Issue 3 Vhcle Magazine

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vhcle

ISSUE 3 AUG 2010 VHCLE MAGAZINE

--Inside Issue three Why Art? / UK Election / Science Fiction and the Political Mind: Blurring the Line Between Opinion, Imperative, and Information / Reunited / Ma, Please Don’t Be Offended / A Truly Canadian Collective – Chronicling the Rise of the Open House Arts Collective / sisii, Impossible Possibility AW2010 / Mark Peckmezian / Will Etling Vhcle Magazine Issue 3, 003-2010, www.vhcle.com


Editor Cassie Lee cassie@vhcle.com

Editorial/Creative Director Charlie Lee charlie@vhcle.com

--Contributing Proof-reader Jamie Dance Thunder

--Contributors Features sisii/Impossible Possibility AW 2010, Mark Peckmezian, Will Etling Writers & Photographers Tim Sunderman, Jamie Dance Thunder, Eric Garbe, Marc Ingber, Drew Whitson, Susan Purdy, Thom Pilgrim

--Cover ( + pp4, 5)

sisii-Impossible Possibility, Designer & Director Takashi Koike Photographer James Mahon Model B.P.H. Stylist Ian Cogneato Make-up Erin Green www.sisii.com Mark Peckmezian (p3), Phillip Hua, Phyllon, Pigmented Ink and Packaging Tape on The Wall Street Journal (pp9, 12), Image: Quarantine The Past: The Best Of Pavement (p26) Contact: contact@vhcle.com Online: www.vhcle.com Facebook: www.facebook.com/vhclemagazine Twitter: www.twitter.com/vhcle

--Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission from both the copyright owner and the publisher of this magazine. Vhcle is not responsible for the return or loss of, or for any damage or injury to, any unsolicited manuscripts or artwork.

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Published by Charlie Lee Vhcle Magazine, www.vhcle.com All content copyright 2010 All rights reserved


CONTENTS Vhcle Magazine 003-2010

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002 Masthead . 004 Contents . 006-007 Contributors . 008-013 Why Art? by Tim Sunderman . 014-019 UK Election by Jamie Dance Thunder . 020-025 Science Fiction and the Political Mind: Blurring the Line Between Opinion, Imperative, and Information by Eric Garbe . 026-029 Reunited by Marc Ingber . 030-033 Ma, Please Don’t Be Offended by Susan Purdy . 034-041 A Truly Canadian Collective – Chronicling the Rise of the Open House Arts Collective by Drew Whitson & Emily Prather . 042-067 sisii/Impossible Possibility AW2010 068-089 The photography work of Mark Peckmezian . 090-109 The photography work of Will Etling . ---

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003-2010 CONTRIBUTORS

---JAMIE DANCE THUNDER/WRITER (Yes, that’s his real name.) An English Language graduate from Cardiff University, now studying for an MA in Investigative Journalism at City University, London. He hopes his interests of bad puns and current affairs will help him get a decent job on a newspaper, or failing that make him that guy at parties who makes terrible topical jokes and is the only one who laughs. www.exclarotive.wordpress.com

---TIM SUNDERMAN/WRITER A Graphic Designer in the San Francisco Bay Area whose first love is drawing and painting, tries to avoid computers until there is no other recourse, and because there is no other recourse, yearns for the open spaces. Tim is a graduate from the Academy of Art in San Francisco, and majored in Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a college art and design instructor and freelance artist. www.timsunderman.com

---MARC INGBER/WRITER A journalist with Sun Newspapers, based in Minneapolis, MN. He was born and raised in the Twin Cities and attended journalism school at the University of Kansas. His primary interests include rock ‘n’ roll, movies, food and drink, the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Twins – probably in that order.

---ERIC GARBE/WRITER A penny-ante malcontent from Atlanta. He is currently impersonating a law student but professes no ambitions or intentions regarding the future.

---WILL ETLING/PHOTOGRAPHER After attending film and journalism schools, Will Etling accidentally moved to Los Angeles and found himself playing music with his friends in a band called “The Deadly Syndrome”. While doing that, he mistakenly started shooting photographs and carelessly began ruining perfectly good artboards in Adobe Illustrator, which led him to wash up on the doorstep of GOOD Magazine. Throughout all of this, he has constantly complained about almost everything, and clumsily dropped (and broken) any number of expensive items borrowed from friends. www.etling.com

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---DREW WHITSON/WRITER A final year philosophy undergraduate at Western Ontario, he’s written for the University newspaper, covering art and music-based events throughout Canada. He hopes to continue writing for publications in an attempt to break into the wide variety of careers in the journalism market.

---Susan Purdy/Writer Susan Purdy is a freelance opinion writer from Sacramento, California. She currently writes for Lumens Light + Living (an upscale lighting design and retailer), while pursuing her passion for acting, play-writing and modeling.

