Culture = So ’90s

The ’90s were culture’s last hurrah. I won’t bore you with the list of ‘cultural innovations’ that originated in the ’90s (ok here’s a few: rave, mashup, jungle, reality TV, Onion/Daily Show joke news, MMORPGs, indie rock, Britpop, crunk, grunge, hipsters). In a conversation with some friends we agreed on 9/11/2001 as the ’90s’ proper cutoff date (as 11/11-12/1989 was its proper beginning). The dominant form of radical politics in the West — anti-capitalist, direct action oriented anarchism — had its climax in the 1999 action in Seattle, and has been drawing on more or less the same operational principles. K-punk has been complaining about this for a while; see here for his latest:

Are cultural resources running out in the same way as natural resources are?

Those of us who grew up in the decades between the 1960s and the 1990s became accustomed to rapid changes in popular culture. Theorists of future shock such as Alvin Toffler and Marshall McLuhan plausibly claimed that our nervous systems were themselves sped up by these developments, which were driven by the development and proliferation of technologies. Popular artefacts were marked with a technological signature that dated them quite precisely: new technology was clearly audible and visible, so that it would be practically impossible, say, to confuse a film or a record from the early 1960s with one from even half a decade later.

The current decade, however, has been characterised by an abrupt sense of deceleration. A thought experiment makes the point. Imagine going back 15 years in time to play records from the latest dance genres – dubstep, or funky, for example – to a fan of jungle. One can only conclude that they would have been stunned – not by how much things had changed, but by how little things have moved on. Something like jungle was scarcely imaginable in 1989, but dubstep or funky, while by no means pastiches, sound like extrapolations from the matrix of sounds established a decade and a half ago.

Needless to say, it is not that technology has ceased developing. What has happened, however, is that technology has been decalibrated from cultural form.

And just to drive the point home, here’s something awful that just came out:

Just execrable, really. All the latest tricks of pop music from the last two years: the beefed-up 808 beats, the vocoder/auto-tune gliss, the sci-fi aesthetic, the marketable female vocalist teamed with inoffensive hip-hoppers (all of which really date back to the ’70s or ’80s and electro), wrapped into a single iTunes ready package, the function of a product like this is to fill up the club, announce to hipsters that the latest phase is ‘dead,’ and prepare the way for Kanye to introduce the next mild remix of the pop culture of the last 50 years. I found this video here (a ‘culturally relevant’ blog), as part of a funny bit of consumer advocacy/tastemaking. The blogger, inspired by the brazen cynicism of the above, fantasizes about being naive enough to straightforwardly enjoy it:

Sort of just want to be ‘a stupid mainstreamer’ who gets pumped up when I heard a song like Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” or the song “Let’s Get it Started.”

I want to be a white person
who ‘gets jacked up’
whenever a black person in ‘cool clothes’
comes out, waves their arms
rhymes into a mic
and tells the crowd to ‘get on their feet.’

I will go home
buy this popular song on iTunes
listen to it when I ’start my workout’
to ‘get fucking pumped up’
then choose a slow song 4 my ‘cool down’

What this ‘poem’ recognizes in its very act of critique is that there is no such thing as ‘straightforward enjoyment’ of this song, which is objectively tired — either you admit it or you don’t, or you don’t listen to pop music enough to care either way. Setting aside fan loyalty to the band (theoretically possible), it’s not a song that inspires partisanship; even to those who profess to like it, it can be nothing more than a mass product; enjoyment of it is strictly culinary. As per the norm of modernist criticism, the loss mourned by both k-punk and ‘carles’ of hipsterrunoff is the attitude that would deny this ‘general’ or ‘common’ complacency toward culture a position of normative authority.

What has already been noted is that this narrative of cultural vacancy is overwhelmingly white, (probably) male, not a little techno-centric, and elitist in a way that feels quixotic (all registered ironically by the latter commenter and not at all by the very earnest k-punk). ‘Cultural form,’ when used as the scoring rubric according to which the ’00’s are lacking, should not be confused with a mere empirical analytic. Built into this notion are the aesthetic criteria for determining excellence, the potential for the emergence of masterpieces, and the legitimacy of criticism, criteria which only make sense within the history of European bourgeois aesthetics (see Francis Mulhern on the authority granted to culture here).

There is a left version of this among critical modernists like Fredric Jameson, where a culture is expected to go beyond the ideology of the New and produce the means of criticizing, or at least ‘mapping’ (though the visual metaphor is not really apt) its context; the equivalent of a masterpiece here would be anything from which a critic could derive knowledge beyond the fact(s) of the object itself, and could come from virtually any cultural sector; from popular entertainment to the avant-garde. A Jamesonian masterpiece is didactic, albeit in a special, often ‘unconscious’ sense. A masterpiece within postmodernism — a general situation where masterpieces are impossible — would have to be some sort of throwback, somehow outside of its own time. Which, or so I like to fantasize, is why Jameson became a theorist and not a novelist.

“Yet once this initial disjunction between the present and the New is granted, the inevitable stages of a decline, the progressive decadence of an inauthentic modernism, follow logically enough. For the New, and the break it stages with tradition, now quickly unmasks itself as a commitment, not to the present but to the future. It thereby generates spurious narratives about the development of art in general, in which the discredited bourgeois value of progress is secretly or not so secretly installed in the aesthetic realm.” (Jameson, “Transformations of the Image”)

He goes on to attack the anti-theoretical pseudo-aestheticism that tends to replace the rejection of (pseudo) modernism, and which feeds into the “nostalgia film” and the spurious, neo-Romantic ‘return’ to beauty, religion, and folk culture. The point is that there is no simple alternative direction being offered; it’s an impasse, its causes more or less identified. Which is why k-punk’s use of Jamesonian motifs have always seemed to me to fall within the latter’s critique of postmodern pastiche. It is only possible to assert Jameson himself as an arbiter of taste if the untimely irony of his style is erased, if the Adornian dialectics are dropped out and he is turned into a kind of Spinozist. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but would necessitate the abandonment of any pretension to critical theory and the very notion of cultural politics as a quasi-autonomous sphere of activity.

The avant-garde modernism of forms is not an ‘alternative;’ it is the historical background of our current situation. In a properly Spinozist universe, if the public intellectual can’t or won’t engage directly in left politics he must become an adman.

zevs-2_ar

But let’s return to the argument about the disjunct between technological and cultural development. YouTube, blogs, and the rest of the Web 2.0 apparatus are mere technical platforms according to this logic: the means of production of cultural form and not forms themselves. This entails a rather strange relation between culture and technology, where changes in the latter are supposed to catalyze changes in the former without  determining them, and the depth of cultural change is to be evaluated solely from within the inherited cultural discourses: those of art, music, and pop culture criticism. A new technology is not a new cultural form. Culture’s “decalibration” from technology, then, indicates the failure of new ‘technological’ products to meet ‘cultural’ criteria. By this I mean criticism cannot read any of these new objects as even potentially masterpieces without straining credibility.

Jameson’s theory of postmodernism names this cultural failure and connects it to developments in capitalist political economy since WWII and the rise of consumer society. What I want to suggest is that the ideological discourse of novelty and innovation should be understood to include the actual development of new technologies. For the past 30 years at least, technological innovation has been tied to the fluctuating demands of financialized consumer capitalism. Like the television, the iPod is both a technical and an ideological product. On what basis could theories of cultural innovation even theoretically be divorced from those of technical innovation, or financial innovation for that matter? Culture’s calibration with technology is postmodern ideology.

singularity

The shift over the past 20 years or so is in how we are now trained to experience both technological and cultural development, and how the ‘innovations’ themselves are designed to look, feel, and function: not as a series of revolutionary shocks a la Toffler and McLuhan, but as a numb, predictable wave of tweaks and ‘updates.’ Cable to wireless; iPod to iPhone; MySpace to Facebook; Blogspot to Tumblr. As velocity increases, change of every kind is normalized, routine, invisible. Ray Kurzweil, the Toffler of our day, gives us the fantasized radical telos for all this high-speed incrementalism: “what will the Singularity look like to people who want to remain biological? The answer is that they really won’t notice it, except for the fact that machine intelligence will appear to biological humanity to be their transcendent servants….there’s a lot that, in fact, biological humanity won’t actually notice.” It’s capitalist common sense that the promise of  ‘authentic’ change on the modernist model is how various competing interests perpetuate themselves. Every attempt to read it otherwise is just another ad.

We aren’t living through the breakdown of culture’s dependence on technology but its culmination, the near-fusion of content and form and the omnipresence of culture as novelty. It’s therefore pointless to expect new ‘cultural forms’ to emerge from new media, where it’s all about the platform. With Web 2.0, McLuhan’s “medium is the message” slogan is now true on the most banal level. We may have, gradually, inched our way past the context in which ideas like ‘cognitive mapping’ and ‘new cultural forms’ had purchase as critical aesthetics, centered as they were around distinct works, around individual, intellectual comprehension and consumption. Mapping now is distributed among multiple ‘works’ — instances of participation — each of which is unthinkable on its own. This new connectivity has a variety of possible uses as well as risks, most of which are illegible to 20th century aesthetic theories incapable of acknowledging anything not a celebrity masterpiece, war, or revolution.

Traditional cultural (and political) practice of course continues at all levels, continuing to demonstrate, despite what the hipsters say, that the trajectory of mass culture is not destiny. And this whole chain of reflections was inspired by the apocalyptic troika of economic, ecological, and energy crisis, the awareness that the bourgeois progress narrative in all its various generic forms is a destructive and suicidal fantasy, a junky dream. Seeing these imminent disasters as a challenge for ‘culture’ to regain ‘symbolic efficacy’ is to remain enlisted in its reproduction. The full-color, hi-def imagination of real alternatives cannot precede the behaviors that actually discover them. That’s because the other worlds, the ones outside whatever features one might hate about capitalist popular culture and its various ghettoes of self-righteous self-loathing, have always already been here.

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97 Responses to “Culture = So ’90s”

  1. Another great post.

    “The shift over the past 20 years or so is in how we are now trained to experience both technological and cultural development, and how the ‘innovations’ themselves are designed to look, feel, and function: not as a series of revolutionary shocks a la Toffler and McLuhan, but as a numb, predictable wave of tweaks and ‘updates.’…As velocity increases, change of every kind is normalized, routine, invisible. Ray Kurzweil, the Toffler of our day, gives us the fantasized radical telos for all this high-speed incrementalism: “what will the Singularity look like to people who want to remain biological? The answer is that they really won’t notice it, except for the fact that machine intelligence will appear to biological humanity to be their transcendent servants….there’s a lot that, in fact, biological humanity won’t actually notice.” ”

    Disneyland’s Innoventions Dream Home, compared to the futuristic tomorrowland predecessors, is really expressive:

    http://www.disneylandevent.com/tsm/dreamhome.html

  2. oh and on the minor issue of 00s ‘innovations’, maybe the tv genre ‘the video game as a spectator sport’ (as the essay Zach links has it https://segueuserfiles.middlebury.edu/jmittell/Wire%20Game%20article.pdf); that essay identifies _The Wire_ as Sim City for the audience to watch other people playing. The video game is not a new form of course and role playing games are even older but the non participatory imitation, the tv serial mimicking them formally (and not just borrowing their environments and characters) is. Another example of this new genre, though very different from _the Wire_, may be _Lost In Austen_.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1117666/

  3. “As a modern example, Alderman describes a game called Katamari. In it, for want of a better description, you roll stuff up. You control, she tells me, “a little ball, which is effectively sticky, and you’re rolling it around a landscape picking stuff up. As you do so, your ball gets bigger and bigger. It’s almost impossible to explain how much fun this is, the pleasure of growing your little ball, which starts off just big enough to pick up pins and sweets from a tabletop and ends up picking envelopes, then televisions, then tables, then houses, then streets; until in the end you can roll it across the whole world picking up clouds and continents.””

    http://www.newstatesman.com/ideas/2009/05/video-games-industry-art-film

    That’s really incredible, no? and the video game form’s precision to this purpose, its ability to do/express/entertain as exactly this, engage the player in this spectatorial pseudoparticipatory ritual of ‘pure’ accumulation, sequence and chronology without narrative but with a progress and attendant affect, is hard to imagine remotely matched by any other form.

  4. traxus4420 Says:

    disneyland: interesting to see this as a response of sorts to paranoid fictions about computer operated homes — you’re ‘in control’ of all the various entertainments, in seamless relation to your macbook…no technological other to confront, no dramatic ethical dilemmas, etc.

    wire: haven’t seen the show — it’s a reading that makes me suspicious that the critic’s not just being trendy — can you verify this?

    katamari i own a copy of, one of the last ones i bought. it really is as incredible as they say. as far as newness it fits the ’00s model as not alien from predecessors like pac-man, or some of the really abstract games they had on the super nintendo — it’s popular without being famous, it’s too silly to be taken ‘seriously’ by the usual authorities — the originality isn’t such that it coould spawn waves of imitators or start a new genre. but certainly some kind of innovation all the same.

    you’re right that the gameplay itself is almost regressively uninvolving — you’re there to zone out amidst the scenery while enojying the inventiveness of the level design.

