Fight Club – the vinyl reissue by Mondo

About six months before the film “Fight Club” came to Sweden, I bought the album on CD, knowing The Dust Brothers had made the soundtrack. As such, I listened the shit out of the album before seeing the film, and I still come back to this music. Imagine that Brad Pitt and Edward Norton wanted David Fincher to have Radiohead do the soundtrack instead… I’m very happy about all this. Weird samples everywhere, great drums, strange sounds altogether, doing wonders with the film.

So, I recently got hold of the Mondo reissue of the soundtrack on vinyl. It’s worth every cent. The vinyl sound is brilliant for the music, it really is.

I love the fact that one has to destroy something beautiful to open this album.

This IKEA-rebranded MONDÖ piece of art.

Most people who are OCD geeks can probably not stand the picture just above this line. “It’s destroyed!” No, bitches! Like Blixa Bargeld said, destruction is not negative, you have to destroy in order to build (if not from scratch, I reckon).

This is one of my favourite details of the entire package. DO NOT.

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Movies I've watched recently:

  • Murder on the Orient Express (2017) - IMDb 3/10

    2018-02-14 21:23
    * * *

    Sadly, I remember the 1974 film better than this one, and that's saying a lot considering that I saw this version yesterday; where CGI is massively overused and a lot of good actors are underused, this film fails a bit. Here's hoping that everything falls in its right place once "Murder On The Nile" comes out.

    0.3
  • The Post (2017) - IMDb 5/10

    2018-02-11 20:25
    * * * * *

    In this case, reality overwhelms and bests fiction. This is far too overblown in terms of the dramatically. In the end, its good that people know of the events.

    0.3
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri... 3/10

    2018-01-21 21:57
    * * *

    Too Hollywood-esque where morals are concerned. Good idea, but far too contrived to be remembered.

    0.3
  • Best F(r)iends (2017) - IMDb 5/10

    2017-10-11 19:42
    * * * * *

    I saw an unfinished screener of this film, which divulged a work in progress that I nevertheless think will not be far from the finished product. Sestero plays the lead as a vagrant man, whose past leads him to convince a mortician, as played by Wiseau, to give him employment. Even though the plot is unclear and thin, the references to the film "The Room" and Wiseau's wonderfully weird acting brings this film some kind of life, Sestero's uncharismatic portrayal and the loose direction, the poor screenplay and some strange casting choices makes for a somewhat entertaining and funny, but ultimately forgetful film. Sestero told me the follow-up will probably be made in 2018.

    0.3
  • Death Note (2017) - IMDb 2/10

    2017-08-28 08:20
    * *

    This remake of a near-perfect manga series, which has in turn spawned films, is now here and presented by Netflix. It starts out like a teen-angst emo trip, paired with death. Ryuk, a much-beloved character in the manga, is a Death God, who drops a notebook onto Earth. The book allows its owner to write the name of somebody and the person subsequently dies. However, there are loads of rules and caveats surrounding its use. This version is quite like "Hunger Games" was a version of "Battle Royale"; I can recall somebody saying that "Hunger Games" was "Battle Royale with cheese", which is an apt description for this version of "Death Note" as well. While the manga and prior films both contained elements that made the Sherlock Holmes short stories and novels successful through thinking and wondrous twists and turns, this film does not contain anything in the least good, apart from how the film makers opted to not display the character Ryuk much, other than in shadows. Lakeith Stanfield's acting is the only saving grace in this film, albeit short and boxed within its severe constraints (as it should be, I think). All in all: expect a high-school special without intelligence, and you will be alright.

    0.3

Review: “Gaming Masculinity: Trolls, Fake Geeks, and the Gendered Battle for Online Culture” by Megan Condis

 
This book is quite enlightening to me; I do a tiny spot of gaming from time to time and come across antifeministic statements. Often, people are referred to as “gay”, “girly”, or “brah”, with very different values attached.

This book serves as a quite sober and varied view at how gender is seen by persons online, trolls and non-trolls alike, if one can separate an audience into those two quarters.