---THOM PILGRIM/PHOTOGRAPHER A 16-year-old photography whiz from London Ontario. Currently still in high school, but not afraid to take his talents to multiple venues. Pilgrim works independently, focusing on high profile music events throughout London and the surrounding area. www.thompilgrim.com

---sisii, IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBILTY AW2010, TAKASHI KOIKE/ DESIGNER & DIRECTOR sisii is “dead body and limbs” and “reformation”. Leather is a primitive material. This sustainable, ancient material reforms as our second skin. In the observation of the reality of society and the economy, our changing emotion will be realized. It is not a fad that will fade away, but a universal and immortal style that lives forever. sisii looks over the way of creation, and establishes a new standard with novel ideas and techniques. www.sisii.com

---MARK PECKMEZIAN/PHOTOGRAPHER Mark Peckmezian, born 1985, is a Toronto-based artist and commercial photographer. Working within portraiture and documentary photography, Mark attempts to leverage the analog-digital divide, producing work that draws into relief the enduring value of analog-ness in our new, digitaldominated photographic landscape. He recently completed his BFA in Photography from Ryerson University in Toronto, and is represented for commercial and editorial work -by agency Stash, at Stashartists.com. His photographs have been published in Prefix Photo, and on the cover of Report on Business and Function, and have been selected for inclusion in Flash Forward, touring internationally. www.markpeckmezian.com

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WHY ART? --writer TIM SUNDERMAN

The question is clear enough, and not entirely rhetorical. Why art? It’s an issue pushed closer to the surface by tough economic conditions. Is it prudent to spend money on art when it’s difficult to afford food and rent? But the question itself has inherent limitations in its preconceptions – namely that art is something to be purchased. It is probably a more beneficial point of view to think of art as a process, a doing, rather than as a product. Then the inescapable and unanswerable question intrudes back into the discourse: what is art? In all the exhaustive treatises, articles, musings, and humorous comments that I have seen, I have yet to come across one that really elucidates the essence of art in an insightful way. Likewise, I have nothing to offer here that will advance the definition, but only suggest a rough approximation for the sake of trying to gauge the relative importance of art.

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What is art? Art is our arranged reflection of what it is to be human, or in its larger sense, our being-hood. It is important to understand that it is an arrangement, even if just framing an otherwise naturally occurring scene, such as a photograph. The very act of pointing a camera is itself an act of reflection, aesthetic or otherwise. The motions of dance are a reflection of emotions and reactions to rhythms. The proportions of a doorway are a reflection of human height and width. Transcendent images of spirituality, religious or not, try to engage our own questions of transcendence, reaching to the core of our humanness. Trivial or over-arching, mundane or rare, practical or simply for the sake of beauty, all these efforts are art (perhaps some more widely engaging than others). In fact, it can be argued that it is difficult to find products of human construction or arrangement that do not bear the mark of aesthetic reflection. Every box, carton, bottle, and package for sale is adorned with design. And why? To sell more products is the obvious answer. But that elicits the next question – why do aesthetic arrangements sell more products? A different example, devoid of commercial exchange, is an iron railing I saw running along a public cement stairway. Its surface was elegantly fluted and curved, finely curled under in a tapering spiral at its end – but for what purpose? Why take the effort for such precise proportions? The utilitarian aspects of safety and functionality could have easily been fulfilled by a simple rectangular bar bent back at its end to prevent puncture wounds. So why is there this nearly universal preference for the “nice one”?

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It is a human compulsion to create art. Art is all around us. Why art? Why not art? It is difficult to find evidence of humans without art. Modern humans are thought to be around one hundred thousand years old. But evidence of art (one example – elephant rock in India sculpted and with a cupule, or cup-shaped modification) is eight hundred thousand years old according to Robert Bednarik, a preeminent researcher of paleolithic art. He also cites thousands of examples of art-like products, such as geometric engravings, pendants and beads, cupules, linear petroglyphs, and protofigurines that are hundreds of thousands of years old. We were making art long before we were the species that we now recognize as human, is essentially what he is saying. So, the perception of art being promoted by so much of our culture as being “an elitist pursuit of the idle rich and effectively irrelevant to the average American” is patently propaganda. However, there is a significant deficiency in the American cultural engagement with the arts when compared to many other countries. The National Endowment for the Arts published the results of a 2008 survey that showed only one in six Americans attend art museums or galleries. In almost all European countries, that number exceeds ninety percent. Our federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts is a paltry one hundred sixty three million (about 52 cents per person; contrast that with about 2213 dollars per person for the military budget). This goes out as grants


w h y art?

to performing arts organizations like ballet and modern dance groups, symphonies, jazz bands and theatrical organizations. It also goes to support youth art programs, civic festivals, and cultural events. The perception that the majority of that money goes as grants to private artists to fund culturally insulting paintings and sculptures is far, far off the mark. Yet that is what many of our politicians would have us believe.

I cringe when I hear adults ridiculing their own lack of artistic development, and often wonder whose voice was planted there so many years ago that dissuaded that innate drive. Everyone is creative. We create our days, our speech, our appearance, our children. How much easier it is to push colors around a rectangle, to dance, to shape clay, to sing. The value is in the doing, not in the product. Let no one tell you the quality of your creations. If others wish to enjoy them, fine. But they are not submitted for anyone’s approval but the self you were when you were creating it. While others are arguing about art, continue to create. You do anyway.

