Miksimum

is the index page for Jesse Miksic,
a digital dilettante dayjobbing as a UX designer

Loyally feeding the following beasts:

(follow and/or friend me -- if you appear to be a real person capable of passing the human tests, I will probably reciprocate)

General

  • @miksimum on Twitter A random sampling of thoughts and anxieties and signal-boosts and self-promotion.
  • Verbal

  • Benefit of the Doubt My outlet for Media Theory, also used to track other sources
  • @Miksimum on Medium Home to more politics and theory writing, plus reposts from Benefit of the Doubt
  • Berfrois.com A great site that kindly publishes my more polished critical writings
  • 366 Weird Movies An awesome site where I'm an on-and-off contributor
  • Goodreads My book reviews are long enough that I consider this an official creative outlet
  • Visual

  • @miksimum Tumblr Reposting all my visual art from Tumblr
  • @miksimum Instagram Visual art, plus occasional snapshots
  • Symbot on Flickr Digital photography, a hobby on temporary haitus
  • Overheated Media My short video work, on extended haitus since 2012
  • Recent Output

    Aggregated from Benefit of the Doubt and Tumblr, which gives the best representative sample of work in multiple media, I think

    Inside the old barn by Jesse Via Flickr: 3 quiet, dusty...







    Inside the old barn by Jesse
    Via Flickr:
    3 quiet, dusty shots from the July 4 trip to the Finger Lakes

    Posted on 19 July 2017 | 11:00 pm

    Honeoye Lake July 4th 2017 by Jesse







    Honeoye Lake July 4th 2017 by Jesse

    Posted on 12 July 2017 | 2:54 pm

    Balti was holding Lapswitch Ridge, and that meant Lapswitch...



    Balti was holding Lapswitch Ridge, and that meant Lapswitch Ridge couldn’t be taken by force.

    Balti, last of his regiment, who arrived here alone and set his traps, stacked up a convoy’s share of munitions, and set himself a schedule: hoist the flag every morning, reset the charges on each bridge, and check the horizon every two hours. Fill your remaining time pining for your fallen comrades.

    Lapswitch Ridge wasn’t the most important site, strategically speaking, so after a couple devastating skirmishes, they all left Balti alone. Too many losses, they said, not enough gain. The wars went on, borders were redrawn, and whole strategies were drafted around this little pocket, left alone at the center… Lapswitch Ridge, settled territory, beyond the reach of armies and airmen.

    And the wars ended, and nations changed their names, and still, Balti defended his fort. I think he must have stockpiled rations from all the relief shipments he got… he wasn’t a farmer, after all, and the wild pigs up on Lapswitch don’t make for a well-rounded diet. However he’s done it, he’s spent lifetimes now, hoisting the flag of a sovereign that’s long ceased to exist. Whatever oath he made, he was sure to keep it.

    I’m the only homestead with a line of sight up Lapswitch, and this very morning, for the first time since I’ve lived here, the flag didn’t go up. So I’m going to head on up and see what’s happened to Balti.

    If Lapswitch has finally fallen, will another sunrise even bother coming? It’s hard to imagine so.

    Posted on 7 July 2017 | 2:00 am

    The grass on the stratum harasses the bottom of my feet. I think...



    The grass on the stratum harasses the bottom of my feet. I think it would break the skin of a softer sole, but mine are already well-worn. It is cold, though… cold enough that it gives an extra electric shiver to the brisk air. Cold enough to see a long way.

    There’s the Fellsthur up ahead, first time I’ve seen it in… how long has it been?

    I can still hear the paterna, speaking the ritual in my ear, laying this burden upon me. These are troubled times, he said… the soil isn’t coming back, the buzz of wires and engines isn’t going to subside. His voice was a beacon, and I was charged with walking away from it, finding my people a new homeland, and finally following his light back to the stratum.

    To Grayson and New Olderville, to Tropolis and Saggy Bluff… lifetimes spent wandering, searching, bearing our standard. Eyes open for unbroken years, looking for the right kind of loose, fecund territory where our stories could take new root. How long was I out there?

    Too long, it turns out.

