What’s remarkable about this psychic thriller is the way Roeg uses incidental images and sounds to infuse the story with spectrality.
29 March 2008
27 March 2008
I got the sense that, for Szpilman, the war constituted a long and arduous personal distraction — that he just wanted the war to end so he could go back to playing Chopin.
By portraying the pianist as a gentle, sensitive, and almost fatally passive individual, is Polanski indicting the Jews — and perhaps also the Poles — for not resisting? Or perhaps he’s endorsing Szpilman’s position: consider yourself lucky to survive the irresistible onslaught of violent and impersonal hatred, and make art.
26 March 2008
I was planning to watch Fight Club on Sunday night. That day I had been recataloging ktismatics, expanding the number of categories and assigning old posts accordingly. I worked from the present backward in time, as if watching a movie in rewind. I found this activity quite depressing (surprise surprise). What struck me mostly was a sense that, even though I’ve been persistently discouraged during my entire blogging history, my discouragement has gradually increased. The farther back in time I went, the more interesting the posts became. They weren’t just just more interesting when I wrote them; they’re more interesting even now as in my apathy I look at them again. The thing is, when I was writing these earlier posts I was fueled by some sort of hope: that I’d build either enthusiasm for or active resistance to my Genesis 1 book, that I’d craft a psychology practice that I’d regard as worthwhile and that clients might actually find valuable. And that hope actually made the posts better in a way that persists even after the hope has faded to indifference.
Anyhow, I covered maybe two-thirds of the distance between now and the beginning of ktismatics before I quit. I was on cooking duty for the evening meal, which I wasn’t looking forward to at all. I figured if I could just make it through the meal, then we could have a nice family movie-watching night and put Easter behind us.
Alas, it was not to be.
During dinner my wife had put on a CD of Roy Orbison’s greatest hits. These tunes, not surprisingly, reminded me of movies. And not just any movies: David Lynch movies. First came “In Dreams,” which Dean Stockwell creepily sings during Blue Velvet. But it wasn’t my memory of the movie that captivated me, but the song itself: so sad, Roy’s keening voice so poignant in its regret and disappointment, the lush Mexican strings so romantic. I could almost cry.
Then, 2 or 3 songs later: badabumbumBUM.
It’s the opening dirgelike drum cadence of “Crying.” By now I think I’m home free: dinner was a success, I’ve put down maybe 3 or 4 glasses of cheap red, Fight Club awaits. And of course Roy’s song conjures up the Silencio. One of the most memorable scenes in all of movies, I announce grandly. Several months ago for my birthday my wife bought me the DVD, but I hadn’t unwrapped it yet. Now I want to find that scene. So while my wife cleans up the mess I made in the kitchen, my daugher and I head to the TV. I open the DVD, stick it in the machine, look for the scene selection feature. No such feature. I try the skip-ahead button to jump from scene to scene, but it only makes the movie speed up a little by skipping a few frames at a time. I’m getting frustrated, trying and failing over and over, unable to achieve this one small thing. It’s probably on YouTube, my daughter reminds me, but I don’t want to watch it on YouTube. I want to see it on my own DVD. I want to make this work.
After awhile my daughter drifts out of the room as obsessively I try to accomplish this one small task, seemingly so simple yet so elusive. Eventually my wife comes in. She tries a couple things — I guess this DVD doesn’t have scene selection, she concludes. In other words, it’s not my technical ineptitude but the limitation of the thing itself. In other words, my persistence and ingenuity will not change the world. This does not console me.
Fine, let’s watch Fight Club. So I go track down my daughter, who’s closed herself in her room. I knock: Do you want to see the movie? I suppose, she says, meaning no not really. I hadn’t expected her to want to see this movie anyway, but the day before she’d discovered that a blogger whose art she admires was planning to watch it with her friend. So when during dinner I had proposed that we all watch Fight Club she seemed enthusiastic. I guess it was the predictable tedium of my obsessive failure on Mulholland Drive that inspired her to go do some drawing instead.
