Lazy Sunday Afterthoughts
November 2003

ABC of micro-essays
Dot Dot Dot issue 7

In 2003, Stuart Bailey asked us to write something for Dot Dot Dot issue 7. In fact, some of our writings had been published in earlier issues of DDD (in issues 3, 4, 5 and 6, to be precisely), but these were mainly texts that were originally written for other occasions. Not counting a foreword that appeared in DDD 5, 'Lazy Sunday Afterthoughts' is our only text specifically written for DDD.

Our idea was to create a text composed of numerous pocket-sized essays; a collection of shorts bursts of words. A series of truisms and 'fictisms' (falsisms?), so to speak. We decided to put these texts in alphabetical order, featuring titles starting with the letters A, B or C. The footnotes were encapsulated in the text itself (filed under 'Bibliography'), as was the introduction (filed under 'Arbeidsvitaminen'). The title of the text as a whole, 'Lazy Sunday Afterthoughts', is of course a reference to the incredibly beautiful song 'Lazy Sunday Afternoon' by the Small Faces.

Reading it back, it's certainly not our best piece of writing. In fact, it might be in our top 5 of worst texts ever. Maybe we were too tired, or couldn't find the concentration to write. Some of the included texts are nonsensical, really irritating, badly written. In short, we aren't completely happy with our own tone of voice here. But for the sake of completeness, here it is:

Lazy Sunday Afterthoughts
A collection of random notes by Experimental Jetset
(In alphabetical order)

01. A Clockwork Orange
It is important to realise that Anthony Burgess never mentioned false eyelashes: Alex is never described wearing them in the novel. So how did the lashes show up in Kubrick's film adaptation? Our theory is as follows. On the cover of the first Penguin edition of the novel (art directed by UK designer David Pelham) a stylised, almost cartoon-like human figure is shown, sporting a black bowler hat, a green shirt and blue braces. This abstracted portrait is staring at us from the cover with one eye, an eye that is actually a geometrical drawing of a clock's cog-wheel. The cover is a beautiful translation of the theme of the story - the symbolism of a clock's cog-wheel placed in a human face is crystal clear. In our opinion (or is it our imagination?) Kubrick took the cover image of the cyclopean cog-wheel eye and translated it cinematically into a set of false eyelashes, worn on one eye; a secret homage to the paperback cover.

02. Aesthetics
In his excellent book 'The Aesthetic Dimension' (1978) Herbert Marcuse defines aesthetics as "the transformation of a given content (an actual or historical, personal or social fact) into a self-contained whole". This might as well be a definition of graphic design, and a very nice one as well. Another definition of design we recently stumbled on is "the intellectual activity that produces material artifacts aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones", a quote from Nobel-prize winner Herbert Simon, and a very attractive definition for people with modernist, pop-Marxist tastes, such as ourselves, as it contains both materialist and utopian elements.

03. Altered Egos
Frankfurt School Pop Quiz: below is a list of pseudonyms used, at one time or another, by members of everybody's favourite post-Marxist social research institute. Can you guess the names behind these pseudonyms?
a. Heinrich Regius
b. Hektor Rottweiler
c. Detlef Holz
d. C. Conrad

04. Answers
a. Max Horkheimer
b. Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno
c. Walter Benjamin
d. Walter Benjamin

05. Antonioni
Antonioni's epic masterpiece 'Zabriskie Point', a flop when it came out in 1969, remains a work of profound beauty. Especially interesting is the way it links a European sense of time to an American sense of space. Watching the movie, it is almost as if the main characters Mark and Daria slowly disappear, only to be replaced by two new characters: Godard and Kubrick. Just look at them: wandering around in the desert of Death Valley, frolicking in the dunes, cuddling in the sand. Godard and Kubrick in love, floating in the hot summer air.

06. Arbeidsvitaminen
Our first plan for this piece was obviously to do the full alphabet, from A to Z. But as the title indicates, we were too slack, and our time too limited, to cough up 26 short texts. That's when we decided to limit ourselves to the first three letters: A, B and C. An idea we all could live with, but where had we heard it before? From our library we dug up a tattered, dusty copy of 'Arbeidsvitaminen', written in 1987 by Dutch writers Martin Bril and Dirk van Weelden – a book filled with athletic exercises in style, covering a wide range of subjects, with titles alphabetised into a neat ABC order. "Beter goed gepikt dan slecht verzonnen", as the Dutch saying goes. And so, ABC it was.

07. Banality
Regarding the cultural-pessimistic notion of the banalisation of graphic design: When opening up the 'Van Dale' Dutch dictionary to look up the exact meaning of the word 'banal', we find 'hinderlijk alledaags', which roughly translates as 'disturbingly commonplace' – a beautiful, almost paradoxical definition. Two words put together, creating a tension which is almost electric. Now reconsider the notion of banal design, and imagine an object which is widely used, commonly accepted, but still has the ability to disturb. An object that has the potential to become part of society, but not to dissolve in it completely. In short, an object that relates to reality in a truly dialectical way. The banalisation of graphic design? We should be so lucky.

