ROAD TRIP. FUCK ALL Y'ALL!
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Every time I finish a Bret Easton Ellis novel, I find myself struck by an immediate literary angoisse. Why, I ask myself, did I not like that? It has everything I want in a novel, such as sex, drugs, ultraviolence, and depravity, and it has very few of the things I hate, such as lyrical evocations, penetrating insights, families, wistful epiphanies, or spiritual descriptions of landscapes that name-check plant species. I have this fantasy where he is able to enter and alter other author's fictional worlds--like, for instance, I imagine he landed On Chesil Beach when it was still a lousy New Yorker story. The girl wouldn't put out for her new hubby, so he killed her. The end. Fuck you, McEwan.
Unfortunately, Easton Ellis is terrible. He's like a guy who one time got invited to this Hollywood party, right, and he did some blow, and he believed everybody's bullshit. Fuck, he is that guy. Hollywood as an icon of American depravity is pretty much a self-created and self-sustaining myth anyway, as ridiculous as the shaved and cosseted fag-bombs of Jersey Shore imagining themselves tough, heterosexual, and virile. Hollywood is not dangerous; the, ahem, "entertainment industry" is not dangerous. It is a dull, boring, and increasingly irrelevant company town. It is not ruled by pimps, drug dealers, stars, agents, lawyers, producers, murderers, or any other species of interesting human being. It is ruled by accountants, who serve distant, corporate masters at Sony and Viacom and inside of Rupert Murdoch's dusty rectum. The whole thing is a dull machine, long since bought up and remade. People do not go on coke binges and kill hookers anymore. They go on coke binges and greenlight the screenplay to the reinvention of the reimagining of the reboot of Batman. Arnold Schwarzenegger really is the governor of California. 2010's highest-grossing picture in America is Toy Story 3. The video game industry is bigger than Hollywood.
You could say, and fairly, that Easton Ellis' Hollywood isn't the real Hollywood; isn't meant to be the real Hollywood; is a fantastical, almost allegorical, dangerous alternate fairyland like something out of a slightly underproduced del Toro flick, but Easton Ellis' capacity to transgress is limited by a frankly dull imagination. His carefully deployed misogyny barely registers because it is so plainly calculated, and compared to the loud torture-porn churned out--NOW IN 3D!!!--by the very movie town that he so thoroughly fails to apprehend, his violence is passé. There is, in Imperial Bedrooms, one scene of moderately explicit, scatalogical violence, but in this glorious annum of the human centipede, well, all that's left is to giggle like a little boy at the poopy.
In interviews, he has claimed Chandler as a model and an inspiration, but how can you write a pastiche, even if intended as homage, of a writer whose whole style walked the tightrope above self-parody. It's like writing a satire of Swift. It can't be done. The noirish elements--the tails, the surveillance, the anonymous texts in place of anonymous calls--keep hanging up the works, and the constant, pervasive ogling of cell phones and texting give off a slightly elderly scent. He's trying a little too hard. He is your mom, telling you that she is now on the Facebook.
All of this is a shame, because hiding within this novel, whose taut prose is just a girdle around a flabby gut, is a pretty good story about a liar coming to realize that he is a liar and starting to lose, as a result, his ability to lie. In the skilled hands of a better writer, it could be an amazing anti-epiphany; his moral awakening would be his curse. It's almost Greek. Instead, I don't know, he hooks up with some lady he used to hook up with. And her husband doesn't care, maybe. And someone got killed or something? Cocaine! Alcoholism!
Bret Easton Ellis, you're Oprah material.
[Trigger Warning: Homosexual blogger engaging in cisgendernormative FOOTBLAWGING]
Why don't they hand out demi-tasses and pinky rings as well?
