Monday, June 29, 2009

mark hedges on america's corporate culture

I highly recommend reading the article "The Truth Alone Will Not Set You Free" by Mark Hedges, regarding the destruction and replacement of American culture with mass, corporate culture ("junk culture") and the repercussions of this shift. Below are some highlights.

The most important struggle will be to wrest the organs of communication from corporations that use mass media to demonize movements of social change and empower proto-fascist movements such as the Christian right.

American culture—or cultures, for we once had distinct regional cultures—was systematically destroyed in the 20th century by corporations. These corporations used mass communication, as well as an understanding of the human subconscious, to turn consumption into an inner compulsion. Old values of thrift, regional identity that had its own iconography, aesthetic expression and history, diverse immigrant traditions, self-sufficiency, a press that was decentralized to provide citizens with a voice in their communities were all destroyed to create mass, corporate culture. New desires and habits were implanted by corporate advertisers to replace the old. Individual frustrations and discontents could be solved, corporate culture assured us, through the wonders of consumerism and cultural homogenization. American culture, or cultures, was replaced with junk culture and junk politics. And now, standing on the ash heap, we survey the ruins. The very slogans of advertising and mass culture have become the idiom of common expression, robbing us of the language to make sense of the destruction. We confuse the manufactured commodity culture with American culture.

The emergence of corporate and government public relations, which drew on the studies of mass psychology by Sigmund Freud and others after World War I, found its bible in Walter Lippmann’s book “Public Opinion,” a manual for the power elite’s shaping of popular sentiments. Lippmann argued that the key to leadership in the modern age would depend on the ability to manipulate “symbols which assemble emotions after they have been detached from their ideas.” The public mind could be mastered, he wrote, through an “intensification of feeling and a degradation of significance.”

The modern world, as Kafka predicted, has become a world where the irrational has become rational, where lies become true. And facts alone will be powerless to thwart the mendacity spun out through billions of dollars in corporate advertising, lobbying and control of traditional sources of information. We will have to descend into the world of the forgotten, to write, photograph, paint, sing, act, blog, video and film with anger and honesty that have been blunted by the parameters of traditional journalism.

“Read ‘The Gettysburg Address,’ ” [Stuart] Ewen [author of “Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture” and “PR: A Social History of Spin”] said. “Read Frederick Douglass’ autobiography or his newspaper. Read ‘The Communist Manifesto.’ Read Darwin’s ‘Descent of Man.’ All of these things are filled with an understanding that communicating ideas and producing forms of public communication that empower people, rather than disempowering people, relies on an integrated understanding of who the public is and what it might be. We have a lot to learn from the history of rhetoric. We need to think about where we are going. We need to think about what 21st century pamphleteering might be. We need to think about the ways in which the rediscovery of rhetoric—not lying, but rhetoric in its more conventional sense—can affect what we do.

conan o'brien: triumph visits bonnaroo

Thursday, June 25, 2009

michael jackson

Michael Jackson, August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

epic win: buffy vs. edward, "what? are you twelve?"

From Jonathan McIntosh of Rebellious Pixels comes this brilliantly edited pop culture piece. He says of his work:

In this remixed narrative Edward Cullen from the Twilight series meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s an example of transformative storytelling serving as a visual critique of Edward’s character and generally creepy behavior. Seen through Buffy’s eyes some of the more patriarchal gender roles and sexist Hollywood tropes embedded in the Twilight saga are exposed in hilarious ways.

A-to the-men. I will never, ever forgive Twilight author Stephanie Meyer for describing her whiney, helpless, and devotionally dependent protagonist (who she mistakenly refers to as a heroine -- not the same thing) to the greatest literary heroine readers have ever known, Elizabeth Bennett. If anything, the video above just proves how progressive Joss Whedon has been with his heroines, and how Twilight has set women back centuries.

john hodgman: revenge of the nerds

Via Throwing Things: John Hodgman was the keynote speaker at the Radio & TV Correspondents' Dinner, where his primary topic was that of bridging the gap between nerds and jocks. Whereas the previous presidency was made up of jocks, our new presidency is comprised of nerds. Hodgman described our president -- "with a Spock-ish calm and gangly frame" -- as the man who is bringing an emphasis on science and objective reality back into our nation. He adds, "There is even talk of some states decriminalizing evolution."