Britain is the lowest of all of Europe, providing only 900 million dollars in public funding for art (15 dollars per person), whereas Italy provides 100 billion dollars per year on public art (1670 dollars per person). Admittedly, Italy has many antiquities and centuries-old art to be preserved, yet there is a deep understanding of the importance of the living breathing art community as well. The levels of sophistication evidenced in popular art in many cultures often reveals, in contradistinction, an opaque lack of depth in much American popular art. It is the sort of cardboard stand-up surface treatment of good-tough-guy-versus-bad-mean-guy character portrayals, lacking the depth of subtlety that cultures which are immersed in a more deeply developed artistic sense are able to see beyond quite naturally. Why art? Maybe the easiest answer is that it is an inescapable act of recording the reflections of the world and life. It is hardwired into our existence, and the embrace of that reality is not just a nice little extra addition to being human, but an essential means of processing our experience that provides depth and meaning to this flood of perception.

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Phillip Hua, Phyllon 8, 43” x 33” Pigmented Ink and Packaging Tape on The Wall Street Journal

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uk election --writer JAMIE DANCE THUNDER

It’s not easy explaining UK national politics. There’s the West Lothian Question, three-line whips, hung parliaments, shadow cabinets, and if the Queen proposes an Early Day Motion does the Minister Without Portfolio have to cross the floor? But, seeing as this article’s all about UK national politics, here’s a start. There are 650 constituencies in the UK, each with its own MP, elected by a simple majority of voters in that constituency. The leader of the party with the most MPs then becomes the Prime Minister. This almost always leads to a single party dominating the House of Commons, although it also hurts parties with support that’s widespread but not concentrated in any one area – in May’s election the Lib Dems got 23% of the votes but only 11% of the seats. Ah yes, the Lib Dems (or Liberal Democrats, if we’re being proper). Over here they’re not Libruls as you might know them in the States, but quasi-free marketeers with a predilection for social justice. Oh, and they’ve got some power for the first time in 88 years.

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That’s because for only the second time since WWII no party won an overall majority of seats, so the Conservatives (or Tories) and Lib Dems joined together to form a coalition. We’re now living in what some funny, funny people are calling Con-Dem nation. Con-Dem nation. Condemnation. Geddit? Oh never mind, it’s rubbish.

Had they joined with Labour the Tories would have voted down just about everything they tried, and they’d also be blamed for propping up a party that got 29% of the vote. So they went with David Cameron’s Tories. This has led to some entertaining reverseferrets. A few months ago the Lib Dems were warning of a ‘Tory tax bombshell’ that would increase Value Added Tax (VAT, paid on most consumer goods). The Tories (or Conservative Party), for their part, spoke of Labour’s secret plans to increase VAT from 17.5% to 20%. In June’s annual Budget, which sets out changes to fiscal policy (government revenue and spending), the Lib-Con government announced an increase in VAT to 20%.

In a way it’s strange this sort of result doesn’t happen more often; the last party to receive more than 50% of votes cast was Stanley Baldwin’s Conservatives in 1931. Not even Blair or Thatcher at their peaks could get a majority of votes, but they always had decent majorities in Parliament. In 2005 Labour made it through through thanks to Blair’s appeal and suspicion of a Tory party seemingly determined to be as unpleasant as it could. This year they were led by the less charismatic Gordon Brown, while the Tories at least appeared to have shaken off the worst of the reactionary crowd. But residual support for Labour and mistrust of the Tories meant that no party had a majority on May 7th (the Lib Dems, despite performing well in polls after our First Ever Leader Debates, ended up with very similar results to last time). The Lib Dems were then left as kingmakers: do they join with the Tories to form a government with a majority? Or do they join with Labour, which would not give a majority but would probably be a better ideological match? In the end, they didn’t have much of a choice.

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It also means that every time a politician from either party took a swipe at the other on the campaign trail is being dragged up in front of their embarrassed faces. At their first joint press conference, David Cameron and Nick Clegg (Tory PM and Lib Dem deputy PM) had to fend off the gleeful hack who brought up the fact than Cameron, when once asked for his favourite joke, had replied: “Nick Clegg.” We’re not used to this, you see. It’s scary. We’re expecting these people to work together, but it’s still a bit disconcerting to see politicians from different parties being nice to each other. Somewhere inside us we know that even within individual parties there are people with very different political ideas, but years of governments in which the main people at least


UK Elec tion

seemed to be ideological clones have shielded us from the idea that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and the Foreign Secretary might disagree. On anything. So instead we’re hunting for the slightest hint that Nick doesn’t like David’s stance towards the EU, or David thinks Nick’s energy policy is unrealistic. It’s silly, because we know those differences are there – they were in the manifestos. But that won’t stop us feigning shock when we find them in practice as well as in theory. In fact, that’s probably one of the biggest risks to the coalition government: that it does something a group of Lib Dem MPs don’t like, the media gets all excited and blows it up, then more Lib Dems decide they don’t like it, the media gets all excited and blows it up again, and so on until the coalition collapses, leaving the Tories without a majority. But here’s where I’ll put myself out there and predict that this is unlikely to happen. Both the Tories and Lib Dems know that without a coalition there would be endless elections until someone had a majority (no minority government could ever survive the tribalism), and there’s enough overlap for them to muddle along until 2015. Until then, there’s a whole new layer of coalition complexity for us to deal with. We’ll be in our brave new world of UK politics for a while yet.

