Tourism and Typology

What follows is inspired by posts here and here.

Everyone knows that tourism is the world’s single largest ‘industry.’ But, as in pornography, it’s rare to see much group awareness or consciousness-raising on the part of the customers, who as in the rest of the service industry are also products. Only criticism, endless, moralizing criticism, the polling and profiling carried out by the industry itself, and sociological studies, which could be even more useful for travel organizations if they weren’t so pointedly academic. Tourism is primarily a social relation, mediated by the market economy. The tourist industry’s function is to profitably organize human activity, whether worker or consumer. There is such a thing as ‘tourist rights,’ but no one marches for them. And why should they? They’d just look like a bunch of fucking tourists.

The subjectivity of the tourist has already been understood, though (and this would excite any tourist) under different names which have perhaps not yet been compiled in a satisfactory way. Today its essence can be summed up pretty easily. One feels a certain nostalgia for objects, coupled with a strange identification.

“It is the gaze of the flaneur, whose way of life conceals behind a beneficent mirage the anxiety of the future inhabitants of our metropolises. The flaneur seeks refuge in the crowd. The crowd is the veil through which the familiar city is transformed for the flaneur into phantasmagoria. This phantasmagoria, in which the city appears now as a landscape, now as a room, seems later to have inspired the decor of department stores, which thus put the flanerie to work for profit. In any case, department stores are the last precincts of flanerie.” (Walter Benjamin, Paris Expose 1939)

The ‘phantasmagoria’ Benjamin is talking about here in relation to Baudelaire’s flaneur, the perambulating urban bourgeois or ‘painter of modern life,’ resembles film montage, but as the tourist environment becomes more and more attuned to the ‘needs’ of its customers (more like a department store), the overriding characteristic of film, passivity before an expressive genius, is eradicated, replaced by Internet-like ‘browsing’ among modular image-objects whose superficial differences are bounded by certain common parameters. (Its soundtrack can be found here.) Maybe we can understand the impersonality said to dominate contemporary life as an effect of confrontation with a mass of singularities, addressed to no one and nothing in particular.

“In the person of the flaneur, the intelligentsia becomes acquainted with the marketplace. It surrenders itself to the market, thinking merely to look around; but in fact it is already seeking a buyer. In this intermediate stage, in which it still has patrons but is starting to bend to the demands of the market (in the guise of the fueilleton), it constitutes the boheme. The uncertainty of its economic function corresponds to the ambiguity of its political function.” (Ibid.)

The precarity experienced by the ‘new working class,’ interns, students, freelancers, and entry-level media professionals of all stripes, ground into conformity (or pushed toward dissidence) by the mere prospect of a middle-class career and financial ‘independence,’ their lack of any determination whatsoever, is sometimes romanticized because it resembles the fantasy pursued by the tourist. The content of this fantasy is the experience of an older upper class, or the assorted adventurer archetypes: celebrities, spies, artists, nomads, the ‘jet-set.’ As demonstrated by a back-to-back viewing of Total Recall and The Devil Wears Prada, the tourist and the permanently entry-level pseudo-professional share apparently contradictory desires. First, freedom from place in the most general sense — location, class, history, individual limits — through the consumption of other places. Second, a reason to be there (wherever) besides shopping. What they both dream of is a contradiction in terms: a satisfying job. Both are necessarily plagued by humiliating failure.

“The flanuer plays the role of scout in the marketplace. As such, he is also the explorer of the crowd. Within the man who abandons himself to it, the crowd inspires a sort of drunkenness, one accompanied by very specific illusions: the man flatters himself that, on seeing a passerby swept along by the crowd, he has accurately classified him, seen straight through to the innermost recesses of his soul — all on the basis of his external appearance.” (Benjamin, Ibid.)

Believing the tourist experience to be restricted to traveling to distant and exotic places is buying into the sole selling point of the tourist industry. As a powerful branch of the culturally dominant service industry, design modelled around the tourist gaze has made increasing inroads into all consumptive activity today, all social interaction, from department stores to the spread of outdoor mall-like ‘entertainment districts,’ from ‘surfing the Web’ to perusing the archives of a university library. Tourism is the crushing awareness that whatever you were planning to do has already been done by just about everyone else. Every vacation photograph posted on Flickr has made someone somewhere feel depressed.

