brief rant on postmodernism, The Life of Pablo

i don’t have the intellectual, historical, or cultural chops to reliably back up any claims i make about postmodernism – or any facet loosely related to general art movements or the like. so, as in my other rants, it’s just going to be more long-winded pretentious stuff that is more how i feel than anything.

i’ve always – perhaps inadvertently – connected the concept of postmodernism with the fusion of low art and high art. i realize that most of the tenants of the concept of postmodernism are more about self-consciousness and autonomous works and contextualizing art and such, but this is something that i feel has risen – particularly in the 20th century – alongside the movement, to the extent that i would classify them together in my admittedly under-educated opinion. but the crazy thing is that this seems to be approaching some unstoppable limit of the fusion between these juxtapositions – and one of the big examples i can think of is everything related to The Life of Pablo.

not just in terms of lyrical content or anything, but the synthesis and abrasive concoctions of all of these contrasting elements just screams arty postmodernism more than anything else in recent years. i’m surely not the first to notice these things. we can all note the nutty placing of “Father Stretch My Hands Part I” – bleached asshole line and all – immediately after the arty gospel-rap-soul-R&B-whatever track “Ultralight Beam” and question what in the world kanye west could have been thinking. the album is filled with such contradictions; and ye’s insistence of his work being gospel album that works to diss people he has no reason to diss anymore (ray j, taylor swift) more than an album explicitly about anything “gospel” only fuels such perplexing reactions.

is religion at the core of these contrasting ideas? well, to some extent yes. surely religious people will be the first to call out these contradictory ideals. and kanye makes no effort to hide them – his albums are laced with profanity, worldly desires, etc. but then again, so are most peoples’ thoughts, actions, and sometimes even works. i don’t expect to be seen as a revolutionary for this line of thinking as it’s almost laughably elementary, though i think it’s something to consider with all these contradictions all over the place in the modern artistic world.

another blogger, DozensOfDonuts (who writes reviews on albums), pointed out the moment which he considered almost a turning point in this postmodern limit was during the release party of The Life of Pablo; where, after the album had played, the excessively bourgeois, rich, hipster brooklynites half-heartedly grooved out to a new young thug song “With That” with kanye and the models from his latest fashion series looking stoic, dressed in military-like fashion, with extreme vulgarity blared throughout the multimillion dollar auditorium. as DozensOfDonuts remarks, this was the moment where he realized how far hip hop had come – from poor inner city kids making untrained music to the apex of postmodern musical irony. it’s truly a fascinating sight to see.

a large aspect of this i believe is the advent, surge, and domination of trap. from what started as T.I.’s own branding of “just another subgenre of hip hop” (well, southern hip hop really, but you get the idea) to the limitless gucci mane mixtapes in the mid 2000s to the rise of atlanta as a musical capital, trap’s evolution went on unnoticed in the background with regards to any sort of high art in the art world. stuckism rages on, radiohead gets its praise, pta and weerasethekul skyrocket in the art scene, etc. and along comes the lowest-of-the-low art – a genre that is repetitive, rarely ever focused on lyricism, recommended for easy listening or dancing, easily consumed by the masses, etc. – to dominate the pop music stream for a few brief years.

and already we have various deconstructions of it that seem almost explicitly postmodern. it’s kanye west including a desiigner sample for his newest album that will surely be lauded by the inner city kids and the zeniths of pop music criticism. it’s young thug screaming, coughing, and squealing over art pop beats. it’s travis scott concocting a dreamy, abstract mixtape – again, kanye west is there. it’s all of these people that are at the pinnacle of the music game fusing such dissonant and wonky pairings to the point of abstract juxtapositions becoming the norm. lil yachty could have been predicted from a mile away.

of course, when i think of these high and low art comparisons, i don’t just think of trap. godard has been huge in popularizing this line of thinking; clips from the holocaust and pornagraphy and roman statues and b-movies are all over the place in his monumental Histoire(s) du cinema, which stands tall as a summary of not only cinema’s place in the world at the end of the 20th century, but also that of irony. of the very juxtaposition godard had been working with since Breathless – no, since his criticism, pitting sirk against bergman. it’s his mulling on art, politics, philosophy, and then his immaturity breaking through at every other moment. it’s contradictory, it doesn’t make any sense. it doesn’t make any sense how hip hop went from where it was to the “Famous” music video. those low-res digital shots and the old-style text over a black screen, alongside professionally made and photographed naked busts which call to mind ancient paintings. it’s the shockingly vulgar model line and the ethereal crooning of kid cudi over an old videotaped sunrise. it’s the cringeworthy lines of taylor swift being made famous by kanye and the delicate cinematography, concluding with the transcendent fadeout to the song in question.

it doesn’t make any sense.

