A Bus Ride

The time was 6:45 pm. The date was November, 8, 2012. I was waiting in a sleazy, sketchy, old Greyhound station waiting to take the Richmond to New York City bus. The trip took eight hours. In these eight hours to New York and in the eight hours back, I decided to write my thoughts. The following pages contain some of the things I wrote sitting on this bus. I fin them to be all mutually related. I hope you do too. #1 7:30 PM Fredericksburg, Springfield, D.C, Baltimore I just got on the bus. On my way to New York City. I want to, first of all, say what I want these writings to be and the way in which I want them to be written. I don’t want it to be a stream of consciousness type thing. Bada bing, bada boom! I don’t want to just write anything that comes to mind. That has been done. That would not be fair to my readers, perhaps? This book is not about my trip. This book is not about a place. Sitting on a bus for 8 hours is perhaps one of the most boring and monotonous experiences a human being can experience. While I love trying to find out where I am (that’s one of the reasons I decided to include a map as the cover for my chapters) and while I like seeing the cities and spaces I pass, the goal, the point, the intention of this seat in this bus is the attempt to look inwards. It isn’t a travel to a geographical location but rather an elimination of space as an excuse to look inwards. #2 I like looking inwards. You might say I like talking to myself quite a bit. Does this make me sound as if I was mentally unstable? Who can tell the difference anyway. I find that whenever I am able to eliminate space, to close myself down, to lock myself in, I learn something new about myself. What better joy in life than learning something new about yourself. At the expense of sounding cliché, “The life not examined is not worth living.” What I have recently found out is that I don’t really ‘talk to myself’ as the expression usually goes. Rather, I have a conversation with myself, a conversation in the second person. There is Jorge, the talker. As the name suggests, he’s the one doing the talking. At the same time, there’s Jorge, the listener. He’s mute. The first Jorge, on the other hand, is completely deaf. As you can imagine, they get along quite well. Actually, deaf Jorge is the one writing this paper. Deaf Jorge is quite the talker and, because he loves hearing the sound of his own voice, he often overdoes it. At that point, mute Jorge gives him a stern, cold look. Deaf Jorge knows what this means and proceeds to re-think whatever absurdity just left his mouth. My life consists on the conversation between these two individuals. I am both and I am neither. Silence does not exists for me, since silence is the moment when I get to hear what they have to say. What would life be like without them? #3 7:50 “Next stop is Fredericksburg, VA” The Annihilation of Space Monotony is a way in which space is eliminated. When  you repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat the iterations of that repetition become meaningless. The 1,000th tree I’ll see on this trip won’t be different enough from the 1377th tree. At that time I’ll be thinking about something else. #4 The nature of this trip, in its very nature, goes against any pragmatic purpose. Sixteen hours on a bus for the pure joy of it is entirely anti-pragmatic. My favorite kind of trips are precisely the anti-pragmatic ones. I love moving for movement’s sake. I love moving so I can have time to myself. Sometimes, on a Thursday or Friday night, I bike through the streets of Richmond. I bike through the Fan or downtown without trying to go anywhere in particular, trying to drift through the city while perhaps learning a few new street names. Lombardy, Rowland, Meadow, Vine, Allen, and Strawberry. I always remember N. Meadow because it’s the only street with a traffic light. I would always do the same, late at night, in the street of San Juan. I would drive around the more urban neighborhoods: Hato Rey, Santurce, Río Piedras, Condado. I would try to find absolutely nothing in particular. Sometimes, I might, perhaps, try to find new ways to get around. Others I would try to find new ways to try to understand my city. Yet, at the end, there was no real point to it, besides forgetting where I was. Being able to do nothing for an hour, only to bike around and think about nothing in particular is a great blessing. Being able to do nothing for a couple of hours, only to drive and think about nothing in particular is a great blessing. Being able to do nothing for 8 hours, only to sit and think about nothing in particular is an immense blessing. #5 My favorite trip is perhaps the most unpragmatic. I was in Wrocław, Poland and wanted to go Belgrade, Serbia. I was broke and couldn’t go through the European Union because my Schengen visa had expired, which meant I couldn’t go through Czech Republic, Slovakia or Hungary and almost every train passed through Hungary. These two conditions created an opportunity for a feat that, while necessary, seemed almost ridiculous. My good friend from Ukraine, Yenia found instructions on how to go through Ukraine and Romania to Belgrade, rather than through other EU countries. Needless to say, he found it on Yandex (the Russian equivalent to google) and the instructions were in Russian, so he had to carefully explain each step of the trip to me. I understood about half of it. This trip would take more than 48 hours at a distance that, in a plane, might take less than two hours. I would have to cross 3 borders in 4 countries with 4 different languages (none of which I spoke). It involved taking 3 trains, 3 bus rides, a 3 kilometer walk and an unexpected hitch-hike. I was afraid, but happy at the same time. This trip would be a challenge. #8 Canada My first time travelling was the time I went to a summer camp in Canada. I was probably about 10 years old and my dad wanted me to go to his camp in Barry’s Bay, Ontario. I wanted to go because of the excitement of travelling, for having a new experience. He wanted me to go because it was organized by the local church group. It was, very creatively, called Leadership Summer Camp and it was intended as a way to build ‘character’ among young teenage boys. There are many things I remember from this summer camp, but perhaps one of the most memorable were the long bus rides. At the summer camp, we would make a trip to the Niagara Falls. That was almost 6 hours away. We would wake up at 3:00 am, go to mass, have breakfast and hop on a big, yellow school bus. I could never sleep on these bus trips, or at least not much. So, while everyone else was sleeping, I would look at the majestic pines trees of Ontario I had never seen before, look out for deer and read the bilingual road signs to try to figure out where I was. I still remember names like Peterborough, Hamilton, Combermere and Pembroke. I can’t remember if these trips bothered me and I can’t recall complaining about them. I