1. Does Dogville Exceed von Trier’s Own Imagination?

    Naturally, I thought Lars von Trier’s Dogville was great. I mean, really great. I have to say, though, that after reading up on a few interviews of his after the movie, I think he has a bit of an intellectual shortcoming that doesn’t manage to hurt his artistic vision. Let me explain what I mean. 

    When I first finished the movie, the most natural instinct, for me, was how well the film rendered a Nietzschean account of society and morality. In Nietzsche’s terms, “Christian morality,” by which the moral priestly class (Tom), maintains and enforces a brutal moral code that promotes weakness, evil, and passivity under the skein of proper civil behavior, which results in society occupying a “lowest common denominator” kind of structure. This is made explicit in the educational, material, and financial manifestations of the town. It’s all pretty shabby. In fact, Tom represents a perfect Kantian archetype in a way, in so far as his ideals and apparent reality have so much purchase on his perspective that he is, to carry this Nietzschean reading further, the most nihilistic—and thus, evil—character in the entire film. This sentiment is evoked in a) permitting the rapes to occur out of a feigned confusion, b) keeping the calling card for a kind of second-coming reward, and c) of course, calling in to get Grace picked up and trying to act warmly upon the mob’s arrival.

    The genius in the movie with this reading, then, is the transformation Grace encounters at the end. There’s a really beautiful suspension of interpretation that LVT does at the end, and it’s something along the lines of, “Whether Grace left Dogville, or if Dogville left her is a question of a more artful nature…and we’re not going to answer it.” The difference here would be crucial, because it would differentiate whether or not Grace has everyone killed via revenge or because she realized that, having aquired a more “noble” rationality of society (Nietzsche’s terms), she would have realized that the suffocating morality of Dogville needed to be destroyed (which she of course made literal). 

    Now, the former option is something Nietzsche would abhor. If it were done out of revenge, out of ressentiment, then Grace would remain trapped in the same moral framework as the residents of Dogville. Their actions are always based on this kind of implicit revenge; the men take revenge on her body by raping her because of their loneliness, or their less than beautiful wives, etc. Killing them out of revenge, then, only accentuates this sickly moral code, and Grace leaves in the car no different from them at all. This, I’m afraid, is von Trier’s own reading of his film, which isn’t sophisticated enough given his characters and wonderful performance by Kidman. This is what I mean by his own shortcoming—he missteps his own film, in a way, by limiting Grace to the same empty morality as Dogville by considering her act as revenge. 

    On the other hand, and this is my reading, Grace possibly becomes a literal expression of what Nietzsche would consider to be the dire need to separate oneself from the disease of Dogvillian morality. It’s bankrupt, it’s vengeful, and Grace needs to go beyond the good and evil of Dogville and recognize a whole new, more noble, framework for thinking. I think she does this, although it’s handled in the plot in the same hyperbolic manner much of Nietzsche’s own writing is.  Destruction need not be specifically mass murder, and this is a point in Nietzsche’s own hyperbolic style that remains controversial for so many who misread him.   Indeed, Grace realizes that, for her, freedom from the morality that entrenches Dogville and the people who not only uphold, but create and enforce said morality (again, Tom), need to be eliminated—that is, Dogville needs to be removed from her. For Nietzsche, the higher human type needs to eliminate the caustic, vengeful, idealistic “priests” of society whose aim is to negate life and its beauty. So, I take Grace—with the help of her father—to have a wonderful transformation to a higher type of morality, an above-Dogville morality, that is harsh enough and strong enough to confront wrongdoing (she’s the only one to have spoken honestly in the town meetings earlier, right?), because she, as a character, continues to look for a way to affirm life, and the only way to affirm life, says Nietzsche, is to eliminate the facets of society that are nihilistic, that deny and negate life, which was Dogville in full. 

    Sorry to be posing beside Nietzsche all this time, but I just find the movie to be such a wonderful parable of his thinking—a parable I’m disappointed to realize wasn’t intentional by Lars. I’m not knocking his artistic vision at all, but as a critic, I think he’s a bit simple in his explanations of what he does, that he’s really not as nuanced as the images he creates are, and that he’s not as (publicly, of course) unique as some of his own deeply wonderful characters and their predicaments. To make a movie as wonderful as Dogville and to feel that Grace’s act is simply out of revenge underwrites all the subtle beauty of her intelligence that emanates throughout the entire film.  The culmination of her thoughts in that great conversation with her father and her transformation to a higher level of perspective and reality out in the moonlight is such a feast. 