It shouldn’t have mattered, but somehow it did. I yelled at my daughter. Leave her alone, my wife said, so I yelled at her too. She started up the movie but I said I didn’t want to watch it any more, that I was done watching movies. I lay down and immediately fell asleep, not waking again until after the rest of the family had gone to bed.
So my wife and I watched Fight Club on Monday night instead.
25 March 2008
22 March 2008
This dude with the fish, he’s had an epiphany. If you had a million dollars, what would you do? Nothing, is his answer. He already told the downsizing consultants that he does, what, maybe 15 minutes a day of real work? So here he’s putting his work space to good use.
Here’s the writer/director making his Hitchcockean cameo.
This guy is about ready to blow…
Like I said.
This is a pretty good story. What would make it better?
The software writers are getting let go to lower costs, thereby enhancing stock value by a quarter point or so. So the boys hack a little drain into the corporate cashflow, channeling the money into their private account. The guy who hatches the ripoff scam even acknowledges that he ripped off the idea from a Superman movie. Now this might have been kind of interesting to play out, but the hacker makes an error that results in a tenfold accumulation of skim, making detection inevitable and pulling the plug on the scam. To make matters worse, the hero gets an attack of conscience, ready to confess and to return the money.
There’s one guy who got fired five years ago but who through a recordkeeping snafu retained his cubicle and kept getting his paycheck. The shareholders don’t do anything either but they keep getting paid. And it’s this guy who finally sabotages the company in a serious way and who winds up with the money. We see him at the end of the movie sitting on a beach, bitching about bad service from a waiter, threatening to shut down the restaurant by putting strychnine in the guacamole. This would have been better if he’d threatened the manager rather than the waiter.
At the end, the hero’s partners have taken jobs at a competing software firm. They say they can get the hero a job, but he doesn’t want one. He’s working at the site where the old office was, cleaning up the rubble after the fire. I thought that was good, for him to find some pleasure in dismantling the infrastructure.
19 March 2008
18 March 2008
A Dream Within A Dream
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
– Edgar Allan Poe
15 March 2008
In this scene from the fourth enstallment, the man in the foreground is father (or is he?) of the girl in the background. The vodka glasses and the ashtray are objects associated with adult behavior, perhaps also of seduction. They’re also empty vessels, feminine. The father’s hands frame his groin; his hands and his groin loom large, dominating the scene, deciding what will happen next. The girl’s mother died shortly after giving birth to her; a friend of her father says that she is just like her mother. With his index finger the father has been nudging the one glass closer to the other: with the next shove they will touch, becoming interchangeable. But the two glasses, both empty, can never again be filled, dominated by the presence of the absence that is the dead mother.
Part five: Like altar boys the policemen stand by the young man as the priest administers the sacrament; behind and to the right, partly occluded but with his head, pallid and ghastly, fully exposed, the executioner awaits.
14 March 2008
‘Fight club’ busted at Fairview High
Officers: As many as 60 students gathered to watch street brawls
A group of Fairview High School students is suspected of organizing an after-school “fight club” that involved at least 12 students and as many as 60 spectators.
Boulder police spokeswoman Sarah Huntley said Thursday that 10 Fairview students, all boys, have been ticketed on suspicion of public brawling. Police think they were part of a club of friends that regularly met near the South Boulder Recreation Center for public “street fighting.”
“Apparently, they were gathering in the field after school hours … where they were engaging in fights,” Huntley said. “They see this as sort of a recreational, spectator-type sport where they just wanted to go out and fight.”
Huntley said police started receiving calls about the fights in February but were never able to catch anyone in the act — until a female Fairview teacher broke up one of the fights March 6, which resulted in two teens being ticketed.
After the students were questioned by Fairview administrators, a police investigation led to eight more tickets being issued Thursday to students connected to the club, Huntley said. Police expect to ticket two more students they think were involved sometime today, she said.
