Voyou Désœuvré

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Grand Budapest Hotel Perfume

In the essay “Utopia as Replication”, Jameson suggests we consider Walmart as an example of how “the most noxious phenomena can serve as the repository and hiding place for all kinds of unsuspected wish-fulfilments and utopian fantasies”. Jameson intends this as a bit of a provocation, but I wonder if Walmart isn’t actually too easy a choice for the “paradoxical affirmation” of “what is most exploitative and dehumanizing in the working life of capitalism”. Walmart’s vastness of scale and remorselessness give it an aesthetic alibi, allying it with a tradition of modernist creative destruction which is likely to be attractive, at least to the sort of people who read Jameson. To really follow through Jameson’s project of unearthing the “utopian impulse”, we need to consider an aspect of capitalism that is not just exploitative but also in bad taste; for a certain strand of contemporary opinion, that would be “twee”, the kind of cutesily-retro faux-petit-bourgeois capitalism of cupcake shops and Cath Kidston. Read more↴

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  • Setting the basic income at anything less than a million pounds is a slap in the face of the working class March 31, 2014

    I haven’t paid much attention to Left Unity, because TBH a group organised around the electoral road to social democracy seems more like an Old Labour re-enactment society than a viable political trajectory. Apparently, at their recent conference they decided not to adopt a basic income as a policy, which some have taken as a […]

  • Tolerance and the city February 6, 2014

    I like The Carrie Diaries, the prequel to Sex and the City on the teen-focussed CW network, a lot. It’s a fun show, but there’s an underlying issue-of-the-week earnestness to it which differentiates it from Gossip Girl (with which it shares a production team) and which I like to think is a period detail, harking back to 1980s […]

  • You want full communism? You better sublate work, bitch October 24, 2013

    Britney’s new song has been widely condemned as pure ideology; this piece in the Guardian is typical, arguing that the song reflects a contemporary, “religious” commitment to the value of work. That’s not what the song sounds like to me; it’s not so much capitalist ideology as capitalist id. While the official capitalist ethic proposes the necessity of hard work as the ground of equality, the capitalist id glories in the reality that you have to work while (indeed, because), capital doesn’t.

  • 8tracks mixtape themes I can’t think of eight tracks for August 17, 2013

    Walmart as Utopia. Obviously there are lots of songs about conspicuous consumption, but most of them are about a fantasy level of consumption which is unattainable (probably, for the artist; certainly, for most of their audience). I think Jay-Z has actually produced the Adornian nec plus ultra of this genre with “Picasso Baby.” How do you […]

  • Communism equals soviet power plus amazon.com July 20, 2013

    I don’t get this idea that figuring out communist logistics is somehow a uniquely pressing political task. — Voyou Désœuvré (@voyou) May 13, 2013 I may have been a bit disingenuous when I tweeted the above; I don’t “get” the turn to communist logistics in the sense of finding it an appealing position, but I […]

snippets

  • The best bit of the recent Tomb Raider reboot is near the beginning. Shortly after the player regains control of Lara after the extended intro sequence, you guide her down a narrow cliff path and come across a branch lying across a gap in the path. It’s the sort of obstacle that in previous games Lara would have happily skipped across, but here, as you step on to the branch Lara sways alarmingly, and you have to slowly inch forward to make it across successfully. It’s a great example of using game mechanics to communicate, in this case to communicate that the Lara here is a young woman out of her depth, not the superhero of the later games.

    Unfortunately, after that the game largely follows most big-budget games in telling us the plot through cut scenes rather than showing it to us through gameplay. Worse, what it’s telling us gets increasingly out of sync with the gameplay. The game is much more combat-focused than previous Tomb Raider games, so by halfway through, you’ve violently bludgeoned to death hundreds of people. But the cut scenes, while they show Lara as scared, don’t begin to try and show the level of trauma that would surely result from such massive violence. This disconnect leaves Lara looking disengaged to the point of sociopathy.

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