    Plus, I’m a sucker for Kidman, especially in Eyes Wide Shut and Margot at the Wedding

    All to say, Lars should, oddly enough, study his own films a little more closely.

  2. Build-Measure-Learn #2: Measure For Success

    “The goal of a startup is to figure out the right thing to build—the thing customers want and will pay for—as quickly as possible” Eric Ries, The Lean Startup, 20

    My last post on Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup focused on the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), which initiates the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop in a startup.  Now I want to focus on the second instance of the loop: Measure.

    The moment when a startup begins to retrieve and analyze data about a customer’s interaction with the MVP should be more exciting than the initial deployment of the MVP itself.  That may rub developers the wrong way, but the fact is that without a method for measuring how customers use the product, a startup has no idea how to make the product better.  And making the product better for the customers is essential for developing a successful product.

    Measuring data and then acting on it tilts the trajectory of the MVP’s next iteration, and thus shifts the overall trajectory of the startup as well.  In a short time, a team may realize that feature X (a feature they themselves thought was integral for the overall function of the product), is not understood or simply not useful to early adopters.  Or, the product is used in a way that the startup hadn’t at all considered.  I’m thinking of Clayton Christensen’s account of how Honda unintentionally created a booming dirt bike market in the US after their failed attempt to compete with Harley Davidson and BMW on the road (expect posts on The Innovator’s Dilemma later).

    The importance of measurement, for Ries, is illustrated when a company makes informed revisions of the MVP that are “backed up by empirical data collected from real customers” (49).  No market speculation (the market doesn’t exist yet if the product is truly disruptive), no focus groups, but data coming from real customers. 

    The process of cultivating useful data from real customers is what Ries calls “Innovation Accounting,” which:

    1.  Has a system to acquire real-time data from customers’ use of MVP.

    2.  Provides empirical evidence that affects how the company will tune the MVP towards greater optimization.

    3.  Helps a company determine whether they should preserve or pivot (more on that in my next post).

    Some of the metrics Ries mentions most often for this stage include:

    - Conversion rates

    - Sign-up

    - Trial rates

    - Purchase rates

    - Customer lifetime value (LTV)

    - Cohort analysis

    - Split-testing: Release one difference in the MVP to customers and see how customers interact with the product differently because of that one distinction.

    I really think this stage of the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop is the primary crux of Ries’s entire book.  He no longer wants startups flailing into a dark future with complex products and no way of telling how customers really interact with each feature.  If running a startup is to become a science, as Ries thinks is possible and necessary for success, then data possess the kernels of wisdom for teams, and they must embrace measurement with fearful trembling, for in it lies their future success.

  3. Build-Measure-Learn #1: Build Your Minimum Viable Product

    Although the past two weeks primarily consisted of an intense Jonathan Franzen craze, reading both The Corrections and Freedom, I also managed to read and enjoy Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup (New York: Crown Business, 2011).  The initial premise reminded me of reading Imre Lakatos for the first time, or even—and I’ll qualify this, so don’t get riled up at me—Karl Marx in the first chapter of Capital Volume 1.  Simply put, Ries is trying to make quantifiable a startup’s success, where others simply consider more nebulous reasons: perfect timing, abstract leadership capabilities of certain CEO’s and founders, etc.  This tactic of measuring labor and systematically coming up with a model for how startups operate, for me, comes directly out a legacy established by Marx himself.  All later politics and ideologies aside, that’s meant to be a compliment to Ries, because he breaks down the startup well and provides good insight into how to measure your success (and failures) to ensure growth.  For Ries, his data supports his strategies for successfully running a business.  His models stem primarily through his own narrated experiences and leadership methods developed with Toyota, and he drives his reasoning home by showcasing companies that have taken his advice continue to grow with the lean methodology. 

    For this first post about the book, then, I want to focus on what Ries calls the “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP), which is the most basic product the company deploys to their early-adopting customers.  The sole purpose of the MVP is not for the edification of the customer, but rather to serve as an object of analysis for the company, which measures how the customers interact with the MVP and learns how to make the product better.  This methodology runs contrary to companies that operate in stealth-mode, or for entrepreneurs who develop a sophisticated and complex product before their first grand launch.  For Ries, who experiences this first hand, not using a MVP greatly improves your chances of “achieving failure.”  A company achieves failure when a complex product has been deployed and no customers actually want it, thereby wasting countless creative, time, labor, and financial resources. 

