Sunday, 6 November 2016

2001: Cinema as a Platonic Ideal

This is chapter one of a forthcoming book called 'Collected Essays.'

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In a synoptic review of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Laurence Phelan writes that the film 'is the closest that cinema has come to embodying a Platonic Ideal' (2015, p. 29). Ideas from antiquity are the foundation for all forms of discourse. The film, for instance, already alludes to Homer in the title. However, it is particularly interesting to gauge how cinema – the archetypal modern art form – can embody these ideas directly. This article will examine four Platonic theories and will try to ascertain how these theories are represented in the film. These theories include the theory of forms, pre-natal learning, the allegory of the cave and transcendence.

But what exactly does Phelan mean by cinema 'embodying a Platonic Ideal'? Most concepts are ambiguous, laden with multiple meanings and interpretations. To start with, I will do my best to offer some sort of interpretation for what 'Platonic Ideal' might mean.

Most commonly 'ideal' means that there is something better than what we already have. In most philosophy, especially most post-Enlightenment philosophy, idealism is the belief that that reality is generated by thought and appearance rather than matter. The mind is the foundation for our understanding of reality (Guyer 2015).

However, both of those meanings are rather different from Plato's conception. The latter meaning suggests that reality is mind-dependent. As David Gallop's definition will soon demonstrate, Plato's 'theory of forms' is fixed and unchangeable. It is there, regardless of your subjective perception. Your sense-perception is dictated by his theory of forms (Gallop 1993, p. xii). Concepts such as beauty, justice, peace etc. are constant and they underlie every-day reality. Plato's theory is closer to the former meaning, since there is an ideal world superior to the one we find ourselves in during our waking lives.

Plato's theory of forms is characterised by David Gallop as a 'leitmotif' (p. x). It is something that crops in Plato's dialogues; it is not something that has been systematically developed. (It always struck me whenever I have tried reading Plato's dialogues that developing the theory would be extremely laborious and would consist of very, very lengthy tomes.) The theory, as it appears in Plato's dialogues, outlines the following. There are 'forms' which underlie our material reality, with these forms residing in a space that could be called 'heaven' (p. xi). (Plato had an enormous influence on Christianity.) They constitute universal abstract concepts. Some examples cited by Gallop include: 'The Just Society, the Perfect Circle, the Ideal Bed [and] Absolute Beauty' (p. xi). Such concepts are fixed, being absolute and true. When we see objects in our waking reality, they are imperfect representations of these 'real' forms. For instance, if we see a bed, this would be an imperfect manifestation of beauty. We grasp these forms through the senses and not the intellect (xi). We ultimately come to understand these 'perfect' entities from 'particulars' – hence the example of the bed – and, in Gallop's words, through 'fallible opinion' (p. xiii). It is also clear that one comes closer to apprehending the forms this way rather than a systematic study of knowledge. For instance, you would come closer to understanding beauty through looking at a bed instead of actually studying aesthetics. Our immortal souls join the world of real forms once we end our existence in time. This is one of the many ways in which Plato prefigures Christianity.

Hence, there must be an objective standard that determines their existence. Otherwise, all perception would be subjective. This is why this notion of 'ideal' is diametrically opposed to the 'post-Enlightenment' conception of 'idealism.' Gallop writes: 'There is a single abstract entity for every class of object' (p. xiii).

Another Platonic theory that is found in Phaedo involves 'pre-natal learning.' This theory presupposes that we already exist, spiritually, before birth. Prior to birth, we have full knowledge. Gallop writes: '[Pre-natal learning involves] the regaining of knowledge which the soul possessed in a pre-natal, disembodied state [.]' (p. xviii). Recollection is at work every time we apprehend an object through the senses. Every time we learn a new concept, we are are comparing it with something that has been pre-natally known to us (p. xix). Gallop cites an example from Meno. In this dialogue, Socrates manages to coax the correct answer out of a student unacquainted with geometry (p. xix). Socrates asks the student a series of probing questions until he reaches the correct answer. Socrates reaches this conclusion because pre-natal recollection depends on the notion that 'the mind has inherent reasoning powers rather than […] sense-experience' (p. xix). He says in Phaedo: 'Learning is recollection. […] It was […] asserted that our soul existed even before it entered the body.' (1993, p. 67) Socrates argues that we have the capacity to think, reason and argue logically. These capacities appear to be innate, but they are also developed and nurtured as we grow older. Socrates argues that the same applies to knowledge, which is latent within us and recollected when we encounter external stimuli.

