The joke of the year (decade?) is they don’t, and I’ll have to explain to my grandchildren that long ago there were these big living rooms with hundreds of seats that people used to pay half the price of a DVD (what’s a DVD, grampa?) for one ticket, and by kitchen snacks for, and sit with a bunch of people you did not know and listen to them eat and talk on their phones and otherwise interrupt your film. Unless of course, the movie wasn’t popular, in which case you probably wouldn’t see it, or you’d see it in the giant living room and sit way to close to it, because you could, and walk out with a neck cramp. Because that’s what movies were.
But as it turns out, there are still theaters open. Not any in my neighborhood, but near enough that I could get there if the urge was really on me. So let’s see what we’ve got, at a theater less than an hour from my house:
Wrong Turn(Rotten Tomatoes Score: 29%). Hikers on the Appalachian trail do the thing they’re warned not to do, stumble into land that ain’t theirs, get the Texas Chainsaw Massacre/Green Inferno treatment.
The Marksman (Rotten Tomatoes Score: 34%). Liam Neeson takes on a drug cartel on behalf of some migrants. He learned to shoot good in the Marines, though, so it’ll probably be fine.
News of the World (RTS: 89%) Tom Hanks rescues a child kidnapped by Indians, fights the entire West to take her to her kin.
Wonder Woman 1984 (RTS: 60%) Wonder Woman does Wonder Woman things while Evil Mr. Business does Capitalism Things, in a film made by a marketing committee of a major international corporation.
Fatale (RTS: 46%) Hillary Swank goes Fatal Attraction on a dude. It’s meaningful because she’s a cop and he’s black? I got nothing.
Monster Hunter (RTS: 49%) “So what, are we Guardians of the Galaxy now?” May be the most truthful and pathetic line ever put into a trailer.
The Croods: A New Age (RTS: 77%) Low-Rent Flinstones are back for… something. Who cares.
Freaky(RTS: 83%) Serial Killer inhabits a high-schooler in this parody of a concept that actually got made. Good for them.
Come Play(RTS: 56%) Autistic kid summons monster from his phone in the most 21st Century horror film imaginable.
The Emperor’s New Groove (RTS: 85%) A re-release of a film we paid $26 for on DVD, and are glad to have done so, because its not on Disney+ (neither is Enchanted, because Disney enjoys annoying its fans).
This is an odd collection of films, and some might call it even barebones (granted, it’s January). But there’s at least two of those I would actively choose to see if I actually felt like going to a theater. So, it seems there might actually be a pulse on the film industry. I saw the trailer for a Tom Hanks film and wasn’t immediately bored. That’s something.
This will be the last of these, as I’ve finished the book, and am now Observing Nietzsche flop-sweat his way through Why I Am So Wise. I kind of want to smack him, but Ruskin has proven a very informative read. For a 19th Century Englishman, he is both articulate and relatively concise. And he has given me interesting aesthetic ideas to poke about with.
The Greek Sculptor could neither bear to confess his own feebleness, nor to tell the faults of the form that he portrayed.
John Ruskin, “On Art and Life”, pg. 44
This is a reference to the Hellenic habit of idealizing its subject, as contrasted to the Gothic willingness to dance with the Savage and Grotesque. Ancient Greeks, we are told, even carved the backs of columns, the ones the public would never see, while the more practical romans would leave them rough, because who cares? This is because the Greek was aiming at a true Form, a divine Ideal. The permanent expression of a higher ideal is, or ought to be, what all architects aim at.
The Nation whose chief support was in the chase, whose chief interest was in the battle, whose chief pleasure was in the banquet, would take small care respecting the shapes of leaves and flowers.
ibid, pg. 46-47
Here’s he’s contrasting Early Medieval Germanic Art, a simple form, with High Medieval Gothic Art, which has embraced Naturalism. This would seem to be a rebuttal of my point about Art emulating Ideal, but it isn’t. Barbarians idealize the chase, the battle, and the banquet as expressions of power and granduer, which in their theology is the very essence of divinity. Valhalla is very Heaven.
No architecture is so haughty as that which is simple; which refuses to address the eye, except in a few clear and forceful lines; which implies, in offering so little to our regards, that all it has offered is perfect; and disdains, either by the complexity or the attractiveness of its features, to embarrass our investigation, or betray us into delight. That humility, which is the very life of the Gothic school, is shown not only in the imperfection, but in the accumulation, of ornament.
ibid, pg. 54-55
Another prophecy of Brutalism, which expresses nothing but the power of the organization that builds or occupies it. It is Cyclopean, Titanic. And contrary to the Cathedral, which is open to all, high or low, rich or poor, and a center to the life of the whole community, the skyscraper or government office block is for no one but those who have business with it. It is closed off, a fortress of money or of rules, acting to exercise power over those who will never darken its doors. The corporation as the Nietzschean Superman.