    The MVP allows the company to get moving immediately.  The team assembling the product can measure how customers interact with the product in its first iteration, and begin forming strategies for how the next iteration of the product should be changed (I will write about this in later posts).  In order to not waste time, labor, and money, Ries encourages startups to “remove any feature, process, or effort that does not contribute directly to the learning you seek” (110).  Not only does this helpfully constrain the MVP in the first place, but it also sets a precedent as to how a team moves on with the next revision of the MVP and continues to learn more about their product and their customer base.

    Coming from my own experiences as being one of the early Account Executives at Health Services Media, teams have to be able to trust that the MVP and its future iterations will help capture a more specific and understood clientele, and that your measurements in the beginning will exponentially help your later, more sophisticated product, establish its market fit. 

    At HSM, I had full responsibility in developing my own copy of the product that was emailed and faxed to prospective clients—chiropractic companies who were interested in our performance-based advertizing brand.  After completing sales, I managed chiropractor’s feedback as they began interacting with the product: navigating their own profile page, billing, patient-no shows, and payment reimbursement.  I would accrue this feedback and send it directly to our CEO and founder, since there were only about four of us in the beginning.  He would make changes, and the cycle would continue in two directions: 1) how would new sales be effected by the new changes to the product? and 2) How will existing clients respond to the changes in the product? 

    In my eight months with the company, I saw four different price points established and rolled out for the service, a complete reversal of reimbursements for patients who did not show up (what ended up working was allowing offices to contact us within 24 hours of a no-show, so that the offices who cared for a reimbursement were provided one for being prompt), and a shift from traditional month-end paper billing to a fully automated credit card system. 

    Although the MVP may be a more common occurrence in advertizing, since the business depends so heavily on sales to get the company moving in the first place, Ries correctly asserts that one of the most foolish risks in a tech startup is to blindly believe that your product will be loved by customers, foregoing all the quantifiable data you can be interpreting with the MVP and getting more sophisticated with time.  

  4. Getting Beat To Your Own Idea By A Startup

    The past day has turned out to be an encouraging and educational experience, even though it’s also ultimately disappointing.  

    With the news of Farmigo being launched at the TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, I quickly realized that a startup idea my wife and I have been fostering for a few months is no longer groundbreaking.  Farmigo beat us to it, and the more I looked into their SaaS model and site design, I couldn’t help but feel reassured that Katie and I had at least located a social problem and devised a scalable way to disrupt it.  

    Here are some notes I’d written in my June ‘11 Field Notes:

    Possible Names: HarvestShare, Foody 

    Objective: Online social network for conscious consumers and producers.  

    Idea: Create an exchange interface that allows people to see all local/organic food options near their location, including: organic/local resaurants, community supported argriculture (CSA), community gardens, volunteering opportunities, WOOFing, and farmers markets. 

    Features: Map showing all places/events around your location.  A news feed that shares all updates from the restaurants, farms, and people with whom you connect.  Messaging system for communication with connected individuals and farms (optional for farm). 

    Revenue: 

    3% (Farmigo is only taking 2%) of each CSA subscription taken from the producer.  

    Advertising for participating restaurants. 

    Goal: Create and maintain a national CSA database that connects farms with consumers in an aesthetically pleasing social network. 

    So, needless to say, when I came across Farmigo and the enthusiasm it fostered at TechCrunch Disrupt, my first thought, of course, was, “FUCK!!!” 

    But, I realized, I should actually be happy about it.  Katie and I are not currently in a position to have started Foody, though we were considering a Spring Y Combinator application, and we don’t know any programmers, which I thought would hurt our chances for a Y Combinator, or any other investment pitch.  We didn’t have a team, whereas Farmigo has been developing their platform since 2008!

    That said, we had an idea that has been embraced and cheered by the startup community.  I look forward to see how Farmigo develops, and also what other startups already exist or are developing within sustainable food systems. 

    I do have some recommendations for Farmigo that I think could improve their visitors’ experience and keep people involved who may not want or have CSA options:

    Become the YELP of organic/local/slow food restaurants.  Allow those restaurants to set up profiles and advertise throughout the site.  You have such a focused clientele that those advertising dollars will certainly attract new customers, and your site will benefit with a revenue stream that is independent of the CSA revenue.  

    Allow community organizations to get established on your site.  Urban gardening is a growing phenomena, and attracting individuals to becoming more involved members of their community is a great way to foster new relationships and increase subscriptions. 

