Doc Mara's Media Materiality Manifesto

Change is inevitable, and best handled by many hands, feet, eyes, heads, and hearts.

Because communication mediation is inevitable, we should seek to build transparency, malleability, customizability, and human possibility into each medium.

To do this, media producers/authors/hackers/grokkers must:

1. Build in affordances.
2. Create affordances that offer the fullest range of individual change.
3. Reveal the limitations of the medium.
4. Build in possibilities to exceed limitations.
5. Invite participation through semantic, syntagmatic, paradigmatic, and tropic alignment and misalignment.
5. Identify and isolate cultural values the medium favors.
6. Build in the ability to toggle size, function, and pace of medium input and output.
7. Identify limitations as such.
8. Invite stability through participation instead of building stability as a de facto valuation of particular cultural forms.
9. Offer different levels of contexualization in artifacts.
10. Allow the widest range of juxtaposition possible.
11. Create the possibility, but not inevitability, of repetition.
12. Allow for a range of representations that could include a range of styles.
13. Invite contemplation of embodied consequences of medium use and production.
14. Avoid foreclosure of signification possibilities.
15. Eschew naturalization of inherently social participation.

Distributed changeability in media = Sustainable materiality


Hawaii 2011 (Day Six)

When I'm traveling, it usually takes about a week for my documentation plan to unravel, and this vacation just reinforced the pattern. Our journey across the belt buckle of Oahu to the North Shore (or, as I mistakenly called it one day, "North Beach"), started to relax my photography ninja reflexes, and let me see some of the smaller details of island living.

To get us to the north side of the island and well past the tourist-trapping sugar enticements of the Dole Plantation, LK decided that we needed fuel for the journey. More soyrizo and eggs, as well as the remainder of what I think was quite possibly the largest avocado I have ever seen.
This breakfast was, as usual, delicious, but we still decided to stop in for a pineapple/frozen yogurt sundae.

When we got to the North Shore, I expected both more grandeur and more luxury. Instead, we were treated to some of the more laid-back aspects of Hawaiian life. Our hostel/cabin had resident pigs as well as walking alarm clocks.

To be perfectly honest, Miriam and I were kind of spooked when we pulled into our hostel. Maybe it was the electric-white sheen of Fargoans, but people seemed to stare at us wherever we walked.
I imagine that we are kind of strange looking to the tanned North Shore regulars, so there's that; however, we've probably picked up a bit of the midwestern fish-out-of-water-in-paradise vibe. Once we got settled in and stopped returning stares with every semi-stoned and half-naked island visitor (most had foreign accents), all felt fine.

One of the biggest disappointments of the vacation was the short amount of time we got to snorkel. Even though we rented some pretty sweet gear at Snorkel Bob's for a week, we only had about a two-hour window to get into the water. While we were enjoying our pineapple/yogurt sundae at the aforementioned Dole Plantation ("Hawaii's complete pineapple experience!"), LK texted us that 30-foot waves were on their way. We were not amused, as our destination, Shark's cove, is notoriously dangerous to snorkel in during the winter. 30-foot swells certainly didn't fuel our hopes that we would get into the water.

The mural on our wall did NOT reassure us, but we took our gear across the street and looked for a place to snorkel.
Fortunately for us, Pupukea beach has one sheltered spot where we could get in. We saw needlefish, a whole range of common Hawaiian reef fish, and even a Moray eel. Never. Lose. Hope.

Our cabin, while rustic, seemed to reinforce our urge for risk-taking.
Luckily, we got out before the waves got too big to brave.

What these waves took away with their power, they gave back in beauty. Seeing the wind peel off the wisps of surf wash from the crests of breakers was completely mesmerizing.

Waimea Bay, just a short 5-minute walk down the beach, gave us a chance to see some sunset surfing (and to get some of the saltwater our of our ears and other assorted places).

Once we finally settled in our cabin for the night, we could feel the waves pounding the lava shore just across the street.

Our informal wine glasses, ESPECIALLY my Tigger cup, seemed to underline the informality and the energy of the place we now found ourselves. It didn't matter that we hadn't taken pictures of everything--the waves, people, and even chickens were starting to truly transport us away from memories of snow and work.