    When word came to me, it was a trickle of cold water… awkward whispers, avoidant questions, third-hand rumors faintly remembered. The truth was shy, ashamed, but desperate to be heard: after our land died, my people died, too, one by one, down to the last.

    So my search ends here: in the shadow of Fellsthur, a repurposed ruin, my peoples’ fortress of exile, where the last of them spent their last days. Tonight I’ll listen to their echoes, sleep beside their bones, tell them my story, and finally bring theirs to an end.

    Posted on 28 June 2017 | 1:42 am

    Making some timelines, closing some loops, organizing some...



    Making some timelines, closing some loops, organizing some knowledge. Thanks historyofphilosophy.net for prompting me to think in new directions.

    Posted on 27 June 2017 | 9:28 am

    Twitter movie reviews: first half of 2017

    In honor of the Summer Solstice, I'll go ahead and compile all my Twitter reviews for this year. These were all written within a couple weeks of seeing the film, and they all take up exactly 144 characters, including the film title and date. As you can see, I gave myself some flexibility on the matter of punctuation and abbreviation.

    If you follow me on Twitter, these will occasionally show up on my timeline. As you can see, I like movies. I am very forgiving. If you're looking for something more acerbic, maybe Armond White or the Angry Nerd has a Twitter account.


    JUNE


    Spring (2014) - A wide-ranging young romance, with flashes of horror that are discordant, but don't do much to curb the warmth of the story.

    Kagemusha (1980) - Grand & lush, all the elements of vintage Kurosawa, but didn't have the shapely arc and development of his better movies.


    MAY


    Anguish (2015) - A brooding, earnest "tormented ghost" tale with exceptionally endearing characters. In the end, it rather undersells itself

    Tangled (2010) - Sort of a throwback Disney Romance/comedy, whose brilliant physical humor more than redeems some clumsy writing and pacing.

    Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) - Gorgeous boy-hero story plus family chronicle, all warmth & wisdom, tempered by brilliant visual treatment


    APRIL


    The Wailing (2016) - A strong, thick, & subtle tonic: when the initial hints of levity fade, you're left with despair burning on your tongue

    The Double (2013) - Through a Terry-Gilliam-influenced lens, a focused, twitchy, & potent reflection on the cruelties of desire & insecurity

    Enemy (2013) - A brilliant, chilling cyclical enigma that opens its own little self-contained universe, and ends by closing itself up again.


    MARCH


    10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) - A tense, brooding chamber drama -- great fun, but its explosive finale undercuts the interesting character work

    Dead Lands (2014) - A self-conscious intensity only barely distinguishes this action movie, otherwise built on rote masculine warrior tropes

    City 40 (2016) - A fascinating subject, but too clinical, missing any kind of gravitational center -- intriguing, but emotionally weightless

    A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) - Not too scary, but stylish &; austere, with the feel of a dream on the edge of becoming a nightmare


    FEBRUARY


    La La Land (2016) - Sometimes too pat, but always earnest... you could tell the filmmaker wanted a happy ending as badly as his audience did

    Dope (2015) - Malcolm and his crew are brilliant protagonists in a striking and spontaneous adventure, tonally cacophanous, but never boring

    Happy People (2010) - Herzog weaves a spell of fascination and intimacy with the Taiga: its stern voices, its landscapes, & its bitter cold.


    JANUARY


    Extraordinary Tales (2013) - A Poe anthology that improves steadily, from an amateurish first entry, unto the finale, a goddamn masterpiece.

    Quest for Fire (1981) - A muddy slog, bludgeoning narrative conventions with brute frankness, but limited in its capacity to create tension.

    The Last Unicorn (1982) - A wise and bittersweet animated romance, crafted with gentle strangeness that makes it feel timeless and mythical.

    The Witch (2015) - A grimy historical claustrophobic head-space whose perversions leave a toxic footprint. Creepy, corrupt, & very effective

    The Lobster (2015) - A dry and twisted movie - sadistic in a lonely, alienating way, with traces of hope and romance. A singular experience.

