Saturday, October 24, 2020

the great zucchini and why great artists might make you suspicious

THE GREAT ZUCCHINI is a classic piece of human interest journalism. 

IN SHORT: The GREAT ZUCCHINI is a middle age white man who has an incredible grace with children. He is able to connect with suburban children to create consistently great birthday parties in Washington state (he is a magician). The easy income from these parties grants him the freedom to never grow up, and he couch-surfs*, his finances are in shambles, and he's a compulsive gambler.

THE GREATZUCCHINI's grace with children is objectively great, I'm convinced from Gene Weingarten's excellent journalism. This grace, given from god no doubt, permits THE GREAT ZUCCHINI to never face certain consequences. 

In this way, being a successful artist is somewhat alike having rich parents. You are able to conjure money from nowhere. You are able to float above poverty. 

Great art skills additionally attract a bunch of affectionate people, on top of the financial benefits. Anyone who can make great art consistently can count on a renewing stream of fans.

One of Jenny Holzer's "Truisms"

The corruption of power comes as no surprise. We associate beauty (and the ability to create it) with moral upstandingness. In reality there is no reliable correlation. 

Great art grants Fame + Power, a dangerous combination.  Fame makes us politicians. As much power as we are granted, fame demands and creates endless opportunities for exploitation of this power. Particularly if your fame and power (and status) convince others that you're trustworthy. 

There is nothing trustworthy about the fame and power granted by great art. Famous and powerful people make us feel afraid, don't they ?/

New shirt from Bread & Water Printshop 


*THE GREAT ZUCCHINI isn't homeless, his home is just so full of garbage that he'd rather not stay there :/


Monday, October 12, 2020

A review of 120 Days of Sodom: Honey Boy, Love and Mercy, Succession, Nxivm, Hannibal, The Office, and Familial Concentration

 

Keith Raniere, Cult Leader of "Nxivm"

Yes, we're vulnerable. Reporter Barry Meier said the Nxivm story stuck out because it showed how people are always vulnerable. I think the extent to which we end up in situations like Nxivm or Jonestown speaks to our existential fuckedness. It's a family matter, I think.

In "Honey Boy"(2019), Shia Le Bouf plays an abusive father figure raising a child actor, the story being Shia's childhood biography.  Remarkable in the film, I think is a discussion of where the power lies in a father/child relationship, as the child actor wields a "per diem" (an envelope stuffed with cash the kid earned, which the dad wants for strip clubs) and technically employs the abusive father, a technicality which becomes more significant as the child ages.

"Love and Mercy" (2014) had a similar treatment: a therapist harangues and abuses a multi-millionaire depressive artist, who has slid into the therapist's legal clutches. These kinds of situations are not unknown for rich people. 

There is a kind of diffusive, tentative chaos among the rich, if HBO's Succession is as real as it feels. A young distant cousin of a powerful mogul manages to step into the mogul's family, half by accident, and half by dumb resilience. 

Consider what it feels like to move from one conception of power into another. We are always able to wield the valued props of our power's position. These props, wielded by Keith Raniere for example, don't amount to much. A childhood of awards. Some real skill, like martial arts, or volleyball. A degree and years of education.

Yes, they make you into better people: successes. Keith Raniere I think has many successes. But these achievements are fundamentally empty to the extent that they do not guarantee much about the people or the situations these empowered people are in and draw people into.  

Jonestown's communist bona-fides* are another example: not enough to guarantee much. The lives we lead are the proof of their roots; changing the way people live was Keith Raniere's oestensible goal. 

Which is absurd, and what is sad, is the over promise // under-delivering of these cults. Overpromise on bona-fides, under-deliver on results. At least, long-term results. Obscure the meaning. I'm reading 120 Days of Sodom; there's no expression of rich people, dominance, and wealth which is truly significant. Which is why Keith's branding scheme was, in essence, pointless.

*

There's no expression of rich people, dominance, and wealth which is truly significant. What it amounts to is a coercion of sexual sensation by any means necessary. Inflating their sexual needs in such a way, through exhaustion, eventually deprives 120 Day's "libertines" of the usual libraries of sensation and thus they choose to employ more and more depraved methods to stimulate themselves.

The libertine's pleasure is very close to nothing at all-- the lives of at least 30 people are suborned just for the joys of about four people.  It is possible to see the book as a story of a massive amount of waste. Of course this perspective equivalizes human life with garbage; tho this is the perspective of the book's libertines. They view the lives of others as a tremendous barge of garbage which they the privileged may pluck from at will, like seagulls.

Sade's arguements, be that as they are for a version of sexual liberation which concludes the lives of women are pointless but for total subjection, are never convincing to me. I feel that they are arguments the times give context to: conditions are repressed, better to open up then to play slave to god and husband. Ofc the destiny of the women who "open up" is quite bad. 

