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Loitering for Change

2 min read

http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/hazlitt/feature/unlikely-brilliance-loiter-squad

This article discusses the perceived comedy brilliance contained within the total absurdity of the sketches on the Adult Swim show Loiter Squad. The author is very supportive of the show and even compares it to the comedy brilliance of Richard Pryor and Chappelle's Show. Loiter Squad is a 15-minute show that contains various sketches mashed up between random animations and cut scenes. It was created by the rap group Odd Future, who has a history of pushing the envelope with controversial topics and lyrics contained within their songs. At first glance, the show may look childish and completely pointless, but underlying the oddities presented is true commentary on race relations and racial stereotypes.

The article describes a sketch from the show where two of the main characters act as cops reporting to the scene of a domestic dispute. This dispute ends up being between two inflatable wind-dancers (as seen below). One of the cops then shoots one of the wind dancers and promptly plants a knife utensil on the "body," claiming that the dancer had it on him the whole time. The presence of wind dancers alone makes this scene funny, but you can easily see that there is something more at play, as the characters seem to be commenting on police relations as well as domestic violence.

Comedy here plays an important part in the show because it masks topics that could be very offensive to some viewers. At the same time, the author also talks about the fearlessness of the creators of the show because they create their sketches more for themselves than for an audience. Instead of having to pander to a white viewership like many shows on television right now, they don't care who watches their show.

In a way, I think this show may be avant-garde because the creators are not caught up in making something likeable more so than they are trying to make something that coincides with their sense of humor. While their show is ridiculous, they are breaking down barriers and really getting into the underlinings of race in our culture. Maybe it takes craziness to really talk about the real craziness that warps our own society. However, some of their sketches may be a little too crazy:

Domestic Violence and the Ravens

3 min read

http://espn.go.com/blog/baltimore-ravens/post/_/id/18248/can-ravens-realistically-maintain-their-stance-on-domestic-violence

After Ravens running back Ray Rice was charged for assaulting his fiancée in public last year, the Ravens came out with a statement last week saying that they would stay away from future players that have a history of domestic violence. Although this may seem like a step in the right direction for the Ravens and the NFL as a whole, Jamison Henley of ESPN.com argues that this new policy may not have the best effects on the Ravens as a franchise. In the NFL, a high priority is placed on winning and ultimately getting to the Super Bowl. Sometimes the best players have a history that is less than perfect, and with their new policy the Ravens are limiting their options when it comes to building a championship team. Henley makes references to star players such as Randy Moss and Dez Bryant, who both had personal struggles off the field but ended up contributing greatly to their respective teams on the field. The Ravens in theory would miss out on these potential superstars. Henley also goes on to say that even though some players may not have a past with domestic violence, future incidents may occur regardless of the Ravens' policy. Overall, Jamison feels that the Ravens actions were in good taste, but they may not be suitable for the current state of the game. 

While I see Henley's points about the importance of winning in the NFL, I have to side with the Ravens on this issue. The team has really been rocked by the Ray Rice scandal and their new policy seems like a step in the right direction for preventing scandals like this from happening in the future. Their actions are definitely in good taste and they are sending a message to future players that they will not tolerate domestic violence anymore. While this may cause the team to suffer in the short run if they are unable to acquire star athletes with a history of domestic violence, other teams will hopefully join in the cause putting all teams on the same level. However, I do believe there should be exceptions to the policy as people do make mistakes sometimes and not all domestic violence cases are the same. This may be a slippery slope though, as it is hard to draw the line on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. For now though, the Ravens definitely made the right move to further distance themselves from the black eye of domestic violence. 

Something that was also interesting to me was Henley's reasoning that the Ravens' policy would be hard to uphold while also trying to be a successful team. "The win at all costs" mantra is understandable in a sport as popular and profitable as football, but there should be a harder line drawn against players who commit crimes. From last year into this year, the NFL has been coming under fire for their lax policies on domestic violence, so I think other teams should follow the Ravens lead and hopefully curb the prevalence of domestic violence in one of America's most beloved sports. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for how the Ravens put their new policy into practice and how it affects their performance in the future.

 

 

Guns in Senior Portraits?

3 min read

http://www.omaha.com/news/nebraska/guns-in-senior-portraits-ok-if-done-tastefully-nebraska-school/article_e25a4c6e-593c-11e4-ae63-001a4bcf6878.html

Senior students in a Nebraska school district are now allowed to pose with firearms in their senior portraits, as long as it is in a respectful manner. In this case, a "respectful manner" means that the students cannot pose with an animal that has been shot and/or killed and they cannot have the firearm pointed at the camera or in a threatening position. District officials justified this position by stating that they wanted the students to be able to showcase hunting as other students showcase their other hobbies. Since hunting is a major part of the culture in the district, many students hunt instead of participating in "normal" clubs or sports. It should be noted that the school did not have an official policy addressing firearms in senior portraits before this action was passed. Now that it is officially "legal," yearbooks may contain more pictures like this one:

I personally agree with the actions taken by the school district because they are recognizing that hunting is an inherent part of their culture while also seeking to curb the distortion of hunting into a threatening and unprofessional use of violence. While posing with guns may seem ridiculous to many people who have not grown up in a "hunting" community, it most likely seems natural and fitting to the people in Nebraska. The right to own a gun is a highly debated question in American society, so this decision may cause outrage from other parts of the country because it may seem like the school district is encouraging the use of guns. In my opinion though, I think their action is a step in the right direction because I think it would be extremely difficult to get rid of the gun culture in America, so the least we as a society can do is to respect guns and their uses, which is exactly what the school district is doing. Hunting represents a beloved pastime for many Americans, and they should have the right to express their love of the sport, as long as it is within the boundaries of decency. After all, they are the ones paying for the senior portraits, and how many times do people actually look at their senior portraits in the yearbook anyway?

However, this may be a slippery slope:

 

Photography: Art or Not?

2 min read

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2014/dec/10/most-expensive-photograph-ever-hackneyed-tasteless?CMP=fb_

Wow. Jonathan Jones really has it out for photography. Last year, Peter Lik sold his photograph titled "Phantom" (seen below)for a whopping $6.5 million, a staggering sum for a simple black and white picture. Even though this large sum would suggest that the picture was high art, Jones vehemently points out that photography is not art at all and Phantom-esque pictures exist all over the internet. Jones goes on to compare the photo to a cliche picture that would be hanging in a high-end hotel room.

Phantom

Jones is clearly against photoggraphy's claims that it is art, and he believes that anyone can capture a great photo, no matter how talented he or she is with a camera. Also, many photographers focus on capturing "nature" shots, and these photos owe their beauty and "art" more to the beauty of nature in general, and the photographer just happened to be there at the right time to capture this moment.

What Jones fails to realize in his rant against photography is that there are many aspects of modern art nowadays which seem simple and truly require little to no talent to create, yet they are still considered art. Yes, anyone can capture a good picture, but it takes the skill of a true photographer to capture an image that can really speak to a person. Also, another aspect of the Lik's picture that really makes it great isand  the title, Phantom. When I first saw the title and then looked at the picture, I was immediately caught up in awe of how the title perfectly captures the mood and essence of the photo itself. Contrary to Jones' belief that the use off black and white is just another cliche, I think the black and white color is necessary to create the "Phantom" atmosphere. So, Peter Lik did not simply take a photo, he captured a moment and made it into something new and exciting that that takes the viewer to a place other than the one actually in the picture.

To Jones belief that anyone could have created the image, I say:

And if I was Peter Lik, I would be laughing off Jonathan Jones' criticism all the way to the bank.