Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Scatological Skewers

Speaking of bodies as battlegrounds, I happened upon both of these recently.  The first is the new track from electroclash icon Peaches, who proclaims that she has "so much beauty coming out of my ass" and there's "light in places you didn't know could shine", a sentiment the track literalizes by showing an acrobatic dancer with something the end credits are calling a "laser buttplug". Reminds one a bit of the famous Kurt Schwitters sentiment on his Merzbaus creation that "everything the artist shits is art" (which Manzoni then took literally).

Simple and direct, not miles away from other teaches of Peaches.  The 2nd video is from Naomi Elizabeth, an artist who came up in the noise scene and now seems to be working in the viral video realm, making video that skirt that Lana Del Rey line between commentary on and reinforcement of sexist tropes.  "The Topic is Ass" immediately strikes you on first listen as pure novelty, but there's something to the phrasing that makes it sound like an intervention.  "We're here to talk about...again, again. Don't change the subject, my friend".  "If...were here, what would you say?" "If you think I'm joking, fix your priorities".  The melancholy loops in the backdrop also add a slight bit of extra gravity to it, as if the intervention may indeed on patriarchal assumptions or objectification itself- after all "Ass" is often a synedoche of "women"- but then purposefully undercuts itself by being highly silly.

And while Elizabeth is no doubt sexualized in the video, there's little actual "ass".  Her jerky movements belie hesitation more than horniness.  In fact, there's a voyeuristic way she's lit, her half-arched porn star grimace coming across forced and functional, not like someone in the thralls of desire.  Elswhere, she stands in front of an island vista, but totally surrogate from out.  She's a cut-out, literally a two-dimensional tool for some unseen (re:male) designer clicking away and creating this fantasy.  It's likely him that the intervention is for, but by song's end he continues to be in control.  The world is still his.

Man Ray, Monument to D.A.F. de Sade

Punish the Character, Punish the Story, Punish the Audience

Barbara Kruger- Your Body is a Battleground

"Half the time, people can’t even seem to figure out how to define rape, let alone portray it in responsible ways. Indeed, one of the most baffling things about so many rape scenes in popular culture is that the people who scripted them felt qualified to do so, despite seemingly knowing nothing about rape except that it exists and it is bad. In short, anyone canwrite a rape scene—but should they? Chances are, the answer is no."- Laura Hudson, Rape Scenes Aren't Just Awful, They're Lazy Writing

Wholeheartedly seconded this whole piece.  You'd think that with the amount of women out there experiencing this, one of their shitty boyfriend screenwriters (or god forbid, a woman screenwriter herself) might get it right, but there's almost always some lazy shortcut in TV/Hollywood rape scenes.  The more offensive thing is, of course, the way it trivializes a serious issue, but goddamn if as a writer you aren't allowed to take some level of offense as well  

The Wolf in PC Clothing

I cannot recommend Sarah Ahmed's piece "Against Students" in the New Inquiry enough. Far too much good stuff to quote here, but a few tastes:

"The figure of the consuming subject who wants the wrong things, a student who is found wanting, is hard at work. She is how an idea of universal knowledge or universal culture can be so thinly disguised as a critique of neoliberalism and managerialism. She is how an academic world can be idealised in being mourned as a lost object; a world where dons get to decide things; a world imagined as democracy, as untroubled by the whims and wishes of generations to come.

We have an understanding of how, when students are being critical of what we are doing, when they contest what is being taught, they can be treated and dismissed as acting like consumers. In other words it is when students are not satisfied that they are understood as treating our delivery as a product. Critique as such can be “swept away” by the charge of consumerism. Students become the problem when what they want is not in accordance with what academics want or what academics want them to want. Students become willful when what they will is not what academics will or not what academics will them to will.  What seems to be in place here is what Paulo Freire called the “bank model” of education, in which teachers deposit knowledge into the bodies of students like money into a machine. Rather ironically, students are more likely to be judged as acting like consumers when they refuse to be banks.

...Another figure comes up, rather quickly, at this point, often lurking behind the censoring student. This is the over-sensitive student: the one who responds to events or potential events with hurt feelings. She also comes up as someone who stops things from happening. I could refer here to a number of recent pieces that I read as a moral panic about moral panics. Many of these pieces refer to US college campuses specifically and are concerned with the introduction of safe spaces and trigger warnings.

