The Fast and the Furious Three: Tokyo Drift


The Fast and the Furious Three: Tokyo Drift is due for release in a couple of months. One of the interesting things from the recently released trailer is the tagline:

This Summer
Speed Needs
No Translation

Translation implies a cross-cultural exchange. The ‘translation’ line is relevant because the film is largely set in the ‘underground drift racing scene’ of Tokyo. Funnily enough, my only two publications online deal with both aspects of this tagline. Regarding the relation of alterity between Japanese and US car cultures see my article here on the failure of the Pontiac GTO (aka Holden Monaro) in the US. The article includes extensive commentary on the Fast and the Furious franchise.

What is ‘speed’ and how could it be translated? If you read my short article here on the affects of speed and automobility you’ll get some idea of why this is only partially true. To the extent that the affects of speed pertain to a particular single culture of automobility, then ‘speed’ doesn’t need to be translated. However, ‘speed’ in itself is not transcultural, only the mass-produced affects and commodities of automobility are, including mass-produced ‘road users’.

Other interesting things to come out of the impending film release is that a video game is being released for mobile phones. The fellows in Melbourne whom I have had some dealings with have also experimented with mobile phone media.

Heaps of stuff on this French blog.

Lastly, it will be very interesting to do a comparative reading of the Initial D live action movie against FF3, both come out of very successful franchises and both deal with enthusiast Japanese car culture. FF3 is looking very Hollywood compared to the almost quaint but definitely restrained realism of Initial D. On opening in Hong Kong Initial D made more money than Mr and Mrs Smith and Star Wars Ep3.

I am not sure if I’ll have enough time to squeeze FF3 into my dissertation.

Broken

I was on the incline bench press yesterday and my left shoulder popped out on the last rep of my last set. It is a weird feeling to look down at part of your body and see a concave deformation where there shouldn’t be one. I dropped the bar, as you would expect, and signalled to a fellow gym patron that I would appreciate it if he would, “Get one of the dudes, my shoulder’s popped out.” He got one of the dudes. There wasn’t much he could do, so I slid my legs around and pushed myself up with my good arm. (I was on the incline bench you would normally use to do sit-ups but at the squat/press frame doing incline bench presses.) As I slid up and my back was near vertical I could feel the joint moving back into place. It slid back in by itself.

The feeling of it sliding back into place was a very weird feeling. It was not so much pain, like your body is telling you something is wrong, even though it hurt like hell; no, this feeling was beyond mere get-you-hand-out-of-the-fire information. It was like my body was a parent who had stayed up late to make sure a wild teenage son or daughter made it home alright. My shoulder made it back home, into place, and like a worried parent, the rest of my body let out this internal or inaudible sigh of relief.

So now I am on the drugs. Mad drugs. Yeah.

I am going back to the gym tomorrow, just to do some cycling or something. I need to do something to stay relatively fit otherwise I’ll lose it.

The Sopranos and Adult Entertainment

I have been thinking about the definitions of ‘adult’. Pierre Bourdieu defines adult in terms of ‘social age’ which is separate from ‘biological age’. When one is an ‘adult’ one assumes certain responsibilities in exchange for assuming certain freedoms. However, there is another definition of ‘adult’ (and therefore ‘age’). This was made apparent to me while rewatching the early seasons of The Sopranos. It relates to Adorno’s conception of mass-culture as belonging to an infantile milieu. Here he describes it in terms of mass-produced music:

Not only do the listening subjects lose, along with the freedom of choice and responsibility, the capacity for conscious perception of music, which was from time immemorial confined to a narrow group, but they stubbornly reject the possibility of such perception. They fluctuate between comprehensive forgetting and sudden dives into recognition. They listen atomistically and dissociate what they hear, but precisely in this dissociation they develop certain capacities which accord less with the concepts of traditional aesthetics than with those of football and motoring. They are not childlike, as might be expected on the basis of an interpretation of the new type of listener in terms of the introduction to musical life of groups previously unacquainted with music. But they are childish; // their primitivism is not that of the undeveloped, but that of the forcibly retarded. […]
Together with sport and film, mass music and the new listening help to make escape from the whole infantile milieu impossible. The sickness has a preservative function. […]
Regressive listening is tied to production by the machinery of distribution, and particularly by advertising. Regressive listening appears as soon as advertising turns into terror, as soon as nothing is left for the consciousness but to capitulate before the superior power of the advertised stuff and purchase spiritual peace by making the imposed goods, // literally its own thing. In regressive listening, advertising takes on a compulsory character. (The Culture Industry, 46-48, bold added)

The Sopranos itself, particularly the first and maybe second seasons, is a complex text. The tensions staked out between the main characters are purposeful and crisp. They involve complex everday life problems (rendered mildly cartoonish through the sex and violence and mobsterisms). The vehicle of this network of tensions is the psychiatrist-guided self-exploration of mob boss Tony Soprano. One of the core tensions is between the image of the media-spectacle ‘mob boss’ as a powerful totality and the unfinished dimension of Tony’s character. The media itself is tackled and represented in terms of its capacity to block or close off relative to the open potential of Tony’s (dare I write it) becoming. (Or should I say the becomings of the Tony-Psychiatrist assemblage.) There are various other tensions similar to this mainly in terms of identity (fatherhood, childhood, motherhood, sexual identity, drug addiction, etc).

