Death to the Home #4: The Horror Apartment

Just watched Honogurai mizu no soko kara. Scary shit. Has been remade into Dark Water. What the fuck is wrong with film goers in the US? Can’t they see the Japanese originals of these sorts of films? Post-Fordist cultural industry attempting to capture the enthusiasm organised around an ‘exoti’ ‘oriental’ variation… Idiots.

Got me thinking about the concept of the ‘horror apartment’. Where I am now, I can hear most bathroom water sounds from surrounding apartments, such is the nature of the apartment block’s layout. It was freaky as shit watching a horror movie on the television about haunted dark water and then having one of my neighbours turn a tap on. You know that sound that water pipes somtimes make? It sounds like someone in a car with their head out the window, mouth agape, screaming into the rushing wind. You know, when the wind steals your screams so that even you can not hear them. All you get is the feeling of screaming and the reverberations through your inner ear. Yeah, I go to bed to that sound. Hell of an alarm clock in the morning, too.

Another thing. My apartment layout is weird. For the most part, the minor resonance of the fridge — as the coolant pump or whatever kicks in — reverberates around the apartment in such a way that you would expect of minor resonance. That is, until you arrive in the bedroom, about where my bed is, and about where I lay my precious little head for lights out night-night. The minor resonance must multiply, producing a standing wave of some description, and shakes my body as if I was in a subwoofer enclosure. Ok, so it isn’t that bad, but if it was a progressive political movement and not a fridge sound, then I would be elated with the awesome power of its multiplicative effect.

The most horrible thing is watching someone who you know is about to see something horrible. Like when you bare witness to realization on the face of the loving, but mildly insane mother of the living little girl when she realises she is about to see the evil little drowned girl ghost water thing. The expectation of the event. Through in-shot mirror work, or framing, or something. That is pure dread. I hate that feeling.

Real estate agents fill me with dread. I wonder what they must have been thinking when they were kids? “Oh, I want a job that makes others fill with dread.”? What sort of sick assholes decide they want that sort of job? They must be the worst Liberal voters in existence. Not the redeemable staid, conservative types, but the young go-getters who should know better and probably do, but don’t give a fuck, because they want to turn a quick buck through pure exploitation. More than Japanese horror films, that is what fills me with dread: pure exploitation. It is dread, because I have been trained to disect these sort of people through real-time analysis of the gestures of their bodies, the language they use, the clothes they wear, how long it takes them to say something, it is all fuckin transparent! Dread! I can see myself about to witness the horror of pure exploitation! My own exploitation!

What do these people do for a living? They have no skills! They occupy an impersonal social subjectivity that most would recognise as absolute fuckin’ scum inspiring hatred in the most resolute pacifist.* Why do we let these people do this? Because otherwise we go to jail…

* ok, so my real estate agent in Parramatta was tops. Must be just these inner-west assholes.

Strip Mining the Dukes of Hazzard

The plot of the recent Dukes of Hazzard remake is relatively straight-forward. Boss Hogg wants to create a strip mine in Hazzard County. To do so he needs permission from the Hazzard Country court and to get permission he needs to ensure that there are no objections from citizens. So he organises the spectacle of the annual Hazzard Road Race to be held at the same time as the court hearing. The Dukes find out about this (after a convoluted series of plot turns and chase scenes through “the city”) and figure the only way to get the attention of the good folks of Hazzard is to win the race and make sure everyone follows them to the court house so they can object.

The evil plan of Boss Hogg “to strip mine Hazzard County for coal” is emblematic of the actual evil plan of the producers of this movie remake of the Dukes of Hazzard. Yeee hawwww…

The Dukes of Hazzard is a cultural franchise event. The original Dukes of Hazzard television series was a serial form of the event. Every week or so the Dukes of Hazzard would again be actualised and certain element would be repeated as they were let loose according to the accident of the script. However, the Dukes of Hazzard as an event is actualised very poorly in this particular year-2005 example. The film is far too knowing in its post-ironic representation of the yuk-yukking Southern culture. The highlight, and the only element of the original Dukes of Hazzard they could not get wrong is the ‘General Lee’ Dodge Charger (oh, and quite possibly the uber-cool Waylon Jennings ‘Good Ol’ Boys’ theme song… damn, for a C&W track, that shit rocks). Both the car and the song are products of a Fordist cultural industry and can easily mass (re)produced. A fidelity to the original iterations of the Dukes of Hazzard cultural franchise event is certainly not guaranteed.

The difference between the seriality of the television series and the seriality of the movie remake’s repetition is a simple example of how there can be different actualisations between the different serial forms of a singular set of singularities.

But back to the role of the post-Fordist cultural industry. First, the ‘Dukes of Hazzar’, the material cultural artifact, embodied in a series of television shows, has not been appropriated. If that were the case (and, so, ok, it probably is), then you would be able to buy bargain basement box set DVD knock offs at a discounted rate the final price for which could be negotiated with the peddler cultural-pusher selling them on a shady inner-city street corner. What the post-Fordist cultural industry is worried about capturing is not a specific likeness of one character to another or something, but the enthusiasm of fans of the ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ cultural franchise. The fans are already reproducing themselves, and the impersonal social dimension of the Dukes of Hazzard fandom circulates within the social like a virus infecting punters and forcing them to see this film.

Sure there are multiple dimensions to the ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ as a cultural franchise and any actualisation of this franchise will only ever be a compromise. The key point is to maintain enough of a fidelity to previous iterations without appearing to simply be trying to capture the impersonal, social fan-subjectivity’s interest in the possible variation that you (as movie maker) might be producing.