don’t know if this was because of the excitement of going somewhere or because of the long time on the bus. The other thing I would do is just think about whatever came to mind. What I wanted to do when I ‘grew up’, who I was going to be in the future, things like music and movies, and, of course, the all-important love interests of a 6th grader. Not much has changed since then. Yet, I think it was since this very young age that I knew I liked travelling and that what I wanted to keep on doing it. There was nothing like the excitement of going to these new places. For some reason, since this very tender age I somehow knew that all this wandering around would really define who I was and who I wanted to be. I also think that it was through these early travels that I eventually figured out something very important. Who you were, as a person, was not predefined but rather, it was something that had to be realized. You had to act as the person who you wanted to be. Life was something that could be acted upon. I have yet to find a better way to define yourself than through travelling, moving, and wandering around. Well, to be honest, I probably didn’t think this when I was ten, but this was a start. #10 9:24 Woodbridge Bus Stories I owed her 4 thousand dollars in child support so she took me to court. I didn’t have the money. When we were in court, she said she wanted the money that same day. My lawyer argued with her “How is he going to get the money if he’s in jail? Give him some time to come up with the money”. After some time, she finally agreed. The judge gave me a week to come up with the money. I was in deep shit. I was going to go to jail. The next day, with the last couple of dollars I had, I went to Dunkin Donuts and I bought myself a cup of coffee. Then I crossed the street to the gas station and bought a lottery ticket. I won 20 thousand dollars and I cashed that check the same day! I paid her the 4 thousand dollars. “Here, bitch, here’s your money!” It was a goddamn miracle. #11 10:42  Washington D.C. A lot of people I know and a lot of I see on the street seem to tend to be as connected as possible. I normally see people spending their spare moments trying to call someone up, hearing some music or playing a game on their phones. I try to avoid these things... and the machines that facilitate them. I have an old phone, fortunately, that can’t do any of these things. The reason I avoid these all-in-one technological marvels because I find the to be them enemy of silence. They are the way in which we avoid silence at absolutely any moment during the day. We live in a society that now escapes silence at all costs. Maybe this is a good thing. Progress might be nothing more than the ability to continually avoid confronting ourselves. The fact that we don’t experience silence is only an indication of how much we have accomplished. Why would we ever be in silence if we have Angry Birds and Spotiffy? One of these is obviously less engaging. Weirdly enough, I see a very strong relationship between religion, silence, and the contemporary lack of it (Am I just imagining things?). It seems to me that it is not coincidence the continual technological development of our societies goes along with the disappearance of religion (at least in more recent generations). We certainly don’t deify the iPhone, but it’s too entertaining! We choose not to have time to stop and think about the questions that religion tries to respond to in the first place. Who would ever do a thing like that? #15 2:22 Am Holy shit, it’s snowing! There’s snow in the grand. It has to be so cold. I might freeze to death! Soon, I’ll be there. #16 Nov 10, 3:10 PM Newark, NJ I just got stuck in the bathroom of the bus. 10 minutes stuck in a 4 square foot bathroom seems like a lot more that ten minutes. I hesitated pushing the “In case of emergency” button, but the claustrophobia of the whole thing was getting to me. I know that 10 more minutes in the make-believe bathroom would make me feel desperate, dizzy and horrible. It’s funny seeing how a simple situation can seem so bad. Normally, in a sticky situation like this one, I try to think of what is the worst possible thing that could happen. I could get so dizzy and disoriented, I might have nausea and have to vomit somewhere. I apologize for the mental picture that has just appeared into your head. Really, I apologize. They might have to stop the bus in order for the driver to come and rescue me. Everyone would get pissed off at the 23 year old kid who delayed the bus. Maybe, the employees on the bus won’t be able to open the door for me, and I might be obliged to spend 8 hours on a 4 square feet, no windows, smelly bathroom on my way to Richmond, VA. At some point, I might start seeing my life in a flash and the light at the end of the tunnel. Jorge Silva Jetter. 1989-2012. Died in the Greyhound bathroom. The headlines on the newspaper would tell the tragic story of a young (good looking, I might add) 23 year old who died in the bathroom of a greyhound bus. Lawsuits would be made. Careers would be ruined. Greyhound, the 98 year old company would go bankrupt due to the damage of its public image. All because I couldn’t get out of the bathroom. After some time, the employee came to my rescue from the torture of the make-believe bathroom. He started trying to open the door, but he was only trying to open the bottom lock “It’s the one on the top!”, I shouted. “I know what’s wrong” he answered back to me, as if he was the one stuck in the bathroom and had been trying to open the damn door. A few moments later, I made my triumphant exit out of the tiny bathroom. The three people sitting close by started laughing when they saw me, laughing at my little near-death experience. I also laughed a bit at myself, knowing that everything was okay, even do a few moments earlier I wasn’t sure I was ever going to get out of there. At the end, things are never as bad as my creative worst case scenarios, which makes the experience seem a lot lighter. #20 4:59 PM Delaware The night is now falling. the nature of my trip has changed. The view of nature, of my surroundings are now impossible. I shall have to look inwards. #21 I am already disappointed in this trip. I’m starting to find that my expectations were, perhaps, a bit too high. It is strange to say, but I do have to admit that I thought I would fine a lot more on this bus ride. How naive of me to think that a simple bus ride might provide the answers to the universe. How naive am I to think that a bus ride may provide with any answers at all. That, in a way, is the nature of reflection. You always find as many questions as you find answers. You find that there are no correct answers to life, there are only hypothesis. You find that, no matter how you live your life, there will always be regrets, there will always be unanswered questions, there will always remain doubt.   You can also see this document in PDF form: A Bus Ride - Jorge Silva-Jetter    

