Friday, April 30, 2010

Live Forever

One of the beautiful things about Brad Neely's vulgar, puerile, hilarious net 'cartoons,' which I've loved for years (!?) now, is how he'll insert subtle hints that there's more to it than lazy, merely adolescent provocation. Highbrow? No. Compex, multi-faceted, carefully made? Yes! Exhibit A - around 2:29 of the Baby Cakes diary #1, you see an image of a scientist testing on a rat in a cage as Baby Cakes talks about living forever ("but I'm leavin' that up to science right now"), and the scientist is a caricature of Aubrey de Grey. Yes.

Sense of Things

"We cannot interpret the signs of a loved person without proceeding into worlds that have not waited for us in order to take form, that that formed themselves with other persons, and in which we are at first only an object among the rest. The lover wants his beloved to devote to him her preferences, her gestures, her caresses. But the beloved's gestures, at the very moment they are addressed to us, still express that unknown world that excludes us. The beloved gives us signs of preference; but because these signs are the same as those that express worlds to which we do not belong, each preference by which we profit draws the image of the possible world in which others might be or are preferred." (Gilles Deleuze, trans. Richard Howard, Proust & Signs, p. 8)

Why did cinema not produce "historical analyses, theories, essays, memoirs" (as Guy Debord asks in In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni)? When Susan Sontag advocated an "erotics" for art in the 1960s (a call-to-arms that would have many a sensuous-formalist gearing up even today), I wonder how healthy any of that would have been. That is, an erotics which seeks only to find satisfaction in its own pleasure - a cinephilia dying that couldn't come to terms with its own obsolescence. This despite the fact that nothing like it ever really lived long. The erotics of a particular mode of elite spectatorship (though this 'elite' is not definitively elitist, nor could it be unduly described, simply, as just marginal) ... this passes, this family resemblance of cinephilias that have nevertheless been quick to forget and quicker to forgive its own common afflictions.

(If someone has sought out Serge Daney's work on television, who among these have done some more to really search out critical discussion of television? Can a given cinephile can take a stance on television that is well-considered? It's worth thinking about.)

The sense of a thing, and the "erotic" attachment to it, when robust does ( - must - ) create an offspace, the field of other possible worlds; myopia reinvests this kind of negativity in a continual reworking of the cinema, so that we find all the answers to all the problems we think we've discerned, located, worked on. But all we've done is bury deeper a certain lack. (This is why that fellow who's chained to the cinematheque quotes: "Cinephilia is a lack of ambition.") Cinephilia is among other things historically marked by a confusion over what's to be found in an image, why we're looking there in the first place.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Currently, for many people in the upper-middle class in the United States and perhaps in other parts of the world, face lifts and the cheaper alternative, botox, have become the norm, a regular medicalized procedure they undergo to increase job potential, gain status or erotic opportunity, and achieve control over their social mobility and class position in a constantly unstable world. If Lily Tomlin no longer has the wonderfully expressive face she had as a comedienne, in Damages her appearance well matches her role as a tastefully coiffed and botoxed rich-man’s-wife. In this show, most of the characters are upper-middle class, so that the actors’ cosmetically worked-on faces fit well with the narrative’s entrepreneurial psychology, one that neoliberalism now imposes on the managerial class: work on yourself, develop yourself, make good choices, take charge of your life—especially in terms of services you can buy.

"In current television and popular culture, there is a significant division between connotative imagery, as in the photos above of actors and public figures, and the televisual narrativization of plastic surgery and other personal “makeovers.” On the one hand, we have that which is merely suggested. On the other, we have shows such as Extreme Makeover, The Biggest Loser, or What Not to Wear which depict how people, often lower middle class or working class, submit to regimens of authority dictated by experts in the fields of fashion, personal appearance, and physical culture. These are disciplinary regimes, as described by Michel Foucault; the shows’ participants are expected to internalize the experts’ norms. Both within the shows and in the eyes of viewers, all the minute aspects of the participants’ bodies are judged, evaluated, objectified, and constantly measured for deviation and conformity. Those on the makeover shows are rehabilitated through monitoring and regulation—both the authorities’ taste and their own internalization of the authorities’ norms."

—Julia Lesage, "Watching for Botox" (here).

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

... the other customers ...

So as not to disturb the other customers. This deadening of the language marks the convergence of all people being some kind of consumers (or "customers") with the controversial sham that all people are in all situations nothing but consumers (or "customers"). Public transportation speaks of its passengers as customers; schools and universities are likely to cater more and more to customers instead of students (what is education now but a service provided?), clinics and hospitals treat customers. Nobody reading these lines needs me to perform for them an indignant rebuke of the wicked consumerist core of this enterprise. (At least the vulgarization here is on some level honest.) What else does bother me is the homogenization of multiple meanings, which had enjoyed multiple corresponding words, into a single word, a word which itself may have different meanings and contexts, but whose sameness could very well be used to spackle over differences and arrive at ridiculous sociopolitical or juridical conclusions. As with corporations being "individuals."

"If the root be in confusion, nothing will be well governed." (Pound/Confucius)