Tag Archives: commentary

On Fashion – The Circus of Fashion and Is Fashion Art?

5 Mar

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While doing the rounds of the internet recently, I came across two very good articles about fashion. The first was by the inimitable Suzy Menkes in her piece “The Circus of Fashion” for the New York Times T Magazine. Menkes casts a critical eye over the spectacle of the fashion industry commentariat. “The fuss around the shows now seems as important as what goes on inside the carefully guarded tents….the fashion world, the celebrity circus of people who are famous for being famous…are known mainly by their Facebook pages, their blogs and the fact that the street photographer Scott Schuman has immortalized them on his Sartorialist Web site”, states Menkes.

She continues:

If fashion is for everyone, is it fashion? The answer goes far beyond the collections and relates to the speed of fast fashion. There is no longer a time gap between when a small segment of fashion-conscious people pick up a trend and when it is all over the sidewalks.

Fashion has to some extent become mob rule — or, at least, a survival of the most popular in a melee of crowdsourcing. The original “Project Runway,” a television show that chose participants with at least a basic knowledge of fashion, has been followed worldwide by “American Idol”-style initiatives, in which a public vote selects the fashion winner. Who needs to graduate from Central Saint Martins in London or New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology when a homemade outfit can go viral on YouTube with millions of hits?

Playing King Canute and trying to hold back the wave of digital fashion stuff is doomed for failure. But something has been lost in a world where the survival of the gaudiest is a new kind of dress parade.

The second article was from the mens fashion blog, Fashionbeans. Castor Incandenza asks the age old question, “Is Fashion Art?”

There is no denying the massive influence art has had on fashion over the years. From inspired ideas and almost blatant plagiarism to direct collaborations and capsule collections, the relationship between art and fashion has grown exponentially ever since Dali and Schiaparelli’s famous Lobster Dress in 1937.

Now more than ever, modern art can be seen in current fashion trends across high street stores and designer menswear collections, exquisitely composed on a human-shaped canvas. The inclusion of limited edition pieces in numerous campaigns adds a unique feel synonymous with a work of art, as does the individually numbered items that labels such as Common Projects now often offer.

It is not only modern art’s painters that have influenced men’s fashion, the extensive use of iconic photography on t-shirts and the sculptural shapes in sportswear and athletic clothing collections have also helped mould the identity of menswear in recent years.

Some nice food for thought there.

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The 9/11 Decade

7 Sep

As we draw near to the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the commentariat have begun looking back at the decade that was, investigating how it has shaped the United States and, more broadly, the global community.

While there is surely much more to be written as September 11 fast approaches, two extraordinarily good pieces have caught my attention. The first is Frank Rich’s article in New York Magazine. In his opening sentence, Rich quips, “It was ‘the day that changed everything,’ until it didn’t”.

In retrospect, the most consequential event of the past ten years may not have been 9/11 or the Iraq War but the looting of the American economy by those in power in Washington and on Wall Street.

In such an alternative telling of the decade’s history, the key move Bush made after 9/11 had nothing to do with military strategy or national-security policy. It was instead his considered decision to rule out shared sacrifice as a governing principle for the fight ahead. Sacrifice was high among the unifying ideals that many Americans hoped would emerge from the rubble of ground zero, where so many Good Samaritans had practiced it. But the president scuttled the notion on the first weekend after the attack, telling Americans that it was his “hope” that “they make no sacrifice whatsoever” beyond, perhaps, tolerating enhanced airline security. Few leaders in either party contradicted him. Bush would soon implore us to “get down to Disney World in Florida” and would even lend his image to a travel-industry ad promoting tourism. Our marching orders were to go shopping.

By framing the events of 9/11 in these terms, Rich suggests, the Bush administration unwittingly helped to exacerbate the current economic crisis in the United States:

By portraying Afghanistan and Iraq as utterly cost-free to a credulous public, the Bush administration injected the cancer into the American body politic that threatens it today: If we don’t need new taxes to fight two wars, why do we need them for anything?

The intervening years since 9/11 have evidently provided the benefit of perspective. This is illustrated nicely in David J. Rothkopf’s piece for Foreign Policy. In a similar vain to Rich, Rothkopf writes:

Indeed, we have been overestimating its significance since almost the moment it happened.

That is not, by the way, to diminish the brutal blows struck 10 years ago or the deeply felt human experiences associated with it and its aftermath. Rather it is to say that once again we will seek to frame 9/11 as a great event, the definer of an era, when in fact, its greatest defining characteristic was that of a distraction — The Great Distraction — that drew America’s focus and that of many in the world from the greater issues of our time. That distraction and the opportunity costs associated with it were bin Laden’s triumph and our loss — and our ultimate victory will come as we get a grip back on reality.

Rothkopf goes on to suggest 10 events of the past decade which are, culturally speaking, more important than the tragic events of 9/11. He suggests that with the benefit of time, we are now, collectively, able to look beyond the attack to other milestones that have shaped (and are continuing to shape) us.