Before moving onto analyses of the film, this article will introduce one final Platonic theory. The allegory of the cave contends that anyone who is not aware of Plato's theory of forms is 'chained in a cave' (Cohen 2006). (!) The allegory describes how all that people can see and hear in their caves 'are shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see' (2006). It is only when these ignorant people learn about the theory of forms that they come to an understanding that what they see is an imperfect shadow of grander concepts such as beauty, justice, equality etc. They leave the cave and encounter the 'real' world. (The word 'real' in Plato is exceedingly strange – there is another world out there which is more real than this one!) Humans have been ignorant for centuries and, thanks to a sudden revelation, encounter the 'truth.'

Now that these three concepts have been introduced, this article will examine how these three concepts are represented in scenes. When examining 'the theory of forms,' it will examine specific motifs. There are several motifs in the film that appear to be charged with symbolic significance. They could be easily be interpreted as being an attempt to symbolise Platonic forms. For instance, the monolith represents extraterrestrial life (which in the film could be equivalent to 'God'). The fetus in the closing scenes in the film could be interpreted as being a Platonic form for creation. Finally, it will examine how a bone, used as weapon, could be seen as being a Platonic form signifying survival.

Each of these motifs are significant for the following reasons. Extraterrestrial life in the film could roughly be seen as being 'God-like.' Throughout the film, it underlies existence and it is not visible. It also guides humanity and tries to help it reach its fullest potential. This is similar to the monotheistic Christian God, which is also an arbiter of truth, morality, etc.

We encounter the monolith in the initial stages of the film. The monolith lies astride the primates, who shriek in horror once they see it. It is accompanied by modernist classical music by Gyorgy Ligeti. This music is 'micropolyphonic.' It is comprised of several voices which operate at a micro level and coalesce to form a tone cluster. The net result of the music, and the monolith, is that it creates a sense of mystery and grandeur. This is especially the case seeing that the monolith is poised at the forefront of a sublime landscape. All of these aspects have theological undercurrents. Seeing that it is a monolith (meaning big and simple), it could be seen as a platonic form representing God. The extraterrestrials cannot be seen and they are clearly larger, and more all-knowing, than the humans that they influence.

Later we can see a low-angle mid-shot, poised at a 75 degree angle, of the primates approaching the monolith. They are clearly intimidated by it; they cavort around it and are too intimidated to even touch it. This establishes the degree of authority and omniscience that the monolith possesses. We later see the camera, from a 180 degree angle, next to the monolith. The camera is turned on its axis and is framed as a long-shot of the sky. The monolith, however, takes up most of the frame. Dusk is setting in. This, alongside the ominous Ligeti soundtrack, creates a crepuscular ambience. There is a sense that the monolith is a higher being, since it seems to control the outcome of causality and it has a higher degree of knowledge. At this point it could be mistaken for being a Christian God, but as we progress through the film it becomes apparent that it is of extraterrestrial provenance. Still, the motif of the monolith functions as a clear Platonic form for celestial authority. Once the primates encounter the monolith, they begin to apprehend the law of forms through their senses and begin to build a society.

The fetus in the final scenes of the film could be interpreted as being symbolic of creation. The fetus is symbolic of a full-state of knowledge. I will explore how it is representative of the theory of pre-natal recollection. The astronaut in the film goes back to a pre-natal state that is almost God-like, as it has full knowledge and omniscience. (In the closing scenes of the film, we can see it peering above Earth.) The astronaut also becomes a fetus once he ages and passes away. There is a sense that he has reached a Platonic afterlife and that he becomes a 'form.'

