Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The myth of the homunculus

Is this guy just playing catch-up or is 1992 a good date for this realisation breaking through to the mainstream? Many psychologists would probably agree with Deci and Ryan's work that we do not possess a "true inner self", but at best we have "some patterns of thought, feeling, and action that grow and flourish independently of external pressures ... seen as reflecting a kind of true inner self" (Roy F. Baumeister on the theory of Deci and Ryan (1987 and 1991)).

The postmodern view would be more inclined to say that we create ourselves, that we are created in relation to others, and that our collective subjective and intersubjective understandings about ourselves form a loose collective of who we are. As individuals, natch ...

If I were one of Araki's lovers and had my photograph pinned up at the Barbican for all and sundry to see I might consider myself lucky at this unexpected fame, the side-effect of our love affair. I may even have engineered our coitus for that reason ... On the other hand I may be angry, looking back, at being so shamelessly used for art, fun though it was. Whose name will be remembered?

Of course, it's possible he just paid them all - now there's a thought!

But the demeaning truth wouldn't take away the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed 3 hours spent perusing the 4000 odd photographs exhibited on two floors. And it wasn't just the subject matter. I mean, I do like looking at naked women stylishly photographed, but then that wasn't the point now was it?
::quickly move on to the next sentence::
S patiently explained to me how Araki's themes are typical of a certain period of Japanese culture in the 20th century - the residue of male warrior-spirit and the complementary submissive female beautiful object, a medium for sex and reproduction. The maltreatment and abuse of the female body expresses that male stance.

... in some cases the camera abuses the subject in another way, it photographs her while she is unable to look into the lens - for instance when she is sleeping, or looking into the distance, or trying to look up but is at too awkward an angle to do so properly.

And apparently Japanese culture appears polite and smooth on the surface, but underneath exists these dark aggressions and transgressions. Big-time.

Now we know why that Japanese Anime-style porn always seemed a bit weird.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Review: Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

Less Than Zero, Bret Easton Ellis' debut novel.

At less than 200 pages you might expect a quick read and that, eventually, is the effect. Page on page of the same teenage boredom in L.A., vacuous afternoons and spacey acid-filled nights. Trendy hedonism laced with drugs and anorexia. Kids who have not yet come of age O.D. at any of an endless stream of parties. A 12 year-old girl gets mouth-fucked while in a drug-induced stupor. A 19-year old's body is discovered in an alley-way - to the amusement of party-goers around town.

Welcome to the world of Bret Easton Ellis, kids, where children die young and used up, and the rest have nothing to do except circulate bad memories like a constant bad trip.

It may be a debut novel, but there is little to find fault with in this novel (unless you'r eprudish of course) - if it was any more sophisticated it may have come across as too pretentious. It's just right, although I dare say BEE's later stuff must be even more interesting. This is my first outing with him.

Page 35-6 have a back-flash that sort of represents the mindset of this crowd - the pretty boys and girls with nothing to do in particular:

During the end of my senior year one day, I didn't go to school. Instead I drove out to Palm Springs alone and listened to a lot of old tapes I used to like but didn't much anymore, and I stopped at a McDonald's in Sunland for a Coke and then drove out to the desert and parked in front of the old house. I didn't like the new one that the family had bought; wel, it was okay, but it wasn't like the old house. The old house was empty and the outside looked really scummy and unkempt and there were weeds and a television aerial that had fallen off the roof and empty trashcans were lying on what used to be the front lawn. The pool was drained and all these memories rushed back to me and I had to sit down in my school uniform on the steps of the empty pool and cry. I remembered all the Friday nights driving in and the Sunday nights leaving and afternoons spent playing cards on the chaise longues out by the pool wih my grandmother. But those memories seemed faded compared to empty beer cans that were scattered all over the dead lawn and the windows that were all smashed and broken. My aunt had tried to sell the house, but I guess she got sentimental and no longer wanted to. My father had wanted to sell it and was really bitter that no one had done so. But they stopped talking about it and the house lay between them and was never brought up anymore. I didn't go out to Palm Springs that day to look around or see the house because I wanted to miss school or anything. I guess I went out there because I wanted to remember the way things were. I don't know.

"I don't know"

That sums up the narrator's mindset from start to finish.

At the end his (ex)-girlfriend Blair shows a brief interlude of character and resolve:

She's sitting alone and she turns her head towards the breeze and that one moment suggests to me a move on her part of some sort of confidence, or some sort of courage and I'm envious


'I don't know if any other person I've been with has been really there, either ... but at least they tried.'
I finger the menu; put my cigarette out.
'You never did. Other people made an effort and you just ... It was just beyond you.' She takes another sip of her wine. 'You were never there. I felt sorry for you for a little while but then I found it hard to. You're a beautiful boy, Clay, but that's about it.'


She takes of f her sunglasses and finally says, 'I'll see you later, Clay.' She gets up.
'Where are you going?' I suddenly don't want to leave Blair here. I almost want to take her back with me.
'Have to meet someone for lunch.'
'But what about us?'
'What about us?' She stands there for a moment, waiting. I keep staring at the billboard until it begins to blur and when my vision becomes clearer I watch as Blair's car glides out of the parking lot and becomes lost in the haze of traffic on Sunset.

So you read this and think to yourself: "Great, someone brings a glimmer of hope into this listless mess!"

Except on the next page - Clay is about to leave for New Hampshire, for college, this was his summer break - you read:

Blair calls me the night before I leave.
'Don't go', she says.
'I'll only be gone a couple of months.'
'That's a long time.'
'There's always summer.'
'That's a long time.'
'I'll be back. It's not that long.'
'Shit, Clay.'
'You've got to believe me.'
'I don't'
'You have to.'
'You're lying.'
'No, I'm not.'