    Many farms have CSA home delivery options available, and they can likely accommodate more customers in dense areas for the same delivery service.  Given the choice between driving to a pick-up location or having it delivered, people will go for delivery, even if you were to charge a little more.  

    And lastly, allow users to connect with one another.  Allow them to be able to message with one another.  Help create new bonds, new friendships, so that new urban farms and community gardens can be borne, and more CSA locations can be developed.  

    So much of our culture is centered on food, and hopefully Farmigo understands the possibilities other than simply connecting individuals to CSA.  If not, perhaps HarvestShare or Foody still has a shot in a few years time.   

    (Source: farmigo.com)

  5. For Agha and Malley, Lenin Unintentionally Explains Why The Islamists Are Poised To Take Egypt

    In Hussein Agha and Robert Malley’s “The Arab Counterrevolution,” which appears in the current New York Review of Books, a single remark on Lenin captures the entire argumentative gist for Agha and Malley’s thesis, that throughout the Arab revolutions the Islamists are in the best position to take power.  The irony, though, is that Agha and Malley reference Lenin in order to argue against him, thinking that their analysis runs counter to the old Bolshevik.  The comment appears in their first paragraph as they try to explain the uniqueness of the non-destructive revolution which led to Mubarak’s ouster, claiming, “Lenin’s theory was turned on its head. The Russian leader postulated that a victorious revolution required a structured and disciplined political party, robust leadership, and a clear program.”  According to Agha and Malley (I’ll use AM from now on), Mubarak resigned after the successful union of protesters who had no positive political message, but rather a deep sense of what they refused, “daily indignities, privations, and the stifling of basic freedoms.”  The Egyptian youth—who are largely rewarded for being the fomenters of this so-called revolution—were ultimately apolitical, and it is their ousting of Mubarak through their negative politics that leads AM to believe that Lenin was, in fact, proven wrong about how revolutions are successful.    

    What is troubling to me, however, is that the entire rest of the article laments on how “[t]he usual condition of a revolutionary is to be tossed aside,” and how the Egyptian youth have no stake in the next chapter of the revolution; that is, building a new government in Egypt.  In fact, AM argue the actual winners of the Arab uprisings are the Islamists who are “the only significant political force with a vision and program unsullied, because untested, by the exercise of, or complicity in, power.”  In a twist of fate for AM’s analysis, the Islamists success in Egypt is because they match up more closely with Lenin’s requirements than the protesters: they have a clear religious and political doctrine, they are deeply organized, and have the hierarchical structures to attain and manage actual governmental power.  The protesters have lost their role in the revolution because “what they possess in enthusiasm they lack in organization and political experience,” whereas the Islamists “see the Arab awakening as their golden opportunity. This was not their revolution nor was it their idea. But, they hope, this is their time.”     

    The primary reason for AM’s misuse of Lenin is that they limit the timeline of the revolution to the instance of protest and Mubarak’s resignation only.  But for Lenin, the moment the protesters were victorious is only the instance of revolt.  The revolution only begins once the revolt has been successful; the revolution in Egypt began on February 11th, not ended.  Now, the only participants leading the revolution are the military and the Islamists, while the protesters and their grassroots coalitions lag dreadfully behind.

    We mustn’t locate the revolution to the overturning of power, as AM do.  Doing so mistakenly renders revolutions as a purely abstract negative force that bears no meaning and only has the capacity to undo current systems of power.  Lenin means exactly what he says in the quote from AM, and he is dead-on now as we witness the disorganized Egyptian protesters lose their place in what was supposed to be their revolution to the calculated, powerful Islamists.

  6. Criterion 50% sale going on right now.  I finally picked up my own copy of what, I think, is the greatest marriage story ever expressed on the screen, Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage.  Also looking forward to some other Bergman additions, Malick’s Days of Heaven, and Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale.  
In other news, just finished formatting the first complete draft of my short film, Lake Effect.  It’s still difficult to compute the fact that I’m making a movie this fall. 

    Criterion 50% sale going on right now.  I finally picked up my own copy of what, I think, is the greatest marriage story ever expressed on the screen, Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage.  Also looking forward to some other Bergman additions, Malick’s Days of Heaven, and Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale.  

    In other news, just finished formatting the first complete draft of my short film, Lake Effect.  It’s still difficult to compute the fact that I’m making a movie this fall. 

