Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Jim Ricker tells the tale of Carmen Mesta

Cultural Studies maven and SDSU graduate student Jim Ricker has been watching The Young and the Restless lately (God help him!) and has run across a character, Carmen Mesta, whose intrigues evoke the contours of our Tex[t]-Mex adventures. Click here for the full scoop!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Wherein Percy Bysshe Shelley Makes an Unexpected Cameo

Nothing against robots and cyborgs, they are, if anything, the life's blood of this blog, but Romantic Poet poster child Percy Bysshe Shelley was no fool, and what he has to share here, in a selection from Queen Mab, is sobering and inspiring.

The Obscene Machine Goes Tex[t]-Mex and Chinese

E493 reporter Melissa Soltman checks in with a report that spans the Rio Grande River to the Yangtze!

Date: Tue, 27 Feb 2007
From: "Melissa Soltman"
To: "Bill Nericcio"
Subject: blogs

Hi Professor Nericcio,

I stumbled across some interesting Tex[t]-Mex situations that I wanted to bring to your attention. I was at an award ceremony for my friend at UCSD, and a Professor Paul Pickowicz gave a lecture on his first visit to China in 1971, when there were no diplomatic relations between the US and China. It was right at the time of Mao's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. He bought many posters home with him that were propaganda posters during the revolution. He said that a lot of people today think they are funny, and while the stereotypes show him why people laugh, at the time they were very serious. Sometimes intentionally, they show many mostly hidden aspects of Chinese life during the cultural revolution. The posters resemble those in your opening chapter of Tex[t]-Mex and reflect your argument regarding stereotypes, how engraved in society they are and their consequences. I also thought it was interesting that two countries (US and China) can actually be linked socially when they had nothing to do with each other diplomatically.... Anyway, I thought these might be class worthy. ...

Dare Wright, Dolls, Photography, and the Psyche

Ace e725 Correspondent, Tria Andrews, checks in with a moving and evocative dispatch that fuses select, nuanced elements of our seminar's obsessions:

From: "Tria Andrews"
Subject: e725 Dare Wright

Dr. Nericcio,

I have recently finished reading a wonderful biography--Jean Nathan's The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright. The biography is not only fascinating, but entirely relevant to our course studies. Dare Wright wrote a series of morbidly enchanting children's books in which she photographed dolls and stuffed bears. She also, like Cindy Sherman (whom another classmate wrote in about earlier this semester), took many self-portraits, some of which she appeared arguably as herself and others, in which she appeared as someone else--muse, mermaid, dead girl.

Wright's life is highly problematic. As a child, she posed for countless hours while her mother, a renowned artist, painted her photograph. The two had a close--almost incestuous relationship. Wright, who never married and eventually lost her mother was, as the title of the biography points up, herself a lonely doll. Friends of the Wrights recall that they were always hungry when visiting. Mother and daughter were not interested in food or even so much social interaction as they were at playing elaborate dress up. Wright even painted the floor of her apartment so that it appeared to be black and white tile and not the hardwood that it was. Visitors marveled at the realism of the facade.

The woman, the woman-child, and the child as doll. What could be more relevant to our discussion than a real life example? And the entrapment of Wright, her sad, sad decline as she and her mother aged--could no longer continue their respective rolls--is none other than tragedy.

I do hope some people will look into Dare. She is one of my favorites.


Friday, February 23, 2007

The Robot that Feels MA alum and Temple University PhD-stud. and obsceneMACHINE correspondent at large, Gabriel Cutrufello, checks in with a salient link on emotional robots:

Date: Fri, 23 Feb 2007 12:28:57 -0500
Subject: Emotional Robots
From: Gabriel Cutrufello
To: Bill Nerricio

Hi Bill,

I hope all is well. I just ran across this article in the BBC online. They haven't happened yet, but apparently there is a firm commitment to create these emotionally responsive robots.



The professor running this affect-laden robotics research is Lola Cañamero. Another related researcher is here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ace London correspondent and musician Lauren Brennan checks in with this report

Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2007 02:37:22 -0800
From: Laura
Subject: possible blog entry for E493

Greetings, Profe! I don't know if this is quite what you had in mind for a blog entry fit for class consumption, but I hope so! I was recently introduced to the art of Julian Beever, an internationally renowned sidewalk chalk artist, best known for his use of perspective and optical illusions in his work to simulate three-dimensional objects or scenes on the sidewalks of London. Not quite along the same lines as giant puppets or racist robotics, I know, but ever since I first glimpsed this guy's work I knew I wanted to bring it up for the class to see, and not just because it's pretty amazing to look at. I think Beever's art deserves to make its way into the Obscene Machine's collective consciousness because of the immersive nature of his sidewalk works. People walking by his art are immediately drawn into his world (no pun intended), the false reality he's creating to trap people, literally, at a pedestrian level; snatching the ground out from under the passers-by on the street around him and using it as a canvas. I've attached a couple of my favorite pieces, but the entire site is worth a closer look.

As impressed as I continue to be by the waterfall scene, I especially think that his self-portrait/still life of he and his chalk doppleganger drawing together works particularly well with our art-as-ersatz-humans angle. For an added level of weirdness, take a closer look at the beer bottles - which one is two-dimensional again? ;)

Also, here's Beever's official website and here's a link to a BBC article about him:

Thanks, Nericcio!

