Saturday, August 28, 2004

A Little of the Old In and Out

In: Tokyo Decadence. From The New York Times' T Magazine (no links up yet), by Steffie Nelson:

"Louis Vuitton's cheery Murakami bags and the Lucy Liu segment of Kill Bill were just the tip of the tsunami. With it's sexy, futuristic silhouettes and Pop Art palette, the wide-eyed universe of Japanese animation, or anime, is a natural source of inspiration for fashion. As early as 1997, the photographer Nick Knight and the designer Alexander McQueen transformed Bjork into a gorgeous humanoid geisha for 'Homogenic.' And now for Fall, anime looks are leaping off the screen.

"Consider how cartoony cute you could look in a planetary print over a chiffon dress, worn with a colored plastic face shield and rubber rain boots or metallic knee-high sneakers, which is how Issey Miyake presented it on the runway. Tara Subkoff, for imitation of Christ, jazzed up her basics with gold Puma boots and Wonder Twin wrist cuffs by Erickson Beamon ... meanwhile, Alexandre Herschcovich's muse was the iconic Hello Kitty, rendered in white and black, along with a sheer white coat that comes with its own Kitty ears for the ultimate touch of Tokyo decadence."

Out: The shadowy world of the Council for National Policy. I am so fascinated by this story. US News and World Report writes: "Republicans will be showcasing their 'compassionate conservatism' at next week's convention in Manhattan by featuring moderates like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in key speaking roles.

But this week, true-blue conservatives are getting together in Gotham City to flex their own ideological muscles and exert their own influence on the GOP. The supersecret Council for National Policy, founded at the onset of the Reagan era, will be meeting in New York at an undisclosed location in hopes of avoiding protesters.

"The thousand member group includes political heavyweights like John Ashcroft, Bill Frist, and Tom Delay, religious leaders from Pat Robertson to James Dobson, media moguls like Steve Forbes, and conservative billionaires Howard Ahmanson and Nelson Bunker Hunt. Conservative Republicans boast that the council's meeting is the 'real' convention. 'It's the old smoke-filled room, but I wouldn't say it's corrupt,' says a source. 'Rather it's just where the work gets done.' The group met in San Diego earlier this year and will meet again soon after the November election. One issue sure to be debated is whether a legitimate democracy is achievable in Iraq; some on the right believe that part of the Bush administration's rationale for war was flawed."

In: Jacob Weisberg's review of James Wocott's "Attack Poodles". James Wolcott eviscerate Peggy Noonan (Graydon Carter doesn't fare much better) in Sunday's New York Times Book Review via Weisberg, writing:

"Attack Poodles is irresistible political entertainment from and for the left. It is a true sadistic pleasure to watch Wolcott exact revenge for the hours he has wasted watching Joe Scarborough, Michael Savage and Chris Matthews. A skilled hit man, Wolcott sharpens his instruments and takes his time in setting up the kill. In his assault on Peggy Noonan, he quotes a passage from her memoir, 'What I Saw at the Revolution,' in which she waxed romantic about glimpsing one of the President's brown shoes. It was 'not a big foot, not formidable, maybe a little ... frail.' Noonan wrote. 'I imagine cradling it in my arms, protecting it from unsmooth roads.'

"'His other foot,' Wolcott writes, 'would just have to fend for itself.'"

Out: Professor Douglas Rushkoff's Post Narrative America. I have hung out with and interviewed Doug Rushkoff, a truly interesting man (and with a twisted sense of humor that I can't get into here), a futurist with an emphasis on science (which has been absent from the 'humanities-heavy academic West for some time), but I find this theory of his too Nietzchean for my tastes, too rooted in the idea that life and history are anecdotes and chronologies without an aim, without a teleological end, that even the thought of aim or teleology is foolish and emblematic of "weakness."

The longing for teleological end, for absolute truths, can be "overcome" through "will to power." But can they? Can human beings transcend "Love"? "Justice"? "The Beautiful"? Should we? Are those just childish concepts to be thrown on the dust heaps of history.

But as someone who loves independent film with complex, nuanced "endings", I can see his postmodern point on heroic narratives and of course, our proximity to the savagery of the Nazi's, of the grusomeness of slavery, it is hard to shrug off cynicism about the future of the human race. The curse of Gemini's is to see all sides, and, as a Gemini, I can see the argument for and against nihilism.