Rothkopf nominates the following ten events:

10. The American Response to 9/11
9. The Arab Spring
8. The Rebalancing of Asia
7. The Stagnation of the U.S. and Other Developed-World Economies
6. The Invention of Social Media
5. The Proliferation of Cell Phones and Hand-Held Computing Devices
4. The Crash of 2008
3. The Eurozone Crisis and the Crash of 2011-2012
2. The Failure to Address Global Warming
1. The Rise of China and the Other BRICs

Food for thought, indeed.

Bret Easton Ellis on Charlie Sheen

16 Mar

With his tweets, his manic interviews, his insurgent campaign against the entertainment world, Charlie Sheen is giving the world exactly what it wants out of a modern celebrity. Who better to comment on it than author Bret Easton Ellis? In this week’s Newsweek, Ellis explains how you are completely missing the point if you think Sheen’s meltdown is about drugs:

You’re completely missing the point if you think the Charlie Sheen moment is really a story about drugs. Yeah, they play a part, but they aren’t at the core of what’s happening—or why this particular Sheen moment is so fascinating. I know functioning addicts. They’re not that rare or that interesting. What this moment is about is Sheen solo. It’s about a well-earned midlife crisis played out on CNN instead of in a life coach’s office somewhere in Burbank. The midlife crisis is the moment in a man’s life when he realizes he can’t (or won’t) any longer maintain the pose that he thought was required of him. Tom Cruise had a similar meltdown at the same age in the summer of 2005, but his was more politely handled (and, of course, he was never known as an addict). Cruise had his breakdown while smiling. He’s always essentially been the good boy who can’t say “Fuck you” the way Sheen (or even someone as benign as Cee Lo) can. Cruise is still that altar boy from Syracuse who believes in the glamour of Empire earnestness, and this is ultimately his limitation as a movie star and as an actor.

It’s thrilling watching someone call out the solemnity of the celebrity interview, and Sheen is loudly calling it out as the sham it is. He’s raw and lucid and intense: the most fascinating person wandering through the culture. (No, guys, it’s not Colin Firth or David Fincher or Bruno Mars or super-Empire Tiger Woods.) We’re not used to these kinds of interviews. It’s coming off almost as performance art and we’ve never seen anything like it—because he’s not apologizing. It’s an irresistible spectacle. We’ve never seen a celebrity more nakedly revealing—even in Sheen’s evasions there’s a truthful playfulness that makes Tiger’s mea culpa press conference look like something manufactured by Nicholas Sparks.

Read Ellis’ full piece here.

Radiohead’s The King of Limbs: What Happens When ‘Serious Listening’ Is Your Brand

22 Feb

Something about me: I’m a Radiohead fan. I owned The Bends in 1995 when it was first released. I bought OK Computer on it’s first day of release in 1997. Yeah, I’m that guy douchebag. And, the thing is, I’m not alone. So, as the hype machine ramps up for the newly released The King of Limbs, Nitsuh Abebe has a great article on the band in New York Magazine:

They’re the one band who can self-release music like this and have people lined up to put down money for it, and that gives them a whole lot of freedom. So can we just take a moment to marvel at how totally unlikely this is? Radiohead have a large, broad, devoted fan base, on a scale most proper pop stars struggle to muster. They have this while making a kind of music that, when it’s coming from anyone else, tends to get dismissed as marginal, obscure, and pretentious, or even a pointless, hookless, self-important snooze. They’re the one act normal rock fans trust to introduce them to sounds and ideas from further afield — from electronic music, experimental music, contemporary classical, wherever. No other band makes so many fans turn quite so studiously patient and open-minded. It’s as if the world has agreed that this is the one flagship group everyone will turn to for that experience — the band people will enjoy taking seriously, approaching slowly, and pondering as art rather than entertainment. The whole concept of “serious listening” has somehow become this one act’s brand. How improbable is that?

The funny part is that they basically trained the world into this, by spending their career moving in the opposite direction from most of their peers. Most bands like this start off as something marginal, then grow into popularity. Radiohead kicked off by proving they were a good big rock band — then started pulling their many fans, some of them kicking and screaming, off into new places. They taught people how to enjoy that. They made music good enough to satisfy their left-field music-geek peers and their everyday fans at the same time. Their main emotional register — which sits somewhere between abject world-weariness and a kind of itching, wriggling-in-your-skin discomfort — has turned out to be more relatable, to more people, than anyone would have guessed. And their election as the arty rock group of consensus means we get to watch something really rare and amazing: A band that can do whatever it wants, and do it really well, and have it matter on a big scale. Maybe it’s a little arbitrary that this band is Radiohead, who are far from the only musicians doing things that are high-minded or sonically inventive — but it’s a very cool thing to have one act like this be “big.”

Read the full article here.

