I can think of no better distillation of the America the cinetrix loves (courtesty of Rutube.ru, which is PERFECT) than this clip. Don't blow off any digits, y'all, and remember to hydrate.
Here in a flash are links either directly or tangentially related to my experience "Turning the Inside Out" last month. It's a selfish way to gather them for myself, masquerading as selflessness. I often think of writing, or making films, as hospitality, anticipating a guest's needs, making places for them, giving them moments to rest, and exposing them to nourishing new flavors. So imagine my delight when I found this, in an interview John Waters just conducted with David Cronenberg:
"I don’t really look for them," Cronenberg said when asked by Waters if he keeps up with the horror genre. "There was a time when I studied them when I was a kid. But since then, unless it’s something really special, I won’t seek it out. It has to be something that I feel will nourish me."
Qui si mangia bene.
How Not to Be Seen:
Not coincidentally, to see and be seen are the most pressing imperatives of our audiovisual economies. To disappear is to subtract oneself from the fluxes of semiotic capitalism—the subject of another Steyerl video work, the fittingly titled How Not to be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File (2013). First shown/exhibited/fed to audiences at the Venice Biennale, the video revolves around and hovers over disused photo-calibration targets in the Californian desert— once used to test the resolution of analog aerial photography, they now look like abandoned Mayan temples on Google Earth—while speculating on our contemporary pan-optical besiegement and suggesting possible escape plans. To retreat into gated communities or tax havens, to be over 35 years old (if you’re a female) are some ways to make yourself invisible, but also voiceless; another is to scale yourself down to the size of a pixel, helpfully illustrated in the video by mimes wearing quadrangular, pixel-like boxes on their heads. If clandestinity once required a low profile, these days the cyber outlaw needs a low resolution, though a burqa might just do the trick as well. To use images in order to show how to be invisible is the signifying contradiction at the heart of Steyerl’s video, as it is at the bleeding heart of our virtual condition. Is there really no escape from the tyrannical rule of appearances? Does disappearing inevitably mean also ceasing to exist? Is there life before and beyond images?
After these tactics are outlined, the film crew making this educational video also disappears. In their absence, happy low-resolution pixels take over the production. Digital rendering ghosts dance in the desert landscape as The Three Degrees' "When Will I See You Again" plays on the soundtrack. Silliness ensues.
Which I thought of when I read this cartoon, "Out Damned Spot" on Rookie after returning from the seminar.
And this item about MIT folks working on camouflage algorithms:
We think of camouflage as a concern for hunters and soldiers, but in fact our lives are filled with objects we wish blended a little better into their surroundings: a wireless router in your living room, a port-a-potty beside a soccer field, a trash can in a public park. Now, a team of computer scientists at MIT is on the case. Led by graduate student Andrew Owens, they've created an algorithm that analyzes pictures of incongruous objects and creates custom camouflage that makes them fade into their surroundings.
The algorithm analyzes images of an object in situ and pays particular attention to textures and contour lines, which are two of the biggest visual cues we use to distinguish objects from their backgrounds. The researchers' biggest challenge was figuring out how to make the camouflage work from multiple perspectives (if a box sits between a black leather couch and a smooth yellow wall, a pattern that makes it blend in best from one angle would make it striking from another). There's no perfect way to solve this problem, but the MIT researchers found that the best algorithm came up with a camouflage design that worked best from as many angles as possible and also allowed for smooth transitions from one side of the object to another. The camouflaged objects don't disappear completely, but it does take a few extra moments of scrutiny to find them, which, come to think of it, may not actually be what we want in a trailside restroom.
Also related, from The Awl, Why is the Internet blue?
A designer for Tumblr says Tumblr is blue, and "dark," because nobody notices blue. "Everything’s blue," he says. "Posts are bright on that blue background and lifted up with shadows." Blue is for the parts you "don’t need immediately." You can make your Tumblr any color you want; it will appear that way to you, and to people to come directly to your page on their own. Your Tumblr doesn't have to be blue until it shares space with others.
On the dashboard, everyone is trying to be noticed, but everyone is blue.
e-flux Journal: "The Wretched of the Screen" / Hito Steyerl
Hito's work is on display at MIT's List Gallery through July 13 as part of "9 Artists." I am hoping to slip down July 9 for this discussion:
More on surveillance from Maura Johnston, who posted Rockwell's song "Obscene Phone Caller" to This Is My Jam with this note: "what pop songsmith will write the definitive lite-funk jam about being catfished, i wonder"
Smitten also by the work of Duncan Campbell and Jesse McLean, which likewise blew me away. I am still tracking down information about their films. Meanwhile, this WaPo fact-checker piece reminded me about how Duncan's films engage with new, forgotten, and distorted histories:
“Kennedy was certainly bracing for an ‘eyeball to eyeball’ moment, but it never happened,” Dobbs wrote. “There is now plenty of evidence that Kennedy — like Khrushchev — was a lot less steely-eyed than depicted in the initial accounts of the crisis, which were virtually dictated by the White House. Tape-recorded transcripts of White House debates and notes from participants show that Kennedy was prepared to make significant concessions, including a public trade of Soviet missiles in Cuba for American missiles in Turkey and possibly the surrender of the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay.”