I See Everything

This composition was created using 190 images taken from the observation deck of the Richmond City Hall. For every window, 3 pictures were taken: 1 of the horizon, one middle picture, and one last one as far down as possible. The pictures were later arranged starting with the horizon images, followed by the middle images. If you notice, you can see the sun setting at the left of the image, meaning that this was the west of the camera. The sun may rise in the east, but it settles in a finer location. In a way, you can see the whole world from this image, based on the fact that you can see everything from one single vantage point, including the horizon. The piece, more than anything, is a result of a set of very specific instructions, a specific methodology, I set onto myself. ( Please, please, please!!! See this Full-Size and Zoom into the Image!! )  

Walking, Walking, Walking

On a beautiful sunny day, I decided to walk from Pollack in VCU to Pony Pastures, at the other side of the James. I created a set of instructions that I would follow along the way as a way to document my journey. I decided that I would take 1 picture every minute of my walk, no matter where I was standing. Consequently I would carry a stopwatch with me, to remind me of when I had to take every picture. The results is what you see below. Through taking a picture every minute, I was able to set up a system, that almost by itself, would create a narrative of the journey I made. The narrative emerges from the sequence of images, because of the instructions I put on myself. Walking Walking Walking from Jorge Silva-Jetter on Vimeo.

Memento Mori

"Someday, I will die and do will you" This is a book about my death, about our death. Someday I will die, and so will you, so I made a book about it. Specifically, this is a book about my grave, your grave and how it might look like. I find this important, because this is where you will be for a very, very long time, yet we don't tend to think too much about our final resting place. See the PDF

Genesis, 1:32 - 1:37

“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the Lord God saw that it was all these thing he created were separated, they could not interact and so God created the dimensions. And God saw that through this, he had given form to the earth. And God said, Let the earth have three dimensions, and let all these things that I have created walk and meet amongst each other. And to every beast on the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given you the gift of movement so that you may go out and be amongst each other. And God said to man, You may now multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” Genesis, 1:32 - 1:37

Dear Czesław Miłosz

Dear Czesław, I have read your poem and I can only say I couldn’t agree more. I also ask myself if Heaven and Hell have vanished forever. I have always thought that I’d rather burn in the tormenting but suitable quarters of hell than to renounce myself to dispassionate Nothingness. While I also weep at this great loss, I usually suspect that is our destiny. I wonder who could we implore about its return to us. Does God have a “returns department”, a 1-800 number? More importantly, I wonder how we lost it. It seem to me that this has all been a consequence of the adventures of thoughts. We have made thinking a dangerous undertaking. I could never blame our kind for carrying through on the capacity given to us by God. Yet, sitting here, in this beautiful cathedral, I begin to doubt myself. Maybe, we haven’t lost that second space. It seems impossible that a world without it can coexist with the individuals who built this church. I can only think that the existence of the second space is the only thing permitting this one. This place makes me questions your poem, Czesław. I bet you didn’t write that poem in a cathedral like this one. Most people think you can speak to God through prayer. I think this space can hold a much more deeper conversation. * Nothingness and God are both capitalized, based on the probability of their mutual exclusion.

My Hotel Room

When thinking about spaces we, for some strange reason, seem to give a slight preference, reverence and esteem to places that try to make themselves unique. The monument, the special house built by the architect, the place where a certain individual grew up… Right now I find myself in a space that was designed precisely not to stand out. The only thing unique about is the fact that it is the only thing standing at -23.548381,-46.643053 at about 80 feet up in the air. It is the only thing that occupies this space in the universe. This room has a standard queen bed, a television set, a vertical mirror, two small (but not particularly small) chairs, a small desk, and the unmistakable pair of night stands at both sides of the bed. The colors are a mix of whites, pale greens, and soft reds, but mostly soft champagne and peach. All personalized decoration has been removed from the walls. No pictures, no paintings, and especially no quirky gnomes standing on the windows! Yes, my hotel room was designed precisely to avoid, at all costs, standing out. Then, Why do I adore hotel rooms so much? Is it because I feel I’m also a boring, un-unique, peach colored, gnome hating individual. Is it because, on the contrary, I comfort myself at the sight of something so boring and bland that I’m able to feel that I’m slightly more unique, more special, more original? Is it because I love sleeping in blatantly oversized beds? Is peach my actual and true favorite color? Maybe, just maybe, it’s the fact that this specific room is really no diffe- rent that any other hotel room. It is, in a way, the same hotel room I have always visited. This hotel room, located at -23.548381 -46.643053, is the same hotel room located at 37.229711 -80.430241, and at 18.236436 -67.161559. The same furniture, the same colors, the same feel, and the same size. Only with some slight renovation. I feel comfort in this repetition. It’s good to be back at my hotel room. Paper #1 - My Hotel Room - Jorge Silva-Jetter

Thoughts on: Automation (Understanding Media, McLuhan)

Introduction · When McLuhan speaks of automations he is not speaking of assembly line automation or any type of linear automation. “Mechanization of any process is achieved by fragmentation” pg. 461 “The assembly line has gone the way of the stag line. Nor is just the lineal and sequential aspect of mechanical analysis that has been erased by the electric speedup and exact synchronizing of information that is automation” pg. 462 · For him automation is the same as cybernation. Automation and Electricity · Automation is the introduction of electricity and information into al walks of daily life. For McLuhan, there is very little difference between the advent of electricity and the advent of the Information age. · Electricity decentralizes everything, making everything accessible at once. This is similar to Alice in Wonderland. “Time and space are neither uniform or continuous” · Electricity is similar to our own central nervous system. Everything is connected and information can flow instantaneously to all parts. Humanity now lives a single unified field of experience. While our interpretations are very different, what we experience is similar. “It is a principal aspect of the electric age that it establishes a global network that has much of the character of our central nervous system. Our central nervous system is not merely an electric network, but it constitutes a single unified field of experience” pg. 460 · What makes all this possible is the fact that electricity is de-centralized. Electricity is produced in one place and consumed in another. This goes agains the assembly line model. “For electricity not only gives primacy to process, whether in making or in learning, but it makes independent the source of energy from the location of the process” pg. 459 “Such was never the case in the mechanical systems. The power and the work done were always in direct relation, whether it was hand and hammer, water and wheel, horse and cart or steam and piston.” pg. 463 Consequences · These changes are independent from any social ideologies. “The electric changes associated with automation have nothing to do with ideologies or social programs. If they had, they could be delayed or controlled.” pg 465 · Automation brings the end of specialization. “Man is more complex and less specialized than a dinosaur” pg. 470 “Paradoxically, automation makes liberal education mandatory” pg 471 Predictions · Advent of the consumer/producer. “for the consumer becomes producer in the automation circuit, quite as much as the reader of the mosaic telegraph press makes his own news, or just is his own news” pg 462 · End of the “job” model. “This is the new role for men in society. whereas the older mechanistic idea of ‘jobs’ or fragmented tasks and specialist slots for ‘workers’ becomes meaningless under automation.” pg 464 “Uniformly trained and homogenized citizenry, so long in preparation and so necessary to a mechanized society, is becoming quite a burden and problem to an automated society, for automation and electricity require depth approaches in all fields and at all times. ” “The social and educations patterns latent in automation are those of self-employment and artistic autonomy.” pg 473 · From mass produced to custom-built. “The custom built supplants the mass-produced” pg 465 · Globalization is a result of the world connected through and electric central nervous system. “Electric speed up requires organic structuring of the global economy quite as much as early mechanization by print and by road led to acceptance of national unity. ” pg. 466 · Change in the way we view armed forces. This are becoming more specialized. “Small teams of experts have replaced the citizen armies of yesterday even fasters than they have taken over the reorganization of industry.” · Machinery that can create everything. Machinery is no longer specialized. “a tree that can change form oak to maple to walnut as required” pg 469 “With the electronic music instrument, any tone can be made available in any intensity and for any length of time” pg 471 · The old dichotomy between culture and industry(The culture industry - Adorno) end because both now speak the common language of automation/electricity. There is no more specialization. “It ends the old dichotomies between culture and technology, between art and commerce, and between work and leisure” pg. 459  

