6 episodes

Things I absorbed from creative works, including but not limited to: written fiction and nonfiction, audiovisuals such as movies and TV series, music, and life itself. 🧽 What I get from these works doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the intent of the creators. Sponge isn’t exactly “about” these works either. It’s about what I absorbed. 🧽 There will be spoilers. None of this is a review or analysis or critique. 🧽 This podcast is updated as needed. There is no regular schedule.

Sponge Ithaka O.

    • Arts
    • 5.0 • 1 Rating

Things I absorbed from creative works, including but not limited to: written fiction and nonfiction, audiovisuals such as movies and TV series, music, and life itself. 🧽 What I get from these works doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the intent of the creators. Sponge isn’t exactly “about” these works either. It’s about what I absorbed. 🧽 There will be spoilers. None of this is a review or analysis or critique. 🧽 This podcast is updated as needed. There is no regular schedule.

    006_The pursuit of the One Story is futile.

    006_The pursuit of the One Story is futile.

    Full transcript and links:

    https://sponge.ithakaonmymind.com/audio/006-the-pursuit-of-the-one-story-is-futile/

    Everything I do is organized here:

    https://ithakaonmymind.com/

    💍💍💍

    Every era and every place has its romanticized ideology. That is something I absorbed from “Destination Earth” produced by John Sutherland Studios in 1956.

    This 14-minute short film is where I got the cover image for Episode 3 from. The episode was titled “I have an excellent example of a monopoly that must die.” And on the cover of that episode, someone’s cartoon hand is holding a book. On the book cover, the title says “Competition.” And under that, the subtitle reads, “More for all.”

    For those of you who use the Spotify app, you can see this cover image directly in the episode feed.

    If you use other apps, it’s likely that the feed does not show the episode-specific covers. However, you can click on the link in the show notes, which will direct you to the website for Sponge, and there, I have all the transcripts for all the episodes, as well as the cover image for each episode.

    So. I thought it would be interesting to talk about this short animated film, because it is so blatantly optimistic about the ideologies that were worshipped in its particular place and time. Moreover, those particular ideologies seem to have lost their absolute appeal in our times, so it’s doubly fascinating. We, as the people who live in the here and now, can look back to the past, and easily notice how blind their optimism was.

    According to the page on “The Public Domain Review,” where I found this film, it was, quote, “produced at the height of the Cold War, and made at the behest of the American Petroleum Institute. … [This] great little promotional film … champions not only the wonders of oil as might be expected, but also free-market capitalism.”

    The cartoon, quote, “tells the story of how the suspiciously Stalin-like leader of Mars, named Ogg, sends a rather calamity-prone citizen to Earth to find a better power source for his poorly-running ‘state limousine.’ The exploring Martian, of course, lands in the United States and soon discovers the many and myriad delights of petroleum and that, in contrast to his home planet, competition between companies is rife. His take-home lesson (and one drilled into the viewer on numerous occasions) is that ‘competing for the customer’s dollar’ is key to the success of the oil industry, and, of course, the thriving country as a whole.”

    So this cute film—cute because these cartoon characters do look adorable—is an overt ideology piece. Its purpose wasn’t to amuse or to appeal to the eyes—it was to convince. It was to convert.

    Number one, toward an economy based on competition.

    Number two, toward the usage of petroleum.

    Since episode 3 was about the fact that Bowker is maintaining its ridiculous monopoly in the present day and my present place, which is the year 2022 in the USA, the message about an economy based on competition sounded plenty appealing.

    Of course, we, who live anywhere in 2022, know from decades of global experience that market-driven economies aren’t all rainbows and unicorns. But at the same time, I strongly believe that some competition is indeed better than no competition at all. Hence my usage of a scene from this short film, for episode 3, with that cartoon character holding up that book, which says “Competition” on its front cover.

    ...

    ..

    .

    • 21 min
    005_Between grotesque complexity and smooth oneness, we chew.

    005_Between grotesque complexity and smooth oneness, we chew.

    Full transcript and links:

    https://sponge.ithakaonmymind.com/audio/005-between-grotesque-complexity-and-smooth-oneness-we-chew

    Everything I do is organized here:

    https://ithakaonmymind.com/

    🦷🦷🦷

    The more complicated an organism’s features, the more repulsive they get for other organisms. That is something I absorbed from the last episode’s musings.

    We were talking about teeth and smiles in the last episode. We also talked about the definition of the word grotesque, and how I interpret that word. So, with all that as the background info: teeth are, in many ways, grotesque things.