  5. mr. mullins, in a rare TV appearance Says:

    “what will the Singularity look like to people who want to remain biological? The answer is that they really won’t notice it, except for the fact that machine intelligence will appear to biological humanity to be their transcendent servants….there’s a lot that, in fact, biological humanity won’t actually notice.” ”

    It seems incredible that one could look back THREE YEARS + and find a time when one read ‘The Singularity’. Now, doesn’t it seem strange that such a thing could still have a history, that I should still have rent control, have just got my landlord to spend $18,000 on building problems, and turn attempts at ‘cyber-sex’ into online descriptions of what actually does happen offline? OTOH, what Kurzweil is saying is true, and has a bit of the rhyme and rhyrthm of some early 00’s things by Virilio (with the usual sound of ‘concren and loss’, which you never find with Kurzweill–I noticed this morning that the ONLY email I had was the Kurzweil AI newsletter, which I almost never read, but which is unstoppable), is that some of it ‘people won’t notice’. This is related to my own resistance to Kurzweil, which now involves accepting some of the innovations quite painlessly, since I held them off (or at least some of them I know I did, others maybe tricked me as well, surely they must have, as in much less technological times, things manipulated cleverly or clumsily, and now it’s all cleverer), and what doesn’t seem convincing is the rate at which K. claims the bigger leaps will take place. But that’s hard to know too. The recession had a nice effect for awhile, it was a longer one than the ‘patriotism INTENSO’ in New York after 9/11. The recession continues, but the spell has been broken, and we can go back to ‘progress’ in the older, no matter how rotted sense (somehow all rebeillions to this rottedness fail). So, if you don’t have time to get hold of some of this, I guess the ‘biological human’ certainly is not going to know, But what is new about that, most people never have this leisure in previous periods as well, and without it, you cannot tell as much what is happening to you.

    I’ve always found RPG’s interesting, and never looked at a single one. I think NOT doing so allows one to create one’s own interactive RPG, or rather forces one to do so, and this is coercion, but not as hidsous as RPB, in which certain addicts all of a sudden have to fucking go look for work once they’ve got their eyes pried off the screen. They are living in squalour and all of a sudden have to leave this cheap splendour, as was written as far back as 2003 in the Times, I never forgot that articla as a warning. But the new deveopments, whether or not you want to call the media-focussed things ‘cultural’ or not’, are bound to be reflected in less literal form elsewhere, and so we get forms of RPG’s on the blawgs. Now, for example, I don’t think ‘culture” as ‘new form’ in the ‘old sense’ is ‘gone’, but rather marginalized and beginning to disappear. But not so fast. It”s actually Kurzweil and his ilk who want it to disappear faster and faster. He hasn’t succeeded in getting that done. He also needed the Bush administation to, in effect if not literally, to continue in its endless smooth and/or rough space (I guess both are needed to get the fucking Singularity as ugly as possible by 2029). Whatever leftists may want to criticize about Obama’s administration (they always find fault with everything, as we all know…tee hee… and kiss-kiss…), the atmosphere is very differet. There’s little coincidence that I’d get ‘access’, as it were, in terms of multiple discussions, at Hyperstition, combined with discussions of WWIV and pro-Iraq policies and strong support for the Bushies in almost all areas except the evangelical, in the form of energetic discussions led by Nick and ‘SD’ (Steven Dearsley). That’s the material base K. needed to make the Singulatiry happen, isn’t it? That’s not still there in as relentless a way, I think, but you can verify or dispute, if what iI’ve said thus far makes any sense.

    I’m sure you’ll both be happy to know that my digital converter worked, even though when I installed it a month ago, during the pope’s visit and had to watch the bishop get installed on poor reception (I only knew he was in New York becasue of technology, i.e., the torture of having to RTFM (Read the Fucking Manual) and pray that I’d still be able to watch Channel 3 for vhs’s of Delphine Seyrig movies. It now reads ‘STD 5’ when I rewind the tape. This is Standard Television Definition and ‘refers to digitlal television’, according to wiki. I think this means I already changed to digital before the cut-off date sometime in June, but since this is probably a non-techie retardation on my part, that is why I couldn’t tell if it had really worked yet in anybody’s FAQ’s. Pitiful, I know.

    But the real question is, in this high-toned Interactivity Paradise, cleverly deterritorializing RPB’s while remaining ‘human’, or imagining it, that we have found….will MARTIN return to try to destroy our idyll yet again? Will the artwork-journla nerd closet-queen, successfully defeated by me in allainace with Arpege in 2007, be quoted again by the same entity? Will the famous ‘unread Meiillassoux’ thread from ‘Last Year at Martinbad’ when Arpege proved that MARTIN had not read, only to return again this year at leninino and be threated with knocked-out teeth by Arpege (who allowed several to remain in the mouth in case he didn’t have ‘dental insurance’), and STILL claimed victory after losing YET AGAIN. Now that is more than I could quite believe. I have seen him fully THREE times claim victory in battles he lost. Will MARTIN be the very definition of the metablawger who would be a hacker if he had half the brains? Will leninino continue to accuse me of being one and the same as MARTIN-the most ludicrous accusation, as I never use pseudonyms unless I think they will whip up my illegal vanity to even more Hyperstitional levels)? Will Arpege and I once again have to suffer punishment for being Opera Goeurs now that k-punk has written excellent new posts? Will MARTIN still pounce on my ‘execrable piece of shit’ writing as if we didn’t hear it the first time? Are people STILL going to bother me about illicit detours into discussions of the ‘literal culinary’ (not just the ambient noise I may ‘work out’ to–real music is a little too distracting, I’ve been rediscovering Streisand, and she’s hard to get out of your head even when you’ve turned her off-I couldn’t sleep for 5 hours Sat. night because her voice kept on erupting in my feverish brain…what a blast furnace! ). I hope Arpege, at least, continues to frequent fine restaurants, as this is important to stimulate the economy…I am not doing that, although I continue to produce ‘culinary masterpieces’ such as Lady Balltimore Cake with Lavish White Mountain Frosting, despite the fact that it’s from a 30-year-old cookbook, which is suspect because of its ‘nostalgia factor’, but that part we pay no attention to, and still Martha Graham saved me from everything as I proved to a few how valued they were, but in Martha alone I find an artist who protects me at all times, to such a degree that I was coerced into sending Dejan a DVD which I don’t even own myself!

    This really is a great post, you brilliant URCHIN! And that’s very sexy the way you can talk about all the different musics, what they are, were, and are no longer, etc., I know nothing about this sort of thing, and I doubt Arpege does either, we are so vile elitists, that therefore UI an grateful for the ‘equipping’ reading Kurzweil ‘in time’ (maybe, of course), as supplied by other authorities, and this has allowed me to keep my extreme Cultural Literacy, despite several long new episodes with MARTIN.

    Now that ‘The Guiding Light’ has been cancelled, with MARTIN return ‘looking for work’? Stay tuned….

  6. “Mirage effects have far-ranging consequences. Under the conditions of modernity, as absolute political space extends its sway, the impression of transparency becomes stronger and stronger, and the illusion of a new life is everywhere reinforced. Real life indeed appears quite close to us. We feel able, from within everyday life, to reach out and grasp it, as though nothing lay between us and the marvellous reality on the other side of the mirror.” – Lefebvre, The Production of Space

    I’m not so sure this phenomenon is new.

  7. Patrick Says:

    the beefed-up 808 beats

    Yes, I just listened to it, that is interesting that it’s taken on this even more extreme, almost ‘non-gravitational’ sound, these beats. The gliss is all right, that doesn’t have nearly the robot totality of the 808 beats. I think i heard these (first time I hear this term) in a clip of Lady Gaga Dejan put up a few weeks back. `This is a purely electronic kind of percussion sound, I’m thinking. It has no resonance and no dissonance (slightly off, but maybe you get the gist), no possibility of percussion as pain and interruption. It had a ‘bouncing sound’, literally like basketballs against a wall. Hateful. This is the same thing found in ‘Mamma Mia’ and Meryl Streep’s exectrable acting, which the French, Saunders and Lumley parody brilliantly demolishes. This kind of thing is mostly not new, though, or I mean not only the last 2 years, but definitely more of it in the 00’s, I agree. I think I actually first started hearing it in 2000, when that was still the Most Famous Year in Our lives, until 2001 fulfilled the Space Odyssey paranoia. I remember a guy on the subway saying this amorphous stuff sounded ‘like that 2000 shit.’ These pieces have a weird static sound to them, and even when they use old materials, as in this generic shit musical I saw in Los Angeles in 2005, ‘White Christmas’, based on the old film, they STILL manage to get this sense of ‘no movement from beginning to end.’ I first noticed it in the film of ‘Chicago’, which simply never begins to exist, it’s a sellout from beginning to end, mainly by hiring principals who can’t sing or dance for what is never a good show unless it is a dance show (which it WAS good with Ann Reinking.) The ‘people not noticing this’ now reminds me of the very ealiest disco days, of Studio 54 and lots of cocaine, and Silver convention, etc., which were thought already to be guilty of sound you now find corrupt. But that stuff now sounds fresh–anything in ‘Saturday Night Fever’, although I admit I liked that even at the time. To think the over 30 years have gone by since we first thought disco was ruinous. But that had more to do with the studio practices which hadn’t before been used. So these things naturally or unnaturally do creep. I’m not that worried about it. I like you point, though, about the attempt to ‘straightforwardly enjoy’ such shit. If it COULD be straightforwardly enjoyed, it probably couldn’t be identified as something that might or might not be ‘possible’. It can’t be straightforwardly enjoyed because it is enclosed, opaque. But, of course, it is very possible to IMAGINE for some that they are straightorwardly enjoying it, although they’ll discard it without remembering a thihg about it. You do get full amnesia once you’ve picked up these objects and pretended to ‘enter in to them’. But you cannot enter them, bhey are not made to be penetrated–again like a basketball, but now made of more durable, indestructible elements. At some point, they make one think that something comparable in sci-fi terms to nuclear disposal will be necessary for such objects, because they are far more enclosed from their spectators and consumers than even that tough plastic around Madonna’s old sex book. That’s why the French, Saunders Lumley parody was very clever when it referred to ‘Mamma Mia’ as ‘now closed in a theater near you’. I hadn’t realized they might be referring to it being ‘closed’ while still IN the literal theater. Sort of an ‘eyes wide shut’ configuration maybe.

  8. traxus4420 Says:

    patrick,

    the resurgence of a broadly ‘electronic’ aesthetic has been around in pop music for a while, sure — by 808 i just meant the actual synthesizer, the Roland TR808 — it’s been used on and off for a while too in the current ironic/nostalgic/revivalist sense (see Blaque’s ’90s ode here), but Kanye named his album after it last year and electro’s been all over everything lately, white indie rock included.

    on ‘straightforward enjoyment’ though it seems i should’ve specified aesthetic vs. culinary — in a sense you could say culinary, where it’s just a backing track for club dancing or exercise, is ‘more straightforward.’

    this is from an about.com reviewer linked to from wikipedia:

    Go back to the future with will.i.am and the rest of the Black Eyed Peas on “Boom Boom Pow.” Kanye West brought us all back to a timeless admiration for the Roland TR-808 drum machine with his latest album 808s and Heartbreak. Here the Black Eyed Peas give us explicit references to the early 80’s electro revolution largely fueled by the 808. Listen again to “Boom Boom Pow” and take a step back from any concern about pop music history. It is simply a hot, beat crazy party track in the best tradition of the Black Eyed Peas. The break will drive you to the dance floor. “Boom Boom Pow” very effectively joins together the best elements of the Black Eyed Peas while avoiding heading over the top. This is one of the first great party tracks of 2009.

  9. traxus4420 Says:

    alex,

    “I’m not so sure this phenomenon is new.”

    which phenomenon? just this sense of the ‘really real’ beyond the mirage of commodified life, or the idea of decline and the need for creativity injections?

  10. traxus4420 Says:

    “I’m not that worried about it.”

    neither am i, really — sort of just granting k-punk and the neo-spenglerians their initial premise

    “That’s the material base K. needed to make the Singulatiry happen, isn’t it?”

    i would think it’s not necessary for the basic dynamics to continue — the base would be more the boom cycle and speculation — that excitement about the singularity as a meme is not sometihng that can be sustained for long and is already old-fashioned (kind of ’90s, again), despite that we’ve been living a version of it, is almost, i want to say, part of his point.