Hawaii 2011 (Day Five)

As my childhood guru used to say, Sunday's fun day, and this Sunday was no exception. In order to prepare for the difficult hike, LK made us breakfast of soyrizo and eggs (I THINK this memory is correct--our "host with the most," LK reminded me that my last breakfast was not the homemade granola, but rather fantastic chocolate croissants that 'Ito picked up for us before he joined us at the sunset picnic). After some coffee and eats, 'Ito, took us up to the Kolowalu trailhead and we were off!

I was thrilled, if a bit nervous about trekking up the side of a dormant volcano covered in red mud and all sorts of creeping vine-like things. I hope my hesitation didn't show TOO much.

Other than the slightly "Raiders of the Lost Ark" feel to this initial ascent, it was a perfect way to get a good view of Honolulu and the surrounding ridges (on a side note, I'm not entirely sure that even this height would have saved us from the future Hawaiian tsunami of doom).

Of course, one has to ignore a few signs to get this kind of view. *heh*

Of course, marked trails cannot compare with a guide (and some...um...handholds and ropes) when trying to find the best path. Our guide, 'Ito, provided excellent guidance which, had I not cramped up, would have likely gotten us to the summit.

Our reward beyond the view and sense of accomplishment, fish tacos at South Shore Grill for lunch, an ocean swim, and some pretty fantastic Indian food with Benito and LK at dinner. Who says Sunday's fun should be all work?


Hawaii 2011 (Day Four)

After the Magnum P.I. waterman day, we knew that we wanted to add a little more fitness to the routine. After all, Magnum had a steel breastplate under all that chesthair, and he didn't get it by going to picnics and sitting on the patio at the King Kamehamea club drinking beers (or did he).

We started the day with a wonderful breakfast of homemade granola, yogurt, dried cherries, and honey, thanks to Linda K., and quickly got to the business of running around Diamond Head to the Saturday Farmer's Market (it seems that it helps to get there early).

All was shaping up for fitness and the ability to get into Magnum P.I.-tight shorts (if one wanted to do this). Just then, we encountered a bit of a hitch. Soul had a booth at the market.

For the record, we SHARED the crab benedict with mango hollandaise and the "chilaquiles." We walked back to the apartment, so I figure that we worked off second breakfast. Our colorful friend seems a little suspicious of my logic, however:

Fortunately for us, the Honolulu Festival was in town. We walked to downtown Honolulu to watch hula, Japanese, Chinese, and other Pacific cultural performances. Despite the tragedy in Japan, several Japanese groups were able to come and perform (they had left before the destruction, we guessed).

Although it was all interesting, we were particularly blown away by an indigenous Australian dancing/music/culture group called "Descendance."

Of course, no walk downtown would be complete without a stop in to the Surfrider for a few tropical drinks. Despite the plastic cups, these Mai Tais were more authentic than yesterday's megadrinks at the Elks/KK club.

Of course, the view was the real attraction to this little corner of paradise.

After watching others on their boards, I'm starting to get the itch myself.

Although the running and walking seemed to help get us back on track, we didn't want Supper Club: Hawaii Edition to destroy the work/leisure balance so crucial to the Island Detective Lifestyle™. For dinner, we used much of what Linda K. found at the market.

Corn sprouts (which taste like corn!), blue sweet potatoes, local plum tomatoes, feta, and bread made this dinner particularly healthy, while it tasted like you just pulled everything out a garden (which we kind of did).

Of course, Benito was there to pour drinks (in this case, lychee saketinis), and add to the laid-back vibe. Our friends put the magnum in Magnum.