  7. One of my interests for this blog is developing more thorough ideas about Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy and his applicability to Web 2.0 and the Internet in general.  More specifically, I’m interested in considering tech start-ups’ positions and roles in today’s capitalist economic model (although just what capitalism looks like in 2011 requires a lot of work in and of itself), and see how these new Internet businesses (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are shifting (displacing?) the traditional networks of control in capitalist culture, and maybe even see how they fit into what more recent academics are calling a globalized, biopolitical Empire. 
Right now, though, I’m reading through Deleuze’s Cinema I: the movement-image, and I want to make some notes that, to me, render filmmaking as quite a similar enterprise to coding and web development.  
I’ll begin with an analogy Deleuze derives out of his predecessor, Henri Bergson.  For both Bergson and Deleuze, movement is a consequence of still images—“immobile sections”—that are technologically or perceptually transmitted into real movement:
immobile sections     =     movement as mobile section                                                      movement                            qualitative change 
On a reel of film (this is now complicated in digital film), movement is created through a consistently spaced and paced length of stills.  These immobile sections, when viewed together, beget actual movement—one of the earliest examples, of course, being the Muybridge Horse.
It would seem that movement, then, becomes a finite moment of change.  It becomes its own system, essentially a closed circuit or limited event.  That’s where Deleuze and Bergson get interesting, because for them, movement is never confined to a closed space.  Space is always expansive.  Any instance of movement creates “a translation in space,” and since a single movement affects space, “there is also a qualitative change in a whole” (8).  
Consider film first: you begin with a captured image, a still, and each still formally adds into movement.  But the movement translates space.  ”Whole,” here, is tricky, because it comprises the whole of relational space.  It is not dependent on content, although objects of content create the relations that participate in the whole.  In other words, the whole can be your brain witnessing a film and making associations to other films, personal memories, the taste of your Goobers, etc., and the whole can also be the film’s participation in cinematic history and in visual culture.  Like a stone falling into water, the movement of one thing becomes connected and ripples out into an indivisible number of ways.  It affects the whole.  
The Internet is rather similar.  You begin with static characters, which are sequenced together and create computer languages, and these languages create systems, which may at first seem like a closed circuit, but that is never the case.  It’s movement transmissions throughout the web, and the “whole” of the Internet is affected.  
The whole, then, is ultimately a deeply ambivalent space.  It can be crossed over by machines that hope to classify, construct, and limit its expansive landscape.  You could consider the factory, or social classes, as a form of delimiting the whole.  
On the other hand (and this is what I’ll be thinking about on this blog), you can create computer systems that enrich the whole, that encourage a transfer of knowledge, skills, ideas, and enable individuals to push further into the web with unlimited creativity.  Of course, Facebook makes a ton of money, and I’ll eventually need to figure out what that means and how that affects this social landscape, but for now, I’m simply intrigued by the potential for movement—any movement at all—to affect our networks, be it cybernetic, artistic, or social (they are all in the whole).
So the whole, then, is content independent.  It doesn’t rely on one specific aggregate of ideas, or one specific function, but instead is composed by the relations that we create through our own interests, pursuits, and forms of knowledge.  Which begs the question: is Web 2.0 the most comprehensive example of what Deleuze and Guattari call a “rhizome”? 
In simplest terms, network relations can promote freedom or they can be oppressive.  As Deleuze iterates, “its nature [the Whole] is to change constantly, or to give rise to something new, in short, to endure” (9).  It can endure regardless of whether its relations are freeing or destructive, which places the responsibility of us—the thinkers, the designers, the movers, to determine just how this space is translated. 

    One of my interests for this blog is developing more thorough ideas about Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy and his applicability to Web 2.0 and the Internet in general.  More specifically, I’m interested in considering tech start-ups’ positions and roles in today’s capitalist economic model (although just what capitalism looks like in 2011 requires a lot of work in and of itself), and see how these new Internet businesses (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are shifting (displacing?) the traditional networks of control in capitalist culture, and maybe even see how they fit into what more recent academics are calling a globalized, biopolitical Empire. 

    Right now, though, I’m reading through Deleuze’s Cinema I: the movement-image, and I want to make some notes that, to me, render filmmaking as quite a similar enterprise to coding and web development.  

    I’ll begin with an analogy Deleuze derives out of his predecessor, Henri Bergson.  For both Bergson and Deleuze, movement is a consequence of still images—“immobile sections”—that are technologically or perceptually transmitted into real movement:

    immobile sections     =     movement as mobile section                                                      movement                            qualitative change 

    On a reel of film (this is now complicated in digital film), movement is created through a consistently spaced and paced length of stills.  These immobile sections, when viewed together, beget actual movement—one of the earliest examples, of course, being the Muybridge Horse.