This brings me back to Keith Raniere. He I think offers propositions similar to Sade: an alternative life to the mainstream-- a life of scientific building blocks for taking control of ourselves and the world. Let me provide some context.

Indie Game Designer Porpentine reviewed the NBC series Hannibal

I think a lot about fellow indie game designer Stephen Murphey's essay on Robert Walser, and this quote in particular: (which Porpentine quotes in her standout essay Hot Allostatic Load):

"The dream of an imaginary community that allows total identification with one's role within it to an extent that rules out interiority or doubt, the fixity and clearness of an external image or cliche as opposed to ephemera of lived experience, a life as it looks from the outside." - text sourced here

The dream of human existence is to live a life which is external with no internal living, no warm meatbag slip-and-creak of nerves, guts, digestive systems, psychological troubles, etc. etc. I think, in a way, the mafia sells this identity to its members; "our way", Cosa Nostra, Omerta, an alternative system of control. These of course designed to isolate people and turn them into bodies/soldiers/corpses.

There is no PURPOSE beyond concentration for those who wish to establish something like Raniere or Jim Jones had, or what Sade imagined, or what Porpentine saw in the story of NBC's Hannibal. I think, in some ways, there is no purpose to FAMILY beside concentration. As concentration is the bringing of people closer together.

Intimacy *is* the goal of the "libertine". "I wanna be married and have 100 kids so I can have 100 friends. And no one can say no to being my friend." A quote from Michael Scott** of NBC's "The Office".  I see the same sort of impulse in Sade's libertines, who with total impunity curate an entire society.

This! Is the point of Raniere's brandings: the (attempted) creation of a society/social truth/identity. I see a similar impulse in the serial killings as depicted in Netflix's Mindhunter's Ed Kemper:

"You know, women were initially indifferent to me. They weren't interested in sharing. My whole life, no one wanted to interact with me. Not even our cats, when I was a kid. The only way I could have those girls was to kill them, and it worked. They became my spirit wives. They're still with me." 

Ed Kemper, as depicted by Cameron Britton in Mindhunter

A ritual designed to inflict a social truth (the absence of the victim in our society) and a personal pleasure (the memory of a victimization).

I've been studying true crime as an interest for about a year, and I'll admit today that I am fascinated in social situations organized by selfish people. Like Keith Raniere's brandings or Ed Kemper's killings, the point is to create a social reality (scarred or dead victims) as a means to supplement personal experiences (the memories of the murders/ a support network of subordinates).

This was, ultimately, what Jonestown became about. People in charge manipulate societies purely for personal experience.

I think we all have, to some extent, some desire and ability to appeal to society. I think we all have the desire to live an external life, a vicarous imagining of our experience which would supposedly comfort our internal routine suffering. This externality includes opportunity. A person who is famous is widely thought to be so comforted-- an assured external persona, filled with opportunity, is thought to comfort our internal life. An imagined ideal life that includes prospects and opportunities.

Dealing with the future: proposing a revolutionary change in the future: changing your self through practice to create a future, better self. The future stretches out endless and fairly unknowable. Contrast that with the past, which we pretend to know. 

I think, in that imagination of our past, our identities rest.

*Angela Davis was fooled too-- we are all vulnerable, I think!

**These words spoken by the character Michael when he was a child, filmed in an interview with a puppet on a fictional children's tv program, "Fundle Bundle". Episode 18, Season 2. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Cumblasters united: Ryan Murphey's""Hollywood"

I can only write if I belive in you, viewers. All art is apostrophe, which means "address to a person who isn't there". In that way, all art is appreciation!

The desire to be appreciated is exactly perverse... That's what you should take away from this... of course it's very stupid, l ike all perverse things

Patti Lupone is Chief Cumblaster!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

New Coronapost: Gays in "Verace"

Zoom! Pow! Bang! These are the words I think when I see these colors:

Also, wow!

Good colors. Smooth colors. Enticing. Sexy!

Watching American Crime Story : The Assination of Gianni Versace is pound cake.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Pink Potatoes: A New Play review'd


  • a long time ago I wrote, if absolutely obscurely, about the pittsburgh surrealist play scene as being a stand-in for the only solution in the post-trump reality. How to deal with the rise of facism? Suck on my butt!
  • If the solution here actually is, ultimately, a descent into madness that may or may not actually correspond to a real solution in the facist reality-- isn't that escapism?
  • The play ends with the respective members of society escaping from earth in total to the planet of spiders, helped along by the mother-ly (real baby literally attached) force of the wind.
  • Is it okay that this message corresponds to a giving up on earth entirely?
  • I think perhaps we must follow those lines of grief that come up on our faces, as a discussion of alternate realities at all is perhaps, the ultimate solution (excuse me) to Facism™. 
But what is an alternate reality? We assume that those who beg to differ from the mainstream have a social debt they refuse to pay. Always some kind of retribution along the path to the grave, one, and two-- an escapism in our imaginations which, we must hope, is querulously "real". 

