The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Category: Reblogs

On Art and Cultural Appropriation

Someone shared with me this delightful bit from McSweeney’s titled “A Short Description of Cultural Appropriation for Non-Believers” by Rajeev Balasubramanyam.

1. Your new friends Bob and Rita come to lunch and you serve them idlis, like your grandmother used to make.

2. They love your south Indian cooking and ask for the recipe.

3. You never hear from Rita and Bob again.

4. You read in the Style section of the Guardian about Rita and Bob’s new Idli bar in Covent Garden… called ‘Idli.’

5. You visit Idli. The food tastes nothing like your grandmother’s.

6. Your grandmother dies.

7. Rita and Bob’s children inherit the Idli chain, and open several franchises in America.

8. Your children find work as short order chefs… at Idli.

9. Your children visit you in a nursing home and cook you idlis, which taste nothing like the ones you remember from your youth.

10. You compliment their cooking and ask for the recipe.

11. You die.

It’s simple and effective in getting the point across. The line between appreciation and appropriation is thin and blurry, but the concept of profiting seems to suggest when it falls into the latter category, especially when the originator is uncredited. Worse still, is if the appropriation is hailed as the innovator and the originator languishes, and is subjugated in some sense.

I often worry whether I cross into appropriation territory. At one point, I was reading up on bharatanatyam and was very inspired by its history and spirituality. It also reminded me of back when I was in primary school, where to celebrate Indian dance and culture, my school’s Indian dance club would perform it and I was mesmerised by it aesthetically but also how different it was from my own culture. I never really sought to learn more about it growing up, until when I came to be reacquainted with bharatanatyam.

I wondered if I could incorporate elements of it into my own circus performing. I read up on texts and watch videos of the classical dance. I learned about the karanas and what each was suppose to portray, and pondered if I could portray the message of performance the way karanas do. At the end of my study, I tried to record a video of my efforts in integrating circus performing with the concepts of bharatanatyam. When I was done, there came a surge of worry: Oh no, have I simply adopted a different culture to elevate myself and made a mockery of the dance with the video? Despite coming from what I felt to be a genuine case of admiration of Tamil Indian music, dance, spirituality and culture, I still felt a twinge of guilt from appropriation.

Given the intensity of racial discussions here in America back home in recent weeks/months/years, such concerns are necessary: how does one respectfully engage with elements from another culture, especially if that culture is systemically in a minority dynamic and subjugated? We seem to have entered a time where having the ethnic majority merely reproducing the minority’s culture as appreciation is insufficient — more needs to be done. But what?

I don’t think I can be the one to answer that question — I think that has to be a process involving a conversation between the appropriator and the appropriated. That’s an interesting situation for me since I exist as a racial/cultural minority in America, but am a majority in Singapore. This is certainly a unique situation where I get to participate in discussing with people what I feel are appropriations of my culture in one place, but have to listen to the same conversation from the other side.

In the meanwhile, I can only hope that as I go about my life and art, I don’t accidentally take other cultures’ idlis and pass them off for my own.


Interesting related reading: Rich Chigga and the Difficulties of Keeping It Real [New Yorker]

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All Men In North Korea Are Now Reportedly Required to Get the Same Haircut as Kim Jong Un

This is way too funny not to reblog. At least the “undercut” was popular in North Korea before it even hit the States!

TIME

Until now, everyone in North Korea had to choose their haircuts from a list of state-approved styles. But now, all men in the hermit kingdom will be required to sport the same hairstyle as supreme leader Kim Jong Un, the BBC reports.

Pyongyang introduced the new law two weeks ago but is now rolling it out across the country. Unfortunately, many North Koreans don’t seem too thrilled about it since it could be rather unflattering for many men. Plus, according to a former Pyongyang resident now living in China, the Kim Jong Un cut is unpopular because it apparently resembles the style of Chinese smugglers. “Until the mid-2000s, we called it the ‘Chinese smuggler haircut,” the source told the Korea Times.

For now, it seems women will still be able to choose one of the several state-approved styles. Though if Kim Jong Un is a Friends fan…

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[Reblog] Dropped – The story of how the world’s greatest juggler fell off the face of the world

Image credit: Grantland

Image credit: Grantland

Dropped

Why did Anthony Gatto, the greatest juggler alive — and perhaps of all time — back away from his art to open a construction business?

BY JASON FAGONE ON MARCH 18, 2014

The greatest juggler alive, maybe of all time, is a 40-year-old Floridian named Anthony Gatto. He holds 11 world records, has starred for years in Cirque du Soleil, and has appeared as a child onThe Tonight Show, performing in a polo shirt and shorts, juggling five rings while balancing a five-foot pole on his forehead.