From the starts, on what “bro’s law” could be:

I propose a new Internet maxim that I will call Bro’s Law, a corollary to the famous Poe’s Law, which describes the inherent difficulty in separating out actual, sincere statements of extremist views from parodies of those same views. The original formulation of Poe’s Law states that “without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is utterly impossible to parody a Creationist in such a way that someone won’t mistake [it] for the genuine article” (Poe 2015). It was coined by Nathan Poe in a discussion about religion, and it highlights the difficulty of coming up with exag bro’s law 13 gerated versions of an already extreme discourse. In his discussion of Poe’s Law, Scott F. Aikin remarks, “The humor and point of these sorts of parody is to present religious bigotry and scientific illiteracy in a fashion that magnifies it and thereby highlights its vice. The question, though, is how magnified those parodies really are. Even the most casual websurfing yields similar, if not more shocking scientific illiteracy and religious bigotry” (2013, 303). In popular usage, Poe’s Law has been evoked to describe extreme political positions of all kinds, not just of religious origin (Aikin 2013, 302). Those who evoke Poe’s Law imply that a philosophical system is sufficiently ridiculous that the sincerely offered statements of belief offered by those within that system will appear to be a parody to those on the outside. At the same time, Poe’s Law suggests that it will be difficult for those within the belief system to tell whether a new entrant into the conversation is legitimately a believer or simply a troll posing as one.

Bro’s Law functions similarly. It states: Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor (and sometimes even with one), it is utterly impossible to parody the views about gender held by many in gaming culture in such a way that someone won’t mistake it for the genuine article. For example, Kaceytron’s larger-than-life performance of a fake geek girl persona is apparently mistaken by many to be the sincere performance of a woman intruding into the heretofore masculine space of online gaming culture. At the same time, it is difficult to tell which of the hateful, misogynist comments that accompany her donations are sincerely hateful and which are a kind of audience participation with her performance by fans who enjoy her schtick.

As such, it’s quite interesting to see how gender issues have moved from real life into the Internet with the advent of the latter; attackers are prone to hide with their own crowd (e.g. 4chan) while using inflammatory language against everything which is what they are not.

Condis does a good job at analysing why that is, and why trolls hide together, afraid of becoming outcasts themselves:

This set of discursive rules makes it difficult for in-group members to articulate, or even conceptualize, dissention. According to trolling logic, membership in the community means that (and is measured by the fact that) one has the same unemotional masculine-coded reaction to provoking and sexist statements as everyone else. There is little space for disagreement over the codes that govern group membership because group membership only becomes visible through conformity to those codes.

As attacking somebody online often spans from one’s own insecurities and fears:

The roots of Internet culture, which are steeped in what T. L. Taylor (2012) calls geek masculinity, suggest that the game of trolling developed as a way for those male subjects who found themselves locked out of the privileges associated with successful performances of traditional masculinity in the physical world (because of their failure to achieve certain masculine markers such as bodily strength and athleticism) to (re)claim a new kind of manhood.

The book contains a lot of factual pointers on how companies, even ones such as Microsoft, have normalised a vulgar and unacceptable view of sexual violence:

Microsoft later apologized for the “off the cuff and inappropriate comment” (Greenfield 2013) that was meant to be “friendly gameplay banter” and not “bullying and harassment of any kind” (Ngak 2013). However, the fact that a phrase so commonly associated with rape might be thought of by industry professionals as “friendly banter,” that a presenter at “gaming’s biggest trade show in North America” (Takahashi 2016) would see no problem with directing such a phrase toward a female opponent, and that many in the audience would consider this the laugh line of the presentation point to the normalization of rape discourse in gaming culture.

Instances where certain women have been attacked due to simply highlighting sexism within the gaming world, e.g. Anita Sarkeesian and Kathy Sierra, are brought up and analysed, displaying how the attacks happened. It’s exactly like reading a step-by-step play of well-known terrorist operations, although this happens far more often, and affects non-white males, simply because the victims are non-white males.

Some paragraphs are very well written:

It is tempting to imagine the geeky world of online gaming as an equalopportunity environment, one where women and men exist on an equal playing field. We want to believe that on the Internet, where physical bodies are unimportant in comparison to textual and technical performances, anyone can rise to the top of the social hierarchy, regardless of gender. However, participants are only able to do so when they use the anonymity provided by the Internet to construct a persona in keeping with the new (male) geek chic. Girls can play alongside the boys, but only insofar as they can make themselves seem to be like one of the boys. Queer people are welcome only so long as they work to avoid being seen as fags (see Chapter 4). Ironically, it requires a great deal of labor from both male and female participants in gaming culture to maintain a posture of effortless self-possession. Trolling is a game of aloofness and uncaring that actually requires a great deal of commitment to play.

All in all, there are hopeful parts in this book that state how changes are actually happening in the world of gaming. It would have been great to see the inclusion of analysis post #metoo. I’d love to have seen a bit more editing to make the book not feel as fragmented as it is, but as a whole, this book is very needed, and a necessity for people to understand the gaming world of today.

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My saved links (weekly)

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Review: “Peach” by Emma Glass

Reading this book reminds me of the first time I tried using Braille, and I have no visual impairment: to me, reading the bumps with my fingers made me feel as though there was (naturally) something behind it, a veil that subsumed a world of depth.

This is Emma Glass’s first book, and it doesn’t feel like it. The language reminds me somehow of reading José Saramago, where it kind of unfurls, yet I don’t have to construe it; it’s stream-of-consciousness while not being too obvious, even though this is a moralistic tale.

Language is all, and for a first-time writer, I think it’s very safe to say that writing a book like this is throwing yourself into the unknown even more than otherwise. Here’s a paragraph for ya:

Against the black of my eyelids I see nothing but shadows swimming towards me, swimming away. The slit splits further across my belly. I feel the flesh fall. I fall with it. My legs are eroding. Suddenly I am flushed with fear. I can’t cry, my face is melting. My lips open, my eyes won’t open. The blessing will be that I can’t see the bottom. What have I learned who have I hurt is this it. Nothing but flesh. Was this all for nothing other than the craving of fresh flesh. Senseless flesh. I am nothing but solid stone, alone, sinking, how can I still think when my face is all gone. What will they find at the bottom, will they know I was here because I carved you into my heart and I think this heavy rock, this stone, this seed will still have the shape of you inside, look closely at the cracks, slide into the crevices, you will see. I can’t I can’t I won’t grow in this stagnant pond, this soiled water, this stinking pit, this is it, I can’t I won’t grow, I can’t hold I can’t hold I feel I am close I feel the scratch and scrape the stone on the ceramic tiles the stone the stone the stone on stone, I can’t grow I won’t hold I can’t hold. I can’t grow. I can’t hold any soul. In this pit I will sit. In this pit I will sit. In this. In this. Pit.

Throughout the book, I got the feeling that threat looms in the background, but really it’s in the foreground, due to the nature of Glass’s language, much like seeing waves crashing without sound in the middle of the night: you know it’s there, but it’s not entirely evident. I shan’t spoil any surprises, but there’s more to the book than what I’ve written of here.

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Review: “Michael Bay” by Lutz Koepnick

The legendary film reviewer Roger Ebert called Michael Bay’s “Armageddon” “an assault on the eyes, the ears, the brain, common sense and the human desire to be entertained. No matter what they’re charging to get in, it’s worth more to get out. […] Armageddon reportedly used the services of nine writers. Why did it need any? The dialogue is either shouted one-liners or romantic drivel. ‘It’s gonna blow!’ is used so many times, I wonder if every single writer used it once, and then sat back from his word processor with a contented smile on his face, another day’s work done.”

BAY: “I don’t change my style for anybody. Pussies do that.”

Even though Koepnick’s strength lies in his ability to delve deep, mainly and also grandly, funnily weirdly into matters of capitalism and existentialism, the start of the book feels a bit like a Michael Bay hagiography. Still, there is a fair bit of dipping into the bad parts of both Bay’s making of films and on how he treats actors, staff, et cetera:

Last but not least, after playing self-assured Mikaela Banes in the first two films of the Transformers franchise, Megan Fox was pulled from later sequels because she challenged Bay’s directorial persona in public interviews in 2009 and compared his machismo to that of historical despots whom neither Bay nor producer Steven Spielberg were willing to accept as points of comparison. In 2009 Fox said the following about Bay in Wonderland Magazine: “He’s like Napoleon and he wants to create this insane, infamous mad-man reputation. He wants to be like Hitler on his sets, and he is. So he’s a nightmare to work for but when you get him away from set, and he’s not in director mode, I kind of really enjoy his personality because he’s so awkward, so hopelessly awkward. He has no social skills at all. And it’s endearing to watch him. He’s vulnerable and fragile in real life and then on set he’s a tyrant.” Though Hollywood gossip has it that actress and director smoothed out their relation later again, Fox’s muscular words got her instantly removed from the project. In Bay’s world as much as in Hollywood in general, defiant combativeness in word and deed remains a male prerogative, a subject that will be addressed later in this book.

I really missed the “male prerogative” in this book, actually; even though Koepnick writes of it, it is not really discussed, although this paragraph is of interest:

And let’s not fake surprise about this: not one of Michael Bay’s films centers on a female lead or allows a woman to assume the same kind of heroic qualities and agential dynamics reserved for their male counterparts. Slight exceptions confirm the norm […] Bay’s early and later video commercials for Victoria’s Secret are all about female bodies, yet no further commentary is needed to imagine how these bodies are captured by the camera’s gaze. Bad Boys I and Bad Boys II sport more assertive female characters, Téa Leoni in the first installment, Gabrielle Union in the second. But in spite of their physical contribution to action and narrative, in the end they largely require the assertive interventions Figure 5: Unlikely heroes. From top: Pearl Harbor (2001); Bad Boys II (2003); Transformers (2007) of men to channel their energy most effectively or be redeemed from overwhelming evil.

