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By Ithaka O.
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.
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001_I do it for love. The market decides.


011_Will you burn my evil books, please?
Full transcript and links: Everything I do is organized here: 📕📕📕 To have my books burned would be an honor. This is what I absorbed from the last episode’s talk about exorcism and its relationship to a given entity’s face and name. Book burning is very similar to exorcism. Well, no, let me correct that. Book burning is a form of exorcism. The slight difference is that, in most cases of exorcisms, the devil is inside a human being, whereas in book burning, the devil that is being exorcised resides within a book. A long while ago, I heard about some religious groups that burned Harry Potter books, claiming that they’re the books of the devil. They thought the story in the book was evil because it promoted Satanism. And so they felt the need to burn a bunch of those books. I find this infinitely amusing and laughable. And before continuing, I would like to make a statement regarding my position on religions. You can believe whatever you want. But when you start doing things in the name of your God or gods that destroys what other people have done, then you don’t deserve respect. I believe there is some sort of higher force that is beyond my control. But I will never again partake in an established religion. I find it extremely offensive when someone claims that their god, especially their One God, is more important than the absence of other people’s gods. Sometimes I think I should just call my belief system a religion, because the leeway given to religions is utterly nonsensical. Such auto respect toward religions is how countless literal murders were committed in their names, and I despise that. So, I will laugh at nonsensical behavior like book burning, committed by some religious groups, as I please. I have zero respect for them. Why should I respect them, when they destroyed one of the manifestations of something that is as close to a religion as it gets for me, which is storytelling? Anyway, my lack of respect for these people doesn’t stop me from finding it insanely fascinating that various religions, throughout the millennia, have attempted to trap something so shapeless and formless as a story into a shape and form, specifically in order to destroy that shape and form. I guess, just as a typical exorcist would attempt to make the devil manifest within a victim’s body, and then demand that it say its name, the book burners thought they would have power over the book once they knew the title and could see the cover, and physically destroyed them. But unlike in the case of the devil, which seems to latch onto a physical body, which is why it tries to possess people, a story doesn’t need to latch onto anything physical. If any latching is happening, then it’s the physical that is latching onto the story, not the story latching onto the physical. ... .. .
September 19, 2022
010_Begone, devil, for you don't know my name and face.
Full transcript and links: Everything I do is organized here: 📓📓📓 There is a part of us that wants to believe that the knowledge of an opponent’s face and name holds power. That is something I absorbed from “Death Note,” a manga series written by Ohba Tsugumi and illustrated by Obata Takeshi. “Death Note” is a story where the premise is this: ‘If you know someone’s face and their name, and you write that person’s name and the cause of death on this notebook called Death Note, that person will end up dying according to the cause of death that you wrote down.” Spooky, eh? I read this series more than a decade ago. And I had so. much. fun. I thought it was such a cool idea. I mean, can you imagine, the power to kill someone the way you want, just by knowing their face and name? How many people’s faces and names do you know? If you’ve had a pretty average life of attending schools and joining the workforce, you probably know at least several hundred people, at any given time. Heck, even if you didn’t go to school and never worked, you probably know a celebrity or politician or two. Imagine how crazy dangerous it would be to use Tiktok in such a world. Totally crazy. Anyway, at the time of reading the series, I didn’t think about why I was so fascinated by the premise, beyond the superficial fact that yes, it was extremely cathartic to follow this main character with the ability to kill people in such an elegant manner. And on a side note, by “elegant,” I mean… Well, I am a storyteller. I write fiction stories. If any government agency were to look into my search results, they’d think I was a serial killer with a track record of killing a dozen people. Or a mass murderer planning to unleash a bomb in a shopping mall. The stuff I look up and write about is hypothetical and theoretical, but still it can be misinterpreted as criminal. When I say “elegantly killing people,” I mean that this main character from Death Note is killing people without even worrying about his fingerprints getting anywhere. There might be blood, depending on what cause of death he chose for a specific victim, but it’s not like the police will find a strand of his hair in the pool of blood. And that seems extremely elegant, story-wise. This is an amazing superpower. The only other superpower that I know of, that rivals this superpower, is the power of the culling song, from “Lullaby,” by Chuck Palahniuk. But, for now, let’s stick to “Death Note.” A few months back, I wondered for the first time: Why does this premise make sense to me? Why didn’t I immediately say No to this idea that a real name and someone’s face can have enough power to kill someone? Isn’t it strange? ... .. .
September 10, 2022
009_I dream of a flying home.
