Brief Photo Essay of My Childhood 1

Some photos from my first excursion around my old neighbourhood. I was feeling a bit diown being back in Perth. I basically didn’t want to be here and was feeling home sick for Sydney. A friend suggested I walk around to the various places that were important for my childhood. She was in Melbourne with her best friend and she was doing something similar.

There has been something slightly cathartic in touring these old sites and seeing all but traces of my own childhood. It at least kept my mind off thinking about missing my Sydney life for a while.

My First Capitalist Paper

Monetizing Enthusiasm: The Missed Opportunity of Social Media and Car Enthusiast Magazines

Abstract: The publishing industry that services the scene of modified-car culture in Australia has largely missed the boat when it came to moving from being a once profitable commercial print industry into a profitable social media enterprise. This paper explores the reasons for this failure in the context of the last 30 years of modified-car culture and the enthusiast media industry that developed around it. A number of possible approaches are proposed for monetizing enthusiasm through social media that should be useful for other enthusiast scenes.

When post-structuralist marxists become capitalist.

My heart is well and truly broken.

letting go, embracing, the world

Summer: I woke up one morning and I just knew.
Tom: Knew what?
Summer: What I was never sure of with you.

It feels odd and somewhat appropriate that I am returning to this post about 500 Days of Summer to finally write something substantial and finish it. It was started on October 7, so over a month ago. Of course, as a case of life imitating art, my own non-relationship with M. ended.

This is where I had got to with the original post, but now this post serves as something else:

I recommend 500 Days of Summer for everyone who has been, is or intends to be in a relationship. I saw it last night with M. and we both agree that it is a fantastic movie. It has prompted me to think again about an essay of mine from a few years ago on the concept of post-romance romance and Paul Anderson’s third film Punch-Drunk Love. 500DOS is a much better example of post-romance romance than PDL. In fact, of all the postmodern romantic comedies of recent years, 500DOS is the best example of post-romance romance yet.

We had similar discussions to that of the main characters Tom and Summer. How she wasn’t sure, how she still felt something for her man-child ex who had broken her heart and, paradoxically, how she didn’t want to stuff this (ie our non-relationship relationship, similar to the Tom-Summer relationship) up. She told me many times she wasn’t ready, that she wished it hadn’t happened now, that maybe this was the last chance she had. I told her she was worthy of breaking my heart. She did.

What to do?

I am pretty hardcore when it comes to enduring what life throws my way. It is easy when I feel contempt for most of the world and all the stupidities that it contains. I guess it is easier to think about what I won’t do.

I won’t stop falling in love. I could never understand the whole too-bitter, too-tough, too-broken hearted thing about people when they get to a certain age and decide that love somehow hasn’t delivered the goods so they are going to discard love and the possibility of love. That is just weak, not tough. It is an easy solution to complex set of problems. The empty feeling I have in my stomach every now and then when I think about what has happened, what hasn’t happened and what could’ve been is the price I pay for the absolute affection afforded by love. I am satisfied with this pain. She was worthy of earning it. I fell in love.

I won’t stop rolling the dice. One of my favourite sayings is derived from the philosopher Gilles Deleuze: Roll the dice and up the ante. It is not enough to take chances. All of us take chances everyday. To take chances and up the stakes without regret is the only way to live a life worth living. I’ve got no time for meek and boring people who are mere functionaries in someone else’s life. Having agency for me doesn’t mean necessarily having control, but being able to engage with life’s opportunities without knowing what the outcome will be. I took risks with my affection even though I ascertained early on our relationship more than likely wouldn’t work, but I resisted the urge to end things.

I won’t fret about not understanding. I am pretty smart and have enough of a curious intellectual disposition to be able to at least grasp most of life’s curiosities. There are some things I’ll never understand, however. Like the way periods of absolute happiness immediately preceded annihilating sadness. I am grateful for the time we spent together. Many people never get to experience any of this.