In the scenes that we encounter this, we see a mid-shot of a spaceship in a room adorned with Renaissance sculptures and paintings. The rest of the mise-en-scene is comprised of futuristic sci-fi fare. Across the floors and walls, there are light beams encased by glass. This disjunction creates the sense that the location is unreal, or that it is a projection of the mind. However, if we were to follow Plato's ideas, we would be led to believe that the astronaut has penetrated the objective domain of an idea (in this case, the objective domain of creation).

Following the setting of the scene, we see a close-up shot of the astronaut. He seems to be in a state of paralysis. Following this, we see him at other end of the room, where he has aged considerably. In this case, he is next to a Renaissance painting. This has some pertinence to this article, as the Renaissance tried to reinstall ideas from antiquity. The Renaissance is often seen as a flowering of human knowledge and endeavour. This could be a symbol of human knowledge and the desire that the aliens have to help humans transcend their own limited knowledge. Finally we see the astronaut on his death bed. The monolith appears and, as he enters it, the camera dollies into it. The astronaut reaches a full state of knowledge and regresses (or progresses) into a fetus. The music in this scene once more consists of Richard Strauss' Thus Spake Zarathustra. The piece, of course, is named after Friedrich Nietzsche's seminal book, which includes the theory about the 'Superman.' In the earlier stages of the film, the music appears when humans reach a quantum leap. In this particular moment, humans become 'superhuman' once the astronaut manages to completely transcend all human limitations.



This article will also argue that the bone in the early stages of the film is a Platonic form for supremacy and survival. Prior to encountering the monolith, and prior to the extraterrestrial intervention, humans have not conquered the animal kingdom. They are often prey to jaguars that roam the desert. Thanks to the guidance of the monolith, they start to develop weapons and learn to hunt. Due to this technological advantage, they manage to assert their supremacy over other species. However, the film reveals that this technological advantage is far from benign. We see that humans start to fight and kill each other. Once we reach the future – 2001! - we see that technology is fallible.

Already at this early stage of human evolution, the species appears to be tribal and sectarian. Primates form distinct groups. Without technological weapons, humans don't even have the wherewithal to even hurt other herbivores. They are prey to other animals. We see a long-shot of a horizon and we see a human being attacked by a jaguar. The surrounding humans in the periphery helplessly shriek and do nothing to protect him. This lack of technology results in relative peace. Yet, despite this, it is clear that humans have an inherently violent nature. The tribes do fight each other rather viciously. As the fight scene of the two sects demonstrates, they still do not manage to substantially hurt one another. When technological weapons do arise, we see a lot more damage being inflicted on other humans. There is the suggestion that this will lead to genocides and that these genocides will be more brutal once advances in technology increase. The fight scenes demonstrate that humans are so tribal that cultural and religious alliances have already arisen. It is clear that this is one particular demographic fighting another demographic. This is despite the fact that language, technology and economic structures have not arisen to thereby solidify these divisions.

It soon becomes clear that, despite these malign implications, technology becomes a powerful tool as regards the advancement of human society. We see a mid-shot of a human sifting through bones, trying to meld something out of them. We hear Richard Strauss' Thus Spake Zarathustra. As an analysis later on in this article will demonstrate, this scene is about transcending human boundaries. This suggests that human evolution – biological evolution – is about transcending heretofore existing limits. There is a low-angle shot of the primate sifting through the bones. This is followed by a montage of antelopes falling and the human triumphantly raising the bone. The bone/weapon could
be seen as being a Platonic ideal for human hegemony and survival. We soon see a a mid-shot of a group of humans eating. We soon establish that there is a greater sense of security and harmony.



Anyone with only a modicum of knowledge about Plato will makes parallels between 2001 and the allegory of the cave. We see humans in caves, for one thing. We see them being ignorant and, following this fallow period, swiftly see them encountering an essential truth. Prior to encountering the monolith, these sub-developed humans are herbivores, prey to other dangerous animals and have no knowledge or language. According to Plato's allegory, humans live in a cave because there are not aware of grander epistemological questions. In the case of this film, these cavemen do not even have the reasoning and cognitive capabilities to even begin to decipher such questions. However, according to the theory of forms, one apprehends them through the senses rather than the intellect. There is a sudden epiphanic revelation when one of the cavemen realises that a bone does mean survival and supremacy. The monolith helps the cavemen apprehend the law of forms when they see common objects.