As consolation, it helps to assume everyone conforms to a ‘type’ despite apparent distinctiveness. If one feels barred from participating, at least one can be a knowing observer, a sort of intellectual, a novelist, a critic (‘people-watching’ is only this attitude’s most banal form). Any attempt at self-expression is a priori converted into its opposite. I’ve even noticed a perverse quasi-ethical imperative to ‘admit’ conformity, as if authentic human relationships can now only be achieved if everyone fully identifies with some ideological construction or other. According to facebook, for example, half my sister’s friends are ‘nerds’ or ‘sluts.’ Then there’s these gag personality quizzes (which Sex and the City character are you?), the modern replacement for astrology. A friend once proclaimed with redemptive glee that “we’re all commodities,” like it was a fifth Noble Truth. This sort of ‘debunking’ is the conservative function of criticism, the cynical transformation of humans into objects of exchange, carried out in the name of a purified abstraction: authentic humanity, real revolutionary praxis, scientific objectivity, convenience, whatever.

Not that critical dehumanization is unprovoked — the silencing or ignorance of negative criticism is the conservative function of the individual. The whole point, the zero-degree of ideological compliance, is for criticism to equal misanthropy, and for the self-actualized individual, the ‘impossible’ ideal that keeps the whole machine running, to equal heroism. Novel heroism. Here are its ethics:

If I speak of love in the context of dandyism, the reason is that love is the natural occupation of men of leisure. But the dandy does not consider love as a special aim in life. If I have mentioned money, the reason is that money is indispensable to those who make an exclusive cult of their passions, but the dandy does not aspire to wealth as an object in itself; an open bank credit could suit him just as well; he leaves that squalid passion to vulgar mortals. Contrary to what a lot of thoughtless people seem to believe, dandyism is not even an excessive delight in clothes and material elegance. For the perfect dandy, these things are no more than the symbol of the aristocratic superiority of his mind. Thus, in his eyes, enamoured as he is above all of distinction, perfection in dress consists in absolute simplicity, which is, indeed, the best way of being distinguished. What then can this passion be, which has crystallized into a doctrine, and has formed a number of outstanding devotees, this unwritten code that has moulded so proud a brotherhood? It is, above all, the burning desire to create a personal form of originality, within the external limits of social conventions. It is a kind of cult of the ego which can still survive the pursuit of that form of happiness to be found in others, in woman for example; which can even survive what are called illusions. It is the pleasure of causing surprise in others, and the proud satisfaction of never showing any oneself. A dandy may be blase, he may even suffer pain, but in the latter case he will keep smiling, like the Spartan under the bite of the fox.

Clearly, then, dandyism in certain respects comes close to spirituality and to stoicism, but a dandy can never be a vulgar man. If he were to commit a crime, he might perhaps be socially damned, but if the crime came from some trivial cause, the disgrace would be irreparable. Let the reader not be shocked by this mixture of the grave and the gay; let him rather reflect that there is a sort of grandeur in all follies, a driving power in every sort of excess. A strange form of spirituality indeed! For those who are its high priests and its victims at one and the same time, all the complicated material conditions they subject themselves to, from the most flawless dress at any time of day or night to the most risky sporting feats, are no more than a series of gymnastic exercises suitable to strengthen the will and school the soul. Indeed I was not far wrong when I compared dandyism to a kind of religion. The most rigorous monastic rule, the inexorable commands of the Old Man of the Mountain, who enjoined suicide on his intoxicated disciples, were not more despotic or more slavishly obeyed than this doctrine of elegance and originality, which, like the others, imposes upon its ambitious and humble sectaries, men as often as not full of spirit, passion, courage, controlled energy, the terrible precept: Perinde ac cadaver! — Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life

So conformity to established type is a just or at least reasonable law, superseded by its heroic exception, who is not quite a sovereign — too much responsibility — more like a pirate. Smooth criminal. Creative genius. Secret agent. Nor is the dandy’s originality more human than anyone else’s, in fact it is less. He is simply better at sublimating himself into the objects that surround him. The ‘doctrine of originality’ demands that he transform himself into the desire for his own transcendence, past the vulgar commodity to the all-seeing eyes of Capital. The one we love for being truly above the law is so by dint of ultimate indifference, who would look just like everyone else, if everyone else weren’t the walking dead. The tourist  haunts the ruins of this fantasy.

