The Original, Updated

In 1952 Gene Kelly sang and danced in Singin’ In The Rain, and now, courtesy of modern technology and Volkswagen, he will breakdance in it. The car company has been granted permission by the Gene Kelly Foundation to use the scene, one of the most famous sequences in the history of cinema.
A Volkswagen spokeswoman said: “The idea behind the commercial is all about the fact that the new Golf GTI is the original Mk I, but updated for 2005. The latest Golf is seen as a classic and iconic car and we really wanted to show that in a very unusual and memorable way.”

From here. The Golf GTi really is an iconic car. Read a surprisingly good u/grad essay on it here. I argue that it was the first of the so-called “pocket rockets” that emerged in response to the neo-liberal desire to signify allegiance to the “performance paradigm” (see Jon McKenzie) in an era and cultural context where a thumping American V8 wouldn’t cut the grade. From the essay:

The GTI was launched to a generation with two mutually inconclusive concerns, high speed and fuel economy. 1977, the second year of GTI sales, saw a renewal of widespread public absorption in space travel. NASA’s reusable space shuttle concept made its maiden voyage, ‘Star Wars’ took three million dollars within a week, and Concorde made its first transatlantic supersonic flight. Renault introduced Formula One’s first turbocharged engine, whilst fellow German car manufacturer Porsche’s 928 was heralded ‘Car of the year’ (Taylor 1995 p307). In short, going fast was suddenly on the mind of the consumer. That this absorption with speed was unforeseen is demonstrated by the uncertainty with which Volkswagen’s hitherto unequalled marketing department’s greeted the GTI. In 1977 Volkswagen had the right car and they were selling it at the right time.

Anyway, the new Golf GTi ad is pretty bloody cool (dl it here, 5.64 megs). Some call it “breakdancin’ in the rain,” some call it “rapping in the rain”… it is a ‘VJ’ remix of Gene Kelly’s famous “Singing in the Rain” scene. Read more about it here. The catchphrase for the ad is: “The new Golf GTi. The original, updated.”

Interesting that this should come up after hearing DJ Spooky talk about similar practices of appropriation.

CONSUME!

Ok.

Buy the latest Autosalon magazine.

“They’ve been on the run from Swedish police for five years. Their identities are hidden by monikers like Mr A or Mr X. We are of course, talking of the world’s most infamous street racers, the ones responsible for the controversial Getaway in Stockholm series. Glen Fuller flew halfway around the world to infiltrate their underground society and bring you this world exclusive.” (43)

Yeah baby! Yeah!

It is, of course, my interview with ‘Mr A’ the executive producer of the Getaway in Sockholm film series.

Get it!

Dang!

Existential self-loathing? take a look at yourself

Pay TV for me is a bit like smoking dope for those dudes in high school that everyone knew and probably everyone actually was at one stage. Like the way to ascertain if a dope smoking session had been an authentic dope-smoking-session depended on whether or not you solved the problems regarding the Meaning of Life and articulating the MoL proof in the argot of surfie-bogan. Similarly, a few times since being home I have veged out in front of the telly and have found myself thinking very mysterious thoughts… What are mysterious thoughts? Not my regular thoughts… Well regular for someone who reads D&G with his morning cereal as his morning serial. Oh, dear. Speaking about myself. How embarrassment. Yes, I wanna get very self indulgent…

After checking out what was on Cartoon Network, I flicked on through catching a flick that struck me as capturing in a remarkably clear manner one of the problems that has been bugging me for a damn long while. The film is entitled Me Without You and is very, very interesting. Not only because it mentions ‘deconstruction’ in an intelligent way, but it also has some fuckin cool music.

What grabbed my attention where the respective plights of the two main characters. They are friends and it is a ‘toxic relationship’ as the little blue button on my pay TV remote told me in the description of the movie. One, Marina (played by Anna Friel), is scared of being normal, having a family and kid and all that shit. Her mum attempts a suicide via overdose and I got the impression that was how she was going to turn out for most of it. The other, Holly (played by Michelle Williams of “Dawson’s” non-fame), is continually somehow halted from developing a relationship with Marina’s big brother, Nat (Oliver Milburn who looks a lot like this other bloke I know named Myke who now lives in Melbourne!!! WTF! If Mykle ever needed a job he could get one being this guys stunt double or, at least, his stunt cock;). Holly is the “intellectual in the family” as Marina‘s mum describes her and has a big future being a journalist and writing books – she is also the one who delivers the line about ‘deconstruction’ as a critical methodology losing its viscerality or something like that…

The dynamic between Marina’s utter self-loathing (she even wears a t-shirt that says “I Hate Me”) and Holly’s stultified potential are two sides of my very own self. I realised driving home from an indoor soccer match earlier this evening that I really do loathe my own existence. Not in some happy Disneycide way that you find on a brain-numbing evening soap where the pretty young thing hates him or herself compared to some other knob. I don’t hate myself, I quite like who I am and I don’t think I would like to be anyone else. I am not talking about envy masquerading as self-loathing, I mean the real deal. I find my very existence problematic. Here is my list of existential self-loathings:

List deleted. I was scaring myself.

Opposite the self of annihilation, which is really just a tendency and I shall get to that later, is the site of potential, played by Holly in the filmic representation of my self. Yep, Glen doing his PhD, blah blah blah. I just deleted a whole lot of random, boring stuff.

My problem is how to deal with this self-loathing. Should I aspire to have a good job, family and house? Should I aspire to succeed? Should I aspire to fulfill my potential? Which potential? The one where I become the best damn Borg on the planet by efficiently assimilating (at least I’ll have to start going to the gym again), or the one where I am motivated by never ending sense of awe I feel when I witness the utter stupidity of the world.