    Posted on 21 June 2017 | 7:00 pm

    Reductions: The Consumer and the Critic



    I'm going to go ahead and post some more abstract notes, developing some ideas I've had floating around for a while. This is related to this post and this post, where you'll find what I was then calling the Aspect Aesthetic (I think I need a better name).

    This is a follow-up on those posts, doing the following three things:
    • elaborating on those basic points
    • expanding the argument to include the Critic
    • reducing some of my previous wordiness
    Still, the big idea is the same: that these three roles are fundamental, especially when talking about aesthetics... and they can be applied to many areas of life where investment and appreciation meet reason, loyalty, identity, and faith.

    This depends on a lot of premises that haven't been proven, obviously... like, the idea that culture can be used as a guiding frame of reference for understanding humans and their relationship to the world, and that the more broadly you apply this frame, the more it seems to cover. You've started with culture and art and the creative instinct, and eventually, by talking about subjectivity and human nature and idealism, and the universe as a sensory phenomenon, you find yourself stomping clumsily through ethics and politics, and encroaching even upon history and physics and metaphysics.

    Not that I necessarily mind that... I'm no analytic academic... but for now, we just have to start with the seed of the idea: the Consumer and the Critic. The Creator is a bigger construct, I think, and that will have to wait for a different day.

    I. THE CONSUMER (Interiority)


    The consumer lives in the work.

    All works create an interior world, guided by certain patterns and assumptions, operating by certain rules, constrained in particular ways.

    The world of the work is built according to the blueprints of its Creator, but it's not limited thereby. There's just as much input from history, context, collective memory, the subconscious, and the cultural preoccupations, as there is from the Creator herself, a small person with a limited purview and access to an disinterested creative force (the muse, the reservoir, etc... wait for the Creator entry for more on that).

    The Consumer inhabits this world. They invest in it, accept its specifications, and make it real by acting as its observer.

    The Consumer's relationship to the work is I-Thou, as opposed to the Critic's I-It.

    The quintessential consumer is the Fan. If you're not a Fan, your status as Consumer is precarious. The Fan is the person who not only chooses the work, but who also chooses to advocate for it... a form of Patriotism for the work's conceptual territory.

    The Fan has a shadow (the Jungian, or an archetypal video game Doppelganger boss, depending on your frame of reference). This shadow is the Anti-Fan, a genuinely weird creature -- a Consumer who rejects the work outright -- whose engagement takes the form of kneejerk denial. Anti-fans are the people who say, without any explicit reason, "This just isn't my thing" or "I don't really think I get it."

    The true Fan defines the work from the inside. They are a necessary part of the work coming into fulfillment. Lots of works have no Fans, which leaves them stuck in a sort of limbo, having no relationship to the world except through the anemic will and intention of their Creator.

    Fandom is a sort of religious experience, and all religions are Fandoms. Christians are the most obvious example of this, being Fans of God’s word, His creations, and Jesus, His central character/principle/motif.

    A crucial part of the Consumer role: it's where freedom manifests.

    The Critic may be free to focus on certain works and ignore others, but they're always bound by the obligations of rationality. They make claims about works, and these claims are supported or unsupported. Criticism is a parasite that feeds on justification. Consumers are immune to this infection.

    The freedom of the Consumer is not merely the negative freedom of not-being-forced... it's the positive freedom of browsing and investing, the radical self-actualization of choosing something that defines you. Being a Consumer means you have this capacity… being a Fan means actually using it.

    Fandom is the full exercise of freedom: sovereignty, choice, actualization.

    II. THE CRITIC (Exteriority)


    Criticism is exile.

    It's hard to imagine why anyone would choose to be a Critic, when there's so much content around to get swept up in. Because Criticism is, by nature, a self-exile from the subject (i.e. putting your beloved pet, the dog named Culture, on the dissection table of discourse).

    Criticism is I-It, contra the intimate, fully-involved Fandom relationship, which is I-Thou.

    It may be the access. The Critic DOES have access to certain dimensions that the Consumer can't get to.

    For instance, being a Consumer means the loss of the economic dimension... and for the Fan, there is no economic dimension at all. In a way that's denied to the Fan, the Critic can step outside the work and understand it in terms of precedent, context, relative quality, the field. "The Market," as it were.