Hawaii 2011 (Day Three)

After two days of false starts and misconnections, day three of our Hawaii sojourn had a lot to live up to--fortunately, two members of our original supper club made sure that this day would count. In the morning, our fearless host Linda had secretly arranged to get us into the infamous King Kamehamea club (of Magnum P.I. fame--a show that was part of my childhood background landscape, but which has become more of my psyche, thanks to our friends Dayna and Mazz). Linda's friend Elisa has a membership to this club (an Elks Club in RL), and showed us the glamorous side of Honolulu.
Although there was no Rick, T.C., or Higgins (not to mention no damsels or sinister international types), we were able to watch whales breaking the surface in the distance. There were also some pretty fancy Mai Tais and Bloody Mary's on the menu.
Although nobody would confirm this, we're pretty sure Rick was hiding behind this particular door.
After our noon trip to the club (and a nap), we weren't finished with our beach time. After shopping and packing a picnic dinner, we walked back down to Kaimana beach for a sunset meeting with a few of Benito's and Linda's friends. Initially, we had to plunk ourselves down on the wall because of few of the locals had commandeered the usual bench.
Once we got over the shock of the change in venue (really, only about 20 feet difference from their "usual" spot), we got down to eating and drinking. Although the couscous, watercress-tofu salad, brie on french bread, ahi poke, potato-blue cheese salad, and spicy-fried tofu were divine, what really stood out was the hospitality.
Of course, the reason these are called SUNSET picnics became obvious about halfway through the meal.

Although it took a while to get here, the smiles of old friends, the hospitality of new friends, and the quiet moments of beauty can balance the weight of so many difficulties. Small revelations.


Hawaii 2011 (Day Two)

By now, you know that on Friday, March 11, 2011, Japan suffered its worst disaster since WWII. Although we spent much of the day in a travel bubble (4+ hours to LAX, a layover, and 6+ hours to Honolulu), we never imagined that our first few hours in paradise would be spent with friends worrying about whether or not we would be running for the hills. Although our first sightings of Linda and Benito "stalking" us near the Honolulu airport baggage carousels with leis (and beautiful, at that) were pure joy, it did not take long to figure out that all was not right in the world. Miriam and I were exhausted from the cross-country trip, a bit discombobulated from the jet lag, and more than a bit...um...ripe from not having access to our travel bag for two days (it spent night 1 in the Fargo airport), but we were ecstatic to be on the island and in the company of friends. After a glass of champagne (Gruet, naturally!), and introduction to friends who would be leaving for Bali in the morning, we were soon greeted with hourly tsunami sirens, and a mad scramble to find out information. Our host, Linda K., was methodical in finding pertinent information (it turns out that despite our close proximity to the beach, we are not in an evacuation area). Benito and the other friends who joined us were also good at sorting through the confusion. We stayed in the second-floor apartment near Waikiki beach, but we did not sleep much. Knowing that the first tsunami wave was supposed to hit at around 2:38 a.m. made the 2:34 a.m. tsunami siren all the more frightening. As is obvious, we made it through the night. Thank you everyone who has expressed concern for our well-being. We are fine. We hope you direct your attention to the people of Japan, who have, and continue to suffer unimaginable suffering because of the earthquake, tsunami, aftershocks, and nuclear plant problems. It is good to have friends near and far, and I think Japan will need friends from all over to get through this.


Hawaii 2011 (Day One)

Sometimes, the best parts of the trip are the unexpected surprises. Not today. Mechanical problems with the jet that was supposed to start our journey to Hawaii proved that serendipity doesn't always rule the day.

We made it to Chicago and stayed near the airport. About 12 minutes before our already-delayed flight was supposed to depart, I was aware enough to call the airline. Incidentally, this is a very good idea if you want to get rerouted. For the record, United Airlines was very nice and as accommodating as they could be under the circumstances.

Was it was nice to get out of town? Yes, but there doesn't seem to be any grand lesson to learn in this particular missed connection (beyond obvious humility. Let's be honest here, though--even I don't feel like I'm in control of large jets).

On the plus side, our Chicago hotel bed was nice, and certainly better than staying in O'Hare overnight, which I have done). Next stop, Hawaii?


