Welcome to the Grist Mill: A Treatise on Grist Mill If you’ve been keeping up with the saga that is Strike

a Pose, or How I Learned to Die in Three Easy Steps, you may be wondering why it is written the way it is—erratic, false, jerky. That’s because it’s a Grist Mill. What is a Grist Mill, you ask? Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock in your sister’s basement for the past six months, you’ve probably seen signs of the movement emerging: it’s rather pervasive nowadays. Chances are, you see it and hear it lots. Grist Mill is a cultural tour de force that takes the form of a variety of media and idea clusters. What started as an artistic movement has been transformed, by tireless scholarship, into a bona fide culture kaleidoscope. You know, like Marxism. However, Grist Mill is different than other cultural theories, because it’s the best. Right now you’re probably saying to yourself, “this is too much for me.” In fact, you probably think I’m totally joking. But I assure you I’m not. This essay will serve as a tool for learning what Grist is and how to recognize it. Perhaps, if you’re brave, you may even take measures to apply Grist in your own life. What follows is a systematic analysis of the inner workings of the Grist Mill, accompanied by heuristic cases to help you learn its ways. Grist is most popularly defined within the parameters of the Five-R Theory: I. Radical Eclecticism Anyone who is decently versed in postmodernism knows well the concept of radical eclecticism. In fact, you’re probably thinking I’m a scoundrel for even including this element in a theory that claims to be so progressive. Grist, however, is home to a different breed of radical eclecticism than that of traditional pomo. While in conventional postmodern art, this device is typically used to shock people and/or convey some kind of satirical message, in Grist it is used completely arbitrarily to create situations that are great. Grist Radical Eclecticism is best exemplified to date by “59 Times the Michael”, a piece of video art that sets a number of Michael Jordan’s career-best slam dunks to Hüsker Dü’s “59 Times the Pain”, from the 1985 album New Day Rising. This technique is the most applicable of all, and the most frequently applied to date, hence its being listed first. Another way in which radical eclecticism applies itself in Grist is through the combination of the highbrow and the lowbrow. Of course, this is also descendent from classic postmodernism, but in Grist it is applied in a way that makes The Simpsons and Michael Moore seem subtle. A good example of a Gristful highbrow/lowbrow mash-up is the development of X-Games theory, a young but promising field of study that seeks to explain how and why extreme athletes are able to repeat victories year after year, as well as (in the case of more adversarial scholarship) the absence of fringe sports such as scootering and streetboarding in the ‘Games. II. Recontextualization

Another thing Grist Mill tends to do is recontextualize things, people, or phrases, either by way of the extraction-injection process or by overcelebration. Allow me to explain: In the first case, a phrase is taken—either from everyday conversation or from a text—and put in a totally new context, usually freestanding and sometimes in heavy repetition. For example, the band Lockchanger used a combination of email snippets and excerpts from science books, among other things, to piece together its lyrics. The second way Grist recontextualizes items is through granting celebrity status to people or things that normally fall through the cracks or are simply not given consideration on a regular basis. This is plainly visible in the Wifehouse concept album Loose Arrow My Cake In, which features heartfelt songs about the sport of BMX, its main foci being moments in select Road Fools videos and insignificant stories from Jim’s tenure as a BMXer. Loosely fitting into the recontextualization category is also the Random Name Method, a staple of pedestrian Grist that involves addressing people as the first noun that comes to mind. III. Repetition While people typically view repetition as incessant and unnecessary, it is one of the things on which Grist thrives. This would normally be the place where any selfrespecting pundit of postmodernism would shamelessly reference Andy Warhol, and that is exactly what I am going to do, right now. Andy Warhol is largely to thank for making repetition great. But once again, Grist Mill has taken something great and made it even greater: Grist Mills/Fills take repetition, extend it beyond sensibility, and apply it, as Grist tends to do, to every situation possible. Though there are infinite opportunities for repetition, some of the most significant happenings have involved television on DVD. A prime example is the ritual Grist viewing of Space Ghost Coast to Coast, already an extremely Grist show. In this case, the viewer chooses a one- to seven-second clip of the show and uses the looping function on a DVD player to repeat said clip an inordinate amount of times. This method can be universally applied to TV shows and other kinds of AV media, usually yielding good results. Needless to say, it is the nature of Grist that repetition is not limited to the cases mentioned here. IV. Reduction In many instances, Grist Mill is reductive, stripping situations down to their barest states, or in some cases, destroying them completely. The reduction process normally manifests itself in one of two ways: In the context of art, it comes in the form of a grossly strippeddown production process. In everyday life, it serves to stop situations dead in their tracks and turn them around. For the former, good cases to examine are the musical projects on Increase A. Lapham records, which include the melodramatic popular song act Wifehouse and the quirky post-millenial gangster rap group 419 Lordz. In most cases, these bands— already operating in the reduced environment of primitive recording software and onboard microphones—strip the production process to a haphazard play-by-play of looping, sampling, and effecting that typically totals out to little more than ten minutes once various types of unmeditated vocals are added. The final products, though obviously rough around the edges, appreciate with several listens to have a certain type of charm that comes part and parcel with the lack of effort in production: it ends up becoming an