WikiLeaks

10 Dec

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’re probably aware by now that WikiLeaks is the issue du jour. So you can join the conversation, here’s a round up of some of the latest commentary.

“WikiLeaks publishes its material on its own site, which is housed on a few dozen servers around the globe, including places like Sweden, Belgium and the United States that the organization considers friendly to journalists and document leakers. By being everywhere, yet in no exact place, WikiLeaks is, in effect, beyond the reach of any institution or government that hopes to silence it.” – The New York Times

“It would be an exaggeration to say that diplomacy will never be the same again. Self-interest means that countries will still send and receive private messages. But communication will be more difficult. The trading of opinions, insights and favours necessarily requires shadow, not light. Unofficial contacts such as businessmen, journalists, campaigners and other citizens who talk to American diplomats, out of goodwill or self-interest, will think twice about doing so. Being tarred as an American crony can be lethal.” – The Economist

“WikiLeaks coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism. We work with other media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is true. Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?” Julian Assange in The Australian

“Julian Assange is one of us, as worthy at least of our protection as Chapelle Corby. He has broken no law and has greatly enlarged the amusement of nations.”Bob Ellis in The Drum

Tomorrow We Vote

20 Aug

As Tom Cowrie wrote in Crikey this morning, “This is it. One day remaining. The candidates have made their pitches. They’ve told us what they stand for. We’re on the precipice, it’s time to dive into the pool of democracy. Let’s just hope the water is deep enough.”

Here’s a selection from today’s election commentary. Don’t forget to vote!

“Bring on the “who do you hate” election. It’s hard to remember an election which is driven by such negative motives and arguments.” – Dennis Atkins in The Courier-Mail.

“If you’ve been following the media’s coverage of this election, you’ll be aware of the laments about how shallow and spin-driven it all is. But there are real differences between the policy platforms of the two major parties who can form a government after Saturday. Let’s examine some of them.” – Ben Eltham in The Drum.

“A substantial number of voters don’t think the Government deserves to be returned but they think even less of Tony Abbott’s Coalition alternative.” – Malcom Farr in The Daily Telegraph.

“Tony Abbott’s biggest battle is always the fight deep within himself. The Liberal leader was always going to approach the election witching hour fighting his own frailties; this last big theatrical joust is his destiny somehow.” – Katharine Murphy in the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Julia Gillard draws attention to her positive agenda and contrasts it with Tony Abbott’s negative stance of cancelling out Labor’s mistakes, but it’s not quite enough. There is a missing ingredient in her pitch, and yesterday she tried to address it. You can spell it two ways. In plain English, it’s trust. In Australian political parlance, it’s state Labor, specifically NSW and Queensland.” – Peter Hartcher in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Kevin Rudd’s Downfall – The Abridged Version

24 Jun

Kevin Michael Rudd became the 26th Prime Minister of Australia in November 2007, after defeating John Howard (Prime Minister from 1996-2007) on every possible “likeability” rating known to modern politics. Rudd’s prime ministership started with a Bieber-esque frenzy as he apologised to indigenous Australians and ratified the Kyoto Protocol. He deftly navigated Australia through the GFC by spening money like there was no tomorrow to beat the global downturn.

Yet his ego was writing cheques his party couldn’t cash – from policies like Building the Education Revolution to the failed roof insulation scheme, the spending spree with which his government attempted to sustain economic growth was revealed to have done some harm, not just economic good. This truth exposed his autocratic approach to cabinet decision-making (his inner circle was nicknamed the “Gang of Four” – a kitchen cabinet that comprised Kevin Rudd, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Treasurer Wayne Swan and Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner).

Like the disapointment that was Sex and the City 2, it appeared that Rudd had over-promised and under-delivered. His opinion polls took a dip and the Liberal party got a new leader in Tony Abbott. Rudd, feeling the pressure, dumped his troubled Emissions Trading Scheme policy. Having called climate change “the great moral and economic challenge of our time”, this move left voters questioning what he really believed in or stood for. His popularity kept sliding and in a move to improve the Federal budget position (as well as his own), with little-to-no consultation, Rudd announced that he would introduce a super-profits tax on the mining industry. This tax would effectively force mining companies to pay 40 per cent of their profits to ensure the community received a more consistent share in the returns of Australia’s non-renewable resources. Given the climate of economic uncertainty and Australia’s economic dependency on the resource sector, the industry, public and his cabinet turned and his leadership was made untenable by right wing factions in the Labor party.

Political correspondent, Bernard Keane, writing for Crikey, has perhap summed it up with brutal simplicity: “Rudd’s leadership was always based on his appeal to the electorate; while it’s easy to overplay his lack of traditional Labor background…Rudd’s only real strength was the perception he was a winner, and Labor was prepared to tolerate virtually anything from him as long as he remained a winner. His collapse in the polls removed that cover, exposing his micro-management, his office’s half-smart media management and his increasing political tone deafness to sceptical scrutiny”

Enter Julia Gillard.

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