The Flâneur's Archives

Archives from The Flâneur's Arcade (2007-2017)

Tag: reality tv

Reversal of Fortune

Hillary Clinton campaigned on the appeal of being the first woman to run for the highest office in the United States, banking on the same identity politics that buoyed Barack Obama to power in 2008. But while it was true that many Americans were misty-eyed with the image of a first African-American president, Obama had many other gifts that Clinton sorely lacked. There was an ease about the Senator from Illinois, a nimbleness in speech, and the keenness to tap into the zeitgeist. He knew Americans wanted hope and change.

So it was with the confidence of repeating this feat of firsts, boosted by the favorable augury of the polls, that Clinton supporters gathered at the Javits Convention Center in New York. But the party soon turned into scenes of inconsolable wailing, as they watched blue state after blue state turn red.

While Clinton failed to make the case for electing the first woman president, Donald Trump is by no means a conventional choice. A Washington outsider, with no political experience, besting 16 other Republican candidates in the primaries, then going head to head against an establishment candidate backed by mainstream media and Wall Street money, and finally, pulling-off a stunning reversal of fortune on election night. He was outspent by Clinton 2:1, running a lean campaign by criss-crossing tirelessly around battleground states, and by his provocative use of social media, presenting his case directly to the people. (Let us not now forget who Citizens United and lobby money helped the most in this election.)

In some way, Trump’s win is also a first. He is the first reality TV candidate–raw and unfiltered, and prickly at the edges. He is also the first social media candidate, with an uncanny command of the medium. Marshall McLuhan said that radio created Hitler and television created JFK; this time, YouTube, Twitter, and the comment section created Donald Trump. The comment section, which Camille Paglia observes has become “a whole new genre” (Reason TV interview), is the anarchic countervailing medium to the composed article. In McLuhan’s terms, it is cool, participatory, and auditory, as opposed to the hot, linear, visual form of the article. Twitter has that same low-res, audile quality. This is where you hear the voices of dissent against the imposed narrative. Professional Internet troll Chuck Johnson gloats: “The trolls won,” and called this election, “the comment section against the article.” Surprising it was a candidate in his 70’s who seized upon the medium of the moment and understood its message.

Mainstream media’s inability to grasp the meaning of Trump’s victory is a signal of their decline and irrelevance. They continue to explain it in terms of absurd identity politics: those white working class voters in the Rust Belt must be racist, so it goes. But Wisconsin and Pennsylvania had not voted Republican since the 1980s. Did they just turn Aryan supremacist overnight? Even liberal filmmaker Michael Moore (who hails from Michigan) is incredulous of this narrative.

You have to accept that millions of people who voted for Barack Obama, some of them once, some of them twice, changed their minds this time. They’re not racist. They twice voted for a man whose middle name is Hussein. That’s the America you live in.

from The Daily Caller

Trump’s message “Make America Great Again” succinctly captured the thirst for upliftment in blighted manufacturing towns of the Midwest, while Clinton’s clunky slogan “Stronger Together” plastered on her jet plane never really took off. In her vision of inclusion, those who Trump addressed as the “forgotten man and woman” felt excluded. In a feat of firsts, it is the billionaire playboy and real estate mogul that put the traditionally Democrat base of working class Americans on the side of Republicans. It remains to be seen whether he can effect a reversal of their fortunes.

DalíWood: Where Surrealist Dreams Turn Into Dollars

Dalí and wife Gala enjoying their San Miguel Beer. Dalí and wife Gala enjoying their
San Miguel Beer.

Itaas Mo!

Postcard from the Dalí Museum
St. Petersburg, FL

What is the Salvador Dalí Museum doing in St. Petersburg? This resort-town in South Florida, locals refer to as St. Pete, where old geezers from the colder Midwest roost to retire, apparently also hosts the most substantial collection of the late Surrealist’s paintings. A silver-haired lady next to me, in pink cardigan and sweatpants, asked her granddaughter as a matter of fact if the painting she was looking at was indeed the one labeled Atmospheric Skull Sodomizing a Grand Piano. If this is not an indication of how popular culture has accommodated subversive Surrealist images, I don’t know what is. Surrealism, as originally conceived, was anti-rationalist and anti-bourgeois. It privileged the irrational and unconscious motives of man, lending a visual idiom to anxieties stemming from repressed sexual desires. Its strategy, at least in painting, included the juxtaposing of disparate images to produce dreamlike effects intended to startle and shock. Surrealist exhibitions, like those of the Dada movement, were very much political acts, and staged as events aimed at scandalizing common bourgeois morality.