    But the Fan could certainly argue that the Critic is denied a certain dimension, as well, and it may be the most important dimension of the work: the heart, the interior, the absolute investment that makes the work come alive.

    The Critic has to acknowledge the possibility of the Consumer, but they can't fully Consume. They have to appreciate the Fan, but they are not Fans. Anyone who claims to be a Fan and a Critic at the same time is misunderstanding one of those two roles.

    If they're truly a Fan, their criticism isn't true criticism -- it's merely an intellectual engagement, broadening the scope of the work by doing internal labor. If they're doing the difficult work of criticism -- sorting out the pros from the cons, observing technical weaknesses, categorizing the work, questioning its motives and its internal coherence -- they're not really being a Fan. They're being a Critic.

    Perhaps they're being a Critic who has eaten a Fan. This is relatively common, and frankly, Fans make the best food (other Critics are bitter and chafe the palate). So Fans make the best food, and eating Fans makes the best Critics.

    The Critic eats Fans like Kirby eats his enemies. By eating the Fan, the Critic gains the short-term, provisional ability to ignore the work's weaknesses and assimilate with it. Employed correctly, this can make the Critic's criticism far more robust, and thus more persuasive. Criticism written from this perspective -- from the post-prandial daze of simulated fandom -- I would call "Criticism in the sympathetic mode."

    Still, this is an asymmetrical relationship. The Critic can temporarily effect Fandom because the Critic is outside the work, and has more freedom to operate in various modes in relation to it. The Fan can't become a Critic in the same way, because the Fan is a creature of the interior. The Fan can't survive outside the work, and they can't see the work as a whole, which is required for any meaningful criticism.

    One of the key postures that challenges the Critic-Consumer dichotomy is Ironic Fandom. This is a popular mode in postmodern discourse, and a key part of the Hipster project of illegibility.

    The Ironic Fan seems to blur the line between Fan and Critic, but inevitably, the rule still holds: a Critic can act as a Fan, and not vice versa. The Ironic Fan is actually a Critic simulating a Fan, but leaving the signposts of simulation out to see. They are highly conscious of context: history, genre, and conventions. Their temporary Fandom consists in recognizing all the conventions and tropes and standard templates, and willingly inflating the value of these conventions in order to distort the appraisal of the work. Their Fandom is not sincere... it's a game of superiority and obfuscation.

    The Critic has other crucial roles in cultural production. These are related to those functions and dimensions that are the unique purview of the critical perspective: context, history, technical authority, status, independence, objectivity. These may be true characteristics, or they may be pretensions... in any case, they are crucial for the work of the Critic.

    One role of the critic is Gatekeeper.

    One role of the critic is Historian.

    One role of the critic is Mentor.

    The critic has many faces... almost as many as the Creator, and certainly more than the Consumer.

    Posted on 21 June 2017 | 1:07 pm

    Rays After Rainstorm by Jesse Via Flickr: Bright sun through...

    Rays After Rainstorm

    Rays After Rainstorm by Jesse
    Via Flickr:
    Bright sun through a gap in the clouds – fresh rain on lilly buds to give the light a prism

    Posted on 20 June 2017 | 1:21 am

    Band, shield, standard . . . #fantasy #fantasyart #illustration...



    Band, shield, standard
    .
    .
    .
    #fantasy #fantasyart #illustration #drawing #penandink #sketch #sketchbook #art #artistsofinstagram

    Posted on 19 June 2017 | 10:41 pm

    #stormclouds #overhead #timelapsevideo #sky #abstract #texture...

    A post shared by Jesse Miksic (@miksimum) on



    #stormclouds #overhead #timelapsevideo #sky #abstract #texture #clouds

    Posted on 18 June 2017 | 11:33 pm

    Notes on Consumption: History of Philosophy, Twin Peaks, some writings

    I'm feeling nostalgic for a time long before I existed... before most of Western civilization existed, really. It's a side-effect of listening to The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps (I'm up through the Middle Platonists) and reflecting on the potency and simplicity of those early philosophical doctrines, from Heraclitis and into Aristotle and Socrates and the Hellenistic schools.