Your iron railing always means thieves outside, or Bedlam inside – it can mean nothing else.
Anything pertaining to Football. I haven’t watched a game all year. That’s been the case for a number of years, really. Football used to be an entertaining sport before every part of it got dissected like a pregnant frog for television, to be jabbered about by half-wits in ugly suits. The Super Bowl is a social event, really, just an excuse to judge commercial aesthetics, eat pub food, and moan about the half-time show.
Celebrities with Covid. Oh, no, not Larry King, the guy who’s interviews I’ve never watched! What will become of us if I’m not able to have warm feeling about him? If he dies, I just, I just won’t know how I can go on… I get it. He’s an old man and he’s sick. So let me state for the record that my earnest hope is that he makes a full recovery, so I can be surprised by his continued earthly existence sometime next year. But I’m not related to him, he’s not my friend, I’m not even that familiar with his work. He’s just some guy completely memed by the media into Special Status.
Really, any celebrities. They’re just… not that interesting, as people. What you think you know about them is marketing fluff designed to prime you to consume their next product. I know that sounds communist, but I don’t mean it that way. Consume whatever you want. Just don’t care about the producers. They don’t care about you.
2021. This thing that we do where we treat years like sentient entities was already tired at the end of 2016, and has gotten worse with every subsequent year. Last year was the meme becoming self-aware and launching its missiles at the Russians (that’s a Terminator 2 reference, kids). 2020 didn’t do anything to you, a virus and the government did. Guess what? They still are. Covid doesn’t care that the calendar flipped. The year will be what it is.
A very long essay on Medium.com by Gerald Crayon, describing how the pretentious rhetoric of the Academy, their overheated logorrhea (which differs from Corpo-Babble only that it is more polysyllabic), serves to empty the culture of its meaning. The logic goes like this:
Academic Jargon is deliberately obfuscatory, in order to gatekeep the positions. Crayon refers to this as a “pseudodiglossia” (Diglossia being a culture using two languages, as in medieval Europe, where the 1st Estate spoke Latin and the 2nd and 3rd spoke the vernacular). Learning to parse the gibberish makes people feel invested in the psuedodiglossia (for the same reason that people feel loyal to hazing fraternities and the Marine Corps; you suffered to get there) and the mindset that produced it.
The glut of college degrees has sent forth intellectually-hazed postmodernists, each of whom understand the central texts less well than the person who taught it to them (just as each bebop hipster was less hip by the number of degrees of seperation he was from Dizzy, Monk, and Bird – See Hip, the History for further details). This, plus the Internet, enables nonsense postmodernism to be embraced by digital tribes. Everybody’s knows that nobody knows nothin’.
Consequently, gibberish enables equivocation, as Successor Ideologies (The semi-Marxist post-liberal Revolutionism of the Rising Intersectional Oppressed), use “harm”, “privelege”, “racism”, etc., have both their common definitions, and a highly technical definition derived from the Pseudodiglossia. And like MiniTruthers, the Successor Ideologues know exactly when to shift from one definition to the other. This is known as the Motte & Bailey technique.
Eventually, the slippier slope gets slippier. We move from pseudodiglossia to paradiglossia. The new rules of how to speak have not descended from the Ivory Tower, but are being slashed about in Real Time by every Twitter BlueCheck. Also, the players of the game have gotten hackier, relying less on creative orthography than basic rhetorical schemes, such as alliteration. It’s whatever you can get to go viral, for however long, before someone else moves the goal-posts again. Hence, we move during the Trump years from endless gibbering about “racism” to eternal jabbering about “White Supremacy”, without anything changing. Who decided this? No one. The Internet. What does it mean? Nothing. It’s word games all the way down.
The conclusion is that the system is going to keep going for a while for no better reason than it’s stormed its way through the institutions and is imposing its will. Dissidents and critics of this are on the outside, and don’t even know what they’re looking at, let alone how to stop it. The only thing we can do, at this point, is to simply point out how deep the Sophistic Rot has gone, to point out that the nonsense is nonsense, to refuse to call a deer a horse, and above all, to cease pretending that those who call a deer a horse are simply mistaken. This isn’t a difference of opinion; it is the Game of Thrones. Win or Die.
Apparently Nolan has been utterly corrupted by his early Hollywood success and is now incapable of directing something better than mediocre (which is kind of the vibe I got from Dunkirk). Apparently Tenet is two hours of rampaging nonsense. I don’t know if that is true or not. But I’m even less inclined to see it now.
