Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ornament and Crime

Adolf Loos (1870 - 1933) was a Viennese modernist architect, and a virulent opponent of ornament in all elements of design. He considered ornament and decoration enemies of modernism, and evidence of a cultural regression into primitivism:
The evolution of culture is synonymous with the removal of ornament from objects of daily use.
Loos was also a bit of an extremist, and like his Futurist contemporaries, he took his intellectual proclamations perhaps further than necessary to prove a point. Here's a passage from his often confrontational and sometimes ridiculous text "Ornament and Crime" (1908), where he makes sweeping comparisons between tattoos, fine art and criminality:
Children are amoral, and so, by our standards, are Papuans. If a Papuan slaughters an enemy and eats him, that doesn't make him a criminal. But if a modern man kills someone and eats him, he must be either a criminal or degenerate. The Papuans tattoo themselves, decorate their boats, their oars, everything they can get their hands on. 
 But a modern man who tattoos himself must be either a criminal or a degenerate. Why, there are prisons where eighty percent of the convicts are  tattooed, and tattooed men who are not in prison are either latent criminals or degenerate aristocrats. When a tattooed man dies at liberty, it simply means that he hasn't had time to commit his crime.
The urge to ornament one's face, and everything within one's reach, is the origin of fine art. 

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Visual Vocab

Result #1 from Google Image Search for the word "random"

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Royal Blood, Part 1: The Devolution of the Habsburg Genealogy (the Habsburg lip)

from left to right-
Philip III: King of Spain and Portugal (1598 - 1621)
Philip IV: King of Spain and Portugal (1621 - 1665)
Charles II: King of Spain and Portugal  (1665 - 1700)

Much like pedigree selection in the science of animal husbandry, hereditary monarchies around the world adhere to a strict form of selective breeding. This is due to a belief that Royal blood is inherently superior to "commoner" blood. Thus, Royal bloodlines are painstakingly preserved for centuries by keeping the breeding confined to an elite few. But this form of controlled inbreeding among close relatives can have a detrimental effect on a gene pool (called "inbreeding depression"), which leads to some pretty horrific mental and physical disabilities. 

The Habsburg family of Spain and Austria provides a dramatic example. Generations of rampant inbreeding led to the development of an inherited deformity that became known as the "Habsburg lip". The "Habsburg lip" was characterized by a protruding lower jaw, which often led to difficulties chewing, speaking and keeping one's mouth closed. 

Philip IV (son of Philip III), suffered from prominent "Habsburg lip", as well as a difficulty in producing a suitable heir. In his lifetime, Philip had fifteen children with two separate wives. But most of his children were physically degenerate, and most died in childhood. However, the need to name an heir was absolute, and Philip had no choice but to hand the throne to his youngest son Charles II (son of Queen Mariana of Austria... Philip's second wife and niece). 

In King Charles was manifested centuries of tainted Habsburg genes. Charles' "Habsburg lip" was so pronounced, he was unable to chew food. His tongue was so large, he was unable to speak intelligibly. He was so severely mentally handicapped, he was never given an education or taught to read. By the time he reached his thirties, Charles' was fully bald, epileptic, and unable to walk. Towards the end of his 35 year reign, the Spanish people began to believe that he was possessed by the devil, and so Charles II became known as "The Bewitched". A marriage was arranged for him, but he was physically incapable of fatherhood. When Charles II died heirless in 1770, the Habsburg bloodline died with him. 

The progression of the genetic devolution is apparent in the Royally commissioned portraits of the three monarchs (painted by El Greco, Velasquez, and Juan Carreno de Miranda).  Though its safe to assume that the portraits are flattering to their subject, the progression of the hereditary deformities are clearly visible from generation to generation.  

Friday, December 19, 2008

INTERNET EXTREMISM: The Executive Lifestyle

A gem of a blog reminiscent of a bygone era, called "Executive Lifetsyle". Its mission -- to characterize and celebrate the overpaid American executive. With a short life of only four postings (which come to an abrupt end in November 2007), it wastes no time in getting to the heart of what the American executive wants, needs and purchases with credit. And its slogan is almost as prescient as "let them eat cake":
"This blogg [sic] is for those who enjoy the lifestyle of comfortable living, exquisite dinners, lavish vacations, and of course the best things money can buy."

Visual Vocab

Result #1 from Google Image Search for the word "stilted"

Sunday, December 14, 2008

spam poetry, part 2

Some cryptic poetry from the content of a few of the aforementioned spam emails

Untitled #1

In a trice without warning the face of nature 
grew sullen Black angry mouths, the clouds 
swallowed up the sun The air was dense with
suppressed excitement The wind howled 
through the long corridors and sobbed and
whispered in the secret recesses

Untitled #2

stem-browed wheel-turning air filter
up-to-datishness frost-bound life buoy
whelk-shaped long-exerted hypermesis 
gravidarum breaking strength store sign 
saber-shaped wing-tip flare quarter-foot 
waste-dwelling quasi-pressed psuedo-urate 
four-coupled Half-shakesperean try plane 

spam poetry, part 1

This is a list of email subject headings I collected  in 2006 from over 5,500 junk emails. These messages accumulated in the inbox of a work email address that had no junk mail filtration whatsoever. Its the lowest variety of spam that's immediately filtered from one's mailbox with even the most rudimentary junk mail protection. I imagine the phrases are computer generated, and the word combos are intended to appeal to a random variety of potential fake Viagra customers (though according to Harper's, only 1 in every 12.5 million junk emails results in a sale). Though they're disastrously unsuccessful at selling fake Viagra, I think they are kind of amazing and hilarious.  
  • Your cash, off wheeler 
  • Your cash, oilcloth knife
  • Critter Wrath Lovely
  • Creepy...year old
  • Hi, ninth formed
  • Success, weasel word
  • Life, yard grass
  • Success, well-conned
  • Future, well-blessed
  • Life, wet-eyed
  • Hi, middy-blouse
  • Jaded elm
  • Hi, panic bar
  • Brutality Dividend
  • Hi, nose ring
  • Mental democratically
  • Proclamation ovation
  • Your cash, muse haunted
  • Fleshy popcorn
  • Your money, old gentlemanly
  • :) mush rot
  • your future, milk cooling
  • your future, orb weaver
  • your cash, oblong elliptical
  • ocean sundered
  • callously red-eye
  • hi, one ribbed!
  • Your money, pale broomrape