His records are for keeping certain numbers of objects aloft for longer than anyone else. Eleven rings, 10 rings, nine rings, eight rings, and seven rings. Nine balls, eight balls, and seven balls. Eight clubs, seven clubs, and six clubs. To break this down a little: There’s one person in the world who can juggle eight clubs for 16 catches,1and that’s Gatto. As for seven clubs, maybe a hundred people can get a stable pattern going — for a couple of seconds. It’s difficult to evenhold seven clubs without dropping them; your hands aren’t big enough. Gatto can juggle seven clubs for more than four minutes. “That’s insane,” says David Cain, a professional juggler and juggling historian. “There’s no competition.” …Read the rest of the story here.


This fairly long article speaks to me a lot about what it means to be a performer and what my craft means to me. Anthony Gatto, whom the jugglers I grew up amongst raved about all the time, fell off of the face of the performing world, after having received so many accolades. Were there to be a “king of juggling,” even today I believe jugglers in the know would not hesitate to crown Gatto still.

Fangone, the writer, did not manage to actually score an interview with Gatto, which is disappointing, but supplements his article with thoughts and analyses to try to explain why Gatto stopped performing to go into construction. Fangone wrote about, or quoted some of Gatto’s words that struck me as circus folk:

By now, though, Gatto’s relationship with the juggling community had shifted. He no longer regularly attended conventions or entered competitions. Gatto didn’t want to impress other jugglers. “Nobody cares about good jugglers in the performance world,” he later wrote in an Internet forum. “They care about entertainers.”

and this

Gatto’s frustration with young, Internet-native jugglers boiled over in 2008, when he got into a sort of arms race with Galchenko, the YouTube phenom. It began when Galchenko appeared on an NBC show called Celebrity Circus. He was there to set a record for doing as many five-club, five-up 360s as he could in one minute. He ended up doing the trick 21 straight times without dropping, breaking the previous record. After the show aired, Gatto posted a video of himself doing 24 five-ups in a minute, breaking the record Galchenko had just broken. Galchenko then posted footage of himself doing the trick 29 times in a minute. It went on like that for several more rounds.

A reporter for the Boston Globe called Gatto at the time and asked why Galchenko’s TV appearance had bothered him. Gatto praised Vova as a “great juggler,” but he also said of younger jugglers, “Until those kids grow a personality, they’re not going to wow anybody. The audience doesn’t care if you juggle 20 rings.” The reporter added, “Gatto now says he regrets getting involved in the 360s competition — though he says he can still go higher — because it sent the wrong message. The only way to judge a juggler, he says, is to watch him onstage, under the bright lights, over the course of a career.”

And finally.

(Gatto) gave in. He grew to accept the necessity of kissing the ball and lobbing it gently into the crowd with a grin. He also learned to make hard tricks look hard, to pantomime the exertion and self-doubt of a man working at the edge of his ability even though his ability stretched on and on. He learned to entertain, because for some reason, even though we exist in a physical universe defined by the relative attractive powers of massive objects, the mere demonstration of a lush and lovely control of gravity is not enough. He labored to please an audience that could never appreciate his greatness. Then he got older and watched a new wave of jugglers abandon the stage for the flicker of computer screens, sneering at the bright-light mastery he’d worked so hard to gain.

It’s at times when reading things like these that makes a practitioner of a performing craft wonder: What am I, and what do I want to be? What do I want to achieve what I want with my craft?

Do I want to push the boundaries of technical circus? My own skill have been stagnating for a while — even though I’ve over 10 years of unicycling, poi/flag spinning/etc. under my belt, my skills have not leapt beyond those “Youtube whizzes” who pick up the sport mere months ago and are coming up with insanely technical and difficult Youtube videos on their progress. I picked up the pirouette on the unicycle maybe six years ago, and the pirouette is very flashy and crowd-pleasing, but I haven’t picked up much else since then. It was only recently, as of a year or two ago that I started to push myself to go beyond, and learn something that would please less the audience and more those in the know; circus folk.

But very often I wonder if it’s worth it, as Gatto might have, when the fancifulness of its difficulty is lost on the audience. I’m not sure Gatto ever fully achieved that stage, where he could reconcile his integrity as a practitioner of juggling and perform to the extent of his ability, with what the audience can see and understand.

Reblog: See the Inner Anatomy of Barbie, Mario and Mickey Mouse — Bones, Guts and All

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From the Smithsonian:

Oftentimes, when parents first see Jason Freeny‘s sculptures that reveal the inner anatomy of cherished childhood toys, they get a little worried that their children will be disturbed. Most kids, though, have a rather different reaction.