This is part of a longer Thread of Worse 5 Movies of All Time, which are also somewhat interesting, and relatively obscure, so it’s worth reading, if only to absorb another human’s thoughts about Art. 50 First Dates, is on there, and who can resist Adam Sandler films getting savaged as they deserve?
But why lament Bad Art, when we can discuss Good Art? In the next Shallow & Pedantic podcast, we’re going to be chatting about the nexus of Samurai films and Westerns, and part of that is going to be spent on Sturgill Simpson’s 2019 film Sound and Fury, which is not really a “film” so much as it is, well, honestly, this YouTube commenter summed it up best:
Have you ever wondered what would happen if a respected alt-country star went into surgery and, in its aftermath, refused pain killing narcotics and instead just took a bunch of weed?
Imagine then, in his fugue state, he decides to take a departure from country and produce a crazy good synth rock album. Now imagine he decides to have the entire album animated, writes a vague anime screenplay, goes to Japan, and has some of the top anime artists compete to see who could be the nuttiest in producing his vision. He then puts it all together in a 45 min montage that can only be described the three way love child of Heavy Metal the movie, Akira, and The Wall.
I actually thought this level of unrestrained creative expression from a popular artists had died sometime in the 1980s. Maybe it did but, if so, Sturgill Simpson resurrected it here.
The self-described “horrorist” Zero HP Lovecraft, aka The Only Man On Twitter Worth Reading, submits to a blog interview. He has much to say on many topics, including “wokenes” and the “school of resentment”, post-modernism, “desire machines” and his own work, and a hose of others. I invite you to read it in full, but I include some choice quotations.
As I have said elsewhere, in order for storytelling to succeed, it must contain a true theory of human nature. Wokeness is a false theory of human nature.
If you read Harold Bloom, I think he makes a kind of personal religion out of the canon. He views reading it and interacting with it as the path to salvation. Criticism for Bloom is soteriology, and that is also why he is a good critic: he likes and reveres the authors he is criticizing. He is correct when he identifies resentment as the driving force behind most other critics. They tend to be people who cannot create things themselves, so they just try to destroy what others have built.
What we need is a right-wing postmodernism, one which can acknowledge the absurdities and contradictions in our epistemology and learn to flow with them, rather than against them. Postmodernists, for all their excesses, stumbled into a vein of truth concerning narratives, knowledge, subjectivity, and technology, and they used that knowledge to construct a painful but effective abstract machine of ideology, which is currently so culturally ascendant that the right is curled up in the fetal position, rocking back and forth saying “no no no, not postmodernism, no no no.”
The school of resentment is just a fancy name for women in academia. They hate Infinite Jest because loser men who haven’t figured out how women feel about their personal philosophy try to tell them about Infinite Jest in order to sleep with them, so IJ becomes a cheap litmus test for “is the man talking to me a loser?” Women hate it when losers talk to them, because it implies that a loser man thinks he’s good enough to get with them, which implies that they aren’t very hot.
I can see how someone might characterize my work as satirical. I sort of cleave to my friend @quaslacrimas definition of satire here, that in order for a work to be satire, someone has to not be in on the joke. A classic satire like A Modest Proposal is a satire precisely because it never slips the mask, and some people will take it seriously, and get angry, and a lot of the humor lies in the reaction of the people who aren’t in on the joke. That’s not what I’m doing. I’m quite sincere in what I write, though I do try to use humor to spotlight some of the absurdities that I see around me in modern, technological life. If there is anyone who is not in on the joke, it’s me.
Whether or not one agrees with his takes, they are more interesting than most of what passes for commentary, on Twitter or elsewhere. He’s a fully online writer, who mostly appears at Substack and his own WordPress site. Writing is for him not a means of making a living but an expression of his life. He’s like Delicious Tacos that way: guys who write weird tales under a pseudonym so they can keep their day job. It’s a purely artistic expression, or at most a side hustle.
Confronting the reality of writing in this century is a serious one. The Old Publishing model is dead or dying, but the New Publishing model has new problems. The Freedom to Publish has become universalized, and therefore you must yourself do market analysis and learn SEO coding. Writing is not enough anymore.
On the plus side, that means there’s an opening for originality. And by originality I mean telling the truth of the moment in a way that immediately connects to whoever happens across it. The Truth does not vary but the Moment does.