    I'm not nostalgic for the inevitable disease, scarcity, and slavery that made up everyday life in those classical empires... indeed, my nostalgia requires a certain denial about the real historical conditions. What I'm nostalgic about, obviously, is the freshness of thought... the way these philosophers could try to get a handle on the whole universe, the nature of reality and virtue and everything, in a way that's simple, that just requires a couple principles, one or two guiding concepts, and a faith in reason to reduce everything else.

    It's been a long time since somebody could honestly say, "The virtuous life is the good life, and virtue is just the pursuit of wisdom and self-mastery." It's also been a long time since somebody could say, "Everything is made of air." How different history would have been, if one of those metaphysical statements had proven true! That behind the great multiplicity of reality, we'd found a simple unity! A history of childlike simplicity, of getting everything in order according to one principle... the whole mess of human conflict, just washed away, all at once.

    I know philosophy can't really operate like that these days. That kind of innocence is long gone, diluted by cultural exchange and obliterated by the fires of war. No intellectualism can be honest without acknowledging the specific, the irreducible, the multiplicity of objects and subjects and vantage points.

    So if you have a yearning for something that captures the world, or at least tries to grapple with everything at once, rather than with some small, isolated part of it, you have to go to those places that lean into ambiguity, that celebrate the strangeness and the mystery of it all... things that make space for meaninglessness, and accept infinite contingency.

    Luckily, I've been watching the new season of Twin Peaks, and Lynch's sensibility scratches this itch pretty well.

    It's not perfect... or if it is, I'm not far enough through the whole thing to see it... but Lynch does not shy away from the grand fog. He may find some monsters in the mist, but more importantly, it brings out the obscure discord of everything... the way all reality is sort of floating, removed from the simple constraints of logic and justice and cause and effect and archetype. Sometimes it's almost nihilistic, and sometimes it's merciful and melancholy.

    There is something sad, to me, about watching Dale Cooper wander the city, helpless, only comprehending the most proximal connections and sensations. Because I am the proud parent of a toddler, and Dale Cooper is acting very much like her. And what it conveys, to me, is a particular point about how confused and venal and unnecessary the world is, with all its complications.

    I'm uniquely sensitive to this kind of ambiguity at the moment. I think this is what I responded to in "It's Not Like I Tried to Hurt Anyone," a very compelling story I stumbled across in one of those Medium "recommended" sidebars... there is a sense in which the main character's refusal, her withdrawal from history, makes her feel vast and divine in a way that's not shared by all the rest of us, caught up and diminished in the flow of the everyday.

    I'd like to do some more focused writing soon. I'd do a philosophical essay, if I could manage it, and I've got a starting point -- the Skeptics' investment in their own ignorance, which I strongly identify with -- but I need more content, something more compelling to structure it. We'll see what comes of the urge. I feel a terrible shortness in myself, an inadequacy, that I need to power through, even if I can never vanquish it.

    As a final note -- I also ran across an excerpt from a book called Essayism, and it's made me want to buy the whole thing, when I have a moment to read it.

    Posted on 8 June 2017 | 12:41 pm

    Cloak, collar, glass … #drawing #pencildrawing...



    Cloak, collar, glass

    #drawing #pencildrawing #sketchbook #sketch #artistsofinstagram #fantasy #fantasyart #illustration

    Posted on 7 June 2017 | 12:27 am

    So deep in springtime #art #illustration #sketch #sketchbook...



    So deep in springtime #art #illustration #sketch #sketchbook #artistsofinstagram #pencildrawing #surrealism #drawing

    Posted on 27 May 2017 | 3:29 pm

    A stirring in the air #drawing #sketch #sketchbook...



    A stirring in the air #drawing #sketch #sketchbook #artistsofinstagram #art #pencildrawing

    Posted on 24 May 2017 | 11:02 pm

    Tangled (2010) and the Real Men of The Snuggly Duckling

    Yes, that's right -- armchair media critic raising a little girl has been watching a lot of Disney movies, and in the spirit of this blog, I can't help but appreciatively thumb through their themes and messages and motifs. Here, as anywhere, there are many beautiful things to discover.

