Saturday, January 25, 2003

A suggestion

Why not start cultural criticism of our present mode of life from the bad new things instead of the good old things? Why? because if history progresses at all it is by its bad side not its good side.

Friday, January 24, 2003

Becoming fashionable

I was trying out the coffee shops near where we are going to live once we make the move in month or so. The new place is in Sturt Street, two blocks directly south of the Central Market to read the morning papers over morning coffee. The coffee shops I thought okay along Gouger Street were pretty much all full of suited lawyers. It appeared to be competition for table space. So I would have to look fashionable and cool---appearing as if I was just in from NY, was staying in a short time to do some work, and living at a serviced apartment around the corner. If I looked fashsonable and cool, then the lawyers would give me some elbow room and I would be able to hang onto my spot at the table.

How could I do that? The old Leica over the left shoulder would no longer do the trick. It was no longer a status symbol that was lusted after. What then?

Jonathan Delacour's struggles (see posting on Tuesday January 21) over whether to by a new portable computer gave me an idea. It would be an Apple Macintosh TiPowerbook with a wireless network. These computers ooze sex and they would evoke looks of envy and admiration. Everybody lusts after one, even cats according to Shelly at BurningBird Unlike the junk look of this weblog the powerbook is definitely an icon of the postmodern marketplace.

The MacPowerbook is loaded with the rich, everchanging play of the imagery about the relationship between people and things. Though those who lust after one talk about the money a Powerbook will cost, this computer addresses the symbolic or signification processes in a very direct manner.

The Powerbook oozes sexy lifestyle as its marketing is all about using lots of imagery to rank status differences amongst the high-tech/designer Internet crowd hankering for life satisfaction. The days of prudery and puritanism connected with the protestant ethic are long gone. Its all hedonism,diversity and affluence in the global marketplace now.

I'm at the bottom of the status rank with my second Dell Computer I bought from an office recycling shop. And my junk-looking web site looks positively tabloid when compared to Emptybootle.org; or Geisha asobi blog; or Weblog wannabe;or Cheesedip.com; or bwg.

(Links courtesy of EMPTYBOTTLE.ORG)

These weblog ooze cool and chic design. Though Shelly says that geeks flock to the Powerbook like moths to the flame, these weblogs signify creativity, imagination, design custombuilt and transformation. They are not trapped in the codes of the advertisers around the iconic high-tech goods. They take these technological tools and create new meanings with a touch of resistance and transgression.

a junk for code does not look cool and chic. It does not signify the beautiful people, making lots of money, enjoying your popularity, living happily, have greater sex than anyone else achieving great career success, being happily adjusted etc. a heap of junk for code signifies the opposite to this life satisfaction. a junk for code has the appearance of being cheap as chips, a weblog junkyard or living in a backwater with little resources. It eeks poverty and being a bad consumer.

So if I am sitting at the coffee table in Gouger Street reading the online New York Times on my Powerbook courtesy of the satellite in the sky I cannot afford to have a heap of junk for code on the screen. It will have to be someone elses weblog.

Of course, I will never be able to afford a Powerbook hooked into a satellite or wireless network. But I can dream over my morning coffee about shooting photos of lawyers at play with my digital camera and downloading them into the computer. Can't I?

If not, then I can fantasize that a junk for code signifies resistance, rebellion, oppositional meaning, even if it come wrapped in yesterdays budget advertising. Through the junk look of a mass produced weblog I am cultivating a stylistic presentation of self, lifestyle and individuality. Surely fantasy is allowed me?

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Nihilism and the Culture Wars

I have been thinking about the culture wars of late and the neocon account of them as the decadence or emptiness of liberal culture, as represented by the Clintons in the US or the postmodernists in Australia. This account sort of makes sense---a liberal culture is pretty hollow. What does not make sense is the necon account of returning to the proper traditional culture of the past.

Why not. Here is answer from Nietzsche. Why Nietzsche. Well, he is a conservative, but with a difference.