    If you think about human teeth, you might not get that sense very much. That’s because you, the person listening to this podcast, are probably human. But think about little fish teeth. Or big fish teeth, like shark teeth. And then consider how some sharks have multiple layers of teeth. You know, teeth that can shred you into pieces.

    Now, imagine how they would see themselves. To them, such teeth are completely normal. Maybe they think our teeth are ugly.

    It’s the unknown and unknowable manifoldness. The multi-dimensionality. The processing power it takes for us to digest information that is all those many teeth that aren’t ours. That’s what makes something grotesque to a being, not an absloute property that a structure has.

    Here’s another example: the legs of a centipede.

    For the centipedes, their legs are a perfectly normal, desirable tool. But urgh. As I typed that word, I shivered. And as I edited the podcast outline, I shivered again. And while I am recording this episode, I am shivering again. I will probably shiver again while I’m editing the audio, and again while I upload it to Anchor and do a final listen-through. That is the kind of impact a centipede’s legs have on me. There are simply too many.

    This repulsion, by the way, is totally programmed into me, I think. I don’t think it was nurtured into me. I think I was born this way to be scared and/or repulsed by newness, at least initially, and then, once I realize that the newness is not only new but also just too complicated and complex to very frequently remain repulsed.

    There are a bunch of studies saying one way or another. You know, the ones that say that we’re evolutionarily programmed to dislike certain insects because we associate them with diseases. And then there are the ones that say, if we teach children that they don’t need to be scared of and be repulsed by these insects, then they won’t be scared or repulsed.

    There was a study… I saw this a long time ago, so I don’t remember which study it was, but there was a study on how to encourage the next generation to consume insects as food. Because, they’re a great source of protein, and there aren’t enough resources to raise all the meat-producing animals in the future.

    Insect protein isn’t necessarily unhygienic. These insects would be raised in clean environments, probably much cleaner than the average cage for poultry or mammals, simply because of how much tinier insects are and therefore how little space they take up and how much more affordable it is to raise them.

    Some researchers thought that if you expose kids to insect protein from an early age, they won’t dislike it so much. And immediately, I thought of The Lion King. The scene where Simba sees Timon and Pumbaa eat those insects from under the tree trunk and he grimaces at first, but doesn’t anymore, later.

    Anyway. Insects. The biggest obstacle to eating them and liking them, in my opinion, is that they have more limbs than us.

    ...

    ..

    .

    • 14 min
    004_A smile harbors grotesqueries.

    004_A smile harbors grotesqueries.

    Full transcript and links:

    https://sponge.ithakaonmymind.com/audio/004-a-smile-harbors-grotesqueries/

    Everything I do is organized here:

    https://ithakaonmymind.com/

    👄👄👄

    Too much power makes a person powerless. That is something I absorbed from "The Mirror and the Palette" by Jennifer Higgie.

    Once again, “The Mirror and the Palette” is a book about female self-portraiture. And I thought about the grotesque irony of power when I read this part:

    “In seventeenth-century Holland, a love of both morality tales and jokes resulted in a robust trade in paintings of people drinking and laughing, but in France, smiling – and in particular a smile that revealed the teeth – was sternly frowned upon. Of course, this might have had something to do with the fact that King Louis XIV had no teeth left by the time he was forty and it wasn’t done to gloat.”

    I have heard before that in some cultures, people think it’s improper to show their teeth. So that wasn’t the part that felt so grotesque to me. The grotesque part was that the reason it was recommended that people don’t show their teeth might have been because of Louis XIV.

    It seems that it’s not for certain whether Louis XIV demanded that people stop showing their gorgeous healthy teeth, or if he implied that he was too sad from seeing people smile openly, or if he did nothing of the sort, but people just assumed.

    Whatever the actual situation might have been, the possibility is there, isn’t it? The possibility of a king compelling people to stop smiling while showing their teeth. I mean, a king! No teeth! So everyone around him might have just stopped showing their teeth while smiling. And that, somehow, could have turned into some kind of a… fashion statement? Or some kind of… a way to show how high-class you were?

    As in, Hey, if you hang out with Louis, it becomes so normal for you to hide your teeth while you laugh or smile, so anybody who shows their teeth must be total peasants.

    It is so bizarre, but you know what? I don’t have that difficult a time believing that something like this could happen. And that is so grotesque, for a king to just… let this happen.

    If I had been a king who needed to show who was boss, as soon as I noticed that people weren’t laughing around me with an open mouth anymore, I would have either explicitly ordered them to resume smiling normally, or, alternatively, I might have actually explicitly illegalized laughing while showing your teeth. Basically, anything but the passive-agressive way.