“First and foremost, we’re concerned about injuries to kids,” Huntley said. “This was not supervised wrestling or boxing. … This was basically street-fighting for fun.”
All of the boys allegedly connected to the club range in age from 15 to 17, Huntley said. Their names are being withheld because they are minors, she said.
Boulder Valley School District spokesman Briggs Gamblin said school officials are working with police to investigate the club, which he said violates district policies against fighting even though the brawls took place off school property.
“The administrators are working to figure out who’s involved and how to stop it,” Gamblin said. “The feeling is there’s several others they need to find.”
Fairview Principal Donald Stensrud said he has taken some disciplinary actions against the students who have been cited, but he did not disclose details because of confidentiality rules. He said suspensions are a possibility.
“It’s a blood sport,” Stensrud said. “It is so antithetical to what we want our young men and women to do, and what we teach them to do.”
He said an assistant principal at the school searched online sites including MySpace, YouTube and Facebook for video evidence of the fights but did not find anything.
Stensrud said school administrators will work with counselors, psychologists and sociologists to come up with an appropriate way to talk with the students who were spectators at the fights and all Fairview students about how to make better choices than cheering on a fight.
“I think we’re going to figure out what to do as a building and how to address this,” Stensrud said.
Stensrud sent an e-mail to Fairview parents Thursday explaining the situation and calling for parents to talk with their children about the fights.
“I assure you that FHS administrators, faculty and staff are working along with the Boulder police and our school resource officer to identify those students involved — especially those students responsible for organizing this very high-risk activity,” Stensrud wrote. “I am asking that you discuss this issue with your student and urge (him or her) to come forward if she or he has any information that will help us bring this behavior to a halt.”
The two Fairview students ticketed for the March 6 fight have Boulder Municipal Court appearances scheduled Tuesday. The other eight cited so far are due to appear in court March 25.
The citations carry a fine of up to $1,000 and a maximum of 90 days in jail.
The spectators did not break any laws by watching the fights, according to police.
13 March 2008
[From “Meditation Four” of Alain Badiou’s Being and Event]
It must certainly be assumed that the effect of structure is complete, that what subtracts itself from the latter is nothing, and that the law does not encounter singular islands in presentation which obstruct its passage. In an indeterminate situation there is no rebel or subtractive presentation of the pure multiple upon which the empire of the one is exercised… The logic of the lacuna, of what the count-as-one would have ‘forgotten’, of the excluded which may be positively located as a sign of real or pure multiplicity, is an impasse — an illusion — of thought, as it is of practice…
And yet, the correlate thesis also imposes itself: that there is a being of nothing, as form of the unpresentable. The ‘nothing’ is what names the unperceivable gap, cancelled then renewed, between presentation as structure and presentation as structured-presentation, between the one as result and the one as operation, between presented consistency and inconsistency as what-will-have-been-presented… By itself, the nothing is no more than the name of unpresentation in presentation…
It would already be inexact to speak of this nothing as a point because it is neither local nor global, but scattered all over, nowhere and everywhere: it is such that no encounter would authorize it to be held as presentable.
I term void of a situation this suture to its being. Moreover, I state that every structured presentation unpresents ‘its’ void, in the mode of this non-one which is merely the subtractive face of the count.
I say ‘void’ rather than ‘nothing’, because the ‘nothing’ is the name of the void correlative to the global effect of structure (everything is counted)… Void indicates the failure of the one, the not-one, in a more primordial sense than the not-of-the-whole… The name I have chosen, the void, indicates precisely that nothing is presented, no term, and also that the designation of that nothing occurs ’emptily’, it does not locate it structurally…
But for the moment we must hold that in a situation there is no conceivable encounter with the void. The normal regime of structured situations is that of the imposition of an absolute ‘unconscious’ of the void…
One of the acts of this annulment is precisely to posit that the void is multiple, that it is the first multiple, the very being from which any multiple presentation, when presented, is woven and numbered.
