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sparks 37: ed. James Esch

sparks #37  
bad art

Pongping: a vidial exercise in narratology

Follow the bouncing ping pong ball. If you concentrate long enough, you can pass significant portions of your day in meditative contemplation. In fact, the emptiness of the universe is contained in this animated gif. All you need for universal understanding can be found right here. Give it a try!

Variations on pongping:

To enhance your synesthesia, try viewing pongping while listening to any of the following albums in their entirety:

Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon

Carl and Wendy Carlos: Switched on Bach

Slim Whitman: All my Best

Kansas: Live at the Whisky

Menudo!: (the first album)

New Kids on the Block: (the second album)

Andrew Lloyd Weber: (anything will do)



Carving the World with Yahoos

by Skye Phallen

Ever wonder how a portal like Yahoo divides the world into categories? Welcome to the secret world of taxonomy. At the highest level, here's how Yahoo carves the world.

Arts & Humanities
Business & Economy
Computers & Internet
Health -
News & Media
Recreation & Sports
Social Science
Society & Culture

Seems so logical, so "natural", doesn't it? Let us deconstruct. A tripartite axis is working in the Yahoo scheme:

1. The spectral academic taxonomy -- arts & humanities,
science, social science.

2. The Work vs. leisure continuum -- business & economy,
entertainment, recreation.

3. The public vs. private social schism -- government,
society, regional culture.

Let us riff on the Yahoo categories and out-categorize the categorizers. We provide labels to de-label the labelizers. Our only purpose here is to question the naturalness of the

Arts & Humanities is the ghetto for non-integrated spirit

Business & Economy is a sum of two accumulations: "captialism" "mammon"

Computers & Internet is THE "technology fetish"

Education is the drag queen of the party; schooling as mental garment industry

Entertainment is embodied fatrolls: Consumer fetish = Commodity fetish

Government is the empty signifier: Entity devoid of social significance, like an extra limb.

Health is the divorced, coated pill you swallow; buys into notion of well-being as commodity

News & Media is propaganda with a human face; PR intelligensia is the beast; the chained pitbull in your backyard.

Recreation & Sports is the deification of movement; consumer body fetish & leisure time as exchange value

Reference is relic; the lone holdover from the library metaphor, Yahoo's nod to tradition.

Regional is the "where" in "nowhere", promotes sense of place in the land of the placeless

Science is the other side of the academic seesaw; the counterweight; truth's ballast.

Social Science is the touchy/feely third vertex of the academic triangle

Society & Culture is a human dumpster for all diversity -- sex, religion, ethnicity


NOTES, Gaps, Erasures

Note the absence of spirituality. Religion is subsumed under society and culture.

Note the lack of integration. Government is a thing apart from society & culture.

Note the axis of alienation: business & economy divorced from society, arts, government.

Note the privileging of American leisure time.

Note the oddity of categorizing the regional--spaces as virtual attribute, something you can visit instead of something you dwell inside of.

The dirty secret is how much of the categories serve Business & Economy and should by all rights be subsumed under it. This taxonomy of Yahoo is an X-Ray of the mercantile man.

The entire Yahoo schema assumes an alienated individual. As such, the Yahoo taxonomy is a record of violence. Each categorical act to group is an attempt to force a humming and vibrant reality into a ghetto of thoughtspeak. To pigeonhole is to imprison. To categorize is to suck some lifeblood out of the living for the sake of convenience and fast retrieval. In the middle ages or renaissance, the taxonomy might have been based upon a great chain of being or the catechism.

In the case of Yahoo, information is commoditized (as all computer data must be). Commodity-info for deconstructed souls. In the Yahoo model -- information is wrapped in a category wrapper.

Is this to say that any attempt to categorize is violent and evil? Yes and no. Categorization has its uses. No argument there. But what is lost and harmed in the act of dividing and conquering the infoworld? One does not go to Yahoo for answers but confirmations.

That which we in the West call "Art" fights (unconsciously and consciously) against this info-buttf*ck in the only way it can, by profligating and proliferating its interprative gestures, by layering its own take on life upon the attempts of others, and by achieving
a simultaneity of overlapped irreducible ambiguities. The "Both and" replaces the "either or".



The Art of Bad Song

ed. note: this is the first in a series of "bad art" features, where we offer terrifyingly horrid examples of text production gone wrong. Rest assured that all samples are used with the permissions (and blessing) of their authors. Our first sample contains some finely wrought bad art to go along with the bad lyric. Would that we were always so fortunate. Enjoy!

Lavender Man

a song by Keith Rinckleberger

I been too long with my palm on the mousepad
been too long with my palm on the mousepad
been too long
been too long
in the carpal tunnel land.

starin' at the screen all of this time
starin' at the screen all of this time
starin' at the screen
starin' starin'
it's a starin' me blind.

don't know why my skin turned purple
don't know why my skin turned purple
don't know why
can't say why
my skin's a lavender pigment

everybody sing "way up there!"
everybody sing "way up there!"
everybody sing "worl wi weh"
everybody sing "fa fa fa"
everybody sing "yo yo yo"

i wanna be a lavender man
for the rest of my life in a lavender land
lavender man in a lavender land
on an island made of lava lamp soapsud skin