    RPGs, video games, cyberpunk, postmod architecture, all of this stuff is part of the internet in a weird organic way, the actual realization of what those earlier (though still continuing) practices theorized/fantasized in the form of ‘cultural forms.’ gives new meaning to the ‘first time as tragedy, second time as farce’ meme from papa marx.

    a different jameson essay, ‘the brick and the balloon’ is what i should’ve used here, come to think of it. i’ll get to it, maybe.

  11. Patrick Says:

    by 808 i just meant the actual synthesizer, the Roland TR808

    Yeah, I know, and it IS a more evolved version, that has to be why I ‘heard’ this image of basketball bouncing–I mean, that’s the sort that wouldn’t even disturb you if a neighbout underneath turned it up loud! all cushioning. Will look at youi links later today. Good extra on ‘straightforward enjoyment’.

  12. traxus4420 Says:

    so this isn’t a metaphysical claim that ideas can’t chronologically precede their real instantiation; in i.e. a technical device the plan usually come ‘first’; but rpgs/videogames/cyberpunk/pmarch had no direct role or influnece on the internet’s actual construction. the military-financial-entertainment complex is behind all of them, in various ways. the composition of this system was such that similar ideas were present in some pop subcultures and in military/science culture, such that the one can appear ‘prophetic’ in retrospect.

    so if there’s no new ‘cultural’ ideas that stick, that serve as organizing principles, even in certain underground/subcultural scenes, it’s maybe a sign that activities with investment in modernist ‘cultural forms’ are increasingly detached from political relevance and broader popular relevance, and not from ‘technology’ — the struggles and intrigues have moved to different terrain.

  13. Patrick Says:

    the military-financial-entertainment complex is behind all of them,

    Well, yes, and Kurzweil worked for the Army or Navy or one of thoee places…

    it’s maybe a sign that activities with investment in modernist ‘cultural forms’ are increasingly detached from political relevance and broader popular relevance, and not from ‘technology’ — the struggles and intrigues have moved to different terrain.

    But then if they’re ‘not detached from technology’, it will still be called ‘culture’ for awhile before they can pull it off as not bothering any more, where the Bushies had arrived–which made everybody think they couldn’t be dislodged. Am I going to have to OUT you as not having read all of the Singularity, just like Arpege outed MARTIN for not reading the Meillsssoux (he didn’t show up for the ‘artwork-journal nerd closet queen’s Bristol event… and another eminence grise had to fill in…), both in 2009 and Last Year at Martienbad? Because that sounds exactly what he would have been saying had he written the Singularity in 2009 instead of 2005. Back then, he had to tell people they’d love to ‘enjoy unhealthy foods’ with nanotechnology ‘preventives’ or whatever he called them, and while still ‘upset about his father’s death and loving his ancient LP’, you could tell he was ready to sell the Kurzweil soul all the way down the liine with CD’s, iPods and iPhones and statistics galore, if only he’d be able to quit looking like Bill Maher crossed with a cockroach. Erda was good on this back in the day. I wrote a hilarious rant at Hyperstition in 2005 about wife-swapping and terrible cake mixes, which was supposed to be unploeaantly sarcastic, but adorable Nick totally appreciated it. I haven’t been able to find it, though, when looking through the archives. But fuck, his early Hyperstition posts were out of sight. (sorry, I know that’s off-
    topic.)

    ‘the composition of this system was such that similar ideas were present in some pop subcultures and in military/science culture, such that the one can appear ‘prophetic’ in retrospect.’

    Well, that’s normal, though. If it hadn’t been like that ( and it probably wasn’t all), it would have had to be some other way, you know, natural selection and all.

    s’o if there’s no new ‘cultural’ ideas that stick, that serve as organizing principles, even in certain underground/subcultural scenes”

    But surely there are, the troubling clump of words is ‘in CERTAIN’, which already delimits it, even if you meant by that ‘the most likely to be able to do organizing principles’. There isn’t any way to gather all that data, i don’t think, is there? Subcultures are so numerous, and so notably enclosed, at least for a period of time, when they can be replaced.

    Now I look at your links.

  14. The Wire… from what I’ve seen it does forefront “simulation” – a “wireverse” that is a simulated Baltimore (simulated “real life”, trappings of naturalism that are really simulated naturalism, the tics of naturalism), but also a Wire that is a simulated tv serial (the opposite of this “everyday life” naturalism, very stagey, pomo, comedy of manners). The celebrated “chess lesson” for example,

    a scene which is ‘borrowed’/adapted from the film Fresh, but even ramps up the selfconsciousness and mannered portentous pomo quality beyond that film, has almost the relation to the film from which it derives and its genre that the Onion’s current affairs shows have to their targets. It takes the chess lesson from Fresh, which operated as a fateful metaphor the import of which was gradually revealed (sacrificing the Queen, more subtle and complicated than the obvious “ these guys are pawns” thing in The Wire) but also functioned legitimately within the character’s narrative (the lead does in fact learn strategic thinking from playing chess; chess playing also developed the relationship with his father), and drops the ‘character’ level of chess totally (it’s just imposed, arbitrarily) and inflates the metaphor enormously, makes the writer-director’s hand on the joystick hugely explicit, writing out in neon the chess/drugbizniz trope as direct address from the invisible player with the camera, a way of pleading with the audience to have patience with the serial which looks like a soap opera, and has all these personae and situations ripe for soap opera, but will not deliver what one expects of a soap opera.

    More significantly on this question of the videogame form – the first season introduces all these characters in the drug business, each very charismatic and some flamboyant and hammy, none of the actors too famous, so exuding their arty actorliness beyond the boundaries of these narrow roles; they are elaborate as avatars but almost non existent as fictional characters (they deal drugs or rob successfully as long as possible, if they fail they go to jail or die. Just function, no story.) they are written very stilted “rich” stagey dialogue and speeches which on the page must look absurd but the actors manage a softening delivery mainly with the use of “street” accents and comedy-of-manners histrionics; they are all loveable and the audience is invited to enjoy simply watching them talk but, also, and really only in anticipation of, watching them suffer and die.

    (Bodie’s murder)

    Here you can see how it’s not observing the form of serial and perhaps is really a videogame. The death of Bodie is narratively acceptable (although the deaths pile up excessively); the spectacle of the death of the Bodie, however, is absolutely superfluous from the point of view of serial form, whether soap opera or franchise drama. It’s a slow, awkward, hamhanded scene, sheer sensationalism, with the superficial appearance of simply bad craft (cheap tarantinism). But it’s characteristic of this serial.

    And that’s ‘so cool’ how he’s just dropped to the pavement (splat, gone, and yet so “real”) – there’s the videogame really showing through. The awkwardness of this dramatically and thematically superfluous spectacle of elimination(were this traditional tv drama) is then underscored by having the scene that would have been in its place (now unnecessary except to hit the audience over the head again about the instrumental quality of the avatars and their fates in the revealing of the clockwork intricacy of the simulation) which would have been entered direct from the end of the tête à tête, piled on top, and three times as long as tradition would have it. Show and then Tell: Bodie is seen killed then we’re told he’s killed. The scene made redundant by the exploitative spectacle of the death is played anyway, specifically as redundant, twice in fact, ( told he’s dead, then it’s confirmed, so we can’t overlook how this gratuitously displayed death is intended to “mean” only for the simulation of “how things work” in this “wireverse”) as if all this were necessary to justify the spectacle of the killing of the loveable avatar, and the implied audience’s implied ‘unsentimental’ satisfaction with it, (justice itself in the aesthetic, with the alibi of verisimilitude and social criticism) which is actually the core product.

    A serial, whether soap, telenovela or franchise, given this plot, would have cut from Bodie’s audited soliloquoy to the detective looking at the clipboard and throwing it, without any of this belaboured trudging process in between. But videogames don’t cut from interesting part to interesting part – they can’t be put together like drama. So The Wire may be more like a videogame than a drama at least in that it has all this connecting stuff, thicker and more irrelevant than slice of life, this getting in and out of scenes, this following from here to there, this cell phone footage of the events, just to watch the avatars, to stay with them and observe them, their fascinating and charming selves, which creates this spectacle’s peculiar invitation to a certain voyeurism that evokes the audience the tabloid crime reporter addresses. Omar is a Macheath but we know for sure we will not be cheated of the spectacle of his suffering and death.

  15. Patrick Says:

    It sounds at least a little punchier on the Blaque, doesn’t it? Otherwise, the piece is not much more characterful. There is only interest in perfect skin, perfect symmetry and overly-ordered repetition, i thought not much more of this. It’s just background for dance-trances, I guess. Very synthetic like hard rubber couches or something.

    very effectively joins together the best elements of the Black Eyed Peas while avoiding heading over the top.

    Gawd. As if ‘heading over the top’ was any of these people’s problems.

    ‘This is one of the first great party tracks of 2009.’

    LOVE the inaniity of such copy. Reminds me of articles in MetroSource (free at your local MailBoxes along with the VV) about purchasing perfumes for you White Party. Things like ‘if you loike it, then buy more’. I guess it’s all sort of military, but I can’t find it so easily.

    that excitement about the singularity as a meme is not sometihng that can be sustained for long and is already old-fashioned”

    I thought so till the other night, when I started realizing that I really DO like the idea of living about 5000 years, given that I was really enjoying my life and didn’t like some Derridean interruptus occurring…I HATE Derrida..

  16. oh, also, there is something suggestive in the fact that fans consume some serials – the wire, desperate housewives, 24 – in sittings of astonishing length, 15 hours, days in a row, the kind of time kids can put into videogames but much longer than was until recently thought reasonable for the consumption of drama. Nobody could watch 15 hours of sidney lumet movies in a row. drama is emotionally and sometimes intellectually draining. certain new dramas, which have a lot superficially in common with previous tv fictions, aren’t draining. people can watch them almost endlessly without a break.

  17. Patrick Says:

    the wire, desperate housewives, 24 – in sittings of astonishing length, 15 hours, days in a row

    Explains why these phenomena would be happening. Having no cable, I watched as many early Sopranos episodes as I could get from NYPL over a period of about 2 months. I thought that was enormous–maybe 30 episodes, I was interested to see what had happened with the fashionable TV things. Toward the end of watching these, and then trying the same thing with far fewer episodes of ‘Queer as Folk’ and ‘Sex in the City’ (these were much less interesting shows, I think I managed 3 or 4 episodes each), you saw the strange flatness of television as opposed to film (at least as they used to be.) Mainly recall finally seein the Cassavetes/Rowland film ‘Gloria’, in the middle of all these Sopranos episodes, and here was a Mafia movie, sentimental but extremely good, and good location shooting especially, fabulous acting (but you got that in the Sopranos too, esp. Edie Falco, but Gloria was light years better, no need to even explain why. So this flatness is not even noticed any more if somebody would want to watch 16 hours of some fucking series in a sitting. Fuck I sure didn’t know things had gotten that extreme. I guess they’re stoned the whole time.

  18. Patrick Says:

    That wonderfully famous never-named blawger of Products Without Novels, cf., Dejan, has discovered new meritorious TV series ‘In Treatment’. Novels R’n’t Us is what therapy is for. My ex-girlfriend went to the psychiatrist because she couldn’t finish her dissertation–that’s at least 40 years ago, and she still hasn’t. She also watches a lot of TV…it’s just so…so…so….theraPEUTIC!

  19. traxus4420 Says:

    chabert,

    thanks for your take on the wire, that’s very perceptive as usual. i suspect the relationship to videogames is something like parallel development from similar sources. the sopranos does some formally similar things with death scenes. i don’t have time to really check it out right now, but it was pretty common to play every assassination out in much the same drawn-out way, often for laughs even (like the bystanders ducking behind cars above). the justification for this, i believe, can be traced back to goodfellas. the conceit there was that godfather was too respectable, scorsese was going to break that urbane image by showing us the ugly, rough, low-class side of the mob — we had to see and feel every hit, experience these charismatic outlaw protagonists being savage to one another. in sopranos it’s played more like the divide between work and domesticity. in both cases the apparently gratuitous violence was about interpellating viewer fantasies and creating more sophisticated, ambiguous sorts of fascination with these mob figures. in both the conceit is that the violence radically disidentifies the viewer with the mob fantasy and the otherwise lovable character, though of course also adding to and altering this mob mystique — since even by goodfellas the attractive yet disposable mobster was a huge cliche, and the audience is always, as you say about the wire, engaging with each character as already dead.

    so i take your point about the significance of the scene, but these were my immediate points of reference.

    now as far as videogames go, a scene like bodie’s death would play as a ‘cinematic,’ a ‘story’ sequence where you the player are temporarily denied control in order to give you a glimpse of what happens offscreen, which would be presented with the mise-en-scene of a bad, exceptionally derivative movie of the same narrative genre. an imitation of film that wouldn’t necessarily ever be in a film, because nothing happens in video games without spectacle.

    either scene could have come from grand theft auto:

    but anyway, if this show is like a videogame, it’s like a videogame trying to be like a movie. but one could do a formal history entirely from within the logic of the ‘serious crime drama.’ but either way, yes, the formal codes of crime drama begin to resemble their video game imitations, which were shaped by their own demands, including the technical limitations of the medium.

    would you call this a ‘formal shift’ though, in the sense i was trying to describe in the post? i think i would put it differently.