McLuhan Was An Artist

See this Post in PDF Form(A little bit more designed!) Through most of our lives we learn that writing and thinking should always be rational, logical processes. Their outcome should always be one single coherent conclusion which is to be examined and scrutinized by others. This process would, undoubtedly lead you to the Truth. Yes! It is capitalized, because this notion of “The Truth” was as important as God, Life and other metanarratives. The practice of philosophy consisted on this search for Truth. Yet, in the 20th Century, this age old notion of Truth has been disappearing to a more creative view on just truth, ‘truth’,  truth, or maybe even truth( whatever that means). An example of this notion is the work of Jean-François Lyotard. His 1979 book “The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge” was very important to the spread of this notion and was one of the first recognition of the postmodern condition. In it Lyotard argues for the disappearance of the metanarratives or grand narratives. These narratives (such as God, the State, and Truth) have slowly disappeared. We no longer trust these narratives, but we don’t believe this is really in real or better Truth. Some similar ideas had been raised before by Nietzsche1,2, perhaps the philosophical father of post-modernism. Similar issues had been raised by Ludwick Fleck3 and Khun4 in science, where the notion of Truth has been substituted by the notion of paradigm. This has resulted in a very different way of seeing the process of creating knowledge. Rather than the notion of Absolute Truth, there is a certain degree of creativity that comes along with thinking/writing. The greatest post-modern thinkers have understood this very well. In the writing of Foucault, Baudrillard, Derrida and Deleuze. Their work is, not only a testament to their great intellectual finesse, but also to their great creativeness in their thought and in their writing. This still of writing is very similar to the still of Marshall McLuhan. Meggs notes “Unlike many philosophers and theologians actively seeking truth, McLuhan understands the fallacy of a fixed and static viewpoint.5” Meggs also said “McLuhan’s facility for throwing out ideas by the bushel provides much insight.6” McLuhan was very postmodern in his way of writing. He did not adhere to the idea of absolute truth and he saw his writing as a creative endeavour that would always be incomplete. In this way, he was not a rational theoretician, but a artistic one. He saw himself as an artist, dealing with a different type of canvas. In this way, he is no different than most of the great thinkers of our times. In regard to this artistic view of writing, he was a prophet too. In my opinion, Truth is dead. We should not miss it and, instead, welcome the notion of truth, ‘truth’,  truth, or maybe even truth( whatever that means). McLuhan already did this half a century ago. This new way of thinking shall give is new horizons in the great world of thought and shall lead us in new, more interesting directions.   1 · “There are no facts, only interpretations.” Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. Notebooks. 1887. 2 · “Once upon a time, in some out of the way corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which clever beasts invented knowing.”  Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense. 1873. 3 · Luwick Fleck. Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact. 1981. University of Chicago Press. 4 · Thomas Khun. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 1996. University of Chicago Press. 5 · Philip B. Meggs. Introduction to the Fiftieth Anniversary Edition of The Mechanical Bride by Marshal McLuhan. 2000.

We Can't All Be Creative Anymore

See this post in PDF Form There are very few combinations of people in one place at one period of times that have changed the world as much as a group of hippie nerds in California in the 1970’s. This group of people changed how we live our lives in ways that might have seen imaginable even half a century ago. To me it is simply amazing. This series of events are some of the most innovative, creative and original feats in the history of humanity. But what is most impressive about it is how fragmented, complex, and collaborative they really were. No one single event seems to be significantly more important than any other and the individuals who took a primary role in this revolution seem to be a few dozen. The reason I point out all this is to question the nature of creativity. I think people see creativeness as  one single characteristic which translates into many realms. But I think there are many types of creativity which are very different and in the present day no single person can be creative in all ways. We all have very different types of creativity applicable to many different types of things. To illustrate my point I will go back to the revolution of Silicon Valley and take the example of its most famous character(at least right now), Steve Jobs. The other day I was reading a very interesting article about Steve Jobs1. The article described Jobs, as not an inventor, but as a “tweaker”. Jobs and Apple have never invented anything, or at least anything extraordinary. They didn’t invent the computer, they didn’t invent the smartphone, they didn’t invent the mouse, they didn’t make any big breakthroughs in programming, they didn’t invent the tablet... But they were still highly innovative. The article argues that Jobs’ genius was in his ability to “tweak”. Through this tweaking he made sure that his products were usable, that consumers would use them. He also changed the contexts of some products to give them new uses. This is not the creativity that Edison, Tesla or the Gutenberg had. Jobs could have never done anything like that (at least alone). He was still creative, but he was not an inventor. I think it is sometimes unfortunate that his man gets so much credit when so many people have made so many other contributions (possibly more important) to this field. I guess charisma and his public appearances have an impact at some point. But it is true that through these appropriations of others’ inventions that many of his innovations were felt. Creativity has many sides to it and in a world of increasing complexity it becomes more important to ask “Am I creative?” but “In what ways am I creative?”. Maybe you are the inventor, maybe you are the visionary, or maybe you are just the tweaker. 1· Malcom Gladwell. The Tweaker. The New Yorker. Related Malcom Gladwell.Creation Myth. The New Yorker.

Visual Prostitues and other misplaced pieces of your soul...

