“For, a moment ago, you saw as I did, that the State is no longer led; the stokers still pile in the coal, but the leaders have now only the semblance of control over the madly racing machines. And in this moment, as you speak, you can hear as I do that the levers of economics are beginning to sound in an unusual way; the masters smile at you with superior assurance, but death is in their hearts. They tell you they suited the apparatus to the circumstances, but you notice that from now on they can only suit themselves to the apparatus—so long, that is to say, as it permits them. Their speakers teach you that economics is entering on the State’s inheritance, but you know that there is nothing to inherit except the tyranny of the exuberantly growing It, under which the I, less and less able to master, dreams on that it is the ruler.”—Taken from I and Thou (1923) by Martin Buber. Translated into English by Ronald Gregor Smith.
Collapsed in sand I was dying, and mouth was dry. On a dune a striding object silhouetted toward me, look of a man and an animal—a warthog-man. In delirium I felt him drag me. I came into shade and plants at oasis water’s edge, the warthog-man held my head over the water to drink.
The warthog-man brought back life to me in the next days. He fed plants to me, his bird friends fanned me. He did not speak my language. At night he did not sleep, I saw him looking into the desert. One day the warthog-man gave me a camel and provisions. He stared from his oasis at me riding away, back to civilization.
Excerpt from Scooby-Doo: A New Critical Analysis (forthcoming)
And thus the Mystery Machine manifestly symbolizes the violent pathos of writing. The “gang” ceaselessly divests their enigmatical foes of their native alterity and diminishes them to a repetition of the same, artifacts of representation. The repetitive structure of the series suggests an eternal return, the human destiny of sublation on an infinite scale; but, ironically, no perfect repetitions occur. Even this structure always already is subverted by Dionysian revelry, reflected blatantly in Scooby and Shaggy’s playful, culinary bacchanal. The gang’s Apollonian crusade is problematized; not even essentialist demarcations between man and beast are spared.
I was an invincible knight. Arrows and blades pinged off my armor like pebbles and castles crumbled before my strength. But even an invincible knight has to make that scratch.
So I got myself recruited by a local prince (I can’t give names) to defend his fief. He realized pretty quick that I was more efficient than his whole army put together. To save money, he downsized and put me to work alone. Bandits and such stopped even bothering to harass the villagers, let alone the castle. But the fired knights weren’t happy about their drop in class and pay, and they conspired to overthrow the prince and lock him in his own dungeon. I knew about this and could have stopped them, but I thought they had a point. So I didn’t show up for work that day.
Pretty soon another nameless prince hired me. He had more imagination. His first plan was to use me to annex the neighboring fiefs, but I let him know that, despite my reputation when I was younger, I didn’t do that stuff anymore. So he used me as a deterrent. He put all his defense spending into his economy, and converted his land and people into a production machine. He cornered every goods market. His neighbors were crippled. The work was easy and the pay was good, but I felt guilty. So I left one night.
I didn’t make any friends working for princes. Most people stayed away. Even the princes themselves only had me over for dinner once or twice. I kept to myself, eating apples under trees and such. I didn’t really enjoy fighting, anyway. Poetry was better. So I gave up on the soldier idea. I took a job as a milkman for a little hamlet, far away from anyone who recognized me as an invincible knight. The brisk mornings were nice.
The portrayal of female characters in video games has a checkered past—and present. Too often women are depicted as sex objects, without depth or agency. Even characters supposedly designed to avoid this problem tend to fall victim to it. For these and other reasons, the industry’s reputation for misogyny is well deserved. The spacefaring bounty hunter Samus Aran, from Nintendo’s Metroid series, is a unique case. Aside from her controversial appearance in 2010’s Metroid: Other M, she regularly is cited as a strong, engaging character who subverts the sexist norm. But is this true?
As I drove home from work that night I passed a wreck but everyone was safe, and I listened to the radio. At home I parked and walked to the dark back of my house. When I opened my door, the hanger for coats on the door’s other side had a small man hanging there by his hands and looking at me. He dropped down to the floor and said, “Hello.” I almost said something but he wasn’t there, just my coat on the floor.
I went to my bathroom, which was closed and had a door hanger, and I opened it a small man was hanging by his hands and looking at me. He dropped down to the floor and said, “Hello.” My robe was on the floor and I didn’t say anything. In my bedroom the first thing I noticed was that the stitched bird on the pillow was upside-down. Things were falling on the floor. My wife was asleep and I climbed in, too. Outside my window that night objects kept dropping down, blocking the moonlight.
It has been said that posting to Tumblr is like posting into a void. Unlike most social media websites, Tumblr instates a somewhat impersonal disconnect between posters and their followers, a certain lack of flowing dialogue. This sense of disconnect can make blogs seem cold to their followers, and it can make the owners of those blogs forget that they rely on and are responsible to a vast number of people. As Still Eating Oranges nears 1,000 followers (five remain as of this writing), we would like to explain how much we appreciate those of you who have chosen to stay with us.