Then there's this on borders drawn and not drawn on Google Maps, which reminded me of Eric Baudelaire's "Letters to Max."
It’s hard to draw a map without making someone angry. There are 32 countries that Google Maps won’t draw borders around. While the so-called geo-highlighting feature—which Google uses to show a searched area’s borders—is unaffected by the locale of the person looking at them, the borders drawn on Google’s base map will look different depending on where in the world you are.
And here's Eric's lovely "The Makes," about Michelangelo Antonioni’s Japanese films. "Starring French film critic Philippe Azoury in the role of 'The Critic.'”
This piece about the Dokumat 500 seems in keeping with the themes stirred up during the week, especially by how Jesse McLean works with "found footage":
While there is no image recognition involved, the robot also does not recognize any coherence in the sequence it films. But the human viewer links, due to his conditioning, the individual takes in the finished film. A person who watches those videos will discover inspiring sequences and bizarre plots. Recurring motives run like a thread through the video documentary.
By the robot’s random control, it produces unexpected sequences and also predictable ones. Occasionally, it composes its pictures in completely conventional ways, sometimes it deviates from our viewing habits. Often, things in the background seem to interest it much more, than the obvious.
It directs the attention of the spectator on things, where humans usually don’t take the time to view it, or on situations, where we would not have the necessary boldness for an insistent observation....
The robot has a basic artificial intelligence, which allows it to move independently in almost any environment. Infrared sensors avoid collisions and provide the robot with the required basic information about its surroundings. Pans and tilts of the camera depend on the movement of the machine in its particular environment, and not on what the camera sees. The movements are based on an algorithm, which lets the robot behave, as if it would have a personality.
However, both, the design and the behavior of Dokumat 500 suggest a curiosity about the happening in front of its lens, to be inherent in it.
Its presence and the attributes of an offensive observation are regarded first as being exciting, after a while they get annoying, obtrusive and disturbing. The flightcase of the robot accommodates not only the robot during transport, it also offers space for large archive of video cassettes, which is build up gradually.
Man, I haven't even gotten to Johan Grimonprez. But I'll close here by hailing some present but not officially presenting artists from the week. First up are Jonas Mekas and Ken Jacobs, "The Monks of Cinema."
And last is Maura Jasper, at the Flaherty as a seminarian, whom I knew from a past life but not this past life, where she did the art for Dinosaur, Jr.'s albums and made the transistion to the video art she does now with this clip for one of my favorite covers.
"I had so little experience, but that was a plus. I didn’t have any technical ability; I had ideas. I knew it would be OK if it was falling apart, because it would be funny. It was the same as if you’re in a punk rock band and can’t play the guitar — you just need the attitude and you just go.
The attitude in that work, and the ideas that came out of that, those came with me and went into everything I’ve gone on to make. I take it with me. Some artists burn the work they made before a certain time, to let go of the past, so no one can see it. I can’t do that. All my developmental years are out in public. And I’m OK with that."
Saw this film at Full Frame and have ideas and thoughts about it I'll get around to sharing one day. For now, here are Matt Zoller Seitz's:
Despite the film's title, Block doesn't interview all 112 couples whose weddings he's covered — just a few of them. There are heterosexual couples and same-sex couples. Some followed up their ceremonies and receptions with long and/or happy marriages. Others basically peaked with the exchange of rings and got divorced a while later. Still others put on happy faces for Block's camera but seem to be hiding something, or tiptoeing around something.
A great piece on seeing the remake before the original:
The same goes for Against All Odds. I not only saw that before seeing Out of the Past, I saw it five or six times before seeing Out of the Past. That’s because it played on Showtime seemingly around the clock back in the mid-eighties. And I kind of liked it back then, too. Sadly, like every other remake I’ve mentioned so far, revisits have not been kind. And it goes without saying that Out of the Past is the better of the two and also one of the best, if not the best, noir of all time.