See this Post in PDF Form It has become increasingly clear to me that what the advent of mass media has brought to art is the universality of exchange value, first recognized by Marx. “Marx describes how capitalism abstracts out from the use-values of objects and replaces them with the abstract decontextualized notion of exchange value1.” The advent of the exchange value over use value means that now everything has a value. High art (which for Adorno meant art that could not be comodified2) is impossible. What does this mean? In my opinion, it makes us all prostitutes. The sin of prostitution comes, not so much from selling your body, but from selling yourself. I specifically use this word because of the ethical dilemma that it brings to the discussion. The ethical problem behind prostitution is that your body is part of You and only you should use it. If you have ever spoken the words “I am a graphic designer” or “I am a designer”, we could conclude that you are, technically, a prostitute. You sell your visual self to your clients. Your designs are part of you and your identity is constituted by you act of being a designer. This, in my opinion, is very similar to selling your body. This is a problem that is not just part of graphic design, but is present in all arts. Because exchange value is present in every walk of life, “Composers admired by Adorno such as Beethoven and Mozart were not averse to making money from their art, and glories of ‘high’ Western culture such as the Sistine Chapel were only possible through the patronage of rich merchants2.” But the relation is intrinsic to the practice of graphic design. Graphic design is intrinsically a ‘low art’ by adorno’s standards. But, this is something that should be accepted and celebrated rather than rejected. Designers should celebrate their dubious ways. They should always acknowledge their state as prostitutes and should never forget it. Creativity doesn’t come from the age-old pretending game of denying guilt, but from the ability to own it and live it in your own way. I don’t think there is any escape from this. This is something that affects us all. Academia, cultural institutions, independent studios, design writers... We all have to deal with the world and our work is never pure. Unless you don’t have any type of association to our universal system of value exchange (money) you work is tainted by the outside world and outside influences. These influences are rarely merely visual. What to do about this? I already propose celebrating the irony of it all. But it is also important to recognize it. Reading the foreword, Stefan Sagmeister mentions “So how does a graphic designer avoid losing his or her own soul? Having misplaced little pieces of mine, I’m not sure if I am the right person to answer the question3.” He goes on to do exactly what he said he wouldn’t do and answers the question. His answer is not all that interesting but what I did find intresting in the though that: designers and artists all have to misplace some pieces of their souls in order to create.   1 · pg 56 / Critical Theoris of Mass Media 2 ·  “It is a complex area of debate whether high art even remains possible in a socity that has become so comodified but Adorno’s high/low distinction is based upone the fact that at least high art has the potential to produce non-comodified outcomes while low art ocntains comoditys vealues within it s very development strucuture, or creative DNA if you will” pg. 73 / Critical Theoris of Mass Media 3 · pg. 73 / Critical Theoris of Mass Media 4 · pg. 11 / How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul

Money, Money, Money, Money, Money = Art

See this Post in PDF Form Walter Benajamin talks about art because the character of art changed in the advent of mechanical reproduction. In his essay, he proposes that this new form of art could be used by the masses as a vehicle for empowerment. In terms of mass media, it seems,  he couldn’t have been more wrong. Mass media has been at the forefront of the commodified disembowelment of the masses. The translation from Post-modern to English2 would be “at the forefront  of the making common people less independent and more subject the interests of a particular group of people” (whoever these mysterious individuals might be)3. The most effective way to do this has been through the  culture industry. It is the culture industry that determines almost every aspect of our lives. It is interesting to note how in the past it was religion and ritual that determined these things, art was concerned mostly with this area of human life. Currently, art and the culture industry responds to itself and to the interests of those who control this. Why is any of this remotely relevant to my own life? Well,  for example: How many characters in television, cinema and advertising are truly different and revolutionary. How many recent films portray characters with radical political views(communism, anarchism) as the hero of the movie? How much advertising (and graphic design) portray people with no possessions and no economic power as being ‘happy’?  How much commercial music questions our basic institutions like family, matrimony, government? Well there might be exceptions to the rule, the truth is that media that challenges the basic core values of our western, capitalistic, consumerist, and heterosexual society are a minimum.  I am not arguing against any of these institutions per se. I am not criticizing these institutions. I am proposing that it is because of mass media that this questioning doesn’t happen on a serious level. To understand how these structures work we must turn to the work of the french sociologist, Jean Baudrillard. He proposes that “there is no such thing as reality”4. What we formerly understood as reality is long gone. Mass Media has created a state in which reality is the conversation, the dialectic between what we formerly understood as reality and the creations of the cultures industry. If an ad is designed in which a man is driving a Mercedez-Benz and he has a smile in his face this contributes to our current hyperreality. This image( in the former mode of thinking) might have been thought of as “fake” or “false”, but it now acquires meaning and relevance. Even do everyone knows this image was created by an art director to sell a product, it still make its impact on its audience. It contributes the collective consciousness and makes people believe that what happens in the fake image is actually true ( even do they know it’s not). I now arrive at the central thesis of what I wish to propose and this is. There is no escape from this. Everything is political. Nothing is neutral.  The consumer/producer of the culture industry cannot escape this cycle. We cannot escape the maelstrom as McLuhan understood well. We are either contributing to it, or going against it.  All content (including art) is now tied and related to the culture industry. I also propose a second thesis about this. Art that does not contribute to the culture industry becomes completely irrelevant. This might not have been true in the past, but the current relationship between content and money turns gives absolutely everything a price. In the past it was possible to make art that did not participate in all this, but Sotheby’s and Christie’s made this impossible. If you are, for example, a painter who doesn’t want money, who doesn’t sell his paintings, who even rejects any donation. If your work is photographed and uploaded to any blog, your work just acquired monetary value. There are hits related to that content. The are ads that will probably be put next to your content and there will be an audience who will (through you or not) pay other people money to consume that content. This gives the artist relevance and importance. On the other hand, if the artist wishes for his work to be completely independent of the economic structure, his only alternative is to hide it away form anyone’s view.   1 - As made popular by the television hit show “The apprentice”, where the starting sequence makes it clear that the only motivation behind the characthers is money. 2 - Conveniently translated by 3 - I am of the opinion that many proponents of the marxist traditions (and its later post-modern descendents) seldomly make the identities of these mysterious individuals clear. 4 - Simulacra and Simulation, Jean Baudrillard.

Psycholgoy & Design: What can they teach each other?

