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Archive for December 23rd, 2008

and then suddenly he receives a MacArthur “genius” grant

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!!!!

Synecdoche, N.Y. Well, yes. And there’s lots for me to say about it, I think, but most of it’s still working its way out. And, look, I understand that there’s a certain (hohoho) degree of identification that’s at work in how I watched the thing.

But one thing for now.

One thing that is amazing is how hard Kaufman goes at, among so many others but in particular, Lars Von Trier and David Lynch. With Von Trier: Kaufman enframes the gesture of staging the epical theatrical work on the unfinished floor of the unfinished studio space, in effect thematizing and really psycho/aesthetico-pathologizing the primary formal conceit of LVT’s semi-completed, seemingly-halted two part triology. All of these actors carrying on daily life insanely in an unmarked, inapproriate production space in SNY slips into what it perhaps always was: not just a Brechtian estrangement technique, but more pressingly a seriously belated estrangement technique that slides over into directorial sadism verging on the pervvy interest in making people perform ordinary actions as if unobserved and in inappropriate locales. (The bit where Cotard [spoiler!] sees his daughter performing behind glass would be the underscoring echo here…)

I even wonder if the little tiny traumwitz about the set of twins with three names isn’t a sort of crosshanded smack at Von Trier and the fact that the third part of USA – Land of Opportunities trilogy has a name but no substantial presence. Three names for two films. And throwing Emily Watson into film – who’s never quite lived up to her early performance in Von Trier’s Breaking the Waves – only underscores what Kaufman is working through here….

With Lynch: Kaufman appropriates the movie-as-screen-fantasy-for-inappropriate-desire and relegates it to the status of just one of many possibilities for the ultimate “meaning” of the film. Further, it is distinctly a “relegation” because repressed or not-quite repressed homosexuality of the protagonist is perhaps the least interesting possibility of the many on offer. When (spoiler, I guess) Cotard’s daughter asks him for an apology for running off to have “anal sex” with his homosexual lover, we feel that we’ve arrived at a place where reductive resolution to the questions on offer in the film has been offered to us, and we’re glad when the film moves past it. In short, Synecdoche exposes the ultimate reductive simplicity of Mulholland Drive (lost Hollywood, yes, fucked up love affair, yes, broken career, sure) – which is an incredibly ballsy and unexpected bit of meta-critique, and incredibly effective for its ballsiness and unexpectedness.

(Oh, and the old lady in the hall outside his ex-wife’s apartment is the lady from Mulholland Drive, Coco, right? Sorry – I have crap for internet tonight, so my research opps are a bit crimped…)

He hits these two very, very hard, I think, while at the same time swiping enough from them that the entire film comes to seem to be something paradoxically like a retaliatory homage, a devastating genuflection. There’s lots of other meta-theatrical and cinematic work to talk about, ranging from the small but lovely joke about Harold Pinter at the start of the thing to the amazing homage to Samuel Beckett at the end.

Truly, the metatextual stuff is the easiest thing to talk about – there are way better things to take up. Not the least of which is Kaufman’s presentation of the particular sort of mental / spiritual illness whose primary symptom is having a career that teeters between miserable local productions (whether staged at the Schenectady community playhouse or they feature Nicholas Cage) and impossible ambition bent (but distractedly so) on nothing less than world encompassing hypermimesis (there’s 17 million people in the world and each one of them…) that nonetheless resolves down to death and dating. And further, CK’s contextualization of this malady in turn as a symptom of a particular sort of white male early middle-agedness and early-middle-aged life-situation is, well, similar at least to one of the barely but all-too-visible subthemes of this blog, among many, many other things.

Trying to work this shit out while living in a dying old company town upstate is at once something I’m intimately familar with (I’ve heard the local academics talking seasonal poetry on NPR, yes I have) and a consumately American theme that touches on the less-than-volatile relationship between intellectual and material production in the era of diminishing returns, returns that just keep diminishing and on all fronts at once.

Oh, and how all that there relates to an unstinting preoccupation with dystopian collapse. Yep, that’s there too. Jesus.