Desire(Flow) [into] (((Becoming-Expressive [equals] Variation) [equals] Territorialisation) [minus] Image of Transcendence [equals] Code) [into] Capture

The architecture of the image (my phrase, not theirs) is ‘simultaneously [one] of powers and territories they capture desire by territorialising it, fixing it in place, photographing it, pinning it up as a picture, or dressing it in tight clothes, giving it a mission, extracting from it an image of transcendence to which it devotes itself’ (D&G, Kafka, 86).

Enthusiasm organises around this image: thus producing a cult. The problem is that desire rendered as enthusiasm is, firstly, of the viral cultural form, and, secondly, exists between bodies and texts (material or immaterial) as a constellation of habits, gestures and discourses. To ask if you are a ‘real’ fan of the Dukes of Hazzard is a bit like asking if you are a ‘real’ sufferer of leprosy (with or without the associated medieval non-medical stigma).

The post-Fordist cultural industry organises around this enthusiasm to overcode the flows of desire and extract surplus value from its labours: thus producing a manageable cultivation. The most efficient cultural industries are those that only produce images with no correlative material commodity. The cultural franchise event becomes a highly sophisiticated branding or logo.

However unsophisticated the original Dukes of Hazzard may be, it is infinitely more sophisticated than the material commodities produced through the southern and eastern neo-colonial, neo-Fordist encampments of the global dromocratic trade war. The lack of sophistication hides the real conditions under which the material dimension of the commodity is produced. We can’t tell that the Nike shoe is produced by exploited, alienated labour, we need to be told this. Paraphrasing what Marx said, you can’t tell which farmer grew the wheat by tasting it. However, a fan going into a cinema knows immediately that they have been exploited for their enthusiasm by producers (farmer/miners) of the cultural industry. If the post-Fordist cultural industry is going to continue attempting to tap markets of enthusiasms that already exist, then the people who ‘own’ such enthusiasms need to mobilize against poor quality and exploitative actualisations of such franchise events.

Just the good ol’ boys,
Never meanin’ no harm,
Beats all you’ve ever saw,
Been in trouble with the law since the day they was born.

Straight’nin’ the curves,
Flat’nin’ the hills.
Someday the moutain might get ’em,
But the law never will.

Makin’ their way,
The only way they know how,
That’s just a little bit more,
Than the law will allow.

Just good ol’ boys,
Wouldn’t change if they could,
Fightin’ the system,
Like a true modern day Robin Hood.

Battleships

One of my fellow CCR postgrads over at PhDBlogIt has a very interesting post on sunken ships:

“What intrigues me about these stories has something to do with the absurd – in the case of the search for the sunken HMAS Sydney II, the absurdity of spending significant amounts of public money to benefit a small group of Australians in order that they can obtain “closure” about an incident that occurred over half a century ago while at the same time the government is drastically reducing funding to public services. Of course, this announcement by the Federal government was designed to convey a message to a much broader group of Australians – to make sense of war by summoning notions of meaningful sacrifice and the solving of a national mystery (literally bringing to light decisive evidence of who was to blame) to redress the growing public dis-ease about the senselessness of a war on terror (where there is no clear and decisive enemy.)”

Autouni TODAY!

Autouni is on today.

UNIVERSITY + WAR
Pine St Community Centre, 64 Pine St, Chippendale
August the 13th, 2005
2pm to 8pm

Sandy and I are going to do our thing in the second last session.

We are looking at student labour.

My contribution is to think a reconfiguration of the university according to labour and the singularity of scholarship, and not in terms of hierarchies and status or outcomes. I draw on The Poverty of Student Life document and Negri’s discussion of poverty in Kairos, Alma Venus, Multitudo (published in Time for Revolution, see here for some related comments from Negri). I had been thinking about this section of Negri’s work since hearing Tim Rayner speak at the ASCP conference. The difference between the scholarship of the academic and the scholarship of the student is what the academic needs to be an academic: recognition (of being a scholar and the work as scholarship) and the status that comes with this. Student labour is not just confined to the university and spills out into surrounding suburbs or towns. The ‘poverty’ of the student forces them to be creative. Negri’s confounding statement that poverty equals resistance must be understood in the conext of revolution being a total event of which we are internal to it. Kairos as biopolitical event (195). Each act of resistance is but another actualisation of the total event of revolution.

“A gigantic revolution is underway. Free expression and the joy of bodies, the autonomy, hybridization and the reconstruction of languages, the creation of new, singular and mobile modes of production – all this emerges, everywhere and continually.” (201)

Wolfe, Weber, and Car Customizing

Before he became an apologist for the neo-cons, in his famous article-cum-essay “Kandy-Kolored, Tangerine-Flaked, Streamline Baby” Tom Wolfe says:

[C]ustomizing is beginning to be rationalized, in the sense that Max Weber used the word. This rationalization, or efficient exploitation, began in the late forties when an $80-a-week movie writer named Robert Peterson noticed all the kids pouring money into cars in a little world they had created for themselves, and he decided to exploit it be staring Hot Rod Magazine, which clicked right away and led to a whole chain of hot-rod and custom-car magazines. Peterson, by the way, now has a pot of money and drives Maseratis and other high-status-level sports cars of the Apollonian sort, not the Dionysian custom kind. Which is kind of a shame, because he has the money to commission something really incredible.

I sort of know what he means when referencing Weber’s conception of rationalization, but I want a quotable quote for my dissertation without having to trawl through Weber. Has anyone got any easy references they want to give me for a footnote? Either Weber or secondary pieces (journal articles, etc)?

I develop the above much further by thinking about the cultural industry (of which the Peterson Publishing company and the NHRA are major parts in the US) as an apparatus of affective capture within popular culture. So the culture itself is not exactly rationalized, only the creative and sometimes chaotic elements are captured.