  20. traxus4420 Says:

    patrick —- yes, i’ve known many people whose television endurance shocked me (24-hour 24 ‘marathons,’ and i don’t think anyone was stoned, unless you count mass quantities of beer, pepsi, pizza, and cheetohs). the most i’ve been able to do is three episodes of the sopranos on DVD. even that was a lot.

    i’ve been meaning to get into cassavetes, gloria sounds like a good place to start…

    AwoP — i just revisted that site today after ignoring it for a while, there was a sort of weirdly prompted but interesting argument about the decline of british novels (another decline story! they’re everywhere!). but this In Treatment show — another ‘institutional drama’ like the wire is supposed to be.

    and revelatory distortion is always what was meant by the word realism right from the start. And furthermore (and sorry to be so telegraphic, but I’m getting tired) this relationship probably tells us even more about the genre of psychoanalysis itself, the sort of story it tells and it tells itself its telling, than it does about HBO programming and the anglo-telenovela.

    hm, what version of realism is he working from here? lukacsian? updated with psychoanalysis, the structure that generated a thousand bildungsromans, all of which end the same way. another component to add to this aggregate theory we’re playing at here.

    ** Actually, you know, it’s not like I haven’t thought about writing up the made-for-cable campus dramocomedy. In fact, I talked to some colleagues about this, who have media connections, and perhaps another drink and we all would have started writing the pilot. Still, their connections are British, so the damn thing’d end up on the BBC, and thus likely in period costume and with all too many significant pauses and general overacting… Ah me.

    funny, i had imagined this scenario as more fittingly an extension of the college comedy, along the lines of american pie and knocked up. there’d be a campus protest at the end, miserably botched by all the fake-radical academics who would find themselves drunk at a frat party of some sort. surprised this hasn’t been attempted yet.

  21. traxus4420 Says:

    when did realism start meaning a-subjective? when did balzac stop being about the characters?

  22. “in both cases the apparently gratuitous violence was about interpellating viewer fantasies and creating more sophisticated, ambiguous sorts of fascination with these mob figures.”

    yeah the violence is not gratuitous if there is realism and it’s meaningful as part of character/experience and narrative not just of function (of “plot” but a plot reduced to this routine running.)

    by realism I mean precisely about the characters. not a-subjectivity at all (a range regarding that is present in realism. i meant to note that there is no fantasy and the camera is a neutral “plausible” obsersver – no supernatural and no disruption of the diegetic…)

    but characters in realism (and melodrama) are produced by interactions, story and relationships, not costumes and tics the way avatars and action figures are produced (a very appealing avatar with an illusion of completeness and “depth” can be produced by a coat, a shotgun, and personal tics.) The Marlborough Man is pretty impressive considering how limited are the representations. That has something in common with old stage comedy traditions, and other kinds of product, especially children’s stuff – it’s not invented by videogames of course. You can’t make realist character without narrative – you can’t have realism without narrative (roger’s points again worth remembering). That doesn’t mean you can’t have “realisticness” in the representation of figures. You get this in tv ads all the time for example. And children’s toys.

  23. ” it’s like a videogame trying to be like a movie”

    I think it’s finally a soap opera actually, and becomes more traditionally so when the kid avatars are up, as if the kind of Grand Theft Auto naughty/cool callousness, the complicity of filmmakers and audience putting on the virtuous unsentimental social criticism faces (pioneered by scorsese) to hide this delectation of the bloodbath and the spectacle of the disposability of these loveable realistic human objects, went too far with the child corpses-to-be. So it appears to become more of a traditional soap when the kids are centred and the borrowings of story fragments and details come from “higher” product.

    but soap from the start – formally it’s not that far from peyton place. the tone though is peculiar, i think because of this posture of “simulation” (simulation accuracy becomes guarantor of “art”s “authenticity” as if this needs no explanation, as if it is merely obvious that because real people die violently in the drug bizniz in US cities, both the social virtue and artistic merit of attractively simulated atrocities for HBO subscribers simply go without saying). It’s not a radical departure from the form that encompasses stuff as diverse as Dallas and thirtysomething, and has interbred with franchise since St Elsewhere and Hill Street Blues, but I see what that critic was getting at in the essay zach linked – there are innovations which seem to be from new media and new culture commodity consumption habits (and requirements, like the amount of time spent with fictions or fragments of fiction on screens, which is much more than that spent by viewers of peyton place or for that matter Room 222)

    There are some kind of transformations of criteria and qualities of filmed fictions that are obvious here tho. Both the wire and the sopranos seem to exploit accents and mannerisms mainly, these accents and mannerisms fascinate audiences. the simulated city and the didacticism supposedly attached to it may not be really important.i think you could do something like remake exactly episodes of Friends or ER “with the Sopranos” or “with The Wire” or even “with Pride and Prejudice” and fans would be delighted.

    Gloria is a great great movie. (There was a remake with Sharon Stone I bet would exhibit some of the transformations of these forms too but would probably be too unbearable to watch even for five minutes.)

  24. “would you call this a ‘formal shift’ though, in the sense i was trying to describe in the post? i think i would put it differently.”

    No, I wouldn’t – I’m persuaded by your post completely. My point was to offer some examples of what’s happening instead which seem to illustrate what you are somewhat obliquely suggesting about media, “culture” and technology. Like about the video game with the ball; you are young enough to consider this activity kind of natural. When Tetris bootlegs first appeared in NY – for geeks only, or entrepreneurs because they had pcs at home – it was known as “russian brain crusher” and everybody – EVERYBODY – recognised it as “culture” content in the sense that it was “about” something – the dismantling or rather prevention of a wall. As is the objective of growing a ball by accumulating things in the world. The idea of doing this for hours seems to many perfectly unremarkable. But that’s incredible really. That’s a truth stranger than science fiction. It’s not like knitting or playing chess, or even playing chess with a computer, or even watching a traditional soap opera or drama. But the Wire, and Sex and the City and the Sopranos and 24 are unimaginable really without videogames, even though you can trace the evolution of the serial form to them in an unbroken way. (It’s like cinema and what happens to the theatre and literature when it appears, as Brecht and others noticed.)

  25. “but soap from the start ”

    but doesn’t deliver the promise of content that this form makes – no love stories, (no women really) no personal lives/ relationships except fragments as tics to elaborate and identify the avatars. this is also ideological overtly (speaking of “rational choice individualism”.)

  26. (sorry i thought that realism comment was to me for some reason)

  27. traxus4420 Says:

    “offer some examples of what’s happening instead”

    what i thought, but just thought i’d check — cinema to literature is something i was thinking about while writing — funny that the most vocal complaints are about influence coming from the other direction, especially with the genre fantasy movies like harry potter. properties with a lot of fans where the film tries to precisely simulate the original instead of remaking it as a film, and the whole thing is structured as a series of references to the source text. adaptation as media transfer. more common with comic books as one might expect.

    all the comments are really addressed to anyone, if you find them worth saying something about — like this shift in emphasis within theories of realism to the depersonalized structure and away from character that it seems like awop is playing with. i encounter it a lot offline as well, usually put in terms of cognitive mapping. there’s a reversal of priority involved, it seems like — you can see it in how the wire keeps getting compared to balzac/dickens — a coherent social theory is assumed within which the characters are assumed to fit like pegs, as opposed to anytihng being generated intersubjectively which feels like anachronism. realism can then unambiguously have the attitude of tragedy (via simulation).

  28. traxus4420 Says:

    that’s a nice scene from fresh, i now see exactly what you mean — also good to see samuel jackson play a human being every now and then

  29. Patrick Says:

    good stuff,. will look at more closely later. Mlle, may well remember the absolute uncanny moment in Port Authority Bus Station when Gloria and the PERFECT child actor are noticed by the waitress as being the ‘wanted duo’. Gena says the very common ‘Take a walk…’ in a way so piercing and mainly menacing that it’s as iif you’ve never heard it before. Agree that Sharon Stone would not be at all inadequate (she’s one of the few bigger-than-life stars left), but there are things that Rowlands could do as far back as ‘Faces’ (you have to do that too, traxus, because it is quite amazing), and the strange ‘Woman under the Influence’. I have to now say that she is also in the one Woody Allen movie that even a Southern bastard-prick like me can fully appreciate– ‘Another Woman’. A most unusual combination and it works. Gena Rowlands hearing Mia Farrow’s psychiatric seesions in a lower Manhattan office-apartment is very evocative of something or other, and weirsly vivid. And the hard jaw after Gena’s husband discovers that she’s secretly had an abortion. It does have an unfortunate ’empurpling’ as in ‘Interiors’ when the Gena character is seen to be ’empty’, when she wouldn’t necessarily have been. In ‘Interiors’, we try to choose between Geraldine Page and Maureen Stapleton, and end up with Mary Beth Hurt, unintentionally hilarious when asking Stapleton something about ‘architecture’, when Stapleton just wants to talk about ‘sirloins’.

    The forms’ imitating their imitators does probably go back to even before what Brecht said about cinema. But I noticed an overt form of it first with the highly-touted, but startlingly poor ‘L.A. Confidential’, which is so poorly written I cannot even fathom how it was allowed. Ellroy seems almost alone in ‘approving’ the most appalling adaptations of his work of any writer. Toni Morrison’s ‘Baloved’ I thought much better than critics did (Oprah was excellent, espeically, and her mauling of the babies is quite shocking, the grandmother is also magnificent), but Morrison didn’t. And yet her book had not been massacred. I’ll write later about the incredible Mongoloid scripting of just arbitrarily connecting unrelated story lines within the novel in ‘LA Donfidential’. Anyway, the point was that THIS movie was the first I saw as a ‘becoming-television’ so explicit you couldn’t miss it. I’m sure it wasn’t nearly the first, but it was the first that was so highly praised that I saw this happen in. THIS proved a tremendous breakdown in standards to me, but it didn’t really set the pattern I thought it would. There were still good films to come, including several with Spacey (this surprised me, he’s got real talent).

    The ‘Take a walk’ is one of the three most uncanny small fragments I recall right now, at least in American films. Delphine a master of the fragment even though she can inhabit whole films; I went to sleep rewatching Muriel twice last night. But the others right now are the opening of ‘The Letter’ with Bette blasting out the front door shooting (fucking camp, but stunning anyway) and Judy Holliday bored with the senator and his wife and curling up with her tape recorder, cigarette and drink, and singing in this hilarious autistic way. What a genius (and literally too, Comden adn Green said she picked up everything without lessons in just a few weeks back in the days of The Revuers at the Vanguard).

    The ‘decline of the British novel’ was quite as nauseating as possible, with even some of the usual cheerleaders protesting. Then there were discussions about ‘literary fiction vs. sci-fi’ that even made ME want to take the side of sci-fi. But thanks for the second quote, as always there’s another Ad or Product without a Novel, given that there are ‘media connections’ and then this unbelievable chunk: “Still, their connections are British, so the damn thing’d end up on the BBC, and thus likely in period costume and with all too many significant pauses and general overacting’

    Now here is a case of writer’s block so extreme one has learned to worry that the BBC might muck things up and turn it into a Masterpiece Theater! Given that these are the remarks of someone obsessed with not being able to get into print, I can ONLY assume that it’s the BBC’s problem at not being able to scare up some ‘fresh material’. Jesus fucking christ, as Carmeal would say…The FRIGHTFUL prospect of ‘GENERAL OVERACTING’, esp. considering you’d have access to the best actors in the world.

    ‘Ah me.’

    Simply astounding the loss felt by all parties. I mean–what would he have to settle for, Carmen de Sautoy or Susannah York in an aging role? Why doesn’t he just cut to the chase, and like Nero, scream ‘Ah me! What an artist the world has lost in me!’ (might not be perfect quote). This kind of endless psychiaty-plus-writer’s block talk always reminds me of Georgia O’Keeffe talking about one of her colleauges ‘having no courage. You cannot expect to do anyhthing of importance in the Arts without courage.’ Like my ex-girlfriend, he would much rather talk about the symptoms of writer’s block than write, except for blawging for fans.