I won’t stop inviting people into my world. A relationship isn’t just between two people but between two worlds that come together as a kind of synergy. I have an ethics of hospitality when it comes to sharing my world with others. I am lucky that I have lived alone for long enough that it allows me to cherish moments of solitude, which in turn allows me to properly value what it means to be with someone. Without my generosity I am nothing.

I won’t stop listening to special songs. Music, food, television shows, restaurants, cinemas, streets and fucking pubs all become incorporated into the biography of a relationship. I am lucky to have had enough failed relationships all while living in roughly the same area of Sydney that there is no singular determining geographical romantic biography for me. Our music, if that ever existed, once filled me with complete happiness, every song was a special song, a love song, but now they are all songs of heartbreak. I am OK with this. It bestows the songs a richness that the artists who created them could never give to them. It adds something beautiful to my world, which, although painful, would not have existed otherwise.

I won’t stop writing my poem. Sure it is about her, but it is my writing. It should be finished soon.

I feel better now. I think I have reassured myself of myself.

Cultural Studies is more Neo-Liberal than Neo-Liberalism

Michael Berube wrote a deliberately polemical column in The Chronicle of Higher Education about the non-impact of Cultural Studies in US universities. His argument has three dimensions:

1) Cultural Studies has a very slight institutional profile in US institutions. Berube gauges this according to the number of standalone graduate programs in Cultural Studies.

2) Cultural Studies has had little impact on other disciplines measured relative to the rhetoric of an ‘all conquering’ Cultural Studies imagined in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

3) A complex point about the critical ‘Left’ focus of Cultural Studies defined as a movement away from a 1970s Althusserian and/or neo-Gramscian Marxism towards what could be collectively described as a focus on issues pertaining to Left Identity Politics.

If Berube really wants to push the polemical envelope then he needs to step outside his privileged institutional position as a US professor. I normally like Berube’s writing, so I want to help him out. There are three other points about Cultural Studies that need to be raised if you really want to lay the boot in.

4) Cultural Studies is not a US discipline for most scholars practicing Cultural Studies. Think global, act local… because I don’t care about what is wrong with Kansas. I am not sure if much interesting work has come out of US Cultural Studies lately, I am sure there has been, it is just largely irrelevant to Australia, Europe, South America, China and most other places of Cultural Studies scholarship. There are a few exceptions of course, such as the work of Steve Shaviro and others. The point is that the situation of US Cultural Studies is only relevant for Cultural Studies in other national contexts because of the (slipping) hegemonic grip of big US-based publishing houses on dictating the ‘generic’ cultural tone of monographs. The sooner this synergistic dispositif of US publishers and US universities to condition global scholarly discourse dies the better it will be for everyone interested in engaging with and publishing about specific localised problems in their respective cultural contexts. I read my friends’ work published out of the US, only because I am curious to see how they translate localized problems in to publishers’ anemic US-centric discourse.

5) Cultural Studies is not a university discipline. I have worked at universities and now I don’t. I work as a writer for enthusiast car magazines. So what? Some of the very best work within Cultural Studies was carried out by those on the fringe of academia. Meaghan Morris’s work from the 1980s is a good example of this in the Australian context. The Birmingham School during its heyday is another good example of graduate students belonging to localised cultures who used the institutionality of the university as a resource to enable them to do the research (and address specific problems) they needed to do.
Cultural Studies is practiced by myriad writers and other creatives working in the ‘real world’. Some of the best work I have read recently has been produced by friends who have completed higher education in Cultural Studies but do not work in universities. Plus, they have a readership of a different magnitude compared to academic journals or books.

