Recent quotes:

Conjunctions Archive: "Theses on Monsters," by China Mieville, Conjunctions:59, Colloquy (Fall 2012)

6. Epochs throw up the monsters they need. History can be written of monsters, and in them. We experience the conjunctions of certain werewolves and crisis-gnawed feudalism, of Cthulhu and rupturing modernity, of Frankenstein’s and Moreau’s made things and a variably troubled Enlightenment, of vampires and tediously everything, of zombies and mummies and aliens and golems/robots/clockwork constructs and their own anxieties. We pass also through the endless shifts of such monstrous germs and antigens into new wounds. All our moments are monstrous moments. 7. Monsters demand decoding, but to be worthy of their own monstrosity, they avoid final capitulation to that demand. Monsters mean something, and/but they mean everything, and/but they are themselves and irreducible. They are too concretely fanged, toothed, scaled, fire-breathing, on the one hand, and too doorlike, polysemic, fecund, rebuking of closure, on the other, merely to signify, let alone to signify one thing. Any bugbear that can be completely parsed was never a monster, but some rubber-mask-wearing Scooby-Doo villain, a semiotic banality in fatuous disguise. It is a solution without a problem.

Minnesota Normal | Eruditorum Press

But the thing is… I don’t think competence, good sense, politeness, etc, are inherently conservative virtues. In fact, if you know anything about the Right, the idea that they have more than their fair share of such things - let alone a monopoly - is patently ludicrous. The Right like to harp on about such things and, in their patronising and hypocritical way, to thus appropriate the presumed values of ‘ordinary people’. This kind of populism is a standard conservative tactic, as is the accompanying tendency to sneer at ‘liberal elites’ who look down on the presumed values of red-state America, or ‘middle England’ for that matter, or whatever. It’s one of the fundamental paradoxes of modern conservative thought: they push the idea of people as essentially selfish and competitive, all pursuing rational self-interest at the expense of everyone else, all striving to maximise marginal utility all over the place… and yet they also want to mythologise the great mass of the population (upon whom, of course, the maintenance and continuance and reproduction of society depends) as folksy heroes possessed of lashings of downhome wisdom, etc There is a fundamental incoherence in modern conservative discourse… (fuck, what am I saying? - there’s barely any coherence to be found anywhere in any of it!) …to do with the performative and rhetorical lip-service paid to admiration for the values of ‘ordinary people’, which clashes with the basic and foundational assumption of modern conservatism that the natural state of humanity is competition and predation, for man to feed upon man like monsters of the deep. This incoherence is not a problem for them (if they worried about consistency they wouldn’t be who they are), and is an unavoidable product of the tactical syncresis of populism and neoliberalism which is constitutive of modern conservatism… which is itself only the latest form of a paradigm for conservative thought going back centuries, possibly even millenia: the combination of appeals to the fears and self-interests of a moderately privileged layer of society in order to create a sufficient mandate for the protection of the system of privilege itself, and thus protect the people at the very apex of the hierarchy.

Capitalist Pig 4: Black Mirror, Grey Miasma of Bland Cultural Commentary | Eruditorum Press

I mean, look, a world in which our late capitalist drive for growth at all costs is blatantly running against the fundamental resource limitations of the planet, where our insistence on the Protestant ethic remains a fundamental and inarguable part of political discourse despite the blatant reality that we in no way have enough work that needs doing, and where the efforts to produce enough work to maintain some semblance of the Protestant ethic is literally killing us all, a black mirror is not a fucking observation that we should look up from our phone screens or that it’s tough to be an abusive stalker. And for one brief and squealing moment it seemed like we might get this; that Black Mirror might actually stare long and hard into the darkness and summon forth something that revealed the awful reality of the world. Indeed, for one moment, as the camera panned across the people watching the Prime Minister fuck a pig, their faces turning from amusement to horror at the awful carnality of it, it does just that. And then it flinches, and we get a series about sad little manfeels. A bunch of Guardian columns brought to life, shambling around like the liberal consensus is going to save us from itself. It won’t, and Charlie Brooker’s clearly intelligent enough to realize that, but apparently his “satirical pessimism” (to quote Wikipedia) doesn’t actually extend comfortably past how these damn kids will never be as witty and insightful as he is. But then, perhaps that’s the real appeal of a black mirror: you can’t actually see anything in it, least of all the way the future is creeping up behind you, its teeth bared.

Three actors, one Hannibal Lecter scene - Boing Boing

The revelation for me, though, is Mikkelsen. Put against the others, his performance is so understated and distant that it seems almost not to exist at all. But when you think about what Lecter's ostensible shortcomings and capabilities as a human being are, that's the right way to play him. They're all good, though. Robert DeNiro, Gene Hackman and Jack Nicholson all apparently turned the part down, and all would have been bad.

Why Mr. Robot Is Not a Great Show (Yet) -- Vulture

Not “big reveals” of who somebody’s sister or dad is, or exactly why a character is so sad and depressed. (Orson Welles kept insisting that the end of Citizen Kane did not actually “explain” Kane, but no one listened to him.) I am not particularly interested in finding out what’s real and what’s not, and what happened to Tyrell, and whether Elliot/Mr. Robot had anything to do with it; and I am not particularly interested in seeing another lovely, charming, trusting, troubled young woman fall in love with the hero, as Shayla (Frankie Shaw) did, only to be fridged (look it up) to amplify the hero’s distress and cause problems for his revolutionary cellmates. It’s an awesome show, but I don’t want it to be just awesome. I want it to be great. That means less Cinema de Dudebro and more of other kinds of cinema, and maybe more literature and history, while we’re at it. Less cool, more school. Less mystery-box puzzle-making, more poetry. This show is capable of it, without a doubt. The proof is right there onscreen. But it keeps losing its way, week after week. And the bug was there from the start.

The Radical Humanism of David Simon -- Vulture

The kind of storytelling that Simon champions is stubborn, earnest, wise, and informed, but most of all, it’s idealistic, in the most basic way. This attitude embodies one of the foundational presumptions of democracy: that all people are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. Call it corny or unrealistic or whatever you like: It’s as necessary for the survival of the United States as clean air and water and decent places in which to live. We aren’t supposed to care about other people because they look or talk like us or share our values, Simon’s work tells us. We’re supposed to care because they’re people, and life is short, and we’re all in it together.

Vaka Rangi

Part of Vaka Rangi, the most important part (for me at least), is about making peace with a huge portion of my past, trying to understand fully the role it played in shaping the person I became, but also in a sense laying it to rest in order to move beyond it. My life since beginning this project has been a positively uncanny example of life imitating art in this case, and I was just thinking earlier about how disappointed I've been in this run of stories; how so many of them fell short of the (in hindsight inevitably) overinflated memories I ascribed to them. It's a continually dispiriting process for me to keep seeing just how much I personally projected onto this particular bit of pop culture ephemera from the late 1980s and early 1990s. And yet even so I can't shake my loyalty to certain things about it, or at the very least least to the process of growth and self-discovery it will forever be linked to in my mind.