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www.v hc le.c om/arc hi ve, 2 0 0 9 - 2 0 1 0 a l l con t en t cop y ri g ht


science fiction and the political mind: blurring the line between opinion, imperative, and information --Writer eric garbe

I. Ad Astra per Aspera Paul Krugman, Nobel-winning economist and one of the most prominent liberal voices on the state of our new economic crisis, claims to have been called to his profession by a desire to explain the economics of Star Trek. He even authored a paper explaining the parameters of a speculative interstellar trade scheme. On the campaign trail Barack Hussein Obama made references to Star Trek as well. In office he’s been compared to Spock for his analytical approach to world events. The Tea Partiers profess devotion to Ayn Rand’s magnum opus Atlas Shrugged. Despite their protestations that it isn’t science fiction, the novel hinges on force fields, advanced and impossible engines, and superhuman feats of metallurgy.

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S c i e n c e f i c ti on an d the politic al m in d : blu r r i ng th e li ne be tw e en opin ion, im per ativ e, an d im for m ation

For those looking for a history of politics and SF, this is not that. This is a severely limited attempt to explain the resonance between SF ideals and modern politics with a few examples from my own experience. Anyone knowledgeable about SF will feel that my examples are too limited, but that view misses the point. This is the bastard child of the personal essay and the larger explanation. My goal is to pique interest and to invite outsiders into the world of science fiction. Those who already know the major works will find little in this article. Here I’ll focus on three writers – Robert Heinlein and, through him, Ayn Rand on the conservative side, and Iain Banks on the liberal side.

The specter of science fiction is alive and well in the public discourse and for good reason – the makeup of the science fiction community mirrors very well the makeup of the political community. Despite our best efforts, both are still overwhelmingly white, male, and middle class. Both are rooted in speculative visions of the future; and speculative visions inform real life decisions. A friend of mine from college – conservative, traditional, now an Army officer, exactly the sort of person you expect to engage in anti-U.N. conspiracies – once told me he couldn’t wait for the days of a single world government because it would put us one step closer to Star Trek. II. Speak/Write (The Speculative Impulse)

I’ll also confess to an ulterior motive: this is a legitimizing exercise, designed to show the informative and influential power of genre fiction through the genre I know best. If the editors of this magazine will allow me, there will be future essays on just what I think of genre fiction and why it shouldn’t be disregarded. For now I present two unfortunately limited profiles of SF on the left and right, and hopefully tie the two together in my conclusion.

This essay is several things: it’s an attempt to explain the uninitiated key concepts of science fiction (SF) and how they affect the political discourse. It’s also a personal history of a hardcore libertarian turned outspoken leftist, and how SF influenced the formation of my philosophy. Those who know the genre might be taken aback at what I leave out, but should know that that’s intentional. Through my personal history I’ll attempt to elucidate what exactly is so compelling and influential about the SF worldview. A second disclaimer: my intro is heavy on references to Star Trek, but SF television plays a meager role in my own experience and as such will play a meager role in this essay. The grounding points will largely be written work, although where necessary I will refer to film and television adaptations.

III. Randian Rails We start with Robert Heinlein, most famous for Paul Verhoeven’s film adaptation of his novel Starship Troopers. The movie righteously skewered the novel as a bizarre paean to military power, but neither book nor movie

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adequately represents Heinlein nor explains his position in SF history. Heinlein’s legacy lies in a key SF archetype – the rational engineer. It’s not a character he invented, but one he perfected and whose nature he defined in novels like The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and The Day after Tomorrow. The rational engineer has a few key characteristics – he is, of course, an engineer, a tinkerer with machines and good at his job (incidentally, these characters illustrate one of my favorite problems of mid-century SF: they deal with machines of unimaginable power, but he can’t imagine a more powerful mathematical device than the slide rule); he has an independent streak – not out of emotion but because he observes that those who rely on others are weaker than he is; and he’s invariably a patriot and a nationalist. He’s also a problem solver, always through exotic deus ex machinae that make the world safe for those like him. But Heinlein’s heroes present an unspoken problem: if all problems can be solved by the competent inventor then there’s never a need for the individual to assert his own individuality; he’s safe in the comfort that the rational engineer will save him from his own weakness. Passages from Heinlein’s novels scorn this view, but never manage to refute it and never pose an alternative. If you’ve ever struggled through Atlas Shrugged, you’ll immediately recognize this character as the basis for the novel’s hero, John Galt. Galt is an engineer, but because

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he’s never allowed the freedom to pursue his ideas to benefit himself and no one else, he stomps off in a fit of pique. He goes on to save the day with a set of improbable inventions, including invisibility shields and perpetual motion devices. These are never quite on the scale of Heinlein’s savior machines, but they serve the same purpose. Rand’s heroes will push the world forward and those who cannot innovate on their level will have to suffer the consequences. Thus Rand solves Heinlein’s paradox. If the masses cannot create savior organs, then they are not truly individuals. And it is only right that the true individuals reign over them, but this is never inconsistent with Heinlein. And finally we return to Starship Troopers because Rand, for all her protestations of individualism, advocates the same division of society as Heinlein: those with the courage of their convictions should rise to the top, and the rest be damned. The mantra of Starship Troopers is “Citizenship Equals Service”. This refers to the central conceit of the novel, that only those who have served in the military are granted suffrage. The individual exists within proscribed limits; only those who advocate for certain causes are granted that status. This logic is echoed in the rhetoric of the Tea Parties: America is defined to benefit its “citizens”, but citizenship is defined by certain individualistic positions; and individualism is defined by personal innovation, but also by the recognition that not all can be innovators and a fealty to those who are. Paradoxically,