I don’t want to discredit heroism; I like heroism. The world needs more of it. What I want to do, someday, when I’m more able, is to acknowledge the reversibility between living and dead, novelty and revival. Adventure and tourism. One is always in danger of flipping over into the other, and this ambiguity is not always decided, certainly not by any ‘knowing observer.’ Nothing ever begins by being decided.*

Incurable observers who run up against their own limits respond, like marketers, with another absurd fantasy, that newness depends on the rearrangement or rejection of old categories (which were impositions to begin with), or that we need to ‘stop being’ tourists, critics, adventurers, consumers, and replace them with something new and improved, though assembled from their remains, that the future is determined aesthetically by committee. Oblivious to the creativity it pretends to value, this brand of criticism kills the living and mystifies the dead.

Benjamin again:

“The final voyage of the flaneur: death. Its destination: the new.”

* I wonder if this is the irony of Hegel’s response to the Kantian antinomies, the undecidables of reason (i.e. “The world has a beginning in time and is limited as regards space” vs. “The world has no beginning, and no limits in space”). Hegel posits an imaginary sensual unity, then presents his philosophy as a formal ‘demonstration’ of its inadequacy, all to justify the advance of progress.


16 Responses to “Tourism and Typology”

  1. Patrick J. Mullins Says:

    Oh yes, recipes for flaneurisme, plus Flaneurisme in the Inelegant Style for Marxists….why do you think Benjamin would write such things, living out in high style only the final one? As a flaneur, he was more appreciated by the likes of Ms. Sontag, intoning about ‘get-ting loooast in cit-tezzz…’ anything to bring up….*Paris…* in a tale of Corpulent Flaneur.

    Marx didn’t approve of flaneurisme, how could Benjamin do it well? Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal alone are forms of flaneurisme. It’s no different from anything else, and certainly more salubrious than navel-gazing. Can I go out now and mingle with the crowd, all along knowing that it didn’t fit in with the common good, and that iti could be a derivative of tourism had I not included in my flaneurisme something by Jung which tunes it? Well, I don’t know. I think I have the key, but having confessed this and turned into yet another internet-surfing object that might depress tourist-bus types because of all the usual fun things, I just might not be able to imagine I enjoyed it, as the icing on the cake of my deep Derridean despair.

    This flaneurisme of death, of course, is what made Derrida like Heidegger too much. Benjamin would have resented Derrida because he used a more modulated and refined flaneurisme of death that lasted over several decades…quel plaisir for the dandy exotique…And who really knows if Benjamin learned how to do dandyism without the requisite urban outfit AFTER first wearing the tailored suits first? If he has adjudged dandyism’s child not to need fancy clothing, he would need to have stripped down, not just been a slob from the beginning.

    in any case, this black blog with the highlighting is meant to cause pain. I am sure of it.

    I saw ‘American Gangster’ the other night, and it’s the best film I’ve seen from 2007–very velvety jazz, even the huge Hollywood stars have gotten their charismas subsumed to this gorgeously expensive blending of sound, incredibly smooth editing of the usual postmodern (or modern, I’m not sure which) gracelsss and hateful images, understated dialogue and extraordinary cinematography. The only actor with charisma is Ruby Dee as Denzel’s mother–Crowe and Denzel barely even bother to try inhabiting their characters.

    Now I must needs go and see if any of the bad flaneur’s habits I have would be disapproved by Derrida and Benjamin (because they might not by Baudelaire, who was neurotic in a different way, and all of them would by Marx, that embodiment of all things dismal), having only this morning realized that Freud’s understanding of sexuality was that the essence of it was somehow non-pleasurable. Marx would have loved this reading of sex, and indeed there are speciall techniques to make it dull and pedestrian (not to imply flaneuristique, of course–where all refined and superior tourism abides in deep shallows and down streamlets of brackish water…), so that it may scream to each passing dandy and flaneur who was not ‘corpulent’, as Ms. Sontag apologized, ‘You despair, O dandy! You think you’re the candy man, but you are hurting underneath, oh yes, oh yes! You hate yourself and can’t think of anything to do except Dorian Gray Light Bondage Sequences!! You FAGGOT!! YOU DANDY FAGGOT!!!”

  2. […] brings me to this interesting post on tourism as a particular mode of consumerist existence, broadly put as “a certain nostalgia for […]

  3. […] Everyone knows that tourism is the world’s single largest ‘industry.’ But, like prostitution, it’s rare to see much group awareness or consciousness-raising on the part of the customers, who as in the rest of the service industry are … More here: Tourism and Typology […]

  4. traxus4420 Says:

    patrick, hello

    maybe you have ‘the key’ or not but you can’t give it to anyone, just wave it around and act as living evidence of what will surely be misunderstood by general audiences. (but pleasure isn’t theft.) speaking of which how is/are the book/s coming?

