Sunday, July 25, 2010
Barbie was my chosen tool of play as a child. I don’t know how many I had, or how many my parents were coerced into buying me, but I do know that at one stage I had a Barbie stable.
Despite this, I don’t recall my numerous dolls with any fondness. It’s not hatred or dislike I feel either, more ambivalence. I think this is because no matter how many I acquired, I always wanted the next one; I lived on the promise of more.
Even now I’m baffled by what it was that made me yearn for those dolls, because, in all honesty, what did they actually do? Lay there with blue eyes, wide and empty, smiling inanely. The only conclusion I can reach is the TV ads in which Barbie danced, nursed, played, and sang. I think I always expected her to arrive jumping out of her box. Instead, it always took her so long to get out of the shagging box you’d swear they soldered her in.
But in the ads Barbie was never tied to cardboard, oh no. She was the life and soul of the party. She was a housewife, disco queen, singing superstar who slowly tried to develop in to an icon, women could be proud of, vet and Doctor Barbie. If Barbie the paralegal had emerged I would not have been surprised. Barbie the Revolutionary, the Pulitzer Winner, etc.
Considering the inspiration for Barbie dolls came from a cartoon based on a German “working girl” there’s a lot to be said about her changing attitude towards the role of women. Most of the first Barbie’s were marketed as either “teen fashion dolls” or the atypical housewife. The picture of innocence and virtue, far from the walking the streets of Berlin vibe this doll was reared.
When I had finally freed Doctor Barbie from her twist knot bonds, my excitement ebbed away. I had her in my hands. I wasn’t satisfied. She wasn’t a doctor. Apart from her white coat she was identical in every way to Teacher Barbie, from her frilly dress down to the tips of her sparkly-painted toes.
Advertising is a wonderful thing. It can transform the most mundane, plastic blocks into something magical, desirable. Something that parents across the land will look upon with dread as they picture the next few months of their lives dominated with statements such as “Mam! Race Car Barbie is crap without her race car/racetrack/pit team.” As the age old saying goes, if Barbie is so popular why do I have to buy her friends?
They were a high maintenance lot, the Barbie Dream Team. You could tell by looking at them. Long toothpick legs, a waistline that made you thank God they had no internal organs, breasts so pointed the box should have read: “Hazard, sudden movement may cause eye injury.” Poor Ken. No wonder he never progressed further than Barbie’s boyfriend. He was too dazed by her dazzling good looks to finish that college degree he always seemed to be in the middle of.
The controversy over Barbie’s size has raged for years and at times it’s so intense that I just long to hear someone shout out “Jesus, it’s only a doll!” But of course to many women (and men) across the world she is much, much more than that. She is the embodiment of perfection and suddenly all our life’s failures become clear. It’s all because we don’t look like her. This is what our culture’s obsession with flawlessness has brought us to. The life that Barbie has developed of her own (in 2004 she broke up with Ken, but in 2006 publicists reported they were working things out) makes it extraordinarily difficult for some to differentiate between what’s real and what’s fantasy. Where does her success end, and our failure begin?
There’s no knowing the extent of damage Barbie’s appearance caused us as children. At the very least we know it didn’t force the maternal instinct on us because under no circumstances could those hips bear child. I think I was more envious of her hair than her beyond reality measurements.
I remember reading an article a few years ago in which a woman wrote about the effect of Barbie on her adult life. One line always stood out to me; “In reality Barbie was always nothing without me.” As children, we brought to life what otherwise would have been a boring, motionless piece of plastic, roughly modelled after a 1930s German prostitute. Barbie may have the beauty, the boyfriend and the gang of sweatshop children at her disposable, but we were always the brains behind the games. --Niamh King
Editor's Note: Barbie Goes Gaga
This is our favourite twitter right now. Here's a sample of the hilarity.
"If they tried to break into The Batman's dreams, 'Inception' would have been called 'Watch Leonardo DiCaprio Get Beat into a Coma.'"
"Mel, there are healthier ways to deal with rage: Deep breaths. Count to ten. Embed Batarangs in the nerve centers of petty thieves."
Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society's understanding. MY understanding is they thrive on vicious beatings.
"We'll miss you, Jack Bauer. If you ever come out of exile, I've got a pair of green ankle shoes and a yellow cape waiting."
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Originally Appears in Issue 4
Declan Aylward is back with three more fantastic web sites for you to browse, proving once and for all he has infinitely more free time than you do.
I Hit It With My Axe
Porn stars, everybody likes porn stars; and Dungeons & Dragons, well, some people like that…mostly the same people that are big fans of porn stars.
That was probably the thinking behind Zak Sabbath’s latest idea I Hit It With My Axe. It’s a reality TV style web series debuting on The Escapist that follows the adventures of adult film stars Kimberley Kane, Satine Phoenix and Mandy Morbid, as well as an assortment of strippers, hair dressers and tattoos through their trials in D&D. The series features Zak Sabbath as the dungeon master and uses his special, rules-light version of the game, so it’s not too hard to follow for those of us who don’t have a maths degree or our own replica of the One Ring. D&D podcasts are all over the web, but very few offer any view of the action, and although the edited, reality TV style of the show breaks the flow a little, the visuals are well worth it. There’s also a lot of enjoyment in seeing stars we are more familiar with rolling around on each other rolling some dice instead. If you’re not familiar with the work of these talented young ladies, One More Robot knows you’ll google them right after reading this with all the privacy settings on your browser set to ‘wank’.