    It would seem that movement, then, becomes a finite moment of change.  It becomes its own system, essentially a closed circuit or limited event.  That’s where Deleuze and Bergson get interesting, because for them, movement is never confined to a closed space.  Space is always expansive.  Any instance of movement creates “a translation in space,” and since a single movement affects space, “there is also a qualitative change in a whole” (8).  

    Consider film first: you begin with a captured image, a still, and each still formally adds into movement.  But the movement translates space.  ”Whole,” here, is tricky, because it comprises the whole of relational space.  It is not dependent on content, although objects of content create the relations that participate in the whole.  In other words, the whole can be your brain witnessing a film and making associations to other films, personal memories, the taste of your Goobers, etc., and the whole can also be the film’s participation in cinematic history and in visual culture.  Like a stone falling into water, the movement of one thing becomes connected and ripples out into an indivisible number of ways.  It affects the whole.  

    The Internet is rather similar.  You begin with static characters, which are sequenced together and create computer languages, and these languages create systems, which may at first seem like a closed circuit, but that is never the case.  It’s movement transmissions throughout the web, and the “whole” of the Internet is affected.  

    The whole, then, is ultimately a deeply ambivalent space.  It can be crossed over by machines that hope to classify, construct, and limit its expansive landscape.  You could consider the factory, or social classes, as a form of delimiting the whole.  

    On the other hand (and this is what I’ll be thinking about on this blog), you can create computer systems that enrich the whole, that encourage a transfer of knowledge, skills, ideas, and enable individuals to push further into the web with unlimited creativity.  Of course, Facebook makes a ton of money, and I’ll eventually need to figure out what that means and how that affects this social landscape, but for now, I’m simply intrigued by the potential for movement—any movement at all—to affect our networks, be it cybernetic, artistic, or social (they are all in the whole).

    So the whole, then, is content independent.  It doesn’t rely on one specific aggregate of ideas, or one specific function, but instead is composed by the relations that we create through our own interests, pursuits, and forms of knowledge.  Which begs the question: is Web 2.0 the most comprehensive example of what Deleuze and Guattari call a “rhizome”? 

    In simplest terms, network relations can promote freedom or they can be oppressive.  As Deleuze iterates, “its nature [the Whole] is to change constantly, or to give rise to something new, in short, to endure” (9).  It can endure regardless of whether its relations are freeing or destructive, which places the responsibility of us—the thinkers, the designers, the movers, to determine just how this space is translated. 

  8. I begin this blog with Jean Marais as Orpheus in Jean Cocteau’s 1950 Orpheus.  Here the poet clutches the mirror, the portal through which the dead enter waking life, and through which the living are guided into death.  
For Orpheus this mirror is a kind of barricade, a form of entrapment against which the artistic desires of the poet are cast back to him like his own reflection in the mirror.  Orpheus bangs against the glass in search of new meanings beyond what is considered rational, material, organic.  
It’s a wonderful image of struggle for the creative individual.  What are the portals that must be taken?  What expanses, what networks, arise with each destruction, with each disruption in mass culture?  What is gained by breaking through the glass?  
And so I begin here with Orpheus as my guide, and I wish for this blog to be an always aesthetic, often humorous, and ever vibrant rhizome of my interests, thoughts, and pursuits.  I am expressed in an indivisible multitude of ways, and the only limitation I face is my own inability to see and pass through my own mirrors.  

    I begin this blog with Jean Marais as Orpheus in Jean Cocteau’s 1950 Orpheus.  Here the poet clutches the mirror, the portal through which the dead enter waking life, and through which the living are guided into death.  

    For Orpheus this mirror is a kind of barricade, a form of entrapment against which the artistic desires of the poet are cast back to him like his own reflection in the mirror.  Orpheus bangs against the glass in search of new meanings beyond what is considered rational, material, organic.  

    It’s a wonderful image of struggle for the creative individual.  What are the portals that must be taken?  What expanses, what networks, arise with each destruction, with each disruption in mass culture?  What is gained by breaking through the glass?  

    And so I begin here with Orpheus as my guide, and I wish for this blog to be an always aesthetic, often humorous, and ever vibrant rhizome of my interests, thoughts, and pursuits.  I am expressed in an indivisible multitude of ways, and the only limitation I face is my own inability to see and pass through my own mirrors.