11 March 2008
[I had some further thoughts about the movie Ghost World, some images from which constituted a post about a week ago. Somewhat reluctantly I’m setting these thoughts apart as a separate post, though it remains connected in part to the film.]
The ghost world is the trace in the present of a more authentic past. Some of the objects from this past world still exist, like old 78 records, but they’ve deteriorated with time, their surfaces cracked and warped and scratched. These defects only serve to authenticate the objects to which they’re attached, as if the process of deterioration serves to intensify their authenticity. One can envision a day in the future when these objects are completely effaced by the effects of time, leaving no material trace of the past authenticity to which they testified. Alternatively, one could be left with the impression not that the authentic objects are gone, but that they’re hidden. The gradual deterioration of the surface only serves to intensify the authenticity of what’s behind the surface. When the surface is completely destroyed, the authenticity is all that remains, as a kind of permanent spirit of the authentic object.
Once all the old surfaces are completely gone, then the authentic past is entirely hidden behind the new surfaces of the world, a whole world of authenticity that’s been rendered invisible. And this invisibility is a form of transcendence, an invisible spirit of the Real that cannot be seen or touched but that can only be intuited or remembered or imagined. The authenticity of the Real becomes indistinguishable from the imaginary. But the imaginary doesn’t reside in the image; it’s hidden behind the image. Instead of image being the outer sensory interface of solid material, the image is a hollow fetish that hides the invisible authentic and spiritual and immaterial presence of spirit that lurks behind it.
Derrida coined the term “hauntology” to describe the intangible, immaterial value that consumers attribute to commodities in Marxian economic theory. Hauntology is the ghostly essence of commodity fetishism, the intangible object of desire that drives capitalist consumption. The surface of a commodity is the interface of its tangible use value, but the surface serves also as a disguise hiding the commodity’s ghostly fetish value.
There’s a lot of capitalist activity that goes on in the movie Ghost World, most of it involving the sale of junk food through chain retail outlets. But Seymour is always selling too. He sells records at garage sales; his “party” is really another sales promotion he operates out of his house. The idea is that there’s an authentic shopping experience to be had if you know where to look for it, that some stores and some products really do possess hauntological plenitude.
One such authentic commodity, it could be argued, is this movie itself. It’s selling an alternative consumer model of hauntological authenticity. The movie reinforces the idea that it’s possible to find authenticity in artifacts, and that these authentic artifacts can be bought, and that possessing these artifacts both verifies and enhances the plenitude and authenticity of the person who buys them. Buying a ticket to this movie serves this function, transmitting its hauntological consumer fetish value to the viewer.
I wonder whether hauntology, in contemporary parlance referring to the ephemeral, vaguely mournful aura of presence-in-absence that’s crafted into many pop-cultural artifacts, retains traces of Derrida’s original meaning. Does this new cultural hauntology valorize commodity fetish value by making it at least vaguely tangible? Or in this making-tangible does the new hauntology dissipate a power over consumers that has always depended on its spectrality?
From The Writer’s Almanac for 11 March (thanks to blueVicar for the reference):
“It was on this day in 1818 that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was published. Shelley was only 19 years old when she wrote the novel, and the first edition was published anonymously with a preface written by her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelly. She revised the novel and published it under her name own name in 1823. The story of Frankenstein’s monster was first staged as a play in 1823 in London and was followed shortly thereafter by a musical burlesque. Today there are more than 80 films that carry ‘Frankenstein’ in their title.”
According to Wikipedia, “The original version of Berlin’s song included references to the then-popular fad of well-dressed but poor black Harlemites parading up and down Lenox Avenue. Berlin later revised the lyrics to apply to affluent whites strutting ‘up and down Park Avenue’.” Lenox Avenue is now co-named Malcolm X Boulevard.
10 March 2008
Our marriage is a very good one. I love him very much.