Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The general's wife as the nation?

As I continue to work through issues surrounding Roméo Dallaire, the 'anti-conquest mean' peacekeeper role, and Canadian nationalism, a professor made an interesting comment about the departing Canadian commander in Afghanistan, Rick Hillier, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Dallaire. (Both are unabashed Liberal party supporters, are credited with having a certain folksy and conversational charm, and are perhaps too outspoken about the government's lack of support for their troops - though, to Hillier's detriment, he lacked the unassailable moral-authority that Dallaire acquired as the commander of the Rwandan mission. Hence, his recent resignation after taking a lot of criticism from the Conservative government.)

That interesting comment pertained to the way in which Hillier first hinted at his resignation, as the CBC notes that "speculation had already begun that Hillier was set to retire. For one, the general had brought his wife, Joyce, to the war zone for the first time, raising speculation that this was a farewell tour." The aforementioned professor likened Joyce Hillier to a maternal national figure, which would provide an interesting contrast to the masculinized national figure in Dallaire that I've been thinking about endlessly for many months. It also caused me to recall that Roméo Dallaire's wife, Elizabeth, likewise accompanied her husband when he returned to Rwanda ten years after the genocide that he witnessed.

Clearly, there's something here about these women functioning as witnesses and representatives of the people 'back home', but I'm wondering whether there's a much older convention at work here with which I'm not familiar. If journalists were picking up on Hillier inviting his wife to Afghanistan as a sign that his resignation was imminent, then there must be something there, right?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Indie music + useless consumer crap = gold

Far be it from me to deny artists the chance to earn a living, but it seems that the number of formerly indie music acts cashing in on wildly ironic (in the woefully inappropriate sense) corporate deals has exploded in the past few years. My top 3 corporate rock commercials of the moment:

#3 The Flaming Lips and Kraft
On the plus side,
the commercial seems to indicate that these salad dressings are, like, healthy and natural. More negatively, they've taken a song about responsibility and the abuse of power by leaders - "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" - and allowed Kraft to apply it to the aforementioned salad dressing. But at least they've effectively castrated the song by deleting every lyric but the 'yeah yeah yeah' portion - it's less the song that they've sold than the beat and melody. More generally, this just the latest in a long string of songs that the Flaming Lips have licensed since they finally broke free of their long career of relative obscurity 6 years ago. This being the case, it's hard to hold such a carefully managed sale like this against them - at least in comparison to the other two artists on this list.

#2 Weezer and Beaches
Weezer almost manages to kinda salvage some dignity by selling the song - and not their recording from 'The Green Album' - of "Island in the Sun" to a tropical resort company in
this commercial. To their detriment, the cover version also reveals how painfully banal the song and its lyrics are. In Rob Mitchum's review of Weezer's dreadful Make Believe album, he asks if "Rivers Cuomo [lyrics were] always on the notebook-scrawl level of 'I don't feel the joy/ I don't feel the pain,' and did we not notice because scrawling in notebooks was the depth of our emotional knowledge at the time?" Mitchum eventually lets the early Weezer stuff off the hook, and while this song is not early Weezer, the pairing is offensive enough that the answer to his question doesn't even matter to me anymore.

#1 Le Tigre and Nivea
A feminist art-rock band that name-drops people like
Yoko Ono, Vaginal Davis, and James Baldwin in their songs, Le Tigre gave the rough-edged but undeniably dancy "Deceptacon" to Nivea (among others - but cell phone companies and jewelers, while strange choices, are not nearly so ironic) in 2006. Despite my best efforts, I can't locate this commercial, but suffice to say that a band that I can't be the only one who finds it unconsciencable that a group of feminists would sell out to the cosmetics industry, or that artists who count so many anti-racism figures among their influences would peddle their music to a company that sells skin-whitening cream. Few corporate pairings can destroy a band's worth for me as wholly as this one has.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Graphic novel v. comic book

Marjane Satrapi, on the term 'graphic novel': "It's a word that publishers created for the bourgeois to read comics without feeling bad."

I do, of course, sometimes wonder if my interest in pop culture - and comics, in particular - is (in part or largely) aimed at allowing me, and by extension those that read or listen to things that I may write or say, to read some admittedly silly comics or watch some unapologetically bad TV without feeling bad. That said, I'm totally with Satrapi on this one - I detest 'graphic novel', especially when it's deployed as a way of delineating good/bad or high/low art comic books. Which is how it's used more often than not, I think.

But maybe some people see a value in the distinction - thoughts?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

"Finding Lost, getting lost"

A paper that I wrote about LOST for a conference a couple years ago was recently published through the online Society for the Study of Lost. Just click that first link if you're interested.

About the paper itself: I'm not totally happy with it. (Though these things tends to happen after enough time passes.) For one, I use a lot of Harold Bloom in it, a literary critic whose terms I like, but whose ends I find somewhat detestable - and so my use of Bloom ends up leading me to a very unBloomian place, and I don't really discuss that. I'm currently reworking and expanding it for publication in print, (hopefully I'll have some more details/good news about this in the next few months) and in the new version I'm adding some Baudrillard (drawing from Seduction, in particular) as a foil to Bloom. There are two reasons for this: 1) Baudrillard's conception of 'seduction' is actually much closer to what I was getting at then is Bloom's notion of 'misprision'; 2) the opposition of Baudrillard's decidedly anti-truth, anti-authority philosophy with Bloom's almost spiritual notions of genius and canon also reproduces, I think, Lost's own numerous binary conflicts between rationality and spirituality, seduction and truth, etc.