Thursday, July 27, 2006

There are other ways to deal with jet lag, I suppose

After a long night flying back from the west coast I decided to start this blog--unemployed negativity. What does the title mean? Well the term itself comes from Bataille. But I am so not interested in its pedigree. For me the term suggests a sort of surplus of critical energy, moving beyond the official channels of research, teaching, etc. Besides I have more projects than titles right now, and I have to save the really good titles.

I flew Jet Blue for the first time, and while I enjoyed the blue chips, direct TV, and free wireless in JFK, I found one thing somewhat unsettling. Before take off the little TV screen, which is positioned front and center, kept flashing a series of little bits of advertising copy such as "Without you we would just be flying a bunch of televisions around the country" and "You are our favorite customer, but do not tell anyone." I might not have the wording right on those, but the latter pretty much matches one of the bits of advertising copy from Jose Saramago's The Cave. In Saramago's novel the advertising is for the center, a mall/urban center, which in the novel is pretty much a metonym for global capitalism itself. This overlap, in which, well what exactly...? Ironic advertisement imitates its own critique? Critique preempts that which it is critiquing?Or, some lazy but well read copywriter needs to give Saramago the credit? got me thinking about the challenges of representing corporations or representing capital in literature and film. Most of the attempts to do this fail, think of all of the Omnimarts, Megamarts, Megacorps, etc. that show up in film and TV. These lack in sublety, they are like films in which the villans wear elaborate uniforms with skulls on their epalets and toast "to evil." And Jet Blue's "Without you we would just be flying a bunch of televisions around the country" with its hint of human beings reduced to "conscious organs," a missing component of all of those TV's, already offers its own little critique.

I have to admit that I found the problem of representing capitalism interesting. It is why I read Saramago's novel. To do it well one must dispense with an evil genius, a secret lair, or even a master plan and get at the way in which capitalism functions anonymously, abstractly, through the work of all sorts of well intentioned people. Doing it well also means grasping the way in which corporations are incredibly adept at maintaining their image, to the point where they are the cultural critics.

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