Current Times 6

1. Brian Massumi talks about disaster and affect. I’ve written on this kind of thing before, and it’s cool to see Massumi doing better work than I ever could. If I could just quote the whole thing here, I would, but that would be kind of dumb. Instead, look at this majestic quote and go read the rest of it:

First the affective strike of the event is instantaneously transmitted, cutting a shocked-and-awed hole of horror into the fabric of the everyday. The ability to make sense of events is suspended in a momentary hiatus of humanly unbearable, unspeakable horror. Then comes the zoom-in to the human detail. Stories get human traction. The horror is alloyed, its impact archived. Another event has been affectively conveyed with irruptive, interruptive force, only to subside into the background of everyday life. What remains is a continuous, low-level fear. This fear doesn’t stand out clearly as an emotion. It is more like a habitual posture, an almost bodily bracing for the next unforeseen blow, a tensing infusing every move and every moment with a vague foreboding. This trace-form anticipation – this post-shock pre-posturing – becomes the very medium of everyday life.

2. Kat Rocha responds to a piece on geek culture and women with a classic response: “If we stop talking about gender differences, those differences will go away.” I’m paraphrasing, of course, but that’s the gist of it. I don’t understand why people believe this is true. Time and time again we see that in the face of silence, those in power stay in power; silencing voices of dissent is not a way to empower those voices. The claims that Rocha is making about objectivity are just straight up wrong, and that infuriates me. I think we should probably prefer media that passes the Bechdel test, which Rocha seems to think we should throw out if a show like Firefly is a “good show” (I’m not sure what that means.) In any case, read the article, and read the article it’s responding to. It’s rewarding, to say the least.

3. This article at the LA Review of Books made me get emotional. Geoff Nicholson does some powerful writing, and it’s about Buster Keaton, a man I find more and more interesting the older I get. A quote:

And that’s how it is with the rest of Buster’s universe. Things are clearly not to be trusted. The chair will collapse, the plank will hit you in the face, the gun will misfire, the car will die on the railroad tracks, the boat will sink, the balloon will escape gravity and take you with it. The only answer is to make sure those objects are in fact props. Once things are scripted, then everything’s all right, he’s in control, the objects will do his bidding. People less so.

4. Terry Eagleton has a defense of Marx up at The Chronicle for Higher Education. Most of it can be summed up as “If communism was bad, what about capitalism!?!?” but there are some gems in there, including:

The selectiveness of political memory takes some curious forms. Take, for example, 9/11. I mean the first 9/11, not the second. I am referring to the 9/11 that took place exactly 30 years before the fall of the World Trade Center, when the United States helped to violently overthrow the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende of Chile, and installed in its place an odious dictator who went on to murder far more people than died on that dreadful day in New York and Washington. How many Americans are aware of that? How many times has it been mentioned on Fox News?

5. There’s a cool interview with David Simon, creator of The Wire, on Guernica. I don’t have anything to say that he won’t say better. He says some brilliant stuff. Thanks to Black Steve for reminding me about it. A quote that is one of the best portions of the interview:

One of the themes of The Wire really was that statistics will always lie. Statistics can be made to say anything. You show me anything that depicts institutional progress in America: school test scores, crime stats, arrest reports, anything that a politician can run on, anything that somebody can get a promotion on, and as soon as you invent that statistical category, fifty people in that institution will be at work trying to figure out a way to make it look as if progress is actually occurring when actually no progress is. I mean, our entire economic structure fell behind the idea that these mortgage-backed securities were actually valuable, and they had absolutely no value. They were toxic. And yet they were being traded and being hurled about, because somebody could make some short-term profit. In the same way that a police commissioner or a deputy commissioner can get promoted, and a major can become a colonel, and an assistant school superintendent can become a school superintendent, if they make it look like the kids are learning and that they’re solving crime. That was a front-row seat for me as a reporter, getting to figure out how once they got done with them the crime stats actually didn’t represent anything.

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