Tom Shone on film scores:
There’s much less Peter-and-the-Wolfing, fewer big themes, spelled out in strings, pegged to specific characters. If “Doctor Zhivago” were made today, there would be no “Lara’s Theme”. Instead you’ll find more layering, more washes of sound, less melody, more rhythm. The work of Thomas Newman is less hummable than it is hypnotic, often marking out empty space with spare, reverb-heavy two-part piano melodies, which step up or down an interval, then hold, as if poised on the edge of something vast. It’s horizontal music, made for the empty earthscapes of “WALL-E” or the oceanic ambience of “Finding Nemo”.
Mychael Danna did something similar with his “Moneyball” score: a work of pure, glittering expectation, like a wet lawn at dawn. That’s his Gorecki-like ascent of chords you can hear building in the trailer for the new Christopher Nolan epic “Interstellar”. Stylistically, Williams’s most immediate heir is Michael Giacchino, who has some of the same ear for high-vaulting melodic intervals, and is thus a perfect fit for any film that puts a low premium on the forces of gravity. That makes him a busy man—he wrote the beautiful cloud-bound waltz for “Up” and will be working on the next “Star Wars”—but not as busy as Alexandre Desplat, the French composer whose name so superbly evokes the image of a tomato hitting a wall. This year he has scored the unlikely trio of “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, “Godzilla”, and Angelina Jolie’s forthcoming second-world-war drama about the Olympic track star Louis Zamperini, “Unbroken”. Desplat likes to combine the lush romanticism of Georges Delerue with a rhythmic backbone of mallet instruments, harps and timpani that somehow recall the inner workings of a grandfather clock
Lisa Rosman gets personal about Roger Ebert:
So, like everyone who had enjoyed his reviews and borne witness to his courage - and especially like everyone who had benefitted from his enormous generosity of spirit - I was bereft when he died. But I was suspicious about the prospect of "Life Itself." I knew that Chaz, his wife, had loved Roger so much and was so understandably proprietal of his legacy that any documentary about his life, no matter how well-intended, might have been a mere puff piece.
I am so happy to admit that I was wrong, that I underestimated everyone involved in this extraordinary biopic. I should have known that Roger respected and loved movies so much that he never would have allowed one to be made in his name that did not live up to the cinematic standards he spent a lifetime upholding. Not to mention that "Life Itself" is executive-produced by Martin Scorsese (who appears in this film) and Steven Zaillian (who produced "Moneyball"), is inspired by Roger's best-selling eponymous memoir, and is directed by Steve James.
A: To make the recording, I’m wearing two mics strapped to each side of my head. The grey acrylic fur windcovers enveloping each mic might, from a distance, look like small woodland animals. It’s as well that not many people come here.
Q: When was the last time you saw a web address on a movie poster or trailer and felt compelled to type it into your browser, letter by stupid letter, to see what you'd find? An ad displaying a humble domain name already feels like an archaic marketing method, the equivalent of shouting your URL at someone out of the window of a moving car.
A: I thought: let’s go for broke, here. Let’s try to create some environments and experiences in which kids (and the kid in all of us) can really explore what their voices can do. Let’s give them freedom to experiment. Let’s reward them for wildness. Let’s try to make it child and family friendly, but beautiful and rich and somehow sensual, despite the limitations of the tablet format.
A: Chances are, if you’re receiving AARP mailers, are experiencing partial deafness and have knee and/or back trouble, then you do know that ‘zine is short for magazine and is the term for fan-published periodical sent out into the world by the eager and the obsessive back in the days before e-mail, newsgroups, Internet blogs, and YouTube subscriptions. The ‘zine was the bastard child of the religious tract and political pamphlet, something to slap into a stranger’s hand and say “This! And this!”
Judy, Judy, Judy! [via]
The thing is, in a similar way to how a “manic pixie dream girl” is a limiting criticism of a film’s characterization, I’m not sure if “the Bedchel test” should necessarily be a “bare-minimum standard,” and what real change comes from criticizing that representation, in movies and TV. At its heart, it’s a joke, and a pretty good one, as seen in the original panel from Alison Bedchel’s Dykes to Watch Out For (above). But when critics mention it as a metric of whether something’s good or bad, judging art by whether it reflects your experience or not, I wonder if we’re losing something.
In the company of wolves with Kim Morgan sunsetgun.typepad.com/
conceived and shot by Kim Morgan & Guy Maddin
Contemporary costume, even from popular movies, is surprisingly hard to trace. What has happened to George Clooney’s Aloha shirts from The Descendants? The film’s costume designer Wendy Chuck isn’t sure. “I have no idea where his shirts went, probably into the stock at Fox costume house,” she guesses. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s iconic jacket worn as social armour in Brick? Another uncertain costume designer. Michele Posch rented three of the jackets from the Universal Studio’s costume department in order to distress a couple for different moments in the film. Their current whereabouts are uncertain. “The jackets were returned but I have looked recently and they seem to be gone,” Michele explains. “Could be someone has rented them for another project or that they were lost at some point.” Another piece of collectable costume (or three) goes missing.