This article has already explored the treatment of transcendence in the film. It will now recap in what ways it treats transcendence. By transcendence, I mean the exceeding of normal limits, including physical, spatial and temporal limits. There are clear parallels between Christianity and Platonism. For one thing, Plato thought that the body was the 'prison of the soul' and that it was an impediment to reaching the divine sphere of the Gods (Dillon 2003, p. 80). In Plato, there is a clear need to exceed human limitations. There are two types of transcendence that I believe are explored in the film – animal transcendence and cosmic transcendence. Once the humans have been aided by the monolith, they have asserted their supremacy over the rest of the animal kingdom. In the early stages of the film, it becomes apparent that humans transcend other animals once they develop technological weapons. In the final stages of the film, the astronaut transcends his animal nature to become an 'idea.' He transcends his animal nature to join the Platonic world of forms. He escapes the confines of his body and becomes the 'idea' of creation. This is hence also cosmic, since this character manages to reach a higher plane of consciousness. This realm of consciousness lies well beyond one experienced in material reality. This is why 2001 was marketed as the 'ultimate trip' when psychedelic drugs were fashionable (Kaplan 2007).

2001 is a film that embodies several Platonic ideas. It embodies the 'theory of forms' when it uses several motifs. Motifs such as the monolith, bones and fetuses represents underlying ideas. When characters look at these motifs, they manage to apprehend the Platonic ideas that they contain. For instance, when they see the monolith, the cavemen come to understand the theory of forms and henceforth become rational animals. In this sense, the film addresses Plato's 'allegory of the cave.'  Once one of the cavemen has understood the law of forms, he sees a bone and realises that it has technological potential. The fetus symbolises the theory of pre-natal recollection, as the astronaut acquires full knowledge when he returns to a pre-natal state. When the film explores all of these questions, it is also exploring questions about transcendence. It considers questions about animal transcendence, since humans transcend other animals once they begin to understand knowledge and technology. They also achieve cosmic transcendence when the astronaut transcends his animal nature and reaches a higher plane of consciousness where he achieves full-knowledge. These are the ways in which the film manages to 'embody a Platonic Ideal.'


Works Cited

Cohen, Marc S. (2006) The Allegory of the Cave. [Online] Washington Edu. Available from:https://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/320/cave.htmPhelan, Laurence. (2015) Television. I. 16 December, p. 29.

Dillon, John M. (2000). Rejecting the Body, Refining the Body: Some Remarks on the Development of Platonic Asceticism. p. 80-88.

Kaplan, Mike. (2007) Kubrick: A Marketing Odyssey. [Online] The Guardian.Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2007/nov/02/marketingandpr

Guyer, Paul. (2015) Idealism. [Online] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available from: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/idealism/

Phelan, Laurence. (2015) Television. I. 16 December, p. 29.

Plato. (1993) Phaedo. Translated by David Gallop. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

-------------------- Gallop, David. (1993) Introduction to Phaedo by Plato. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Filmography

Kubrick, Stanley. (1968) 2001: A Space Odyssey [Film]. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer




Saturday, 24 September 2016

Most activists are twits

I think that altruism is a very noble concept indeed. I admire altruists very much. The world needs more of them. I, regrettably, am very selfish and self-centred. Altruists care very much about others and they often want to change the world and make it a better place. They might be naive or, alternatively, altruists can be very practical people who want to use the most effective methods to increase the share of happiness in the world.

What about activists? Some altruists are activists. I would not necessarily say that all activists are bad. Campaigning for a mainstream party seems perfectly acceptable to me. By going out campaigning, knocking on doors, handing out leaflets, communicating with MPs etc. you are are actually helping to change outcomes. 

But then, a lot of activists do not fit into either of these two categories. A lot of them spend inordinate time and effort devoting themselves to campaigns that won't change anything, or even create any kind of meaningful discourse. Why do it, then?

