XXX paper

I noticed at Philament they have a XXX call for papers theme. Do you reckon anyone else would want to write on Vin Diesel‘s sick movie? Probably not.

I am very tempted to submit something, just a short 3000 word paper, not on the movie per se, but on the Pontiac GTO which plays a starring role. As Koshar suggests:

“The automobile deserves at least as much attention as do other topics recently favoured in cultural studies scholarship, such as cinema or popular music, cultural productions that also have deep social resonance in modernity.” (145)

The GTO has a very rich history in the US. It is regarded as the first ‘muscle car’. In fact, it defined the ‘muscle car’ as a specific genre of automobile design/marketing for two short years 1964-1966. In 1966 GM cracked down on links to motorsport and performance options for factory produced vehicles. The response from the performance division of Pontiac was to build cars listed with lower horsepower ratings than they actually had (here):

As we said, by ’67 the ram air packages had developed into something really special around Pontiac. It was another instance of Pontiac leading the industry. Its engineers had discovered the 10 percent boost in power with cold air before anyone else and exploited it to the fullest. Not only was the ram air package a status symbol around the drive-in, it really worked because it included the above-mentioned specific internal engine parts that were completely different from the standard engine packages. And Pontiac played the horsepower rating game to the hilt. Both the standard high-performance, or HO, engine and the ram air engine were called 360 hp. But despite the identical horsepower ratings, obviously the ram air engine was much stronger. Yet both engines ran in the same class according to NHRA rules. It was situations like this that finally forced NHRA to factor horsepower ratings.

Recently, GM starting importing GMH’s Monaro (that is ‘General Motors Holden’) and rebadging it as the GTO. It has been a tremendous flop. The car has been a winner in a Australia, but from all accounts it appears US consumers have a different aesthetic. GM even bank rolled a movie length advertisement masquerading as a movie to try to incite some enthusiasm from the US car enthusiast consumer.

From the look of other cars on the market it is apparent that the US consumer wants retro and retro in a big way. For example there is the Ford Mustang or the forthcoming Dodge Charger. The new Mustang:

Remember, the original GTO has an iconic status, so anything less than an iconic reproduction would be flawed.

So we return to Mr Diesel and xXx. Would the movie have ‘worked’ if Vin was in a new school GTO? No, it certainly would not have. It is an extraordinarily good example of where the car is explicitly used as ‘cultural production’ rather than belonging to the technological. Maybe GM designers need some sort of XXX-test?

Rudy Koshar paper

Just found an essential article for anyone thinking of writing any scholarly work on cars:

Koshar, R. (2001). “On the History of the Automobile in Everyday Life.” Contemporary European History 10(1): 143-154.

It is a review article and it does a pretty bloody good job of introducing the scholarship on the history of the automobile in everyday life.

On politics: Neoliberalism in Action

#1 Paul Wolfowitz interview on Jim Lehrer’s News Hour:

JIM LEHRER: Much has been made, of course, always that you are a “political conservative.” How does that relate to this, to being president of the World Bank?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Well, I could argue whether I fit into any cubbyhole or not–

JIM LEHRER: Sure.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: — but, you know, let me say this, I think that if you want to say there’s a “conservative view” of the whole issue of development assistance, and I’m not sure I buy into any doctrine, but it tends to emphasize — and I agree with this part of it –that development involves really three things and assistance is one thing, but trade access is at least as important. And perhaps more important than any is creating a climate where private investment, especially indigenous, domestic private investment is encouraged. You have to have all three things together. But I don’t think that’s the conservative view any more, I think it’s close to being a consensus view.

Dromocratic neoliberalism in action. ‘Trade’ is code for opening up the national markets of developing countries to foreign products so money flows out of the country. ‘Private investment’ is code for allowing foreign ownership of the means of circulation of commodities produced elsewhere. ‘Assistance’ is code for the ideological ‘education’ of developing countries so they become ‘flexible’ to globalisation.

#2 Tony Abbott’s Pollie Pedal Exploits.

What is Tony Abbott’s job? Minister for Health and Ageing. What is Pollie Pedal? A charity fundraising event that this is trying to raise money for a leukaemia research laboratory at Westmead Hospital.