    (angst of this post aside, that’s a good point about derrida. benjamin’s marxism was always ahead of its time, i’m not sure whether it or the tailored suits came first. the trouble seems to be that nothing worth deciding on can ever be decided. i would assume the status of fashion after the revolution is included within that dilemma too. however, nice clothes never stop being nice to have.)

    have to say i lost interest in ridley scott following G.I. Jane. maybe i’ll check out american gangster anyway. if you like it it should at least look good. when the movie came out there was an interview with the real-life characters that i remember having some interesting moments.

    “Freud’s understanding of sexuality was that the essence of it was somehow non-pleasurable. Marx would have loved this reading of sex, and indeed there are speciall techniques to make it dull and pedestrian”

    reich would certainly disagree with you about marx, but there are whole literary and filmic genres based around accomplishing this numb sex thing for everyone; i smell a future post —

  5. Patrick J. Mullins Says:

    Hi traxus–you sound in good shape–treacherous and bristling with evil…. Hope you’re having a nice summer!

    I can’t say I have heard many good reports of ‘American Gangster’, and I got weary while watching it (the DVD has a longer version). I couldn’t quite understand as time went by why Washington did not indulge himself a bit more–this kind of role would be considered very juicy and characterful for most actors. Not that I have any idea how he may have thought it through, but it reminded me slightly of the way DiCaprio’s Howard Hughes stopped just short of not going far enough. Not a perfect comparision, because DiCaprio’s Hughes still showed a lot more effort toward finding Hughes, perhaps Washington purposely wanted to underplay Frank Lucas to show the non-entity of this sort of person–in fact, he could have been quite the dandy with it. But the production is so lavish (even though tasteful) that he cannot stand out in it, and neither can Crowe, who seems to be working a little harder at it: He reminds one of old Robert Redford roles in which his very mouth is understated to a pronounced degree, so that you never remember that the character’s rectitude may not be one and the same as Redford’s. The cliche of the good cop would be totally laughable by now, of course, if it weren’t about a period before such a thing was even launched, as somewhat later with Serpico and others.

    But what interested me was something that sounds outlandish: I think it will age well and become more intelligible as time goes by, say in 10 years (when Kurzweil will still be searching for signs that I should be able to unlock my door from newly-relevant paraplegic software..), when there may be some interest in the way there is such a sublime blend of diagetic and extra-diagetic music (you really hear the old songs in this one, instead of reading about them on the frightful slow credits at the end, wondering just where that old Eric Clapton song had been stuck in), of the dialogue being kept at a reasonable decibel so that you can both hear it (how many times is even hearing the dialogue not made impossible, as if something like that ever ought to become fashionable, at least one whisper is enough?), and this really glorious cinematography that has looks as if evolved from simpler but very solid films of the 70s like ‘Dillinger’, even though that is of the Midwest; this is necessarily, of course, more complicated because mostly urban, but what I like is that it settles for making the images all the cliched ‘pain images’ while making the editing smooth as silk. It was surely influenced by The Sopranos, but it’s not flat like that, as well as not spending all of the time on endless fuck-words, and strives less for realism than this artful smoothness. The only other film that had this ‘better with age’ quality in a huge production is totally unrelated, the film version of ‘Hello, Dolly!’ which looks as brand-new as it did 38 years ago–and has begun to seem well-proportioned. This kind of hugely-produced film usually never gets any better, and the idea of a film beginning to breathe would obviously have to do with how it worked better within the perception of a new era, since film doesn’t materially change. Hello, Dolly was also very controversial and criticized at the time for being an elephant, but since Ms. Streisand herself was so naturally over-produced to begin with, she actually fits in with the proceedings like they were all One Big Happy Repertory Theater (it’s her problem for never being able to come out with anything in which she doesn’t stick out again, until she’s well over the hill. This is because Gene Kelly, the director, forced her to submit to his professionalism.)