08. Best of all Possible Words
'Daydream Nation', the epic Sonic Youth masterpiece released in the autumn of 1988, was originally to be titled 'Tonight's the Day'. The first two songs of this double album, now called 'Teenage Riot' and 'Silver Rocket', were originally titled 'Rock and Roll for President' and 'I'm the Cocker'. Now imagine that in a parallel universe some unfortunate souls actually put the needle on a record titled 'Tonight's the Day', and have to work their way through two songs with such silly titles as 'Rock and Roll for President' and 'I'm the Cocker'. It was Leibniz who declared in 1714 that "the world we live in is the best of all possible worlds". A problematic statement, attacked by thinkers as different as Voltaire and Schopenhauer, and rightfully so, but applied solely to the hermetic sphere of Sonic Youth song titles, it's safe to say Leibniz was right.

09. Bibliography
Baudrillard, Jean, 'America' (Verso, 1989), Bril & Van Weelden, 'Arbeidsvitaminen', (De Bezige Bij, 1987), Burgess, Anthony, 'A Clockwork Orange', (Penguin, 1972), Foege, Alec, 'Confusion is Next: The Sonic Youth Story', (St. Martin's Press, 1994), IDEA Magazine (no. 285, March 2001), Hieronimus, Robert, 'Inside The Yellow Submarine', (Krause Publications, 2002), Marcuse, Herbert, 'The Aesthetic Dimension', (Beacon Press, 1978), Marsh, Graham, 'Blue Note: The Album Cover Art', (Chronicle Books, 1991).

10. Blue Meanies
Czechoslovakian-born designer Heinz Edelmann, director of the Beatles' classic psychedelic animation 'The Yellow Submarine', didn't like the Beatles at all. In fact, he is quoted as saying he wanted the Blue Meanies to win. He was more into jazz. Reid Miles, designer of the iconic Blue Note record sleeves, however, didn't like jazz much at all. In fact, he traded all his Blue Note sample copies for classical records. It's interesting to see that two designers that really managed to capture the essence of their times were also (in a way) disconnected from that very essence. Perhaps it's distance, not engagement, that makes the designer.

11. Bush
"In the image of Reagan, the whole of America has become Californian", wrote Jean Baudrillard in 1986 in his book America. Let's extend this line of thinking. In the image of Bush, the whole of America has become Texan.

12. Chronologically awkward
There's an anecdote about an angry Karl Marx who once snarled at some early German social-democrats: "If this is Marxism, then I'm not a Marxist". But can anybody ever be a follower of an ideology named after him/herself? It seems chronologically awkward, if not impossible. Marx could never have been a Marxist. Lenin was a Marxist, but could never have been a Leninist. Stalin called himself a Marxist-Leninist, but could never have been a Stalinist. And Christ wasn't a Christian. Every -ism devours its subject.

13. Combinations
The movement of thought as history.
The thought of history as movement.
The history of movement as thought.

14. Correction (One)
The March 2001 issue of the Japanese graphic design magazine IDEA featured a beautiful 32-page contribution by the Japanese designers' collective Delaware. Titled 'The New Wave', this section is basically Delaware's tribute to 1980s new-wave graphics. In it, they ascribe the logo of John Lydon's conceptual post-punk powerhouse Public Image Ltd. (PiL) to Terry Jones, art-director of i-D magazine. Which is not true. The logo was designed by London photographer Dennis Morris, who in fact designed all early PiL artwork. Morris was also a member of the rastafarian punk band Basement 5, famous for punk classics such as 'There's a Riot Going On', 'Last White Christmas' and the reggae novelty hit 'Silicon Chips (Ain't Fish and Chips)'.

15. Correction (Two)
In an e-mail conversation we had a few years ago with Nille from Sweden Graphics, we casually mentioned our theory that Sweden was the Japan of Europe. Nille quickly replied. "Sweden isn't the Japan of Europe", he corrected us; "Japan is the Sweden of the world".

16. Cross-Dialectics
The concept of cross-dialectics is actually quite simple: It's the idea that the apparent juxtaposition of two opposites is false. It's the set of possible combinations of these contradictions that forms the true juxtaposition. For example, a few years ago we wrote in one of our manifestos about 'relativist absolutism' versus 'absolutist relativism'. In other words, we suggested that the real juxtaposition was not one of absolutism against relativism, but rather one of a relativist use of absolutism against an absolutist use of relativism. A clear case of cross-dialectics. Another example: the excellent, catchy-as-hell debut album of Canadian band Hot Hot Heat which came out last year on Sub Pop is titled 'Make Up the Break Down'. The apparent juxtaposition is formed by the phrases 'Make Up' and 'Break Down'. But the real juxtaposition is the one between 'Make Up the Break Down' and a possible, fictitious 'Break Down the Make Up'.

Experimental Jetset,
Amsterdam 27.07.2003

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