    And this wasn’t a timeplace where kings and royals in general were in any shape or form equal to other people, so I’m excluding that equality strategy from this discussion. Like, if I were Louis the Sun King, I wasn’t gonna suddenly advocate democracy because of my toothlessness.

    So I might have yelled at the court to stop with the foolishness. In fact, since I am the king, I might have ordered them to laugh. Immediately!

    ...

    ..

    .

    • 17 min
    003_I have an excellent example of a monopoly that must die.

    003_I have an excellent example of a monopoly that must die.

    Full transcript and links:
    https://sponge.ithakaonmymind.com/audio/003-i-have-an-excellent-example-of-a-monopoly-that-must-die
    Everything I do is organized here:
    https://ithakaonmymind.com/
    ☠️☠️☠️
    This, I absorbed from my recent review of the costs I have accrued in the past three years for my writing and publishing business: Bowker’s  existence is a disgrace to American capitalism and along with Bowker,  all monopolies should die.
    I am talking about this topic now, because I thought it might be nice to change things up instead of doing all the “Mirror and the Palette” episodes in a row.
    Bowker operates in the United States of America. Among many other overpriced nonsense products, it also sells ISBNs. Sells, instead of giving them out for free. ISBNs—which stands for International Standard Book Number. Number. Just a simple number that does its existing on its own—as in, without humans needing to create them. Nevertheless, Bowker sells these.
    To this, you might say, “Well, Bowker needs to keep itself afloat somehow. It is a business.”
    I would agree with you, if the price that Bowker charges for a single ISBN is anything close to fair. In my world, the maximum you could  possibly, possibly charge for a single string of number, in a  fair manner, is maybe, generously speaking, ten dollars. Okay? Ten  dollars. And that’s not because numbers are exspensive, but because  Bowker needs to take care of the hosting, the customer service (which it doesn’t really have, but I’m speaking of hypotheticals here), and maybe it just wants to save up. You know, have a financial reserve. Because,  indeed, Bowker is a business.
    But it isn’t just any business. That is the problem. It is a monopoly. It is the only agency that sells ISBN numbers in the United States.
    Thus, at this time, Bowker is able to sell a single ISBN, which is, again, literally a string of numbers, for…
    …one hundred and twenty-five dollars.
    Yes. You heard that right. One hundred and twenty-five dollars for a single string of numbers.
    The existence of a business like this is a disgrace to American capitalism and along with Bowker, all monopolies should die.
    This is an example of something that seems to clearly  violate the right to free speech in this country. But surprisingly, I’ve heard no one talk about it in that context. The fact that unless you  can pay $125 per single number, or unless you’re willing to pay even  more for the bulk option, you cannot publish a print book yourself—how  does this not violate the right to free speech?
    Although you do not necessarily need an ISBN for an ebook, you very  much need an ISBN for a print book that is sold at regular stores. This  situation means that if I were a political activist who wants to publish a print book and make it available at regular stores, online or  offline, I may not be able to, unless I work with a publisher, which may or may not have a favorable contract for me. Thus, the US government’s  total indifference to the existence of a monopoly such as Bowker can  very well force some people to make decisions that go against free speech. They might have to make edits that they don’t want to make. Or, because they cannot buy a new ISBN for a new edition, maybe they might  not be able to make the edits that they want to make. Worst, they might need to wait around to get published instead of publishing.
    In America. Of all countries.
    ...
    ..
    .

    • 22 min
    002_I shall draw from the body of legendary wheels.

    002_I shall draw from the body of legendary wheels.

    Full transcript and links:

    https://sponge.ithakaonmymind.com/audio/002-i-shall-draw-from-the-body-of-legendary-wheels/

    Everything I do is organized here:

    https://ithakaonmymind.com/

    ⛵️⛵️⛵️

    This, I absorbed from "The Mirror and the Palette" by Jennifer Higgie: originality is overrated; to make something richly meaningful, don’t reinvent the wheel, just draw from the body of legendary wheels.

    Yes, this is the second time I’m referencing the book “The Mirror and the Palette.” We will probably get at least five episodes out of this book, because it inspires in me so many different directions.

    So. This is a book about female self-portraiture. And as an extension of the previous episode, I thought about the fact that referencing existing work is not only easier, but also more effective.

    Once again, the artist at the center of the discussion will be Judith Leyster. As mentioned in the previous episode, she used a distinctive monogram. It was J, followed by an l, with a little star next to it. “Jl*.”

    But this monogram wasn’t just important due to its function as a clear brand. It was doubly important because of the cultural references it drew from. According to the book, this monogram was, quote, “a play on her surname: ‘leidstar’ ”… or ‘leidstar’? I’m not sure. Whatever the correct Dutch pronunciation is, this word, “translates as lodestar – like the one that shone so brightly over Bethlehem – a star that guides.”