Full transcript and links: Everything I do is organized here: 🦋🦋🦋 A flying castle might be too much, but a flying house would be ideal. That is something I absorbed from the movie version of “Howl’s Moving Castle.” This is a beautiful animated film. It’s one of my favorite animated films. And the major reason that this is so is because of the very idea of a flying abode. Personally, I don’t think I could handle a whole castle. That sounds like an awful lot of cleaning. And I’m not sure if I would feel comfortable outsourcing it. I’m not sure if I want another person around in my personal space, and home is my personal space. So, a flying castle might be too much, but a flying house would be ideal. Say, a three-bedroom house. I can handle that. Although, it’s entirely possible that by the time flying homes become actually available, we might be able to purchase small humanoid robots that can take care of some aspects of cleaning. But even then I wouldn’t be sure if I can trust the bot. I don’t even have an Alexa where I live, and I don’t plan to have one. I don’t even use voice commands on my phone, although I’m pretty sure that my phone is listening all the time anyway. But enough with the dystopian worries. Regardless of the possibility of a robot uprising, I would like a flying home. And I am not joking. Neither am I speaking hypothetically. I am dead serious. I think this is something that will become completely possible in my lifetime—if not legally, then at least technologically. So far, I have lived more than a quarter of a century, and less than half a century on this planet. If I don’t get into some freak accident, I think it’s safe to assume that I still have three decades left on this planet, at the very least. So I’m thinking, a flying home, in my lifetime—why not? Even with current technology, a very small, rudimentary version of this seems to be possible, just as it is possible to have a flying-car version of Uber. The issues seem to be more in the laws and regulations, less in technology. Anyway, I imagine it would be gorgeous to float above the oceans. And when the sun rises above the Pacific near Los Angeles, I’ll call my friend on the other side of the Pacific and tell her how it compares to the sun over there, and she’ll do the same for me, and vice versa. ... .. .
September 01, 2022
008_You think you know her, but really, you don’t.
Full transcript and links: Everything I do is organized here: 🧊🧊🧊 Anything can be a mirror. That is something I absorbed from  "The Mirror and the Palette" by Jennifer Higgie. This will be the last episode about that book. It inspires me in so many ways, but other sources also inspire me. So, I am determined that this will be the last episode for “The Mirror and the Palette.” It is a book about female self-portraiture. And one of the reasons it is titled thusly is that once upon a time, women weren’t allowed to join life drawing sessions, where you could see living, breathing human models. So, if women wanted to depict humans from life, they had no choice but to use themselves as models. They used a mirror to observe themselves, and to draw and paint themselves, creating self-portraits. So, without mirrors, their artworks may never have existed. The mirrors reflected their world. But I also think that a different kind of mirroring was happening, simultaneously. Not only did the mirrors reflect the world, but also the artworks mirrored the world as well, and not merely because the artist portrayed what was in the mirror onto the canvas. Rather, it was because once something went through the artist, the world couldn’t be the same. When these women were portraying themselves from their mirror reflections, they put their world, something that isn’t universal outside of themselves, into that work. In that regard, a particular artwork itself is a mirror that only a particular artist can create. But more broadly, I think anything can be a mirror of anything else. It’s because we always see ourselves in other things. Art or otherwise, mirror or otherwise. Our self determines what we see. That is why I doubt that there are two people in the world who look at a painting and absorb the exact same thing, or listen to a song and absorb the exact same thing. In fact, I doubt that the same person would absorb the exact same thing in the morning and in the evening. Because the person changes, and so, what they see mirrored changes, no matter what the mirroring mechanism entails. Anything can be a mirror. And of all those many things that can be a mirror, I want to talk about the written format. Because of the nature of writing, writers witness this mirroring phenomenon in many more random ways than those who use other media. And by “writers”, here, I not only mean the novelists and journalists and poets who make a living from writing, but also, any office worker who writes an email or any blogger or anyone who uses a Twitter account. In this day and age, there are more literate humans than ever before. Many people write. So, I’m saying, all of us have probably experienced before, to varying degrees, just how random this mirroring process can get. This degree of random mirroring is possible with writing, because it exists nearly completely detached from the writer. This is a unique trait, when you think about it. Writings are different from paintings. ... .. .
August 26, 2022
007 ⌨️ Written Segment Alert: By showing its true colors, a story unfolds.
Full written segment and links: Everything I do is organized here: 🎨🎨🎨 Hello, audio consumers of Sponge. Did you know that there is a written segment of Sponge? This includes all the transcripts of the audio episodes, but also, blog posts that were written entries by birth. This is because some things are just too visual. And for that reason, episode 7 will be a written one. Because I’m gonna be talking about the visual aspect of “Destination Earth,” the ideology of which we covered in the previous episode. So, click on the link in the show notes, and I will see you there. Bye.
August 20, 2022
006_The pursuit of the One Story is futile.
Full transcript and links: Everything I do is organized here: 💍💍💍 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. ... .. .
August 11, 2022
005_Between grotesque complexity and smooth oneness, we chew.
Full transcript and links: Everything I do is organized here: 🦷🦷🦷 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. ... .. .
August 02, 2022
004_A smile harbors grotesqueries.
Full transcript and links: Everything I do is organized here: 👄👄👄 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! ... .. .
July 27, 2022
003_I have an excellent example of a monopoly that must die.
Full transcript and links: Everything I do is organized here: ☠️☠️☠️ 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. ... .. .
July 21, 2022
002_I shall draw from the body of legendary wheels.
Full transcript and links: Everything I do is organized here: ⛵️⛵️⛵️ 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. ... .. .
July 15, 2022
001_I do it for love. The market decides.
Full transcript and links: Everything I do is organized here: ✨✨✨ 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. ... .. .
July 09, 2022