S c i e n c e f i c ti on an d the politic al m in d : blu r r i ng th e li ne be tw e en opin ion, im per ativ e, an d im for m ation

rank and class have no meaning. He is tasked with both overthrowing current thought and showing that his ideas are the natural conclusion of the history Buckley “stands athwart”. Banks is not always successful in his arguments, but I chose him as my example because he provides the most comprehensive effort to show that the tide of history will bend towards the progressive. He is the author of seven novels on the Culture, a “meta-civilization” of humanoid species united by a few concept – key among them that they have accepted the existence of super-intelligent artificial intelligences that have eliminated the problem of scarcity by manipulating matter on a sub-atomic level.

it’s individualistic to unquestionably support those who have power over you so long as they display certain characteristics. IV. A Culture of the Whole With regard to progressive visions and SF, I’ve mentioned Star Trek above but I’ve tried to steer away from it for very selfish reasons. I know just enough about Star Trek: The Next Generation to know that if I understood it better it would serve me well here. But I’m first and foremost a child of SF writing and I can only explain my point through that medium. Star Trek expresses a great many progressive ideals that could be elucidated by a better expert on the subject, but this essay focuses on my own experience of SF, and for SF in progressive thought no better example exists than Iain Banks.

Within Banks’ Culture, all the grouping problems of modern life are solved. There are no have-nots because powerful AIs create everything in unlimited qualities. There is no racism because genetics are wholly malleable. There is no sexism because gender can be changed simply by willing the change from male to female and vice versa.

Banks is a modern writer, but one whose writing is indicative of the nature of liberal SF. That I turn to a modern writer illustrates an endemic problem to SF. Conservative thought claims that there is a certain natural and improving order to things, which goes along with the scientific and incrementalist order of SF, and in particular accords with the measured observations of the rational engineer explained above. Consider William Buckley’s famous quote that a conservative “stands athwart history, yelling stop”.

But total equality presents its own problems. Banks idolizes the virtues of free society. In fact sometimes he describes it to excess; in his early novel The Player of Games, he uses sexuality to paint perhaps too stark of a difference between authoritarian and communitarian cultures: the Culture relies on the free sharing of sexual pleasure while the authoritarian Azad glorify in the pornography of violent submission. His characterization makes sense, but you can’t help but feel that he paints the issue with too broad a brush, especially considering America’s own

The leftist author of SF, on the other hand, is tasked with showing us the progress of history to the point where our current conceptions of

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unfortunate experience with a liberal leader using his power to extract sexual favors. (Banks is British, but it’s inconceivable that he’s unaware of the Clinton trial.)

V. Ad Astra and the Dream Deferred So I hope I’ve done something to explain the effect of SF writing on the political discourse. I chose my authors from those I knew best, but the intention was to show the reflection of SF ideals on the current political debate. On the right – how the apparently competing strains of total individualism and corporate fealty are resolved. On the left – how a certainty of egalitarian ideals is balanced by nervousness about forcing those ideals on others.

But despite Banks’ glowing image of a free society, his most poignant observations are critiques of ideologies like neoconservatism that seek to impose Western values; much like America, the Culture feels a need to transmit its version of egalitarianism to the rest of the universe. Although the Culture is far too pacifist to engage in outright war, they often engage in clandestine manipulations of other civilizations’ politics. To put it into contemporary political terms, they’re too advanced for an Iraq invasion, but they see no problem with the overall strategy of “hearts and minds”, of winning over “lesser” civilizations by influencing them towards the Culture’s point of view. His novels focus on a single organ of his proposed civilization – the agency called Contact – which deals with relations between the Culture and “lesser” civilizations, and more specifically Contact’s black ops arm Special Circumstances, which evangelizes by manipulating “undeveloped” races towards Culture standards. That this bears a resemblance to those elements of our government that wish to turn the Middle East into a series of Western-style democracies is no coincidence. In his most recent SF novel, Banks’ civilization explicitly indulges in the Fukuyama-esque view that the Culture is the culmination of social development and the ultimate goal of all species, and exercises soft power to move a friendly species towards their view.

My goal here was two-fold: to explain the divide I see in the modern political landscape in terms I and many others are familiar with; but also to show how a certain kind of genre fiction has much to say about how our nation operates, and hopefully to show the explanatory power of genre fiction at large, a power too often neglected. If you are already a fan of SF, I hope you’ve found some inspiration in my words. And if you’re not yet, I hope I’ve given you the impetus to explore.