“Kids aren’t scared by them. They’re fascinated,” says Freeny, the New York-based artist who’s hand-sculpted hundreds of these inner anatomies, built into commercially-available toys, over the last seven years. “I believe that being frightened by inner anatomy is a learned thing. It’s something that’s taught to kids by society, rather than something that’s innate.”

Freeny himself responds to supposedly morbid anatomical features—like, say, a Lego’s intestines, or Mario’s lungs—the same way kids generally do. “I love anatomy,” he says. “As an artist, I’ve always been a big fan of drawing organic shapes, because of their complex detail.”

Freeny, who now creates the sculptures and other art full-time, documenting their creation on his Facebook page, began working on the project in 2007 on the side, while he still worked his day job as a designer at a tech startup. It began when, while digitally illustrating a balloon animal, he decided to try his hand at drawing its inner anatomy. “I started by drawing its skeleton system, and I was just fascinated by the completely grotesque skeletal system that its shape was dictating to me,” he says.

After illustrating the innards of several other characters (including a gummy bear), his startup closed, and he was laid off. Eventually, he moved from his 600-square-foot Manhattan apartment to Long Island—where he had enough space in the garage to do some sculpting—and embarked on his first 3D anatomy project. “I started cutting into a little Dunny toy, and decided to give it a clay skeleton anatomy,” Freeny says. “That’s when it all really took off.”

In the years since, Freeny has anatomically-supplemented dozens of different characters from video games, movies and even brand advertisements. For each sculpture, he begins by buying a high-quality toy (“If it’s a crappy toy to begin with, the sculpture is going to end up looking crappy too,” he says), then cuts away a portion of it. Using clay, he sculpts the character’s bones and a few internal organs, then paints them what he imagines to be realistic colors. Working on several pieces at a time, he completes about four or five per month, and sells the hand-built sculptures on his website along with his other artworks.

Hypothesizing the proportion of each character’s innards is the trickiest part. “It’s like a reverse forensics project,” Freeny says. “The exterior shape dictates what the skeleton looks like.”

He generally uses scientific illustrations to make the sculptures as accurate as possible. However, because the characters themselves are fictional, that’s sometimes impossible. “Mickey Mouse, for example, is a mouse, but he walks upright, like a person,” he says. “So his body, like many characters, ends up being more of a version of a human skeleton, distorted to fit inside the character. It’s a balancing act.”

One of Freeny’s current projects—Sid, the sloth from Ice Age—has proven to be particularly difficult. “His body’s just very extreme, and cartoony,” he says. “At first, I was approaching him as a human, and it just wasn’t working, so I used some sloth anatomy proportions. Almost the entire length of their bodies are ribcage, which solved a lot of anatomical problems for me.”

Initially, Freeny was unsure what reactions his unconventional work would garner, but they’ve been overwhelmingly positive. In some cases, he’s even gotten praise from the creators and manufacturers of the characters (although he’s also had a couple of corporate legal teams tell him to stop making the sculptures, alleging intellectual property infringement).

Although he recognizes the value of his sculptures as tools for scientific education—and has seen his own kids learn from the dozens of pieces lying around his workshop—his original intention was never to teach anyone anatomy. “I just love exploring these characters, and seeing what they look like inside,” Freeny says. “I want to see the grotesque, weird anatomies that these toys dictate.”

Reblog: This suave chap is apparently a girl! Don’t believe us? We don’t believe our eyes either

I swooned

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We’ve seen way too many beautiful guys who look like girls. Hell, some of them even look prettier than real girls. We know some of you are starting to get bored with looking at “traps” all the time, so here, the tables are turned this time! This handsome face belongs to a girl! It’s still some time before April Fool’s Day so you can be assured that we’re not kidding you!

View original post 270 more words

In this freezing weather, blow bubbles

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From Komo News:

What to do when you’ve got a creative mind, a knack for photography, and temperatures are hovering near single digits?

Go blow bubbles! Then take pictures of what happens next.

Arlington’s Angela Kelly of Kelly Images and Photography has been featured in this blog before for her beautiful natural displays of dew drops and melting frost.

But when she heard we were about to be invaded by a chilly arctic wind, she decided to try her hand at something new: Frozen bubbles.

“When I learned that we were expecting to see our coldest temperatures last week since last February, I knew I had to try to capture the ice we were bound to see it in its best (and most interesting) form,” she told me.

So she and her 7-year-old son ventured out on some very frigid mornings last week when the temperatures ranged from 9 to 12 degrees.

Then, using a homemade solution from a recipe that she found on the Internet that combined dish soap, karo syrup and water, they gave Jack Frost several individual easels for him to paint his magic.