The Kids Are Definitely All Right

Lisa Cholodenko’s "The Kids Are All Right" does what few comedies have dared to do in quite some time--it examines the slowly fraying edges that inevitably result when people make long commitments to one another, and it does it with both ferocity and tenderness. Although the central differences that the characters Nic and Jules (the protagonist mothers--played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) have with heteronormative Hollywood productions inevitably draws the attention of cultural critics, the heart of this movie resides in familial relationships that the children (18 year-old Joni and 15 year-old Laser--played by Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson, respectively) have with their two moms and the "interloper" sperm-donating father Paul (played by Mark Ruffalo). Of course, the norms that the characters adhere to are as heteronormative and patriarchal as the values that the lesbian mothers battle; still, these norms are at once more sublely-played and powerful than the heterosexual economy that the seducing Paul re-introduces into Nic's and Jules' love equation. This movie foregrounds a highly-emphasized sexual motif, with several sexual encounters between characters--and even a rather stylized gay porno-- and rather graphically emphasizes the sexual implications of life choices. Underneath the encounters and cuckolding, however, lies more profound feelings of abandonment, insecurity, longing, and wishing.

Laser's desire for a fatherly connection awakens after his awkwardly-bullying friend/acquaintance Clay gets into a very rough wrestling match with his own dad. Laser, a rather quiet teenager, convinces his sister Joni to look up and contact their biological father Paul, and the once-clear family lines begin to cross. The viewers initially get to see Nic and Jules as a rather normal couple, with separate identities and different power situations. Nic, an OB-GYN is played somewhat unflatteringly, though humanely. Nic's obviously the breadwinner, and brooks little discussion on matters of protocol or propriety. Jules provides the bulk of the nurturing for the family, and we meet her as she is trying to launch a landscaping business. It is during the scenes where Nic and Jules discuss her fledgling business, and during dinner interactions that we see that Jules is somewhat inarticulate and at a disadvantage to Nic's well-polished, disciplined, yet often cold demeanor. Clearly, these two people love each other, but 18+ years with two children have required compromises, and it looks like Jules' flakiness has provided much of the cushion.

The entrance of a very sexual, and casually entitled Paul (he enters not by design, as it was the children who asked for his presence) happens at Jules' emotional ebb. His affirming and flirtatious support of Jules' career through a backyard commission quickly turns physical, as Paul does not miss a chance to compliment Jules' work, philosophy, and looks. Moreover, he does not turn her advances back, as his encounters with his biologically-connected kids awaken feelings of yearning for rootedness and even a family of his own. The physical relationship that ensues seems sadly funny, as both of these characters don't know where the "off" switch resides. Jules' knows that she loves her family, but she cannot stand up for her own needs, and Paul doesn't know how to appreciate what he already has. Paul's need to stay open for the advance puts everyone into an awkward position, as families do not have the same kind of resilience as the young women he has bedded. Or do they? As this family goes churns through the crisis, you find out that Jules' has much more strength and sticktuitiveness than first portrayed. She provides the climactic and heart-wrenching living-room talk that reveals just how aware she is that she has betrayed, and has been betrayed by, the woman she loves. The "marathon" she describes is one that Nic must also admit to--Nic's uncomfortableness with her physiciality, her easy comfort with overdrinking, overstating opinions, and her overdependence on her economic and professional superiority all come crashing down. She knows that she's been shutting out Jules, and only the quiet affirmation of Jules' worth can help her meet the inarticulate and wounded heart of her partner on more equal ground. This reversal of Jules' and Nic's articulateness marks the turn in admitting that they don't know how things will turn out, but that they are committed to each other and their children regardless.

While the acting is generally very good, Julianne Moore's acting comes across as genuinely rich. Ms. Moore shows an attention to character that I have not seen in any of her roles (she generally depends upon the depth of her expressive eyes--something I might attribute to her choice of roles in thrillers and dramas). Annette Bening is, as usual, excellent. She presents a bit more of a hard edge with her silent cruelties, but underlines her role with a genuine warmth. Unlike her role in American Beauty, she is a sympathetic character (as are all of the characters--including Mark Ruffalo's clueless lothario).

What is genuinely a delight, though emerges from the way that Laser eventually enunciates the heart of the family. His rejection of Clay (during his "friend's" attempt to urinate on a stray dog) and his embracing of his mothers, with all of their flaws, provide a bit of honesty to the perfectionism of Nic and Joni and the self-doubt of Jules. Probably not "Best Picture" material, but a pretty frank and, ultimately hopeful, look at the contrast between family dreams and family realities.