I live a life of constant dread and sucidial thinking, interrupted occasionally, with the help of drugs and perhaps, art, by the FOMO-laden minefields exactly depicted in this production. Touching on a world better than myself, with those artists with their brazen sexuality and good work and better lives. The grass is always greener but I think the point is that the grass is greener because it is separate from us.

To deny the existence of our imaginations, even as they live out alternate lives, is to do ourselves a disservice. Haruki Murakami's "Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" shows that in each of us is a greater life than the one lived outside. We are all mendicant then to this stronger internal life even as the lights outside wink out one by one. 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

death stranding review'd: to love supply

Snaps and buckles, backpacks and belts.
The game ends in a signature Kojima-annoying fashion; two hour cutscene including two separate credit rolls, the "crying president" scene, and a half-hour sequence where you're blue and can't move much. Arguably a lot of the digital acting is boring, and a lot of the dialogue is nihilistically bland.

The themes are somewhat good. Information is transmitted wirelessly using ultrasonic frequencies. Something something extinction; politicians give us hope but are also executioners.

The metaphysics/mechanics/fx make the themes better. Ghosts in this game fully bridge geography and transmission. The internet piggybacks on death; "The name of the bow is life but its work is death."-Heraclitus.  You play almost all of the game while carrying a child which needs to be comforted. In a climactic boss fight, you are given only broken cargo to use.

Those kinds of inspired visual/mechanical fx are paired with occasionally poignant moments, or wackycreepy departures, from the digital actors. All of this rests on a bed of walking sim gameplay.

How Death Stranding innovates on the "walking simulator":
  1. The essential action is carrying cargo. Everything the character picks up is represented by luggage which takes up space and is heavy. Generally, you want to carry as much cargo as you can manage.
  2. The more cargo you carry, the easier it is to stumble and fall.Stumbling and falling can damage your cargo. You want your cargo to be undamaged.  
  3. Things that can make you stumble and fall: slopes, rocks, rivers, ghosts.
The essential action is to avoid stumbles (or crashes, if you're using your motorcycle). Carry enough cargo, and a rocky slope can be dangerous. So there is a real zoom-in on the importance of terrain. And there are many ways to manage terrain: powered skeletons, vehicles, ladders, climbing anchors, build-able bridges, even roads.

Gloriously, there is also military combat. I say gloriously because it is introduced relatively late into the game. Package delivery is more important and is introduced first. Most of any army is supply.

There are also dreamlike sequences where tactical warfaring becomes the focus. These are a unique and interesting departure, which self-consciously and with some critique, cater to the modern warfaring needs of today's gaming markets.

Death Stranding is innovative primarily because it refocuses a familiar world. Post-apocalypse, survivalism, supernatural forces tied to dubious technology-- but it's about packages. In many ways it is a playable version of David Birn's "The Postman".

And, alike Dark Souls, it has a very sturdy and efficient asynchronous multiplayer system, cooperative only. I hope they introduce a player versus player mode, even clumsily applied, it would seem fun.

Pro:
-Adult, melancholy and complex emotional tone and gameplay.

Con:
-Kojima-signature interminable exposition.
-Save system is clumsily presented, main ops trigger game overs.

Death Stranding is a weird PS2-era artgame. We used to carve around the bad spots of these games, bc art that was actually good and mechanics that actually innovated were rare. I say that they're still rare, good art is always in short supply.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Gloomhaven: review'd

GH is a game which can take upwards of 10 minutes per turn to simulate 6 seconds of combat. I spent years of my life trying to get away from overcomplex rpgs. Pathfinder is a mess. Sleepovers spending 4 hours making characters and then whatever energy we have left trying to run the first combat.

The appeal of being a nerd is fiddling with minutiae. Conversations about parliamentary procedure, debates about art, Gloomhaven, all yammering obsessives trying to squeeze approval points out of each other by means of what ultimately comes down to aggression. I'll admit though that Gloomhaven handles this process, mass quarreling, gracefully, by encouraging competition between the mercenaries. Secret objectives, unlockables, perks, XP, all the rewards are best won via selfish actions like abandoning your teammates for gold. So there's something *fun* to argue about.

I like Gloomhaven enough to emulate it using Tabletop Simulator. For a game that is very much alike emulating a video game, I am emulating it using a video game. I felt embarrassed talking to my babe about this, the shuffling and parsing of minutiae, dragging digital cards around, muttering to myself and sitting hours in a simulation. My partner was like, why are you ashamed? "This seems totally normal to me."

"Shut Up & Sit Down" has a good review which covers the benefits and frustrations of Gloomhaven, and the reviewer summarizes his affection as a feeling of "warmth" when extracting or putting away the complex innards of the box. Very much the nerdy management of minutiae, but let's also give credit to the game for creating continuous iterations of interesting puzzle-combat.