Friday, February 23, 2024

Master and Commander: Or, Must Love Dogs II



In undergrad I got really into theory, all of it, reading Baudrillard, Deleuze, Debord, Foucault, etc., most definitely etc, all the time. My theory fascination was a byproduct of reading zines and little semiotextes, the more polemical, the more outlandish its claims, the more I loved it. One little book I particularly loved was First and Last Emperors: The Absolute State and the Body of the Despot by Kenneth Dean and Brian Massumi. It is an odd little book, a reading of the Reagan/Bush years framed as much by the legalist philosopher Shang Yang's The Book of Lord Shang as it is by the expected references to Deleuze and Guattari. (Brian Massumi of course translated A Thousand Plateaus). That odd idiosyncratic nature is precisely what I loved about it. I dreamt of writing something similar, not on Reagan and legalism but something which brought together a variety of disparate references to think through a specific problem. I guess my book which talks about Spinoza and Marx along with Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, might be an attempt to realize that wish. 

Friday, February 16, 2024

Ahead of its Time: On Clockwatchers


Clockwatchers is an underrated film. Perhaps it came out too early, missing the slew of films critical of work and cubicles by at least a year. 1999 was the year of Fight Club, Office Space, American Beauty, and The Matrix, which all dealt with an escape from the confines of the cubicle. Or, and this is probably closer to the point, a film focusing on the working lives of four women would never touch the same points of cultural resonance as Fight Club or Office Space, which were as much about the crisis of masculinity as it was about work. It also never had the same afterlife as those films, which gained most of their audience through fancy boxed DVDs and endless repetitions on cable. Luckily the film was made available through streaming on the Criterion Channel, which makes it possible to rectify its status as an overlooked classic.

Sunday, February 04, 2024

Everybody Gets to be a Fascist: Or, What Taylor Swift Taught Me About Fascism


The Best Joke in Barbie 

Years ago I remember encountering Félix Guattari's little essay, "Everybody Wants to be a Fascist." At the time its title seemed more clever than prescient. (Although it is worth remembering how much fascism, and the encounter with fascism was integral to Deleuze and Guattari's theorizing, well beyond the reference to Reich). Now that we are living in a different relation to fascism the problem posed by Guattari (and Deleuze) of desire seems all the more pertinent and pressing.