Because we run a very formal blog on an impersonal site, the amount of attention that we pay to our readers has never been obvious. Let it be made clear: we notice. We see every new note and follower. We watch new followers become returning fans; we recognize the people who have stuck around since our earliest days. High-fives are exchanged when we see a note from one of our regulars—or from an old follower who has been silent for months. To all of our readers, quiet and vocal alike: we appreciate you and we thank you. We hope that our posts will continue to entertain you in the months ahead.
Three went forward: the distant man, the man on the cup and Animal Boy. The man on the cup scraped down the sidewalk to catch the distant man, falling behind on rough patches, closing in on flats. His cup was green and small plastic but a good vehicle. Between the parked cars and in the street nearby roamed Animal Boy, small and kind but silent, friend of the man on the cup.
But the distant man turned a corner and left. Animal Boy disappeared, too. The man on the cup was frantic: Animal Boy! Animal Boy! But he couldn’t find him. He scraped, retracing his path, checking between cars. Everyone was gone. He started to scrape home, slowly. But Animal Boy came back.
Western culture is convulsed with the idea of being you, or, more appropriately, you-with-a-capital-Y. Supposedly all people are called to be authentic to the unique “You” planted in each of them, to a complete identity that one can accept but cannot change. Each person is born as all that they will ever be. Many have stopped to wonder: what is this You, exactly? How does one discover and define it? Earlier this month, these questions were posed by Elad Nehorai in the Guardian. His answers are surprising.
And then. Thrash against the pane a slick slack legfinger, he in his bed afraid, object against glass chattering. A face in window chattering and breaking in and lurching in, a marked sad face. He in his bed afraid. Body enters and leans whispers—gone. He in his bed chattering, wind blowing in through the window hole, and then nothing.
The next morning he moved away and lived happily ever after.
We provide that concept, let them develop their skills, and then the third step is something of a doozy that throws them for a loop, and makes them think of using it in a way they haven’t really before.
In 2012, Nintendo’s Koichi Hayashida told Gamasutra that the kishōtenketsu plot structure informs the design of the Mario series. It seems that Shigeru Miyamoto drew yonkoma manga in his youth; and he imported kishōtenketsu—particularly its signature “twist”—into his games. Hayashida began to notice the structure’s influence himself while developing Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Super Mario 3D Land, but he claims that it has “always been very close to our philosophy of level design”. Its presence gives narrative cohesion and propulsion to levels that might otherwise be static or undirected.
We have stated that plot structure occurs “all the way down”. Sentences, stories and other cultural artifacts adhere, often unintentionally, to the local rules of storytelling. In the Mario series, one finds yet another example of this phenomenon. And the popularity of this series in the West demonstrates, once more, that kishōtenketsu has for decades been gaining traction outside of Japan and China. A generation of Westerners grew up with Mario. As members of that generation inherit the reins, they bring with them a new type of plot structure—and a new type of thought.
Back in October, we dramatically increased our posting schedule; and it shows in this massive round-up. Below is a wider selection of writing, photography and art than we have ever posted. (And even more art may be found on our artist’s new Twitter page.) We hope that our readers have enjoyed viewing this material as much as we have enjoyed making it. Still Eating Oranges is nearing its two-year anniversary on Tumblr, and we are excited to see what 2014 will bring.
Subjective interpretation is everything in contemporary art theory. The viewer completes the work—refines it “as pure sugar from molasses”, to use Marcel Duchamp’s phrase. One need not accept this account, though, to acknowledge that every viewer views from a particular vantage. A non-speaker of French at best faintly grasps the original text of Éluard’s “The Scissors and Their Father”, for example; and those with no appreciation for monophony can scarcely enjoy Indian classical music. A work is not completed by its audience, but its full character may be visible only to some within that audience.
We have written that a work’s highest function is to produce in its audience an aesthetic awe toward beauty, which undermines our defenses and restores our clarity of vision. Yet beauty may be directly in front of the viewer, always already in her field of perception, without being recognized. The viewer takes the first step by trying to see. Real vision begins when one assumes a vantage of openness, which might be called curiosity. It is the initial decision to care—and the impetus behind one’s subsequent chase of beauty across languages, mediums and styles.
When one first encounters the music of Colin Stetson, there is a moment of blank incomprehension. What, exactly, is this? Stetson has a background in free jazz and has played as a sideman for Tom Waits; but these facts do not prepare one for his solo work. Since New History Warfare Vol. 1 (2008), Stetson has been releasing albums on which he plays wind instruments—generally his trademark bass saxophone—unaccompanied by overdubbing or other instruments. Instead he creates full, continuous soundscapes via circular breathing, singing and yelling into his mouthpiece and percussively striking the body of his horn.