    It also reminded me of another more recent film ‘The Black Dahlia’, but only because of the similarity of Ruby Dee’s performance within the whole context to Mia Kirschner’s. Here, though, Ruby Dee is the heart of a dazzling film which would seem moribund without at least this one memory, as it were, of innocence never quite compromised despite all. But there is no shtick here, as in one appalling scene after the other in ‘Black Dahlia’, with that horrible table-fuck of Hartnett and Johannsen. It almost seems as if Mia Kirschner’s perfection as the girl in the porno loops (she is the Black Dahlia) was an accident. I later read the novel, which edition had an intro by James Ellroy about the movie. I don’t think I know of any other novelist who is so tolerant of directors turning his work into shit. The same thing was done with ‘LA Confidential’, a dreadfully overrated piece that was written as if in a sweatshop. Whereas I read and saw ‘Beloved’, and thought both were very powerful–only to then find out that Toni Morrison did not like the film treatment, but she didn’t really specify why when I heard her talking about it.

    What I wasn’t sure of in your post was whether you had included Benjamin’s own flaneurisme. I realize the unwieldy nature of the highlighting must not prevernt me from going back over this, and I will try to see if there’s anything there to fetch now. In any case, there are many shadings of it, and I did read some Jung in summer, 2001, that knocked me out of a state of doing too much of it. Although mine was already fairly refined, since I was exploring Harlem every day for awhile on foot and using city buses only. So that when I decided to start practising at Steinway for a few years later that summer, I still thought I was just doing a flaneurisme of classical piano music. After 3 years of it, I then went back to a still more refined (IMO) version of flaneurisme that did include some distant travel as is known to you in the second book that you’ve read, but the current one is, of course, a different kind of flaneurisme, finally approaching Manhattan primarily, but the physical person as well, because in this way you begin to see what happens when travel, even if it’s no longer ‘vulgar tourism’, begins to prove its limits, and you find a combination of immediate travel around your own stacks of papers and books (I recently spend several weeks cataloguing all of mine, so that I know where everything is, and it transformed my outlook on things) with Virilio’s hyped-up talk about the body being the final frontier (but, in my case, lose the piercings and tattoos, of course, I’m so pretentious by now I want to effect some of the easy-casual Malibu bullshit Redford always got away with. I can’t believe people don’t find him more laughable in those sincere roles. MISTER Flight of the Condor HIMSELF!)

    Maybe there are different kinds of dandies, therefore. Because Baudelaire would be like a more reserved version than Oscar Wilde–but Wilde himself is proof of the value of dandies, if only because who else could have imagined Lady Bracknell?

  6. […] Tourism and Typology « American Stranger on contemporary tourism & benjamin’s flaneur (tags: blogpost tourism benjamin theory philosophy) […]

  7. traxus4420 Says:

    oh i have no doubt that benjamin was a flaneur, albeit one who achieved distance from the flanerie itself — arcades project (from which i pulled the quotes) is a record of critical flanerie and also as chabert calls it a proto-blog. flanerie of paris and flanerie of the archive, as a single operation. i sort of illegitimately link the theoretically distinct flaneur (aristocratic detachment) and dandy (aristocratic engagement) via the tourist, the socioeconomic category that contains both. but if one does that, one also must include the critic. i can’t speak for anthropology but maybe that too. the situationist derive is also implicated. if you’re going to do a ‘proper’ socioeconomic analysis you’re sort of obligated i think to include all these diverse streetwalkers under the same heading.

    so there’s a kind of criticism, not only marxist, that will just say ‘we’re all tourists now’ and have done with it. basically taking the given economic category, which is well-defined and ‘scientific,’ and saying or assuming that everyone who fits that definition fulfills more or less the same function. differentiated of course by class, where the ‘vulgar tourist’ is taken to mean ‘unpretentious tourist.’ i link to an article in the first paragraph that assumes this. it’s funny in that article how it’s the super-elite who are also ‘unpretentious tourists:’ bill gates and the mobile proletariat as the only honest travelers. the target of course is middle class people who are disgusted by obedience to economic categories, those who would fancy themslves flaneurs, dandys, critics or whatever.

    roger’s writing about this is in his own way in terms of the ‘adventurer’ and using simmel who i haven’t read much of.

    i guess what i’m getting at is if you take ‘tourist’ modified by class to be the only useful category to understand leisure travel, whether left or right, you take for granted that individuals are powerless to ‘meaningfully’ deviate. but i don’t think groups are any less suspect — i write in the mountain posts that the only thing separating activists from tourists when they’re not directly involved in whatever injustice is level of commitment, individual actions, nothing measurable or understandable in terms of economic ‘function.’

    the idea of travel having proved its limits is troubling, as is the idea that the archive and the body are limits of flaneurisme rather than intensifications. my instinct is to say that this is accepting postmodernist arguments too quickly, and that maybe the problem is is a certain definition of flaneurisme and not travel. but i don’t know.

    i liked the ellroy black dahlia a lot, and was so confused by the choice of de palma to direct that i didn’t see the movie. what does ellroy say in the new intro?

    i don’t think i’ve ever seen denzel washington indulge himself. he’s a very serious man. crowe on the other hand… they have a very over-the-top interaction in the ’90s movie ‘virtuosity,’ made when virtual reality was still hip and not good at all but an interesting look at ruseell crowe before he got so constipated.

