Monday, October 24, 2011

Inner-City Tin Man?

Can anyone explain this...

National Museum of Mexican Art

My family & I visited the National Museum of Mexican Art over the weekend. Located in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in Pilsen, it provided a great mix of art and culture. There was a lot of contemporary work by Mexican artists as well as the history of Mexican occupation within Chicago. And it was free!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Divine Violence?

I'm reading Slavoj Zizek's Violence and one of the concepts I find the most disturbing is that of divine violence. It's a complex theory similar to divine intervention, but instead of the hand of God there to assist you, it is there to punish you. There is no deep meaning, there is no lesson. Divine justice is handed down, brutalizing one person or millions of people, and we are beyond powerless to stop it. What's more, through divine violence, we grow to accept the atrocity. Pretty up beat stuff, to be sure.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Global Occupy Protests

I hadn't heard much about the Occupy Spaces (Wall Street, Chicago) in the media, but I did come across this article. It discusses the Occupy Protests on a global level, leading off the article with details of destruction & violent imagery in Rome. Is this the only reason MSNBC is even bothering to cover this story, because of the riots?

Click to view the article

Monday, October 10, 2011

Breaking Bad Season Finale--Medically Accurate?

I've watched Breaking Bad since the very beginning and, quite frankly, I've seen a lot of disgusting things. Besides watching a moral human being erode into a calculating killer, there has been a significant amount of violence & bloodshed. Let's see, I've seen a decapitated head placed on a large, desert turtle (which was wired to explode), I've watched somebody bleed out after being stabbed with a box cutter, and, of course, the people melting. Chemical compounds have been used--a few times--to liquify people. 

There is generally a reality base to Breaking Bad's gruesomeness, but last night's season finale was rather puzzling. Simply put, the leader of a drug cartel has half of his face blown off in an explosion. Literally half of it is gone, as we can see his skull. (It's gross, I know.) Following the explosion, he takes a few steps, straightens his tie, & collapses. I'm no medical expert, but is this in any way possible? I realize it's fiction and they were obviously going for shock value, but can your body operate of its own volition, perform a simple physical act, without requiring use of the brain? Can your body exercise this muscle memory moments before you expire? It's disturbing, but it has made for some interesting discussion.   

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pop Culture in Higher Education

There is an oddly indefinable freedom in a graduate program that promotes the creative environment. Whether you are researching a project, putting together a presentation, or writing a paper, you have the ability--or maybe even the responsibility--to include a part of yourself in your work.

I just wrote a paper for my Social Theory class where I had to read the Jay-Z memoir, Decoded, and discuss how it relates to our topic of the ghetto. In the paper, I pulled from two very different films to reinforce my point: On the Waterfront & Hustle & Flow. The first is a 1954 classic about a longshoreman who goes against the mob, the other a movie from 2005 about a pimp who dreams of being a rapper. I appreciate both films, but for very different reasons. The character in each has become disenchanted by their surroundings, but cannot fully understand why. They just know, deep down, that something is wrong and change needs to happen. This is were I applied Jay-Z's accounts of his life as a drug dealer, focusing on his interpretations of the mind of a hustler and the environment he inhabits.

It felt odd to put these ideas together. (Heck, it felt odd just to write out the above paragraph.) But it was a unique experience. Like attending classes at the Art Institute--being ensconced in the art & culture of Chicago--it presents a new set of challenges that require a new way of thinking.    

Monday, October 3, 2011

Revolution of Youth

At what point in our own development, as we navigate the terrain of higher education, do we abandon the notion of revolution, counter-culture, and social activism? When you're in your 20s, everything is important--every struggle, every fight for social justice. You believe in the power of activism. When you're in your 30s--like I am now--you can easily lose that fighting spirit. Your life is gradually overtaken by family & responsibility. You see the same injustice and are affected by it in the same way, but you're preoccupied by paying off debt, finding the best school district, or installing air conditioning.

I just finished reading Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth for my Social Theory class and I was transported back to my 20s. Fanon's anti-colonial, revolutionary mindset would have lured me in back then; I probably would have read it on my own time. Communism, Che Guevara, Rage Against the Machine--I read it, listened to it, responded to it. Now I just want my son to keep his bathroom clean. Historical struggles like that of the people of Algeria are present, but ultimately peripheral. Is there a place in this world for social activism and a clean bathroom?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Open Streets Chicago

Over the weekend, my family and I went into downtown to check out Open Streets Chicago. It was incredible to walk right down the middle of State Street, not worrying about oncoming traffic, and see groups of people perform these random activities. There were activists, musicians, and athletes placed side-by-side with oddities like a giant sandbox and a plot of grass with lawn chairs. You could walk a few blocks and see just about every facet of society.

A trio of classical musicians.
 A sack race for children (and adults).
 A miniature skate park.
A city roller derby group.