    Another example of what you two are talking about in the violence videogame aspect of The Sopranos is especially apparent when they do something like grind up one of their victims. I remember the arch attitude Imperiole was made to project during this. On the other hand, what the show DID do in the ‘making lovable’ area, was show that these really are real people, so that the domesticities are NOT any more sinister than anyone else’s, exccept for Carmela’s constant troubles with her conscience-and in this way, Carmela is truly an interesting and new character, far more so than Dr. Melfi (although that’s virtuoso acting too, since she has to do a monotone week after week, and it always feels like being in Paramus Mall), because the people really are not all bad, they find themselves in these circumstances and deal with it and compromise with their plight the best they can. They make Tony a buffoon, but that is not as interesting as the fact that Carmela tries to normalize things IMO. And to some degree, she succeeds, because the lives of those people is NOT as cut off from the rest of the world as audiences not within ALSO want to think.

  30. A couple of things. First, my initial post was a bit off base. I hadn’t thoroughly read your post, otherwise I would have realized that your quote from Jameson said pretty much the exact same thing I was saying: the flattening of culture has been going on since the Bauhaus, and WWII was the catalyst for its universalization.

    In the vein of your comments about the 00’s, however, I think our conversation on Lost from a few months back is somewhat enlightening. In particular, looking at acting now as opposed to 1990 shows some pretty interesting transformations: pseudo-meaning in every gesture is something new to the decade. In the clip below, Evangeline Lilly foreshadows events with every gesture. When the door knocks, she looks at it with “nervous eyes,” saying: Something bad is going to happen. She opens the door foreshadowing that the lawyers she is talking to are bad people. Then, she adopts the low-timbre voice that all actors now adopt when something bad is going on, the raspy, toneless voice that signifies bad things. Compare this to David Duchovny’s flat emotionless portrayal of Mulder in the X-Files. This is not classical soap opera acting, but rather, foreshadowing through gesture. Every gesture ties back to the plot, and the plot is intended simply to keep us engaged.

  31. Patrick Says:

    Realized while outside Novels R’n’t Us may have been being oh-so-arch, which is all the more reason why he’ll never have to worry about the overacting at the BBC. Just endless complaining. I remember as far back as 1979 someone asking me, ‘Does Diane want the shrink to write her dissertation for her?’ the answer was, she wanted to think that’s what she didn’t want him to do, that also he would really help her write it, or make her write it; but that she really only went to him because he basically told her ‘you don’t have to write it’. This kins of analysand is boring beyond belief, and AWP is following in the tradition nicely. About like when Diane was worrying about when her ‘Swan Lake’ with Baryshnikov AND Nureyev ‘might not be practicable.’. Always important to keep the superciliousness not only when you can’t produce, but also when you can’t even dio the supercilious attitude well. So we know that the true dillettante is safe, even if the exquisitely sad unproductive writer and is indulging in a most graceless melancholy, when we find that he knows how to turn up his nose at BBC professionals. THAT beats all. Plus, ‘I Don’t Wanna Be a Professor’ was in evidence as well recently. I am in disbelief that I used to post there and think there was anytning at all. So the ‘tongue-in-cheek was just meta-blawging, the whole secret to why he can’t write any thing worth printing (except that he also only wants it printed as a Prestige Item) because published works have not strated imitating meta-blawging in all cases yet. Poor baby. Will have to learn patience, although we cannot expect that he will EXUDE patience in the interim.

  32. lecolonelchabert Says:

    “you can see it in how the wire keeps getting compared to balzac/dickens ”

    This phenomenon is interesting because it is the publicist’s achievement and it seems to me rather daring and successful against great odds. The show’s salesmen and principles did excellent marketing for a show that failed with the audience (because it’s derivative and poorly made though really brilliantly performed, cast with fablously charismatic character actors); the marketing team did not give up and turned the failure into a DVD selling point (it’s too good for a mass audience, too “literary”, too “real”, to dissident). I don’t think any non professional audience would produce that comparison (to those novels, or to any novel), certainly not without the really insistent prompting – in fact I would imagine the ordinary audience notices the resemblance to videogame but hesitates to mention this when expressing delight. This judgement about The Wire, which came from its producers and salesmen, is a frankly absurd comparison, (no one every elaborates on it – it remains vague, slyly suggesting too obvious to need description) but the marketing team were wise enough to know they could suggest it to the shills of the review pages who could safely and successfully repeat it because they were writing for people who would not know if it were true – people with no familiarity at all with balzac and little or no familiarity with dickens – but who would be attracted by that slogan or line for one reason or another, and more attracted to it the more it became a slogan or cliché which needed to be apologised for when reasserted: “I know it’s tired to say…but it _really_ is…” Something makers of shampoo ads decades ago discovered was appealing though no one knows why. This worked for the Obama campaign too. When the satisfaction is so great even the hard to please consumers are unashamedly voluneer salesmen, the product must be _that good_ and the recalcitrant and dubious can only be cynics.

    Yes “take a walk”, incredible. Opening Night is amazing too. I though “Another Woman” and “Interiors” were women hating films, though very engaging and “Interiors” especially observant; that’s a film I’ve heard ferocious arguments about between the camp who see the family as Jewish aspiring to Goyishness, thus the intensity of the mother’s “good taste” sickness and the intensity of the horror of Stapleton, and those who see them as actually Goyim.

  33. darling you didn’t tell me the action moved to this joint! and with the dark diva present as well!

    traxus i sort of meditated on the same subject with patrick when i suddenly thought that good pomo narratives like lynch’s stuff don’t really dispense with modernism (linearity, closure, engagement) but rather reveal it to have a third, or better to say, fourth dimension. although this will inevitably result in a stasis, this can just mean that things are expanding in ANOTHER dimension, not yet articulated, but coming closer. patrick is upset by the echo-chamber effect, but in his upset he points to this: the difference between the 80s rehashes and the 80s originals is that they’re somehow fuller of sound, resonating and reverberating endlessly.

    so there could still be hope for some way out of the quagmire, although i find myself equally upset by the general developments.

  34. Patrick Says:

    patrick is upset by the echo-chamber effect, but in his upset he points to this: the difference between the 80s rehashes and the 80s originals is that they’re somehow fuller of sound, resonating and reverberating endlessly

    No, I’m not upset about them, because they’re not NEARLY the only thing going on. of course, they are as sclerotic as possible, with all the paralysis that inheres therein. They’re all about musical hypnosis, and also lack of discipline, that is NOT dead a la modernisme. People say these tedious Latour bullshits, unbelievable in fact, because THEY themselves are too lazy to have found modernist discipline (or some other kind of discipline, even those I don’t agree with, it”s better than some endless drone, with the blawg parallel to those decomposing musical drones being NOVELS R’N’T Us! endlless FARTING away about something you think you should do (write a great novel, because you teach people about great novels, and you think the people who wrote the great novels are better then you, the teacher–but you should just do your own job, what YOU are good at) , and not even realizing that the one thing you DO NOT want to do is write a great novel, precisely because IF YOU CANNOT, it’s NOT YOUR JOB. This incredible spoiled-bratness has long been the province of ‘cr’, and I have been especially retarded in seeing it.

    Yes, this is an excellent thread, and as traxus will especially note, reflects the excellent good offices of Erda, who has succeeded in cross-pollinating the best blawgs, executed by me and agreed to be traxus, who has had the most similar experience in vast blawg perticipation that I have.

  35. I am especially impressed by the sheer vertiginous PASSION of Arpege’s comments on THE WIRE; not since Laura Mulvey has there been such a strong indictment of male-chauvinistic fixation on violence for the sake of violence, and the shallowness of it all. As I was reading the lines, I felt the weight of Arpege’s SHEER CHARACTER pouring out of my flat monitor:

  36. traxus4420 Says:

    “no one every elaborates on it – it remains vague, slyly suggesting too obvious to need description”

    i remember when the show first came out i thought it was boring (not big on procedurals) and skipped over it to the sopranos. was weird how it catapulted back like it did. but the vagueness of the literary comparison hasn’t stopped it from getting academic cred ostensibly on these grounds — here’s a class. i swear i’ve seen balzac, dickens, and the wire together in the titles of conference papers, though content-wise a version of jamesonian realism is really what it most often gets linked to (even if not in so many words) — here’s jeff kindle and alberto toscano via infinite thought on the wire and cognitive mapping. their take on the bodie chess scene:

    The opacity of domination and exploitation also transpires from the sympathetic concern of the show with ‘the hell of middle management’, to use Simon’s expression. ‘Middle management’ – in each of the world’s depicted, mid level dealers, police lieutenants, head of a stevedore local, sub-editors – can be seen, in terms of the power/knowledge couple as that domain which is both complicit with the corrupting reproduction of an iniquitous system, meaning that middle management has enough power to compromise itself, but not enough to effect any meaningful transformations, and is only allowed as much knowledge as will allow it to function without calling higher echelons into question. Hence The Wire’s potent portrayal of institutional life in urbanized capitalism as a form of tragedy. As Simon notes: ‘What we were trying to do was take the notion of Greek tragedy, of fated and doomed people, and instead of these Olympian gods, indifferent, venal, selfish, hurling lightning bolts and hitting people in the ass for no reason—instead of those guys whipping it on Oedipus or Achilles, it’s the postmodern institutions . . . those are the indifferent gods’ (17). This tragic impotence before the ‘Gods’ of late capitalism is reflected in the frustrations, betrayals, neuroses and humour of almost all the characters, but perhaps receives no better summary than the line voiced by the young ‘middle manager’ of the corner, Bodie who, having in an earlier episode been taught chess by a slightly senior D’Angelo Barksdale by analogy with the organizational structure of their drug operation, says to McNulty, during a melancholic and contemplative meeting at a Baltimore garden: ‘This game is rigged, we be like them little bitches [pawns] on the chessboard’.

    a kind of trans-class ‘middle management’ perspective, from which capitalism = quasi-gnostic tragedy — is this what the show produces instead of models for identification/phobia? the foucault comparison sounds apt, it sounds like the same antisocial/hypostasized view of capitalism that you (chabert) criticize now and again. having seen almost none of the show, that’s probably about as far as i can go with this particular example. can’t help though but be excited by the prospect of ‘mapping’ the social being put back on the table as an objective for narrative, whatever the wire’s failings.

  37. traxus4420 Says:

    “NOVELS R’N’T Us! endlless FARTING away about something you think you should do”

    yes, but when he’s not doing this he has some insightful things to say — there were some posts on video games a while back that were pretty good — sadly it seems his commenters are pushing him to reveal his more embarrassing side — wonder if it’s a similar audience as asks graham harman for career advice.

    “the lives of those people is NOT as cut off from the rest of the world as audiences not within ALSO want to think.”

    that’s a good point — seems to be a correlation between ‘epic’ crime sagas and geographic fixity/claustrophobia — things always felt weird when the sopranos went too far outside new jersey (like the italy episodes) — and according to the above article the wire characters have a tough time exiting baltimore. may just be you notice it when it’s played as ‘epic saga’ and not just normal procedural’s where it’s not an issue (and if they’re really feeling hemmed in they can just do a spin-off a la CSI).

  38. traxus4420 Says:

    “darling you didn’t tell me the action moved to this joint!”

    uh oh.

    “somehow fuller of sound, resonating and reverberating endlessly” they just crank up the bass and add reverb. some of the new stuff is good, some not. but is any of it NEW and REVOLUTIONARY. is this not the true question.

  39. traxus4420 Says:

    alex, what always occurs to me when i’m around network TV series like Lost is how soothing it all is — the deep, digitally enhanced vocal timbre, the bland prettiness of the actors — wouldn’t be surprised if the producers borrowed techniques from hypnotists.

    a history of modernist formalisms that didn’t take their radicality or anti-radicality for granted would be something i’d like to read.