Despite appearances, this is not, in Stetson’s words, a “geek show”. Neither is it an exercise in conceptual self-expression. He learned from Waits that musicians create “characters” and “stories”—not self-portraits. Stetson’s creative process begins with “taking the ego out, taking the self out, and just really playing to the song”. He is not ruled by his method: he uses it to produce unusual, unpretentious and often startlingly beautiful music. His work is rough and organic but never sloppy; and it is, after the initial bafflement passes, much more accessible than one would imagine.
The high point of Stetson’s career so far might be New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges (2011), which is in parts vulnerable and meditative, in parts abrasive and terrifying. Laurie Anderson performs spoken word poetry on a few tracks, to great effect; and Shara Worden’s turn on “Lord I Just Can’t Keep from Crying” is powerful. Stetson’s New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light (2013) is perhaps slightly less coherent than Judges, but he shows astonishing growth on tracks like “Among the Sef” and the eponymous “To See More Light”. Interested readers may find selections from Stetson’s career embedded after the break.
I was spotted snacking on cotton candy clouds in a strange kingdom. Five knights in polka dots and one in stripes greeted me at the bottom of the very tall ladder I’d climbed. Whosoever eats the clouds, the knights harmonized, will be advisor to the king. This was ancient and inviolable protocol. They led me off goosestepping seven times and stopping, goosestepping seven times and stopping. When I asked about this, they told me that it was new and inviolable protocol.
I took a seat at the banquet table. It was a mile long. Thousands of other advisors—snackers from weeks and decades before—surrounded me. All of us received three knives and three bowls of soup, but no spoons. This was a cost-saving measure proposed by a gentleman seated roughly a quarter of a mile from me. At the far end of the table, the king was meeting his advisors one by one. Those seated more than twenty yards from His Majesty were provided with telescopes.
My turn came. As I approached the throne I performed a bow into a cartwheel, as I had been instructed by the guard in the goat mask. The guard in the green mask had said nothing. What advice, said the king, have you for Us? I decided to play it safe and suggested that the diners be given spoons. He approved, and it was done.
For many years, we continued to meet on Thursdays to advise the king. I tried to be less creative than my peers, but I’d be lying if I said that I always succeeded. Anyway, the kingdom disappeared one day, some time after a new advisor suggested a large-scale mining operation beneath the castle and environs. I’ve heard rumors that they plan to rebuild in a new location. I hope I can get my old job back.
For every five things I add, I sand down four of them so they’re just little game-feel nubby-nubs.
On Monday, Mark Essen finally releasedNidhogg to the general public. Since 2010 he had been showing early versions of the game in arcade cabinets, which doubled as art installations. Although the use of games as installations has a history in the independent game scene—and in Essen’s own career—, few other designers have dared to leave a game at “exhibit” status for so long. But, then, Essen has always been an odd duck in the indie scene; and Nidhogg is a very special game, even when one discounts the details of its release.
We have said before that video game design, when balanced and executed properly, can produce an aesthetic response in the player. Exploring and “gardening” in Waking Mars, jumping and running in Super Mario 64: these things have an aesthetic character. What makes Essen’s work tick is not simply its weirdness, on which most commentators focus, but its brilliant game design. The weirdness serves the design; and the design is beautiful. This is why so many have responded to Nidhogg: above the excitement, it is awe-inspiring to watch its design unfold. Essen and Nidhogg stand, with few peers, at the forefront of video game aesthetics. They show again that video games need not be laborious and abstruse to be meaningful.
“Art has become too ironical and unintelligible for its own communicative good: It only speaks to those in the esoteric know — those willing to play the art game. Narcissistically fetishized, advanced art loses relational purpose. Caught up in itself, it forgets the audience, which is expected to accept it on its own terms, uncritically: Whatever common ground existed between advanced art and the audience collapses. Holding up a mirror to itself rather than to the audience — as art has done since Aristotle noted the cathartic effect of the insight it afforded — art loses its audience. Thus, advanced art loses its foundation in human experience.”—Taken from A Critical History of 20th-Century Art by Donald Kuspit.
The weathervane was alive and it was dancing stomping on the roof and I couldn’t sleep and no one could sleep. Dad in his blue pajamas went out to yell at it and when that didn’t work he shot at it, but it ducked down behind the roof peak and that didn’t work either. All the neighbors came out to look and the firemen came and brought it down a ladder, still kicking and shaking. Mom said we wouldn’t be getting another weathervane anytime soon and she was right.
When Caroline’s family moved away, she left me a jar for dreams. Set it near your pillow, she said. Before bed I would unlatch the jar. If I rushed to close it the next morning, just as my dreams dispersed around me, fragments would get caught inside. There I would be wrestling with a goblin or falling into my teacup, or swimming toward the moon. Once, I saw Caroline inside pointing to a cloud. I saved that one for weeks.
Caroline and I are adults now, and I haven’t seen her in many years. I don’t often use the jar anymore. But some mornings, after a particularly nice dream, I still find myself reaching over, hoping to catch a small piece before it fades away.