The figure of the over-sensitive student is invested with power. The story goes: because students have become too sensitive, we cannot even talk about difficult issues in the classroom; because of their feelings we (critical academics) cannot address questions of power and violence, and so on. A typical example of this kind of rhetoric: “No one can rebut feelings, and so the only thing left to do is shut down the things that cause distress — no argument, no discussion, just hit the mute button and pretend eliminating discomfort is the same as effecting actual change.” Or another: “While keeping college-level discussions ‘safe’ may feel good to the hypersensitive, it’s bad for them and for everyone else. People ought to go to college to sharpen their wits and broaden their field of vision.” Here safety is about feeling good, or not feeling bad. We sense what is being feared: students will become warm with dull edges, not sharp enough in wit or wisdom.

The moral panic around trigger warnings is a very good pedagogic tool: we learn from it. Trigger warnings are assumed to be about being safe or warm or cuddled. I would describe trigger warnings as a partial and necessarily inadequate measure to enable some people to stay in the room so that “difficult issues” can be discussed. The assumption that trigger warnings are themselves about safe spaces is a working assumption (by this I mean: it is achieving something). The assumption that safe spaces are themselves about deflecting attention from difficult issues is another working assumption. Safe spaces are another technique for dealing with the consequences of histories that are not over (a response to a history that is not over is necessarily inadequate because that history is not over). The real purpose of these mechanisms is to enable conversations about difficult issues to happen. So often those conversations do not happen because the difficulties people wish to talk about end up being re-enacted within discussion spaces, which is how they are not talked about. For example, conversations about racism are very hard to have when white people become defensive about racism. Those conversations end up being about those defences rather than about racism. We have safe spaces so we can talk about racism, not so we can avoid talking about racism!

The very techniques introduced to enable the opening up of conversations can be used as evidence of interlopers closing down conversations. Anyone with a background in Women’s Studies will be familiar with this; we come up against stereotypes of feminists spaces as soft, cozy, easy, which are the exact same sexist stereotypes that make Women’s Studies necessary as a feminist space. The very perception of some spaces as being too soft might even be related to the harshness of the worlds we are organizing to challenge."

Kendrick Lamar- "Alright" directed by Colin Tilley

Monday, June 29, 2015

Japanese Wallpaper- "Arrival"

Very pretty

The Religion of Science

"With this metaphysical confidence—I wouldn’t want to call it faith—in rationality comes an implicit hierarchy of logical rigor. First comes mathematics, then theoretical physics as the shining achievement of empirical applications of mathematical rigor, then the other “hard” sciences, like applied physics, chemistry, and perhaps, biology. Straggling far behind are the dubious ambiguities of the social sciences and the humanities.

"Atheists, as devotees of rationalism, point to the reason and empiricism of science as the foundation of their catechism. A compelling positive formulation of atheism, therefore, more than simply the denial of theism, is the affirmation of science and the promise it holds to lay bare all the mysteries of the universe. Michael Shermer defines the “scientific worldview” as the one “that encompasses natural explanations for all phenomena, eschews supernatural and paranormal speculations, and embraces empiricism and reason as the twin pillars of a philosophy of life appropriate for an Age of Science.” If atheism inherits its moral compass from humanism, it gets its sanctimony from a scientific worldview, or to be more precise, from scientism.

"Here’s the rub. Science doesn’t exist. Which is to say, science as a unity doesn’t exist. Scientific activity is a plurality that the word science neatly obscures as a unity. There is no scientific method, per se, only a hodgepodge of scientific methods. Scientists interact with the world in a proscribed, yet flexible way to arrive at relatively stable conclusions about cause and effect. Yet even with those razor-sharp minds, scientists are people too. Like the rest of us, they struggle to bring to bear on their work clumsy bodies and messy relationships.