Atmospheric Skull Sodomizing a Grand Piano Atmospheric Skull
Sodomizing a Grand Piano


These days, bus-loads of schoolchildren are herded through the museum dedicated to the painter of The Grand Masturbator and Young Virgin Auto-Sodomized by Her Own Chastity, encouraged to explore their “dreams and fantasy” in “Surrealist” art contests. To help introduce the kids to the world of Dalí, teachers are provided the video Get Surreal with Salvador Dalí, and updated with the newsletter The Dalí Times. Finally, to complete Dalí’s Disneyfication, the current exhibit on Dalí and Film includes a screening of Destino, his unfinished collaboration with Walt Disney, a sort-of-Surrealist Fantasia, completed posthumously from his detailed storyboards. It sits snugly between Un chien andalou with its notorious eye-slashing opening, and L’âge d’or where a Christ-like figure emerges at the end as one of the libertines from 120 Days of Sodom. But the public, pleased to be in on the joke and primed by more vulgar TV, agreeably overlooks what now seems to be merely Surrealist silliness, happy as a clam to go home with their melting watches on t-shirts and other “surreal deals” at the gift shop. André Breton must be turning in his grave.

The bulk of the collection came from the stash of industrialist A. Reynolds Morse and wife Eleanor, longtime friends of the Dalís and the artist’s most avid collectors, stretching as far back as the 1940’s. The roughly 200 pieces used to be displayed in their home in Ohio (wall-to-wall Dalís!), then, later, in a private museum beside the new office building of their Injection Molders Supply Company. In the 1980’s, they offered the whole lock, stock, and barrel to any museum that would best preserve its historical integrity. St. Petersburg ended the nationwide search by matching the Morse’s offer with a cool $3M to build and maintain a brand new museum dedicated to the Dalís, with the added bonus of their wider exposure through the local tourist trade. On a personal note, the locale where the museum was to be erected “reminded the Morses of Cadaques, Dalí’s childhood home on the Mediterranean Sea”.

Dalí, ever the shameless self-promoter, would have gleefully approved the prospect of an all-but-beach-front museum right smack where the sun-dried tourists flock as the final resting place of his oeuvre. He never did hide his love for money and fame, to the perennial annoyance of Breton, who called him “Avida Dollars”, an anagram of his name.

What I like best in all philosophical writings of August Comte is the precise moment where, before founding his new positivist religion, he places the bankers, whom he regards as of capital importance, at the summit of his hierarchy. Perhaps this is the Phoenician side of my Ampurdan blood, but I have always been dazzled by gold in whatever form it appears. Having learned in my adolescence that Miguel de Cervantes, after having written his immortal Don Quixote for the greater glory of Spain, died in wretched poverty, that Christopher Columbus, after having discovered the New World, had also died under the same conditions, and in prison to boot, already in my adolescence, as I say, my prudence strongly counseled me two things:

1) to have my prison experience as early as possible. And this was done.
2) to become to the greatest extent possible a bit of a multimillionaire. And this, too, was done. (from Dalí on Modern Art)

This openly flouted the original Surrealist ethic against commercialism and political orientation towards the left. Dalí was eventually expelled from the movement in the late 1930’s, despite the fact that by then, “Surrealism had… uncomfortably become wedded to capitalism, and Dalí simply admitted to that fact” (David Hopkins, Dada and Surrealism). He fully embraced the consumer and entertainment culture of postwar America, collaborating with Hollywood (Spellbound) and Disney (Destino), and produced umpteen permutations of his stock Surrealist gestures.

Portrait of Colonel Jack Warner Portrait of Colonel Jack Warner

Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln

But, as Hopkins observes, “Dalí’s flamboyant showmanship, emblematized by his famous upturned moustache… warrants further attention precisely because students of modernism find the artist’s self-promotion so galling” (Dada and Surrealism). If his museum-cum-shrine is any indication, only he among the old guard Surrealists would most likely be at home today with the commodification of art and the cult of personality. He would surely have his own reality show, along with has-beens Bret Michaels and Gene Simmons, perhaps even parading his leathery ass on Fort De Soto. He would be laughing with his piña colada in the face of Breton’s grim idealism and demagoguery, laughing all the way to the bank.

Disorderly Conduct

A UF student got tasered by campus police during Q&A with Sen. John Kerry. This guy was obviously trying to pull a stunt, and the cops fell for it. They’re now denounced as using excessive force. Why didn’t they just let him blow hot air? Hey, Kerry was even willing to engage him, and kept on answering his questions, even while the guy was pinned down at the back with a taser to his chest. What a charmer!

Apparently, this guy is a regular jerk, as some ladies on campus testify:

Cleo wrote on Sep 18, 2007 2:31 AM: “Andrew Meyer has always been an attention-grabbing wh*re. I’m sure he’s eating this up. It was really fun to watch Andrew Meyer scream like a little girl.”

to Cleo wrote on Sep 18, 2007 11:40 AM: “To the first poster, Andrew Meyer isn’t just a attention-grabbing wh*re, he’s a regualr wh*re who dosn’t cuddle after sex. I’m glad this wh*re got shocked.”

Holly. Molly.

This is a circus, not a question of free speech, as some posed it to be. I believe he would have been allowed to interrogate Kerry had he been more well behaved, like a gentleman. He was kicked out because he acted like a punk, and because the cops let their chains be yanked.