I think I may be the perfect age for the appeal of the finely-tooled nostalgia of The Force Awakens. The obvious target for Star Wars nostalgia is someone like J J Abrams, who saw the original films in the cinema as a child; I was too young for that, growing up in the 80s after the films had left the cinemas, but before video recorders made it easy to watch the films at home. So I first experienced the films by catching bits of them when they happened to show up on TV, or, even more, through the clouds of content thrown off by Lucasfilm’s franchising efforts (I have particularly fond memories of animated C3PO and R2D2 buddy comedy Droids). This diffuse omnipresence played brilliantly into the mythical feel the films strive for. So it’s fairly unsurprising that I enjoyed the new film, but what I hadn’t expected is that the film quite clearly dramatises this condition of franchise-dependence, and also has some quite thoughtful things to say about it. Read more↴
I’m really enjoying Sizzy Rocket’s debut album Thrills. The obvious comparison is with Kesha, with the belligerent hedonism (“we’ll never stop feeling if it kills us”) and the stylophone-esque synths on the title track. But, also like Kesha, Sizzy Rocket doesn’t let this attitude preclude being more open and affecting, as on “Helium” and the more eighties-synthpoppy “Need Somebody.” Read more↴
After my post last week about radicalising capitalist mediocrity, I was thinking about how another feature of capitalism might be transformed in communism: capitalism’s alienated but compulsory sociality. Capitalist production requires “sociality” in as much as capitalism forces workers to cooperate in collective work; but, capital also attempts to limit that cooperation so that it only includes the cooperation necessary for production and no more. So the assembly line, at least as idealised in capitalist imagination, would involve no direct human-to-human cooperation, but would instead embody all cooperation in machines.
One common Marxist response to this alienated compulsory sociality is to focus on the alienation part: in communism, the argument goes, alienated cooperation would be replaced with genuine human cooperation. This sounds horrible. Read more↴
Sara Ahmed writes about how attempts to emphasize the affirmative and exciting elements of feminist theory can sometimes contrast these elements with an other, implicitly earlier and duller feminism, and so end up reinforcing the image of the boring, outdated feminist. I was reminded of this by how Girli’s excellent new single, “Girls Get Angry Too“, wilfully insists on being this “boring” feminist; without, of course, actually being boring. What I like so much about the track is that it’s direct and serious – it’s not jokey or cute – but it’s also full of wit and artistry, in the thoughtfully constructed and energetically performed lyrics, and the intense, exciting beat (I haven’t heard as pummelling an industrial clang since the early days of grime).
The store known as La Chaussee d’Antin had recently announced its new inventory of yard goods. Over two million meters of barege, over five million of grenadine and poplin, and over three million of other fabrics-altogether about eleven million meters of textiles. Le Tintamarre now remarked, after recommending La Chaussee d’Antin to its female readers as the ‘foremost house of fashion in the world; and also the ‘most dependable’: ‘The entire French railway system comprises barely ten thousand kilometers of tracks – that is, only ten million meters. This one store, therefore, with its stock of textiles, could virtually stretch a tent over all the railroad tracks of France, which, especially in the heat of summer, would be very pleasant.’ Three or four other establishments of this kind publish similar figures, so that, with all these materials combined, one could place not only Paris … but the whole departement of the Seine under a massive canopy, ‘which likewise would be welcome in rainy weather.’ But we cannot help asking: How are stores supposed to find room to stock this gigantic quantity of goods? The answer is very simple and, what is more, very logical: each firm is always larger than the others.
You hear it said: “La Ville de Paris, the largest store in the capital,” “Les Villes de France, the largest store in the Empire,” “La Chaussee d’Antin, the largest store in Europe,” “Le Coin de Rue, the largest store in the world” – “In the world”: that is to say, on the entire earth there is none larger; you’d think that would be the limit. But no: Les Magasins du Louvre have not been named, and they bear the title “The largest stores in the universe.” The universe! Including Sirius apparently, and maybe even the “disappearing twin stars” of which Alexander von Humboldt speaks in his Kosmos. (Ebende, Lebende Bilder aus dem modernen Paris, quoted in Benjamin, The Arcades Project)
One of accelerationism’s central claims is that, although contemporary capitalism continuously uses the language of innovation, what it actually produces is mediocrity or stagnation, endless small changes that don’t really change anything (new phones with marginally different specs, that kind of thing). The accelerationist response to this is to challenge capitalism by taking seriously its claims to innovation, and to show that only an anti-capitalist politics can produce in reality the innovation that capitalism proposes as ideology. This is a misunderstanding of the dialectic. Read more↴
New Pet Shop Boys! I’m not sure how I feel about their new album, Super. The singles, “The Pop Kids” (especially) and “Inner Sanctum,” are great, but the rest of the album is less impressive. “Twenty Something” seems like an awkwardly strained attempt to write a zeitgeist song for a zeitgeist they’re not really a part of, and I don’t get the point of “The Dictator Decides” at all (it sort of looks like a political song if you squint a bit, but what aspect of contemporary politics is it actually supposed to be grasping?). Read more↴