“We blew the bubbles across the top of our frozen patio table and also upon the hood of my car and then we watched in awe as each individual bubble froze with their own unique patterns,” Kelly said. “We noted how they would freeze completely before the sun rose but that once the sun was in view they would defrost along the tops or cease freezing altogether. We also noted how they would begin to deflate and implode in on themselves making them look like alien shapes or in some cases shatter completely leaving them to look like a cracked egg.”

She said it was so cold that some of the smaller bubbles would freeze mid-air and drop like stones to the ground.

“Are we ever too old to play with bubbles?” she asked, rhetorically. “I really think that this is the most fun, unique and beautiful series I’ve done yet!”

You can see more of her amazing natural photography — frozen bubbles, melted frost and others, on her Facebook page.

How do cows moo in a British accent?

A listener to the podcast “How to Do Everything” named Rachel asked: “How would a person moo in a British accent?” The listener is from Nevada, and professes to moo with an American accent.

What better way to find out than to ask someone close to the source? The kind folks at the show invited Sir Patrick Stewart to answer Rachel’s question, which has been on her mind for a couple of months. Patrick Stewart answers:

It’s not a straightforward, simple answer. Unlike, probably, many other countries, where a cow’s moo is a cow’s moo, in England, you understand, we are dominated by class, by social status, and by location. So, for example, a cow that’s in a field  next to my house in West Oxfordshire would moo in one kind of way, and cow in the field in the semi-industrial town I grew up in in the north of England would moo in another kind of way.

Patrick Stewart then goes on to demonstrate how the different cows would sound at home by bellowing himself. He describes the moo’s of the cows near his home, a long protracted low, as “very conservative.” He goes on to explain why:

You must understand that I live in the constituency of David Cameron, our Prime Minister, who is a Tory (the Conservative Party). And I assume these cows voted for him. I don’t actually vote there, I vote in another place, in London.

If I’m at my home in Yorkshire, where I grew up, and not that there are many fields left where I grew up but I would find one and I would find some cows, what you hear would be something like this: mehhhhhhh. Well, this has all to do with environmental and cultural conditioning.

He emphasises that moos vary by location, and recommends that travellers talk to cows all over the country in any country, because “cows have a great deal to tell us.”

The hosts at the show offered a bit of a culture exchange and offered to show Patrick Stewart what a Nevada cow sounds like, but Stewart suprises them all by saying that his wife is also from Nevada, and he has experience with Nevada cattle, and did his best impression of a Nevada cow. His Nevada cow is high-pitched and nasal, because “that’s the way you people (the hosts) talk. The cows are influenced by how you talk, as you are influenced by the cows.”

The hosts went on to ask, “How a Cockney cow would moo?” Stewart replies:

You understand, Cockney cows are pretty rare these days. I mean, Shakespeare’s days, there were cattle in the middle of London. But nowadays, generally speaking, the city of London doesn’t feel too good about having cattle in Picadilly Circus for example. But I can you an idea of a Cockney cow — I’m old enough to remember when there were Cockney cows.

The resulting impersonation (incowation?) sounds like a mehh-aye! which Stewart describes as “more like a sheep than a cow.” The hosts points out that in Stewart’s walk-through of English cows so far, not only are there different cow accents, it seems that there are also different cow attitudes throughout the country. Stewarts extrapolates:

You are absolutely right. What you just heard just now was an urban cow. All of us who live in big cities, we have to be watchful, we have to be on our guard. We have to be prepared for fight-or-flight at any moment, and it is the same with cattle.

Breeding is of utmost important in humans, as it is in cattle. How would a well-bred cow sound like?

We had a Prime Minister many, many years ago called Alec Douglas-Home (pronounced hyoom) and one of the wonderful things about Alec Douglas-Home — including his name by the way, and you’d think that his name is probably spelled “H-double O-M-E” or “H-U-M-L” or something like that, his name was actually spelled “H-O-M-E” — home, but it was pronounced “hume,” and we do that mostly to confuse Americans, like Leicester Square and Lye-cester.

Anyway, the thing about Alec Douglas-Home was that he didn’t move his lips when he talked, (unintelligible mumble because Stewart is mimicking talking without his lips but the words sounds like: “and here’s an example, this is how he always talks. He didn’t actually move the lips.”) Because moving your lips is terribly bad taste. So, if Alec Douglas-Home had cattle, and I’m sure he did; he must have been a landowner because I think he was actually Scottish, his cows would mooed something like this: hrmmmmmm. Very refined, very sophisticated, very cultured. These cows had gone to Eton or Harrow (prestigious boarding schools), or at least the cow equivalent.

There you go, how British cows moo, and like humans, how they speak is also  affected by social ecownomics.

I’ll see myself out now.

Listen to the full podcast here, if not for the knowledge, then at least to hear Sir Patrick Steward moo like a cow!