Although there are some problems with the obviousness of the matriarchial-victim/agitator plot line of the first and second seasons, it is obvious that in later seasons the death of the actress (Nancy Marchand) who played Tony’s mother, Livia Soprano, was to the show’s detriment. Instead of Tony’s singular unfinished nature, with all his strengths and frailties, gentleness and violence, the horizon of the ‘mob-boss/mafioso’ image spreads to that of the ‘minor’ characters. The ‘minor’ characters are much less engaging. The plot mechanism is still often psychiatry or psychiatric help, and the horizon of potentiality is constructed through various tensions being played out through other characters.

What might be useful here, in part, is Agamben’s reworking of Deleuze’s initial conception of cinema and the ‘movement-image’. Agamben rethinks the ‘movement-image’ as being the ‘unity of gestures’ (from an essay on Agamben’s work here):

Cinema, especially silent cinema, is the primary and exemplary medium for trying to evoke gestures in the process of their loss. Deleuze defines the images of cinema as, initially, movement-images, and Agamben extends this analysis. If Deleuze breaks down the image into movement-images, Agamben will further break down the image into gestures. If the unity of the image has been broken, then we are left with only gestures and not images. What is this fragmentation of the image? The image is a kind of force field that holds together two opposing forces. The first is that the image reifies and obliterates the gesture, fixing it into the static image. The second is that the image also preserves the dynamic force of the gesture, linking the gesture to a whole. What we need to do is to liberate this dynamic force from the static spell of the image.

Debord’s cinema reinstates the gesture as part of the image and not the image as a reified segment of an image-series. The ‘gesture’ is Agamben’s term for the molecular components of the image that allows us to think the potentiality of the image, rather than is subsumption in the cinematic totality of pornography or advertising’s endlessly deferring image-series:

The spontaneous ideology of communication is that the medium is secondary to expression. When something is ‘properly’ expressed we no longer notice the medium. The repetition and stoppage of montage reveal the medium, the ‘pure means’, and allow it to be shown as such. Not so much particular images but the image as medium: ‘The image gives itself to be seen instead of disappearing into what makes it visible’. Agamben gives two very different examples of this showing of the image as such, which reveal that the image is, in fact, imageless, because it is no longer an image of anything. One is pornography or advertising, in which the image is revealed as deficient, exposed as such, *but only to lead us on to more images*. There are always more images promised that will fulfill our desire but this image as such is not it. The other way, Debord’s way, is to exhibit the image and so to allow the appearance of ‘imagelessness’. In this case there is no longer some other image but the end of the image. It is in the difference between these two strategies that the ethics and politics of cinema exist.

Agamben’s ‘gesture’ I think is going to be useful for eventually thinking through how it is possible to imagine a minoritarian use of the cinematic. The cinematic is not cinema. Cinema is the industrial-cultural mechanism for the distribution of cinematic properties (ie commodities not states or capacities) for consumption. On the other hand, the cinematic is the dimensions of everyday life that has been described as ‘the aestheticization’ through the proliferation of ‘screens’. It is precisely the tension between the cinematic expressionism of the spectacle and the materialist semiotics from which it derives that can serve as another motor for the end of the image. The problem is that cinema is not even the privileged arm of the cinematic anymore. Maybe Pop Art has already done all this? I am not sure.

Anyway, it is possible to think of The Sopranos as combining elements of Adorno’s aligned infantile milieu through the sex and violence and Agamben’s gestural imagelessness through Tony’s (and others’) multiple splayed tensions. This is the paradox of so-called ‘adult entertainment’. One has to be an ‘adult’ so as to be infantile enough to be subsumed by the gross stupidity of the totalizing reified image. This is a principle of recognition ‘adult’ whereby one becomes part of a vertical hierarchy. Not only does The Soprano’s contain this as part of the show’s actual storyline, but the show’s power comes from it representing representations of adult media not as media, but through the characters themselves as (non)expressions of this media. The best example is the singular image of Silvio’s impersonation of movie mobsters. The actor playing Silvio (Steven Van Zandt) plays a mobster playing an actor who is playing a mobster. Silvio perform’s a stylised voice and gesture of actor Al Pacino’s line from Godfather III, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” The ‘gesture’ is part of an image that has an unfinished gestural dimension. It is a ‘dark precursor’: a differentiator between two (or more) heterogeneous series. Not between two media commodities (The Sopranos and The Godfather III) or the serial cultural event franchise of mobsterisms, but between the gestural potentiality of the image (to ‘articulate’ and ‘become’) and the ‘closed totality’ of the pornovertising’s endless image-series of infantile subsumption.