A lot of hardline leftists love the process and the politics involved. A lot of these people spend their entire lives clashing with others, branding themselves and others with various isms. They form part of factions. This could be termed, vaguely, as 'Trostkyist.' Needless to say, Trotsykism is the biggest political cul-de-sac in the entirety of history. It has never led to a single government. Whenever this militant tendency has hijacked the Labour party (as it has now), it has condemned it to pointless internecine squabbling (and unelectability).

A lot of activists do not take the time and effort to come up with policy to help solve complex problems. They vent their spleens against many well-intentioned politicians who do. They condemn globalisation and 'neo-liberalism.' They come up with a lot of fancy jargon and engage in more pointless process to debate the state of the world in these abstruse terms. They neglect the fact that globalisation is very entrenched and impossible (especially for them) to overturn. They neglect the fact that globalisation has been an engine of growth throughout the third world. 

The whole thing ends up being very flamboyant, too. Whilst they call themselves 'collectivists,' they actually end up fetishing the cult of the individual. They buy Che Guevara shirts. Their figures become so beatified that they end up being totally exempt from scrutiny. Take Jeremy Corbyn, who is now outstripping George Lansbury as the most shambolic leader the Labour party has ever had. They keep defending every single gaffe and all of the platitudes that he spews forth. In this individualistic societies, where Facebook profiles are advertisements for your own personality, it's very edgy indeed to subscribe to all of these causes.

Why subject yourself to all of this frustration? As I said earlier, I think that this frustration is vindicated when supporting a mainstream party, as then you end up changing something. (That's the whole purpose of activism, no?) Just think of the myriad, infinitely more interesting ways that you could spend your life. You could read and write books. You could study ancient antiquity. You could study quantum mechanics. You could learn an instrument. You could write symphonies. You could study rare types of birds. By the time you drop dead, you will have actually accomplished something. In the end of the day, this is really why activists do what they do. All it does is that it makes them feel better. All it does is give their life meaning. Why not give your life meaning with all those aforementioned activities instead? So there you have it, that's why I think that most activists are twits.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Ahoy Facebook #3

An update is in order. First of all, if you still drop by - thank you. Thank you very much.

I am currently job searching. I am looking for work as a advertising copywriter. In my spare time, I can only find time to work on my novel. 

The other type of writing I really want to do is essay writing. I have an idea for a book of 'Collected Essays.' I have a number of ideas and I have already made a list of future essays. I want them to be properly sourced and researched. I want them to be a kind of blend of academic and journalistic writing. I want to upload them onto this blog and to later amass them in a book. I don't want to just crank out an inchoate idea over twenty minutes anymore. The vast majority of posts in this blog have consisted of just that.

In the meantime, I am going to upload some Facebook updates. These are even more rushed and even more inchoate than a lot of these blog posts. At least it will keep this blog ticking over til I find the time to write those essays.