  40. Patrick Says:

    sadly it seems his commenters are pushing him to reveal his more embarrassing side

    That’s certainly what he wants you to think. He’s interested me in the past, but I’m surprised to take his self-pity seriously, because that’s what it is. OTOH, I certainly spent a couple of years imagining he had charisma–until I found out it was based on his endless desire to KEEP TALKING ABOUT why he won’t use his real name. So we find out it’s because he wants to get out of academia and is afraid someone will ‘find out’. The discussions of how important it was never to reveal his true identity, and then ‘I’m thinking about using my real name’ have been going on for years. He’s sabotaged himself. I used to think he was one of the most interesting blawgers. He’s not. As we know, people have left academia before and it has made them all the more interesting. But you don’t do it by ‘skulking away’, fearful of punishment. ONe of his commenters said he’d googled and found out who the ‘precious name’ was. He hadn’t been severely overwhelmed, as it were. It’s a non-racy and unglamorous form of narcissism. Narcissism has to done with brazennness of style and it has to be FEARLESS, as it is practised either by me or Ms. Streisand, who will throw the Brooklyb Fucking Bridge at you…otherwise, it will not work. Nevermind that people think narcissism is ‘bad’ to begin with. If you’re like that, you might as well get as much mileage as you can…

    ‘what always occurs to me when i’m around network TV series like Lost is how soothing it all is — the deep, digitally enhanced vocal timbre, the bland prettiness of the actors — wouldn’t be surprised if the producers borrowed techniques from hypnotists’

    Now THAT is interesting, and one in which I imagine Mlle. Arpege and I are probably both different. I was recently writing on the ballet forum that I finally realized that I thought ‘television really is UGLY’. It does NOT look like film, it has hard, harsh, garish colours, and I’m not sure HOW one approaches this. The very interiors are a different colour scheme FAMILY from what you find in feature films. And take newscasts, all the harshest, hardest colours. France Deux is softer, letting the women wear sleeveless dresses and look lovely, remember when the women all wore fire engine red blazers and Madeleine Allbright hard-blue suits? But even Italian television, which always has very decorative people, has a hard look to it, so I find it interesting that you would find it ‘soothing’. that makes me know that I never had a television addiction, or better, never had to ‘cut down on my television’, because I really don’t find it soothing, but jarring–and aurally as well as visually. I think Mademoisslle will know what I mean, even if I’ve said it a bit roughly. But even my previous example was sufficient: ‘Gloria’ is a visual pleasure to look at, even when it’s rough parts of the Bronx. The Sopranos STILL looks just like Television. I’ve never discussed this, and only realized recently that it might really be something. Dejan and I were talking about the Bette Midler early 90s ‘Gypsy’, that is another example of a kind of ‘television show set’, wich colours you’d never find in a movie, and all you have to do is look at the old movie with Roz Russell to see the difference. There is a softness and harmoniousness to film colour (most of the time), even when it’s violent and about ugly things. There’s a hardness to television, and a flatness to the actors’ voices, at least in series, that is MEANT to be smaller, I think, for one thing, but you find it in comedy sitcome as well as crime dramas. NYPD Blue used to look fairly good, but never beautiful. It’s like a certain kind of actor will look ‘bigger’ for television, will not usually have that ‘bigger than life’ quality (even though few film actors do now either, that’s not the vogue, there aren’t many Liam Neessons and Carole Bouquets), hence Jennifer Anniston is ALWAYS a TV star even if she’s in a movie–loved by the public for being ‘life-size? I’m not sure. I’m using the computer for DVD (much better sound than TV, at least mine), but with rare exceptions (prez debates, Obama speeches), I’ll use the TV only for vhs, and when I flick off the film, the contrast is very stark between what I see on Channel 2 ,
    and what I’ve just been watching (almost without exception). My roommate was a while back in an episode of ‘Life on Mars’ and I thought it was fucking godawful, even with Keitel. These banal actors with pinched voices, and then I read on TPM that Josh Marshall thinks this is really an ‘intriguing show’. Lord, if ‘intriguing’ has not become the most tiresome word I can think of.

  41. Patrick Says:

    Okay, after this, enough about other blawgers, we’ll keep that at CPC, but the following is better than the O’Keeffe example, which isn’t fleshed out enough, and is within the context of a Didion essay. The choreographer Agnes De Mille did a few fairly important works for ABT, but is mostly remembered for her work on Broadway, especially her ground-breaking work for ‘Oklahoma!’. This kind of thing HAS to be appropriate for anyone even today, if they really expect to find anything worth expressing, however lesser it may be because of current technological circumstance. Even this seems off-topic, but only because it seems old-fashioned to say what is clearly 100% true. Naturally, Martha Graham’s serious works are much greater when looked at objectively than Agnes De Mille’s, but THAT is the breaks. You have to work with what you have, or you really don’t work with anything at all. So these ladies were close friends, and the more immense artist tells the less confident one the only possible thing that needed to be said. She didn’t thereby need to ‘leesen’ her own prodigious gift, but rather to point out that gifts are different, and you have to find out what yours is and not say ‘well, mine is not as good as hers, but it SHOULD be. No, it should just be which one is yours, So, just these words of wisdom:

    “According to Agnes de Mille: “I was bewildered and worried that my entire scale of values was untrustworthy. … I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be. Martha said to me, very quietly,”

    ‘”There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others”‘ “

  42. Patrick Says:

    No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others”‘ “

    I should add that this last part is less profound outside its immediate context (another successful artist who is ‘jealous’ of a greater one). I was emphasizing the matter of ‘one’s own’. Frankly, nothing ever really gets beyond the absolute truth of ’tis a poor thing, but one’s own’. Except that before Martha reduces it to ‘artists’ (because she is talking to another one), it’s about what IS one’s own. And however rich or poor, still ’tis a poor thing but one’s own.’ It’s possible that there is a part of even those of us who feel richest and most blessed think at least some part of ‘our own’ is ‘a poor thing’. Maybe some people’s own best, least poor thing is blawging–but metablawging about what one ought to be INSTEAD is not of interest to anyone, and is a form of ‘the world will not have it’. Things that are sealed off and then talked about are not ‘poor things that are one’s own’. Strange that the reason Martha’s words sound so antiquated is not because they are less true than when she said them, but that they seem almost inaccessible even as a BEGINNING POINT when one is faced with these simulations with all their rootlessness and their flattened-out sounds–Maybe the truth is not that those words are outmoded but that the sound of the Roland TR808 is not really a sound. But that still would not mean that sound had been destroyed, that all ‘organizing principles’ were like that. Maybe a lot of them are, but not all? I don’t know, but don’t think so, else I should have perished by now, and little wonder had I and others. But we didn’t yet.

  43. lecolonelchabert Says:

    Simon: “it’s the postmodern institutions . . . those are the indifferent gods’ ”

    heheh. except of course Time Warner. The postmodern institution, breaker of chains, liberator of promethean capital, par excellence. The local government is an inescapable doom of human aspirations, but Time Warner lets U Be U. At least if U are speyshul and smart. Simon seyz of the institution to which his personal career and financial interests are currently tied: “On HBO it’s like, “We’re in it for the long haul. Tell the story in a smart way and we will bring people into the tent or we will die trying.” Isn’t that touching? They’re like an NGO almost. God bless that institution and the rugged truly free agents it nourishes and protects.

    I kind find anyone willing to explain in what way it is like a novel. That toscano thing seems to concede to the usual vague insistence but then quickly retracts it: “Critics have compared the series to the great Victorian novel in its attention to detail, realism, sophisticated character development, and focus on urban depravation (‘Dickensian’ is a common adjective and one which the show appears to mock in season 5). Dickens and the works like Balzac’s La Comédie Humaine or Zola’s Les Rougon-Macquart can certainly be seen as influences on a show where the term ‘novel television’ is appropriate…” but then “The Wire has an extraordinarily open narrative structure. Not only are many scenes superfluous to the main narrative, it is difficult to ascertain what the main narrative actually is. The various plot lines have only mild resolution and the fate of many characters is unascertainable. While traditional narrative locates causal agency at the level of individual characters, in The Wire the weight of the system, which we could perhaps cursorily define as late capitalism and its institutions, assumes causal agency as an antagonist”

    That’s the shift you noted above, and i guess this reveals why it’s convenient to pretend now that “traditional narrative locates causal agency at the level of individual characters” (what tradition is that?) so its new and exciting for HBO to be offering narrative in which “the weight of the system”…etc. But then, this quality is also identified as (the new conception of) realism and, oddly, therefore, characteristic of traditional narrative. “Traditional narrative” and “the novel” split in that paragraph, when The Wire’s innovation is to be emphasised, and then come together again when it’s prestige is to be underlined. It’s actually an hilariously strained way of asserting that the Wire fits the eternal paradoxical demand of the entertainment executive: “give me something totally original, with a long track record of success.”

    Well here it is, the Wire – it’s totally original (‘traditional narrative’ locates cause in individual characters and this invents the notion that structured social relations generate narrative) with a long track record of success (the great 19th century novel also discovers causes in structured relations…plus there’s even more elite influence, neo-Realist cinema, etc..)

    It’s like the academic paper that Ben Stiller devise for a vignette, like the academic reaction the series creator gets in his fantasy/dream sequence of _total unprecedented success_.

  44. lecolonelchabert Says:

    that Ben Stiller _might_ devise for a vignette

  45. lecolonelchabert Says:

    but honestly there also seems to be some real confusion – that’s kind of hard to imagine being genuine, but who knows – between the narrative and the things that happen to the characters (the imaginary referent). So that there seems to be a confusion between Simon’s avowed anti-institutional polemic in thre show – a programme which “argues” that institutions trap their middle managers and thwart them – and the actual narrative structure of the show and the role of the characters in inciting the scenes and story. In fact the Wire is “true” to its genres (cop show, western, soap opera) in that the individual characters actiond do drive and generate the story. The story then delivers its “message” that institutions contain people – real people, the imagined individual who is the imaginary referent and model of “Stringer Bell” – but there’s no case here that the character “Stringer Bell”‘s individual choices and actions (the deployment of the typical topoi: to go straight, to eliminate rivals, etc) generates the narrative. The narrative is nothing but the account of individuals writhing in the toils of forces which thwart their exercise of personal will. It is therefore an exceedingly individual-action-caused narrative (more than Moby Dick or War and Peace or The Red and The Black surely). That’s seperate from the “message” which is that they’ll fail, these attempts at the exertion of will against “the rules of the game”, which make up the narrative, will fail (“tragically”).

  46. lecolonelchabert Says:

    “no case here that the character “Stringer Bell”’s individual choices and actions (the deployment of the typical topoi: to go straight, to eliminate rivals, etc) generates the narrative”

    aargh, no case that this _doesn’t_ generate the narrative. clearly it is the narrative.

    narratives which are/appear generated by “institutions” or forms or rules rather than protagonists actions are really common; but that narrative may be “institutional” (say, the Castle of Crossed Destinies or Slumdog Millionaire or Creature Comforts or TransEurope Express or Ulysses) does not necessarily in itself deliver as content the suggestion that lives in the world are that way. (the idea that the narrative form of any fiction must be “standing in” for the form of human affairs, opining about that, is kind of new this decade i think; one of the last products of this decrepit poststructuralist theory. Before that i think it was usually offered as a contrast). The story of the thwarting (or near thwarting) of individuals by society is common, to say the least, in bourgeois fictions. Telling this story is easiest (most familiar) in narratives that are generated by realist characters’ actions rather than in narratives generated in other ways (Oulipo experiments, clips, Roussel’s method, surveillance camera/candid camera, any mode of leaving content “to chance” or subjecting it to a determining exterior model like say history, myth or legend).

  47. lecolonelchabert Says:

    (“I can’t find anyone willing to explain in what way it is like a novel. ” And it’s probably because the exploration of this would yield observations not suitable for the uncontrollable fanboy gush which seems to be motivating the analyses. You can see the hand of marketing on the throat of the “subversive” tv viewer commentator. All of a sudden this hipster ironic cultural critic is choking out that the Victorian novel is the most awesome product imaginable before moving pictures with sound, socially progressive, politically radical, ideologically neutral, just like sew greyt.)

  48. Traxus it seems especially difficult to get through to you when you’re wearing Missus’s chastity belt. What I was trying to communicate is that a part of the stasis presently visible in the ”new” media might be coming from the fact that things are progressing (including innovation) spatially. K-punk was very good on this in his analyses of Rihanna some time ago, and I was recently reminded of it listening to the spacious sound of Lady GaGa’s POKERFACE.

    And although Missus has more than one good point in her passionate analysis of The Wire, one must consider the crucial role of ANIMATION, whose aesthetic is very much present in all these modern media discourses. Grace Jones recently showed a good way of using this to socially critical ends (Shaviro was brilliant on that one), where the mutations and modulations of the singer in the video deployed animation’s central stylistic figures to undermine all fixed or ideological representation. This came very close to the fantastic works of Yugoslav politically subversive cartoons from the 1960s.

    Animation is operative in THE WIRE as well, and although I can’t provide a detailed analysis as I didn’t watch more than one or two episodes, it has its own rules, like any other language. I would not be too quick to despair about the loss of character and the like.

  49. darling, I have to confess I like this Ga Ga character more and more. Here she explains that the inspiration for Pokerface came when she was making love to her boyfriend and thinking about making love to a girl. I also like her trash porno style,

  50. lecolonelchabert Says:

    Another example – Mr Darcy has become an avatar in a Pride and Prejudice videogame played as spectator sport that is the series Lost in Austen. It’s in parts very funny and cute.

    It’s at first a little difficult to see how similar this and The Wire are, but they really are of an era, of a single sensibility and posture of culture commodity consumption. It is very very easy to imagine the avatars in the Wire going to meet the Darcys, Bennets and Bingleys in Lost in Austen – Omar Little and Darcy could talk for hours about their hobbyhorse, joined perhaps by Lieutenant Worf – and the avatars in Lost in Austen could go to The Wire’s Baltimore. Any teenager could carry out that writing assignment. They could all also confess their anxieties to the recent HBO shrinks.

