Current Times 12

This is Current Times, a series in which I gather things from the internet and talk about them.

1. This is a phenomenal gallery of behind the scenes photographs from various iconic movies and shows. Shattering the illusion of the image is always great. Check out this picture from Alien.

2. Ursula K. Le Guin, who taught at my college for a number of years, has a great post up on Book View Cafe about the nature of genre fiction. She resolutely trashes the distinction between genre and literature, a rightly so; it’s a stupid distinction, created only by economics and enforced by people everywhere. Read it here, but even if you don’t, check out this quote from the end of the article, which sums it up nicely.

Poor editor, poor bean-counters in Marketing! Never to have crossed the border into the Other Kingdom, never to have seen the fair folk there. But meanwhile, poor authors of fantasy, told to be imitators of imitators of the secondrate, ordered off to the assembly line at the baloney factory! And poor kids, who come to that twilight border across which the misty mountains can be seen, only to find a chainlink fence and a NO ENTRY sign, in front of which under a peeling golden plastic arch a nasty little man is selling second-hand hamburgers fried in fusel oil…

3. This is a gathering of stats from which graphs spring about the nature of body size, men and women, and the Marvel universe. It shouldn’t be anything that’s surprising, but it is amazing to see the data gathered. Comics are where the most insidious, fucked up things about Western culture are able to hide and grow, and this is another symptom of that.

4. Jon Irwin has an article on Kill Screen’s blog about the nature of reality and video games. I can’t agree with him, for several reasons, and it really comes down to the fact that I believe that there is a reality reflected in the virtual, but not necessarily the other way around. I don’t think that violence in video games translates to reality, but I do think that video games are a place where real desires go to reside. Read the article; I think it sufficiently complicates digital life enough in a lot of ways.

5. Buck Angel has t-shirts. I want to own one.

6. Crunk Feminist Collective has a post about Beyonce being the face of feminism–or rather, on Beyonce being a fantasy that is in no way representative of women in the world. It’s to the point, amazing, and needs to be read. So read it.

7. Biblioklept has a post up on Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho, a novel that turns 20 this years. The post makes the inevitable comparison between Ellis and David Foster Wallace, and you know what? I come down on Ellis’ side. I’ve wrestled with this for a long time, and this very moment I made a decision. I like B.E.E. more because I find his contempt for people ultimately more interesting than I find Wallace’s gaze into the lives of the strange-ordinary. In any case, read it here.

8. Jodi Dean posts about tactical media. A choice quote:

Fragmentation can strengthen partisan positions and make the other positions appear in all their stupidity. The criticism of blogs, for example, as amplifying extreme voices mistakes a strength for a weakness, and it makes this mistakes because it operates within a democratic imaginary rather than from a position of full acknowledgement of antagonism.

Alas, this is too quick. Why? Because it fails to see how fragmentation under neoliberalism becomes individualism, personalization, and even whatever being as every possible support or identification dissolves. Since the 90s (at least) fragmentation has gone designer and become intertwined with the injunction to be unique. The political forces that have successfully combatted these fragmenting, individualizing, and personalizing moves are precisely the forces that urge them on the rest of us: conservatives, the religious right, corporations, Republicans. So Grover Norquist can get Republicans to adhere in lockstep to the pledge not to raise taxes even as they do so in the name of freedom and individual choice. Folks like Palin go on and on about freedom and taking our country back and ending big government–and they create a unified message that they repeat constantly. Differently put, there is a fundamental asymmetry in the fragmentation and personalization that goes under the name of freedom: corporations act politically with more unity than the rest of us (Business Roundtable, Chamber of Commerce, lobbying groups for finance as a sector).


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