6) Cultural Studies within the university has a purer neo-liberal ideological basis than actually existing neo-liberalism. The careerist entrepreneur-of-the-academic-self embodies the neo-liberal ideology of capitalist self-actualisation. A career used to be something you ended up with at the end of it, not something that was planned through various stages of calculating maximisation of institutional ‘opportunities’. The sad thing I have witnessed is the inculcation of this careerist subjectivity on an institutional level so that very good people have to assume particular professional ‘careerist’ dispositions to get ahead. Those of us who are too rock and roll communist for this capitalist shit will probably never work in universities (again).
To be honest, sure, I eventually want a job in academia. I don’t have enough time to do the reading, writing and thinking I’d like to in my current job. However, I don’t want to work as a casual teaching other people’s courses or as a casual research assistant doing other people’s research. This sort of work is sold as an apprenticeship, something you need to do so as to get a foot in the door, but it isn’t. It is merely the proletariatisation of intellectual labour. The surplus of Cultural Studies Ph.D’s presents a classic Marxist problem of surplus labour. There should be a generalised withdrawal of casualised labour from universities to cause them some organisational pain.

Cultural Politics of Unhappy Little Vegemites

There have been various critiques already mobilised regarding what is at stake in this uFail 2.0 iSnack 2.0 shenanigans. I like Chookspot’s critique on on nationalistic grounds where the unveiling of the new name was likened to someone in the US arse-fucking a bald eagle as the quarter time entertainment at the Superbowl.

It reminds me of Tom Soutphommasane’s piece in the Australian about the Aussie political left reclaming patriotism. Pride in your country is pure ideological expression. I have never experienced ‘Australia’ and yet I live here. It is therefore interesting that Vegemite is taken to be a cultural icon of national significance. Maybe I have never lived anywhere long enough without Vegemite to properly appreciate it? I know I was once in the business of sending Vegemite care packages to a girlfriend who moved to the US.

As a structure of feeling, patriotism can mobilise bodies into action. Surely Autralian patriots understand that Vegemite was fucked as soon as it was sold? (Or not sold as much as through a process of mergers and aquisitions became controlled by Kraft US.) Getting mobilised and angry about the image of the brand is a bit farcicial when the structural existence of the company left our shores years ago. Maybe this is what ‘cultural politics’ actually is?

It would be interesting to find out who was behind the Vegemite iSnack 2.0 debacle. My experience working in a ‘creative industry’ is that the ‘creatives’ are often hampered by the (middle) management structure and all the pre-thinking that gets done. Pre-thinking isn’t forethought; in fact, it is almost the opposite of forethought. ‘Pre-thinking’ is what you do when you incorporate what you think your immediate boss is going to think about what you are doing, and this has to incorporate what that person’s immediate boss is going to think and so on. This continues until it reaches a point where you need to incorporate the thinking within thinking within thinking of someone who has no fucking idea about the very real constraints and opportunities that guided your creative process to begin with.

I am interested in the people behind the decission making process because clearly it is distributed across a number of people. No half-intelligent, switched-on person from my generation would ever suggest iSnack 2.0 as a serious contender for the new name of the Vegemite product; but such a name is derived from some hyper-mediated version of the popular culture to which my generation belongs. Therefore, there must have been a creative trajectory where someone exposed decision makers to such a culture and the respective marketing buzzwords (buzzwords like ‘buzzword’) that belong to it, but the ultimate decision was made by someone who has no fucking idea about the absolute ridicule generated by such a non-ironic marketing gesture.

Maurizzio Lazzarato has argued that what contemporary advertising does is not sell us a product as such, rather it sells us a world within which the product exists and within which we want to exist (and therefore have to consume said products to belong, etc). What world does Kraft think we are living in?

Perhaps iSnack 2.0 is actually a post-ironic critique of the alienating effects of commodity captalism? (No, it isn’t. Well, not yet.) The only way for Kraft to retrieve something from this is to push it to the absolute absurd limit. Create a world within which everything literally is iBullshit, like an appropriation of the Ikea existence from Fight Club, which kind of made Ikea cool in some post-ironic fashion: everything becomes empty branded commodity and it’s ok, because we KNOW it is.

I have fail on my mind at the moment.