it’s the people that put avant-garde films you’ve never heard of and won’t see alongside Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice in their list of favorites. it’s the concept of patrician being someone who does this. it’s rich people buying streetwear. it’s so many things and it’s just so hard to understand any of it, to adequately put such perplexing contrivances into words.

and in many ways it’s an extension of how people operate. i’ve never understood people especially well, but i think it makes sense. all of this high art low art stuff seems to be the culmination of humanizing art, not necessarily contradicting itself for the sake of doing so but finding a very human element. we all have our own shades of “postmodernism” of course; $80 meals and fast food the next day. beethoven string quartets and rihanna. religious people who sin. it’s all just a part of how we are and how we cannot rationalize everything. not everything makes sense, and we try to understand our actions, perhaps in order to understand others’ too – and as an aside, this is where i think that these sometimes alienating ironic works can be extremely human for this very reason. but it’s futile. it’s us not understanding fully how socialites went to go see a black man release an experimental, trap-gospel hip hop album live through a speaker, while thousands watched in streams. we can study historical facts but how much can we really say “i understand how this happened, how we got here?”

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on memes

we all are, i believe, conscious of divisions between generations. our parents are lame, our kids will be lame, and for millennials, even our own generation catches plenty of flack. even an art form that we more or less pioneered – which underwent similar stages as the other major ones (literature, film, painting, theater, etc.) – seems to get little recognition other than being cited as a form of hate speech by potential presidents. but a large part of this does seem to be due to the omnipresent generation gap, which has no shortage in its seemingly intentional ignorance of all things internet. consider, for example, the outrage among conservative boomers when a waitress’ bush did 9/11 meme went viral, or cher buying into the idea of pepe being a hate symbol. in all honesty, i could probably write this whole post on people’s reaction to pepe of all things – which is, at this point, a normie meme to begin with. unlike more abstract or ironic memes (such as those by special meme fresh), pepe not only has been around for ages, he’s relatively easy to interpret, and to a young person, his appeal might seem universal.

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but i believe that perhaps the concept of memes is not universal. we all have some aunt that might share a top text – bottom text bold impact font inoffensive meme on facebook once in a while, just as they might throw on an elvis song or reminisce on Dr. Zhivago. because for most people – young and old – exposure to art is a secondary concern of some sort. many people (in my albeit biased experience) have little interest to actively hunt down new music, films, novels, etc. even though the barrier to entry for these sorts of works is nonexistant in the physical or monetary sense now, and purely in the intellectual one. the concept of internet memes has been around for less than half of that of video games, which, of course, have had similar issues getting serious recognition – despite the multi-billion dollar industry, graduate level work in the field, various journalism and criticism throughout the years, and obvious effort put into certain ones. so where does this leave the millennial invention of wacky text over a picture of goofy with the words “don’t vote?”

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it leaves it as the punk movement, of a developing art scene that shares numerous similarities to others in terms of evolution, but a number of key differences that are frequently perplexing to anyone not embedded within the culture. but i don’t see how this should be as alienating as it is. as someone who has little to no interest in theater, i always question how acting can be so important to people, or set design, when the works are just repeated time and time again; i wonder how something can be considered fresh at that point. but theater is, of course, something i’ve come to accept as just being one of those things i don’t really get. but the barrier of entry to a number of things – football, film, fashion – has its own restraints to people.

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for the meme, its barrier is primarily that it seems to feed off the anonymity of the net and its extraordinarily low lifespan. while there are some that do have a timelessness quality to them, most of them are going to be “dead” by the end of the month. scratch that; the end of the day. unlike inside jokes (something i frequently compare the artform with), they will not always be funny to the participants. things that i cackled up laughing at mere months ago are now just cringe.

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the humor itself isn’t the only thing that’s temporary. two of my favorite meme pages of yesteryear, Fresh Memes About the Mojave Desert and Other Delectable Cuisines as well as Niggaz Still WILIN, have forever been “purged” from facebook. there are seemingly endless examples of pages getting banned from the popular meme-hub with little to no warning or explanation, to the point of where entire artistic online movements were started over it. because of the fragility of the artists themselves (a page could just get banned out of the blue at nearly any given time over nearly any given image), the art itself has become brittle in the way that few others have. like in the early days of film, not much thought is put into the preservation of these works. if I play KORN to my DMT parents were to suddenly get zucced tomorrow, would anyone have the entirety of its work anywhere? or even a fraction? other than perhaps the page owner, surely not.

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what memes do share to their more accepted brethren is a history. a history of juvenile entertainment at first (probably the stuff your friends share on facebook), recurring characters or themes (pepe), and a devolution into the abstract, the ironic, the “meme for meme’s sake” of sorts. the fact that it went through such a quick history and already seems to be facing many of the similar issues of the rest of the art world with regards to postmodernism (what comes after self-conscious post-irony?) is a testament to the legitimacy of the movement as a serious art of sorts.

