Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Jong who stole Christmas: THE RING around the ROSEWATER (or I'm dreaming / of a BLACK MIRROR)

"What you have to do is enter the fiction of America, enter America as fiction. It is, indeed, on this fictive basis that it dominates the world." ---Jean Baudrillard
“Nothing says solid like a cloud,” - Jon Hamm 
If Baudrillard was alive today he'd be rolling around in his grave, trying to claw his way out of the earthen simulacrum, because a Palm d'coco de oro treatise on today's events would write itself. The sheer 'told you so' power (he declared the image had replaced the real as the dominant paradigm in modern society) would revive him to live another thousand digital ages. His quote above was made a long long time before today, the day our theater chains surrendered to a virtual terrorist and the dominos tumbled and a pair of stoner comedians created the most bizarre post-modern international incident since WikiLeaks. It's more post-modern than a Julian Assange biopic leaked on the internet and satirized by SNL.

The post-modern satirized be future shall happens!
Actually, there is no precedent for something like this at all... at least not in 'real' life, but as this incident makes clear, real life has been eclipsed by the virtual. The only TV show that seems real enough in its surreal dystopian nightmare reflection of our internet age's inevitable future is the BBC TV series BLACK MIRROR. I've been sticking their logo over every picture I can find (above and below) in an attempt to situate the surreal events of today (and yesterday) in a context by which their high strangeness might be appreciated in its full Baudrillardian splendor. In 'real life,' Sony has been extra-dimensionally skewered --a 3D sword sticking through a 2D movie screen simulacrum--the alleged giant kowtowing to the ornery David while it struggles to shake off the disorientation from being slingshotted. It's just a dumb comedy, after all. But Americans all implicitly understand that comedy is serious business especially since dictators--like militant feminists and fundamentalist extremists--tend to not understand the complexity of satire or critique or even how fiction works. If you make an action film with a bad guy saying he wants to kill the president, they might arrest the actor who said it. Witness the directorial debut of Jon Stewart, ROSEWATER, about a British-Iranian journalist detained and tortured after being interviewed by a Stewart show correspondent Jason Jones pretending to be a stereotypical cold war CIA spook.

Meanwhile there's a show that came out this past Tuesday on BBC Channel 4, a 78 minute BLACK MIRROR Christmas special and it makes the nightmare post-modern digital-internet worlds conjured by the first two seasons seem like Candyland. It even puts Jon Hamm through the ringer. Have those Brits no mercy? Is this what happens when you let atheism get in the way of peace of mind? What is Christmas even mean when such things can happen in "the world."?

This was a time for America to put its ass where it's mouth is, and stand up to a Napoleonic complex bully who talks really big but has limp missiles. But when that same kid uses the very TV-media-internet complex you see him on against you, grabs you right through it and shuts off your lights like Samara in THE RING, then you better do what people had to do to avoid being dragged down the well by Samara in that film --show someone else that weird avant garde film she made with her mind, or in this case the reverse, not show anyone the film you made about how her art is pretentious.

I'll shut up. In case she's right now snaking through the intricate back alleys of the web and on her way towards me. Just to avoid it, here's the video!

What BLACK MIRROR "White Christmas" trades on is more of an eternal Buddhist hell, making the idea of eternal torment through sheer maddening boredom and stasis (as being trapped in a virtual simulacrum world for centuries and centuries with nothing to do and no need to sleep or eat) feel horrifyingly tangible in ways Christian imagery of flames and pitchforks (or enemas and electroshock) just can't quite match. We don't know what burning in torment forever is like, but we've all been bored --and that really does feel like eternity. The recently released CIA torture report is, by contrast, a lark. And Samara's killing habit seems merciful. After all, there's no one watching once Samara's victims are taken. They don't have any demon with a sackcloth waiting just off camera to grab their freed souls before they can swim up to the white light, and keep them trapped in the well with them for ten thousand centuries. Samara Morgan isn't 'real' and Naomi Watts, our post-modern mother of mirrors isn't really scared of her. But neither is Seth Rogen's stoner scared of Kim Jong's Phantom Menace.

More terrifying than a thousand Jasons
But that doesn't allay our terror, the fear of having our one place of amniotic safety--the screen, the 'black mirror' (i.e. you can see your reflection when it's off)--used against us. Beyond just VERTIGO-style deja vu flashes of being Jimmy Stewart still hanging from the infinite height of the infinite gutter, I learned today all about the true nightmare that's just a couple decades of technology away. It's already too late to even think about going off-grid to escape it. You'd only wake the demons with the sack cloths: "We got another runner." Best to just wait and be a good boy and be nice to animals and children, and full of prayer and wise oaths, then when the modern instance of your death comes, go quietly and race with all your might towards that white light.. Because at any moment, someone could just hit pause.

So I'm going to bed and actually pray. Because in the words of the great Curtis Mayfield, "if there's a hell below / we're all / going to go."

On vinyl, invincible

Man, though, could he play guitar. "Move on Up" alone is proof we've got a friend upstairs. French intellectuals like Baudrillard can note America's fictive dominance, but if there's one thing we know, it's how to stay true to the funk even as the flames of perdition consume us, be they Christian, Buddhist, or Hollywood's. After all, we have done our share of consuming, it's only fair we be consumed too, in the end. That's karma -- cuz everything you do / you do it to you. So c'mon Buddha, c'mon Jesus, c'mon Elijah, c'mon Krishna, c'mon St. Michael, St. Anthony, and St. Francis, St. Vincent. Save us from the horrifying fate of being blocked, cloned, or duplicated, or digitized. Yea as we walk through the Uncanny Valley towards our full pixelation, we call on you, SWEET EXORCIST... on vinyl!

1 comment:

  1. What a weird day in the world. Almost feels like something satirically scripted by Kubrick or Gilliam ...or Alex Cox. Why don't the fucking Martians just land already? Top things off.


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