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NOSTALGIA ABOUT A BAND I HAVE NO MEMORIES OF ---

Writer marc ingber

When iconic ‘90s indie rock band Pavement announced last year they would be reuniting for a world tour in 2010, thousands of fans who came of age slanted and enchanted in the decade of Lisa Loeb and Reality Bites rejoiced. I would know – I was one of them. The irony is that I didn’t begin listening to Pavement until about three years ago. I didn’t pay much attention to them when they were releasing their classic albums 15 years ago. I was too busy playing air guitar at the time to Soundgarden and Alice in Chains in my bedroom as a wannabe-skater junior high student. So when I bought my ticket for Pavement’s show this fall in St. Paul, I was looking to get nostalgic about a band I have no memories of. ----

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n o s talg i a abo u t a ban d i hav e n o m em or ies of

I’m not the only one who falls into this category. Much like other modern cult obsessions – such as the Velvet Underground and The Big Lebowski – Pavement are far more popular today than they were when they formally existed. The band broke up in 1999 after five full-length albums and one alternative radio semi-hit in “Cut Your Hair.” The band weren’t complete nobodies in their time. As one of the originators of the low-fi indie movement of the ‘90s, Pavement had a cult audience among the day’s college rock aficionados. But compared to Nirvana and Pearl Jam, the band barely made a blip on mainstream radio. And this was in an era when bands with names like Toad the Wet Sprocket could find mainstream success. While some of the angst-ridden grunge bands of the ‘90s sound a bit dated in 2010, Pavement’s albums have only grown in relevance. You’re far more likely to find an alternative band today trying to look and sound like Pavement than Alice in Chains. Pavement’s singer/songwriter Stephen Malkmus had a stream-of-consciousness, non-sensical approach to his lyrics, which he delivered in a slightly-better-than-monotone voice. He didn’t seem like he ran in the same social circles as far more brooding and intense singers like Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell. Ignoring the flannel-shirt-and-ripped-jean look that was the order of the day for rock bands at the time, Pavement’s look more resembled the type of “t-shirt-and-uncombed-hair” guy you knew in college who was really into disc

golf. The band seemed to take itself even less seriously than Green Day did at the time, which wasn’t very. The fact that Green Day are still popular in 2010 is a shock to many who were singing along to “Dookie” back in 1994, but the fact that Pavement sold out several Central Park shows in a matter of minutes this year in New York City is even more shocking. Another indie band that have followed a similar path in recent years is the Pixies. Like Pavement, they had a small but loyal following when they were releasing albums in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. But as bands began to cite them in interviews as major influences, more people started to check the Pixies out, and their legend continued to grow. The band, which broke up in 1993, reunited in 2004 to headline the Coachella Music Festival that year and has been playing shows ever since. Other ‘90s bands have gotten in on the reunion action in recent years, including Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden and the Stone Temple Pilots. Though classic rock bands like the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac have banked millions off reunion tours to add to their already bulging bank accounts, the primary reason bands like Pavement and the Pixies reunite is often because they need the money. Though they don’t get anywhere near Eagles-level cash, many of these types of bands are able to make far more from touring now than they could 15 or 20 years ago.

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In 1994, about the worst thing you could accuse an alternative band of was being a “sellout.” Most of them wouldn’t be caught dead selling one of their songs to a commercial or for some other blatant monetary reason. To suggest that a band was writing songs for any reason other than the “love of music” was treason. This decade has been a far different story. Bands ranging from Modest Mouse and Phoenix to Wilco and even (gasp) Pearl Jam have all had songs used in commercials. In interviews, members of the Pixies and Pavement have all but admitted that money was the primary driving force in their decision to reunite. Pavement singer Stephen Malkmus, who is now 43 and a parent, suggested that denying this fact would seem stupid. “If you’re 40, and you leave your family and fly to Australia to do shows, and you’re doing it for the art, that seems kind of weird,” he told Spin earlier this year. “If you’re doing it for the art, stay home with your family.”

remotely close to a ‘90s version of the Eagles. “Hotel California” will probably be on the radio more times in the next hour than “Cut Your Hair” will be in the next 10 years. Pavement never seemed too idealistic or to cling to the “live fast, die young” ethos anyway. “Simply put, I want to grow old – dying does not meet my expectations,” Malkmus sang in 1997’s “We Are Underused.” “Let’s drink a toast to all those who arrived to tell about their struggles in hushed tones around a fire.” In a way, that’s what the band are doing with the reunion. “Pavement” didn’t survive, but its band members did long enough to grow older, reunite and sing about yesterday’s struggles in hushed tones in venues across America. And fans are willing to fork over the dough to listen to them – even people who never remembered them from their “heyday” anyway.

Admitting you’re looking to make a dime isn’t all that blasphemous nowadays. The Pavement fans who in 1995 probably thought of reunion tours as about the lamest thing possible a band could do are now lining up to get tickets. With the national unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent, most Gen-Xers have more important things to worry about than their favorite college rock band doing something they once thought of as lame. Regardless, it’s not like Pavement are anything

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ma, please don’t be offended --Writer susan purdy

It’s not even seven o’clock and I’m already taking illegal photos. We’re at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall and I can’t help but take pictures of the strategically-built auditorium with my husband’s iPhone. For those of us who have experienced the Hall before, I’m sure you’ll agree that one can’t help but feel dwarfed by the grandeur of the ceiling with its giant, plastic-looking shields created to aide in warming tone and bouncing beautiful sounds from ground to roof to ground. It’s incredible, and the concert hasn’t even started.