I still remember the first time I ever saw a two-dollar bill. It was in a wallet, on a TV screen in the living room of my childhood home. The wallet belonged to a dead woman called Ida Sessions, and it was Jack Nicholson who was riffling through it: Social Security Card; Screen Actors Guild Membership; two-dollar bill. I was maybe 12 or 13 and had never even set foot in America, but like anyone in the English-speaking world who watched way too many movies, I felt I knew the country like the back of my hand. Certainly its currency, which seemed more like real money than the colorful, monopoly notes we used, so often had I seen it brimming out of briefcases, left contemptuously on nightstands or fluttering down like green confetti after an explosion. But I had never seen a two-dollar bill, so that, of all things, was the detail that snagged my attention the first time I watched Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown.”
I doubt that it’s of much use to note that a scene in a kitchen brought mid-career Fassbinder to mind. The frame seems boxier here, the colors definitely brighter—see the still above; that orange-red glass and those blatantly yellow fingernails are at one point complemented by the angular turquoise-and-white design of a pack of cigarettes—and there are two camera movements that are clearly meant to draw attention to themselves as well as to the pairing they accentuate.
The continued abuse of a movie that had already been relegated to the slab could be taken as profaning a corpse. But it was on the midnight-movie circuit—a place where the occult is taken seriously and vampires and zombies feel at home—thatShowgirls began its rise from the grave. Though few people wanted to seeShowgirls when it was in theaters, on home video it became a curiosity, and then a minor group-viewing phenomenon. Starting in 1996, MGM graciously offered prints to repertory theaters, and then hired drag queens to attend the screenings and encourage audience participation.
Suddenly, Showgirls's major reference point had shifted from Valley of the Dolls toThe Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). "A performer named Winona, in a black vinyl miniskirt and bustier, passed out scripts that cued viewers... when to shout along with the dopiest lines," reported the New York Times. "The movie rolled, accompanied by non-stop shouted wisecracks. When Nomi threw a pile of French fries during a dramatic scene, a heckler yelled ‘Overact, Nomi!'" MGM had allowed their intellectual property to be reduced to a punch line, but in the end, the studio laughed all the way to the bank. The various re-releases shored up Showgirls' box-office take until it became, with all revenue streams accounted for, one of the most profitable titles in the studio's back catalogue. To date, Showgirls has grossed more than $100 million. To quote the film's loquacious screenwriter: "Remember that chicken shit can turn into chicken liver."
Why I'd like to be... [Still waiting for cross-gender-lines candidates in this Guardian role model series.]
But much more importantly, what we witness in Private Benjamin is an awakening of spirit and the uncovering and rejection of the Prince Charming myth. Anyone who appears to be coming to the rescue has something to gain for themselves. This realisation first dawns on our battered and bruised heroine when her parents come to release her from basic training – and she perceives that they are not there to save her, but their family's reputation.
“The great strength of the movies in the 1940s,” Manny Farber once wrote, “was the subversive power of the bit player.” Few had more such power than the character actor SKELTON BARNABY KNAGGS (1911–55). With Jack Elam and Rondo Hatton, Knaggs was one of the most memorably unattractive men in the history of movies. Emaciated, pockmarked, with waxy skin and bulging eyes, Knaggs had the face and manner of a dried-up tangerine.
Appearing in the first half of Lauren Greenfield’s Thin (2006), this moment is a remarkable representation of disordered eating. It is neither sensational nor aspirational—it is boring. And when it comes to narratives about eating disorders, the tedious approach is rarely taken. Instead, mainstream media gives us images of shrunken bodies or endless discussions of self-regulation (widely accepted in the form of diet trends and cleanses); eating disorders are either foreign and grotesque (who would ever want to look like that?) or normalized (who doesn’t want to be thin, really?). With no representations of the grey area between these two extremes, this complex mental disease becomes an easily digestible story of shock and awe, sickness and health, and exteriority over interiority. Then there is Greenfield’s documentary. Rejecting these frameworks, she aims for a depiction of something closer to the isolating experience of addiction, emphasizing the mundane, the dull, the routine.
