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Diminished marginal utility and collecting

Does the "law" of diminishing marginal utility apply to collectors? It seems that each additional unit to the collection makes it more valuable and would therefore be more satisfying to the collector. Each additional unit to a collection manages to be both an additional unit and a unique artifact -- the beer bottle collector wants each bottle he collects to have been used for beer, and he wants each one to be slightly different in some way than the rest. So in that respect, marginal utility goes immediately to zero for a specific make of bottle, but extends to infinity undiminished for bottles in general. Thus in order to circumvent marginal utility, manufacturers need to convince all consumers to see themselves as curators of their own collection of commodities. One of the means for this is to promote the idea that precise constellations of goods can communicate your identity authentically, and that one becomes a deeper and more interesting person the more goods one has collected.

Jameson, in one of the free-ranging chapters of Marxism and Form, draws on Freud to argue that commodities (like language itself) are necessary to express desire or drive, to mediate them into something that can be tangibly manipulated and understood, which is a modification of Schiller's dictum that "beauty is the form freedom takes in the realm of sensory appearances." Beauty, as the consumer culture has entrenched itself, now takes the forms of goods, so access to goods can be perceived as a greater scope to be free -- this in turn brought on the post WWII emphasis on expanding purchasing power rather than making permanent the redistributive policies the war necessitated. Purchasing power can be seen as freedom itself once goods are seen as the primary field in which beauty/desire can be realized. (I'm sorry if this seems ot be going in a circle -- maybe that means that under Jameson's spell my thinking has become especially dialectical.) It seems that the key question is to figure out how we are encouraged to mediate our instinctual drives and desires in the form of collections of goods rather than in the form of activity or social connection or any other way the inner drives could be made tangible in the image of something outside ourselves. Jameson writes "So it is that some chance contact with an external object may 'remind' us of ourselves more profoundly than anything that takes place in the impoverished life of our conscious will" -- what impoverishes that will? Is it that social reality becomes so complex that individual agency becomes insignificant, that social activity seems pointless because we cn never now what butterfly effect our little deeds end up having? Jameson continues, "For unbeknownst to us, the objects around us lead lives of their own in our unconscious fantasies where vibrant with mana and taboo, with symbolic fascination or repulsion, they stand as the words or hieroglyphs of the immense rebus of desire." So then objects become repositories for collective ideals and organizational schemes, they become the means by which we conduct social interaction in the absence of actual interpersonal contact and intimacy. We become intimate with objects instead and try to solve their mysteries by trying to organize them around ourselves in such a way that they will admit us to that storehouse of social significance embodied within them in coded inscrutable form. All the while, our energies directed thus, socila relations become ever more mediated and indirect, to the benefit of those industries that supply the goods in ever more branded and mystified forms.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

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