The supreme values in whose service man should live, especially when they were very hard on him and exacted a high price---these social values were erected over man to strengthen their voice, as if they were commands of God, as "reality," as the "true" world, as a hope and a future world. Now that the happy origin of these values is becoming clear, the universe seems to have lost value, seems "meaningless---but that is only a transitional stage.
F. Nietzsche, The Will to Power, trs, Walter Kaufmann, (Vintage,1968, pp. 10-1l)

Thats pretty clear. There is little point in going back to the past. We must move forward through the transitional stage that is nihilism.
S11, Postmodernism and the Web

Have you heard the saying that the afterwave shocks of the planes crashing into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre refuted postmodernism? You now the story. How the terrorist's actions revealed the lack of substance in postmodernism, its lack of contact with real life, the hollowness of everything is text, is moral relativism and its denial of truth. That one.

Well let me say that the Internet affirms the truth of postmodernism. Have you heard that story? It was told to me by a blind musican/philosopher I met in a mining town near Woomera---at Andamooka. He pointed out to me, when I was up there in the opal mine fields taking photographs a year or so back, that our culture has splintered into fragments that are no longer anchored in any sense of tradition or historical context. The fragments float free, as it were, decontextualized (as the postmodernists would say), deriving their meanings from othe rfree-floating bits of culture.

Have you heard that story? I'm sure you have.

Well, the punchline is this: the Web, with its hypertext and multiplicity of links is nothing if not a constant, self-organizing contextualization and recontextualization of meaning. We 'apprehend' meaning on the Internet through the meaning of the fragments being dictated to, or determined, by the links one follows.

Its a good story.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

A question?
Do you think the Rolling Stones would entertain the troops near Iraq to show that 'Osama and the boys' cannot dictate whether the Stones rock or not?

As the elegantly, wasted Keith Richards was reputed to have said,'I say to Osama and the boys, bring it on, evaporate me.'

This is definitely cultural politics, since Keith went onto say, 'Don't give them the power'.

They may have become the Rolling Bones but they still have attitude. Maybe they could take some time out from showbiz and write a big blues about the suffering of the Iraqi people.
A broadband Internet Connection?

I would love one. The way things are at the moment I am hogging the house phone line. It would be great to have a continuous internet connection and have voice and data combination.

Its a dream.I canot see how I can develop this weblong into a mixture of cultural criticism, photography and video.

Telstra is not putting serious money into its broadband rollout. It has concentrated its rolling out of ADSL for businesses in the CBD, rather than for home customers. And ADSL is very expensive for those home customers who live near the CBD and have access to the broadband network.

We are a nation deprived of broadband, thanks to Telstra. The Telco is content to plug the gap with a compromise: something called ISDN Home Highway Service. That digital phone network is not cheap either. $42.50 a month line rental; 30c per hour per channel; and ISP charges starting at $24.95 per month. Easily $100 a month.

Telstra is gouging us. Whilst spinning its image of an entrepreneurial company it acts as a corporate thug to its small customers. It needs to be coerced into laying out broadband and broken up into baby Telstras to create a competitive telco market.
Great photo
Check out this by David F. Gallagher. This boy is pretty good.
Meanwhile

Hey, Bailz is back on line. Good to see. And the site looks sooo so good. I love the minimalist look. What a great design.
Walter Benjamin

Take a moment and ponder this idea ---'dialectics at a standstill'.

Its one of Walter Benjamins

Do we not encounter moments when things appear appear to be a standsill and we are waiting for the big moment to happen? That we live in a sort of frozen animation waiting for the big messianic event?

Is that what the East Germans felt before the Berlin Wall came down?

Is this what the Iraqi people are experiencing now whilst they wait for the Americans to attack? --dialectics at a standstill.

Dialectics at a standstill---its great idea eh.
New Weblog

Take some time and visit this lovely weblog Helen's Loom. What a great photo.
A Stones fan
Here's someone who likes the Rolling Stones. Its funny sort of criteria--- we are still the rebels you know so we can smoke when we want to-- to use.

Are they still the best white blues band? Who cares. Its about time they stopped covering their material and wrote some new songs. They have become just a brand name.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

After the Clinton wars

David Brock ends his Blinded by the Right with the following words:

"As George Bush took office, I wondered if everything I had seen on the right in the '90s was just a prelude for what was about to happen... many of the key players made up a rogues' gallery from my past. As I scanned a column in the Washington Post each morning where the new Bush appointees' names were announced, it ws glaring apparent that this is what the Clinton wars had been about all along."