Also:

FULLER: The first time I saw Michael on a bigger set, he was doing a video, and there was the hottest blonde girl I’ve ever seen in my life, and she’s got a wind machine on her. She’s dancing, she looks hot, she’s wearing a short skirt. He’s shooting her from a low angle. And he looked at a few of us, and there was this look in his eyes, like he had reached nirvana. It was childlike wonderment.

Plus:

Most of his films cater to some racist sentiments, fly in the face of everyone who wants cinema to abandon its history of sexist images of women, openly serve the agendas of the irrational and immature in his spectators, and engage military personnel and material to appeal to conservative attitudes.

Still, bar that and how Koepnick at times seems to like the sound of his voice a bit too much for my liking, I must say some parts of this book were a great read. Koepnick delves high and low with both detailed, David Foster Wallace-ish paragraphs, alongside ham-fisted and funny ones. Ham:

Nearly all of Bay’s films involve natural, man-made, or machine-triggered threats to large portions or the entirety of the human habitat.

and:

It is impossible to imagine Bay’s heroes reading a book over a prolonged period of time; in fact they might not be endowed with the gift of reading at all (as some critics may suspect). If Charles Baudelaire, according to Walter Benjamin’s famous analysis, wrote poetry for readers who no longer had the patience to read poetry, Bay makes films for viewers with low tolerance for both reading and viewing typical narrative cinema.

plus:

Similar to those who embraced Trump in the 2016 election as an authentic voice reclaiming America from foreign powers, Bay’s lonely crowds invoke and cling to patriotism as an unmediated structure of belonging because they have come to mistrust any other form of mediation, representation, and negotiated commonality.

Detailed:

Hungarian philosopher and critic Georg Lukács wrote in 1913 that cinema invites us to forget the demands of high art and instead cultivate the naïve and irresponsible aspects of our modern existence: “The child in every individual is set free and becomes lord of the psyche of the spectator.” Difficult as it may be to imagine Michael Bay reading the work of the grand Hungarian Marxist, Bay certainly has no qualms about presenting his films as vehicles appealing to the inner child in both their makers and their viewers. His pyrotechnic spectacles; his images of robotic toys gaining real-life existence; his narratives of global danger, rescue, and redemption; and, most of all, his presentation of both men and cinematic images in continuous action—all quite frankly aspire to free cinema from taxing expectations and enable the spectator to tap into the unfettered playfulness of childhood. It is certainly tempting to read Bay’s appeal to the child in every individual as symptomatic of what action cinema in the age of digital oversaturation for many is all about: a mechanism that is simultaneously catering to, producing, and capitalizing onindividual attention deficit disorders—our inability to sustain concentration over extended periods of time without the incentives of spectacle, thrill, seduction, and perceptual violence.

Pain & Gain shows little patience for exploring the nonhuman in the human, let alone tuning into the vibrancy and vitality of matter not controlled by neoliberal visions of self-perfection, of fitness, of instrumentalizing matter for the sake of individual benefit and competitive expansion.

Speaking of detail, this paragraph is wondrous, where Koepnick analyses neoliberalism into Bay:

Although definitions of neoliberalism vary, most focus on its stress on deregulation, structures of entrepreneurial self-management, and flexible models of work. Under neoliberalism, markets rather than government policies, rugged individualism rather than grown structures of care and solidarity provide the metrics to assess the parameters of a good life. Market rationality, in fact, serves as a model to configure all kinds of social domains and human activities, including those in which money initially seems to play no role whatsoever. Political theorist Wendy Brown therefore suggests viewing the spread of neoliberalism in the new millennium not simply as registering fundamental changes in postindustrial labor practices but as a dynamic by which economic rationality dominates all aspects of life at all times, transforms older models of governance and human identity into forms of management themselves, and replaces the homo politicus of ancient philosophy with the figure of the homo oeconomicus as the template of social existence: “In neoliberal reason and in domains governed by it, we are only and everywhere homo oeconomicus, which itself has a historically specific form. Far from Adam Smith’s creature propelled by the natural urge to ‘truck, barter, and exchange,’ today’s homo oeconomicus is an intensely constructed and governed bit of human capital tasked with improving and leveraging its competitive positioning and with enhancing its (monetary and nonmonetary) portfolio value across all of its endeavors and venues.”

All in all, this is a breath of fresh air as far as reading film theory goes for me; I must confess to being a near-total neophyte where this area is concerned, but I got through this book as an easy, eye-opening, and fun read.

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