A Matter of Perspective

In response to Pasta&Vinegar, two extremes of perspective: Los Angeles (or… how to drive a car in narrow hilly streets) versus the eight-lane highways of Montpellier.



All cities have someone who dislikes them, even hates them. But Los Angeles may be unique as a target of reflexive worldwide disgust. It is disliked on a mythological level. It’s a metonym for everything that people hate about their own good cities. Pollution, disconnection, shallowness, disparity, violence, mediation, erasure… Los Angeles.

Romanticized places have to exist on some level as romantic fossils, and every flattering tourist asks the residents to measure their lives against a touristic ideal. One of the best things about LA is how it’s hidden behind a cloak of misunderstanding. It’s harder to suck the life out of something you can’t even see, much less understand.

Pity the romanticized places that have to measure themselves against the ideals of tourists. And pity the tourist who ends up lost in the narrow, winding streets of Los Angeles.

Baron Samedi

obama-jokerSomebody seriously fucked this one up.

They made an image purportedly making President Obama look like the Joker. Ooooh!

And then, deciding that “psychopath” just wasn’t going quite far enough, the artist added the word “socialism.” (In Arial – nice touch).

Just going with the internal logic here, how exactly does the Joker represent things like Medicare or the Post Office? Just going with the premise for a second, how the hell does an irrational love of toll roads relate to a disavowal of comic book mass murder?

Whatever. Who the fuck even knows what they’re talking about anymore.

So the poster spreads. Debate ensues! “omg is racist??”

Seriously? Is the abject republican racism even slightly in question?


Scary cartoon villain – check. Racialized fear mongering picked up by corporate media – indeed. Health care associated with psychopaths and witch doctors. Alrighty then.

But here’s where they fucked up. They didn’t make Obama look like the Joker – not to put too fine a point on it, but Heath Ledger is a dead white guy. They made Obama look like Baron Samedi.


Yes indeed, another nice racial stereotype there. But Baron Samedi is not only master of the dead, he is also the giver of life who can cure any any disease. He can keep anyone alive simply by refusing to dig their graves.

Maybe its a clever ploy to associate Obama with voodoo curses and black magic — it would be interesting if Republican propagandists actually were that clever. More likely they’ve just stumbled into an interesting semiotic mess, accidentally drawing a Veve.

After just a few months, the effort of keeping their racist stereotypes straight is already tripping over itself. And seven more years is a long time to be on the wrong side of the Baron…

The Rightness of My Reading

I sincerely hope you and your crew don't shank me in the showers.

In the end, it doesn’t matter whether I’m being a careerist. If you think the distinctions between my position and yours matter, then it only matters whether or not I’m correct.
Jasper Bernes


In the spirit of spontaneous group discussion, Jasper the Marxist Revolutionary deleted the following comment from his blog:

I’m genuinely curious about how you imagine “the revolutionary seizure of the means of production” would occur without violence. You do advocate “force” (how quaintly passive). You’re railing against the status quo. You’re calling for Action. You even use the traditional Revolutionary’s justification for revolutionary violence (“they’re worse than we are!”)

Well then! Shouldn’t you clearly discuss the violence you’re calling for in unambiguous practical terms? Because I would hope that your ad hominem attack of Stan’s wan cosmetic gradualism is based on your own clear concrete description of a practical alternative. Surely you wouldn’t be advocating Forceful Revolutionary Seizure of the Means of Production as a mere fashion statement? Surely not…

Unless your description of quiet pranks is in fact your full vision of the Force you call for?

Ways this is painfully amazing:

First of all, finding real live academic poets who actually quote the Grundrisse, and then do a little victory dance because they nailed it! “Ba-Bam! I just Quoted tha fuckin Grundrisse at you, bitch! Try not to cry too hard!” Wow…

Also finding a genuine Revolutionary/English grad student who makes a mashup Manifesto combining Society of the Spectacle with some 20 year old Hakim Bey essays, and then declares it a new moment in anti-capitalist resistance. “Hey gang, check it out! Poetic Terrorism!” It’s like watching the kids re-discover Jack Kerouac. So cute! I can’t wait for the Marxist version of Burning Man.

And having a brave culture warrior call for widespread social disruption. Indeed, call for the de-sterilizaton and re-politicization of Language Itself! But then he deletes a mildly taunting question from his blog.

Oh, academic poetry. Is there nothing you can’t make small and petty?

Will you include everything?

Jason Scott looks at a Wikipedia documentary in which the filmmakers are confronted with shifting facts around an over-sized personalty. Although Scot disagrees with the perspective, he contemplates their situation with understanding and empathy:

How could this reconcile with the documentary? What about the shots of him and his wife and her opinion of the project? How about his portrayal as the guy behind this? Will you include everything that just happened, or will you just cut it out, leading to endless squirming moments when this is shown at Wikipedia festivals and gatherings?

I don’t envy their job. Not at all.

Scott carefully considers the difficult position of these filmmakers when dealing with active conflicts in which at least one side is going feel wronged no matter what they do. What to leave in? What to leave out? How to fairly portray people when the basic facts are in dispute? In the case of Wikipedia and Jimmy Wales, Scott sees this as an unenviable balancing act without a black-and-white answer. (Just coincidentally, Jason Scott has decided he will never make a Wikipedia documentary.)



Jason Scott slammed the film King of Kong for being “loaded with falsehoods” (and, incidentally, causing him to lose access for his own arcade documentary).

When shown that some of his assertions were wrong, he took time for further research.

In a short follow-up, he said that King of Kong is generally accurate.

In a long autobiographical follow-up, he talks about objectivity in documentary film and how King of Kong makes people feel.

Well… okay.

But viciously attacking a film for being packed with falsehoods “like the last Japanese subway car before they have to shut down the line” is just a tiny bit different than speculating about how Billy Mitchell might feel.

And when you’re following up on a rant where you blast people as liars and whores without any corroborating evidence, calling for thorough objective research and universal empathy sounds a little insincere.

Jason Scott is a good historian. But this isn’t quite history yet, and he has admitted his own tangential stake in this series of open controversies. Which makes his self-interested declaration that King of Kong is “fraudulent” hard to reconcile with his sermon on the respectful construction of a complex and nuanced Truth.