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by Rob Horning

26 Jan 2010

Going through the archive of this blog, I came across this post, about negativity. There I confess to having a knee-jerk skepticism about things billed as optimistic or positive, particularly when those terms are being used as synonyms for “feel-good” in the midst of a recommendation. I haven’t changed much: My first instinct is still to read “optimistic” as actually meaning “short-sighted” or “blinkered,” and to see positive spin as ideologically motivated hoodwinking. The role that blithe confidence and animal spirits played in the economic crisis has probably only made me more skeptical—it’s no good if too many people are persuaded to ignore their natural human tendency toward risk aversion. And the incentives are all in place for the financial sector and the media to collude in puffing up confidence, which I am taking to be broader than a mere willingness to spend or invest. This is obviously speculation, but complacency with one’s culture would seem to reinforce a blind confidence in the general economic situation, and vice versa. And a habit of resistance and skepticism about culture seems good practice for a similar skepticism towards salespeople, investment schemes, and peddlers of financial products. After the events of the past few years, could one possibly err on the side of being too cynical? Haven’t the bailouts and the events leading up to them proven once and for all that most of us lack the imagination to be cynical enough?

Frederic Jameson’s gloss on Marcuse, which prompted my earlier post, seems worth quoting again: “Thus it is that the happier we are, the more surely we are given over, without even being aware of it, into the power of the socio-economic system itself.” But “happiness” must be understood in a particular way, as a specific kind of narcissism endemic to consumer culture. The kind of happiness Marcuse and Jameson are talking about—in my interpretation, anyway—is the special satisfaction of self-fashioning with the tools afforded us by consumerism. It is a matter of experiencing a moment of cool because one is doing the approved things, or doing new things in the approved way, or is generally adding new flourishes and wrinkles to the carnival of public consumption. It is the happiness of online “sharing,” of participation in pseudoevents, of what Marcuse called repressive desublimation—the removal of moral and intellectual engagement from pleasure, and its transformation into a kind of compulsion or addiction. Jameson: “It is only when individual happiness, subjective contentment, is not positive (in the sense of ultimate satiation by the consumer society), but rather negative, as a symbolic refusal of everything which that society has to offer, that happiness can recover its right to be thought of as a measure and an enlargement of human possibilities.”

by shathley Q

26 Jan 2010

Scott Allie’s incredibly atmospheric and deeply immersive Devil’s Footprint hit the popular consciousness more or less contemporaneously with the premier season of an equally phenomenal piece of television drama, Six Feet Under.

by Meghan Lewit

26 Jan 2010

Episode two felt like classic Project Runway, successfully resolving last week’s boring challenge issues and revealing a promisingly high level of talent. “The Fashion Farm” opened with weepy Janeane from Portland and cute-as-a-button Anna confabbing in the apartment about how they hoped the next challenge would involve something “very New York. Like, weird, eccentric New York.” Aren’t non New-Yorkers quaint?

Instead, the designers were taken out to a farm where they found their models standing in a field like a group of extremely tall Cabbage Patch Kids, dressed in burlap sacks.

by Rob Horning

26 Jan 2010

Yes, this game. Yes, we’ve lost. (Thanks, BoingBoing.) This probably doesn’t need explicating, but the Game is a perfect metaphor for the sprezzatura of postmodern identity. We all succeed at playing the role of ourselves as long as we simultaneously fail to become self-conscious, and repress or disavow all our efforts to appear effortless. That is, we win as long as we forget to acknowledge the way we use consumerism for self-fashioning, the way we buy into the way trends work and perpetuate and/or modify the meanings of objects, and so on. As long as that is the case, we can transcend it all. Once we get wind of what we are doing behind our own backs, we fall back into the muck of alienation and desire; we “lose.”

I think Lacan invented the game.

by Alex Suskind

26 Jan 2010

One is arguably the most iconic lyricist in rap history; the other is a reggae star and the son of a legendary musician/activist (Bob Marley). So when Nas and Damian Marley announced plans to collaborate back in February 2009, fans from both genres eagerly anticipated the result.

Originally, the idea was to release just an EP, but when the duo hit the studio to record last year, they decided to turn it into a full record, entitled Distant Relatives.

“Reggae is one of the roots of hip-hop. Hip-hop music has helped reggae in its transition periods. Together we kind of wanted to give people that. To find the roots of reggae and hip-hop,” Nas told the Omaha World Herald back in June 2009. In the same interview, the Queens rapper also discussed the meaning behind the album’s name: “We’re in a recession. It’s a hard time for America. People are killing themselves over jobs, but we take for granted what we do have here… In the world, we’re family. We’re all relatives in a way. So we named the album Distant Relatives because it talks to all people.”

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That Ribbon of Highway: Sharon Jones Re-shapes Woody Guthrie's Song

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