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mentors, Yo-Yo Ma himself, tucked in-between what could only be friends and family seated in the third tier box. I tap my husband and stealthily point up to Ma’s surreptitious seat, and we smile, appreciating Ma’s encouraging approval of a protégée’s work. Yo-Yo Ma created a group called the Silk Road Ensemble about ten years ago in which the touring musicians play music inspired by the cultural and intellectual traditions of the Silk Road trade route. Jacobsen has been a member since its inception.

We’ve come to watch the famous Yo-Yo Ma play his 1733 Montagnana cello (or will it be the 1712 “Davidoff” Stradivarius?) in Brahms’ Double Concerto, Opus 102. But it’s Colin Jacobsen who takes the stage first. Who, you might ask? Proficient violinist and composer, Jacobsen looks unabashedly young, sporting a handsome baby face barely camouflaged by a gentleman’s mustache and goatee. The audience politely claps, because that is what we are trained to do when someone steps on stage. It doesn’t matter if we are left waiting in suspense for at least two full minutes before the door opens and the expected artist actually appears. We clap.

The next piece is a hauntingly beautiful and discordant “Schnittke”, Prelude in Memoriam by Dmitri Shostakovich. This one is scary, and I mean scary. I feel as though Jacobsen was pulling me across ancient Soviet borders to walk amongst dead Stalinists. The piece continues with echoes from a second violin, played by Nadya Tichman. She towers over Jacobsen from across the stage, host to the greatest head of gray fro I’ve ever seen. She frightens me. If Jacobsen tromps and screeches through Soviet lands, Tichman is the ghost of Soviet past, and it’s not happy. What an eerie piece of music.

Jacobsen politely bows in turn, and starts in with the most beautiful rendition of Bach’s Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D minor. That song, to those of us who aren’t as well-versed in classical music as my husband (who can name the birth and death dates of every famous composer who ever lived), begins with four notes played as two – two strings being played for each note – creating rapturous tension from the very first downbeat. This man, a stranger to me at 7:02pm, is now my guide through the throes of Bach’s memories of his first wife, Maria Barbara. Deeply moving, achingly desperate, I am lost and not seeking to be found, hidden in the sonorous and sharp measures of music played by one of Juilliard’s finest collegians. God, the sound hurts so good. And Bach is just the beginning.

Again, the audience applauds – this time out of awe and general speechlessness, as if to ward off the ghost of Shostakovich himself. The two bow and gather center stage as they are joined by a viola, cello, bass and bongo. Each musician makes themselves comfortable. As with Bach’s Chaconne, the drop of the first note hits the floor, bounces off the plastic shields and hits our ears with a smack! They’re off and running, and it’s a race to the top! They

The audience no longer claps – it applauds! We are thoroughly impressed, and as I admire my fellow music lovers, I notice one of Jacobsen’s

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call it “Ascending Bird”. Jacobsen and Siamak Aghaei, a master of the Iranian dulcimer, created this fast-paced, bright piece to represent an ancient Persian myth of transcendence. A bird attempts to reach the sun in an effort to shed the confines of its earthly body. Twice it falls, and yet, in sheer determination, ascends once more, finally breaking through barriers between physical life and eternity. Bird and sun become one. Or so the story goes.

make way for clarinets, oboes and flutes to introduce a new theme. Ma and Jacobsen echo the moment and bring us back to the dark forest floor via accidental notes and major chords in an exciting adventure through Brahms’ musical creation. The piece ends with driving force and the classic “final note” that indicates completion. Of course, we are enraptured by being in the presence of such musical masters and stand in appreciation.

The troupe hits its last note with a quick stroke, and suddenly we’re up on our feet! No longer the polite, skeptical audience from an hour before. This final movement has released us from our own physical hesitations to not only appreciate, but participate in what became the highlight of the symphony. Jacobsen and his troupe shared a bit of that transcendence with us, and for lack of a better word, we’re pumped! They bow, leave the stage, come back, bow again, leave the stage again, and yes, come back for a third bow. What an opening to an amazing night. One of the ushers mentioned their attempt at getting folks to go in for the pre-concert, to his chagrin and their loss. But many of us were the better for it.

While feeling so thankful I was able to see YoYo Ma in concert, I cannot help remembering the moving moment when I first heard Jacobsen play. Ma, please don’t be offended, but I must admit I left with transcendence, rather than Brahms, on my mind.

The actual concert, or the second half, as I refer to it, was a beautiful portrayal of two talented musicians sharing the stage for Brahms’ Double Concerto. A pleasure to watch Ma and Jacobsen play off of each other with each phrase and stanza of Brahms’ grand and complicated piece. Such intricate rays of sunlight seem to poke through a dense forest as dual soloists “speak” their first lines. A few measures later and they

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a truly canadian collective— chronicling the rise of the open house arts collective --writers drew whitson & emily prather Photograper Thom pilgrim

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he Canadian city of London, Ontario, is fast becoming an influential starting ground for new musicians. From Basia Bulat to Shad K, the city has seen its fair share of talent recognized on the world stage. With London continuing to generate its own scene and holding a wide variety of music and art-inspired events, the current culture was primed for musical growth. However, even with a growing support for local music, the city still seemed to lack a unifying body or group to gather and promote these talented musicians. Enter the Open House Arts Collective – a group of seven young musicians who have formed their own ‘cottage industry’ by holding live music and art events, and releasing new music on their independent record label.

