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31 March 2010

Customer value & other virtues one might not expect in an avant-garde(ish) music festival: a particularly short attention span essay about Big Ears Festival & a trip down South I just took

Above photo of Nico Muhly and Mr. Doveman courtesy of the New York Times. All the rest except for the rockslide by me.

Apologies for being somewhat slack on the blogging front these last few weeks. Exciting activities among the family of musicians I’ve been working with the past few years have kept me away from computers more than usual. I spent much of the last week hanging out in the American South — a part of the country I rarely get to see — on the occasion of Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you want a more traditional & informative take on the festival I’ll point you to this New York Times review and then, perhaps, to the press & internet chatter on Brassland’s Twitwire.

To frame things a bit my way, though, I’ll lead off with some pictures from the trip. (Excuse the shoddy color correction. I’m trying to get this post up in internet speed.)

First the inside of God’s Storehouse, a food pantry and thrift shop I stopped at somewhere near Greeneville, Tennessee.

And here’s a bit more local color from the same. Read more »

Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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10 February 2010

Nanoculture aka “Douglas Coupland has no Facebook or MySpace page.” (But he does have a Twitter.)

Excerpt from one of Deborah Solomon’s infamously condensed interviews in The New York Times Magazine. (I like them.) With Douglas Coupland, famous Canadian, infamous coiner of the term Gen X. The quote in the subject line of this post is drawn directly from his website. Funny, that.

    New York Times: Americans think of the Canadian center as socialism.
    Douglas Coupland: Pretty much. To have a healthy culture you have to have stable health care financing and stable arts financing and stable sports financing, and if you don’t have that, your culture becomes a parking lot.
    NYT: How would you define the current cultural moment?
    DC: I’m starting to wonder if pop culture is in its dying days, because everyone is able to customize their own lives with the images they want to see and the words they want to read and the music they listen to. You don’t have the broader trends like you used to.
    NYT: Sure you do. What about Harry Potter and Taylor Swift and “Avatar,” to name a few random phenomena?
    DC: They’re not great cultural megatrends like disco, which involved absolutely everyone in the culture. Now, everyone basically is their own microculture, their own nanoculture, their own generation.

Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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11 June 2009

Two examples of “visual art” imagery as selected by (semi-)democratic processes

Below are two examples of what visual art looks like as determined by democratic processes. One was determined through a simple Google image search on the term “visual art.” The result is an answer determined via algorithm-enhanced democratic process. The second was arrived at via an open call at the New York Times’ photojournalism blog, a more selective form of democratic process governed by human will and motivation. It was subject to light editing, and the limitation that all images needed to be created via Polaroid.

Click on the images below for more information.



Democracy is a process not an all-encompassing solution to all open questions. Yet, raised as we have been in an era of it’s seeming triumph — viz, American Idol, Barack Obama, the fall of the Soviet empire — the word carries with it all sorts of kneejerk positive implications. There are, however, no absolute goods (just as there are no absolute evils). In some sectors of life & expression, democracy should be considered an, at best, ambiguous tool. (Viz, again, American Idol.) History seems to have determined that democracy is the lesser evil process for making decisions about public affairs. Its use in determining aesthetic issues remains in doubt.

Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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