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by shathley Q

27 Jul 2009

James Buchanan Barnes, Captain America’s former kid sidekick ‘Bucky’, glowers at the tribute erected to fallen Captain America Steve Rogers. From this view Barnes remains unseen, but his reflection expresses both his intensity and his distress. The only ‘actual’ object appearing in this panel, Cap’s empty costume and shield fully convey the sense of loss experienced with the demise of a legend.

Barnes will shortly, after reading a letter from Steve Rogers requesting he do so, take up the mantle of Captain America. For the moment however, the icon remains out of reach. Ironically an awareness of the shield and costume as fake, do nothing to alleviate the burden of memory. However close Bucky may once have been, the icon of Captain America has now become interminable.

The construction of the panel, the hero of the story remaining off-panel, while separated from an iconic role by a panel of glass offers the briefest of essays on the superhero. In a common-sense understanding, it is the icon, and not the hero that endures. Writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting however provide a careful criticism of this notion, the same one that underpins generational superheroes like Lee Falks’ the Phantom or the modern Flash lineage. While the icon, Cap’s costume and shield, at first glance seem substantial and enduring beyond Steve Rogers, it is ultimately the absence of both Rogers and Barnes (whose emotion animates this panel) that has the greatest effect.

Heroes are heroes for a reason, Brubaker seems to be saying. Without them the icons they drape themselves in, are just empty suits.

by PopMatters Staff

27 Jul 2009

Yo La Tengo
Popular Songs
(Matador)
Releasing: 8 September (US)

SONG LIST
01 Here to Fall
01 Avalon or Someone Very Similar
01 By Two’s
01 Nothing to Hide
01 Periodically Double or Triple
01 If It’s True
01 I’m on My Way
01 When It’s Dark
01 All Your Secrets
01 More Stars Than There Are in Heaven
01 The Fireside
01 And the Glitter Is Gone


Yo La Tengo
“Here to Fall” [MP3]
     

by PopMatters Staff

27 Jul 2009

The Cave Singers
Welcome Joy
(Matador)
Releasing: 18 August (US)

SONG LIST
01 Summer Light
02 Leap
03 At the Cut
04 Shrine
05 Hen of the Woods
06 Beach House
07 VV
08 I Don’t Mind
09 Townships
10 Bramble

The Cave Singers
“At the Cut” [MP3]
     

by Rob Horning

27 Jul 2009

I have another post up at Generation Bubble, about “macrorationality.”

by Rob Horning

27 Jul 2009

Rob Walker’s Consumed column in this week’s NYT Magazine is about Lululemon, a vendor of overpriced “yoga-inspired” apparel, including clothing that one couldn’t possibly use for yoga, like raingear. As Walker points out, what the company really sells is faux-inspiration, a sense of goal fulfillment without actually having to fulfill any of them. The best face one could put on this is that the company provides an opportunity for a kind of monetized creative visualization: wearing expensive yoga clothes make people feel like the sort who does yoga, which then prompts them to do it more often—a variant on the notion that if you dress professionally, you will end up being more professional at work because people will regard you more respectfully and the clothes symbolism lend a sense of confidence and so on. But not surprisingly, I am more persuaded by the critique that Lululemon takes something free and ancient and ruins it for Americans by associating it with a specific affluent lifestyle, making it seem exclusive and cliquish.

It’s not at all surprising that the company’s founder, Chip Wilson, has apparently promoted the Forum, a vaguely creepy self-help workshop derived from EST, profiled here in New York magazine and parodied on Six Feet Under as “the Plan”. (If you know anyone who has done the Forum, you know what I mean by “vaguely creepy.”) The Forum seems to trade in the same kind of monetized creative visualization, but apparently with a more of an emotional-bullying edge than anything you are likely to experience in a yoga class (with the possible exception of Bikram).

What I wonder, then, is whether the consumption of yoga clothes functions in the same way as consuming “intense” self-help sessions, whether the appeal is the same: you can buy a new self and effectively efface the past. Consumerism typically promises that we can reinvent ourselves at any moment, that the pose we adopt is basically convincing as long as we believe it and put our money where our mouth is. Consumerism lets us treat spending as a mark of unquestionable conviction, even if the skeptics and naysayers cry about inauthenticity. Whether we feel this conviction at any deeper psychological level then becomes irrelevant. In other words, what I wonder about is the switch in our minds that allows us to buy Lululemon clothes and feel like we have bought into the “yoga concept” in a meaningful way, untroubled by our not doing much yoga. And once we’ve thrown that switch, do we have to keep on buying and buying lifestyle goods to make sure it doesn’t get thrown back over, plunging us into a self-doubt and shame?

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