Highly admirable, except the Federal Minister for Health has been treated as a celebrity to assist with fundraising, rather than being lobbied for funds as a representative of the bloody government! Is this lost on everyone in the media or what? I mean, for fuck’s sake, the government releases this press release last year on Federal funding for Health Research Centres and the previous Pollie Pedal was trying to raise money for the exact same leukaemia research laboratory at Westmead Hospital. This is just a totally ridiculous situation. Surely the left-wing columnists will drill Abbott for this? What’s next? Amanda Vanstone Riding for Refugees? (Maybe it is all an elaborate April Fool’s joke from the government? It certainly is a joke!)

In both cases, Abbott and Wolfowitz, the protagonists appear to be extremely sincere — efficiently locating themselves within a politics of sentiment — and yet they act either as colonists for the neoliberal order (Wolfowitz) or as the person in (poor) control of a lot of funding who would rather go fundraising (Abbott).

02/04/05 post edited in response to comments and to clarify Abbott’s (non)celebrity status

The Subcultural Event

Mel Gregg posted a call for papers to the CSAA list for the next antiTHESIS conference and journal volume. The conference is on: “The Event, Culture and Contingency”

From the possible themes, my paper will relate to these:

– Hype, spectacle and the production of pseudo-events
– Complexity, contingency, causality, creativity
– Anticipation, expectation, hindsight and memory

I will be sending off an abstract on one of the core ideas of my thesis — the ‘subcultural event’. It will be something like this, which I have just knocked up, but shorter:

The Subcultural Event of Modified-Car Enthusiasts

Car enthusiasts spend a lot of time preparing for specific events: drag racing (legal and illegal), cruising, organised cruises, car shows and so on. These events become the substance of their enthusiasm and are moments of affirmation where their enthusiasm is perpetuated. Various meanings circulate before, during and after the events, but the sense that the enthusiast participants derive of the event is singular in its distribution across participants. Such events are subcultural as they exist purely between the esoteric discourses of enthusiasts and the specific state of affairs defined by the event. The singular sense of these subcultural events is weighed across registers of anticipation and expectation. Anticipation is felt of the enthusiast body as a “yearning, tending, tropism” (Massumi, 2002: 91). Expectation is an experiential calculus through which the abstracted possibilities of the event are rendered subculturally consistent. Anticipation and expectation are enacted in the period leading up to the event through participation in online forums, various forms of communication, and work carried out upon the cars. The event produces its own temporality that is experienced by the enthusiast as an affective intensity or excitement. The excitement is slowly extinguished during the event and more so towards the ‘end’. People get bored, tired, run out of money or fuel or tires, have other plans, and so on. What remains is a memory of the event, which shall fuel discussion on other occasions, and the modified car as a technological embodiment of the potentiality of events yet to come.

Paul Corrigan’s (1976) work on ‘doing nothing’ serves as an earlier appreciation of subcultural practice that was distinct from other neo-Marxist inspired theories, yet his work has been ignored in the recent work on ‘post-subculture’ (Muggleton, 1997; 2000; Muggleton and Weinzierl, 2003; Bennett and Kahn-Harris, 2004). ‘Doing nothing,’ like the modified-car enthusiast events of cruising or racing, is an example of what Gilles Deleuze (1990) called an ‘incorporeal event.’ In the case of subcultural events that belong to modified-car culture, the ritualised practices and qualitative attributes of the modifications carried out upon cars become expressive when they territorialise the spaces in which the events occur (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 316-317). The cruising car, for example, literally becomes a street machine that territorialises the street. Drag racing is another, but different example; the necessary conditions of racing where extracted from their initial space of emergence and reproduced as the drag strip: a commodified space of enthusiasm.

I have been crapping on about the street machine thing since day one of my thesis… now I am very close to nailing exactly what i want to say about it. It is a problematic, but I shall actualise it. (oh, I kill me! such deleuze nerd humour… fuck, what a knee-slapper…)

The relevance of the subcultural event extends beyond car dudes. Think of the way raves — another kind of subcultural event — have efficiently been commodified by various cultural economies. There is a cycle common to both raves and drag racing: mass media moral panic, regulation of practice, extraction from initial milieu and commodification within enthusiast cultural economies. Do underground raves still occur? Do illegal street races still occur? Uhuh…