26 March 2008

Candy-Colored Clown

Filed under: Movies, Reflections — ktismatics @ 6:18 am

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.



  1. Great stuff, Ktis. We’ll expect regular Honeymooner-esque updates regularly now, ok?


    Comment by Seyfried — 26 March 2008 @ 1:15 pm

  2. One of these days, Seyried — bam! pow! to the moon!

    On a related note, DeLillo’s Underworld begins on October 3, 1951 at the Polo Grounds in New York, Dodgers versus Giants, last game of the 3-game National League playoff series. Enjoying the game together in the expensive seats are Frank Sinatra, J. Edgar Hoover, and Jackie Gleason. As Bobby Thompson launches his game-winning homer, the shot heard ’round the world (“The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”), off ill-fated Dodgers’ reliever Ralph Branca, Gleason is hugging his knees puking up all the beer and hot dogs he’s been shoveling into his face during the game. Russ Hodges makes the call.


    Comment by ktismatics — 26 March 2008 @ 1:24 pm

  3. Haha. (Just like yesterday, huh, Ktis?)

    I’m surprised how “open” movie night is with the family. How did Body Double sit with the children?


    Comment by Seyfried — 26 March 2008 @ 3:51 pm

  4. Our daughter isn’t particularly interested in watching a lot of these movies so it rarely becomes an issue. Still, if she’d have watched Body Double or Fight Club I’d have been fine with it — this is aaht, dahling. On the other hand, she is a huge South Park fan, which would probably offend me if I watched more episodes. I asked her if she thought I should forbid her from watching and she said no, so I’ve fulfilled my parental responsibility.


    Comment by ktismatics — 26 March 2008 @ 4:36 pm

  5. hey k,

    for whatever it worth, you seriously prolific bru…and i like you shit. to lazy shift back through the archives to see if it was better before though

    anyway, i need some help and i don’t want to pay to get it…

    so i have this friend, lets call him me. Anyway me was a junkie since he was 16. His drug of choice was something called mandrax, which is smoked to produce an effect similar to that of heroin. Although his childhood was pretty crap – or crapper than most – his life was not unstimulating. And for some reason people marked out me as someone with potential…which it was said was going to waste because me was a junkie. But in spite of being a junkie, me did okay. he was socially, politically and academically function – given to short lived streaks of brilliance when he found himself interested in something. Four years ago, me gave up mandrax. his family and everyone who knew him was happy. but me, who had before this been confident and easy in company, if not arrogant at times, suddenly became rather pathetic. he broke contact with most of his friends, lost interest in the political projects that had driven him for more of a decade, participating in things only out a sense of loyalty to his comrades, or perhaps worst, because his identity was somehow tied to his political being. when he went out, which was very seldom, if he found himself slipping back into his old confident self, for days afterwards he would question every aspect of the social interaction, anxiously weighing each word he might have delivered to mark its precise coordinates within the symbolic order. the effect of this anxiety would see him retreat even further in reclusivness…to the point where he literally avoided making any representation in on his own behalf (in the symbolic order). Then his mother died…and now the guy is really fucked. so as a professional, what would you say to me?


    Comment by dionysusstoned — 26 March 2008 @ 8:11 pm

  6. First reaction: me sounds a little bit like, er, me. Now that’s a bad stance to take professionally — transference and all that — so I’ll set it aside. Some friends in college used this stuff you’re talking about, so I have a sense of the effect from the outside looking in. So convey congratulations to me for quitting.

    I’m much more comfortable asking questions than giving advice, so if you don’t mind… Has me found anything else to hold his interest other than politics? Does he feel that he ought to retain this political interest? Any sense of guilt for not feeling more politically committed?

    I presume it’s a benefit of mandrax to sustain a sense of self-confidence. So, when me experiences a short-lived return of the old confident self, does he associate it with his old junky self? Why does me question himself so thoroughly afterward, do you think? Does he think he’s possibly made a fool of himself, like he used to do when he was stoned? Does he think his self-confident episodes aren’t authentic? Is he afraid that he might be expected to act in this self-confident way all the time, and he doesn’t feel capable of it?

    It’s not particularly uncommon to feel self-conscious, anxious about making a fool of oneself, feeling uncomfortable in putting oneself forward, worried about the impression one makes on others, etc. I just read a book about this, called “Shyness: How Normal Behavior Become a Sickness.” This paralyzing self-consciousness is characteristic of adolescence in particular. So if me started his junkie phase when he was 16, he may have been able to avoid coming to terms with his shyness and self-consciousness by being artificially gregarious. Now he’s got to resolve this self-presentation issue at an older age, which makes it more difficult.

    So me was close to his mother? Is he fucked because he’s so sad? Is he fucked because he used to rely on her and can’t do it any more?