WWdN: In Exile
Remember Wil Wheaton? That skinny little kid in the grey jumpsuit that pissed us all off so much in Star Trek: The Next Generation as Wesley Crusher? Well he’s got himself a blog, and quite a successful one too, if the nerdvine is to be believed. Wil Wheaton Dot Net: In Exile has existed at its current location for a while now, ever since an attempt to upgrade, a buggy program and an innocent reader leaving a comment conspired to work the blog’s last location into such a knot it would drive Popeye the Sailor to hard drugs. It may not seem like the most enticing option in the world, to read the scribblings of a guy who was the epitome of uncool in the 1980s, but grown up Wil really is worth giving a chance. He is still the epitome of uncool, of course, but a very witty and entertaining epitome, for all that.
The blog covers everything and anything, from musings on his past as a ‘teen heart throb’ (sniggers all round on that one) and updates on his current projects like The Big Bang Theory and Eureka to more esoteric ramblings about his all consuming love of certain Linux platforms. There is a charm about his writing, a sort of honest lack of self possession that makes you actually give a shit about the little stories in his life that he shares and that keeps you coming back for more. Oh, and he hates Wesley Crusher too!
One of the best things about the internet is how much power it puts into the hands of ordinary people; its ability to cut through the corporate structure that has grown up around so much of our entertainment media. Felicia Day’s sitcom web series about a group of social misfits whose only connection with each other is an online game makes for a fantastic example. The show began in 2007 and its first season was financed solely through PayPal donations made by viewers, with a tally on the website showing how much they needed to raise to make the next episode. The Guild is now into its third season and has had corporate sponsorship for a while now, but the do-it-yourself attitude and feel of the series has survived. The lovely Ms. Day, whose beauty famously inspired Penny Arcade’s Tycho to groom her like a unicorn, stars in the show as the healer Codex as well as writing the 3 to 8 minute long episodes. Visit the official website or check out iTunes or Xbox Live to follow the Knights of Good through their first real life meeting with each other, a romantic entanglement brought about by chronic misuse of emotes and other adventures of the socially inept.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Hit TV series Glee is known for it’s creative use of pop standards new and old. Over it’s short run it has amassed over three albums worth of reworkings of some classics and some not so classics and some very pants. The signature Glee piece would be Journey's 'Don’t Stop Believin', but a few weeks back they did 'Safety Dance' and with that the 'Safety Dance' is all back up on my radar. I’ve provided a handy link for you to enjoy the aforementioned 'Safety dance'. Go ahead and click, enjoy and absorb. Seriously, it is hardcore. --Jesse Melia
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Hyperbolic statements concerning the death of Hip-Hop come around every once in a while. Many fans bemoan the demise of any kind of postive thinking in the genre and those who consider themselves ‘right-minded rappers’ get overly concerned about who is and who isn’t a “real MC”. But don’t fret. Hip-Hop is still alive and well, and these complaints only belies the guilt of the genre to take itself a little too seriously sometimes. This is something Brooklyn-based absurdist rappers Das Racist can hardly be accused of. Consisting of MCs Victor Vasquez and Himanshu Suri (Hima), the group is completed by Ashok Kondabolu (Dap), who they describe as their “hype man and spiritual advisor”.
So “Das Racist” is it? Question number one had to be where the name came from? “We got it from an online Wu-Tang name generator,” says Vasquez. “My grandmother came up with it. She’s a huge (Rap duo) Das EFX fan,” contradicts Hima. Both of these might be partially true, but based on their penchant for nonsense, we best take their explanations with a grain of salt.
Das Racist gained attention last year when their track ‘Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell’ went viral, despite consisting almost entirely of the lyrics “I’m at the Pizza Hut/ I’m at the Taco Bell/ I’m at the Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”. Called by New York’s Death and Taxes magazine “both feverishly juvenile and somehow profound” at the time, the song was quite divisive, irritating plenty of people, and found the group collecting labels like “dumb” and “joke-rap”.“I hope the 16 other songs on the mixtape aid people in their perception of us,” says Hima.
The mixtape in question, Shut Up, Dude, is their first and was released in March for free on their website. The tape displays an amalgamation of different styles, leaning heavily on various iterations of Electronica, Dub, Reggae, Dubstep, Jazz and Soul sampling, and Bhangra. Of the lyrical content Hima summarises, “We use humour and poetic devices like repetition to talk about mundane things like food and things that upset or freak us out.” Their stream of consciousness flow hops from one unrelated topic to the next, and it may seem that there’s no point to the absurdity of certain tracks, until you realise that is the point. “I majored in Non-sequiturs and (anti-art movement) Dadaism in college” explains Vasquez. The range of lyrical topics and musical styles is also no surprise given their disparate inspirations – everyone from MF Doom to Sun Ra to the painter Basquiat and novelist Salman Rushdie. Though Hima concedes his real inspiration, “I decided to make music and rap so people would think I was really cool and like me.”
So what’s next for Das Racist? “We’re talking with a couple different labels. We’re still trying to figure out a tour. We’re learning how to build explosives with household items,” claims Vasquez. Fair enough, anything to add Hima? “This interview is a pipe bomb.” What an absurd thing to say. -- Stephen Rogers
Friday, July 9, 2010
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
In her article '8 Bit Blips' Laura O'Brien looks at how retro gaming has inspired all sorts of artists, filmmakers and musicians. Here's a fine example of 8 Bit music; a cover of Kool & The Gang's classic 'Jungle Boogie'.
Read '8 Bit Blips' in One More Robot Issue 4