More when I can.

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December 23, 2008 at 8:00 pm

don’t stop a-thinkin’

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From JHK:

“Right now, the overwhelming sentiment is to get this country back to where we were, say, ten years ago, when everything was humming nicely: Clinton nostalgia.”

Yesterday, rolling around (OK on my way to taco fucking bell to pick up lunch for everyone) this came on the radio. Twas strange, passing strange, and felt like a desperate, deluded radiophonic plea, a catastrophic misunderstanding of something by the mass mind.

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December 23, 2008 at 7:00 pm

Posted in crisis, distraction

my holiday’s more ballardian than yours

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Shooting so far with the iPhone camera. I think it adds to the effect, but sorry in advance… Imagine it adds to the effect even if it doesn’t!

My daughter, lucky her and thank god, has become urban enough a kid that while she pukes almost automatically in cars, she’s quite content on the train, in this case Gatwick Express. She colors pictures of famous TV pigs instead of throwing up. The ticket guy never came around and so we’re ₤30 up for the trip. As of last night’s rates, that’s almost $12 or €4.

Gatwick was a madhouse!!!!!! Actually, it wasn’t. It was fine. Funny that, on some level, we’ve come to think a strange set of perverse thoughts about things like this. The airport is something less than nightmarishly crowded, and just a week before Xmas! The world will end just after the start of 2009! This is the second to last plane ride I’ll ever take!

The crisis is tough to visualize, to render visible, when strange logics set the score. It’s an ordinarily busy day at the airport / mall / supermarket…. Except that ordinary is extrordinarily bad!

I’ve seen this sort of machine before in the lobby of a very downmarket hotel in Bloombury, but here it is in the US Air depature lounge. Books like candybars, like prophylactics in the men’s room! Obviously, I’m not often in the market for the sort of stuff dispensed – soduku isn’t my game. But I like the idea at back of this. Only I think they should take it further. No author’s names, no titles. Just covers of varying colors, and texts composed by Boolean algorithm to somehow suit the shade in question. The green brings Thoreauvian meditations on pond scum cut with Irvine Welsh describing the inscape of a glaswegian pubpot. Mauve runs you choice bits of homopanic in Victorian novels as well as extrapornolatemiddleaged chic lit. I don’t know – maybe this needs another post. I’m running out of battery and have to move on.

My vacation reading unfortunately doesn’t come out of a machine and includes, more or less exclusively, this 1000 page novel that I a) have never actually read before and b) will intensively teach this term. It’s brilliant but, yeah, long. And so far on this trip I alternate between only three positions: 1) free to read but unable because I am sitting on an airplane and nicotine withdrawal makes attention and retention difficult for me 2) unable to read because I’m busy vacationing and/or 3) unable to read because I’m so fucking tired and/or blogging instead.

Fuck I’m back.

The end of the boom means, perhaps, that there’ll be no one left to put ads in strange spaces. Sixty seconds of prime time during the season finale of I’ll Do Anything For Money! Well, No, Not That. How Much Again? Well OK…. will cost as much as this traytable did to  clutter adhesively.

Finally here after 21 hours, door to door. The iPhone’s camera captures only the spectral essence of other condos at night. It’s not a special setting; it’s just that the camera sucks.

There, that’s better. My father took the car keys this morning, so I was forced to walk to Barnes and Noble in order to get my morningly Mayfairs in and to stock up on the daily news. But it’s good – walking allows for better photoessayism.

A portrait of the artist as a shadow on a decorative rock.

The famous Ballard River of southwest Florida. You notice that it sprouts rather unceremoniously out of otherwise normal looking grass and soil, and that it’s too small to be a river or a stream. Things in American quasi-suburban developments are always and at turns either too large or too small. Nothing is ever just the right size.