Surely this is a problem that everyone with a nanogram of critical spirit realises about their own existence living in such a painfully unjust capitalist society where everything is taken for granted. It really does shit me to tears sometimes, but blokey tears so they are silent and I let them run down my face like they aren’t there.

I have been really bugged by this since I got an email through the CSAA list and then read on Melissa Gregg’s blog about a research project for “early career public intellectuals”. I find that term extremely problematic – “career” alongside “public intellectual”? How is this possible in the current era of sportsmen who speak like bankers and once-were-academics who have to whore themselves for an income by fitting into this fuckin system. ‘Career’ is the historical workplace-based process of deterritorialisation by capital. Of course that would never happen, look at all the wonderful examples of ‘public intellectuals’ who are very well placed in their careers we have around us. However, ‘early career’ is problematic as it signals a tendency or aspiration toward an eventual deterritorialisation by capital. It makes my blood turn cold. How can ‘early career’ and ‘public intellectual’ be reconciled so easily without an unacceptable compromise on either side of the divide?

Fuck I dunno…

Capital is eyeballin’ you

Since being back home I have been cranking the pay-tv my folks have. I caught _Dog Soldiers_ this morning, dang, that is a cool movie… Anyway, on the Cartoon Network they have this promotion running at the moment called _Eyeballs 2_. Here is the login page.

Fly Buys points and all the other consumer incentive programs operate as an apparatus of capture for networks/circuits of consumption. That is, they simply do not encourage people to buy something from one shop, they commodify entire chains in the networks of consumption. Capitalists call this ‘synergy’. The clearest example of this in Australia is the relatively recent melding of petrol/service/gas stations with supermarkets/grocery stores. It is recent because it didn’t exist when I worked at a service station up until early 2003. Spend a certain amount ‘here’ and you get money off your fuel bill at the linked servo ‘there’. I think these circuits of consumption are very interesting as commercial interests are not simply investing in your patronage, but they attempt to commodify a massive chunk of your life. Your lifestyle becomes a resource – a resource that is strip-mined for everything your got and don’t got (via credit).

They sucker you in with the only simulacra that exists anymore with any meaning (ooh, the paradox): the ‘bargain’. The logic of the ‘sale’ or the ‘bargain’ motivates consumers to lease out their lifestyles – represented as circuits of consumption – to themselves so commercial interests can accrue rent, i.e. produce surplus value, over a network of consumption rather than a single point transaction. The bargain is a simulacra in one of Baudrillard’s modes (I can’t remember which one??). It is the logic that fools people into believing they are producing value by spending money. Is that retarded or what? Advertising seduction merely prompts consumers to desire something. The recent developments in consumer incentives organises this desire into seemingly self-perpetuating locuses of consumption.

Getting to my point, the model for this is not some fantastic business venture schemed up to rip multi-millionaires off. I argue the model is derived from children’s television programming. At some point in history the story became subsumed to these networks/circuits of consumption. The circuits of consumption were once derived from the fandom generated by a show to become the motivating force behind the show. So now these circuits of consumption organise fandom. Disney has been on the ball for years, it never really made the final step though… There is a dialectical tension between the principle of organisation implicitly promoted by the commercial interests and the organisation of fandom immanent to itself. I talk about this in my thesis with the car dudes and their enthusiasm. Some fandoms/enthusiasms are more autonomous than others. For example, computer game modders probably have more autonomy in terms of im/material production that sustains their fandom than does, say, an eight year old kid playing with his Pokemons.

Perhaps the best example of this is the US re-produced Japanese anime that was known in the US and elsewhere (including Australia) as Robotech. The fellows at Harmony Gold (US re-production house) had the genius to reconstruct three separate anime series from Japan into one massive show. They could do this because all three original series were made or influenced by the artwork of a single Japanese anime artist. Anyway, the deal would only be struck to make (or reproduce) the series as Robotech if they could guarantee sales of merchandising for toy maker Hasbro. The link between the show and the merchandising was intrinsic to the development of the show – the proof is found on the DVDs in the seven Robotech boxsets (I own them all, suckers!). There are a number of voice-overs and interviews that explain the relationship between Harmony Gold and Hasbro was essential to the re-production of Robotech and therefore, I argue, Robotech fandom.

The next stage in this commodifcation of networks of fandom is not modelled on television programming, but major league sports. Pay per view. With media on demand only a few dreamy sleeps away (like christmas!) the congruence of medias will herald the congruence of lifestyles, production and fandom – the biopolitical production of the perfect consumer.

What spawned this post is the now-running incentive program on the Cartoon Network called _Eyeballs 2_. It connects with Johnathan Beller’s argument regarding the ‘cinematic mode of production’ and check out a response to it also. Through what Beller calls the “labour of looking” kiddies collect ‘eyeballs’ and trade them in. The Cartoon Network is doing a massive favour to tomorrow’s business.

The ‘eyeball’ itself is interesting. It is not the ‘eyeballs’ of the kids (or big-kid PhD students) watching cartoons, but the eyeballs of capital. They are multiple and are only defined by their number – deterritorialised multiplicities. The qualitative differences between cartoons don’t matter. What matters is how many ‘eyeballs’ you have. You are defined by your ‘eyeballs’, or, rather, how many ‘eyeballs’ have you. They call it an ‘eyeD’ card.

The recent furore around mpeg music and movies online gains a different importance. It is not only the labour of looking that is being lost – the pay-per-view factor. What is also lost is the ability to manipulate consumers into circuits of consumption. The crucial scripts that determine the organisation of fandom are taken out of the hands of synergised media conglomerates and back in the hands of consumers. It is a bit like when car enthusiasts go street racing, there is no need to go to the drag strip…