The HBO-produced documentary follows four women at Renfrew: Shelley, Polly, Brittany, and Alisa. For most of their lives, these women have binged, purged, and restricted, which has led to incidences of self-harm and attempted suicide. Renfrew, they all say, is their last hope for recovery. As this brief plot synopsis suggests, the potential for sensationalism lies at every turn. But rather than indulge in theatrics, Thin, like its subjects, restricts its worldview to the present moment. A moment that, for the four women the camera is following, is consumed by and structured around one thing: food.
Greenfield’s emphasis on this myopia of the moment is what writer Alice Gregory would call “radical.” Writing in The New York Times, Gregory says: “When it comes to writing about anorexia, the only truly radical move, as far as I can tell, would be to show clearly just how profoundly boring it is—not sad or prurient or overdetermined.” For Gregory, discussing EDs should not be centred around idealized tales of tortured geniuses or brave survivors who have found self-acceptance—these are normalizing, unchallenging narratives. As Gregory bluntly puts it: “a voluntarily isolated person choosing not to eat until she’s addicted to not eating doesn’t make for a very good story.” Because of this, Gregory says, “I don’t know what a deliberately boring book about anorexia would look like.” The film version might look like Greenfield’s documentary.
In an idle moment on a winter day, have you ever looked at a slant of sunlight through your living room window and found yourself transported back to childhood? Well, even if you haven't, you may still enjoy Dispersion, a towering metal and glass sculpture recently on display at Brown University, which promised visitors a revelatory experience: "It truly can prompt memories that are beneath our conscious minds," stated a news release. How so? Dispersion, created by Providence artist Daniel Clayman, is made from 682 pieces of glass, stained a radiant gold and joined together in the shape of a full sail 16 feet high and 32 feet wide. Sunlight passes through the sculpture, bathing viewers in an amber glow meant to generate what Marcel Proust called "involuntary memories"- forgotten experiences invoked by a single brush of sensation.
"Light passing through any transparent material is assigned an Abbe Value, a mathematical number expressing how much light is dispersed upon passing through a material with a particular refractive index. Working with the Abbe Value and the ensuing quality of light, Dispersions becomes three things at once: a lens projecting and bending light, a filter changing the color and pattern and an object that redefines the space through its towering presence. As the light shines through the antique glass a stage set is born. Dappled light, projected by the object, becomes a device to capture a moment, in particular, summer sun filtering through trees."
Off to the playground, then, both children speeding ahead on scooters, the younger curling his back foot up flamingo-wise in ostentatious self-confidence. Later, he would experimentally let go of a swing at the top of its arc, to wrap up the day with a fat lip. Excessive possibilities. A small tree under the big trees caught its own portion of sunlight. The clouds had abandoned the sky. Even waiting indoors for takeout was too much. Better to take a slow walk around the next two blocks. A cool wind eased its way up the avenue. Everyone's hair looked fantastic, alive with subtle textures and shadings. The bricks looked good; the stains and grime on the bricks looked good. The bronze-toned facade of the old OTB parlor, now given over to yoga and herbs, gleamed richly. Even the dull red paint, slathered several stories up to further blank out a blank brick wall, was vibrant, each little broken peeling patch a point of interest. Nothing was gilded or honeyed yet, in the long end of daytime, just each thing saturated with the colors all its own.
Recently, he has found himself shaking his head at the litigious direction of his image-conscious occupation as the question of who owns a tattoo has become a source of tension.
The act of decontextualizing this phrase, and transplanting it from a legal document into something as ethereal and ephemeral as clouds in the sky, opens it up to multiple readings. Seen from below, the words could be interpreted as relating to a spiritual or religious epiphany or an agnostic response to the question of faith.
Or they might be construed as a meditation on the afterlife or the existence of UFOs: a not entirely inappropriate response given the rapid proliferation of drones populating our skies over the past decade. Anyone familiar with the ongoing litigation would likely recognize the wording for what it is. Yet on that clear day in May, many were left simply asking themselves, “What does this mean?” It’s a valid question that ordinary citizens would do well to ask their government.
Skywriting was invented by British air force pilots during the First World War as a way of making military signals visible over long distances. Today, it is the very piloted planes themselves that are being phased out by the U.S. Department of Defense in favor of unmanned aircraft. [via]
Some Hum investigators suspect that there's a global source responsible for the Hum worldwide. Deming's research, considered close to authoritative in the Hum community, suggests that evidence of the Hum corresponds with an accidental, biological consequence of the "Take Charge and Move Out" (TACAMO) system adopted by the US Navy in the 1960s as a way for military leaders to maintain communications with the nation's ballistic missile submarines, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, and long-range bombers during a nuclear war. As part of TACAMO, military aircraft use VLF radio waves to send instructions to submarines: Because of their large wavelengths, VLF can diffract around large obstacles like mountains and buildings, propagate around the globe using the Earth's ionosphere and penetrate seawater to a depth of almost 40 meters, making them ideal for one-way communication with subs. And VLF, like other low-frequency electromagnetic waves, have been shown to have a direct impact on biological functions. (Strategic Communications Wing One at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, which is responsible for the manning, training and equipping of aircraft utilized as part of the TACAMO system, did not respond to requests for comment.)
