Fresh Takes 06/11
by Kiko Matsing
Distillates from ORBIS: Fresh, a haphazard catalog of what arrests the fleeting attention of a cyberflâneur:
A Message Inscribed on the Body
First witness video moments after Moscow Domodedovo airport bombing
Gayatri Chakravorti Spivak calls suicide bombing “a message inscribed on the body when no other means will get through.” No other means? And I thought “Marxist-feminist-deconstructionists” never deal with absolutes.
There is, however, another means: ahimsa. It is the non-violent struggle that her fellow Indian, Mahatma Gandhi, used against British colonizers.
As a practitioner of ahimsa, Gandhi swore to speak the truth and advocated that others do the same. (Wikipedia)
Yes, there are things such as truth, and we can speak it with confidence. We do not need to strap our women and children with bombs and send them to their deaths. Gandhi has shown by example that truth has its own power, and has no need to resort to violence.
Piero Scaruffi is also an omnivorous connoisseur. He has lists for the best music (rock, jazz, avant garde), movies, and books. It is a snooty canon. The Beatles don’t even make the cut. (“They wrote a bunch of catchy 3-minute ditties and they were photogenic.”)
He reminds me of Camille Paglia’s decadent connoisseurs: Huysman’s Jean Des Esseintes, Walter Pater, and Oscar Wilde’s Lord Henry Wotton. Some part of me envies this obsessive devotion (and perhaps my blog is turning into this). Decadent aestheticism, however, is a “sophistication without humaneness or humanism,” Paglia warns. It is self-indulgent, “a disease of the eye” or in this case, the ear.
Sheen, the Nietzschean
Everyone thinks that Charlie Sheen is having a very public mental breakdown, as he goes around TV and radio shows ranting about his cancelled show. I’m not so sure. Yes, he’s manic and grandiose. Maybe even narcissistic, delusional, and in denial too. He certainly looks rough with that raspy voice and sallow face. But he also strikes me as very self-aware, and in fact often regards himself with irony.
Charlie Sheen has fully embraced a life of hedonism that is both decadent in its excesses and aristocratic in its imperiousness. He disdains the dull plebeians at CBS–those bean counters in stiff suits who fret over decorum. If anything, his aphoristic pronouncements reveal a Nietzschean amoral will-to-power. He lives life large and in-the-moment, because he can–like Nietszche’s tyrannical Übermensch, or, in Sheen’s words, a “total freaking rock star from Mars”. He also seems to understand, from his many interviews, that stars shine brightest when they’re about to burn out.
Lara Logan on the Front Lines
I had not heard about Lara Logan until reports circulated about her assault by a mob of Egyptian men during celebrations after Mubarak vacated power. News outlets specifically emphasized the sexual nature of the assault. Lara is blonde and beautiful. She looks fragile as a fashion model, but reports right from the battlefields of the Middle East–not exactly the most egalitarian of societies for women. What disturbed me about this story was the nasty hint of salaciousness in the tone of the coverage. It went beyond the reporting of facts by amplifying a sense of scandal to drive interest in the story. The subtext is that it was doubly atrocious because it involved the spoiling of what was beautiful, pure. It’s the same way Nancy Grace exploits the innocence of child-victims to rack up ratings.
The more I learn about Lara Logan from her videos the more I love this woman, who is smart, opinionated, passionate, and brave. She reports on what American soldiers actually experience on the ground–the military’s “point of view”–and criticized Rolling Stone’s piece on Gen. McChrystal. She reminds me of another fearless and beautiful journalist, the late Oriana Fallaci, who is also not afraid to speak her mind against the PC herd. Fallaci also survived a brutal attack (in Mexico, 1968) while covering a story. She was “shot three times, dragged down stairs by her hair, and left for dead by Mexican forces” (Wikipedia).
Black & White
After watching the hot mess of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, I had to clean my visual palette with some of these crisp, tightly constructed videos from the true mavens of pop.
Unlike other Madonna videos that portray sexual deviance for shock, there’s surprising levity here in the treatment of leather fetish BDSM. There is no dragging ennui like in Justify My Love, just cheeky fun. The choreography is also impeccable–evoking the tension, snap, and release of latex.
Secretive & Shabby
How shabby the Americans are. How secretive and stupid.
Bob Ellis is clearly mesmerized by the persona of Osama bin Laden–reciting sweet, poetic elegies to this fallen master terrorist of 9/11, and canonizing him with the left’s most beloved radical, Che Guevarra. It is easy for cynics like him to throw potshots at America from a safe distance. How easy to take for granted the blessings of living in the comfort of a Western-style democracy. I’d like to see how long this fat cat endures under Sharia Law.
Bob Ellis is living in a world constructed from the liberal fantasy that all men are good–a fantasy he can afford to enjoy over beer in his den, fenced in by the wealth and military power of the West. These terrorists are not really morally responsible for cowardly strapping their women and children with bombs to target civilians. America must have forced their hands to it.
yes I said yes I will Yes.
What struck me about the event was how Joyce’s ribald work–once banned for lewdness–is now regarded with high seriousness in polite academic circles. The tone of the readings, profound and literary, was all wrong. The urination scene cannot be delivered in the low, sibilant speech of decorous NPR announcers. It must be bawdy, piddled with a wicked grin and a leering eye. Something like Monty Python, not Amy Goodman.
Ulysses is above all sensuous, auditory, tactile–not “literate” (in McLuhan terms).
This was respectable Joyce for the genteel, organic tofu crowd.
Finally, a movie about the Philippine-American War, by no less than indie director John Sayles (Lone Star, Passion Fish).
I look forward to watching Amigo when it opens here in the US on August 20. It opens in the Philippines on July 4, the Philippine-American Friendship Day. I only hope this film is not a political tract recruiting Filipinos to bitterness. It is time to end the hysteria of anti-Americanism–we are not in the radar of American popular consciousness anyway–and instead use our longstanding (and bumpy) relationship with the US in a more pragmatic way, to secure our own economic, political, and diplomatic interests. Look at Vietnam, they’re now playing chummy with the US to help them thwart Chinese encroachment of their borders in the South China Sea. This colonial soap opera has to end.
What attracted me to the fanzine format, aside from its essential role in punk, is its close affinity to the blog: its amateurish do-it-yourself production values, its slapped on together images ‘poached’ from commercial sources, its underlying motive force of fan obsession. Fanzines were for the pre-Internet 1980’s what blogs were for the wired 1990’s. The DIY revolution lives on.