  8. traxus4420 Says:

    i think people just no longer care about robert redford or his sincere roles — did anyone see lions for lambs or that one where he plays a nice abducted businessman?

    oh, my summer is well. on the hunt for ever more tourism.

  9. Patrick J. Mullins Says:

    “it’s funny in that article how it’s the super-elite who are also ‘unpretentious tourists:’ bill gates and the mobile proletariat as the only honest travelers. the target of course is middle class people who are disgusted by obedience to economic categories, those who would fancy themslves flaneurs, dandys, critics or whatever.”

    And also possible they don’t know of Bill Gates’s precise travelling habits, given the massive amount of public relations of his and Melinda’s flaneurisme of Seattle coffee shops–to the point when I was forced to ‘tour Pittsburgh’ in 2002–by performing in it for a most diasgreeable sponsor–I was in line at Newark with an absolute Kool-Aid drinker of ‘Bill and Melinda’. I couldn’t even fucking believe it! They’ve convinced the people there, at least, and even a London Sikh fellow who roomed with me temporarily that his is a new form of generosity and very different from the old models–and both of these were quick to point out Gates’s superiority to European royalty (I won’t get too specific about that, since my own dandyism at least demands that I don’t fall into pits of defense toward persons whose original premise was so lacking in subtlety that there would not only be loss of style but even a New Rotten-Apple-ism…I’ll only give one detail, because it had been curious: In a televised big function, I noticed that all of a certain elite group applauded for concert performances in a very noticeably slow way that had been carefully learned. The Sikh Indian, who hated them with the most raging intensity, said that they did that so as ‘not to exert themselves…’ which doesn’t play…they do it because that’s considered stately and not too enthusiastic (which is not going to seem impressive to nearly everybody, but applauding at twice that tempo would not be a measurable over-exertion were their pulses taken). The woman at Newark just didn’t like people who dress up. But when I came back from my 2nd Pacific trip (note that I’m already on the defensive and trying to be more understated…), I took part for a few months in a forum for those islands and this was the first time I was ever in touch with billionaires. They talked about staying in $6000 a night Overwater Bungalows regularly, and one of those especially silly kinds of threads grew up at some point: What celebrities have you seen in Polynesia? and people had seen Bill Gates in Huahine, where he most assuiredly would not have been among the backpacking set. As well, in 1995, I went tp a Designer Show House on Madison, which is an especially exotic kind of urban phenomenon, and which could supply some fictional material for me, now that I recall it; and there was an increcible room there done by Bill Gates’s then-current (maybe still) interior designer, a Frenchman with the most severe-elegant style I’ve yet seen. It combined 18th-century Sade-like images with the hardest sleekest state-of-the-art materials (as for a mirror just casually propped but that looked like something Keir Dullea would have had in his house in 2001 where he had difficulty cutting his steak). As well, such purchases as a big Leonardo manuscript for many millions (I think that’s what it was, anyway early 90s this happened) are no longer publicized. The Unroyal Couple seems content to accept Nerd Philanthropist, rightly knowing that their secret private tastes (for the MOST expensive things) will not be accepted by their ‘adoring public’.

    “the idea of travel having proved its limits is troubling, as is the idea that the archive and the body are limits of flaneurisme rather than intensifications. my instinct is to say that this is accepting postmodernist arguments too quickly,”

    Oh no, they are actually intensified, made more vertical by this delimitation. A continued ‘foreign travel’ such as an old friend of mine and his family used to do in the strangest way, going only to new places in order to cover all places rather than being attracted to any in particular, is one of the coarser ways. Once you’ve seen that long-distance travel won’t offer you as much as, say, touring temp agencies and finding ruins in your own city and esoteric modes of physical exercise, you have already made the flaneurisme so much more subtle that it’s even possible that it’s not distinguishable from what is thought not to be within that category. Although it wouldn’t include dandyism either, at least not in its most gaudy older forms (if only because they’ve been worn out by now), there does naturally evolve in some cases a thinking flaneurism and your ‘death flaneurisme’ to which I added some of Derrida’s horrible talk on death as well as his own personal flanerie.