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another thing they share, as i sort of mentioned previously, is they are easily dismissed by people not familiar with them. just as your aunt can jive with journey, she can also detest swans. just as your grandpa might rave The Green Berets, he could also slam Wavelength. and just as your boss might share a simple image macro with an overdone donald trump joke, she might look at a THEY meme and be totally confused. and there is, of course, nothing individually wrong with older people as a whole not understanding memes as an artform; but i do wonder how long it will keep up.

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i don’t have the proper historical chops to be able to make predictive hypotheses on the future of memes. their lack of journalism – aside from isolated cases and the daily dot – as well as their ability to degrade at the first sign of mainstream attention signifies that neither the general media nor the “memelords” themselves are very interested in truly expanding their reach, which as of now includes people born in the last 25 years that spend too much time on facebook.

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i didn’t really have a concrete idea in mind for this post so i sort of just wrote what came to mind and posted the first memes i saw on my feed. no credit given to the original authors – since that would again be against the extremely bizarre yet specific set of meme rules. if none of this makes a lick of sense, it’s probably for the best.

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various thoughts on sheik

optimal techchasing is really overrated to me. it’s telling  that there are only a few people who can do it now when the concept of it has been around for over ten years and it frequently leads into the sheik getting punished by wakeup shine or something similar. it’s certainly doable on falcon – but even still that’s inconsistent as they can sdi the jabs (relatively easy to do of course) forcing you to do faceroll techchasing, which involves either dashing back out of crouch, dashing forward out of crouch, or taking 6% every time falcon decides to getup attack. fox is perhaps a little easier as his tech away is quite short letting you punish this handily with a dash attack – but reacting to tech in place consistently is still pushing the barrier of what most people are capable of. reads aren’t exactly all that, but i feel as though they’re able to keep my momentum going vs spacies which can be very important. missing a usmash read on tech in place means i might be frame negative by a few frames, but at the very least you’ve threatened an option against them (“maybe i shouldn’t tech in place if he goes for usmash reads”). the risk is lower and the immediate reward is generally higher (one could argue that reaction techchasing has infinite rewards, but there are some issues with those numbers). from a stats based standpoint, i’ll present the following anecdote: say you are 85% accurate with your reaction techchases. this is a solid number in theory; if you get a grab on a spacie then around 17 times out of 20 you’ll get a regrab. the odds that you will get three regrabs total hovers around the 60% range – and typically missing one of these leads to a punish on the spacie’s end (usually a shine – which can always be devastating). because of this, i always insist that reaction techchasing is largely a pipe dream – but perhaps something to pursue at a higher level.

some various little tidbits

-on yoshis story against marth, when you’re edgeguarding him and force him to go low, you can roll on the platforms so that you’re just above the ledge and facing it, and up b directly below to grab ledge. this gives you a save, invincible way to get to ledge vs marth, meaning his up b will never hit as he’s recovering low. so then if he goes on stage you can do a ledgedash grab or a reverse fair or nair, and if he tries to grab ledge you can just roll up.

-needles are so important, and i think maybe a bit underused. obviously we all know they’re great against puff, icies,  and peach for when you’re platform camping them. but they have other applications as well. on fd against falco, for example, reading when he will shl with full needles can give him around 16%, and it’s pretty easy to jump around his lasers for the most part if he tries to play campy so you can get sick charges. in general, while fd obviously hinders your aerial needle game, it makes the ability of getting ground needles so much easier. by using smart ftilts and utilts, and baiting falcon into double jumping against you, you can simply needle when he lands and make him take full needle damage even from across the stage. against marth, you can at least pressure him to double jump after he does like a fullhop fair or something by throwing out needles. since fd is so huge and it’s difficult for other chars to platform camp sheik at all, she has a lot of opportunities to charge needles against most chars, and i think this can be implemented more than it is now.

-read druggedfox’s blog and watch his videos and read laudandus’ askfm and his reddit comments and kirbykaze’s comments in the sheik R&D group on fb and his old comments on smashboards and anything else you can possibly get ahold of. studying and researching is especially important for sheik because she isn’t that technically demanding so a lot of what you have to “practice” with her is theorycrafting, shadowboxing, and knowledge. i mean, what WOULD you do if a falcon just dashdanced right in front of you for 15 seconds? or if you’re up 10% vs an icies on yoshis and there’s a minute left on the clock? place yourself in weird scenarios. in top player scenarios. high player scenarios. mid player scenarios. low player scenarios. watch plup, shroomed, m2k, laudandus. watch silentswag, borp, captain faceroll, darkatma. watch plank. watch drephen. in slow motion. take notes – write them down, physically. implement them somewhere. watch analyses – not just druggedfox ones but by other players too (though these are somewhat rare for sheik). put pressure on yourself. try hard in friendlies. swag out in friendlies sometimes, but try hard too. treat them like tournament matches sometimes. do money matches; treat them in the same way. find a way to simulate a tourney environment. practice ledgedash turnaround ftilt fair and picture yourself in grands while you do it. find a way to calm down. have a game plan for when you get flustered – because it happens to all of us. think about what you’re doing during the game, so when you think “just play like i was playing” you’ll have an answer. don’t get mad at wobbling. don’t be opposed to playing to win – which usually includes camping out multiple slower characters. and don’t you ever mess up ledgedashes.