And there are other theories. While Moir agrees with MacPherson that the disturbance is occurring at a very low frequency, he's convinced that the source of the Auckland Hum is primarily acoustic rather than electromagnetic, partially because he claims his research team has managed to capture a recording of the Hum.
"It's a very, very low wavelength noise, perhaps between 50 or 56 Hz," Moir told Mic. "And it's extremely difficult to stop infrasound because it can have a wavelength of up to 10 meters, and you'd need around 2.5 meter thick walls, built with normal materials, to keep it out. It gets into our wooden houses very easily. And part of the reason people have so much trouble identifying the source of it is because of how low frequency the Hum is: It literally moves right through your head before you can figure out which ear picked it up first."
With the help of the Dream Machine, I came to view songs not just as entertainment to enjoy and consume, but as companions—sometimes even support systems.
...But on the weekends, suburban afternoons stretched out endlessly, particularly on bad-weather days. The boredom afforded by TV-watching led us to discover the lower half of the FM spectrum, which was crowded with non-commercial stations full of DJs who weren’t much older than us.
The first one we discovered was all the way at the end of the dial, so far down that sometimes tuning it in involved strategic placement of not only the radio’s antenna, but sometimes the entire device. On the weekends, it went all-metal, all the time. We taped songs we liked, creating chaotic mixes where the opening seconds of each song—Megadeth’s “Liar,” Metallica’s “Last Caress”—were cut off.
But if the conceit of #weirdtwitter is that any average person in America can remake themselves as a pseudonymous #weirdtwitter comedian, corporations joining the fray have an outsize advantage, because they are neither anonymous nor average nor even a person. When corporations tweet something “weird” and “funny” to us, we pay more attention: The thought of a traditional corporate entity, which has historically had no direct “voice,” suddenly distilling itself into an eccentric, devil-may-care character is instantly affecting, precisely because of how uncanny, even creepy, it is.
But he took definite pleasure in displaying his tiny family unit on the back of a new family car only slightly bigger than a toaster, he says, far removed from stick-figure families’ usual habitat: the rear windows of SUVs and minivans.
There, a conga line of figures, from tallest to smallest, provides smug proof of affluence, busyness and procreative prowess: You’ll see a barbecue dad and a shopping mom, followed by an older girl hockey player, a hip-hop teen boy, a girl ballerina and a baby boy, followed by dogs, cats, goldﬁsh—all duly named underneath. Pavlovic admits that image was in his mind. “OK, maybe in the back of my head, I was thinking, ‘Oh, go screw yourself, SUV riders,’ ” he says. “You take up so much room, you have so much—don’t put it in my face that you also have seven kids.”
...What interests Wade most is the blowback to “traditional” stick-family families, from people like Pavlovic. “This is activism happening, when you see couples with no children put decals of two people and piles of money on their cars, or women choosing to put a figure of a woman with a cat, or six.” Identifying yourself as a same-sex couple is another form of resistance, Wade says: “It’s very visible. They’re not coming out to somebody; they’re coming out to everybody.”
Just as encountering something obscure can be very personal and poetic, the act of posting about it can be quite vulgar, as it deprives others from finding it for themselves or having the illusion of being the only one. So, it is with mixed feelings that I share with you the following truly obscure digital artefact.
...In the restoration process, some tender aspects of the artifact could be uncovered. Bomb Iraqperforms best when embedded in its full context—which emulation is able to almost fully capture. While most users will be happy simply to experience Bomb Iraq, the whole system is there to explore. Cory and I worked to remove all the files that could identify the computer’s original owner, moving the focus to an afterglow of this person, drive-by inscriptions in the system’s configuration.
Letters, photos and some game high score entries bearing the owner’s full name had to be deleted, but the arrangement of icons, the software installed , the modified system font and desktop background—which all once made sense to somebody—demonstrate the narrative power of system ambience.
What about the visual side of your project? I love your nails, and you paint on that second set of eyes…
So how is that symbolic?