    But this is very good:

    “the target of course is middle class people who are disgusted by obedience to economic categories, those who would fancy themslves flaneurs, dandys, critics or whatever.”

    because it captures precisely those both on the tourist buses who are your subjects within the ‘tourist industry’ (I’m enough of the adventurer-outdoorsy+aristocrat-engaged dandy never to have used any tours except if there really was not physical alternative, as twice in Polynesia using day-long jeep tours into otherwise inaccesssible areas; in one case I was stuck with Long Beach brats and Israeli honeymooners, who struck the most wonderfully hideeous dissonance and it has taken me 4 years to digest these, only to find that harmony had never been the desired goal if one was to understand what was going on, which WAS commercial tourism, despite the fact that it was incapable of interfering too much). But this applies to attitudes not found only in this kind of tourist-bus type who has not quite yet even managed to grasp what dandyism is (and never heard of flaneurisme, since they often won’t even read a tourguide), butalso these are the very same attitudes that are found in the pop chatrooms, the internet sex forums, and the reality TV shows (both ‘stars’ and audience). There is an attempt at the smart-ass remark, constant interest in such things as one-upsmanship which is immediately proved impotent because of its short life, a resentment of the posh while striving for it through demonstrations of taste in anything from television shows to Portobello mushrooms. Those pop culture/sex chatrooms are always interesting because they try to move away from the Vulgar Middle and succeed in defining it almost perfectly, by virtue of giving one example after another to the point where you cannot miss it. This you won’t find on these intellectual blogs, of course, even though we’ve recently from that they are both victim and inflictor of harm (one of the most hilarious posts she’s ever written, due to even separating away from the political blogs, which, however much more powerful and even paid, are still not THIS exclusive…even if the ‘personal stuff’ is not as persistent as on any issue of Facebook or MySpace.

    Ellroy simply praises everything DePalma did in the film, and writes about how his feeling about this book has evolved over the 20 or so years so that he can see it differently in this ‘new form’, I guess he is pretending to say. He even praises the actors, most of whom are barely phoning in, and Hillary Swank has an effective look, but ruins it when she opens her mouth by imitating Faye Dunaway in Chinatown (a friend told me it was as if she had been dubbed by Dunaway, but making a cartoon version of an old genre is of no use; it would have been better not to make it at all. On the other hand, he’s more grateful for the extra money, and perhaps he has a point…except if he sees the old work as so insubstantial as to be able to keep it essence through impossible contortions (it doesn’t), that seems to make the original seem like it was just an improvisation to begin with.

  10. Patrick J. Mullins Says:

    i don’t think i’ve ever seen denzel washington indulge himself. he’s a very serious man.

    Serious people indulge themselves all the time, but in this case ‘indulging’ in terms of the role means something else. A big lewd movie production is not like a play where things are in a tiny place. So that, even if he had gotten, say, more pimpish, which had a particular style in that period, it wouldn’t have dominated this dinosaur of a production. And in a larger role in something this mega-produced, you can’t gauge what the proportions will ultimately be, after the editing has been polished off. It wouldn’t have hurt for the immediate consumption of the film for him to exaggerate a bit more, because there isn’t a thing dignified about the ‘hero’: This kind of film about folk heroes is not only like ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ and ‘Dillinger’, but like the more recent things made about very minor actors like the Hogan’s Heroes guy Bpb Crame in ‘Auto-Focus’ or Michael Alig of ‘Party Monster’ and the rumored ‘Stompanato’ which keeps getting put off. But I think figuring out how to inhabit a character onscreen now appears to be nearly impossible in terms of the actor doing much of it. The director has to have the overview to a much greater degree than onstage, because it’s such an unwieldy mess to begin with. For posterity, if such words can still be used, this less flashy performance may still work, but what there is instead of flashy is incipient forms of the same flashy. There’s a certain sense in which giant productions like this aren’t really subtle in any serious sense, even when the end result is Benjamin’s ‘perfeft orchid’, in his condescending phrase. It was still assembled into one materialized thing, and all the transformation takes place in perception outside this object, which obviously isn’t the case with something performed anew every night.

