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Archive for June 26th, 2008

apocalypse now

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If we Lombrosoed the best, wide-panning footage from recent collapse/catastrophe/dystopian films, we might well come up with something like this still I’ve just sniffed out of a HD version of the trailer of Blindness. From what I can tell / remember, looks like downtown Shanghai, though I’m probably wrong. The empty-tank abandoned cars, the gray-scale midrise blocks smothering the tight highway in the center. No one’s been around to sweep up casual debris for awhile.

Whether from environmental catastrophe or meteor strike, heatwave or coldwave, terror attack or ultra-SARS, vampires or the end of female fecundity, the mass blindness or bad politics or cannibalistic rage, we always end up here, under a gray sky, walking where we shouldn’t with shopping bags.

We even build the scenario into our fanciest new parks:

There’s lots to say about this. The least interesting thing, perhaps, is that, sure, everyone’s writing allegories and slantsenses of the same imminent catastrophe that really is around the corner, involving peak oil and the like. (It’s a bit more interesting to consider why they don’t simply make a movie about that. No fun, I guess, to see the shit that’s really about to hit the fan, but I don’t think that’s it. More pertinent is the trouble it takes to narrativize / visualize it, as it moves slow and mostly out of sight).

And more interesting, I think, are a few things that are a bit more obliquely there. A sense of possible or even manditory trespass on public grounds where you’re not, in normal times, supposed to walk. It’s a form of desperate liberation, and has a childlike fun adhering to it I think.

Also, there’s the entire question of the role of these gray ersatz buildings, the way they signal a catastrophe that had perhaps already started, that began perhaps even when the first nomadic sheepherders decided to put their tents up along a single path, then some travelling salesman came along and decided to stay put and just sell to them. Or maybe it’s the modernness of the architecture – the way the non-descript individuality of each building mirrors and matches that of the folks walking on the street. A generic family, a kid generically holding a parent’s hand, just as the building on the left has balconies you can enclose if you want, and the one next to it has a different sort of balcony, etc…

The uncollected rubish (you can imagine a crew sprinkling the set with little strips of paper, cuttings of plastic bags. Maybe someone even wedged that one down in the sewer inlet) brings to mind both a street party, a parade, before the cleanup crews pass through. Or is it just the everyday trash that flutters on city streets that aren’t well kept (like mine, I’ve quickly noticed…) because there’s no one left to collect it. The failure of services, of the civic, of public employment. The wind will take care of that, the ocean will collect it, as there simply isn’t the cash on hand, we’re in a crisis don’t you know, structural adjustments will have to be made, sacrifice the clean streets for the sake of…

The gray sky, of course, is more than just a marker of the weather. Sure, of course, it’s global warming, polution, the hot and damp that will soon enough mark the other season, all over the world, in its oscillation with hot and dry. But it’s also the lidness that keeps us in, that keeps our thoughts cycling on two-axes, the axes that run through this picture and these films and our gasping lack of hope for change – the wider weather that means the furtherest left we know how to get is the circulation of fantasies, like this one and all the rest it stands for, of our imminent and increasingly visible demise.

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June 26, 2008 at 12:56 pm

oooof

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Well, there goes the summery part of summer for me. News neither good nor bad, neutral I guess shading OK, but bringing a sluice-stream of work, and now my semi-idle tapping away at various projects (and this blog) is, as of immediately, severely curtailed. I wish I could bring myself to post on matters personal/professional, but it’s bad form.

A few years ago, when I started my first job, the slightly-senior guy who was the pointman in hiring me (and with whom I didn’t get along at all, as he thought that he could, like, be my dad because of this) had us over for dinner, and my wife took our babe upstairs for boob-dinner and saw, next to their bed, his side of the bed, this giant stack of academic monographs. HUP, PUP, CUP, OUP, CUP, CUP just like that. Like fifteen of them in a column. Bedtime reading, presumably. We come back to this image so frequently, the bathos and pathos of it. I have to read monographs now because I’ve been told to, and I’m feeling none too chipper about this. Even ancient I.A. Richards books are better than these. And, truthfully, I’ll blame no one if they don’t read mine.

We really need to get this academic publishing issue worked out, don’t we?

Anyway, less / more blogging to follow. You know how it goes. Both probably. Internet at home tomorrow, which means I’ll also have less time to drink Tesco-brand wine (just “Australian” – can’t be any more specific than that?) in the evenings and watch videos on freeview.

Written by adswithoutproducts

June 26, 2008 at 11:13 am

Posted in meta