Running through The Birth of Tragedy is rewarding so long as you recognize that Friedrich Wilhelm was not primarly speaking to you. Rather, like a Cassandra howling at the walls, he was denouncing the folly of his own age, which we, not living in or even properly remembering Wilhelmine Germany, have no reference point to properly understand. Hence, if one reads a passage such as this:
In no other artistic age have so-called “culture” and art itself been so mutually hostle as we see them today. We can understand why such a feeble culture hates true art: it fears that it will bring about its downfall. But might an entire cultural epoch, the Socratic-Alexandrian, have come to an end after tapering to the fine culminate point of contemporary culture? If such heroes as Schiller and Goethe were unable to penetrate the enchanted portal leading to the Hellenic magic mountain, if their braves tstrivings brought them no further than the yearning gaze with which Goethe’s Iphigenie looked from barbaric Taurus to her home across the sea, what hop remains t their successors unless that portal should open of its own accord, in a quite different place quite untouched by all previous cultural endavours – amidst the mystic trains of reawakened tragic music?
Nietzsche, THE BIRTH OF TRAGEDY, pg. 97
One comes away with laughter. Because an honest man will admit that he hasn’t the first notion what the old wierdo is agitated about. Sure, I grasp the meaning of “Socratic-Alexandrian culture”, which is Apollonian and science-bound, rational and bereft of true artistic insight, because I’ve gotten far enough that he’s explained it to me. But I’ve only red bits of Goethe and Schilling. I’m lost here. And the line about the “Hellenic magic mountain” is possibly the nerdiest thing I’ve ever read, and I’m old enough to remember Usenet.
Nietzsche writes with wonderful agitation, and sometimes good ideas float through. This is of a piece with his desire for “Dionysiac” art and everything else. You always get the idea that he’s reaching to express something he cannot quite grasp. That makes him more interesting than the turgid logorrheacs he’s reacting to.
I will say that the line about culture and art being hostile to each other puts me in mind of some of my post about Modern Art via Ruskin. I wonder, though, what the old grump would say if he was granted access to a portal, a magic time mirror, and could look at what art and culture have become, in Germany and elsewhere, in the hundred years since his death. Would he approve of the “Dionysiac” artists, consider the sledghammer properly applied? Or would he recoil in confusion? Perhaps both?
He who writes about the wide range of art and “culture” finds it hard to escape the temptation to extrapolate his present observations into world-historical trends. But I have learned that whatever I expect to come in the near-future rarely comes to pass. No doubt I am guilty of wish-casting. The thing unseen warps our clean linear expectations. We did not get hoverboards and Jaws 19 in 2015. We got handheld magic mirrors into our own yearning and the beginning of the end of the film industry.
Or maybe not. Maybe cinema changes, merges with television, becomes a combined filmic art. Maybe both decline as we lose our ability to watch anything longer than a ten-minute YouTube video. Maybe the Matrix becomes real. Or maybe a thousand other different and contradictory things happen.
The one thing the present will do is flow into the future. And whatever we see down the river is like as not to be a mirage.
This is no dubious speculation by tin-hatters. This is a legal argument Amazon made in open court. Digital belongs to the platform you watch it on. The purveyors of the content are the actual owners, and always will be. If you want to *own* perpetual viewing rights, you need to buy a physical copy.
This is just like Facebook, Twitter, or any other all-digital interaction. It’s their circus, and you’re just one of the monkeys. They will change, alter, undo any part of anything that happens in their circus, at any time, and you will have no recourse other than to leave the circus behind.
The concentration of digital activity into a small handful of web sites has given them a functional monopoly. They are going to act like monopolists, and already are. Supporting the decentralization of the Matrix is the only way forward.
The significance of boredom, as a cultural force, cannot be overstated in the modern age. Our economy and culture revolves to a strong degree on Entertainment, on the manufacture of excitement and drama. When food is plentiful, and most of the necessities of life available, excitement and drama, outside of the struggle to obtain newer and better forms of these, which is itself something of an artifice, can only be manufactured, or synthesized. Therefore, the failure to create this means something. So I’m not asking the question in my headline in order to be obnoxious towards two things that I have long disdained. At least, not only for that.
I want to know, on an aesthetic level, what makes these two things boring to me. To do that we shall examine them, and to by that, I of course mean, mock them cruelly.
What NPR Sounds Like To Me:
This isn’t a new observation about NPR. Their sacred charge to appear absolutely neutral and objective yields a vocal performance that is both deeply pretentious and soporific. Absent any video evidence of their insect-bodies emerging from their humanoid forms, we have to assume that NPR hosts are normal people. But they sound like eunuchs who couldn’t have sex if you dropped them into the middle of a Tri-Delt rager with a lifetime supply of MDMA. NPR appeals to people who stopped listening to new music in their late-20’s and believe that others enjoy being corrected.
