Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Third Witt, Left Wing

"The honourable thing to do is to put a lock on the door which will be noticed only by those who can open it, not by the rest."

"Everything ritualistic (everything that, as it were, smacks of the high priest) must be strictly avoided, because it immediately turns rotten.
Of course a kiss is a ritual too and it isn't rotten, but ritual is permissible only to the extent that it is as genuine as a kiss."

"When you bump against the limits of your own honesty it is as though your thoughts get into a whirlpool, an infinite regress: You can say what you like, but it takes you no further."

- Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, 9 (1930)

Is sincere speech ever possible? Again, the psychoanalysist insists - she can help - but her silence is didactic and her words are comfortably numb. Or perhaps she is the kind of person who insists on the predictability of addendas, making explicit the most obvious of subtexts. Or warbling them into displays of modesty and wit.

"We wanted to give the audience a chance to really work. Just with that one gesture - putting his hands in his pockets, smiling ever so slightly, looking away..." And yet they are shocked when millions of people apparently didn't get it, were left collectively shocked, in suspense as to whether or not Martin Sheen had decided to run for a second term as fantasy President of my beloved country.

Critiques of popular tv shows are often met with collective, preemptive groans in my family. "We're humanizing the bureaucracy again, I see."
"Hey, it's a good show. Are you gonna watch, or are you gonna talk."
"What is it Zizek says - that even the cynical, sarcastic viewer is ultimately still performing his consumer's duty to watch the show, complete with equally entertaining self-reflexive commercials (Enjoy! Enjoy!). Your vaguely troubled sense of indignation and sentimental nostalgia has been re-justified, re-buttressed, and given hope, but nothing truly political (no Act) has taken place. And the hope only exists for the next episode. The play of ironic distances you find so stimulating is actively working against everything you hold dear, has all kinds of nefarious motives, and relies on all sorts of distortions and dangerous myth."
"It's also just a good show."

It is a good...show, yes indeed. The dialogue is killer, the characters well-written. And especially because everyone is always walking, placing meaningless documents, memos and piles of papers in random, meaningless places. A sense of extreme urgency and purpose, greased with endless wit. And somehow everyone in this postmodern empire capital endears themselves to us as perpetual victims, charmingly humble and human and poignantly archetypal all at once. And why not? The truth of the place is almost certainly disappointing, more real than hyperreal. Enter the dvd director's commentary; rest assured, the Real is still cinema:

"Ah, what a wonderful actress she is."
"I love her strength."
"And again, we've had so much going on storywise, right now, if one were to say what the story is..."

to be continued..

"Literature to me will have always meant the death of families."
- Derrida, in a rare enigmatic moment

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