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What have I chosen to do with my Friday night? I am watching Jean-luc Godard's 'Weekend' and then after that I am reading Kant's 'Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.' This is all for 'pleasure.' My God am I a sad and strange human being.
Yesterday I was watching videos of Enoch Powell on YouTube. Following this, I read 70 pages of the autobiography of Malcolm X. I was reading the words in my head in Mr. Powell's plummy voice. I couldn't get his voice out of my head. Extremely odd. I was reading the words of a controversial black activist who preached racial segregation through the prism of a controversial white politician who preached the deportation of immigrants to preserve social cohesion in Britain.
Looking back at archival footage of politicians being interviewed, it really does strike me how steeped a lot of them are in the history of ideas. (People like Enoch Powell, Michael Foot and Roy Jenkins stand out.) Two present-day examples I can think of are Michael Gove and, at a push, Ed Miliband. Otherwise, they're sound-bitey and spin-trained in the extreme. Even then, I can't say that listening to either Gove or Miliband speak is an interesting experience, either. Gove is well-read etc., but is a complete ideologue. Ed Miliband isn't very articulate, extremely nervous and rarely opens up about his geeky interest in political theory.
 I am especially annoyed by left-wing Brexit campaigners. They somehow assume that, if we leave the EU, that we will have a socialist/protectionist utopia where we will nationalise industries right-left-and-centre and reclaim sovereignty. That isn't going to happen, you stupid wankers. We have Boris Johnson, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove spearheading the campaign and they're all on record as having said that they want to privatise the NHS.
Needless to say, I am truly disgusted by the murder of Jo Cox. It is somewhat symptomatic of how toxic political discourse has become recently. This kind of thing really doesn't happen here. This has early 20th century continental Europe written all over it.
I despair of how quickly this country is moving backwards. We're dismanting institutions that make this country great, such as the NHS and the BBC. We're turning from a tolerant, united and liberal island into an intolerant, disunited and illiberal island. All these developments make me want to move back to Chile, where they have a broken system but they are at least doing something to change it. And in much more cheerful news, Chile won the Copa America again for a second consecutive year.
It really is ridiculous how Corbyn/McDonnell talk about respecting 'democracy' when they cling on to power. What's 600,000 members in the larger scheme of things? People in this country need a Labour government - that's a lot more important than a few thousand people wanting to keep the 'dignity' of the 'left.' He can't form a functioning shadow cabinet. What's the point in perpetuating this frustrating cul-de-sac?
1) Although there were many strands in Labour when it was founded, and there have always been Labour Marxists, trade unionists founded the party primarily to be a part of parliamentary democracy and to change the laws of the country to benefit the working classes. It has principally always been a party of government, not a party of protest.
2) There won't necessarily be a return to New Labour if Corbyn goes. In fact, Miliband lurched the party back to the centre-left. He managed to get the Blairites on board and unified the party. He made a number of compromises and Labour's pitch in the last general election was incoherent as a result. He still proposed a number of quite radical poliicies (freezing energy prices, scrapping zero-hour contracts and confronting the Murdoch empire). A leader from the soft left, who is charismatic (unlike Miliband) and unifies the party, would be ideal.
3) The party really isn't going anywhere under Corbyn. The MPs simply won't back him. He really isn't much of a leader. Going round, preaching to the converted, ranting about austerity and giving speeches riddled with platitudes about a better society without presenting solutions to change it, really isn't helpful. He can't do anything without the backing of his MPs and there aren't even MPs who will help him form a shadow cabinet. As I said earlier, it's a dead-end.

I really don't like libertarians. They don't advocate freedom of the individual so that you can choose to lead your life in a creative, independent and interesting way (e.g study Greek antiquity, nuclear physics, linguistics or music theory). Instead, they have an asinine and boyish fascination with a lawless society and seem to derive an exceedingly stupid satisfaction from the thought of owning illegal guns and knives. They equate freedom with a smaller state without realising that cutting state spending reduces freedom for a very large section of society. Truly insufferable.
Here's a good quote, courtesy of good ol' Wikipedia: 'Was it America? Or was it Tibet? It is quite true, many of Your Lordships will remember it operating in the nursery. How do you treat a cold? One nanny said, 'Feed a cold'; she was a neo-Keynesian. The other said, 'Starve a cold'; she was a monetarist.' - Harold MacMillan
There are lot of articles, books etc. these days that use quotes/arguments from Bertrand Russell and George Orwell (the former in scientific/philosophical circles that argue in favour of rationality, the latter in progressive circles). With those two writers, you merely have to quote them and any counterargument you can make is invalidated because everything both of those guys said is undisputed wisdom. If you root around what they both wrote, like anyone else they were also capable of saying stupid things. It annoys me when these writers get beatified, because everyone adopts a lazy attitude whereby 1) you don't look at what they write critically anymore and 2) you just fish out one of their quotes and you have a stellar, irrefutable piece of writing.
Surely the whole purpose of an election is to change outcomes and to ensure that your vote has the greatest potential to change or conserve laws. It surely isn't a way of telling the world 'this is who I am and what I believe in.' If you are liberal ideologue, it surely isn't constructive to vote for a liberal party if this doesn't translate into any MPs. Likewise, it surely isn't constructive to vote Green when that will result in a solitary MP. It's also certainly suicidal to vote for Jill Stein (barring the fact that she's completely crazy) in the USA when that could potentially elect Donald Trump and have an adverse effect on the rest of the world.
I had an idea for a book that, surprisingly, does not appear to have been written yet (I had a brief look around). What about a history of dreams - namely how dreams have been analysed and interpreted - throughout history. For example, in antiquity and medieval times people thought that they were divine interventions. Later Freud comes along and they are interpreted as being full of hidden symbols and they are also part of a complex 'unconscious' that underpin all of your actions. Now with neuroscience, they are largely seen as meaningless images that come about because of electricity fizzing in your brain. I'd like to read a really nicely researched history of all this. I don't really want to write it, but it would be very pleasing if it exists because I'd like to read it.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the release of 'Intolerance' by D. W. Griffith. We have reached the point historically where we can start talking about the centenaries of major films.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intolerance_(film)