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The formation of this ‘collective’ started with a chance meeting on November 22, 2008 at a locally-organized Beatles White Album tribute show. Due to the overwhelming success of the Beatles tribute show, plans for creating this group soon progressed. The showcased artists (who would eventually form the Collective) all saw how creating a group could immediately benefit the city by organizing and promoting new music. With a vision for an identity that would bring the needs of London’s musical community together, the Open House Arts Collective was formed. The group became official on January 15, 2009 with the launch of a website and the groundwork for a soon-to-bereleased compilation CD.

The support from the London community was astonishing, with articles from The London Free Press and interviews from local radio stations being broadcast throughout the city. The once small group of musicians had started a movement, one that was rich in both musical talent and community pride. With local venues and respected record stores helping Open House gather funds, the Collective was able to take shape and bring about an idea of helping the not only talented, but uncelebrated local musicians. Open House continued to network, sponsor local shows, and bring talent from London together with bands from all over Canada. The first real experience of this on a large level was the Collective’s weekend-long indie festival (now in its second year) titled Oh! Fest. Oh! Fest was initiated to reveal Canadian talent and create an environment where artists could meet and connect with other artists throughout the country. “The music scene – it’s all one big web – and Canada has the biggest web. We just want to support the city, and do the best we can to contribute,” says Olenka.

After sitting down with key group members Olenka Krakus, Andrew James, Paterson Hodgson, and Sam Allen, I was able to better understand how this vision became a reality. “We really just started from the ground up, and we didn’t know a thing manufacture-wise; we basically learned an entire trade from scratch,” says Andrew James of The Whipping Wind. With a philosophy focused on helping local bands gain exposure, Open House released its first compilation CD of material from a core group of up-and-coming bands, including A Horse and His Boy, Olenka and the Autumn Lovers, and The Whipping Wind. “The compilation really came out of [the Beatles Tribute show] and it was really the starting point for what we wanted to accomplish,” says Olenka Krakus of Olenka and the Autumn Lovers.

As Open House continued to grow and develop, the focus of the group began to switch from promoting events to releasing albums. The Collective continued to be active within the music and art scene, holding events whenever possible, but the members of Open House all felt that the group needed to shift into a new phase of recording and releasing music and it began to focus on producing material for the record label, pushing the number of releases on Oh! Records to six within the first year.

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When asked about how Open House begins a recording process, the overwhelming response centered on the importance of building a relationship with the artists. “We just love to support the community, and support musicians that are focused on making good music,” says Olenka. Due to the vast familiarity within the Canadian music scene, other bands began to flock to London’s quaint venues, giving Open House a strong reputation for supporting quality Canadian music.

Oh! Records recently released its seventh major album, Montreal-based The Winks’ Twilights. The release marked the very first non-London collaboration for the Open House Arts Collective, as well as the label’s first international distribution. Handsome Dan and his Gallimufray’s album Provincial Parks and Breaking Hearts came out soon after, and there are upcoming releases planned from Olenka and the Autumn Lovers, The Whipping Wind, and A Horse and His Boy.

While Open House has enjoyed widespread critical success from hosting Oh! Fest and releasing numerous records, it has not translated financially. Open House does not make a single penny on recording or holding events. Instead, they use any excess money generated from these events to put on and lower the cost of future events. Just as these events are not motivated by financial concerns, the record label is also against promoting solely for financial benefit. “The label does not ‘type-cast’ specific bands – we don’t want to limit ourselves to one genre, we just want to put out good music,” says Andrew James. Their unchanging philosophy has been vital throughout their growth and development as a record label, blossoming Open House into a recognizable brand in London for recording and releasing top-tier talent. Despite the switch towards the record label, Open House still maintains the same level of high quality music and art-based events throughout London and uses this as a way to showcase the talent that the record label is helping produce.

With all this added focus on releasing and marketing new bands and albums, it doesn’t seem possible for Open House to have the time for other art-centered events. However, the Collective is looking to soon produce and market a set of locally-designed silk-screen posters in a documented series, incorporating designs from members of the group and other artists. But the Collective doesn’t limit itself to music and design – it also hopes to soon partner with local photographers to exhibit work in a studio or gallery setting. So how does one Collective do so many things? The answer lies in the group’s understanding for development and creativity. “We try to foster support for each other, and encourage one another to try new things, new ideas that we are passionate about,” says Paterson Hodgson of Olenka and the Autumn Lovers. There are many different developments and ideas waiting to take root within London Ontario. The Open House Arts Collective might never fully reach every goal they’ve set for

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themselves, but they are certainly not scared to try, to reach out and to experience new forms of expression and creativity. More and more, students are beginning to recognize just how important groups like the Open House Arts Collective are to a thriving music and art scene. The events and community support that Open House brings is certainly something that separates London from any other city in Ontario, and certainly is the envy of anyone that understands how important this group is to a developing art culture.

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sisii, Impossible Possibility

AUTUMN WINTER 2010 Brand Name sisii Designer/Director Takashi Koike Photographer James Mahon Model B.P.H. Stylist Ian Cogneato Make-up Erin Green


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