“Long before Beethoven sat before a piano… …someone with twice his musical talents was born into a world that lacked keyboards or orchestras. We’ll never hear his music because technology and knowledge had not yet uncovered those opportunities. Centuries later the fulfilled opportunity of musical technology gave Beethoven the opportunity to be great. How fortunate we are that oil paints had been invented by the time Van Gogh was ready, or that George Lucas could use film and computers. Somewhere on Earth today are young geniuses waiting for a technology that will perfectly match their gifts. If we are lucky, they’ll live long enough for our knowledge and technology to make the opportunity they need.”—
This quote is really interesting, because it blends a sort of futurist optimism with a total misunderstanding of how art works. There’s no reason to think that a great filmmaker existed before film. Isn’t the existence of the medium the thing that creates the gifts? That’s like saying “I’m so lucky I was born in America, because I’m so good at speaking English!” It’s at least a little backward. But the difference is that this quote actually is kind of inspiring and clever. So I guess it gets at least a partial pass.
The first time I wrote about Lana Del Rey, in a column, a few months back, I said I was pleased that when she invoked the name “Lolita,” she actually seemed to be talking about something like the character in the novel, and not whatever strange mincing porny thing people use that name to refer to today.
Now, having heard her song “Lolita,” I would like to apologize and mostly retract that.
I wrote a review of her album for Vulture, findable here. I suppose the bullet points are as follows: It’s a so-so moody pop record that stumbles around a bit, and there are things about Del Rey’s attempt to pull off a persona that are campily interesting and/or poignant, and a lot of it reminds me of Showgirls. I have many more thoughts and feelings about related topic,* but I’m sure there’s more than enough to read about this artist at the moment, so I’ll save the bulk of them for another time.
Except for one thing. One novel I really adore is Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman. It’s about two prisoners, in Argentina, sharing a cell: Molina’s there because he’s gay, and accused of corrupting a minor; Valentin’s there because he’s a leftist revolutionary. Through most of the novel, Molina is recounting to Valentin, from memory, the plots of films he loves. He has a keen memory for the sensual, glamorous, swooning side of them.
One of the films he recounts is, essentially, a Nazi propaganda thriller, and he describes the things in it the way the film sees them — at some point, he’s describing all the beautiful, masculine German soldiers marching through Paris. This annoys Valentin, who challenges him on it. And Molina’s answer, as I remember it, is to just let the issue pass for a moment, and appreciate the type of beauty that this film, right or wrong, is trying to offer at that moment.
And that issue, the thing that’s contested between them at that moment, has more to do with “camp” than laughing at things because you think they’re bad — to me, camp is always about seeing some overblown proposition of what beauty is, and knowing that the fundamentals behind it, the belief system it grew out of, is defunct or rotten or collapsed. It’s like a touchingly grand expression of a belief that has no worthwhile purchase on the world.
I don’t really get why expressing mostly indifference to this record is met with such resistance. And I don’t think I could ever have so eloquently captured what’s wrong with this record. Lana Del Rey’s music really does seem like it’s aiming for a kind of rotten-cored beauty, but it isn’t interested enough in commenting on that rottenness to actually be arresting, but also isn’t craft-wise interesting or touching enough to disguise the absence of that next layer.
John Waters is kind of the only name I can come up with when trying to cite an example of someone who gets it right, takes it just seriously enough to keep his art grounded, but cognizant enough of the distance between the aesthetic from which he’s borrowing and the more troubling nuance of modern times to be actually very funny and clever.
“Anonymous’ previous attacks had what political power they had because they were acts of conscious protest; participants knew what they were getting into. This recent round seems to be not much better than a Facebook worm.”—
I think this Gawker writer might be the ONLY person who didn’t know what they were doing. Clicking on the twitter search link that the story provides will demonstrate that almost EVERY SINGLE PERSON who re-tweeted the link also included language that indicated they knew they were attacking on behalf of Anonymous. And some even use the term DDOS, meaning they know exactly HOW they are attacking.
The insinuation that a viral Facebook phenomenon is an illegitimate demonstration of political power is also pretty insulting. For instance, a number of my friends on Facebook yesterday (and even off of Facebook, on other social networks) posted the same exact link and explanatory text about SOPA. And that kind of worked. It at least counted as a display of political position and power.
That said, I think it’s a pretty good idea in general not to click on a Pastehtml link unless you know what it’s going to do. The site is a place where you can drop bits of code to do things. This Gawker writer was just lucky it didn’t hijack his personal information or enslave his processor or something. This writer shouldn’t mistake his own stupidity and naiveté for deficiency in the movement.
“The truth is that Congress is the one who could fix this by actually fixing copyright law and making it clear that the Court’s interpretation was wrong. But, instead, because Hollywood pays the bills, they only make copyright law worse.”—
It’s a great quote. And it encapsulates the major problem with expecting the court to fix copyright. It’s just plain NOT THEIR JOB. We need to use our SOPA-protest-like mechanisms and mentalities to fix things like this, not our faith in 9 people in robes. I have more to say, coming soon!