"Here’s another one of science’s dirty little secrets: its purpose is to predict the effects of causes, but it works best when its methods of inquiry are used on relatively simple, isolated systems. That’s, in part, why theoretical physics enjoys such a privileged position in the scientistic pantheon. Take Newtonian mechanics—so elegant, so pure, so mind-bogglingly predictive. We’ve used its insights to put a man on the moon. However, as any physicist will tell you, even Newtonian mechanics becomes a nonlinear farrago with no predictive power when it tries to accommodate more than two or three massive bodies interacting via the single force of gravity.

"The sad truth of scientism is that the more complex a system under scrutiny, or the less isolated that system, the less predictive scientific methods become. In these frequently occurring scenarios, scientists must abandon the steely comforts of causation. They’re reduced to quibbling over the strength or weakness of correlations between ever more ornate abstractions and their real-world consequences."- Sean Miller, What's So Funny About Atheism

Some interesting arguments in an article that overall brings to bear many flippant generalizations about atheists, who are a broad and disparate group. The main thrust seems to pertain mainly to nu-atheism of the Harris/Hitchens/Dawkins sort.  I've even found myself clinging to this kind of limp rationale that "I believe in science" rather than faith, but he does make a good point that science is rarely an exact science and that faith still maintains the foundation position of any scientific belief system.  I'm not going out and testing theses myself. I'm putting faith into pedagogy with the implicit understanding that the experts know what they are talking about.  Likewise, I'm sure churchgoing folk things ministers, pastors, popes, dead relatives know what they're talking about, even if they're haunted by recurring evidence of god's non-existence.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Arrows- "A2"

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

RIP James Horner

A composer who in the same year as his moody, atmospheric score for Aliens, composed "Somewhere Out There" for Fievel's American Tale

Monday, June 22, 2015

Polymorphous Cult-ure

Emilie Friedland at the Fader has her own take on why there are so many Cults all of the sudden, particularly how they reflect postmodern culture's pastische ideologies:
When we watch a TV show like Aquarius, we’re transported back to a time before people necessarily “knew better” than to think that other worlds, and other homes, were possible; even in watching Manson’s most sinister moments, we experience the vicarious thrill of living life completely according to one's own, made-up rules—of breaking with consensus reality as we know it, of starting with utopian intentions and going way too far.

...Back when I interviewed Isis Aquarian, I asked her about the foundation of Father Yod’s belief system. “We took from everything,” she said. “We took from every religion. We took from past lives. We took from the mystery teachings. We took from the yogis. We took from the Buddha. We took from whatever made sense and worked to us and distilled it into our own uniqueness.” That pick-and-choose, take-what-you-like-and-leave-the-rest eclecticism remains a core facet of new age culture; it’s an idea I’d say that I adhere to in my own spiritual life, only I can’t help noticing how perfectly it dovetails with our behavior as 21st century consumers. We express our view of the world—and even our desire to drop out of it—with the objects and experiences that we choose to spend our money on. But when escape becomes something that you buy, it ceases to be a real escape. Maybe it ensnares us even further in the world that we’re escaping.

I read this early Saturday and, sure enough, later that day my wife and I saw an episode on the new season of Orange is the New Black where the mute character of Norma's back story is explored through her many years as a loyal cult member.

This episode also brought to mind one of the other things about cults that also falls outside of the cultural norms Friedlander talks about; polygamy, which can serve both that patriarchal domination/submission wish fulfillment fantasy and also incriminate it.  Polygamy as subject matter ensnares all of our contradictory feelings towards sexual liberation and allows an avenue to filter anxieties about commitment, as well as how both sexual freedom and the bonds of marriage feed into the continued superstructural subjugation of women.  Likewise to the Fader piece, polygamy is both something available reflected in the world we're escaping (multiple partners, infidelity, open relationships, et al.) and something completely taboo or outside the bounds of acceptance.

I had totally forgotten about Big Love too- I think many people have, to be honest.  Big Love (about a particularly fundamentalist strain of Mormonism) was a massive success when it first aired and probably even lead to the similar reality TV spinoff Sister Wives, which was even bigger.  

Incidentally, it turns out OITNB's Annie Golden, who plays Norma, has a 20 year history in music.  Starting out in the new wave/punk end of things and then veering into pop later on.

Jonas Reinhardt- "Noctornum"

off the forthcoming Palace Savant

Mocki- "Weekend (Jai Wolf Mix)"