Brock then lists the names of the people he knew. The culture wars were about power, regaining power, then using that power for their own interests: tax cuts for the wealthy, slashing environmental protection, rolling back civil rights, a more ruthless capitalism etc.

Then September 11. The hostile gaze of MacWorld shifts outward to the Jihad. The war on terrorism that will never end becomes paramount, and the new discourse of 'either you are with us or against us' drives US foreign policy. The pain of the weeping wound of the traumatic event of S11 resulted in the US seeking refuge and security in a tight and form cultural identification. They see themselves as an island of innocence in a world of evil populated by the fundamentalist Other, talk about the clash of civilizations and engaging in a high war with no casualities.

What now arises at the political level is the fusion between social/political authority and the illicit aggressive drives; the strengthening of American hegemony; and Australia conttinues to colonized by the US through being treated as its province.

If you question any of this you stand accused by the Big Media in the US of not showing enough sympathy for the victims of S ll, of being anti-American.

We are now being asked to give up our immersions our daily routines, show some courage, and risk everything in the forthcoming struggle even though it may led to our self-destruction.

Monday, January 20, 2003

Dareen Lehmann: Welcome to the Real

The recent racial vilification remarks by Darren Lehmann, the OZ cricketer in the dressing room has opened up a can of worms. (He said 'black c*unt). It is having a rippling effect and beginning to haunt the cricket world.

Consider these remarks by Patrick Fitzgerald in the politics of cricket at Crikey.com that open the can of worms. Patrick says:

" Guilty: Lehmann for racial vilification. Guilty: Sri Lanka for being too cute by half by dobbing him in to match referee Clive Lloyd and the media, but then not wishing to officially be seen to have laid a complaint and even going to bat for him against suspension. Guilty: Referee Clive Lloyd for only reprimanding him before International Cricket Council chief executive Malcolm Speed intervened and made sure Lehmann got his just deserts courtesy of Lloyd suddenly finding Lehmann had a serious case to answer. Guilty: James Sutherland the ACB chief executive who like Lloyd originally, also tried to sweep the affair under the carpet by waving the big stick of "counselling" as appropriate punishment. Guilty: Speed himself for showing uncustomary speed when it best suits him for using Lehmann as a whipping boy for the failures of his own leadership."

And then:

"No arguments from me that Lehmann got nailed. This Australian team might be one of the best in the history of the game but they are an arrogant law unto themselves. This latest 'episode' merely confirms their worst instincts as bullyboys and poor losers. I love their cricket ability; I loathe their total lack of grace."

And finally:

"But Speed has used Lehmann as a battering ram to show his troubled ICC leadership is all about signalling to the so-called non-white cricketing nations that he is totally against racism."

What's going on? Clearly, sport is no longer just sport. Its about politics and power that reminds us of a barbaric past---the Bodyline series of the 1930s. But the political excess is much greater with this violent eruption of politics into the cultural sphere of professional sport. It could almost be a script for a Hollywood disaster movie. But the media spectacle scenario doesn't quite get what is happening.

What is happening is that the cultural code ----the symbolic coordinates if you like-----that structure what we experience as reality is being shattered. Cricket just ain't cricket anymore. Our image of the game as a fair contest to determine sporting excellence has been badly fractured. It is a shattering of the lives of cricket fans, who are now tottering on thinking the unthinkable: a nightmarish vision of catastrophe. They are haunted by a violent politics interwoven with Big Media power destroying their beloved game.

Their 'beloved game' is a fantasy which enables them to endure both the destructive tendencies of the commercial reality of international cricket and the national conflict between the teams for world domination. What is stirred up, or put into play, by these tendencies are obscene racist fantasies. These are shattering, disturbing and ultimately inassimilable within the image or cultural construction of 'our beloved game'.

It is not a case of tearing the happy image of 'our beloved game' to confront the reality of politics and sport by saying we should not confuse fiction for reality. It is recognizing the nightmarish unreal spectre as a part of the game of cricket and discerning the hard kernel nightmare in the traumatic /excessive, Lehmann-like eruptions within the image of 'our beloved game.' Since cricket lovers are unable to integrate this excess into what they experience as their sporting reality, they are compelled to experience it as a nightmarish eruption of political excess. Its the only way cricket lovers can handle it.