Laura Brennan

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

dolce gabbana and the allegory of birth

The March 2007 issue of Elle Magazine features a couple of ads that work as utter embodiments of the driving sentiments fueling our obscene machine adventure. Ad 1, seen here, presents us with an odd, next-century allegory of birth worthy of Renaissance tapestries. Note the mannequin-esque makeover the human models are swathed in; note, as well, the parody of birth enacted with the lifted model's leg and her "human" issue in the glass box!

AD 1

Ad 2, below, is more vulgar and immediate--in it one sees something I have come to call eyegiene--a neologism, or manufactured word, that fuses the noun for the optic organ, with all its attendant semiotic intrigue, with the butt-end of the word hygiene, giene, signifier of all things septic and clean. The undecide-ability, the overdetermination, of the phallic signifiers (which is more cock-like, the camera as ersatz phallic "cock" or the cock as camera wanna-be) provides a drama worthy of Jekyll and Hyde.

To be frank, this is an illicit neologism, and I like it that way, guided more by the vagaries of homonymics, eyegiene sounds like hygiene, that any sophisticated philological conjuring!

AD 2

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Jessica Rabbit, Meet Speedy Gonzales

Correspondent Tria Andrews writes in with an animated finding:

From: "Tria Andrews"
Subject: Re: "I'm just drawn that way." (725e)

Professor Nericcio,

Tonight television trivia and the chapter from Text{t}-Mex, "Autopsy of a Rat," happened to conflate. The trivia question: "What animated character says, 'I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way?'" Answer: Jessica Rabbit. What could be more perfect or timely? This meta statement is in fact a synopsis (I think) of the discussion of Speedy Gonzales and even of Isadore Freleng or I. Freleng or Friz Freleng and his work at Warner Brothers, where he--perhaps purposefully, perhaps unconsciously--perpetuated stereotypes when he himself was a victim of anti-Semitism. Furthermore, is not the artist speaking through Jessica Rabbit (and we all know what rabbits are notorious for)? As Tex[t]-Mex argues, the author is the art--that is, the art is what the artist sees, what the she knows, the artist herself. Rephrased, the artist might say about objectified sexpot, Jessica, "'I'm not bad. I just draw that way.'"



Another student advancing the argument of Speedy, Friz and his ilk with a decidedly John Bergerian view is Sarah Smorol. Let's listen:

From: sarah smorol
To: bill nericcio
Subject: textmex, the treachery of images
Date: Tue, 27 Feb 2007 22:29:59 -0800

Dr. N.- here is something that ties in with the Tex[t]-Mex Blog-- look at these images:

Here is a painting titled The Treachery of Images by Rene Magritte. This painting inspired an essay of the same title by Michel Foucault. The depiction of the pipe is accompanied by the French words reading "This is not a Pipe". It is a painting of a pipe, of course, but it goes deeper; Magritte and Foucault explore the way that we are beholden to the visual. By this logic we might see how the visual representations we absorb, (think Speedy), fool us into cemented definitions. The Treachery of Images indeed. Magritte and Foucault understood this process and sought to chip away at the seeming reality of images and promote instead a more questioning perception of what we see, (are shown?). When considered in the context of the stereotypical images in Tex[t]-Mex which read "not Mexican", "not African" or "Not Chicano", the same loosening of dogmatic mortar happens in our minds.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Victoria's Secret Mannequin Fetish

An e725 Graduate correspondent weighs in with a story of no little interest to readers of this blog! That's right! It's mannequin time again!

Date: Fri, 2 Feb 2007 14:55:30 -0500
From: heather galan


I have a friend who worked at Victoria's Secret when they came out with their new mannequins, who told me that each mannequin cost $8000, which sounded absurd, but they are the most intense retail mannequins I've ever seen. As if the models in the catalogues and runway shows aren't enough these tactile representations of Naomi and Gisele always make me feel like they are encroaching on my personal space. They hover over me as I shop for underwear displayed around their infinite legs. Talk about "sex sells" but also the eerie attention to diverse skin tones but without any regard for variation in the body shapes. I found an article about them that is interesting; Also the website for the company that made the mannequins is disturbingly fun--building a life-size really expensive Barbie, essentially. Thanks and see you next week, Heather Galan


One of our colleagues in e725 forwarded this powerpoint meditation on cyborgs, etc--do note that you will probably have to have powerpoint on your system to view the link above. Here's the note that accompanied the attachment:

From: sarah smorol
To: ""
Subject: FW: Meta(l)morphoses.ppt

Hello- classmates- this link is to a powerpoint presentation I did based on gendered technology and cyborgs. The images and order are done by me but the ideas are all based on Rosi Braidotti's book Metamorphoses:Towards a Materialist Theory of Becoming. MA: Polity, 2002. Braidotti argues that we are already cyborgs(plastic hips, pace makers etc) and also points out that those who control tachnology shape our future. From the perspective of gender studies then women must participate in these fields if they are to change the power dynamics of the future- one example- if daryl hannah plays the "basic pleasure model" cyborg in Bladerunner, (they actually call her this) then we might assume that men are designing the cyborgs. The same could be applied to any marginalized, (not marginal), population. The attachment this link goes to explores these issues with many movie images to support the ideas- that is tot try and prove that popular culture, which is dominated by cinema, is used to shape our ideas about what the future will be- by creating new representations women/ chicano/ disabled or otherwise, etc., creators (writers, producers, moviemakers for example)can change that future.