    I’ll stop for now, and wait to hear what you think about these things.


    Comment by ktismatics — 26 March 2008 @ 11:17 pm

  7. Then, on the other hand, there’s this. Once me was a junky, but he’s not any more — he can function without biochemical impairment. He’s introspective, intelligent, thoughtful — more so, perhaps, than many of his friends. He’s politically attuned, through some combination of heritage and habit and personal preference. Me’s country has changed politically, dramatically in some ways, within me’s lifetime, yet in many ways things are no different, no better, than before.

    Does me have an idea about what political actions are really important? Does he believe that these actions are achievable? Is it hard for me even to imagine anything really different happening, that the various political agendas all seem equally futile, and that his personal ideals seem so remote from everyday reality as to be virtually indistinguishable from fantasy? Does me perhaps think that his friends and family are deluding themselves, acting as if what they do is important and makes a difference when in all likelihood it’s futile? Given the futility of his own and others’ projects, does me have a difficult time motivating himself for more than a few days or hours at a time? Does me feel at times that he would be fine, productive, energetic if he were somehow to find himself transported into a different reality, one occupied by people who could see what he sees, with whom he could pursue common agendas that might actually make a difference, where the trajectory from potential to actual wasn’t constantly short-circuited not by his own indifference but by the indifference of the world?


    Comment by ktismatics — 27 March 2008 @ 5:10 am

  8. so what you saying is that you don’t know of any quick fix pill me could take to fix it?

    i’ll just answer some of the questions and then we should stop…which anyway seems to me the easiest. Me is pretty sure of ethical appropriateness of a particular political way of life. But there seems to be an uneasy fit between his actual political engagements and the ethical political life he imagines. the former is concerned with wining an argument and the reshaping of a political program in light of this victory. The latter isn’t really concerned with a political program as such, but speaks, instead, to a political form where the utility of representation is itself put into question. the latter, a politics without representation, only appears in fleeting outbursts that are quickly recaptured on the plane of a political program. Ironically much of his political work consists precisely in arresting these fleeting outburst and giving them over to a political program that seeks to make a representation of them. but this is my critique of me, it probably has nothing to do with why me finds himself unable to invest in either frame.

    Then there is the social thing…mostly two things bother him. 1) all social interaction increasingly takes the form of a representation of self in which he reads a desire for affirmation (this is how he understands his particular confident pose). the latter, this needing of other to give him meaning, embarrasses him and cuts an ugly profile next to the very image of self he sought to give representation to. in all this then appears another problem – ‘self sabotage’. 2) this seems related. he sees in his public self a disquietingly duplicity, an automatic and natural mode of relation to people strategically – getting them to like me, or showing them how different me is from them. This bothers me

    It should be noted that both of the above now exclude this interaction from going any further, since i get the sense that what i have described above is what is at stake here.

    later brother, and thanks for your thoughts


    Comment by dionysusstoned — 27 March 2008 @ 8:39 am

  9. You have excellent insights into me’s dilemma, DS. I suspect you’re in a better position to advise him than I.

    The political conundrum I’m not sure I understand. “A politics without representation” I interpret as something like my limited understanding of Agamben, or of Hardt & Negri, in which no utopic end state is envisioned but rather an unrepresented order that will emerge through the joint and several initiatives of the Multitude. I suppose the danger is that, by capturing any particular moment of this emergence in the symbolic order, that moment becomes reified, static, something to be preserved rather than a fleeting intermediate phase that must be exceeded. Whether this is what you mean or not, I tend to agree that this intellectual dilemma might not account for your inertia.

    Part of my response is surely transferential. For example, I’m currently torn between writing a particular set of ideas as either a nonfictional exposition or as a novel. So I oscillate back and forth between them, but I never actually get started on either one. If I could resolve my ambivalence I could probably write both books in parallel. The reluctance to begin is I think caused by other factors, mostly the unlikelihood of either version ever getting published.

    This is related to your next point: the desire for affirmation from the other. One would think it possible to act unilaterally as a spontaneous manifestation of passion or intrinsic interest. On the other hand, the whole premise behind the Multitude is the intersection and convergence of desires. And I think this whole paradigm of self-propelling passion is partly an ideological manifestation of individualistic neoliberalism. If we could just set the egos aside and dwell on the emergence itself, things would be better. In my experience it’s the failure of synergy, the confrontation of indifference in others, that throws me back on myself, my inadequacies, my egoistic needs for affirmation, etc. If the emergent trajectories are actually happening, there’s enough joy to fuel my passions. On the other hand, there is the pleasure of contributing something different and unprecedented to the mix, which seems like egoism or its inverse — the fear of not being valued unless one is special. I think these motivations fuel a lot of intellectual activity in the world.


    Comment by ktismatics — 27 March 2008 @ 10:35 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: