Loyalty

Most reviews of Up In the Air work hard to locate it in a romantic comedy framework, such as David Cox’s review at The Guardian. It is not a romantic comedy. Similar in some ways to Punch-Drunk Love, Up In the Air uses a constellation of romantic comedy tropes as a critical tool. Instead of romance and isolationist social relations like in Punch-Drunk Love, Up In the Air uses the romantic comedy tropes to problematise ‘loyalty’ in our privileged late-capitalist and post-everything cultural landscape.

Loyalty is no longer something built on trust or expectations of trust forged through shared experience. The function of expectation in this traditional sense of loyalty is important, because it introduces a temporal logic whereby one’s trust is demonstrated now by proffering one’s future trustworthiness. Within capitalist relations of exchange loyalty was therefore experienced as the goodwill developed from already demonstrated positive service experiences and the expectation of continued good service.

What Up In the Air explores is the inversion of the burden of loyalty. A capitalist enterprise does not produce loyalty in its customers or in its workers in a traditional sense of goodwill through positive social relations and the expectation of positive social relations. Instead, enterprises now produce ‘loyalty’ as the accumulation of the debt of good service that the company owes a customer (or worker). The company wants to owe its customers ‘reward points’; it is in the customer’s debt: hence, the production of an expectation and a formalisation of process and time itself. This is naturalised as a ‘reward’ for the customer’s ‘loyal’ patronage.

There are a number of relations of actual (dis)loyalty in Up In the Air:

1) Between businesses and their workers, who for the most part of the film are about to be fired.
2) Between various romantic couplings.
3) Between enterprises and their consumer patrons.

The virtual relations of loyalty — what I described in a previous post as “the virtual feedforward loops that cultivate and then harness anticipation as an affective or ‘felt tendency’ for guiding consumer behaviour” — are structurated by conventions of expectations. Beyond consumption is a mobile diffuse logic of expectation determined by capital, that exploits the affective conditions of trust that underpins loyalty.

Relations of actual loyalty have an inherent temporal dimension because loyalty is only ever actualised as a field of social possibility premised on assumed distributions of trust. I am loyal, because I trust, therefore my loyalty is trusted. The expectation emerges from affective relations of shared experiences as the world is endured together.

But we are increasingly atomised. Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is absolutely solitary. He wants to inhabit a frictionless world; points of disjuncture are merely fulcra to propel himself further into the flow. He is the limit case of a process through which we are forced out into the world and alienated from solidarity only so we scrabble to consume formalised, ritualised cultural events together. Sport, the nation, the family. A spectator does not experience sport; ‘sport’ is the shared experience of another’s affective implication in the potentiality of an entirely contrived contigency (shared with yet another’s affective implication…). The poverty of the formal dimension of these experiences breeds the need to push beyond the surface affectivity. Violence, hatred, hooliganism produce real contingencies in the world that must be endured together. The economy of respect in masculinist sporting cultures is an index of trust and its distribution. Other peripheral cultures have the same generative capacity. The limit case is perfectly described by Paul Corrigan in his short piece ‘Doing Nothing’ about the way working class youth in 1970s Britain used the street as a space of potentiality.

In capitalist enterprises there is absolutely no trust. Instead of a distribution of trust, there is a distribution of naked expectation. A perverse and obscene expectation of the worst. And at worst it is the expectation of a ruthless ambition to satisfy self-interest. The profit motive is a shared belief that gives discursive form to this expectation. Workers (anyone who labours under the expectations of others) are continually at war with the received infrastructure of alienated expectations by using humour and the potentiality of the workplace itself to generate shared experiences. Such bonding is tolerated by those that impose their expectations as a necessary condition of lived labour. The expecters have their own weapons, by making expectation mobile, by controlling the expectation of expectation through distributions of risk. Risk introduces contingency into the workplace. This is what the workers fired in Up in the Air failed to recognise. Their fellow workers may have endured the world of the workplace together with them and felt like family, or they may have even worked extremely hard to assume and inculcate the imposed expectations of management into their daily experience of the workplace, but this is not loyalty. The expectation of expectations can not be trusted. Workers have to be at war with expectation and exploit the mechanism of imposition (reception, inculcation, expression).

How to lose 50 pounds in 3 months

It is the 19th of January and I have now lost just over 20kgs or just under 50 pounds since the 24th of October. I weighed over 124kg and now I weigh 103. That is two months and 26 days, or 87 days in total. 240g (1/2 lb) per day.

Over this period I went home for the Christmas and New Year’s break. It meant I had to contend with my mother’s enthusiasm for feeding me good food. I went to a wedding and many other lovely events that had nice, rich food.

So, how did I do it?

I dieted. With a bit of research I figured out it was easier to remove all fat and sugar from my diet than it was to do enough exercise to eat what I liked. Not that I ate too badly to begin with, but I did enjoy the odd pizza or burger binge.

Then I exercised. I started walking, now I am riding.

THE MATHS

The basic maths are something like this:

1. The basic daily metabolism or Basal Metabolism Rate (BMR) for an adult is about 2000Cal (8368kj). If you go to this nifty site at the University of Sydney it is a basic daily metabolism energy requirement calculator determined by sex, age, weight and height. When I started out at 124kg I had an energy requirement of 2516 Cal (10527 kJ) and now it is 2228 Cal (9322 kJ).

2. For each kilo of fat is around 39000kj. You also lose some lean muscle mass depending on what sort of exercise you do so it is slightly less than this. I use 8000Cal to make the maths easier.

3. The first couple of weeks of dieting I experimented with different meals. I don’t need huge variation. Mostly tuna and rocket/baby spinach wraps, then it became celery and tuna. Snacks were apples and then apples and raw sweet corn cob. The point is that I reduced my caloric intake to below 1000Cal per day. On a perfect diet day it was below 900Cal.

4. I would try to do at least 200-300Cal worth of exercise per day. This is the equivalent of an hour’s walk or 20 minutes on my stationary bike.

The maths basically work out. Needed 2500Cal for basic metabolism had a deficit of 1600Cal and would do 300Cal of exercise, so 1900Cal burned per day or a kilo of fat roughly every 4 days.

To help me figure all this out I have an application on my iPhone called iKeepFit.

THE DIET

The diet for me was an experiment in discipline and patience. I knew dieting all the time would be a total fail so I gave myself two meals off per week to be social. I started off eating what was obviously healthy food, and then began cutting elements out. The below are perfect diet days. I would’ve had about a dozen of these over the 87 days. Most other days were variations of the below. Some days (like Christmas Day!) were AWOL. Plus I had two meals off per week when I was normally eating out. I would often choose the fish option off the menu. A whole pan fired Barra is absolutely delicious!

1. First version.
In the context of an actual day of my early dieting, my diet to begin with was thus:
8x cups of black coffee 8kcals
mother energy drink 208kcals
Celery 6x stalks 62cals
Apples large raw 116cals
tuna in lite oil x2 466kcals
corn, raw, small 62kcals
spinach raw 2x cups 14kcals
corn wraps x6 389kcals
Total consumption 1325kcals

Base metabolic rate -2521kcals
Activity level desk job -504kcals
Exercise -429kcals

Net kilocalories -2129kcals
Weight/gained lost -304g

2. Second version.
I then started to refine the diet. A problem I had is that my digestive system was not agreeing with so much celery, so I introduced the yogurt for breakfast.
8x cups of black coffee 8kcals
Celery 12x stalks 124cals
Apples large raw 116cals
2x tuna in lite oil 466kcals
corn, raw, small 62kcals
Jalna Fat Free Berry yogurt 200g 156kcal
Total consumption 866kcal

Base metabolic rate -2269kcals
Activity level desk job -454kcals
Exercise -280kcals

Net kilocalories -2137kcals
Weight/gained lost -305g

3. Third version.
The third version is basically the same as above except I now add muesli to the yogurt and have kangaroo and spinach salads in the evening. The third version was required because I started to commute to work by bicycle three days a week, plus walking in the evenings and riding on the weekends, and was feeling a bit light-headed.
Spinach raw 120g 28kcals
kangaroo 250-500g 278-556kcals
Free & Fruity Monster Muesli roughly a cup, 100kcals

EXERCISE

I used to be super fit, about 2.5 years ago. I was going to the gym for two hours per day doing an hour of cardio and an hour of weights. It is all documented on my blog. I got my 2km ergo times down to the low 6:20’s, which should give you an idea of how fit I was. A buggered knee from my rugby days, now a buggered left shoulder from an incline bench press gone awry and crotchety ankles and joints from a decade and a half of heaps of junior sport means I need to do low impact exercise.

I realised that my previous extremely fit persona has helped me cope with doing exercise this time around. When you are super fit you rarely work at 100% intensity of your capacity (except for an ergo or something). Now I am about 80% capacity of fitness compared to then. So me working at 90% when riding for example is just over working at 70% of my previous level of fitness. The capacity for the work intensity may not be there but all the necessary techniques for working that hard still are. Here I mean things like controlling my breathing, doing stretches/prep, being comfortable with feeling the ‘burn’ in my lungs and legs, etc. A big part of this is the mental toughness not to have a breather or stop but to keep going. Already knowing that the level of exercise I am doing is 100% achievable makes it easy.

1. Walking.
I walk up to the local shops to purchase the evening meal and food for the next day. This would take an hour. Over Christmas and NYE period with plenty of time to kill I was doing a minimum of 2 hours walking per day, sometimes up to 3.5-4 hours. 220-800kcals.

2. Stationary bike riding.
I have a pretty good Life Fitness bike my brother bought off eBay for me for my birthday last year. I was doing anywhere between 20-40 minutes 2 out of 3 days. 220-500kcals.

3. Cycling.
I now have a pretty good mountain bike that my lady friend bought for me for Christmas. I have attacked riding with gusto. The previous few months of daily activity, especially the long walks over the holiday period prepared me for eventually commuting to work on my bike. My commute is 17.6km, so 35.2km per day, which is roughly 1200kcals each day. I also ride on the weekends for at least an hour or two. I am currently only riding to work for 3 days as I often need my car for work related meetings.

MENTAL
I am pretty hardcore when I do things. I put on weight when I am depressed, content to watch TV and play video games and basically don’t give a fuck what happens. Here are some things I have figured out:

1. Discipline.
As well as an experiment in weight loss, this has been an experiment in discipline. How much control do I have over my body? Over my desires? Over compulsions just to eat that biscuit? I can afford to be less disciplined now because of my bike riding regime, but in the beginning I would not vary from my diet. There was a strange satisfaction when every Friday my co-workers and I would go down to the local burger joint for Friday burgers. I would take my can of tuna and celery sticks. However, i would also have two meals off per week, plus I would often have some sort of variation to the diets. For example, I went through a week of trying protein bars as a supplement to my diet for my riding. They were too expensive however to eat all the time.

2. Enthusiasm.
I treated this process as a challenge and an experiment. I didn’t know what would happen. The basic maths seemed sound and I have been active enough in the past to already have a sense of how my body would react. I enjoy stepping onto the scales everyday and seeing my progress. The sense of satisfaction I feel because I have been disciplined enough to rise to the challenge makes me feel good and makes me feel like further weight loss and the required discipline is not only possible but achievable.

3. Mood.
I treat food as a drug and as a nutritional source. Sugar, caffiene and nicotine are mood enhancers for me. Plus I did not curb my alcohol intake at all, I often have a few very small glasses of red or a beer or two every few days. I will probably stop smoking shortly. I probably won’t give up coffee. Sugar was easy to cut out. The apple and corn cob contain enough natural sugar to enhance my mood during the work day. There is no point getting all cranky at work because you are starving yourself. Eat an apple or some other piece of fruit. The timing of my meals are designed to maximise and affirm my positive mood.
6:20am Yogurt and Muesli, Coffee
8:30am Coffee
9:30am Coffee
10:30am Apple, Coffee
12:00midday Celery and Tuna
1:00pm Coffee
3:30pm Corn Cob, Coffee
4:30pm Coffee
7:30-8:00pm Kangaroo and Spinach

4. Goals.
My first goal was 115kg. Then 110kgs for Christmas. Then 105kgs for my return to work after the Christmas break. Now it is to get down into double digits for my birthday coming up early February. Goals are important, but make them realistic. Again because of my previous experience I was confident in setting some pretty tough weight loss goals.

WHAT IS NEXT?
Next I am going to use my discipline developed as part of my weight loss regime to tackle my finances. I want to pay off my debts and save money to be able to buy a flat. It is going to require some different strategies. I am off to a good start because dieting and riding to work are already good steps for saving money!

When you hit your late twenties or early thirties it is time to take stock of your life and make changes, this is part of that process. You can make changes if you want to. So if you want to, make them.

Enthusiasm: From Affect to Biopower

Extract from a Zizek essay (bold added):

—- —- —-

Foucault dealt with this shift in his writings on the Iranian revolution, where he opposes the historical reality of a complex process of social, cultural, economic, political, etc., transformations to the magic event of the revolt which somehow suspends the cobweb of historical causality – it is irreducible to it:

The man in revolt is ultimately inexplicable. There must be an uprooting that interrupts the unfolding of history, and its long series of reasons why, for a man ‘really’ to prefer the risk of death over the certainty of having to obey. [Foucault and the Iranian Revolution, p. 263]

One should be aware of the Kantian connotation of these propositions: revolt is an act of freedom which momentarily suspends the nexus of historical causality, i.e., in revolt, the noumenal dimension transpires. The paradox, of course, is that this noumenal dimension coincides with its opposite, with the pure surface of a phenomenon: the noumenon not only appears, the noumenal is what is, in a phenomenon, irreducible to the causal network of reality that generated this phenomenon – in short, noumenon is phenomenon qua phenomenon. There is a clear link between this irreducible character of the phenomenon and Deleuze’s notion of event as the flux of becoming, as a surface emergence that cannot be reduced to its “bodily” causes. His reply to the conservative critics who denounce the miserable and even terrifying actual results of a revolutionary upheaval is that they remain blind to the dimension of becoming:

It is fashionable these days to condemn the horrors of revolution. It’s nothing new; English Romanticism is permeated by reflections on Cromwell very similar to present-day reflections on Stalin. They say revolutions turn out badly. But they’re constantly confusing two different things, the way revolutions turn out historically and people’s revolutionary becoming. These relate to two different sets of people. Men’s only hope lies in a revolutionary becoming: the only way of casting off their shame or responding to what is intolerable. [Negotiations, p. 171]

Deleuze refers here to revolutionary explosions in a way which is strictly parallel to Foucault’s:

The Iranian movement did not experience the ‘law’ of revolutions that would, some say, make the tyranny that already secretly inhabited them reappear underneath the blind enthusiasm of the masses. What constituted the most internal and the most intensely lived part of the uprising touched, in an unmediated fashion, on an already overcrowded political chessboard, but such contact is not identity. The spirituality of those who were going to their deaths has no similarity whatsoever with the bloody government of a fundamentalist clergy. The Iranian clerics want to authenticate their regime through the significations that the uprising had. It is no different to discredit the fact of the uprising on the grounds that there is today a government of mullahs. In both cases, there is ‘fear,’ fear of what just happened last fall in Iran, something of which the world had not seen an example for a long time. [Foucault and the Iranian Revolution, p. 265]

Foucault is here effectively Deleuzian: what interests him are not the Iranian events at the level of actual social reality and its causal interactions, but the event-like surface, the pure virtuality of the “spark of life” which only accounts for the uniqueness of the Event. What took place in Iran in the interstice of two epochs of social reality was not the explosion of the People as a substantial entity with a set of properties, but the event of becoming-People. The point is thus not the shift in relations of power and domination between actual socio-political agents, the redistribution of social control, etc., but the very fact of transcending – or, rather, momentarily canceling – this very domain, of the emergence of a totally different domain of “collective will” as a pure Sense-Event in which all differences are obliterated, rendered irrelevant. Such an event is not only new with regard to what was going on before, it is new “in itself” and thus forever remains new.

It is against this background that one can formulate a critique of Jacques Rancière’s political aesthetics, of his idea of the aesthetic dimension of the proper political act: a democratic explosion reconfigures the established hierarchic “police” order of social space, it stages a spectacle of a different order, of a different partage of the public space. [The Politics Of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible] In today’s “society of spectacle,” such an aesthetic reconfiguration lost its subversive dimension: it can all too easily be appropriated by the existing order. The true task are not momentary democratic explosions which undermine the established “police” order, but the dimension designated by Badiou as that of the “fidelity” to the Event: how to translate/inscribe the democratic explosion into the positive “police” order, how to impose on social reality a NEW lasting order. THIS is the properly “terrorist” dimension of every authentic democratic explosion: the brutal imposition of a new order. And this is why, while everybody loves democratic rebellions, the spectacular/carnivalesque explosions of the popular will, anxiety arises when this will wants to persist, to institutionalize itself – and the more “authentic” the rebellion is, the more “terrorist” is this institutionalization.

—- —- —-

This is certainly the best thing I have ever read from Zizek, and I normally can’t stand his type of scholarship. It seems a little weird to be talking about ‘revolutions’ as it is such an archaic discourse. Zizek is spot on in his reading of Foucault’s work on Iran. I really don’t understand what the problem is with Foucault’s work that is commonly understood as an ‘error of judgement’ or some such thing. Perhaps they have read something else to what I have (from Foucault and the Iranian Revolution, which I bought after reading this essay from Zizek)? Foucault was incredibly accurate in his assessment of Islam!! Supporting the becoming-revolutionary that correlates with the ‘pure event’ of revolution is not the same thing as supporting the historical revolutionary event!

Of course, what I find interesting is the moment quickly rushed over in Zizek’s essay (it is not his focus) between the becoming-revolutionary of the revolutionary ‘pure event’ and the ‘historical’ subsumption of this event (as aesthetic politics) into the society of the spectacle. Something that I am trying to resolve in the current section of my dissertation (on ‘Enthusiasm’) is regarding the relation — actually, the apparent contradiction — between affect and biopower. The affect system is a feedback mechanism (ala Tomkins), but Lazzarato and others have talked about the emergent organisation of a given population’s biopower for the purposes of social reproduction and what is essentially capitalist exploitation (but through the spectacle, not labour relations of production). So the question then emerges, What blunts the affective feedback system so populations get stuck in the repetitive nonsense of the spectacle? My response is that the events of the spectacle are actually repetitions of the conditions of possibility for particular contingencies that are actualised in differentially repeated conjunctural events.

Organised spectator sport is a classic example. Here are some of my comments in a thread at LP on the current state of One Day cricket in lieu of the World Cup debarcle:

Lets move away from thinking that it is some essence of ‘cricket’ that is problematic and look at what ‘cricket’ does. Two points:

1) Don’t forget the origins of one day cricket was an attempt to produce a more efficient machine for tapping into the enthusiasm of cricketing fans (ie ‘anticipation’). through saturation such enthusiasm has become blunted. lets celebrate part of the machinery of the spectacle breaking! hooray!

2) Cricket, like any other spectator sport, is essentially a homosocial institution. It allows men to relate to each other through the mediation of the contingent events of sport. If the game becomes boring because it loses all contingency (over-saturation, domination of one team, boring strategy) then the conjunctural events that allow homosocial mediation (in pubs, loungerooms, sporting fields) will lose their efficacy.

What is really being asked is not how to save cricket, but how does one save the enthusiasm associated with a particular spectacular cultural apparatus, and secondly how does one save a ritualised and institutionalised form of homosocial relations.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Nascar queered.

Have a look at some of the comments at the imdb page here: “Who else had their entire audience leave during that kiss?”

lol! 

Australia will not get it for some time, it looks like the end of September, but the trailer is available online. All north-American readers should go straight to the cinema.

It has some seriously gut-renching funny scenes. Including the one set in a bar where we are first introduced to the French race car driver (played by Ali G’s Sacha Cohen). This scene is definitely in my top ten movie moments of all time.

The hyper masculine machismo and homosocial relations of professional motorsport are turned on their head in all their homoerotic insecurity. Michael Clark Duncan as a crew chief in Nascar? Right… Plus redneck fundy religion cops it… And the two sons of main character Ricky Bobby (Ferrell) are named Walker and Texas Ranger… Mercy…

Sure, some of the scenes feel like skits on a variety show and some definitely go on for too long, but if these are measured against the raw spunk of the film to line up such an ‘all-american’ institution such as Nascar for a toasting, then it has to come out on top.

I want to see this in a cinema with a car club.

GO SEE IT.