A decent article looking back at the legacy of modernism. Some of my favourite literary works and pieces of music are part of the movement. There's a lot from the period that I still can't get my head around (Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, etc.). However, it actually excites me that such complex works, which are freighted with allusions and complex wordplay, exist. It annoys me quite a lot when people facilely dismiss them just because they don't make sense on first reading.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/10/the-shock-of-the-new/309451/

Cultural events on the horizon (brace yourselves for some extremely convoluted writing): A talk with John Bew about his new book concerning former Labour PM Clement Atlee - 20th of October; a performance of J. S. Bach's spectacular 'St. John Passion' - 13th of November; a performance from the string quartet ensemble 'Ligeti Quartet,' where they will be performing several modern classical pieces - 15th of November; a screening of C. T. Dreyer's silent classic 'The Passion of Joan of Arc' - 22nd of November.

Monday, 1 August 2016

More mad personal shit

I am hardly jeopardising myself by divulging this information. I have written stuff a lot worse than this in the past. On this blog I have written about mad personal shit on this blog in excruciating detail.

I am going to type out some of my personal fantasies. 'Keep it to yourself!' I hear you say! Well, the thing is I find that I need to expurgate a lot of thoughts that circulate round my brain. I prattle a lot about these things to those close to me. We are social creatures, so it's only natural to do so.

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Fantasy 1: The Imaginary Girlfriend

It's really sad that, aged 26, I've never had a girlfriend. It's really sad that, aged 26, I don't even know what procedure to follow to acquire one. What is even sadder is that I occasionally fantasise about the ideal girlfriend.

My fantasy woman has the following characteristics:

- Red hair.

- Grey eyes.

- She is really tall.

- She only wears black clothing.

- She has a PHD in English literature. (Her thesis was about Charlotte Bronte.)

- She is a world-renowned and really accomplished classical pianist. She often goes on world tours. She specialises in modern classical and baroque music. (She plays a handful of Romantic composers, too.)

- She's really kinky. She likes to have sex whilst bashing out the chord off the second movement of Rite of Spring again and again.

Fantasy 2: Living in a Galleon

This fantasy involves living in a galleon. I have a room with a desk in it. I write novels there on a manual typewriter. I get pissed on red wine and often lie pissed next to the mast. An exotic woman lives with me. She's also very kinky.

Fantasy 3: Stay at home

In this fantasy, I simply stay at home with mummy & daddy. I get cooked for etc. I get £200 deposited into my bank account every month. I get a blowjob every day from a bimbo so as to ease off all sexual frustrations. The rest of the time I get to read, write etc.

Fantasy 4: I win the Booker prize

Now this is ridiculous, isn't it?! In this fantasy, all the novels that I write get published. I get interviewed by journalists. The most ridiculous thing about this fantasy is that I would have to write something readable. Who would want to read the esoteric crap that I write?

Fantasy 5: I become leader of the Labour party

Now bear with me here. I get elected leader of the Labour party, even though people compare me with previous disastrous leaders (Foot, Kinnock, Miliband and Corbyn). I make a pledge to 'make the Labour party an electoral force again.' I am pathologically nervous around journalists and shy away from the spotlight. I disappear when I should be making crucial media interventions. I draw up a series of policies that get called 'a dreary return to Milibandism.' I spend most of my time trying to appease warring factions in the party. I spend an inordinate amount of time appeasing the Blairites. The grass root membership leaves. I pontificate endlessly about 'pragmatic socialism.' I get pilloried by the press. I lose the general election in a spectacular fashion.

