Some inchoate thoughts about paid and unpaid work. One of the primary obstacles to thinking about alternatives to capitalism is the idea of money as a primary motivator. In capitalism, with its liquid labor market, money comes to seem the sole means of legitimizing effort. If you get paid for it, the effort was valuable, socially necessary, useful. If you don’t, your effort was hobby work, leisure, relaxation, a distraction. With money serving as this legitimizing function at the level of individual psychology, it inevitably becomes important people to display their wealth as a means of signaling their professionalism—expensive suits, well polished shows, big watches. These aren’t mere vain ostentation, but a sign of competence and credibility, in the same way elaborate and stolid bank buildings are meant to signify stability. Thus, the barriers to professional advancement become material, and they become encrusted with cultural-capital issues of knowing what to buy, how to display it, how to attain it, and so on. Money then begins to seem like the purpose of productive activity, with the actual social product as a kind of byproduct. This may lead to irrational allocation of resources, that make, for example, the financial sector of the economy far larger in proportion to GDP than it has any business becoming.
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Moon, directed by Duncan Jones and starring Sam Rockwell, appeared at the recent Sundance, SXSW and Tribeca film festivals and now opens in limited release in New York and Los Angeles on June 12th.
Plot synopsis from Sony Pictures Classics:
It is the near future. Astronaut Sam Bell is living on the far side of the moon, completing a three-year contract with Lunar Industries to mine Earth’s primary source of energy, Helium-3. It is a lonely job, made harder by a broken satellite that allows no live communications home. Taped messages are all Sam can send and receive.
Thankfully, his time on the moon is nearly over, and Sam will be reunited with his wife, Tess, and their three-year-old daughter, Eve, in only a few short weeks. Suddenly, Sam’s health starts to deteriorate. Painful headaches, hallucinations and a lack of focus lead to an almost fatal accident on a routine drive on the moon in a lunar rover. While recuperating back at the base (with no memory of how he got there), Sam meets a younger, angrier version of himself, who claims to be there to fulfill the same three year contract Sam started all those years ago.
Confined with what appears to be a clone of his earlier self, and with a “support crew” on its way to help put the base back into productive order, Sam is fighting the clock to discover what’s going on and where he fits into company plans.
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
There were parts in Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories that really got to me, particularly dealing with plight of the overweight, asthmatic lawyer Theo, who could have easily become a caricature. The empathy and humanity that Atkinson shows Theo (imagine that, an ugly major character!) is well beyond the norm for most fiction, particularly mystery fiction. WALL-E also made me tear up at various points. The beginning is so cute and yet so sad. WALL-E‘s loneliness is palpable. Sure, it’s billed as a kid’s movie, but have you ever seen anything so desolate and bleak in your life?!
2. The fictional character most like you?
Hmmm…probably some buffoonish but lovable motormouth idiot out there. Falstaff? That Scottish guy from Four Weddings and a Funeral who died? Did I just give something away? Spoiler alert!
3. The greatest album, ever?
Oh man, this question is a tough one. I vacillate between any number of albums, including some usual suspects like Pet Sounds and Revolver and stuff, so I’m going to go oddball today and say that it’s Tindersticks’ second self-titled album, which, in its long running time, manages to incorporate spoken word, Serge Gainsbourg-style duets, distorted surf guitars, full orchestras, piano ballads, and a one-mic-recorded dirges without every getting boring once. It’s so overstuffed with dramatic gestures and ambition and well-executed bad ideas that it’s almost gaudy in its grandeur.
Konami’s recently announced decision to publish Atomic Game’s Six Days In Fallujah has been making the controversy rounds and for good reason: it aims to recreate one of the worst battles in the Iraq War. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal the creators explain, “We’re not trying to make social commentary. We’re not pro-war. We’re not trying to make people feel uncomfortable. We just want to bring a compelling entertainment experience. At the end of the day, it’s just a game.” The creators are interviewing marines, civilians, and insurgents who were involved with the battle to recreate it as closely as possible.
As if we aren’t getting hit over the head enough with Twitter hype these days, now artists are debuting music using the ubiquitous micro-blogging system. The Streets is releasing his latest songs to the public via his Twitter account and the first one on tap is “I Love My Phone”, which is perhaps the most appropriate title of a song in his career given his embrace of technology here.
“I Love My Phone” [MP3]
UPDATE: And here’s the second of the promised batch, “Trust Me”.
“Trust Me” [MP3]