This paper is the proposal for the Final Presentation on my Graduate Semintar, at Virginia Commonwealth University.   Color and Psychology (Download as a PDF - Recommended)   This is a ­paper in three acts concerning my two different academic backgrounds: psychology and design. On the first act, I will try to deal with my own experience of studying psychology and the context in which I studied it. This act is very autobiographical and I decided to write so you, my dear reader, can appreciate where I’m coming from (Also, because I just wanted to write it).What did I really learn it? What upper hand do I have in design because of it? How did it shape me? The second act of this trilogy deals with the subject of what can design learn from psychology. The third one is the inverse, what can psychology learn from design. What I learned from my Psychology degree. The first thing that I can say about my education in psychology, looking back in retrospective, is that it had very little to do with psychology; at least, in the way most people think about psychology. I didn’t learn about ‘therapy’ or ‘helping people’. I didn’t learn to read minds. I didn’t learn about psychological conditions. I never took a class on neurobiology. What the hell did I do for three years? The first thing I think about is that my almost 700 student psychology department was split into two strong factions. These factions were like black and white, capitalist and communist, Elvis and Bach, Yankees and Red Sox, Delacroix and Ingres… They didn’t like each other very much, but this difference was only apparent to those who had an eye for it. On one side there were the scientists. They were instructed primarily on research. They were instructed on treating psychology with the rigor and practices of science. They used APA style very strictly and read academic journals with the latest psychological findings. They were very much into neurobiology and cognitive psychology. I always saw them as the Americans. They did psychology the American style and they got rewarded for it! They got millions and millions of dollars from institutions NIH. There students were funded by stipends and later on went to American universities to do even more research. They had big buildings with expensive equipment.  In my opinion, they were boring. They read boring journals about nothing important and did boring experiments that proved absolutely nothing about nothing important. Then there were the underdogs. The second faction lived almost purely for the purpose of critizing the first one. They had nothing. No money, no facilities, no grad students. They hated American psychology because Americans did stupid research about nothing in particular. They hated American psychology because they thought that considering psychology merely as a science was a dis-service to it. They thought psychology and the human being were to complex to be measured and subjected to the scientific method. They talked about politics and they were mad. Their rage was felt. They were left leaning and the descendents of the revolutionaries of the sixties that had taken over the whole world, and had a particular debt to the communist tradition and theory more common in Europe and Latin America. The beauty of this is that students could, through their electives and professors, choose a side and decide what they wanted to learn inside the same program. Naturally, I leaned towards the second one. They questioned a lot more. They discussed and criticized a lot more and, besides, their readings were a lot more interesting. Rather than reading boring, current psychology journals; we read the old stuff. Nothing we read had been written in the last 30 years and it was wonderful. We rarely read any Americans (remember, they were boring!) and mostly read Frenchmen. Foucault was a cited daily. Edgar Morin was one of my favorite reads. Papa Freud was also very common. A lot of sociologists were also constantly read. Thinkers like Marx, Zygmunt Bauman, Josep Luis Sert, Antonio Gramsi, Max Weber, Tomas Ibanez, Slavoj Zizek, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Thomas Khun, Georg Simmel, Paulo Freire, Ludwik Fleck, Gilles Deleuze, Jean Baudrillard, Jaques Derrida… Those were the guys I met with at the library. In my psychology classes, there was very little psychology but I learned something for which I am eternally grateful. I learned what the greatest minds of our time are thinking about these days. I learned what are the present philosophical issues in the world. But, most importantly, I learned who to think. I learned something that I think very few people know how to really do in the world. I learned who to question and how to argue and I inherited a vision of the world more complex and rich than the one taught to me by my parents and former teachers. All this doesn’t really exist in design school. I miss that. What can design learn from psychology? In a word, it’s all about perception. “The color is not important in itself. What is vastly more important is the response to it, even to the point of color blindness” In the world of design, we tend to view things in a relatively objective way. Certain color combinations are better than others. Certain layouts are better than others. Certain typefaces are better than other. In the real world, nobody has ever died because of the use of Comic Sans. At the end of the day, the foundations of graphic design don’t really matter that much in the real world. What really does matter is how people react and interact with design. The design is not important in itself but in the way in which people perceive it. That’s something designers tend to often forget. Design in a vacuum is quite worthless and unless design goes out in to the world and is let wild and loose, it doesn’t really have much value. What can psychology learn from design? In a word, it’s all about perception. “As one travels, it is not unreasonable to expect the lack of valuable new content to be proportionately related to the amount of color one finds throughout the daily newspaper. The more color, the less solid news” The field of psychology is full of interesting ideas. Unfortunately, they are only found on obscure and lengthy books and journal articles. Most of them are quite boring to read. Not because of the idea, but because of the communication of the idea. Rather than writing this wonderful ideas in a very simple and comprehensible way; psychology, philosophy and science in general tend to be very dry. Why invest more time in trying to communicate ideas effectively? Why not add a bit more color to the newspaper? The idea in these fields still tends to be that the less color, the more text, the less images, the more obscure… the better the idea is. The denser, the more important. Yet, for these ideas to be taken they need to be communicated effectively. Why not take the fascinating world of thoughts and give it the fascinatingly simple form of a poster?        

Is everything translatable?

(This writing was written with this blob post   After a while of thinking and reflecting, the only thing I could really find in common between colour and music is that both share a written language. This language is, of course, a mere translation of the thing-in-itself. A very few amount of people can hear the music from reading it, and very few people can see a color just by seeing it’s RGB, CMYK or Pantone code. Yet, there are representations and translations of this into a language, a system. The fact that there is a language, then, lends itself to the translation of this information from one form into the other. If there is a language, a system or a code it can be translate. In the same way we can translate English into Mandarin, we can translate English into CMYK. In the same way we can translate Russian into French, we can translate color codes into music. Every translation is possible, if there is a language, a system, or a code. The famous saying goes ‘Tradurre e tradire’(Translation is betrayal). In the same way no translation is ever completely true for human languages, the same holds true for translating music into colour. It will never be completely accurate, in the same way a translation, even from similar languages like Spanish/Portuguese and Dutch/German, will never be completely precise. Yet, people keep on translating, even if it is still not always accurate. Why do we limit ourselves to human communication? Translation is a form of creation in itself, and should be embraced. The interesting part about all this is that there is now a universal language, binary code. The computer age has brought upon us the translation of every single piece of information into 0’s and 1’s. The computer age has turned music, color, human language, images, videos, time… into binary code. If there is a new universal language, why do we still hold on to the impossibility of translation? This translation into binary code is always limited and is always a sort of betrayal. Seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre is not the same as seeing it through a computer screen, yet that doesn’t stop us from doing it. Hearing Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5 played in an .mp3 is not the same as hearing it played by the New York Orchestra at the Carnegie Hall, yet we still listen to it through our Ipod. We also translate this information into different formats (.mp3 to .ogg, .jpeg to .png) on a daily basis. The next step in these translations it the translation of information into, not just different formats, but different types of information. The digital realm permits a seamless translation from music to colour, words to image, and video to Mandarin. These are all possibilities that might result in a beautiful treason.  