Well, I've spent all morning availing myself of the many mechanisms of the modern state in order to constrain and delimit the power of the modern state, and I've got to say, I am really excited about the possibilities of it possibly working to make measurable improvements in my own life. I completely recant, and I urge you to support primary challenges and to swallow your purist, ideological objections and vote Democrat this November, because even though Obama hasn't lived up to all his promises and the Democratic party has largely failed to deliver a better and more human society, we cannot risk putting people in power who would start wars in Pakistan and Yemen, extend federal drug laws, and allow massive institutions of corporate finance to enrich themselves via endemic programs of ubiquitous theft.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Somone asked me to say something about FB's questions about anarchy. I hestitate, because his, um, personal experience with torture-murder psychopath is a bit hard to, um, swallow, like the usual internet yahoo who informs this or that comments thread that as an ex-Green Beret, Mensa-society, Olympic-caliber swimmer and professional phlebotomist with advanced degrees in fractal geometry and string theory physics, he can authoritatively say . . . And anyway, as FB himself notes, he does not actually know what anarchy is, despite the vast and readily available literature on the subject. Even a superficial dip into a father-figure like Proudhon reveals that, quite the contrary to the imputed Crackpot Hobbesianism employed by those who only know the one phrase from Hobbes that everyone else knows, much of the anarchist tradition--you'll pardon the term--is communitarian, if not collectivist in the manner of communism. Some of FBs commenters also pointed to Chomsky, to which the rejoinder, I gather, is that "some anarchists" don't believe that Chomsky is an anarchist because he proposes some variety of Democratic socialism as an intermediary step (like Marx, who was not a marxist, because he proposed capitalism as a necessary . . . well, you get the point.) Also, Chomsky does not dress in black and smash plate-glass windows at G20 summits, which offends the Anarchists Central Committee.
Anarchism is usually confused by its critics with their own pseudopractical critiques. These critics, who are usually some manner of Democratic Socialists, accuse anarchists of utopianism, because, since their critiques of the current constitution of society are inextricably bound up in a program for a successor state, they presume anarchist critiques to be likewise based on some hazy blueprint for what comes next; in the case of the anarchist, some hilariously messianic age in which the Secretary of Defense lies down with the lamb, the murderer and the child rapist and the regular citizen eat of the hay together. That may in fact be true of some of the young black-flag kids--like, if we just smash enough, then, like, something. But for many of us, certainly myself, anarchism embodies a radical skepticism and cynicism that comes from a belief in the totally ineluctable reality of the oppressive state. To steal an idea from famous librettist-commentator Owen Paine, I believe in Clio above all things.
Nobel Paul, erstwhile winner of the Swedish Abacus and Passbook Savings Account Prize for the Memorialization of One Man's Guilty Conscience, has lately taken to huffing about the Yellow Peril, like a turn-of-the-Twentieth British Israelite. They are monopolizing our rare earths! Will no one put a stop to this dastardly plot?
The column is the usual Krugmania, fulminating against the Chinese for using a combination of protectionist economic policies, subsidies of domestic industry, exploited low-wage workers, and an abundance of valuable extractable commodities to drive the rapid growth and massive expansion of its own economy, or pardon me, to "wage economic war" against the poor, pitiful West and its housing and credit crises, for which the Chinese are morally obligated to feel some kind of paralyzing pity. The Chinese are of course employing precisely the same means and methods of, what is the phrase, growing their economy, as the Western nations, in particular the US, used in their own climb to industrial dominance in the last century. This, in Krugman's estimation, marks the Chinese as immature. I don't know. Immitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all that.
Second, China’s response to the trawler incident is, I’m sorry to say, further evidence that the world’s newest economic superpower isn’t prepared to assume the responsibilities that go with that status.Interesting, isn't it, how "the responsibilities that go with that status" entail forgoing that status. Meanwhile, I'm sorry, the Western powers, especially the US, engage in "economic warfare" all the time. Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Libya, North Korea . . . the fact that our catastrophic economic embargoes are targeted only at the poor little countries that we, like the good bullies we are, prefer to kick around--you wouldn't want to pick on big China and get knocked in the nose, wouldja?--does not make us any less willing to engage the practice. And--here is the more essential point--there is the additional minor fact that not only are we happy to engage in "economic warfare," we are ready and willing at the drop of a fake hat to engage in real, actual, bombs-and-shit warfare. I mean, the Chinese used a little economic leverage to recover some imprisoned Chinese nationals; the United States destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan for no reason at all, and One-Term is doing his O-damnedest to do the same to Pakistan and Yemen. Who's the fucking nihilists here?
Major economic powers, realizing that they have an important stake in the international system, are normally very hesitant about resorting to economic warfare, even in the face of severe provocation — witness the way U.S. policy makers have agonized and temporized over what to do about China’s grossly protectionist exchange-rate policy. China, however, showed no hesitation at all about using its trade muscle to get its way in a political dispute, in clear — if denied — violation of international trade law.
Couple the rare earth story with China’s behavior on other fronts — the state subsidies that help firms gain key contracts, the pressure on foreign companies to move production to China and, above all, that exchange-rate policy — and what you have is a portrait of a rogue economic superpower, unwilling to play by the rules. And the question is what the rest of us are going to do about it.