Has porn gone mainstream? Maybe, but I'm (a) not sure exactly what that means and (b) isn't the real concern not that it's gone mainstream but that it's become the go-to casual frame of reference for the tastemaking class? And I mean that the way Ross and Reihan mean the upper class -- as it is with the mass upper class, so it is with the mass tastemaking class. In a referential world, why not sex as the ultimate referent?
Or so one asks if one is in the business of making public pictures. The charming image to the left raises a number of interesting questions -- why bother with the dude among them -- but the main one flutters around a question raised most recently by Adbusters: how long can Fiona Apple's "Criminal" video be reenacted before the world moves on? and when they do, where will they go?
There is something extra creepy in the way the nonwhite world represents an opportunity to vibrate the bored universe that makes a Venn vagina of overlap between the poor/hipster world of Silver Lake, Echo Park, and Williamsburg and the rich/popster world of West Hollywood and Manhattan. Japan has long been a place white rock stars can go to rape the help and slap around the locals; if you really want to geek out about it, refer yourself to "El Scorcho" and see where the trail of breadcrumbs leads. The American Apparel plan -- giving Mexicans and Guatemalans one of the best work environments in the world, and having them make clothes for scrawny pervbags that have swingers parties at the Standard when they aren't being defamed on Craigslist -- has an obvious option for taking its shiz to the next level: get Jose in on the act...
Hipster/popster/OMG culture is keyed to metastasize, appropriating otherness on a level never contemplated by the comparatively incurious '90s-era European Semester Abroad. There are only so many flights to Iceland, Sweden, and Estonia to go around, and the third-world flavor of those Other Continents, seeping, in a working-underclass way, into the production centers of debauched hipness is a sitting duck for commercial, artistic, and psychological exploitation. It is freighted with disparities of power, culture, physiognomy, and economics that would make Foucault's lip curl in the kind of mix of disgust and delight.
In 'honor' of August, a month it despises, Slate has re-run an evil David Plotz column of (presumably, August) 2001, advocating the reduction of the third summer month to a rump ten-day period.
Of all the insipid things that supposedly chalk August up for dismemberment (uh, it's hot? It's boring? Get a pool, dude, and if you can't find one, don't blame me because you don't live in California), by far the worst is the cavalcade of contempt poured on August birthdays, followed up cruelly by the chipper reminder that a truncated August would make the school year "run longer."
Ah, yes, just what I and every other August birthday of all times have been hoping and praying for. Not quite marginalizing and discrediting enough was it to see 'back to school' ads proclaiming the death of summer before we even had a chance to party. Not enough an indignity was it to suffer the 'group birthday' celebration on that last day of school. Sure, ceding the last ten days of August to September would save a few token refugees from rank humiliation, but think of the poor little bastards stuck in the middle-ten dog days -- still no birthday, school coming on like a gigolo, and this godforsaken birthday -- August 17th, for example -- languishing in gimpy purgation. Don't worry that that's my birthday. I'm only one person. How can I hope to become a change agent?
But you might worry on other grounds, because Aug. 17th is also Robert De Niro's birthday, and if you play even a small and ancillary role in messing with August, he will take you down, people. He will take you down to Chinatown.
one way to tell superficially nihilistic art (Heathers) from genuinely nihilistic art is whether it has any sense of eros. To put it another way: does the word "sterile" apply to the piece of art in question? If so, it is modern and you should run.
Hrm. The Rieffian contention -- which I am still not sure which side Helen comes down on -- involves a countersubmission that it's a short trip from non-nihilistic, erotic art to semi-nihilistic art with a 'sense of' eros (maintained all-too-cleverly at a few degrees of critical remove)...and an even shorter trip from there to the sterility of the ultimate in boredom that is ultimate transgression. The nut of the contention is that 'sterility' is the dead endpoint of the profanation of the sacred (not to mention fertility, which is important but only as a means).
All of which is a preliminary way of saying that a 'sense of eros' seems like an already sterilized, enfeebled, metrosexualized version of the real thing, and that this weird phenomenon strikes me as modern yes but not necessarily as not postmodern.
