rivalry. A.O. Scott's NYT article on n+1/mcsweeney's controversy is a good starting point. Basically, N+1 is the new Partisan Review and Frankfurt School critics -- full of stern essays, harsh criticism, scathing reviews. They thanked Susan Sontag for dying. They called McSweeney's a magazine for overgrown toddlers. Basically, they're brash, smart and unlovable assholes. Its entire first issue was devoted to pointing out the failings of other established intellectual magazines -- and out of it emerges this curious quote that seems to disclaim its position as hater-in-chief. For example, from N+1's review of The New Republic:

"You can go through the defense of taste and come out the other side, as if you jumped out the kitchen window into the alley dumpster. There is a kind of fake refinement that turns into a vulgarity baser than any other . . . It's a very damaging mistake: the idea that sniffing out the tasteless is the same as taste itself. It confuses censoriousness with a faculty of judgment that links the aesthetic to the moral sense . . . The moral responsibility is not to be intelligent. It's to think."


On the other end: McSweeney's, Dave Egger's magazine. People tend to get offended by his ostentatious smartassery in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, but folks often don't see that beyond the annoying barrage of pop cultural references is someone who's deathly sincere and not at all snarky about his belief that the world and its inhabitants are beautiful and awesome and many things are fucking interesting. McSweeney's very much reflects this sensibility of generosity and quirk, which can be annoying, yeah, but also coming from a position of adoration, not disgust -- positivity, not negativity. Their mission is to be "anti-snark" since snark is pretty much the lowest common denominator in current media. The criticism, of course, is that McSweeney's gets pretty damn infantile.

So a gross generalization would be: N+1 is the creepy, ugly-but-brilliant kid who came to high school in a suit and bowler hat everyday and smoked a pipe in the playground reading Flaubert. And McSweeney's is the high-pitched giggly theater kid who wore rainbow socks and considered himself friends with everyone and doesn't ever shut the fuck up, but was also adorable and smarter than he let on.

They're both vigorous and wonderful and important and ugly in their own ways, but the literary discourse is made more vibrant with the both of them coexisting.

Then of course there are the snide fuckers who hate both camps, and that's a little baffling. There are books/movies/music that I like more than others, but as a general rule I don't really hate any work of art all that vehemently. But there are definitely readers out there whose capacity to be offended/disgust by a work far exceeds their ability to praise/appreciate with nuance.

This is a rambly and disjointed entry but I just wanted to jot down some fragments of thoughts.

2009年6月12日 星期五

Shimending CMYK

I'm finally getting over jet lag here in Taiwan. Some photos from my sojourns around the city, yall-

Old fortuneteller in Shimending with a banner that says "President Ma will serve another term in office. Mayor Hau will be re-elected as Taipei Mayor. Taiwan's economy will be saved in 2 years." All props to Taiwan's econ being saved, good sir, but I still find your fanboyishness a little creepy.

Anyway, further into the Shimending district -- I noticed that everyone's dressed in ridiculous CMYK-colored graphic tees, a sorta nu-disco-meets-Kanye-West fashion a la Japan's BAPE clothing line. I bet they're way into BLOGHAUS music too. What the hell, Taiwan, what did you do to yourself in my absence.

MOTHER FUCKER -- an Oedipal boutique shopping experience for the young, trendy and Freudian.

This T-shirt design is why I am glad to be a member of my species.


Via Japan's Graniph designs. Oh dear. Houston, we have pomofail.

Afterwards I met up my mom at a fishmarket near my grandparents' house to shop for dinner for them old folks. Below is the vile sea monster proffered to us as the catch of the day:

Even my grandparents weren't game for such pellagic confectionaries.

2009年3月24日 星期二

Move over, whimsically hand-drawn embossed Juno font:

2009年2月20日 星期五

-Freddy Lim, on his visit to former President Chen Shui-bian in the prisons.

Imprisonment without fair trial.
Banning of rival political rallies.
Even waving the Taiwanese flag is banned in President Ma's Taipei, while Chinese flags are protected by the police. Not to mention that the Taiwanese economy he pledged to make it his lifetime goal to rescue is in worse shape that it ever has been in recent history, and has in fact outstripped every single country in the world in deteriorating.

Democracy is dead in Taiwan.
Thank you, President Ma, for dropping the soap in the international prison showers and selling us out.

2009年2月17日 星期二


I bought a blank Munny for my sister over Christmas. She told me to design/paint it for her. It's finally done:

Also, my last short story for my college thesis collection almost won me some money. But I tend to fold in these kinda competitions anyway. Another time, perhaps.

2009年1月4日 星期日

It was a cloudy afternoon and I took my camera to the old streets around Shida University. Had a few cups of coffee at Mo!Re cafe, which was much like the infamously hip Norwegian Wood cafe near National Taiwan University, only friendlier -- cigarette haze, books stacked everywhere, green library desk lamps, superb Italian coffee. I sat at the bar and chatted with the barista about 黃凡's newest short story collection. Sounds colossally pretentious I know but it was actually very genial and fun.

This is the view of the cafe from the front.

I've read much about the Taishun Alleys in short stories and travel diaries and it seems like where a lot of neat old stuff could be found. Too bad it was a rainy day so none of my daylight photos turned out well :(. Basically, a lot of cool plant pots lining the streets, old trees, Japanese colonial-style wooden houses...

Shida nightmarket caters mostly to college students. A lot of little young hole-in-the-wall eateries with huge glass windows. Feels very much like the Hondae district of Seoul.

Random shot of purdy spices and glass cups at a restaurant. Testing the macro function of my cam.

I somehow ended up at the Red House Theater at Ximending. In my absence, Riverside Cafe opened another live music venue behind the theater and a bunch of skater boutiques and bar & grills opened up in its alleys. There were also a shit ton of new indie design venders. Overall, it seems like the old teenybopper mainstay is gaining some cultural complexity.