Monday, 27 December 2010
Monday, 13 December 2010
Sunday, 12 December 2010
Wednesday, 1 December 2010
I don't think anyone will forget this tasteless World Wildlife Fund advertisement in a hurry. It didn't occur to me though until the other day, even after a long period of familiarity (after seeing it on The Gruen Transfer), that the shot where the additional planes come into view appears to be directly lifted from Hitchcock's The Birds (sequence beginning 1: 28).
The concept of the uncanny valley has been floating around for some time now. I think it would be relatively easy to use in a further discussion of the "haunted media" I posted on a little while back. This got me thinking though, derridata, do you know what the take up of this concept has been like among Japanese academics, particularly in relation to anime culture, the regard in which Masahiro Mori is held, etc? The same goes for ludologists, I expect.
This is a far more complex identity anxiety to appreciate, in terms of visual or physical imagery, than the 'Other body' of the Thing. Giger's Xenomorph design, from Ridley Scott's Alien, is a humanoid, relatable evolution of the shark; engineered and phallic in design, externally based on both human genitalia and machine parts. The Xenomorph is ritually parasitic and sexless, both savage and motherly, vile and alluring. Strangely, the Thing lacks this fetishist attractiveness; when it does take on human parts, they are either a perfect mimic, or stretched and disfigured beyond association. But it does fascinate, if only through indifference, and for the film's stunning use of animatronic technology, itself a mechanical imitation of natural life. Though it is sexless (or at the very least, its gender is unidentifiable) the creature shares two common elements with man, a drive to consume and a desire to keep warm.
The case studies we have looked at, such as The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, are not set in futuristic dystopias or idealistic utopias, but grounded in our own present. The 'it could happen to you' impact of these films should not be overlooked. The Thing is a hideous half-resemblance of man, an amorphous, monstrous fake that not unlike the infection that it metaphorically represents, wants nothing more than to survive; to find food and shelter. In this respect, we are not so different. Science fiction has represented the posthuman in as many ways as it has the human, emphasizing that:
The Thing preys not only on the fear of contagion, but on the loss of individuality. Of all of the recent science fiction 'horrors' it reveals the human condition as much as it tells a good monster story. The films human characters are almost indistinguishable from one another. Cold and impersonal, they are a study of the human race as a whole than any one specimen. The protagonist MacReady's identity is defined not by similarity to his fellow men, but from his differences to the alien. In Carpenter's movie, the posthuman Other and the human form are indeterminable, and identity is indefinite.
As if that wasn't enough, it's incredible how a quote from Darwin resonates so well with Alien's bio-horror theme:
Tuesday, 30 November 2010
I’ve been very interested in all aspects of what is now branded as the Long War, which I see as a war between Finance and Humans, rather than East versus West, Capitalism versus Islam, or whatever.
A military invasion to secure resources and a financial austerity package to placate bondholders are all part of a unified process. It’s just that force is applied in a somewhat cruder manner in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Africa.
What I’ve done is transposed the action to the Homeland, where it will eventually arrive anyway. The Drones are Chamber of Commerce assets, part of the elite Milton Friedman Unit.
The Butler brothers
On some campuses, administrative officials have monitored classes, questioned the political content of books and films, and screened the lists of guest speakers—all in the name of scholarly objectivity and balance.
In some places, however, trustees and administrators readily pay out huge sums for guest lectures by committed, highly partisan, rightwing ideologues.
The guardians of academic orthodoxy never admit that some of their decisions about hiring and firing faculty might be politically motivated. Instead they will say the candidate has not published enough articles. Or if enough, the articles are not in conventionally acceptable academic journals. Or if in acceptable journals, they are still wanting in quality and originality, or show too narrow or too diffuse a development. Seemingly objective criteria can be applied in endlessly elastic ways….
Mainstream academics treat their politically safe brands of teaching and research as the only ones that qualify as genuine scholarship. Such was the notion used to deny Samuel Bowles tenure at Harvard. Since Marxist economics is not really scholarly, it was argued, Bowles was neither a real scholar nor an authentic economist. Thus centrists ideologues have purged scholarly dissidents under the guise of protecting rather than violating academic standards. The decision seriously split the economics department and caused Nobel Prize winner Wassily Leontif to quit Harvard in disgust.
Radical academics have been rejected because their political commitments supposedly disallow them from objective scholarship. In fact much of the best scholarship comes from politically committed scholars.
One goal of any teacher should be to introduce students to bodies of information and analysis that have been systematically ignored or suppressed–a task that usually is better performed by iconoclasts than by those who accept existing institutional and class arrangements as the finished order of things. So it has been feminists and African-American researchers who, in their partisan urgency, have revealed the previously unexamined sexist and racist presumptions and gaps of conventional scholarship.
Likewise, it is leftist intellectuals (including some who are female or nonwhite) who have produced the challenging scholarship about popular struggle, political economy, and class power, subjects remaining largely untouched by centrists and conservatives.16 In sum, a dissenting ideology can awaken us to things regularly overlooked by conventional scholarship.
Orthodox ideological strictures are applied also to a teacher’s outside political activity. At the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, an instructor of political science, Ted Hayes, an anti-capitalist, was denied a contract renewal because he was judged to have “outside political commitments” that made it impossible for him to be objective. Two of the senior faculty who voted against him were state committee members of the Republican Party in Wisconsin.17 There was no question as to whether their outside political commitments interfered with their objectivity as teachers or with the judgments they made about colleagues.
–Michael Parenti, “Academic Repression, Past and Present”