(sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) means to take a course opposite that of the sun, going counterclock-wise, lefthandwise, or to circle an object, by always keeping it on the left. It also means "in a direction opposite to the usual," which is how I choose to take it in using it as the title of this blog. We're all in the same world finding our own way.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Acelessthan3: Branding

Our culture is an amalgamation of identity groups, and we the individual bearers of those seals and symbols and markers.

 The thought came to me the other night that I am branded. I am imprinted and encoded with the diverse runes and sigils of contemporary culture, the bitten apples and swooshes and golden arches simplified and amplified to the point where a passing glance is enough to embody and recreate an entire experience even if you've never partook.

In the essay Pop, Magic by comic writer, Grant Morrison, Morrison describes the sigil as “one of the most effective of all the weapons in the arsenal of any modern magician”and later talks about the viral sigil or logo, powers of intention created by corporate or cultural processes. Like Susan Blackwell's memes, they are self-replicating ideas that seem to have no traceable origin.

According to Morrison, what separates these sigils from any passing desire is the intent. Intentionality or the investment of energy maintains the magic of a sigil. By inscribing it repeatedly, forgetting the meaning and mindlessly reproducing the image of the sigil we make it happen.

So then, the genius of branding in a certain sense is the way that the corporate manages to perpetuate idea(l)s through their sigils. I'm thinking in particular of clothing.
In Scott Westerfeld's charming YA novel So Yesterday, Westerfeld explores ideas of marketing and fashion and what exactly makes something cool. The way the protagonist, Hunter, describes his job as a “cool hunter” formats the experience into a pyramid scheme: at the top of the pyramid are the Innovators. They're the truly original people.

In the next level are the Trend Setters, they see the Innovators and adopt and create trends based on what they see. They're the reviewers and managers who disseminate the idea. Directly below them are the Early Adopters, the first wave of people who hear about a trend and incorporate it. They're the reason it becomes big enough to receive the kind of placement that gets the attention of the next level: the Consumers.

Interesting and hipster as it is, I'm going to ignore the Laggards and the Jammers and the rest of the pyramid in favor of focusing on another concept that gets brought up in the opening of the novel, that of the Logo Exile, or as I would describe it branding incognito. Essentially it's corporate namelessness: the active removal of branding and logos from attire.

I bring this up in relation to Morrison's writing because there's a different kind of power inherent in namelessness. With intention, it is a subversion and reaction to the sigil power of corporate branding, of the logo. Comparatively it carries a fairly minimal impact. Within corporate, capitalist culture, we are barely teeth on the cogs and wheels of the great profit machine.

But while there may be minimal social impact, the personal impact of adopting Logo Exilism is both easier and more difficult than one might expect. Many clothes, especially basic layers, only contain some kind of logo on the tag, which is easily removable. But even then, certain styles have become their own kind of sigil. Knee length mesh athletic shorts with high top athletic shoes = basketball for example. Or even simpler than that, most of us have learned to recognize a certain American brand of Apparel that visually displays very few signifiers.

By wearing clothes with logos, we project and broaden everything that logo represents both surface level and subconsciously.

As you would have guessed, I wonder sometimes about my personal style. I tend toward Logo Exile, seeing very little aesthetic appeal to emblazoning myself with corporate names, but I also am in process of creating my own brand with my own logo.


I've explained the meaning of this little sigil so many times I've almost forgotten what exactly it means. I can tell you where it comes from, and what the pieces mean, but not the intention behind it, which as Morrison states is key to “powering up” a sigil.

I wonder sometimes if it's things like this that make me memorable. How much does style affect and interact with our relations with people? Surface-level though they may be, the clothes make the man as the adage goes. My style, while fairly colorful and DIY, is also kind of plain if you ask me. Are all my little sigils contributing to the perceived essence that is me?

Because of the way in which intention and perception and belief play into the magic of sigils, you can't quantify it, and thus I am unable to scientifically measure one way or another how my style creates me. But it's an interesting thought.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Recently in the Life: or One Final Procrastination

I've got a big, epic, end of the school year post that has themes and subheads and all that fancy blogg-y stuff in the works, but for now I'm doing a quick photo update of life. 

So the last few weeks have been fairly hectic. Busy in the best way possible. I don't know how I've managed to successfully juggle everything.

Looking cute at the Jeopardy Release party.
If you read my post about a month ago, you know I have a boyfriend. His name is Ethan and while I don't think either of us was expecting a relationship to end our respective senior years in college (his last, my first), we're both happy to be together. 