What Sports-Talk Radio Sounds Like To Me:
This, it must be noted, is an entirely different kind of boring, the opposite end of the Gradient of Dull. Unlike NPR’s soulless droning, this is the boring that comes of endless rhetorical inflation of mundane events. It’s of a piece with the Weather Channel, which used to be a friendly source of local weather and nationwide radar, and is now stuffed full of sub-History Channel dramas about people interacting with extreme weather events, with titles borrowed from B-movies. I can’t tell you who sport-talk radio appeals to, as every time I try to picture someone who enjoys it, my mind touches the void. It’s all gabble and marketing under the guise of “analysis”, which is pointless, as analyzing a sporting event does nothing to change your ability to enjoy the next one. The team with the most points wins. The rest is commentary.
Hatred of People Who Love a Slightly Different Version of What They Love
Undying Loyalty To Something That Will Never Reciprocate It
But this awareness brings new light. Sports Radio, like a Comic-Con, is boring to me because it amounts to obsessives talking about things that I have, at best, mild interest in. It’s the subject itself that loses me. It’s not anything the sports radio guys are doing. Sure, I can make fun of their witless chummery and lack of formal erudition, but that’s audience-appropriate. If anything, it would be more ridiculous to drop ten-dollar words in a discussion of a baseball game. These guys know they’re subject, they’re passionate about it, and at their best, can discuss it on a level that improves their audience’s understanding of it. My lack of interest is on me.
On the other hand, NPR is talking about things that I do have an interest in: literature, politics, art, etc. I should be a regular listener. Instead, I would rather claw my ears out. Because unlike sports radio guys, NPR hosts act as though they’re observing everything from a great height, like museum curators picking apart a thing long dead. They’re actively making interesting things boring through their performance (yes, being on the radio is a performance). And aside from introducing a few new facts or lukewarm takes into public discourse, none of them have anything interesting to say. There is nothing truly subversive or thought-provoking on NPR; it’s all Approved Narrative, Pravda read into a microphone by WASPS.
It’s one thing not to be able to interest someone in a subject despite your best efforts. It’s another to ruin someone’s enjoyment or understanding by your dullness. NPR is guilty of the latter. They are more boring. So Let it Be Written.
What Sign of the Apocalypse is it that we require our button-apps and time-waster devices to remind us that there’s an election coming up? Why isn’t this something I can turn off?
It’s everywhere, Facebook, Instagram, Discord, Twitter. The oligarchy is as One reminding me that I need to Register to Vote.
Never mind the fact that I’ve been registered to vote since the Internet consisted of whatever you could get Prodigy to suck through your phone line. Never mind the fact that I registered myself like a big boy, using paper and writing implements. Never mind the fact that I’ve never missed an election. This is apparently information that the Lords of the Universe don’t have access to. Which I suppose is something to be grateful for, because the perfect seamless incorporation into the Matrix has not yet occurred. But still, why can’t they just leave me to it? Why is it Social Media’s responsibility to Get Out the Vote?
There is an illusion, deeply felt, that Corporations are Entities that can Do Good. That they have Moral Responsibilities. I’m less interested in arguing about whether this is true (the legal fiction of corporate personhood aside, a company is just a group of people working together to make money. People have moral lives and responsibilities, corporations do not), than in pondering what this means about our culture. The dull exhortation to Do The Thing, conditioning our hindbrain that the Thing is Important, preventing us from ordering the Thing to our own life. Instead, we slap the button like so many descalped rats just to stop the irritation.
But surely. Elections are Important. How can you dispute this?
They seem to be. There’s a whole lot of noise surrounding them. There’s a sense of Sublime Victory or Traumatizing Defeat for one set or another. And yet, somehow, the winners never seem to get what they vote fore, nor the losers, what they vote against. Somehow neither side ever delivers that Square Deal, that Great Society, that New American Revolution supposedly on offer. Somehow no electoral victory ever translates into that heavenly Mandate to actually give the American people something that they ask for. All that seems to happen is one side or another gets to sign a bunch of orders, spend a bunch of money (which is promptly created for that purpose), make incremental changes to this or that pre-existing regulatory thicket, and the beat goes on. And if you spend enough time at the trough, you retire a millionaire.
You know, now that I think on it, maybe social media is just the right place for this circus. Sure, someone who only bothered registering to vote because the blinky screen told them to is probably the last person you’d want making decisions as to our leaders. But if our leaders don’t actually make decisions, then no one can do much harm. Democracy with Gutter Bumpers – What Could Go Wrong?