(to be continued)--But see the posting Politics and Sport: Dareen Lehmann on Tuesday Jan 22
junk conservatism

I was going to deal with these remarks by Mark Goldblatt at National Review on Derrida on my philosophy.com weblog, but I thought otherwise since they deny that Derrida does philosophy or is a philosopher.

Goldblatt says:

'....the critical point to be borne in mind with regards to Derrida — the man who is the subject of the movie — is that he is not now, nor has he ever been, a philosopher in any recognizable sense of the word, nor even a trafficker in significant ideas; he is rather a intellectual con artist, a polysyllabic grifter who has duped roughly half the humanities professors in the United States — a species whose gullibility ranks them somewhere between nine-year-old boys listening to spooky campfire stories and blissful puppies chasing after nonexistent sticks — into believing that postmodernism has an underlying theoretical rationale. History will remember Derrida, and it surely will, not for what he himself has said but for what his revered status says about us.'

The justification for these remarkable claims about Derrida? None. Since Derrida has written written a number of books on philosophy addressing philosophical problems some justification is required. Similarly with the claims about the humanities' professors in the US? No justification is provided. What is paraded is ignorance that is disguised as knowledge.

Goldblatt continues with his ignorant rant by making a very swift move:

'If Derrida is a fraud, and he most definitely is, how has he managed to hoodwink so many highly credentialed academics, especially those trained in literary criticism, art history, film studies, psychology, sociology, linguistics, and (lately) legal theory? In this regard, it should be noted that his influence among professional philosophers has been minimal. When Derrida was awarded an honorary degree from Cambridge University in 1992, 20 of the world's most-prominent philosophers — including W. V. Quine and Ruth Barcan Marcus — signed a letter of protest which is worth quoting at length.'

Goldblatt then quotes a section of the letter. It says:

"M. Derrida describes himself as a philosopher, and his writings do indeed bear some marks of writings in that discipline. Their influence, however, has been to a striking degree almost entirely outside philosophy. . . . In the eyes of philosophers, and certainly those working in leading departments of philosophy throughout the world, M. Derrida's work does not meet accepted standards of clarity and rigor. . . . M. Derrida seems to us to have come close to making a career out of what we regard as translating into the academic sphere tricks and gimmicks similar to those of the Dadaists. . . . Many French philosophers see in M. Derrida only cause for embarrassment, his antics having contributed significantly to the widespread impression that contemporary French philosophy is little more than an object of ridicule."

Goldblatt then concludes this section of his piece:

'The fact that Derrida's influence is least felt in the very discipline he claims to practice testifies to the ascendancy of dilettantism in the humanities.'

This is an appeal to authority; specifically to the authority of those analytic philosophers who despise continental philosophy because it is not the same as analytic philosophy, and it does work according the analytic ethos of clarity and rigor.

So the "argument" is that Derrida is a fraud because he has little influence amongst analytic philosophers. Hegel, Nietzsche and Heidegger have little influence amongst analytic philosophers too and they have been an object of analytic ridicule. Does that make them frauds?

You can see why this skind of writing deserves to be treated as intellectual junk. Its name calling that is substituted for reasoned conservative discourse, and it functions as publicity for conservatives in their culture war against liberals. This writing is meant to showcase the 'counter intelligentsia' at work shaping public opinion towards conservatism. It is conservatism as a marketing technique not a philosophy.

Or it is conservatism as the agent provocateur of the revolution that understands politics is war. The attack commentators in the culture war are the adjunct to the political movement intent on gaining and retaining power. and work such as this is a predictable hit job.

And these conservative attack commentators say of the left that it lacks intelligence, that its rhetorical disdain has come to substitute for rational criticism and that it writes in terms of free-floating sarcasm with no substance underneath. Aren't they also speaking of themselves?

Do we not have exhibited in this piece the smirky confidence that flows from an undergraduate grasp of history, philosophy, and literature; an arrogance that can only be sustained by a maniacal deafness to counterarguments, and a dismissing your political opponents a priori, as fools and frauds?

Aren't the conservative attack dogs of war just covering up their own emptiness?