    Despite having great friends and family who are intense Disney fans, I remain a bit of a skeptic. I have to take the position of the Critic on this topic -- I can't shake the suspicion that "Princess" culture might feed into crass, commercialized, rigid femininity.

    On the other hand, I can't deny the company's love for cultural myth, and their commitment to storytelling. Rewatching their various canonical films, both Classic and Contemporary, I'm struck by the complexity of their aesthetic. They run the wide gamut of Romantic sensibilities, from the folksiness of Snow White to the Gothic sprawl of Sleeping Beauty, up through Princess Tiana's Creole Southern Gothic Americana.

    I've been struck by some of the emotional moments in these movies... as, for instance, the crushing moment in Tangled when Rapunzel says "Yes, mommy" to her jealous kidnapper.

    And I've been impressed with how Disney has changed: before what Wikipedia calls the Modern Era, the Princesses were generally pitted against standard monstrous adversaries. Since the 2000's, however -- with the adjective-titled Disney films, Frozen and Brave -- you'll find that a focus on internal turmoil, rather than external conflict... the estrangement between two sisters, a girl who resents her mother and the traditions she represents. These are the battles all the young people of the world will have to fight.

    I did love Tangled... despite being a crusty 35-year old man, I was genuinely delighted by its earnestness and its slap-stick humor.

    And I especially loved the bandits of The Snuggly Duckling.



    These goofy men remind me more of myself than I'd ever be willing to admit to anyone, save the whole anonymous Internet. I imagine they're all living their Plan B -- they rehearse their piano lessons, reminisce about their first crush, and occasionally visit the storefront that was supposed to be their bakery. Pillaging was always supposed to be a side-job, they tell themselves... how did I end up here at the Duckling, just like my dad did, and just like his dad before him?

    But they know. These bandits, they know -- it's not about who recognizes your hard work, or how much you get paid for it. They know that the free market economy chooses winners and losers based on inscrutable patterns, cynicism, charisma, and the flapping of a single butterfly's wings. For these ruffians, it's about flourishing, and they have faith that they CAN flourish, even as plunderers and highwaymen, as long as they set aside time for their true aspirations.

    Eudaimonia -- a life of flourishing -- is all about having a space of your own to cultivate, even if it's deep under the radar of the prevailing social structures. It's all about having hopes, and passions, and a community of support.

    That, of course, is the other beautiful function of the Snuggly Duckling... it's a community of enlightened, supportive masculinity, disguised as a rotten rat's nest of thieves. Who wouldn't want to be adopted by this circle of friends, who will listen to your concerts, taste your cupcakes, and watch your little puppet shows?

    Of course, they have to keep up a front. Their furry capes and winged helmets are their Gucci business suits, and their battleaxes are their business cards. They have to talk in gruff obscenities, just like other male-gendered people have to make eye contact and shake hands. You never know when a potential client is going to come through that door and potentially catch you, looking like some kind of Unicorn Collector.

    But for an earnest young lady who asks them the question -- what are your dreams? -- they will open up, just as they've opened up to one another. Breakin' femurs may provide a show of confidence, but it doesn't really indicate true security, genuine self-acceptance... only the recognition of your brothers-in-arms can do that. This is a truly magical little tavern, a temporary autonomous zone, where pretense is shed and aspiration takes all forms.

    In fact, honesty and openness is so important to the denizens of the Snuggly Duckling that they will enforce it by violence, if necessary (truly an intersectional community). This is what Flynn Rider discovers when he refuses to sing.

    All those swords.

    Those swords have a clear message: In this community, a show of vulnerability and authenticity is the hazing, the expected trial by fire. If you don't open up and show your true self, they're saying, then you're not privy to the nurturing fraternity that's hiding here in the Duckling... nay, you get the malicious, mean, and scary outlaw pirates. And I don't think you want that, Mr. Slick-haired Pseudonymous Flynn "dying of insecurity" Rider. No, you definitely want to be on our Snuggly side.

    My brothers, lost in this postmodern era, I promise you: we will eventually find our Snuggly Duckling. We will dream again!

    Posted on 24 May 2017 | 8:00 pm