a brief rant on the state of film

in virtually all film circles, there seems to be groups that either adamantly insist there was, indeed, some sort of optimal era of cinema, which has long passed, and others who insist that film is doing great now contrary to this belief. well, there are also those who believe that film quality through the ages is static – but that’s a bit less fun to write about since it’s a more solidified philosophy of sorts. i would imagine – based on my personal experiences as well as social hypotheses – that most people fall into the new age camp or the classicist one, with little taking this purist view.

i would say that film is in a quite good place right now – not at the peak level of perhaps the 60s and early 70s – but it’s largely something i can’t really complain about thesedays. the amount of quality material being produced is huge; and the places where it’s being produced are nearly boundless it seems. for the first time, many countries and people are getting the ability to make films. and this is an objective fact of sorts, but it seems like an aside comment whenever a classicist discusses film, only to be brushed away with a yearning for the new hollywood days. but this fact is critical.

in 2016 alone, Toni ErdmannThe Love WitchThings to ComeAmerican Honey, and Certain Women were major highlights for me – all films by women that surely would have had a more difficult time being produced in any sort of studio system in any “golden era.” letterboxd filmmakers – hayes, tsao, medina, etc. – would be nonexistent as well, but the advent of smartphones and the internet has largely made both production and distribution possible for people that have little experience in the industry. even entire countries have experienced massive growth in the film industry. the romanian new wave of the naughts impacted the way films were made in the country, and there are more opportunities for filmmaking in iran than there were decades prior, and even areas like uganda (Who Killed Captain Alex? is surely one of the greatest films in this new era).

it’s no secret that american auteurism has, at the very least, faltered in this era. you can’t peruse through more than a couple of threads on the most recent academy awards without someone renouncing the academy and the studios for overlooking scorsese’s long-awaited and ambitious Silence. similar bemoaning over “serious, adult projects” (paraphrased from cumulative discussions, not attributed to any one person) seems to be all the rage nowadays to more mainstream tastes. a good chunk of this, in the past few months, was brought on by scorsese himself, who (although he was clickbaited into desperation-relevance-oblivion) seemed to insist that film was going downhill because these projects were dying off.

i do think that scorsese – a man who is and has always been extremely passionate about cinema – may have been misinterpreted here. but regardless of how he meant to say what he truly believed, this seems to strike a chord with many viewers. these adult projects – which span from artistic autueurist horrors (The Shining) to big-budget true epics (Lawrence of Arabia) to more low-key experimental projects with big actors (Taxi Driver) – have surely been in a shorter supply in recent years, and there are numerous economic reasons for this that aren’t really worth getting into here. but do we take this tradeoff?

my gut, along with the culmination of enjoyment i’ve gotten from film recently, says yes. At Last, Utah Feels Like Home is a greater work than anything we’ve received from spielberg in the past 10 years, 88:88 is perhaps a greater debut than any of the notable new hollywood directors, and Sleep Has Her House has impressed me more than every epic since Barry Lyndon. microbudget productions and outsider cinema have expanded to the point of where the former descriptor is irrelevant and the latter is a paradox; the scope of independent film and its ambitions are surely reminiscent of classical eras, and the availability of it is substantially more vast.

entire movements have progressed of recent times as well. while we haven’t had the 21st-century equivalent of Breathless, we’ve received the explosion of slow cinema in the past two decades, the vulgar auteurism movement, greater distribution of hard-to-find gems (Out 1 and A Brighter Summer Day come to mind), far better outlets of criticism and discussion (blogging, letterboxd, rateyourmusic, etc.), better resources for film and easier access to the more well-defined canons, etc. and sure, many of these perks are not strictly a product of films being made today; but they are very much ingrained in film culture and contribute to how we see film in a modern age.

i do think there is some stagnation at play in some areas. true innovation is more difficult to come by, particularly for film since it occurred at such an accelerated pace as it was the new medium on the block. i would argue that we haven’t received anything on the level of Breathless in terms of game-changing in the past 57 years. but it’s certainly possible, especially in such a radical and diverse cinematic climate as the one we get to experience today.

regardless the future is inviting for me.