At the 8:25 mark, Hodgman questions the president's "nerd credentials" through a series of slides, and at the 9:29 mark, Obama throws up the Vulcan salute without hesitation.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

film news: june 2009

• Cinematical has this to say about the upcoming Cold Souls, which has perhaps one of the creepier posters I've seen in a while: "Paul Giamatti [stars] as an actor (appropriately named Paul Giamatti) who decides he wants to put some of his soul in storage in order to help better tackle a new role. [...] Cold Souls is a beautifully shot film, and it also becomes more than a little bit moving, as Giamatti struggles with a question we've all asked ourselves: Is it possible to remove the burden of our soul without taking away the benefit of it? Is it the very weight we struggle under that makes us strong? Deep questions, but Cold Souls is also funny; there are fast, laugh-out-loud gags like Giamatti's compensation anxiety over the small size of his extracted soul ("It looks like a chickpea!") or the Russian trophy wife obsessed with getting an American actor's extracted soul so she can implant it and do better Soap Opera work."

• Tim Burton's artwork will be featured at MoMA. The show will include more than 700 pieces: paintings, drawings, storyboards, maquettes, puppets and other work created or designed by Burton.

• I Watch Stuff has the poster for Ice Age 3 and makes a notable observation: the squirrel character's face is very phallic (twig and berries and all) as he ogles the eyelash-batting female squirrel. Now if only this poster were in 3D...

• Via The Movie Blog, Natalie Portman has joined Darren Aronofsky's film Black Swan, about "a veteran ballerina (Portman) who finds herself locked in a competitive situation with a rival dancer, with the stakes and twists increasing as the dancers approach a big performance. But it’s unclear whether the rival is a supernatural apparition or if the protagonist is simply having delusions."

• Cinematical's James Rocchi has a positive Sundance review of Moon, the "smart science fiction" thriller starring Sam Rockwell.

• While we're on the topic of science fiction, here's an awesome timeline by Dan Meth detailing when the movies were made (to the left of the vertical line) and how far into the future they take place (to the right of the vertical line). Click to enlarge.

• Surprise, surprise. The Hangover is getting a sequel. Why should Hollywood have any original ideas when they can capitalize off a previous success? It seems like any box office success will automatically get a sequel.

• Speaking of remakes, Film School Rejects lists 20 films from the 80s that aren't being remade. Hallelujah.

• Here's a current debate regarding female protagonists in films: Cinematical responds to Linda Holmes' request for better female leads. Holmes begs Pixar to have a female lead that isn't a princess, and Monika Bartyzel at Cinematical begs people to realize that this isn't a political issue. Holmes makes the case that "little Russell, in Up, is Asian-American, right? And that's not a big plot point; presumably, he just is because there's no particular reason he shouldn't be. You don't need him to be, but you don't need him not to be, either. It's not politics; it's just seeing the whole big world." Bartyzel agrees: "Look, women aren't flukes. We love, we hate, we learn, we fight. We go to movies. We want diversity in our interests just like everyone else. We want to see films with females in the lead roles where the characterization isn't seeped in cliche. [...] And we'd like to express our desires without having it fall into a political discussion, without our reasonable desire thrown off as a feminist rant or bit of political correctness."

• Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, and Hugo Weaving are all confirmed for Guillermo del Toro's The Hobbit.

Filmoculous sent me to with the question, "Which sci-fi movie should I watch?" The method of finding a suggestion is quite entertaining.

• And lastly, URLesque has a list of the 10 best recut movie trailers, including When Harry Met Sally and Amelie as horror films, the latter of which is really fantastic ("You can run. She doesn't have to."). Of course, they've included my favorite recut trailer: Sleepless in Seattle as a thriller about an obsessive stalker -- which actually isn't too far from the truth.