I used to think of this place in Florida where I keep coming as a sort of American Herculaneum, a beach resort where the sons and daughters of the Empire would frolic, especially in their golden years. It’s all a bit more tame than that, I suppose. And even tamer now, as it’s core constituency is made up of retirees from GM and some of the other car companies. There are Michigan plates all over the place. I should write about it, do a bit of research and write something. But I’d rather photoblog, so, here:

The underworks of American sprawl hide in the bushes. At night, the pipes and plugs slide off their groundings to enact the brutish rituals that keep America running, keep the shit flowing into the sea. I was thinking I’d like to hide in the bushes with them, and was about to until a security van slowed down to figure out why I was holding the iPhone sideways and peering into the bushes…

But the good news is, following from recent events in Greece and at 5th Avenue and 14th Street, a wee little communist republic has declared it’s sovereignty over this patch of very thick grass. Either that or landscapers have recently treated this grass with pesticides that will kill your dog or infant if either steps on it and then licks the appendage in question, as dogs and infants are wont to do.

Where? You’ve got some? Well maybe they currently have it in stock, but just you wait to see what happens if the Fed injections finally do comfort or provoke the banks into lending money to each other and other businesses. Wait, if? I mean when, right? After all, that’s the point of TARP, if I’m not mistaken. When that happens, good old U.S. Trust – in the greenback, in the guys administering the bailout, in Paul Krugman, in ourselves and our way of life – will have to close up shop. Perhaps a dollar ten dollar store will open up in its place.

Ah, here’s the sole pathway through the bushes that gets me from the semi-sidewalk of the five lane road I walk from apartment building to bookstore. Without it, I’d be jumping the hedge – and hedge jumping, you may not know, is illegal in the USA.

Now we’re in the store itself. Ah, Carrie, I know what you mean. I’m eighteen days without a drink and counting. It’s a test being here, what with the parents driving-me-to and the cold beer on offer at the beach. On the other hand, and luckily, all of Florida taken together still contains fewer drinking opportunities than a single block of Tottenham Court Road, so on balance being here is something of a relief.

I have decided that when and if I actually get a book to print I will not be pictured in the guise of any of the many space opera characters I have played. Gotta take your stand somewhere – are you hearing me HUP?

There’s a specter haunting American book jacket design, a specter called Hatherleyism….

Hey, there’s the boys! Hemingway, Orwell, Nabokov, Joyce and some unnamed chick who loves the coffee… It’s a little known fact that these murals were actually painted on the escalator overhangs by leftist artists employed by the WPA during the Great Depression. Rumor has it that some of us will soon be paid to add new panels featuring present day celebrity authors including Gordon Ramsey, Jewel, Dr. Phil, Bill O’Reilly and, yep, Carrie Fisher.

I bought no books, as I have no time to read anything but the monstrous Bleak House but I did get a stack of papers. Which? Oh, just the NY Times, USA Today (sports section, especially for dad who only reads the sports sections of things), the local paper, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial TImes (better over here, weirdly, than in the UK, because it’s tauter), the NY Post, and, yes, the Daily Mail (choice was this or The Sun… ugh…) The latter is important because, well, now I understand what my GP was up to the other day when he kept asking what year it was and who the current prime minister is. And I was only in for a sinus infection!

BTW. I read each and every one of those papers today, though I’ll admit I skimmed the WSJ. Cost me $11.50 in total! And I’ll buy them all over again tomorrow! Vacation!

Man, are there a lot of fucking churches in America. This despite the fact that 3/4 of them have been turned into condos. Maybe 3/4 of those in turn about to be retrofitted back into churches as the nation comes to grips with its abhorrence in god’s eyes or something…

On the church’s front lawn, they had a mock up of some new form of temporary housing for those whose homes have been repossessed. It’s not as nice as those IKEA prefab apartments that come flatpacked in a box, but they are, from appearances, pet friendly and that’s something as rural Americans love their barnyard companions.

I couldn’t believe my good fortune when, as I made my way back to our place, I found an uncannily perfect image to end this photoessay on. What unforeseeable, romantic comedy-style, luck! A positive case of um

Written by adswithoutproducts

December 23, 2008 at 1:50 pm

Posted in america, photoessay, travel