I used to do it before Ramona Lisa even existed, when I was just going out at night, to go to parties—and not even costume parties, but just regular ones, because I enjoyed how it changed my conversation with people. Because I would forget it was there, but they wouldn't, and it would kind of scare people off their guard a little bit. I really enjoyed that. And then when the Ramona Lisa project started coming together, I found myself gravitating toward outfits that were much more feminine, and much more kind of era-ambiguous than the way I would dress normally. Much less street, more formal. But at the same time I didn't want to be a little lady onstage either, I wanted something that would say yes, there’s this elegance, but you’re walking on edge with this dream space too. And I thought putting the eyes with that outfit makes it like the music.
Be your own hero. Open a new tab, press play, and read on.
"I started calling myself a cyborg."
In that poem, "Café Loop," there are the lines: "My friend says she actually believes/her poems have speakers. Oh that's rich./I'm sorry but if the book is called amputee and you're an amputee/then you are the speaker." In The Book of Goodbyes you play with multiple speakers. Do you feel that abled white male writers are able to decide whether they will write poetry as "themselves" or using multiple speakers without being questioned?
I don’t know what kinds of questions majority writers face. It was a big surprise to have my life questioned right after publishing The Amputee’s Guide to Sex. I was doing an interview for the radio and the questions were focused on my surgeries. So I pushed back. After the interview, the producer said, “One day I hope you come out of the closet.” I think her point was something like, “We brought you here to be disabled. Now be disabled. Otherwise, get off my radio show.”
This relates to what Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah brilliantly defines as “the curated experience.” Most portrayals of women with disabilities are curated experiences.
The post-wounded posture is claustrophobic: jadedness, aching gone implicit, sarcasm quick on the heels of anything that might look like self-pity. I see it in female writers and their female narrators, troves of stories about vaguely dissatisfied women who no longer fully own their feelings. Pain is everywhere and nowhere. Post-wounded women know that postures of pain play into limited and outmoded conceptions of womanhood. Their hurt has a new native language spoken in several dialects: sarcastic, jaded, opaque; cool and clever. They guard against those moments when melodrama or self-pity might split their careful seams of intellect, expose the shame of self-absorption without self-awareness.
I know these dialects because I have spoken them; I know these post-wounded narrators because I have written them. I wonder now: What shame are they sculpted from?
In her 1987 book Practicalities, the French novelist and film-maker Marguerite Duras says many shocking things about what it means to be a woman and a writer. One of her most striking statements is about the difference between male and female drinking – or rather the difference in how the two are perceived. "When a woman drinks," she writes, "it's as if an animal were drinking, or a child. Alcoholism is scandalous in a woman, and a female alcoholic is rare, a serious matter. It's a slur on the divine in our nature." Ruefully, she adds a personal coda: "I realised the scandal I was creating around me."
She'd been an alcoholic, she figured, from the moment of her first drink. Sometimes she managed to stop for years at a time, but during her bingeing periods she'd go all-out: start as soon as she woke up, pausing to vomit the first two glasses, then polishing off as many as eight litres of Bordeaux before passing out in a stupor. "I drank because I was an alcoholic," she told the New York Times in 1991. "I was a real one – like a writer. I'm a real writer, I was a real alcoholic. I drank red wine to fall asleep. Afterwards, Cognac in the night. Every hour a glass of wine and in the morning Cognac after coffee, and afterwards I wrote. What is astonishing when I look back is how I managed to write."
This dynamic applies to any group of workers that speaks out on its own behalf, but there’s a special factor at work in the way that people critique adjuncts who want better conditions. Teaching college is a white-collar job. It is not dangerous or degrading; it happens on college campuses, which often are pleasant and have trees and sometimes inspirational phrases about learning carved into stone buildings; it is—except for the low pay and lack of benefits and constant uncertainty about the future—a good job. Gregory calls this a “cruel double standard: you’ve made this choice to go into a bad career that has high social status.” Many of the comments directed at her, and others who raise the adjunct issue, are concerned with protecting the sanctity of teaching. A professor should not be so vulgar as to talk about the material reality of her life.
When we got home, the midwife told us there was a 50-50 chance that everything was OK. Try to relax, she said, try to sleep. Maybe you’re in the 50 percent for whom this means nothing. We’ll get you an ultrasound first thing in the morning. Curled around me in the dark, my husband could tell that my body had already changed. In his kindness, he kept that knowledge to himself.
The next morning, we walked across our frozen neighborhood, still in its cocoon of holiday quiet, to the hospital. As I lay on the examining table during the ultrasound, the gum-chewing technician asked me, “Who told you you were pregnant?”
Instantly I was flooded with shame. Who was I to think I could make a baby out of my unremarkable body? Had I made it up? Had I grown my belly out of the sheer force of my imagination and unrestrained appetite? Had I made myself nauseous through wishing?