  51. Using the usimdbcom’s handy keyword tool, you find Lost in Austen classified in the ”alternate reality” sub-genre to which movies like BACK TO THE FUTURE I-III, SOUTHLAND TALES and DONNIE DARKO belong, and in which the overlapping of the Moebius strip’s two sides, like the face of Carlotta Valdes over the face of Madeleine Elster in VERTIGO, produces this ghostly effect

    http://www.imdb.com/keyword/alternate-reality/

    I find it sort of logical that after the ”givens” of modernism have been officially declared defunct, people find themselves in a kind of an identity crisis, and all these stories seem to be about unstable identities and shifting subjectivities and the search for a grounding in an increasingly Deleuzian, free-flowing, networked, unpredictable strange world.

    Strange what love does, Colonel.

  52. but my point is CHARACTER is still there, this is still Pride and Prejudice, and as I read on wikipedia it also has a plotline, and all, it’s just that through this sort of a SPATIAL, 3D effect we get the impression that the personalities are merely portals, very Deleuzian actually

  53. Patrick Says:

    traxus, had you known about this? I just spied it in my tediou8 daily letter from the other thanatophobes. Showing it in Brookline whould be almost like business parks in Ballard, and there will be plenty of people there already looking into living 5000-10000 years…Maybe already put some money down for all I know…

    “Ray Kurzweil will present an exclusive sneak preview of excerpts from the much-anticipated forthcoming movie “The Singularity Is Near” at The Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, Mass. on Monday, May 11 at 7:00 pm. The special program, An Evening with Ray Kurzweil, is part of the Coolidge Corner Theatre’s acclaimed Science on Screen series.

    Based on the book of the same title, the “The Singularity Is Near” film combines a documentary featuring Kurzweil interacting with leading thinkers on the impact of exponentially expanding technologies on the nature of human life in the next half century, and a drama featuring Ramona, an avatar created by Kurzweil, as she becomes increasingly humanlike and independent. She hires Alan Dershowitz (who plays himself) to press for her legal rights as a person, and receives coaching from Tony Robbins, who also plays himself, to learn the secret of what it means to be human.

    Kurzweil will also show the trailer of director Barry Ptolemy’s “Transcendent Man” documentary film, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last week, charting Kurzweil’s journey to bring his ideas about the Singularity to a worldwide audience.

    Kurzweil will discuss these films and give a presentation on their implications for the future, and will lead a question-and-answer session following his talk.

    With Science on Screen, the Coolidge showcases a feature film, documentary, or preview based in science, paired with exciting presentations by notable figures from the worlds of science, technology and medicine. Created by Richard Anders and launched in 2005, this monthly series is co-presented by the Museum of Science, Boston and New Scientist magazine.

    Tickets: $9.75 general admission; $7.75 students, seniors, and Museum of Science members; free to Coolidge Corner Theatre members. Tickets available online or at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard Street, Brookline, Mass, 617/734-2500.”

  54. Patrick Says:

    ‘sew greyt’

    Very useful (lol). I used to tell Diane about other metrosexuals ‘Oh, darling, he’s just Sauguet….’ (naturally, verbally I had to spell it out after pronouncing it…)

  55. Patrick Says:

    ‘all these stories seem to be about unstable identities and shifting subjectivities and the search for a grounding in an increasingly Deleuzian, free-flowing, networked, unpredictable strange world’

    I’ve noticed that the blawgs seem to be doing a lot of similar things right now, what started all this? It seems slightly less obvious than the beauty of the impingement of the Heath Ledger movie, but i haven’t even caught up on when all the same YouTubes started appearing on the blawgs last week. I definitely like to be at the end of the line, and catch the technology just before I get annihilated without it.

    All these new media have been interesting in the way they redefine what ‘avater’ and ‘Mr. Darcy’ mean. Recently when someone brought up ‘Mr. Darcy’, I thought they were talking about the novel, and maybe they were, but probably knew about ‘Lost in Austen’. I guess it started with ‘menu’, back in the 80s, and that freaked me out for about 6 years. and right now I am quite repelled by ‘Lost in Austen’. And here we have mademoiselle saying it’s ‘quite cute’. Oh lord, what”s gonna happen next?

  56. lecolonelchabert Says:

    “Based on the book of the same title, the “The Singularity Is Near” ”

    it’s a blessing it’s not “nigh”.

  57. traxus4420 Says:

    ok, i just want to say that this:
    “story of the thwarting (or near thwarting) of individuals by society is common, to say the least, in bourgeois fictions”

    is of course true, but what i was trying to get at with the way mapping is being used by toscano/kindle, is that they see the wire successfully (against others who see it as unsuccessful) employing the TV medium to reproduce for its viewers some critical theory of capitalism, one which the critics themselves presuppose, and this is the solution to a problem (the representation of the capitalist system under current conditions). so the ideal solution seems pre-existing, already possessed by the critic, and the show’s role is to translate that theoretical truth into the form of TV narrative, or come to the same conclusions by means of television instead of academic work. and then simon’s comments seem intended to validate that critical perspective — saying ‘yes this is a representation of capitalism,’ etc.

    anyway wheneever i hear anyone pose the reprentation of capitalism as a problem, i always wonder why it should be in aesthetic/narrative/visual form, what precisely is to be gained from this, why should narrative be subordinated to this end. it always seems instead that they’re setting themselves up to do this:

    “the idea that the narrative form of any fiction must be “standing in” for the form of human affairs, opining about that, is kind of new this decade i think”

    basically to do what eco identifies in his critique of overinterpretation, though in a way encouraged by the producers and marketers of the series.

  58. traxus4420 Says:

    i’d also really like to come back to this at some point, maybe in a future post:

    “of an era, of a single sensibility and posture of culture commodity consumption”

    could we begin to define that as: the staging of the manipulation of figures within an existing text as caused by something outside the text, creating an illusion that they were at some point ‘taken seriously’ as existing in-themselves — so that it is subversive to interrupt their normal functioning, and that ‘we’ and/or ‘our world’ is/are always involved in this, whether vicariously or in the sense of its referencing a higher reality.

  59. traxus4420 Says:

    i hadn’t heard about the kurzweil thing, patrick — to be honest it looks like the kind of thing i wouldn’t go to unless someone were paying me to cover it…the new age associations of all this immortality dreamery are too much to take…

    i think i can see why you would think of TV’s digital ugliness as harsh, given your explanation — for me the bad editing and colors and all of that adds up to an experience not unlike channel flipping or watching ads for a really long time. it inevitably creates numbness after a while and i’m probably primed to key into that right away, though i don’t watch it anymore. sopranos definitely looks like TV — i don’t understand the people who try to sell it as filmlike.

  60. traxus4420 Says:

    dejan, i’m usually on board with k-punk about the music he likes — it’s weird that you would bring up rihanna to convince me, which is the moment i began losing confidence in his tastemaking. not that she’s not fun to listen to but the sort of elevated hyping just started to wear really thin at that point. maybe it was easier to take when he was giving that treatment to less obscure artists.

    i’m sorry, but lady gaga is crap-o-la. it just sounds like watered-down britney to me. why get excited about a porn look on a pop star when actual pornstars are showing up in soderbergh movies? m.i.a., roisin murphy, robyn, even rihanna, all worlds better.

    patrick may find these indistinguishable, but as far as dance music goes thisand this are some of the more effective recent updates of electro, in my opinion.

    the grace jones song/video is great and all, but you have to get that to pretend to “undermine all fixed or ideological representation” through aesthetic form is probably the contemporary ideological move par excellence, and is at any rate not some sort of insta-radicalism.

  61. traxus4420 Says:

    “I’ve noticed that the blawgs seem to be doing a lot of similar things right now, what started all this?”

    i thought this was what blogs were always about?

  62. Patrick Says:

    I think I find them distinguishable, but probably not for the right reasons. Some gamelan sounds (presumably on synthesizer on first), and this is a HOT video, the guys toward the end move like I’ve started doing recently, and the girl is beautiful, because exotic and looks tranny but also not. Very sexy piece. Some clever fingerwork in the second, but I’ve no more patience for Ms. Castle’s Microphone Fellatio than I do Lady Gaga–just looked like heroin use to me. Better music, BUT…as video, she kept reminding me of Michael Jackson, I don’t know, decomposing or something…I don’t think that much of Rihanna either. Hasn’t she been in the scandals recently?

    I wouldn’t see the Kurzweil movie either, but what IS interesting is that they would make a movie of that book, which is not fake science. Cynical in a way, because they are probably aware of what they’re doing, knowing they need to publicize as much as possible–Kurzweil is mainstream, let’s face, Bill Clinton and Bill Gates big fans, K. was on Barbara Walters (I wish I had watched that, that would have been good, because Ms. Walters would have turned it into something, most likely, not for certain, but better than what Oprah could have done with something like this, which is slightly weird, but also has its attractive details. The ‘immortality dreamery’ is not the hardcore part, certainly not at this point; that’s how you draw them in. The hardcore is trying to get radical life-extension going with the technology, because his science is not snake oil, even if he’s just a nerd that wants to quit having to be thanatophobic. God know, I’m NOT convinced, though, that any of it really can work in a spectacular way, if he can’t even get plastic surgery worth paying attention to. At least Ms. Walters, at 79, looks fabulous, and saw her at the theater 2 years ago, hers had really worked. I bet she wanted to ask K. about why he wants to look like Bill Maher…and, you see, Arpege is right to point out the ‘near’ as opposed to the ‘nigh’, but ‘near’ is ALSO a term the smarter types would use. ‘Nigh’ would be more a ‘left behind’ loon kind of thing to say. Kurzweil is not stupid, even though he’s dull and unattractive.

    Well, I just thought they had started doing almost EXACTLY the same things right now, but maybe not.

  63. Patrick Says:

    I mean, like, there’s this TRENDY aspect to blawgs. Did Latour whistle a little Krishna tune about the modernism, I hadn’t heard anybody going on about it tilll last week, now Carl Dyke and Latour trying to sound compelling with being quoted as something about ‘we were never modern’. So what is he making a living on, French Fashionability in the pre-never-was Modern? Plus, everybody is uploading more and more YouTubes, 4 or 5 at a time, and then they’re just rhizomatizing and viralizing in this really just icky-poo PoMo way, while trying not to be PoMo or something. It is just such a fucking mess, that you have this meshlke blawg texture that could be turned into an artwork to go along with Artwork-Jounal’s new show featuring Force As It Rules on the Internet (as Well as Elsewhere). Shoule be just sooooo arresting…

    I just watched the ‘Pass this on’ again. That boy that dances with the girl is really a HOT mover, plus this time I heard these wonderful chirping sounds that come in, it sounds a little like Peking Opera, very beautiful. Weird office setting, looks like a sweatshop in the Garment District.

  64. lecolonelchabert Says:

    thanks traxus “toscano/kindle, is that they see the wire successfully (against others who see it as unsuccessful) employing the TV medium to reproduce for its viewers some critical theory of capitalism”

    I looked at the whole essay and as far as I can tell,their verdict is that it fails.

    but the stark choice between “individual causality” and “systems” as causal belongs to videogames, no? The puzzling paragraph about “traditional narrative” and “the novel” becomes a little clearer if we understand it to refer to videogames: “traditional narrative” means space invaders and pacman and “the novel” means role playing games, sim city and the sims and the like.

    “could we begin to define that as: the staging of the manipulation of figures within an existing text as caused by something outside the text, creating an illusion that they were at some point ‘taken seriously’ as existing in-themselves — so that it is subversive to interrupt their normal functioning, and that ‘we’ and/or ‘our world’ is/are always involved in this, whether vicariously or in the sense of its referencing a higher reality.”

    okay.

    that illusion of what the “normal functioning” is (inside the text) and the social functioning of the text, too, seems especially important.

    suppose that though this is really about mass produced corporate owned digivideo specifically, and nothing else. that these products have specificity and just aren’t plugged into some “broader culture” or ideological climate or anything like that with mutual uninhibited flows. so say unlike features of the “postmodernism” that Jameson describes, which are all these aesthetic values and trends and the perspective/affects/postures/assumptions of “late capitalism” (an epoch encompassing everyone and everything) that generalise across all artforms and media and intellectual product (and belong to a world, perhaps, with “cultural forms”), this is really just about using the screen; there’s a new medium – the pc/internet – it’s got a return path. Television shows with intersticial ads or for subscription still exist, “story telling” in this form, closed and fixed, and in fact have more economic importance than ever, but they come into being now under the shadow of the new medium with its return path, which has influenced viewers postures and expectations and tastes. An early review of The Wire (of the first season dvd set), one which noted “the creators say the whole season is a single novel”, called the show “immersive” as well as “authentic”. Important qualities for simulations, for the products of the new medium. But lets say it only applies then to what’s on the little screen. It’s not a general “cultural” shift or taste shift, there is no general aesthetic trend. Novels may be unaffected by this, and painting, and live theatre and performance, lots of music. It’s about how we are with the screen, and maybe David Simon may even have wanted to write a novel for television but has probably spent more time in his life playing Grand Theft Auto and Burnout Paradise than reading novels and just a) doesn’t know much about novels and b) what he knows about them is entirely intertwined with his posture as video game consumer.

    are (the few) videogame players (who read them) reading novels also differently (is Les Rougon-Macquart “immersive” for them?)? And understanding reality differently? One of the things Wire fans seem to highlight as a sign of its brilliance and authenticity is that its elements can be depicted in the form of a web page with tabs at the top and dropdown menus. It’s like a website that way, and being like a website means being like “reality”.

