the pudgie process, statuette, step 2

This is the second entry on the Pudgie process. For a description of the Pudgie award, go here.

So I talked to Lisa Werenko tonight. What should the Pudgie statuette look like? Lisa is a sculptor, among other things. (One of the things she isn’t, is a creature of the web. Links, I hope, someday to come.)

She had been to the Modigliani show in Rochester and got to thinking about his caryatids as a model for what Pudgie could look like. Here’s the URL for the show: Modigliani

We talked about what an statuette needs to look like to look like an award, size, shape, materials and so on. More to come.

the pudgie process, step 1

Here is the first entry on pudgies, ported over from my LiveJournal (Dec. 5, 2002)

I’m a step closer to the pudgies idea. This is a CxC (Culture by commotion) award for producers and critics of popular culture…on the assumption that there are awards for many things, but rarely this. (For more, click here)

You have to have a statuette and I phoned Lisa in Santa Fe, the only sculptor I know. Then you have to have cash prizes. I phoned Lisa again, but she said I would have to sort this one out for myself. You have to have winners and we already have 5. See link above.

Prizes are meant to exercise a small gravitational effect…in this case, to encourage people to engage in a thoughtful, sometimes anthropological, reflection on what is happening in contemporary culture. There is a lot of cant on the web. But if the internet is to be any good at all, one of the things it has to be better at is thinking about itself…and right now there is a dearth of meta-web work.

Why pudgie? I was in LA, sitting in my hotel room. (I try to leave the hotel as little as possible…it’s an anthropological thing.) And there in LA Magazine was a story about the founders of the surfing and body culture of the beach scene after WWII. And there was a picture of Pudgie McCabe bursting with good humor and no hint that she was anything but totally unconflicted about weighlifting and surfing. All goddesses of creativity are ample as a fertility doll. Pudgie was, well, pudgie with promise of new and interesting ideas. That’s why.

For those of you who did not go to the Pudgie account:

Pudgies are awards. They will be given to producers and critics of contemporary culture. They will be given by CxC (Culture by commotion). They will take the form of a small statuette (in the well established tradition thereof) suitable for putting on one’s desk as a provocation of admiration from one’s friend and envy from one’s enemies. There will also be a cash award.

Question one: why bother? There are too many awards in the world. Film makers, advertisers, magazines and newspapers get together each year in a riot of self congratulation and hand them out by the handful.

In certain sectors, however, there are precious few awards. This is especially true in the area of contemporary culture production and criticism. There are many, millions, of players and almost no awards. That’s why bother.

Question two: who do you think you are? Contemporary culture is egalitarian and jealous of those of those who exercise power. Almost no one has the authority to hand out awards. And this means anybody can. So CxC is going to. That’s who we think we are.

Pudgies will go to journalists and academics who create work that is peculiarly illuminating. The judging is not systematic. The contest, like life, is not fair.

Decentralization & anthro

I was just reading Scott Rosenberg’s account of the SuperNova conference in Palo Alto (at

The Decentralization conference was designed to ask Howard Rheingold’s question in Smart Mobs. What happens when you get lots of people with wireless devices and constant access to their own and one another’s blogs?

There is an anthropological answer: new and extraordinary opportunities for social and cultural observation, thousands of people doing the anthropology of contemporary culture on line in real time.

To observe the world is to change it. Who is going to wear that new Gap scarf a second time? Not when it is spotted in every Starbucks in the North America, the day it hits the market.

The chatter will be interesting:

“So who else is seeing that scarf with multi colored blocks about 3 inches wide that run down a scarf that’s about 6 feet long.”

“One just walked in here.”

“Shit, there’s another.”

Scarves will go from novelty to cliche in a day.

Hollywood warms to Transformation

Steven Spielberg and DiCaprio are about to release a film called Catch Me If You Can, a treatment of a con man who works his con by transforming himself into a succession of characters.

Transformation (the book on this site) argues that Hollywood shows more and more interest in transformational themes, especially when it takes the form of a character who plays many characters.

I use these films as my cases in point: Sliding Doors (1998, Peter Howitt), Multiplicity (1996, Harold Ramis), Fight Club (1999, David Fincher), eXistenZ, (1999, David Cronenberg), Passion of the Mind (2000, Alain Berliner), The Family Man (2000, Brett Ratner), Me Myself I (1999, Pip Karmel), Down to Earth (2001, Chris and Paul Weitz), Possible Worlds (2000, Robert Lepage), The One (2001, James Wong), The Bourne Identity (2002, Doug Liman), Catch Me If You Can (2002, Steven Spielberg)

The thing about Hollywood and a lot of popular culture is that, because it is governed by the market place, it represents more than an act of imagination. Any given film is a bet. When the bet is wrong, studios lose money, stars lose some of their brilliance and directors, some of them, never work again.

So far transformation has been a risky bet. Many of the films on my list have failed or “underperformed.”

But Hollywood continues to make the bet. If you add up all the budgets for these films, the bet now comes out to $447 million.

We can also say that the following actors have bet a chunk of their careers: Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law, Demi Moore, Nicolas Cage, Rachel Griffiths, Chris Rock, Tom McCamus, Jet Li, Matt Damon, and Leo DiCaprio.

The way to think about it anthropologically, I think, is to say that Hollywood can hear transformation has a new imperative in popular culture, but, like the rest of us, it is having a hard time figuring out how to treat the theme.

a conversation with Maria on what makes a good blog

a discussion about what makes a good blog

that turns on the idea that good blogs might come from a single, consistent persona on the part of the blogger OR from the multiplicity of the blogger, OR possibly from both.

Thanks to Maria for giving me permission to quote her.

Continue reading

Cameron Crowe

Cameron Crowe is a convention is some ways, a puzzle in others.

He is one of the journalists, now directors, who is particularly good at treating contemporary culture both as observer and participant.

He’s a puzzle because he seems to have an invisble centre of gravity. How for instance did he managed to cover the counter culture of the 60s without tipping into it. How did he, at 15 no less, manage to keep the company of rock stars on the road without beginning to see his profession and his paper (Rolling Stone) as the corruptions the age now scorned.

He did the same same thing with the movie Say Anything (1989). Here he was reporting Seattle culture (before it was official). This too was a counter culture that treated Hollywood as a corruption, the very thing alternative values were designed to encourage us to repudiate.

So the mystery is this: how did he get close enough to capture without getting close enough to repudiate the media (rock journalism and hollywood movies) he was capturing with.

Is it something to do with being a Californian…so persuaded that popular culture is it that you persevere with it even in the face of values that reject it?