That said, Helen is definitely right that sterile art is scary, but more should be said about why and how: specifically, because it is death-worshipping. We've seen death-worshipping in art long before the modern era -- or at least the late modern (tautology alert). But only after WWI did it become sterile too -- abstracted so as to lie more convincingly about its 'sense of eros.' This is the gist of Rieff's repeated attacks on Duchamp. Sterilize death-worship and it just might seem somewhat sexy: or 'stylize' it. This is an inverse of the proposition that if you sterilize death-worship is just might seem holy -- what Rieff characterizes as spiritual snobbery, and a dangerous proposition: grace may not condescend to descend. So rather than stylizing the mortification of the flesh, you, um, stylitize it.
"I had such a transformative experience on my own when I did yoga naked rather than clothed," said Naked Yoga NYC teacher Isis Phoenix. "I wanted to share that." [...] "We are reclaiming and celebrating our bodies," said Phoenix, who starts each class with a disrobing ceremony. -- New York Post
Reclaiming them from what, exactly? How hard up we seem to be for Shared Transformative Experiences.To the point of inventing disabilities to overcome! And not just STEs, but ones we can celebrate. We can strip off -- what a victory! It's all so dreadfully banal. Nudism is the new checkers. Only checkers has a set of rules and a point to it more complex and well-developed than celebration. That's sort of what a game is for -- withholding celebration until some quantum of meaning has been obtained out of participation in an order. Celebration as we take it is like stipulating that we've all just already played a game and everyone won. Celebration as we take it hinges on the idea that celebration shouldn't result from meaning but should result in it. That's bizarre enough on its own terms, and much more 'harmful' culturally speaking than playing a game where the winners of a game of team checkers get to get naked.
At least naked yoga isn't an orgy, I suppose. But it's a long and storied flipside in our vain human efforts to sanitize and sublimate animal nakedness. A group of kids can run around and play naked. A group of adults? It's always a self-parody, an embarrassing act of pretend. And I'd surrender any right to pass laws accordingly in exchange for the right to keep and freely declare that judgment. Though there's nothing unreasonable about passing laws that keep the nude action private. And as a matter of law, of course, -- as opposed to a matter of 'aesthethics' (your Word for the Day) -- I'm happy to tolerate naked clubs of almost all varieties. Tolerance has plenty of room for amused contempt, and if I were a nudie I'd be totally cool with that on my own end.
Will has an exceptional post up about what Helen calls 'intellectual street fighting' and he calls creation:
There's a particular process at work here -- something sublime and yet irremediably soiled -- in which we let ideas and concepts boil up from the subconscious faster than we can control them. I am talking about the process of creation, something as akin to "divine madness" as anything I've ever experienced. Whether it be as music, prose, poetry, improv acting, or visual art; we vomit forth the spinning and shifting patterns from within. Most of what comes out is garbage, but the occasional gem sparkles amidst the rubbish.
Somewhat sadly, I've been out of college too long to romanticize this, and I've been in grad school too long not to analyze it. But Will has basically drawn a prose Kandinsky thumbnail of something I will say more about one day under the heading of Philosophy of Blogging. Somewhere fairly recently I wrote a longish post on the difference between improvisation and the impromptu. The point I was trying to draw out was the difference between vomiting out unregulated chaos under conditions of destructively lowered stakes and improvising out semi-regulated order under conditions of creatively lowered stakes; i.e. blogging is a realm in which lots of people agree to have running, noncomprehensive conversations on a wide and shifting number of subjects with inadequate preparation time to guarantee that they will not, as Helen puts it, be carried by momentum to some place they didn't intend to go.
Sometimes this momentum will come from an argument; a passion; a bias; a blind spot; a vice; a virtue. Blogger's courage is the courage to open yourself up to public contention before you've assured yourself you're right. I'd like to close for now by suggesting that this is an incredible, and possibly central, virtue of the democratic citizen.