:: Essays

Cities in Cinema 1: Le grande bellezza published 23/02/2017

Can the soul of the man and of the city be saved? That is the question at the heart of Paolo Sorrentino’s 2013 Academy Award winner for best foreign language feature. We follow Jep on an epic emotional journey as he is forced to acknowledge the spiritual vacuum that has left him feeling ultimately dissatisfied, despite his wealth and fame. What elevates Le grande bellezza beyond the familiar cinematic trope of ‘middle-aged man seeks meaning in life’ is the fundamental connection that director Paolo Sorrentino forges between the man and the city.

A new 3:AM column by John P. Houghton.

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The Ideology of the End of Ideology: Pontecorvo/ Godard/ Fassbinder published 17/02/2017

In 1968, at the height of a renewed political engagement in all areas of social life, Jean-Luc Godard stated: “There are two types of militant films, those we call ‘blackboard films’ and those known as Internationale films. The latter are the equivalent of chanting L’internationale during a demonstration, while the others prove certain theories that allow one to apply to reality what has been seen on screen” (La Gai savoir).

Louis Armand explores options for radicalised cinema.

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An Introduction to a Fractal Ontology published

All knowledges are an attempt to bring order to noise—to forcefully organise the chaos continually fixing everything together in an asymmetrical block of concurrent becoming. We can call this instantaneous zigzag a fractal ontology—a set of concepts and categories that show the properties and relations between them. The following is an introductory exploration of some of the phenomenological implications of such an ontology—of the vital mutations of becoming that operate as a material intensification of existentialism, a thorough going-beyond of Martin Heidegger, an exploration of Friedrich Nietzsche’s maps, as well as declaration of war on Aristotle, Descartes, and Kant.

AT Kingsmith introduces a Fractal Ontology.

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Deleuze & Dougy published 16/02/2017

Like Zarathustra’s donkey, cynical comedians choose to carry weight they are no longer required to carry, even if that weight is just the ruins of institutional Christianity or any other grand narrative. Maybe they don’t have a choice and their slimy, miserable Will to Power makes it impossible for them to appreciate or show reverence for anything. Either way they are – unlike Christians and others who subscribe to grand narratives – doubly condemned to both freedom and the inability to enjoy that freedom.

Will Johnson riffs on Deleuze and some.

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Hyperrealities of Incompetence: Rethinking Social Media Satire as Resistance published

The American unreality is dizzying: a seeming endless barrage of incredulously unconstitutional leaks, official statements of Orwellian media denial, dimension-ripping institutional obfuscation, and high-level, anti-meritocracy stupidity. Social media humor in the face of such maddening horror can be resilient, instructive– transcendent even: building networks and like community. Good things can be said to come out of satire when Harvard builds a resistant “Bowling Green Massacre” pop-up bookstore gallery, or when the ridicule of gross official ignorance during Black History Month results in a renewed interest in the white nationalism of American history, 308 people retweeting—and more seeing—a real-life public monument of insistence to the record of Frederick Douglass at Maryland’s iSchool.

Jennifer Seaman Cook on satire and the new stupid.

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The Angel’s Trail: Seven Swiss Encounters published 15/02/2017

Youssef Rakha is an Egyptian writer; he has been in Switzerland to attend a literary festival and write about refugees. But what if Youssef Rakha doesn’t actually exist? What if in reality I am a Syrian refugee separated from my family – unsure of my future now that my hometown has been gutted and unable to step in Syria without incurring the wrath of war lords – stranded indefinitely in a German-speaking European airport: in Zurich, Vienna, perhaps between the two?

Youssef Rakha on seven Swiss encounters.

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Tom Raworth 1938 – 2017 published 10/02/2017

Hearing of his death, it feels to me now that we have been left to fend for ourselves, just for a moment, precisely when we need poets and people like Tom and all their wisdom. I wouldn’t want to presume, but I would imagine Tom would not have liked what I’ve written about him, finding it mawkish in its compliments. But his poetry, like his person, was not an assurance, or a correction. It was its own thing, shared for the purpose of being read and nothing more, correcting by example, inspiring new ideas and poems. Through its sheer intricacy, its intelligence, delicacy and humour, for my generation, his work has set a standard.

SJ Fowler remembers the great British poet Tom Raworth.

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Longmont Potion Castle and the Art of Absurdist Prank-Dialling published 07/02/2017

Like the Dadaists, much of what Longmont says has no intended meaning, neither connotative nor denotative. He is, in essence, a master at constructing otherwise logical sentences that serve no purpose other than to fill a void and provoke misunderstanding. When Longmont calls RadioShack looking to “revel in the excitement of Tandy [RadioShack’s parent corporation, which has changed names by the time of the phone call]”, what does he mean?

By Jeremy Klemin.

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Of Art, Race and Jazz: A Reply to Barry Schwabsky published 05/02/2017

Silver could happily cite if he were asked for a list of favorites, i.e. Charlie Parker, Wardell Grey, Howard McGhee, Thelonious Monk, Dexter Gordon, Duke Ellington, Cecil Taylor, Charlie Christian, Charlie Mingus (one of Silver’s paintings is entitled, West Coasting, an homage to Mingus’ East Coasting album, while Bud Powell and John Coltrane are evoked in his paintings Dance of the Infidels and Ascension), Al Haig, Clifford Brown, Horace Silver, Fats Navarro, etc.–and Maurice Ravel too! In other words, Alan Silver, who is white, has all his life been making a declaration of exactly the same nature as the one of Whitten, a declaration Schwabsky cannot believe could possibly be uttered by a white artist.

Steve Light‘s epic essay on Art, Race and Jazz.

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Poem-Coerced Novel, Novel-Brandishing Poem published 28/01/2017

Another useful way to think about Cosmopolis’s method of reappropriation is as a form of embedded, almost preemptive criticism. “Today,” Octavio Paz wrote, while musing upon the work of Marcel Duchamp, “we have criticism instead of ideas, methods instead of systems.” And Don DeLillo, in writing a novel that so indulges the very world-beating financial theorizing of its protagonist’s milieu, seems demonstrably wary of granting that discourse objective feasibility, or at least any sufficient sense of ambivalence that might make the very theorizing seem legitimized, as it exists upon its own terms within the narrative.

Steve Barbaro on Don DeLillo and Derek Walcott.

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