After being fired from a $200-a-month advertising job (“I wouldn’t sleep with the boss,” she said), Lois found herself in a magazine shop, determined to figure out how to break in as a writer. She bought 22 copies of 22 different confessionals — pulp magazines that published lurid, anonymous secrets that hinged on an easily replicated formula. “I sinned, suffered, got caught, and repented,” Lois explained. She regularly began exposing new, fictionalized sins. One week, she was a kleptomaniac who, at the grocery store, couldn’t help but stuff her purse with overpriced tins of smoked oysters. The next week, she was a mother so frustrated with her constantly interrupted love life that she accidentally killed her colicky infant with an overdose of paregoric. Her most popular story was headlined, “I WANTED TO HAVE AN AFFAIR WITH A TEEN-AGE BOY.”
I think these responses are less about alienation and more about vulnerability. The part of us that reads poetry is a reflex part. Men read poetry with their reflexes the same as women do—they put themselves in your trust, they put their bodies in your hands, you tap the right place and the leg kicks. Or the pupils dilate. Or the hackles rise, and something flies out of you on a flock of little red nerves. To feel power shift out of your body is uncomfortable. It makes you feel that it was never yours to begin with. That’s the whole point; that’s the subject here; and maybe what we are seeing is that it is more difficult for men—to recognize that they’re in someone else’s hands, to recognize that they’re at someone else’s mercy, when the author’s touch feels different, when the poems are these poems.
While teaching the Sofia Coppola section of my class, I've been dressing with each week's film in mind. Appropriate, right? Especially given Coppola's paratextual auteur persona as fashion icon. So, shlumpy button-down and Chuck lo-tops a la Charlotte, a cinched-waist knee-length black linen jacket whose shawl collar and peplum gestured toward Marie Antoinette's court silhouettes as its material recalled the simpler muslin garb at Petit Trianon. Never anything too extreme or on the nose, so stolen hoochy club couture for next week's screening of The Bling Ring is out. But today I am wearing the closest approximation of the above look, which accompanies an interview with Coppola about this week's film, Somewhere, that an Italo-Irish 40-something female employee of a state university could muster. It made me laugh all day.
Sometimes amusing oneself is the best way to approach the performative aspect of teaching. It also feels like an homage to Miriam Hansen, who we noticed dressed for the films she taught us in a way that's hard to describe, but I remember being unmistakeable when we watched Johnny Guitar with her. No one would accuse Hansen of frivolity.
Finally, from another Somewhere interview, an amusing exchange, one where the filmmaker reveals herself fully cognizant of the nepotism/female-informed construction of Sofia Coppola as auteur:
Q: You won an Oscar for writing "Lost in Translation." You were also nominated for directing it -- making you one of the few women in history to get a directing nomination. When Kathryn Bigelow won earlier this year for "The Hurt Locker," did you feel a sense of pride or kinship?
A: "I appreciate that she's doing her thing, but I don't relate to her work more than a guy's just because she's a woman. I was happy that she won because it was especially fun seeing her win against her ex-husband! (laughs)"
One of the concepts I came across in my research on Wes Anderson for this course I'm teaching advanced the notion of Anderson as "dependent auteur," where his relationships with folks like Randall Poster and Mark Mothersbaugh and the materials in various Criterion extras somehow all contributed to his profile as an auteur, yes, but one who relied on folks like the aforementioned to realize his strong, singular vision.
Not surprisingly, I found as I moved on to Sofia Coppola a lot lot less in the way of scholarly articles. But I was seized with the idea of how her coverage in the fashion press (relationships with Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton, and other luxury brands) as well as the emphasis on nepotism (another luxury brand?) in profiles could themselves be considered as paratextual aspects of her auteur persona.
So I showed the kids Rumble Fish, featuring Domino. And then this week--because I also want to explore hotels across both makers' work--I showed them "Life without Zoe," the script a young Sofia co-wrote with her father, who directed the segment for inclusion in 1989's New York Stories.
I saw this film in its theatrical release, and hated it relative to the Scorsese and Allen contributions. I've since seen Six in Paris and other omnibus films that give this effort context. But now I focus on the paratextual.
The credit sequence is on a first-name basis, just like descriptions of the young Coppola's life have tended to emphasize. The Fieldston girls wear Chanel. And there's the Sherry Netherland, where young Coppola lived. What happens to a hotel when it becomes your home?
Anyway, it's still an infuriating fairy tale, but one I feel more people should watch before they write think-pieces about Coppola, privilege, The Bling Ring or whatever. Face it. Sofia Coppola is not like us. Not because of material advantage per se as much as sometimes she grew up in New York hotels and sometimes she went to school in Oklahoma, and sometimes she lived in the Philippines, and that is her normal.