Archive for March, 2011

Red Dawn: Too Red or Not Red Enough

by on Mar.17, 2011

You may have heard that a remake of the 1984 U.S. patriotic action thriller Red Dawn was in the works, with the villain upgraded from Soviet Russia to the People’s Republic of China. You may have also heard that bankrupt studio MGM was shopping its completed-but-unreleased remake to rival studios as part of a financial restructuring effort. You may have also heard that this shopping effort was unsuccessful due to fears that being associated in any way with this anachronistic/prophetic xenophantasy would probably deep six your remaining opportunities within the Chinese market, and might also lead to sanctions from the PRC government. And just this week, you may have also heard that MGM subsequently performed a situation assessment and determined that the most appropriate course of action would be to convince potential audiences that the Chinese villains in Red Dawn are in fact North Koreans.

Read the details over at the L.A. Times

Key findings

The difference between China and North Korea can be monetized at less than $1 million. “People close to the picture said the changes will cost less than $1 million and involve changing an opening sequence summarizing the story’s fictional backdrop, re-editing two scenes and using digital technology to transform many Chinese symbols to Korean.”

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by on Mar.16, 2011

feral, adj.

Etymology: < Latin fer-a wild beast + -al suffix
1. Of an animal: Wild, untamed. Of a plant, also (rarely), of ground: Uncultivated.
Now often applied to animals or plants that have lapsed into a wild from a domesticated condition.
2. Of, pertaining to, or resembling a wild beast; brutal, savage.
3. Used as n.: A wild-beast. Obs. rare.

Radiohead don’t like drummers. ‘Feral,’ checking in at three minutes and twelve seconds, is by some distance the shortest track on Radiohead’s King of Limbs. It returns us to the antagonism between the natural world and the electronic era, but this time with the breathless ferocity appropriate to the savage world of drumming.

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Survival Is the Apocalypse: Britney Spears, Bataille, and the Phantom Zone

by on Mar.13, 2011

Aside from the iconic “…Baby One More Time” and Christina’s “Genie in a Bottle”, I really can’t handle the late ‘90s / early ‘00s incarnation of pop associated with Lou Pearlman. It all feels like a bad hangover from the late ‘80s, with the early ‘90s as the blackout at the end of the night. But while the stars of Christina and Timberlake have since spiraled in opposite trajectories (with Pearlman sentenced to 25 years for being a total asshole), Britney Spears has (de)stabilized into something of an anomaly within the pop constellation. More electron than star, she occupies a kind of probability distribution rather than a specific nodal point, manifesting as this or that image whenever an observation takes place, and only then. I’m an unapologetic fan of late career Spears, which at this point comprises just two albums, Blackout and Circus, and is about to include a third, Femme Fatale. But Blackout had the misfortune of being released during the apex of Spears’ extended public/personal meltdown, culminating in her disastrous performance of “Gimme More” at the MTV VMAs in 2007:

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On Wisconsin 6: Eric Huff: Teaching and the Beasts

by on Mar.11, 2011

Teaching and the Beasts
Eric Huff

What a year to be a union backed initial educator at a public school in the state of Wisconsin. To be up front and honest, I have not taken my one personal day or any of my sick days to carpool up to Madison to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s loosely veiled union busting tactics. However, I must admit that I am pretty frightened by what these budget cuts will do to both my future as a Wisconsin educator and to the futures of my hardworking co-workers. As a first year teacher, I have placed myself in a very exclusive category of non-tenured, neck already on the chopping block, freshness that exists for those of us recently graduated from college with crisp teaching certificates in hand. We must walk a fine line between our passionate union representatives and the administrators. I have made it clear to others that I do not intend on shooting myself in the foot. I will do what I can but I will not put my own job at risk. This brings us to the nature of my problem. There are three distinct beasts that I must face each week.
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On Wisconsin 5: Whose Body is This? Or, the View from Kalamazoo

by on Mar.10, 2011

This latest post in the ‘On Wisconsin’ series is not from a Wisconsin poet, but from the Michigan poet Jared Randall. This post was submitted hours before the dirty tricks in the Capitol last night. Jared is a graduate of the MFA program at Notre Dame; his first book, Apocryphal Road Code, is newly out from Salt.