Over at Conservative Commentary they see this sort of writing as have a bit of a jolly time.(weblog Jan.16) Maybe they should read David Brock's Blinded by the Right about the ugly world of partisan politics and how the writers were turned into witting cogs in the Republican sleaze machine.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Welcome to the world of Paul Sheehan

It has never been my pleasure to read the columns of this SMH journalist before. I have yet to read his book,Among the Barbarians,(Random House, 1998) even though I find the title intriguing. But my eye was caught by this piece, Best in the world? Check the numbers. It was the idea of reality as numbers that caught my eye.

Paul celebrates a booming Australian economy and he sets himself the task of undermining the negative public mood about Australia. He says:

'Remember all the talk of Australia becoming a branch economy? And an international pariah? There is still a torrent of gloom that Australia is becoming an economic and cultural colony, even though nearly every country in the world has been having a similar debate in the era of globalisation (though you'd never know it)'

I sure can Paul. It was only the other day that people were talking that gloomy way. It was before S11, if I remember. Well that's dream, fantasy, nightmare. Paul then introduces the real. He says:

'What's actually been happening is none of the above. During the past decade, Australia has been the most successful advanced economy in the world, and when the ongoing stability of the democratic system, and the growth in the stock and property markets, the overall success of immigration, the cultural exports and the remarkable sporting achievements are all factored in, a case can be made that Australia, for all its faults, has been the most successful society in the world at the end of the 20th century.'

Paul implies that checking the numbers means that we confront reality as it really is. Reality is:

'the broad blue sky of Australia's performance in the global economy that has been outstanding for a long time'. We are liberated from the gloom of the 'brown smog of unfiltered negativity pumped out of the political and media news factories every day.'

This passage was mentioned but not commented on by
Gareth Parker. Suprisingly, he did not have his two cents worth. Did he accept the reality of numbers? That numbers are the real?

Well Paul, the positivity of numbers does not mean that negativity has no role. Whilst the Australian economy booms and we dream of becoming one with America, we are haunted by a catastrophe that we fear will shatter our lives. In the midst of our economic well-being we are haunted by nightmarish visions of catastrophes caused by the war on terror.

The terrorists who crashed planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre new about this dimension of reality: they were less concerned with the material damage and more about the spectacular effect of it and the long-term fear this would cause the security-conscious Americans.

Paul maybe you should put aside your prejudices about postmodernism ( I know something about the Sheehan chap even though I have never read him) and read a bit of Jacques Lacan. I know that Lacan is a bit complex. He says that in our daily existence we are immersed in reality, which is structured and supported by fantasy; and that this immersion is disturbed by symptoms which bear witness to the fact that another repressed level of our psyche resists this immersion.

We are caught up in, and immersed within, the war on terror----our reality is structured by the fear/anxiety of the terror--- but we also resist this immersion in a life built on insecurity and fear. That's my nightmare.

Paul, isn't the numbers reality of the economy structured around fantasy of the boom and the fear of the bust?
Unhappiness
If I am truthful to myself I was so happy watching junk television. Lets face it, I was a TV junkie. Now I am blogging all the time and I hardly watch any tv. I am making my partner angry and I am so unhappy. My life is lived in cyber-reality. I am starting to lose my anchoring in everyday reality.

I wish I could recover my happiness by going back to watching trash on television. I just loved the myths, the distorted mirror, the nonsensical adverts, the late night movies, the talking heads etc. Though I could never bring myself to enjoy or watch the reality tv shows, I was happy living my modest daily life amidst advertisements. Somehow I still had a tohold in reality and I knew what was fantasy/fiction and what was reality.

Maybe I could become a cyberjunkie and find another way to acquire the features of a staged fake? Then the material reality that we all see and experience is a virtual one, generated and coordinated by 12 computers to which we are all attached. One day we awoke from this virtual reality, only to discover a desolate landscape littered with burnt-out, twisted ruins----the remains of Sydney after a global war.

Is not living our life to according to the seductive advertisements of consumer capitalism like that? Everybody relates to us as if they were living in a tv advert? Do we not have the experience that we are living more and more an artificially constructed life. Or is this just my nightmare? Is not fantasy the core of our being?