I can fully appreciate the romance and sobriety of liberalism in Kuhnian contingency, especially in the light of recent history, while, personally, preferring the ancient Classical tragedies which purport "wisdom," the idea that there are such things as "justice," "the beautiful, and, "the good(now, what does that say about me, hmm -- too idealistic?)."

Dougie says the time has passed, like yesterday's reddish Bronze sunset:

"... Aristotle's narrative arc - the male heroic narrative - no longer adequately describes our experience of this world. It's something I've been thinking and speaking about for a long time, but it was very rewarding for (artist) Grant (Morrison) to respond so favorably to this notion.

"He's experienced it, himself, in his work as a comic book writer trying to move past current expectations for superhero characters. I confront it, myself, as I try to help people conceive of more emergent narratives for human history - to break our addiction to stories with endings or intrinsic, pre-existing meaning.

"After all, what if meaning if something that evolves or emerges? I think it's a lot more useful to think about God not as a character who created our universe with some purpose, but rather as something that might happen in the future. We make meaning - which doesn't make it any less meaningful. The problem is whether, without artificially constructed heroic narratives, we still have the will to rise to the world's many problems. Will we dare to approach hunger, violence, and confusion without the promise of a happy ending? Or do we still need charismatic leaders with beautiful stories to our motivate us?"

Leaving the superhero talk aside (sorry, Doug, couldn't resist): Always this talk of evolution and emerging. But what if plus ca change, plus le meme chose? I always think of the postmodern situation as akin to the penultimate scene in Ingmar Bergman's final masterpiece Fanny and Alexander. After hours of intense drama, the wicked stepfather is killed by a freakish accident, freeing Alexander psyche. He exalts, running through his childhood house, believeing himself free of an oppressive-alien father figure (Bergman is the greatest cinematic translator of Freud, while Fellini was the greatest evangelist for Jung; one Nordic, intense, serious, concentrated; the other pagan, sophisticated, a wild force of nature), and, just then, the ghost of his father slams into him, knocking him down, silent, leaving the boy mystified. Even in death, the "stepfather" persona haunts his consciousness; from the recesses of history we have always sacrificed our "Father," only for it to come again in some other form, some other concept.

Finally, if there is such a thing as an "absolute justice," and, say, that concept of justice can be apperceived by anyone who is serious enough, and not just playing rhetorical Machiavellian games.

Now, if this absolute justice demands that we approach "hunger," and "violence" in a measured, wise manner, doesn't that possibility equally demand the courage that Doug brings up, and the obsolescence of the "charismatic leader" is just as pronounced in that case as well.

Of course, the problem, should we accept that a concept like Justice can even be understood would be one of education, and how do you educate a democratic populace so used to the lowest common denominator to see these absolute truths, of love, of justice, of the beautiful -- if indeed they even do exist (and Nietzsche doesn't believe they do, perhaps that is why, with all his courage and foresight, he ended his days in the madhouse).

Anyway, dialogue with Dougie on the subject here. I'm rambling. I',m in a mood.

You get me on the subject of Nietzche or Kissinger and I go off.

In: Virginia Hefferman's Q and A with Ellen DeGeneres. In tomorrow's Arts and Leisure section of the NYTimes, Ellen talks about her sordid breakup with Anne Heche AKA Celestia:

"Ellen DeGeneres: It was really positive at first. But then right after I came out, I think I found a lump in my breast that we thought was cancer, and I had to get a lumpectomy. Then I was coming home from a premiere one night and the limo driver hit a dog. It died in my arms on the way to the hospital. We're coming home from this beautiful night, and all of a sudden this horrible, horrible thing happens.

"And all these things were happening in my life. The worst-case scenario: well, it would be really bad if I had breast cancer. Then what would be bad If I hit an animal. If I lost my career. You know, it would be bad to have my heart broken. It would be bad if she ended up with somebody I knew. Everything in a concentrated period of a year happened.

"And you know, most people's love lives are what they are, and they also have their careers. Even if you're suffering through a breakup, you still go to work every day. But my breakup was part of the reason I couldn't go to work every day! Everything disappeared at once."

As you can tell, it's a slow day and I feel more into a more serious discussion than the usual. Must be all the police and protesters on the streets of NYC. I'll be back and lighter next week.


Guy said...

Here, I do not really imagine it is likely to have effect.
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