EDIT 23/04/06: The problem for critics and critical scholars is that the distinction made above between the unfinished gestural and the closed totality of the image is never absolute or definitive. One activity of the fan is to potentialise the ‘image’ through forcing a gestural cleave by tracing to a sufficient end the circuits/networks within which the image is suspended. That is, the image in itself may not be interesting, but the gestural dimension of the inter-textual image-chain or circuit may be. This act of tracing is similar (in the sense of being an extended version) to the significatory chain that Deleuze writes about in Proust.

Arhythmic: Where I’ve Been

I had a month (roughly the duration of Feb) where everything gelled and I was in what I call ‘machine mode’ looking good to finish PhD. Then I had my bike stack, some work came up that was too good to refuse, and I just got busy, busy, busy doing things other than my dissertation.

Now I am back in the swing of things. I’ve bought a new bike. This time I spent a little more and the difference is amazing. (The gears change without protesting!) I am also going to the gym again on a daily basis. Getting injured and then sick and then busy really disrupted the good pattern I had going on. What is weird is that even though I can see I have put on weight after 6 weeks of sporadic gym (and injury, illness, and busy-ness) and I have become unfit, I actually weigh less than I did just before my bike stack. Now I am 115kgs and before I was 119kgs. Crazy. That means I have lost more than 4 kgs of muscle in 6 weeks of relative non-gym. (I still went to the gym in these 6 weeks but onlu once or twice a week.) I had to sort out my body first so I can become the champion neoliberal just-do-it subject required to finish my PhD in ‘time’ (which is ‘in time’ for a post-doc).

I realise I must be an expert of something now, not because of what I know I know, but because of what I know I don’t. Yes, I have an intimate relation with my ignorance and stupidity. I would’ve liked to have been in this place at the start of my PhD. Sure three and a half years of work will mean I know something, but it is only over the last two or three months I have started to realise to what degree I have become close to my unknowing. Unknowing isn’t an absence of knowledge, it has a full positivity, sometimes it is a lack congruence between information that might be affected by a change of perspective as much as anything else. Part of my problem is that I am forgetting that I have already figured shit out. This is annoying and can squarely be located in my problematic reticence to write-out my thinking compared to my preference for thinking-out my writing. I think I am beginning to realise that, as a Humanities person (scholar? not quite yet), part of the labour of thinking and research is writing.

I have had many things which I have started half blog posts on. I’ll finish them off and post them up today.

Magazine Collection Database? eBay?

I have a couple a hundred magazines now. Does anyone know of any good (preferrably free) database programs that will allow me keep track of my collection?

MediaMan appears to be very good. One problem is that it is US based and another is that the ‘price-tracking’ feature which allows you to connect to any amazon.com site is useless for vintage items or if you are in Australia.

What would be totally excellent would be a database program that communicates with eBay (US AND the australian site) and has a similar function of being able to export item information, images and prices. eBay is fast becoming the only place to find certain items. Anyway, at the minimum, what will need to be developed is a certain form-guide for information on auction items, like certain information would be necessary, publication details (year, company, etc), cover photo, contents, etc.

Any smart programmers out there should seriously think about doing something like this. How many people do you know use eBay for buying stuff? Sneakers, car parts, magazines, funiture, etc. Maybe come up with a working prototype and approach eBay to get them to buy it from you. They could market it as an extension of “My eBay”.

Imagine if this information was networked as a kind of non-centralised library. Like a wiki, but the non-auction information would be contained on individual computers and when things were being sold eBay would access the respective wiki-style database or information, pricing, etc associated with that item and ‘host’ it. It would be ‘wiki-style’ because it would be produced by enthusiasts/fans/amatuers or similar. The qualititave difference between this information and that of wikipedia is the reputation function of eBay that is currently set up as purely determined by buyers and sellers with which an ebayer exchanges goods. How hard would it be to set up a correlative ‘informational’ rating system for the wiki-style database.

There would be a differential between item quality and condition versus the stock information on the wiki-database that would need to somehow be incorporated. For example, a magazine that is all torn up and missing images may be suitable for a researcher who only wants editorials or something, but a collector probably wouldn’t want it. Knowledge would take on a properly swarm character that would be tied to the various markets. I am not sure if this would help buyers or sellers. I think with such a set up the increase in knowedge available would help those with genuinely good items to sell and punish the sheisters.

eBay, are you listening?

eBay would get another level of ‘added value’ to their product that could be easily accessed by consumers. Consumers would in turn by able to harness the truly MASSIVE amounts of information that circulates on eBay’s networks of exchange. Surely this is a win-win situation? Connect this ‘swarm’ information with slightly more permanent source of information, such as wikipedia, and you might a have a mechanism for harnessing one dimension of capitalism’s dynamism, expressed as the minute-to-minute auctions on eBay, for the purposes of producing a relatively easily accessible body of knowledge.

This would be taking eBay’s attempts to harness networks of enthusiasm to another level. They already do it on the level of the spectacle with some of the cars built by famous car builders they have helped produced and which have used eBay networks of exchange for aquiring parts. Perhaps it is time to tap into the networks of enthusiasm on a more structural level and in the process produce a knowledge resource? eBay?