    (I did read a really excellent genre novel _The Crimson Petal and the White_, Michel Faber, pomo historical, which had something very interesting and original in the opening, a rare second person opening chapter, and now that I think of it had a whiff of that, an ersatz-Victorian novel written under the shadow of the new medium, with its websites and videogames.)

  65. lecolonelchabert Says:

    By “I looked at the whole essay and as far as I can tell,their verdict is that it fails” I meant –

    “Here the inability of the officers to wrap their head around this relation between the street gang and the world of international finance [which they see in Stringer Bell’s copy of The Wealth Of Nations which he’s reading for the business class he’s taking at college] is an epistemological limit shared by the show itself. This is perhaps more of a hindrance in understanding what is happening in Baltimore than in other US cities because as Harvey has noted, the banking industry has long had an inordinate impact on the city’s development (2001: 147-50). While this inability could obviously be seen as a failure of The Wire’s aesthetic of cognitive mapping, it can also be seen as an inevitable aesthetic and epistemological barrier. It is this double sense of blockage that we would like to emphasize: not only does The Wire dramatize and use as a backdrop the failure of the worker’s movement and of reformers to dull the blade of neoliberalism hacking up contemporary American cities, it also stages the failure of individuals caught within this situation – police, drug dealers, mayors, and directors – to adequately understand and master the forces at play. In other words, rather than thinking it as a successful mapping of the uneven urban development of capitalist accumulation and its social effects, The Wire could be seen as dramatising the struggles of any critical or political ‘will to know’ in the current ideological and institutional dispensation.”

    once they resort to “inevitable barrier”, i think they’ve conceded they’re engaged in the opportunistic deployment of nonsense. but I guess this could be suggesting that this is accurate cartography of “the struggles of any…political ‘will to know'” in the city of Baltimore and by extension in the whole land o’ “capitalism” it’s “mapping” “represents” excepting that small area around the lecture hall in which this is being advanced. (in which case it’s just accepting a hoary old brazenly propagandistic vision as truthful.)

  66. lecolonelchabert Says:

    (If I’m not mistaken what the contention is there is that this HBO serial is dramatising and staging it’s own failure to justify the claims and interpretation in the rest of the essay. which i think is something one would only find asserted about this type of culture product, tv shows.)

  67. Patrick Says:

    heard these wonderful chirping sounds that come in, it sounds a little like Peking Opera, very beautiful.

    I knew i wasn’t exactly sharp on this, because those female sounds that come in, I believe toward the end are not with that catlike sound of Peking Opera (which I adore, and have seen in person as well as on film, there is nothing else like it, although Shanghai Opera exists too, I doubt I’d be able to tell the difference, not knowing it that well). But the enchantment of those birdlike voices is really more like what I heard in the Tahitian Evangelical Church twice: These were a capella untrained singers and they all could sing on pitch. I hardly ever heard anything so beautiful, and the men could do the same thing, they would alternate, not sing together. This was not that popular with the touritsts, who would rather go to those big faux-nativre shows, but these ladies and men could sing old Protestant hymns and make you cry, it was so exquisite. The birdlike sounds on ‘Pass This On’ are somewhat like this. Other folkish musics like those of the Inuits have some of this quality, but it’s not quite as Eastern as I was thinking last night, but it’s a sweeter sound than you find in the Appalaching Sacred Harp singing, which is full of parallel fifths and medievalisms which had long become forbidden in mainstream Western music. It’s beautiful too, but less ‘sweet’ in a very literal sense to the ear than the Polynesian. It is interesting how people adapt to music that is either thrust on them, as the Protestant humns on the Pllynesians (they merely add a dimension to it it didn’t have before, as if redeeming the brutality of the Christian missionaries by finally making their insipid songs sound like heaven), or the hillbiillies, who in being away from urban civilization, fall back naturally into medieval harmonic practice which also suits their primitive sensibilities. On the other hand, early black jazz in New Orleans does not become more primitive, because the ears are hearing sophisticated cosmopolitan sounds (even Gottschaulk was down there, I believe), so they came up with something new in the jazz, but the harmonies themselves are not primitive or medieval, are more like meanstirem urban American or European harmony, whether in classical or popular musical forms.

  68. traxus4420 Says:

    chabert — sorry, “as far as I can tell,their verdict is that it fails” — that was my bad — what i should have added was (and this is apparent in the chunk you quote) their definition of success is once again jameson’s — though it’s an implicit connection. in the early theorization of cognitive mapping that they quote from, jameson begins by stating that cognitive mapping as he defines it (the linkage of global theory to local practice — and in that sense the defeat of the representational map’s claim to adequacy) doesn’t exist yet, and expresses uncertainty that it ever could. his (frankfurt-ian, negative) theory of utopia is what includes the “dramatising the struggles of any critical or political ‘will to know’ in the current ideological and institutional dispensation” bit. i don’t know if there’s a missing link somewhere in jameson’s oeuvre, but they seem to supply one here: cognitive mapping is utopian. they certainly defend the wire against deniers (John Kraniauskas) and furthermore as the best there is.

    thinking about this: “really about mass produced corporate owned digivideo specifically, and nothing else” — hopefully get back — at this point i’m not sure how it could be just that and nothing else, given how all major culture production centers loop back into it (thinking now of your comments on that zombie remix of jane austen).

  69. traxus4420 Says:

    yeah the Knife video is pretty hot — thanks for those comments on it, opens up some of the music — had just categorized it as ‘island-y’ or ‘hawaiian night at cheap dance club’ — their more recent stuff is closer to the spooky sci-fi vibe that you don’t like so much but dejan should probably look at (lots of ANIMATION too in the videos).

    i have a post a few back on latour — don’t like him much at all, neither style (have you ever tried to read it?) nor content. consists mainly of these annoying provocative reversals: ‘we have never been modern’ that just rebrand what it is to be modern.

  70. Patrick Says:

    ‘we have never been modern’ that just rebrand what it is to be modern.

    Yeah, that’s what I thought, well said. No, before having to out me on not reading Latour, I plead guilty and don’t plan to read him! I suppose it’s making the rounds of the blawgs so ‘powerfully’ because of the Harman ‘explosion onto the scene….tee hee…a toute a l’heure

  71. thanks traxus, iirr, spivak asked him if cognitive mapping was just a new label for class consciousness and he said yeah.

    as for the essay, there’s an obvious confusion:

    it’s given that:

    “The works that would emerge under the banner of this aesthetic would allow individual subjects and collectivities to understand their local situation in a globalised world: ‘to enable a situational representation on part of the individual subject to that vaster and properly unrepresentable totality which is the ensemble of society’s structures as a whole’(6). While the works emerging under the aesthetic of cognitive mapping would not merely be didactic or pedagogical, they would necessarily also be didactic or pedagogical. While Jameson’s text remained speculative, as he claimed that no such works had yet been produced and that he could not even imagine what their formal characteristics might be, The Wire can be understood as one the most cogent attempts at producing a work classifiable under such an aesthetic.”

    but

    “The sheer length of the show allows for a depth that other ‘cognitive mapping’ films cannot possibly approach and it allows it to move away from an anthropomorphic narrative centred upon the trials and tribulations of a single character ”

    So there are other “cognitive mapping” films, and the exaples given are Syriana, Traffic, and Lord of War. These are chosen to represent “the aesthetic cognitive mapping” not because they in any way strive toward or exhibit projects which have anything to do with what Jameson said and the essay quotes (very very very much the contrary) but because they sort of trace some commercial movement “over the [world] map”. and The Wire too is categorised as “cogn itive mapping” because its easy to represent its elements it graphically (hierarchies in institutions, east side west side, etc – the authors note that it represents baltime “verticallly and horizontally” and this evocation of space is supposed to be how it’s identified as “cognitive mapping” at all.

    I think Jameson is sort of unfortunate in his choice of neologisms since people tend to take them this way (political unconscious as psychoanalytic, cognitive mapping as a kind of cartography not just using cartography as a metaphor for the kind of subjective mastery cartography implies)

  72. “anyway wheneever i hear anyone pose the reprentation of capitalism as a problem, i always wonder why it should be in aesthetic/narrative/visual form”

    yeah this is the question. because if we have Syriana as an attempt at “cognitive mapping”, and then the inevitable epistemological barrier to putting together narcotraffick and finance in the Wire, then obviously the preoccupation here is wishing for television to do something that’s really a bit inexplicable. People can and do understand the relations of narcotrafficking and finance very well, and indeed its one of these things understood really well not just by the many people working in those linked industries – only professionals understand string theory – but in general, narcotrafficking and finance is something lots of people know and are concerned with. So if the characters on a tv show can’t understand it, and their creators can’t, its still likely the actors and audience can and do, and the “barrier” is in the tv show itself. Which would seem to be fine.

    So it’s not really news that nighttime cable soaps are not up to speed on this – they never have depicted human affairs especially usefully (to revolutionary communists) or insightfully. The thing about The Wire is if that essay, a forty five minute lecture, is it’s content, it’s “message”, it managed to get a few million people to listen to it for over fifty hours and still evidently need to have it explained again, spelled out, by experts in the audience, and even after that’s done, nobody has gotten any further than common knowledge about narcotrafficking and finance. What’s been gained is a finer understanding (for those needing this) of the limits of the HBO crime serial as news service, historiography, economics, agitprop, and sociology.

  73. dejan, i’m usually on board with k-punk about the music he likes — it’s weird that you would bring up rihanna to convince me, which is the moment i began losing confidence in his tastemaking. not that she’s not fun to listen to but the sort of elevated hyping just started to wear really thin at that point. maybe it was easier to take when he was giving that treatment to less obscure artists.

    i wasn’t trying to convince you of anything, just curb the inevitable FLOW of Sherbert’s panic against the oncoming videogamization of sassiety by saying that – as in the instance of Rihanna’s Umbrella – things may be developing in other directions, e.g. music that expans in space instead of progressing melodically or via some other formal innovation as you would have it in the modern times.

    i’m sorry, but lady gaga is crap-o-la. it just sounds like watered-down britney to me. why get excited about a porn look on a pop star when actual pornstars are showing up in soderbergh movies? m.i.a., roisin murphy, robyn, even rihanna, all worlds better.

    I downloaded the whole Gaga CD and hated it, but POKERFACE is good, it has that same spacious sound you find in UMBRELLA. I like your links, especially the David Bowie tranny who looks like Comrade Hatherley in a remake of Leningrad Cowboys.

    patrick may find these indistinguishable, but as far as dance music goes thisand this are some of the more effective recent updates of electro, in my opinion.

    the grace jones song/video is great and all, but you have to get that to pretend to “undermine all fixed or ideological representation” through aesthetic form is probably the contemporary ideological move par excellence, and is at any rate not some sort of insta-radicalism.

    I think the video is radical because it also among other things undermines itself by admitting that it is also just another instance of all-devouring Capital. I did not even think of suggesting that this is something radical, rather that critical art is still possible.

  74. i meant to say that this is something radical in the sense of possessing society transforming power

  75. what is Gaga cd

  76. Insightful post and replies. Yet all of this is premised on an unspoken definition of “culture” which is mystifying. I follow your micro-analyses of individual YouTube clips, and I like them. But exactly what is the overarching idea of culture being operationalized here? My confusion came to a head when “traditional” cultural practices were invoked in the final paragraph. “Traditional” in what sense, and for whom?

    The idea of culture you periodize, map, and otherwise control for in the post is at once too broad (overlaying a theoretical abstraction onto local contingencies) and too specific (culture as always already determined by “new” technological forms). To wit, it is decidedly Jamesonian in conception. The desire for critical potentiality within culture is a (late) modernist conceit, and it is against this backdrop that much of the debate in the post takes place. We should note, however, that such a desire doesn’t exhaust what may or may not be usefully thought of as culture today.

  77. traxus4420 Says:

    “The desire for critical potentiality within culture is a (late) modernist conceit, and it is against this backdrop that much of the debate in the post takes place”

    this is the attitude i was trying to critique — something that seemed to make sense (from within its own assumptions) at one time and now palpably does not.

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