Fantasy 6: I become a football manager

I get a Eufa licence (or whatever it's called) even though I never played professional football (or even at an amateur level!). I take over my crappy little team - the fourth tier team Fernandez Vial. We climb up to the first tier over a period of five years. I stay in the first tier with them for two more years. In my final year I manage to finish in a 4th placed position. I attract the attention of Colo-Colo (the biggest Chilean team), even though I previously make the statement that I would never manage for them. The Vial supporters call me 'Judas' despite everything that I did for them. I win a couple of Chilean titles and have a couple of good runs in the Copa Libertadores. I become manager of the Chile national side and I manage to reach the semi-finals of the world cup with them.

Fantasy 7: I live in a castle

I live in a giant castle, placed on the crest of a hill overlooking a small town. The local community say 'he's a bit mad, y'know?' I spend a long time brooding. I have a cellar stocked with a lot of red wine. Every week a prostitute comes over to have sex with me (to ease off sexual frustrations).

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

University unions

'BUY. PARTY. SELL. HAVE FUN.'

Those words. They are hardly words that you would associate with a union, but they are roughly the words that my university union brandish outside their premises.

I do really find it rather ridiculous. A university union should be able to intervene when students are treated badly either by academics, business people of one stripe or another or extortionate landlords. If you an academic won't grade your paper or treats you unfairly, there's nothing that they can do. That's what they are meant to be there for. If the university is charging too much for rented accommodation, again, there's nothing that they can do or willing to do. They are supine and powerless.

And why is a union associated with a club? When I went to see the winners of the union elections, it was held at a club. Every time they would announce a winner, they would have intermittent blasts of pop music and the winners would dance around. What does the union say? WE CAN'T HELP YOU AT ALL WITH ANY TYPE OF INJUSTICE BUT, YOU KNOW WHAT, LET'S PARTY!!!!!!

What the union is ultimately there for is propping up careerists. Aspiring Conservative or Labour politicians run to further their nascent careers. It looks impressive on their CV. Even Conservative people, who do not even believe in the very idea of unions, die to control them.

Universities should be a hot-bed for discussion and free debate. Yet it really irks me how anodyne they are in this respect. Rather than allowing free debate, they promote a lot of PC stuff like LGBT awareness and anti-rape propaganda. Whilst rights for the LGBT rights are fine enough cause to espouse and rape is clearly abominable, this does not contribute to discussion or even any tangible change. They are just platitudes that make you look good.

It really does make me sick.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Sell yourself

Our society is becoming increasingly commercialised. Commercialisation has not even impacted public services such as hospitals and schools. It has impacted the individual. Every act is now effectively a commercial act. All behaviour is commercial.

Let me explain why I think this. We all have our profiles on social media. I am not exempt from this. As a matter of fact, my blog is not exempt from this. In this blog I have listed my preferences. This in itself is a form of self-commodification. It becomes capital. I project an image of myself online – I sell myself online – and people consume a projection of my individuality. This is the same with social media. People list their favourite books, films and music.

It becomes paranoid and neurotic. All types of behaviour become commodified. People constantly self-monitor themselves on such media. People become consumers of their own minutia. If I go out and I make an idiot of myself, I am neurotic the next day because the incident might become currency on social media. Meaningful communication becomes redundant because we are all performing as an idealised version of what we think we are. Only idealisations sell.

This trivialises politics. By becoming members of groups, it becomes more of a statement of yourself rather than a meaningful statement on affairs. Being a Marxist is edgy, as is being an Anarchist. People brandish t-shirts of Marx, making a mockery of what he stood for. Clothes are an important currency. By being a Goth, or an emo or a hipster – or whatever – you have to dress appropriately. Just walking across the street, every individual is a walking advertisement for a certain lifestyle. A lot of these subcultures don't propound theories about the state of affairs. They are simply profiting from zeitgeists.

The notion of having a public service funded by taxpayers is an anachronism. Even these remaining services are sold to us with garish pamphlets and the like. People are forgetting about this. All that matters is that you should have a good time. Don't foget to buy a cappuccino while you’re at it.