While we're still negotiating how we want to deal with him graduating and moving away, it's an open conversation and in the meantime, we're spending as much time as we can together until then because that's just a lot more fun than worrying about already uncertain futures. My only regret is not listening to Facebook's suggestion that we be friends a lot sooner, because I like knowing awesome people, and he's pretty damn awesome.

Former Drag Empress of the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Evergreen Empire
Shanita Blough flanked by Timbaland and Oliver Clozoff.
 On May 24, I made my debut as my official drag persona and co-emcee of the WWU Third Annual Condom Fashion Show: May DeFlowers. It was a bittersweet moment in that this event that I've put so much time and energy into was finally here! On the one hand, it would be done, I wouldn't have to think about it or stress about it or be interviewed by journalism students covering an event for their intro to news writing class. On the other hand, it would be done, no more events for this school year.

The show itself was a blast and we had a decent turnout despite a big concert being scheduled for the same night. Frustrating, but unavoidable given the circumstances.

Some of the lovely models at the CFS.

Performers, volunteers, organizers.

The models, performers, donors and beneficiaries were all amazing. And I'm so glad I got to be a part of this wonderful show. 

If you would like to see more pictures from the CFS, I have some from backstage posted to my Facebook.

Creepy hands are creepy.
 I hung out with my friends Rachel and Alaina the weekend after the show because Rachel is graduated and her lease is up, so she's moving home. As one last huzzah, we had ice cream at Mallards.

They're one of those essential stops for anyone visiting Bellingham because they're locally owned and operated, fresh, hand-crafted ice cream. These aren't the kind of flavors you get in most stores. I got a double scoop of Rhubarb ice cream with a scoop of strawberry seaberry ice.

After ice cream, I recruited Rachel to help me fashion hersheys kisses flowers for Ethan, because I'm just that kind of crafty fatherfucker who makes adorable things for his boyfriend. I made pizza and we had some fun with the extra pipe cleaners.

Since hanging out with Rachel, I don't think I've done all that much of note. It's been dead week (the week before finals), so I've been wrapped up in studying.

I started reading a chapter from Yopie Prins's Victorian Sappho on recommendation from my professor. Consecrated fecal matter do I love when I find a genuinely useful text for a paper! This book works perfectly for building on the kind of arguments I'm trying to make in my term paper for my Victorian Poetry seminar class. 

In my paper, I'm analyzing A.C. Swinburne's "Anactoria". The short version of my argument is that lyric poetry of the kind Swinburne writes creates a sense of embodiment in the reader to the point where that effect is consuming.

As part of the peer-review process of writing these term papers, we've been organized into panel discussions where we gave a brief outline of our argument and paper to the class and then received feedback and questions from the class. Our professor has been bringing hot water and tea for these panels, so for the last panel I made chocolate-coated, lavender shortbread cookies. 

Chocolate-coated lavender shortbread artfully arranged with a sliced strawberry.

I've realized that I take my confectionery skills far too seriously considering everything else I'm involved with. I've always considered myself crafty, and I guess that just translates into food as well. If I wasn't so dedicated to the bodies I love learning about, I might consider dropping out and going into food artistry.

"Saw this, thought of you :P"
Received this picture from my friend Alex this morning. He's off having adventures in NYC because... reasons? At first I was all, you saw yourself in a mirror? But then I looked at the sign behind him. I'm glad my friends think of me when they see gay stuff. I think.

Any time Alex and I hang out, we inevitably talk about bodies since he teaches martial arts and I'm studying kinesiology. He and his friend Ali joke about opening a dojo together and wanting me on board as "The Healer/Organizer." Ali is another one of those people I wish I'd met a lot sooner, from what I know of her, in personality she's somewhere between Alex and I in terms of sarcasm, organization and outlook on life. The three of us would probably make a pretty kick ass team if we don't kill each other. 

One of my favorite Seattle bands, Impossible Bird is playing in Bellingham this coming week on Wednesday. I'm excited because that's the day I'm finished with finals (except for my PE final on Thursday, which I have to show up for and look like I'm trying in order to pass). It's also the day Ethan is finished with finals and we've agreed that after yesterday we're both going to throw all our focus on finishing up the quarter strong, so Wednesday will be the day we get to hang out again.

Also, one of the band members wrote on my Facebook wall:

When one of the members of your favorite local band writes on your wall, you find a way to show up to the concert. It also shows you've probably been to far too many of their performances and are friendly enough that they don't think of you as some kind of stalker/groupie.

So yeah, that's my life recently (and upcoming). Hope you all are doing good.