Turning Music into Color?

Through these explorations, I explored the idea of turning color into music in an objective code. Every not on the sheet music of Gymnopedie #1 by Erik Satie was turned into a specific color depending on the note, octave and duration of the note. Every note(Do, Re, Mi Fa...) has a specific hue. Every Ocatave has a specific brighness( 1: 0, 8:100). Here is the end result... enjoy.   In this second variation, all the color were given the same opacity and put on top of each other to create a single bar that transmits the music.  

The Artist, Writer and Musician: Their Relationship to their tools.

This paper is the proposal for the Final Presentation on my Graduate Semintar, here at VCU. Download as a PDF(Recomended) “The thing with Processing is that it looks like Processing” “The Thing with ________ is that it looks like ________” I heard this quote the other day at our seminar class from one of our classmates. That stuck me. Is there something wrong with something looking like something. After some thought, I developed my own MAD LIPS statement to excercise my own thoughts. “The thing with _________ (insert art form here) is that it looks like __________ (insert art form here)”. “The thing with painting is that it looks like painting”. “The thing with bronze is that is looks like bronze”. “The thing with letterpress is that it looks like letterpress”. “The thing with guitars is that it sounds like guitars”. Yet, we don’t see painters running for their lives, Picasso tumbling on his grave, or Rodin being forgotten as a great sculptor. Artists ow a lot to their tools and they have a deep relation to them. Many great artists emerge from the superb understanding and skill they acquire with their tools and this is something not to be frowned upon. For this work I want to explore the relationship between the artist and his tools and his medium. How should we view this relationship? Color as a tool, Color as a Medium For this work, I also want to explore the subject of color within this theoretical framework and within these questions. Is color a medium or a tool? What is the relationship between the tool and the medium? How have different views of color as tool/medium affected the work of artists in different fields? From Tool to Medium: The Computer Another field of interest for me is the changing role of the computer from tool to medium. Many present day artists work exclusively on the computer and what is produced with it is the end in itself, rather than being a tool to facilitate manual work. What exactly do we mean by saying that the computer is a medium rather than a tool? What changes caused this? Is this even appropriate to say?      

Color and Music

This paper was published for my MFA Graduate Seminar. Also available in a PDF: Color and Music “Why do we still think of music simply as note-structures in empty space, instead of beginning with a homogeneously filled acoustical space and hollowing out the music − rubbing out, as it were, the musical figures and forms”1   pg 277 Riley, Charles A. Color Codes: Modern Theories of Color in Philosophy, Painting and Architecture, Literature, Music, and Psychology. Hanover: University of New England, 1995. Print.   Art, in many of its forms, has always possessed this isolated quality. Many artists and most if its audience have viewed art as an independent entity separated from the rest of the world by the walls of the museum, the walls of the gallery, the knowledge barrier between art-connaisseur and non-art-connaisseur and many social barriers that limit the audience for art. Also, and more importantly, great works of art are seen as entities in themselves, meant to be read independently of each other, isolated. The same can be said of cinema, literature, theatre and music. There are, of course, exceptions to this. We find art that is meant to be set on the street, on a building, on a wall. Architecture as a discipline is a lot more conscious of the how the relationship of the work to the environment it is set upon, considering the city, nearby buildings and natural elements that are close to it. Fallingwater, the house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is a good example of this, in which the house wasn’t designed in vacuum, but rather as a structure that relates to the environment around it.   Isn’t this the same way we think about color? Color is often seen as this independent, isolated entity. We think of red, blue and yellow as if they could live of by themselves (as represented by all hue maps and color theories) while, rather, they are always competing with something else in the perceptual world. They can never be in empty space. This alternative way to look at color changes the way in which we think of color. For example, the question “What is your favorite color?” turns meaningless against this because, there is no such thing as an independent color. Color cannot be an independent entity and hence asking this question is like asking ‘what is your favorite type of light in complete darkness?’.   In an era of hyper-stimulation, where you are trying to be engaged by absolutely everything around you, the idea of isolated art, music and color renders obsolete, useless and counter productive. Rather, maybe these cultural practices should take on the attitude of advertising where part of the purpose is to get that initial reaction from the viewer and part of the intent is to do something that will ‘fit’ and reference the world, rather than the institution of art itself or the walls of the museum. How do we view art in the age of the Internet, where we can just quickly browse it through Google images and see the work of 200 artists, from all over the world, a couple of hours. Almost any work of art by any artist is visually available to anyone at any moment. Do artists consider this in their work?   The same thing can be said of music. How does music change in an era were every song ever made is available to anyone instantly. How does music change when were are constantly bombarded by all types of sounds at the same moment. This changes call for different ways of doing music. Music has to be made to be heard with other music, or to be heard only for five seconds, or to be recognized immediately by anyone (in an age of millions of different music artist and the accessibility of home music production).   In the era of hyper-stimulation, it will not be the great artists who will be recognized, it will only be those who could be remembered.              