Whose Body is This?

Thoughts from Kalamazoo on the Wisconsin Collective Bargaining Battle: Whose Body Is This?

by Jared Randall

A Body of Silence

It has been amazing to see how Wisconsin has quietly receded into the background of the mainstream media clamor over the past week. Amazing, and then again, not so amazing. A predictable absence of news. Are there still protesters in Madison? I think so. Have the Wisconsin 14 returned? Not that I’ve heard. So the standoff is still on, right? I guess so, but who is really talking about it? Old news, I guess, if all you do is listen to mass media. The push seems to be to get Wisconsin off the front page, where it was only reluctantly allowed in the first place, as if the cue has been given to dispose of the bodies of protest at large. If not for bloggers and independent news outlets, Facebook and Twitter, I would be in the dark right now.

One detects a growing weariness with the whole protest thing, whereas the mass media is drawn to stories about common people in places like Libya struggling militarily for freedom, survival even, in the face of brutal repression. (continue reading…)

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Blake Butler vs Chris Burden vs the Paris Review

by on Mar.10, 2011

There’s an interview with Blake Butler in the new issue of The New York Observer, “Blake Butler and What Happens When a Writer Lives on the Internet.” It struck me how this article touches on both my recent post about Chris Burden and my post on the New York Times’ article about Lorin Stein, the new editor of the Paris Review.

Something I’ve always loved about Blake is the way he approaches all art like a Chris-Burden-like performance art piece. Reading something he likes seems to contort his body (in a convention of criticism that for me evokes those old catalogs for B-movies and foreign imports: “this horror show will tear out your eyeballs” etc). Or this description of writing a novel:
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Vibration, Redness, and the 'Strange Meetings' of All About My Mother

by on Mar.10, 2011

In theorizing “the necrotic, decomposing, hole-y membrane of the Necropastoral as a meeting place for strange political meetings,” Joyelle describes the ampersand in the work of Harryette Mullen as “a kind of broken Moebius, a kind of upended, interrupted, distended continguity.”  I’m thinking the color red in the films of Pedro Almodóvar—in particular, All About My Mother—takes on this contiguity of the ampersand by tying, binding, and breaking characters apart while simultaneously intensifying our visual experience.  This intensification happens through an excess that seems superficial, or purely cosmetic, but actually turns bodies inside out.  Red, in other words, becomes vibration in a film about an HIV+ nun and her trans lover, a mother who watches her son die, and two lesbians whose performance of A Streetcar Named Desire foregrounds these ‘strange meetings’ as very queer entanglements.

While Desire ends in Blanche’s separation from her sister when she is forcibly taken to a mental hospital, All About My Mother spectacularly assembles a kind of chosen family that is, in Zizek’s words, itself a ‘forced choice’.  As in all Almodóvar scripts, the narrative weaves a tangled web.  Manuela, who loses her son in the beginning of the film, searches for his father in Barcelona to communicate the tragic news: (continue reading…)

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Josh Corey on the hybridity of "Postmodern Pastoral"

by on Mar.09, 2011

An excerpt from a longer post:

“Finally, it’s surprising and pleasing to re-encounter the language of the “hybrid” in the context of poetry, no longer as the anemic hodgepodge of epiphanic lyric and Language poetry that is our period’s most familiar style, but in this more rigorous and urgent sense. If “American Hybrid” represents precisely the sort of unmarked move that consolidates power beyond politics (or in the literary context, beyond criticism), the hybridity of postmodern pastoral represents something more volatile, because it absorbs the task of critique, or translation, into and against itself, producing in the most interesting cases poems that destabilize and subvert the subject-object positions that sustain domination.

