PARSONS hosts “Real Rebels” Fashion Panel

I’m honored to be included in the upcoming panel on fashion rebels at Parson’s The New School for Design. The panel is moderated by designer John Bartlett and features Karina Kallio, Joshua Katcher, Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart and Stephanie Nicora Johns. Unfortunately, it’s not open to the public, but if you’re a student at Parsons or The New School, please come!

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THRIVE NATURAL CARE

I recently got to try out a new line of men’s grooming products that hits the nail on the head. Thrive is made with all plant-based ingredients sustainably sourced in Costa Rica. These are ingredients we’ve probably never heard of before, like Fierrillo Vine and Juanilama Herb – botanicals that have been used for centuries to control inflammation and infection and calm and soothe the skin. Thrive partners directly with small farmers in Costa Rica, going beyond conventional organic and fair trade models, using methods that restore the soil and empower the farmers. Their #ethicallyhandsome efforts need our support right now, so check out the Thrive Indiegogo Campaign!

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Hit Back: If You Feel Like You’re in the Wrong Place, Start Looking for a Way Out

by Adam Gnade

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Sometimes I want to scream because life is so shitty and sometimes I want to scream because life is so great. The problem with living like that is there’s no middleground. One of my favorite Youthmovies songs goes, “It’s not going well and it’s not going badly/it’s just going along.” I love that line but I haven’t lived like that in years. There’s that whole “comfort in being sad” (from another song) but sometimes I miss the comfort in being bored.

When people tell me they’re bored the first thing I do is get jealous and then I remember how stupid that is. Here’s the thing: once you start looking for a better life things will immediately get tough. What I’ve found is that by changing your life for the better and shooting for your dreams you give up on a lot of shit that makes life easier. Some days when I’m poor as hell and the whole storm of life is howling, the idea of going to a nice, warm, safe job in the morning sounds amazing. Something I wouldn’t have to “take home,” something where I could just go get my work done and be home by 5:30 and have someone else worry about “the money.”

As Americans we’re told diligence on the job is a noble thing. We’re told that you do your part and you don’t hesitate to self-sacrifice. What they don’t tell us is that working a job you don’t believe in will tax your soul somethin’ fierce. What’s the measure of someone who knows they’re a slave but doesn’t look for a way out of the cage? I’m not telling you to quit your shitty job tomorrow or anything like that. Times are hard. What I’m saying is: if you feel like you’re in the wrong place, start looking for a way out. A full cut ‘n’ run from steady employment might be romantic but it’s a very privileged and (mostly) impractical thing to do. I know this because that’s what I’ve done and it’s fucking hard and half the time I feel like an asshole for doing it.

Of course there are always great jobs out there, dream jobs; the kind where your boss isn’t a monster and you feel like you’re doing work that matters. Of all my friends I know maybe five or six whose jobs I truly envy. Phil at the BBC. My pal Bart Schaneman’s gig as an editor for his small town newspaper. Natalie at Matador. My buddy Al who works for Mute Records. The rest I forget. I’m sure there are more but they’re a vast minority.

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On the farm we live our work for all waking hours. If the books we publish don’t sell we have nothing to fall back on. We go without food or we go without propane and everyone makes do. Life without a safety net (or a big company with a secure bank account) is fucking scary some days. Jessie and Thad, who live out here on the farm, have two toddlers. Raising kids when you live like we do is Real Life with a capital R and L and a few choice expletives thrown down on either side. Dylan said, “to live outside the law you must be honest” but I’d counter that and say “you must be relentless.” Hustling that hard can wear you down. It can break your spirit and spook you and it can make you doubt yourself until you’ve lost perspective.

It can also be the freest kind of life you’d ever want to live. Our goal out here is to rely on no one but the people we love, and for those people we will give up anything. On good days all the surreal bullshittyness of life goes away and when that happens it feels like I’m truly in charge of my destiny. Do I believe in destiny? Fate? I don’t, but I do believe in the rare moments of lightness where not a thing weighs heavy on your soul, where you walk the land not proud of your accomplishments but grounded and centered by the SEARCH for them, strong in the knowledge that today (if ONLY today) you fought hard and that you are where you should be.

Of course that’s not all the time and the hard days make it feel like the good ones will never come again but when they do come it makes the struggle worthwhile. The trick is to remember this when the shit gets mean: You’ve got to have the perspective to know that the good will come again even when the bad hits hardest.

Western Tourists Demand Snake Blood & Hearts in Vietnam

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In the West we are often quick to point fingers at the East when it comes to accusations of animal cruelty. However, western tourists are driving a business in Vietnam that capitalizes on shock-gastronomy and machismo. Snakes suffer a cruel death so that their blood and hearts can be consumed. The popular tourist tradition was made famous in the film “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio. There it’s common for young backpackers to drink snake blood or bile liquor and swallow hearts of various snake species killed and gutted in front of them by their waiter. Many of these videos can be seen on YouTube. The activity is so popular that many of Hanoi’s backpacker hostels offer frequent excursions for customers with snake blood and bile liquor said to enhance virility.