Color and Literature and Art and Gertrude Stein and Genius*

This paper was published for my MFA Graduate Seminar. Also available in a PDF: Oct 16 - Literature and Art and Gertrude Stein - Jorge Silva. 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Gertrude Stein was one of the most important art collectors of the 20th Century. She was also a very influential writer in her own right, having written important yet obscure works of literature. Yet, if examined closely, the life of Gertrude Stein seems to be more a guide book into the development of what we have come to call “genius”. The term refers to someone, generally in the arts and sciences that possesses an almost supernatural understanding and ability at his or her own field. Gertrude Stein was as interested in developing her aura as a “genius” as she was in dedicating time to the work itself. Her art collecting was a way of affirming her own genius by surrounding herself with other individuals of the same stature[1]. An example of this is the relationship between Stein and Picasso. “His reputation as a genius, and Stein’s reputation as his first major advocate, lay the latter’s credibility as a collector and an artist”[2]. By recognizing Picasso as genius, Stein confirmed her own status as genius and reaffirmed her authority. By the gradual increase of her authority as an art collector, Stein was able to become, not a mere collector, but almost an artist of grand stature herself[3]. The interesting part in all this lays on the fact that being a genius is also ‘staged’. Many times, artists and writers don’t become geniuses just by going about their work, but by consciously ‘acting’ as geniuses. This seems to be something that Gertrude Stein understood very well. Robert MacAlmon writes of Stein: “There could be no doubt that [Gertrude Stein] knew how to stage-set herself as an eccentric, and thus become, aside from her writing, and exotic character and celebrity”[4]. This is not unique to the Gertrude Stein as an artist, but very common throughout the history of art and literature. The artist must create the image/identity of the genius in order to recognized as such. In the case of Gertrude Stein, this might have been more important and present because of her status as woman[5]. The recognition of the artist as ‘genius’ has, many times, very little to do with the work of the artist itself. Many times, this recognition comes from the performance of the artist. How the artist frames his or her work, who the artist surrounds himself or herself with, their eccentricities, how he or she views and describes himself or herself... All these are as important (sometimes even more) than the actual work of the artist. Gertrude Stein, who for most of her life wrote for half and hour a day, is not one a perfect example of the laborious and uphill task of being an artist, but rather on the psychological personal views and the image the artist portrays.   * The theme for this writing is a loose interpretation of Color and Literature. In my opinion, color and art are very much related (This for example is exemplified in Color Codes, in which a large portion of the book is dedicated to art). Hence the theme, color and literature is closely related to “Art and Literature“. By this standard, writing about Gertrude Stein is highly appropriate, considering her importance in the connection between art and literature in the 20th Century. The concept of the “genius“ is related to all these three themes: art, literature and Gertrude Stein. Hence why I felt it appropriate to consider it in my writing. 1 · “Stein ‘genius’ did not reside in her literary talent alone but also, and perhaps more importantly, in her capacity to assemble around her a world that affirmed her artistic stature.” Latimer, Tirza. ““In the Jealous Way of Pictures”: Gertrude Stein’s Collections.” Women’s Studies 39.6 (2010): 562-84. Pg. 563. 2 · Latimer, Tirza. ““In the Jealous Way of Pictures”: Gertrude Stein’s Collections.” Women’s Studies 39.6 (2010): 562-84. Pg. 563. 3 · “the creation of a personal network of artist finessed Stein’s transformation from a connoisseur of art into a producer of art”. Latimer, Tirza. ““In the Jealous Way of Pictures”: Gertrude Stein’s Collections.” Women’s Studies 39.6 (2010): 562-84. Pg. 564. 4 · Latimer, Tirza. ““In the Jealous Way of Pictures”: Gertrude Stein’s Collections.” Women’s Studies 39.6 (2010): 562-84. Pg. 566. 5 · “For Stein, being a genius ( or being perceived as such) was not as straightforward as it might have been for a male artist”. Latimer, Tirza. ““In the Jealous Way of Pictures”: Gertrude Stein’s Collections.” Women’s Studies 39.6 (2010): 562-84. Pg. 566.

Colour And Literature

This is Paper submited for my MFA Graduate Seminar under the same title.  Reading about colour and literature, I found myself contemplating the vast difference between the visual aspects of colour and the verbal aspects of colour. The visual aspects of colour are clear and direct. The red in Matisse’s The Dessert: Harmony in Red is only and precisely the red in Matisse’s The Dessert: Harmony in Red. The matter is settled and un-debatable. The perception of the colour, the change trough time, the trustworthiness of the screen or the paper and other issues might be debated, but that colour is the colour it is and nothing else in the same way I can’t be here and there at the same time or in the same way that it’s cant be Tuesday and Friday at the same time(1). Colour in the written word seems to have an ambiguity that the visual colour does not seem to have. This ambiguity (especially in literature) serves to enrich the text, rather than impoverish the written language. Let’s look at a an example: If we had the text…. The man bent over his guitar A shearsman of sorts. The day was green. They said, “You have a blue guitar, You do not play things as the are.” … and decided to make it more accurate; where in, as in painting, we would be able to all see the same colour and went ahead and wrote… The man bent over his guitar A shearsman of sorts. The day was 362 C(2). They said, “You have a 301 C guitar, You do not play things as the are.” Even if we had an advanced and profound understanding of colour, in which we could immediately call this colour to mind, much of the power of this passage would be lost. That personal touch in which we can feel the author pulling these lines out of our souls is lost precisely because of the precision of some of the statements. That is one of the virtues of literature. Its value often comes from its ambiguity, from its vagueness and from how personal it can become. We could take this journey into abstraction a bit further and try to translate the passage from human language to something maybe a computer could understand. $man.angle = ($man.angle + 45 || $man.angle++); $man = random(0,0.5)*$shearman; $day.color = rgb(69,139,0); echo “$Man.guitar = rgb(0,0,255);”; echo “$ !=  $Things”; Again, if the particular language written above was understood by the reader he might comprehend the message of what was written, but the beauty in the writing itself might be lost. The language above was intended for clarity and precision, while poetry finds its value, many times, in its ambiguity. That’s why, when someone talks about feeling “blue” we not just talking about the colour blue in itself, as we would see it represented in pigmented form. The words we ascribe for colour take on a meaning of their own, independent from their visual counterparts. Colour in literature and poetry is as much as finding and exploiting these alternate meanings as it is about making reference to the visual form of colour. When we talk about feeling blue, we’re not intending to be precise and we’re not talking about #00f. The word “blue” is used precisely because of its ambiguity. The word “blue” is used precisely because of its multiple interpretations. Finally, I propose that the word “blue” is used because it has taken on a cultural meaning completely separated from the visual colour blue. It is because these colours are able to take on new meanings separated from their usage in visual form, that poets use them. They reference the visual world, but are able to separate from them, take on new meanings and be interpreted in a more personal way. 1. There is, of course, room for debate in these issues and metaphysical questions. Philosophers and physicists could certainly disagree with this statement, but they require a level of abstraction and complexity that these kind words are not currently dealing into. 2. Colors in PANTONE solid coated.  

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