    Making something richly meaningful—it is an act that is easier said than done. And so, ancient mythology, biblical stories, and historical references can act as excellent tools for adding meaning. They do things that so-called “completely original” stories cannot possibly do, which is, pulling from pre-existing stories that add layers and depth without any overt explanation by the user of those myths and legends.

    Consider Judith Leyster’s lodestar reference. Now that I’ve heard that story in conjunction with her monogram, I cannot separate her from the image of a visionary. A star seer. A star guide. How cool is that?

    Imagine how powerful that must have been, in a timeplace in which a lot of people were familiar with this religious reference. Also imagine how difficult it might have been for Judith Leyster, if she’d instead tried to invent a whole new story to surround herself with.

    By using the lodestar reference and literally embedding it into her work in the form of the monogram, Judith put herself as part of a map, a vast map of stories. She is but one star in the sky, but by no means lonely and by no means detached. She is at once alone and together. This is brilliant.

    When you consider the fact that there is no such thing as total originality anyway, her strategy is even more brilliant. Everything draws from something. Nothing is born out of nothing.

    Originality is overrated. Sometimes, the people who chase so-called originality never get anything done, because, well, a human tends to have a history. So far, at least, with the technology available to us, humans have what’s called a place they come from, called a mother’s womb. So, to deny that every person inevitably comes from a source, and to attempt to become something that one cannot possibly be, is… I think it is a way to spend efforts on a futile task.

    To make something richly meaningful, don’t reinvent the wheel, just draw from the body of legendary wheels.

    Here are some other examples.

    ...

    ..

    .

    • 13 min
    001_I do it for love. The market decides.

    001_I do it for love. The market decides.

    Full transcript and links:
    https://sponge.ithakaonmymind.com/audio/i-do-it-for-love-the-market-decides/
    Everything I do is organized here:
    https://ithakaonmymind.com/
    ✨✨✨
    This, I absorbed from "The Mirror and the Palette" by Jennifer Higgie: there was no past in the history of humanity that can be glorified for the separation between art and the market.
    “The Mirror and the Palette” is a book about female self-portraiture. And I thought about the inevitable symbiosis between art and the market when the author mentioned the Dutch artist Judith Leyster.
    I got this pronunciation for her name from an article titled, “How to Pronounce the Names of Some Dutch Painting Masters.” I hope I’m saying it correctly.
    In the book, well before Judith Leyster is mentioned by name, Jennifer Higgie talks about how difficult it is to attribute a painting to the correct artist. Wars happen. Mishandling happens. And sometimes, everyone does their job and destroys nothing, and yet through the simple passing of time, the roots and sources of artwork get… blurry.
    Considering this tendency toward art being separated from the artist, what Judith Leyster did was genius. She had a distinctive monogram. It was J, followed by an l, with a little star next to it. “Jl*.”
    Isn’t this so wonderful? Isn’t it great that an artist made her pride in her work perfectly clear by branding it for the market?
    Yes. I think Judith Leyster had the market in mind. This seems to be an early example of branding, not only for the sake of putting a name tag on something, but specifically for the market, for others to see and recognize.
    Why was it that other artists didn’t always do something similar? There could be many reasons.
    First of all, many markets back then might have been so personal, so person-to-person, that a written, visible brand wasn’t needed unless you were particularly ambitious—say, if you were someone who dreamed of having their work be known on the opposite side of the continent. Otherwise, you might have known everyone involved in your particular local market. You knew the baker, the butcher, the seamstress, and so on. And they knew you. So, a separate brand that is distinguishable from your face might not have been necessary, in most cases.
    Another explanation is that maybe, not signing a work might have been interpreted as humility.
    Whatever the reason is, our current inability to connect past works to all their creators is sad.
    And taking these examples from the past, I look at the present. In some modern circles, there seems to be the misconception that before the capitalist domination of society, or before globalization, or before the arrival of electricity and widely-available technology—basically, before everything that characterizes the modern world—there used to be an idyllic dream period in which artists could make art, free from the market, and therefore didn’t need to do any branding or marketing or sales or any such thing.
    I believe this is just that: a misconception.
    Before the aforementioned elements of modernity appeared, the biggest market in the Western world was the Church. It was what bought art. If the Church-dominated times seemed to preclude branding, marketing, and sales, then it was because it controlled the market to such an extent that such efforts were futile.
    ...
    ..
    .

    • 19 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
1 Rating

1 Rating