Every postie worth his or her or its weight in Foucault volumes will tell you that mental illness did not always exist: it’s just a convenient label that our rational and modern age, accustomed to scientists measuring and classifying things, employs to describe deviant behaviors. Every psychiatrist will likewise tell you that mental illness has always existed, and it’s only in the modern era that we’ve developed the means to identify and treat it as something other than a malevolent spirit or divine curse. It’s difficult to deny that a lot of people who would otherwise put themselves in harm’s way, directly or indirectly, have been helped by modern psychiatry. It’s also hard to deny that the body of knowledge that mental health experts use to describe and treat mental illness often seems flawed, sometimes disastrously so. One has a normal state, they reason, and perhaps it grows and is transformed by experiences, but it’s that fixed state that psychiatry seeks to preserve, to restore, and to guard. This notion of personal identity is one of society’s few remaining unassailable citadels, standing squat and sturdy while religion, faith in institutions, and good storytelling are eroded by the churning forces of progress and market capitalism. It’s at the core of the way both psychiatrists and many of their critics view the world. It may also be very wrong.
For a film about one of the most ideologically charged conflicts of the 20th century, The Spanish Earth is curiously devoid of overt ideological messages. A war neutered of ideological content will be especially disorienting for American audiences. Every one of our conflicts has been a crusade for justice and liberty; every one of our opponents a bestial personification of all that is evil. From our shared lifetime of Disneyfied grade school history, 42 minute basic cable specials, and Greatest Generation circle jerks, we have been primed to think that Osama bin Laden, the Communists, the Nazis, and the Japanese had to be obliterated because they hated our American freedoms, and dammit, we expect our war movies to paint them accordingly.
Part essay, part prose, part love letter.
It is impossible to speak of real human progress without acknowledging the need for radical redesign and enhancement of our biology. No matter how much we improve our external quality of life through social and economic reform, we will never stop the hedonic treadmill. Permanent gradients of bliss and universal empathy were, for most of biological history, maladaptive traits. The fact that human civilization is wrought with so much suffering is not solely a result of the inhumane economic and political systems in place all over the world. In truth, our neural hardware is designed for misery, pain, hate, and selfishness, as these experiences have been critical to survival.
From Yukio Mishima’s novel The Temple of the Golden Pavilion:
How shall I put it? Beauty – yes, beauty is like a decayed tooth. It rubs against one’s tongue, it hangs there, hurting one, insisting on its own existence. Finally it gets so that one cannot stand the pain and one goes to the dentist to have the tooth extracted.
Then, as one looks at the small, dirty, brown, blood-stained tooth lying in one’s hand, one’s thoughts are likely to be as follows: Is this it? Is this all it was? That thing which caused me so much pain, which made me constantly fret about its existence, which was stubbornly rooted within me, is now merely a dead object.
Something about the way this giant flock of birds whips around and then suddenly drops like a giant hammer makes it seem almost malevolent. Jesse gets credit for finding this mesmerizing video, though we both already knew the song (which is awesome).
There are many keen insights in this, but Å½iÅ¾ek lumps so many things under the heading of “green capitalism” that the label becomes meaningless and does so in service of rather nihilistic conclusions. Å½iÅ¾ek never clearly defines what “green capitalism” is but rather lets it stand in for a variety of things he dislikes: environmentalism, consumerism, contemporary business standards and anything else that might somewhere, someplace have been called “green” or “capitalist.” The kicker? There’s no way out, unless we replace the existing order entirely.
A great deal of time was spent pondering how to begin this essay. Given the scope of the concepts at hand, there did not seem to be any way to properly introduce my ideas to the reader. So I decided to begin with the hackneyed postmodern device known as self-reference, thus absolving myself of the burdensome duty of being creative [end humor sequence]. Since most of the readership, which undoubtedly consists entirely of people I coaxed through facebook to follow a link here, is probably uninitiated in one or more of these concepts, it is necessary to explain each of them on the course presenting my own ideas.
The hermetically sealed theocracy-meets-Stalinist dictatorship of North Korea does not allow foreign reporters or filmmakers onto their territory. The state’s quasi-racist ideology shuns them – they might taint Korean purity. So, aside from the Chinese and Russian workers who necessarily do cross-border business, or the odd tourist from harmless countries like Switzerland, there are not many people who can talk about North Korea with the kind of first-hand experience that makes a documentary especially compelling. N. C. Heikin’s Kimjongilia skirts around those foreign middlemen and goes directly to the source: North Korean refugees who have successfully made it to South Korea. Their stories, told through filmed interviews, are harrowing, horrifying, and rarely have a happy ending.
Looks like there might be a tornado in Athens County today. Brings back some ugly memories for me. Just when I thought I was out of the ‘nado chasin’ game, they pull me back in. And by “they,” I mean powerful ‘nado winds. Matter of fact, I used to be a ‘nado chaser. Before catching ‘nadoes, I caught dogs, but where’s the rush? A dog can’t hurl a stop sign through your abdomen.
By popular demand I am reposting my original review/rant on Transformers 2, one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Â This piece was originally published on my other blog, which is dead now, so technically it sort of qualifies as new material. Â Right? Â Sure, anyway, this was originally written July 2, 2009 immediately after seeing Revenge of the Fallen in the theater. Â Enjoy!
This was actually my final project for my Literature class but it’s entertaining enough to warrant general readership. Â It’s probably better if you’ve actually read The Inferno, though. Â I’ll probably write the rest of the cantos sometime in the future.
TODAY’S NEWS: Healthcare “reform” bill passes, Earth continues to orbit sun AND rotate on it’s axis. Â Conservatives panic about “socialist” healthcare despite the government having been entrenched in the industry for centuries and despite a critical misunderstanding of what the word socialism actually means.
Since I was a wee tot with Jurassic Park velcro shoes and a bowl haircut Iâ€™ve played SimCity in one incarnation or another.Â I donâ€™t mean that Iâ€™ve played it consistently for that long, but the concept of SimCity is burned into my motor memory right between potty training and coloring inside the lines (which I later stopped doing because it is a form of programming: going â€œoutside the linesâ€ is considered wrong, you do the math.Â I still do use the toilet though, quite routinely).Â The first SimCity I played was, well the first SimCity game ever made on the Commodore 64, then I upgraded to the Super Nintendo version when it came out.Â I remember very little about the Commodore version but the SNES version was one of my favorite games at the time.Â For those unfamiliar with the SimCity series, the premise is pretty simple: you are the omnipotent, perpetually incumbent, de facto mayor of a city that does not yet exist.Â You must then build a city starting with a power plant and then add â€œzonesâ€, i.e. residential, commercial, and industrial zones.Â There is a meter that informs you of the demand for each type of zone so you get a sense of what to build.Â You can also build various civic and utilitarian structures like police and fire stations, airports, and of course roads and rails for transportation.Â And on you go like this, expanding, bringing in more and more citizens while managing a budget, balancing spending and tax revenue.