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Strange Meetings in the Necropastoral (and in Wisconsin)5: Harryette Mullen's Muse & Druge, Tom Hibbard's "Glory of Public Employees"

by on Mar.09, 2011

Fi Jae Lee, Everything Ascending into Heaven Smells Rotten

In past posts, I’ve argued for the political nature of the Necropastoral through three case studies: of Wilfred Owen, Christian Hawkey’s Ventrakl, and Aime Cesaire. Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Strange Meeting’ gave me the model for thinking about the necrotic, decomposing, hole-y membrane of the Necropastoral as a meeting place for strange political meetings—that is, unstable, queer, spectral meetings unanticipated and unprescribed by conventional political rubrics. In this post I want to look how Strange Meetings are entailed in Harryette Mullen’s Muse & Drudge and in Tom Hibbard’s “The Glory of Public Employees” about the ongoing protests in Wisconsin.

On Muse & Drudge

1. I do not want to argue that Harryette Mullen’s Muse & Drudge is a necropastoral, exactly, although, to paraphrase Marvin Bell, it is a necropastoral inexactly, inexactness being one measure of the necropastoral itself, the balance that won’t zero, the membrane that serves both as medium and material, the deformation zone, the text as a site which passes itself through itself. Mullen’s work is not as Gothic nor as herbaciously inclined as most of the Necropastoral, but it is a kind of bios where bodies are media registering the waxing and waning, accumulating and debriding material of the text. Moreover, like the Necropastoral, Muse & Drudge is a flexing membrane, a hyperpermeable and permeated membrane, a paradoxical, non-binary zone which refuses to be economical but generates doubling, impossible spectres. (continue reading…)

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Snuff Film Aesthetics: Chris Burden, The Ring and The Bodies Possessed byMedia

by on Mar.09, 2011

I’ve been thinking about snuff films, particularly as they pertain to the proliferative nature of media. One key figure of this thinking is obviously Artaud, whose theater of cruelty is suggests that the plague is a kind of media, turning bodies into conduits. Another key figure is performance artist Chris Burden, whose “documentation” seems like snuff films, whose art deals with the body infected by media (gun shots, electrified water, “velvet water”), whose documentation could be a crime scene (Art kills).

Some of the ideas I’m working with: wound-media (the idea of media as conceived as fluid, entering bodies through wounds, possessing the bodies, turning them into medium, this wound is often an eye-hole), the murderous quality of a media that kills “the original” through the creation of excessive copies or “versions” (“versioning”), the anti-kitsch rhetoric of “authenticity” (and how this pertains to the body, thus clashing with the wound-media dynamic, a clash which media always wins because art is never authentic, always inherently version-y, counterfeit, potentially kitsch), the automata (female robot generated as the excess of enlightenment science and then turned into the “automatic writing” and “automatism” of the surrealists) and some other stuff that I can’t think of right now but which will become clear through a series of posts that I will put up here.

Here’s an excerpt from an essay I wrote for Joshua Marie Wilkinson’s new blog of poetics (it’s not up yet there)

The Ring:

In the horror movie The Ring, people get infected by viewing a cursed video tape, a kind of reverse snuff flick that doesn’t show death but causes it. The medium kills. The anachronism of the video tape medium itself foregrounds its mediumicity, as does the static that starts out the tape. This is followed by a “ring,” a burning ring with a dark center, an image that evokes a spellbound eye-hole, but it’s the eye hole of the viewer as well as an eye holes that looks back at the viewer: it’s a hole through which medium leaks, and infected the viewer, cursing them to die in seven days.
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On Wisconsin 4: Dispatches from Poets on the Ground: Tom Hibbard

by on Mar.09, 2011

The poet Tom Hibbard has sent us this poem-bulletin from the protests in Wisconsin. It is the third of a series of reports from the ground. You can read Roberto Harrison’s here, Brenda Cárdenas’s post here and Melissa Czarnik’s here.


the winters’ gold
went back to its families
the snow melted
on the steps of the state Capitol
in Madison, Wisconsin
and more snow fell
and more snow and more
plowed into mighty piles
the dead came out of their graves
they said “yes, that’s right
“we haven’t had to wait that long
“those snow piles are just like those we knew”
then the police arrived
and said, “this is a day of glory
“look at all the children walking around
“some people from platteville
“some people from minnesota
“this day will last forever
“like the granite of the state Capitol”
just above student housing
on Mifflin Street and Pinkney
on the anniversary of working people
in the general celebration
of poverty and sadness
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