  11. Patrick J. Mullins Says:

    I will try to read your piece on ‘There Will Be Blood’ tomorrow. I haven’t time to rewrite it again, so I just note here that I put something up at ktismatics. It really is an unadulterated piece of shit (no offense if you thought it a masterpiece, I’m in an uncomfortable position for typing, and my neck hurts, so I apologize if I’ve been too brutal on this ‘masterpiece by the DEEP ACTOR. I mean, what the fuck is he, some sort of idiot savant? Going DEEP into exploration of his role and getting a NYTIMES Sunday Magazine 10 pages + article to advertise his need for an Oscar (a second one, I think.) God, what a loathsome movie.

  12. Traxus, re your quote from Benjamin: “The final voyage of the flaneur: death. Its destination: the new.”

    I wonder if Benjamin read Peter Pan? That echoes what Peter tells Wendy in Act 3, when they are trapped by Pirates: “To die will be an awfully big adventure!” There is a legend that this was the line on the lips of George Llewelyn Davies, the one of the Davies boys that James Barrie loved the most, as he flung himself out of the trench at Ypres and got his head blown off in 1915. Actually, that didn’t happen, but there are reports that the line was quoted by British officers as they would lead their troops in those strange mass, suicidal charges that constituted the bulk of the war for 3 years on the front across Northern France.

    And, of course, who was more new than Peter Pan? The great prisoner of the new, condemned to it, the boy in the iron mask of boyhood. There’s a scene in the novel Barrie made of it at the end:

    “And then one night came the tragedy. It was the spring of the year, and the story had been told for the night, and Jane [Wendy’s daughter] was now asleep in her bed. Wendy was sitting on the floor, very close to the fire, so as to see to darn, for there was no other light in the nursery; and while she sat darning she heard a crow. Then the window blew open as of old, and Peter dropped in on the floor.

    He was exactly the same as ever, and Wendy saw at once that he still had all his first teeth.

    He was a little boy, and she was grown up. She huddled by the fire not daring to move, helpless and guilty, a big woman.

    “Hullo, Wendy,” he said, not noticing any difference, for he was thinking chiefly of himself; and in the dim light her white dress might have been the nightgown in which he had seen her first.

    “Hullo, Peter,” she replied faintly, squeezing herself as small as possible. Something inside her was crying “Woman, Woman, let go of me.”

    “Hullo, where is John?” he asked, suddenly missing the third bed.

    “John is not here now,” she gasped.

    “Is Michael asleep?” he asked, with a careless glance at Jane.

    “Yes,” she answered; and now she felt that she was untrue to Jane as well as to Peter.

    “That is not Michael,” she said quickly, lest a judgment should fall on her.

    Peter looked. “Hullo, is it a new one?”


    “Boy or girl?”


    Now surely he would understand; but not a bit of it.

    “Peter,” she said, faltering, “are you expecting me to fly away with you?”

    “Of course; that is why I have come.” He added a little sternly, “Have you forgotten that this is spring cleaning time?”

    She knew it was useless to say that he had let many spring cleaning times pass.

    “I can’t come,” she said apologetically, “I have forgotten how to fly.”

    “I’ll soon teach you again.”

    “O Peter, don’t waste the fairy dust on me.”

    She had risen; and now at last a fear assailed him. “What is it?” he cried, shrinking.

    “I will turn up the light,” she said, “and then you can see for yourself.”

    For almost the only time in his life that I know of, Peter was afraid. “Don’t turn up the light,” he cried.”

    Helpless and guilty. What a piercing descriptive phrase! And, incidentally, how insane.

  13. Every vacation photograph posted on Flickr has made someone somewhere feel depressed.

    Nicely put–indeed rather superior to Benjamin Walter’s pop-surrealist filosophy (his death at the hands of some gestapo gents in espana sad, but ah find his writing way overrated). Flickr functions mostly as the soccer mommy’s daily clit-rub material, methinks; a bit less meaningful than an hour at starbucks, or B of A. Sure looks purdy however. I would contend authentic tourism concerns movement esssentially, however trite and perhaps beat-like that seems. The hip-tourist reiterates a kerouac, until his (or her, rarely) dinero runs out……kix are used up –whether in europa, north beach, himalaya, eastside slums, and he must move somewhere else…..

    (hey traxuss n pals note connection to the authentic contingencies–we changed URL (stinky petite-boojwah anarchist as ever….say no to B.O (and to j-mc)–the url then jacked by some stoner scientologists)

  14. […] on ethical consumption of music here, and you can get a nice bit on the tourist as flaneur here. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Genius of PhotographyThings to ask your Wedding […]

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    […]Tourism and Typology « American Stranger[…]…

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