Nguyen Tam Thanh, Animal Welfare Officer for Animals Asia said:

“Many young tourists come to Vietnam and think that this kind of activity is part of Vietnamese culture. This is not part of modern Vietnam and the fact that it survives at all is largely down to the tourist trade.”

 

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Animals Asia Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale said:

“It does Vietnam a great disservice to have this sold to tourists as Vietnamese culture.  In our wider work we are fighting hard to end the use of bear bile farming and the cruelty that comes with it.  That campaign is undermined by tourists and tourism organisations paying to consume bile in whatever form.  We have some sympathy with practitioners of ancient medicine who we are working with to encourage them to use herbal remedies over bile.  We have less sympathy for visitors using snake bile for so called ‘extreme eating’ or travel tales to share with friends.  Hopefully the information we are making available will make visitors think twice.  What might be sold to them as local culture may actually be organisations cashing in on cruelty.”

As part of Animals Asia’s work to put an end to the practice, the international nonprofit is producing a leaflet imploring visitors to Vietnam not to consume snake blood, or snake heart, or participate in other activities that cause snakes to suffer.

For more information visit AnimalsAsia.org

Balloon

ThomasMaderTheDiscerningBrute.com is excited to welcome guest writer Thomas Mader, a multidisciplinary artist based in Berlin. Mader has shown internationally and written for publications like Dossier Journal, Underscore Magazine, and Curbs & Stoops. For his recent public intervention “Balloon”, he handed out 1000 helium balloon drones in Salzburg/Austria and New York. “Balloon” will be shown in a different format, as a collaboration with video artist Christopher Michael, at ÑEWMERICA’s show “Birth of a nation” at Exit room Gallery NY, opening on the 3rd of April.

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by Thomas Mader

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In the early 2000’s, when camouflage patterns came back into fashion, some concerned voices could be heard talking about the dangers of introducing military symbols into a civilian context, and thus normalizing the otherwise aggressive connotations these patterns represent.

The people speaking out against this phenomenon were labeled ‘overanxious’, insofar as their arguments being dismissed by the mainstream as irrelevant or conspiracy theory babbling.

The discussion, however, made me recall my first trip to South America and how shocked I was then, not only for seeing armed solders pretty much wherever I went, but also because of how much of a mundane sight they were to the civilians of their respective countries.

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I understand that the military is much more present in an everyday context in the US than it is in many European countries, that it has a different status and a different appreciation, but I also think that it is important to not simply ignore the topics that surfaced in this camouflage fashion discussion. Because not only have I seen how literally camouflage had camouflaged itself, but also how quickly these hidden aggressive potentials can snap back into action and cause extensive damage.

…these hidden aggressive potentials can snap back into action and cause extensive damage.

The downplaying of violent symbols and control mechanisms by introducing them into a mainstream context is a very powerful tactic and we can witness its effects every day.

When Street Art was still relatively underground, the image of the surveillance camera was a warning symbol speaking out against the massive introduction of surveillance mechanisms in public spaces. As the medium got more mainstream attention, its symbols gradually lost their meaning.

A stylized stencil of a surveillance camera now no longer functions as a warning, it just means that Street Art, at least in its most widely recognized form, has become an easily consumable product.

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The medium’s symbols have become so iconic that they no longer contain any significant meaning. They merely serve as a business card for the medium itself.

This development was not necessarily propagated in a conscious way by the creators of the medium, but rather by those who recognized its potential for mainstream appeal and marketability.

In my opinion, a similar phenomenon can now be observed when it comes to drone technology. Almost every other week various YouTube videos show the advances in miniature drone flight and control capability. Companies like Amazon and DHL use drone parcel delivery as publicity stunts and remote control drones have long found their way into toy stores, allowing people to steer them using their iPhones or PSPs.

The technology seems democratic and there for all to use but how much the powers that be really feel the need to control said technology became clear once again when the whole extent of the NSA surveillance program in Germany was uncovered.

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The spying post the NSA had used to spy on top level German politicians, including chancellor Merkel herself, was, and to my knowledge still is, situated right on top of the US embassy in Berlin, smack in the political center of Germany, a mere stones throw away where the chancellor resides and the parliament assembles.

When the Sueddeutsche newspaper and NDR, a regional German TV channel, included drone technology in the research of their joint venture titled “A secret war”, their use of camera drones immediately resulted in police presence where reporters were forbidden to use the drones and had their personal data taken down.

…reporters were forbidden to use the drones and had their personal data taken down.

This discrepancy between seemingly democratic technologies and symbols and their inherent exclusiveness pertaining to a more or less invisible elites works as a sort of Trojan horse.

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People are being offered to use and enjoy certain symbols but they always incorporate the potential that an elite will take them away from the general public whenever they deem fit, or use them to ensure their own safety and status.

Of course, the same goes for certain online services and in their case almost always the well-known Internet rule applies: If it is for free, you are the product.

On that note: Here is your free balloon. Enjoy!

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*”Balloon” was made possible by “Basics” festival in Salzburg/Austria. http://www.basics-festival.net/