effort in and of itself. The other reductive tendency of Grist is one of its earliest incarnations; namely, the interjection/interruption/reduction of a conversation known as the Goose Down Joke. Take this example: Conversationalist A says, “You know, people say I’m an alcoholic, but I’ve really only been drunk five times.” In turn, Conversationalist B replies, “You know, people say I’m black, but I’ve really only slam dunked five times” (Note: Please disregard the racial implications of this comment. It does not reflect the views of the author and was, in fact, harvested from a transcript of an Internet conversation between two unknown individuals). As you can see, the Goose Downer, as he/she may be called, takes what the other person said and replaces certain words to change the meaning of the sentence, while retaining its structure (this is crucial —to go beyond this limit is to be jokey). In short, the practice of Goose Downing is a quick and easy way to sway a pesky/uneasy/uninteresting conversation in one’s own favor and make it infinitely more fun/ny. For added efficacy, repeat the method several times in one conversation. V. Recursion The fifth pillar of Grist—recursion— is perhaps the hardest to for scholars pin down and the hardest to recognize for those not ensconced in the movement. It is the aspect that has lead to Grist’s being so enigmatic, as well as many skeptics’ labeling of it as little more than a “giant inside joke that nobody gets” (Balistreri 2007; 56). I digress—Grist’s main point of distinction is its penchant for constantly talking to itself. Its products and its participants are all the time referring to themselves, other texts of the movement, and the movement in general, cementing their place in it. This cycle of reference links all parts of the Grist Mill together in a way that is remarkably close and familial. Grist’s recursive potential is limitless and Grist Mills often take full advantage of this trait, hence weaving a web that makes the head spin. But there are cases that are obvious enough to be used as heuristics, the most apparent of which is the way recurring sounds, phrases and characters —such as the trademarked “organ stab”, the character Lymma Benz (pronounced “lima bean”) and his “twang call”, and the phrase “have a party today”—crop up in various Increase A. Lapham projects. In conclusion, I hope I have been able to scratch the surface of Grist Mill in this short essay. Though the cross-section I have given has by no means been comprehensive, and Grist Theory progresses at a fast pace, I have touched on what I see as the most important parts of the movement. Ultimately, if there is one thing I can stress most, it is that Grist Mill is not just postmodernism. While it is structured similarly and uses many of the same methods, it does not have the same purposes. Postmodernism is always undercut by some kind of ulterior motive, be it to shock, provoke thought, or convey a message. Grist Mill, while it is often confrontational, is never shocking—at least it is never intended to be so —and its message is always the same: “This is great. You should like this lots.” This ever-present message is the reason the Grist movement is so important. While art and cultural movements over the past century have been loaded down with satire and cynicism, Grist is purely optimistic in its intentions. Grist theorists believe that applying Grist methodology in daily life through execution of small-scale Grist Fills and institution of/participation in full-fledged Grist Mills is one of the most foolproof ways to make life

as great as possible for oneself. If one strives to make the most out of any given situation using the techniques listed above, one can make big strides towards eliminating much of life’s chaff and making it all grist for the mill. It is by way of these methods that you can become a Grist Mill yourself—I implore you. In the end, if you are a Grist Mill and I am a Grist Mill, then together, we are on the Cusp of a Better Way.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful