“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, August 30, 2002

Dope.
Screw the exordium.

Alberto Manguel's latest book is entitled Reading Pictures. That title didn't seem right to us -- the verb, surely, should be seeing. Looking at. But Reading does hint at a more theory packed gaze than is usual among the realists, so we overlooked -- or didn't read -- the title. Perhaps the title should have been Overwriting Pictures, a more confrontational, but also more truthful, guide to the author's intention.

But, but... just as we were getting into the book, we were stopped cold by two sentences set pretty close to one another in the introduction:



1. "With the development of perspective during the Renaissance, pictures froze into a simple instant: that of the moment of the viewing as perceived from the standpoint of the viewer."



2."Pictures, however, present themselves to our consciousness instantaneously, held by their frame..."



LI tried to go on, but these sentences so clouded our pleasure that we couldn't trust Manguel from then on. Whatever he had to say about Tina Modotti or Peter Eisenman was going to be colored, for us, by that initial instance of -- well, we hate to use the term, but there isn't another one available: logocentrism.



The first we would call historically ignorant, and the second, upon which the first depends, phenomenologically ignorant. It is an ignorance of a particular genre, however. The kind of ignorance that becomes a clue in a police novel. The telling distortion that hints at a larger, suppressed event.



The thing to do, here, is to track back from the phenomenological error -- the conception of the picture-as-instant -- to the dependent historical error. Will LI ever have time to do the latter? Probably not. But let's address ourselves, with the gusto of some paterfamilias carving the Christmas goose, to no. 2.



Manguel, to illustrate the instantaneousness of the picture, doesn't invoke the real sensory impact of pictures. He has already set the stage (and told us all we need to know of his particular approach) by claiming that "storytelling exists in time, pictures in space." He illustrates this claim, bizarrely, by using a picture -- but really, this isn't bizarre if, like LI, you are hip to the Derridian history of logocentrism, in which the compulsion to illustrate the logocentric claim by way of an example that takes exception to the thesis is a recurring pattern. Derrida calls this the logic of the supplement, and LI could call it the return of the repressed as your ideal straight man, but you get the idea. The idea of storytelling existing in time is, of course, consistent with the idea of language as primarily arising out of voice -- a long, long story of Platonism in action, the shucking off of the material for the spiritual essence, the refusal to countenance the double aspect of the Word unless the two faces were properly hierarchized, and pointed to, eventually, a founding, timeless sense. Etc. Similarly, the silence of pictures becomes prima facie evidence that they exist, primarily, in space. That silence is considered a wholly negative, and wholly accidental, attribute of the picture. But in order to effect the separation of space and times as modes, it is necessary to fictionalize the primary scene of viewing. There is, firstly, the matter of the picture that "presents itself" -- and we can already hear the whisper, the merest whisper, of the pathetic fallacy here, and farther back, in the cold hallways, yes,  that notion of the picture as some sub-anima like thing, zombie to human, opposed to the word, the dead letter, the tool, the techne -- well, there is that. Then there is what exactly it means, the picture-as-instant.



Now, if we unpack our idea (our mental picture) of the picture-as-instant, we get something like this: the gaze, which takes up some quantifiable time, is composed of atomic bits, little glances, indecomposable insofar as decomposition requires some extended period. This is not, by the way, a very good exposition of the phenomenology of seeing -- or its physiological correlates. But Manguel doesn't want to argue for it anyway. His argument takes another turn. The instantaneousness is not about timeless time atoms. No, it is about total impressions. It is about gestalt. Mangual illustrates (the pictures on pictures we string along in this analysis!) his point with, of course, Van Gogh (and excuse us, excuse us, have to say this, have to stick my head into the frame here, much like the film-maker in The Man who Envied Woman, remember that great scene when she appears at the bottom of the screen, on the top is her man, looking at a Playboy, and there she is, harried by her own imagination, this film, and she orders all the viewers who haven't menstruated from the room, or is it all viewers who haven't gone through menopause? well, here LI has to stick his head in, top of the screen is the Mangling of Manguel, bottom is me, and I'm going to allude, here, as my reader, with her ears pricked up, can surely already guess, I'm going to allude to Derrida's essay, Restitutions de la verite en pointure, and the mysterious presence of Van Gogh in these discussions, and not just Van Gogh but 'just-Van-Gogh,' the unspecified Van Gogh, which Derrida has gone through, exhaustively -- for which James Elkin criticizes him in this very pretty essay -- by pointing to the slip slip slip of the concrete referant, the substitution, in the moment of proof, of some variable for the real thing, the titled thing, the picture itself -- a sort of stage fright of reference -- and not in itself but as it presents itself, or is represented, the slip slip slip that in Manguel's case, as though following some fatal, secret law, is represented by Manguel's allusion, here, to an earlier reference to a Van Gogh picture of a beach that could be many Van Gogh pictures of beaches -- which, of course, is the danger of the picture having only space, since space has a tendency to yawn, to become general, to become a marker of itself in time, its truth encapsulated in a glance - that yawn of space being the absolute zero degree of boredom which is the real foundation of logocentrism, the sleep it induces), making the claim of instantaneousness like this: "Van Gogh's fishing boats, for instance, were for me, on that first afternoon, immediately real and definitive. Over time, we may see more or less in a picture, delve deeper and discover further details, associate and combine images, lend it words to tell what we see, but in itself the image exists in the space it occupies, independently of the time we allot to gaze upon it�"

We will take up the amphibolies in these brief claims at some latter date. Really, this post is an excuse to link to the letters of Van Gogh, which have been put up, very generously, with a search tool to shift through them. However, there is a passage we really must quote, here. Van Gogh is discussing with his brother the perennially hot topic, among painters, of drinking. Leading to this wonderful burst of eloquence:

"And very often indeed I think of that excellent painter Monticelli - who they said was such a drinker, and off his head - when I come back myself from the mental labour of balancing the six essential colours, red - blue - yellow - orange - lilac - green. Sheer work and calculation, with one's mind strained to the utmost, like an actor on the stage in a difficult part, with a hundred things to think of at once in a single half hour.

After that, the only thing to bring ease and distraction, in my case and other people's too, is to stun oneself with a lot of drinking or heavy smoking. Not very virtuous, no doubt, but it's to return to the subject of Monticelli. I'd like to see a drunkard in front of a canvas or on the boards. It is too gross a lie, all the Roquette woman's malicious, Jesuitical slanders about Monticelli.

Monticelli, the logical colourist, able to pursue the most complicated calculations, subdivided according to the scales of tones that he was balancing, certainly over-strained his brain at this work, just as Delacroix did, and Richard Wagner.

And if perhaps he did drink, it was because he - and Jongkind too - having a stronger constitution than Delacroix, and more physical ailments (Delacroix was better off), well, if they hadn't drunk - I for one am inclined to believe - their nerves would have rebelled, and played them other tricks: Jules and Edmond de Goncourt said the very same thing, word for word - �We used to smoke very strong tobacco to stupefy ourselves� in the furnace of creation.

Don't think that I would maintain a feverish condition artificially, but understand that I am in the midst of a complicated calculation long beforehand. So now, when anyone says that such and such is done too quickly, you can reply that they have looked at it too quickly."



Thursday, August 29, 2002

Remora

LI was going to write a post about Ann Coulter, but we didn't have the heart. Actually, this post was going to use Coulter's remark, in the New York Observer that "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building." I thought I'd use this remark to map the interlocking major political weblogs and how they operate to exclude or include agents in the blog discourse -- which has a form consonant with other closed clubs, cliques, and in-groups. And blah blah blah. But... but I didn't have the heart for any comments on Ann Coulter, beyond the fact that the more interesting part of the Coulter story was the writer's part in it -- George Gurley. One got a whiff of something I haven't thought about in years: that old 'Nancy Reagan's queens'" culture. Frankly, I thought that was good and dead. The explanation is probably that Gurley, on his own account, is from one of those tight assed hetero villes -- Kansas City -- where camp is still alive. In larger cities, that aesthetic of resistance and self mockery is pretty dead. The parasitic attachment to some uber-heterowoman's desires, which fills the piece, is quite, uh, familiar. LI was raised in the South, and saw a lot of that weird nexus between a certain rich strata of rich, cultured but limited women and gay guys, who are in a much more precarious position in midsized towns in the South and Midwest than they are in, say, California. Anyway, I'd see that attachment to the only sophistication available -- which was in the salons of these women. The agreement was that these guys would close their eyes to peripheral, anti-gay context these women operated in, while the women ornamented their circles with something definitely different from the country club wit of their hubbies. Ah, the compromises that were struck! I remember a friend of mine, who had confessed the love that dare not speak its name to his best friend, an older, wealthy woman, being told, at one point, that she didn't want him hanging around with her son. Just out of the blue, and as a matter of course. But I felt at the time that there was something that satisfied my friend in that gesture, however hurt he was.

In any case, Gurley's political motives are quite funny. They go back to being insulted in his senior year -- it isn't clear whether this is in high school or college.

"I first started thinking I might be conservative after witnessing the communist radical Angela Davis give a speech at University of Kansas in the late 80�s. Hundreds of students cheered after she blamed the Bush administration for the crack epidemic.

This reminded me of that hippie girl my senior year who berated me at a party for saying I admired Margaret Thatcher. "She�s a capitalist pig!" she screamed at me. I stammered. Then one of my best friends defended her, saying, "George, sorry, you got no leg to stand on, man." I had left the party ashamed, powerless.

That was in 1991. So I called up this same friend of mine, Hampton Stevens, now a freelance writer now living in Kansas City. He responded to Ann immediately. "I love it when she�s unafraid to say that people are stupid and ignorant. She�s written some stuff about liberal folly and it�s so fantastic."

And so, dear readers, leaving that party ashamed and powerless, Gurley vowed that someday, he'd show that hippie girl (not chick, oddly enough)! Which he does, by getting Coulter to tell us who she thinks is sexy, and the candy just rolls out:

How did she feel about the Vice President?"Cheney is my ideal man. Because he�s solid. He�s funny. He�s very handsome. He was a football player. People don�t think about him as the glamour type because he�s a serious person, he wears glasses, he�s lost his hair. But he�s a very handsome man. And you cannot imagine him losing his temper, which I find extremely sexy. Men who get upset and lose their tempers and claim to be sensitive males: talk about girly boys. No, there�s a reason hurricanes are named after women and homosexual men, it�s one of our little methods of social control. We�re supposed to fly off the handle."They are supposed to be rock-solid men. Dick Cheney exudes that. Can you imagine him yelling at Lynne Cheney? No. Every female I know finds that so incredibly attractive.

"What about Rumsfeld?"Mmmmm-hmmmm. And I might add, inasmuch as we have just left the Clinton era, everyone recognizes this: There is absolutely no possible way any one of those men have ever cheated on their wives. No possible way. Even Colin Powell, who I don�t particularly like politically�no possible way. These are honorable men and I think America recognizes that."

Mmmmm-hmmmm. Sometimes, like, when you leave a party ashamed and powerless? Don't remember it forever, or in a newspaper I sometimes write for. Please.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Remora

On the side of the angels.

Dan Gilmour's column points to an issue LI has been clamoring about, like an alarm in the Sahara desert, since before Moses was a pup, or at least since, a year ago, we started doing this thing: breaking IP monopolies. We've been against the Big Pharma ones, and against the increasing use of patent law in blatantly silly or pernicious ways, to impede technology, and we've been arms akimbo, we've been a regular scourge.

We are also totally without influence, but that's a minor thing.

The Carolinas have elected a set of senators and legislators (like Hollings S.C. and Cobble N.C.) who collectively represent Disney first. We don't know why the Carolinas -- possibly because being bought by the entertainment industry in those two states has minimum down side. These states aren't known for nursing alt entertaiment tech. They are the high end slave labor states -- they suck in industry by using tax breaks and union busting legislation.

Coble, who is less known than Hollings, is just as anxious to pre-emptively strike new tech -- to sterilize it with mechanisms that will forestall "copying." He's the chairman of a House committee on IP, which means he gets to lick the leftovers that Disney throws at him. That's the kind of money that gives you an office for life.

Well, against Representative Coble there has arisen a challenger, at last. The libertarian candidate, Grubb. Here's the graf d'explication:

"Grubb, 26, came to the attention of Net activists largely because several webloggers -- bloggers for short, those increasingly ubiquitous writers of online journals -- have been wondering how to fight back against the cartel [of MicroDisney -- LI] and the politicians who support it.

In the past week, partly at the urging of those bloggers, she's created a weblog (http://radio.weblogs.com/0112137/). On that site she's taking stands and answering questions from the Web community that sees an opportunity to at least put a scare into Coble."

LI says, scaring isn't enough: -- let's kick the bum out. Grubb's slogan should be "Coble to Kabul" -- which is what the tech Taliban wants to reduce us to.

My my, the alliteration, and the spittle, is flying today!.

Monday, August 26, 2002

Remora

LI hasn't commented much about Bush's war fever because we find it so depressing. We find it depressing because the United States has no cause to go to war with Iraq. Or rather, its causes for going to war with Iraq would work just as well for going to war with Pakistan -- or even Israel, which, after all, is the nation with the greatest (illegal) nuclear arsenal in the Middle East, and the one nation that has shown, time and time again, that it will take any pre-emptive action it deems necessary to protect itself -- not necessarily a good thing from the point of view of U.S. interests. After all, no law says our interests are aligned with Israel in the Middle East.

We find the peace side preferable, insofar as the argument is against the U.S. mounting an armed force to overthrow Saddam Hussein's government. On the other hand, we do think that government should be overthrown. It is unnecessary to rehearse the wickedness of the current government in this post -- we've done it a lot in previous posts. We'd prefer, of course, a velvet revolution, but that isn't going to happen. The Iraqi people deserve a representative government, one that guarantees them their rights -- that goes without saying. Unfortunately, the reality is that there might not be an Iraqi people -- rather, there might be a number of peoples gathered together in this colonial era contraption who want to get out.

Still, US policy up to now has been miserable and criminal. It rests on enforcing an economic blockade to encourage revolt, while at the same time refusing to support any democratic elements that would wish to make that revolt. In other words, we want an uprising of prisoners that would conveniently install another jailor, one to the American taste.

There's an essay in the guardian by David Clark that makes the very good point that it is not a moral option to simply let Hussein stay on, unopposed. The Left's point should be war is not the right way of dissolving the Ba'athist state structure, and should not be that that state structure is a good one, or a just one, or a justified one:



"The political and military risks of a ground invasion may be disproportionate to the nature of the current threat, but there is an equally dangerous fallacy that has gained ground in recent weeks. It is the assumption, latent in much of the anti-war commentary of the British left, that the notion of an Iraqi problem is nothing more than a figment of George Bush's imagination. Many of these voices seem to regard Saddam as a sort of Middle Eastern version of Fidel Castro: an authoritarian, but essentially harmless figure, to be admired, in a sneaking sort of way, for his ability to tweak Uncle Sam's nose. This view took its most egregious form in George Galloway's recent eulogy about Saddam's supposedly Churchillian qualities.

"It is a travesty of the real picture. There was a time when the British left was clear about the nature of the Iraqi regime and the moral obligation to take action against it. In the aftermath of the Halabja massacre, when Saddam murdered 5,000 Kurdish civilians with mustard gas, Jeremy Corbyn MP spoke for most of us when he denounced the regime as "fascist" and demanded the imposition of comprehensive sanctions; "no trade, no aid and no deals while the present repression continues against people in Iraq". Nowadays he signs motions denouncing those very same sanctions as an act of genocide against the Iraqi people."

Christopher Hitchens pitches in, too, in Sunday's Guardian, but Hitchens is so attached to his Jeremiah of the left role that he seems, lately, to be a poseur. It isn't the case, and has never been the case, that any serious figure on the left likes Hussein (while, of course, that was the case when old S. was supported by the Reagan/Bush folks). Why would they like him, particularly? The old third world-ism that developed a crush on any third world dictator that came along with a beret was long passe by the time Saddam murdered his way to the top. Hitchens reports on the use of poison gas in the Iraq - Iran war as though he broke the scoop, but in fact he didn't -- Andrew Cockburn has been there long before him. The other problem with the Jeremiah routine is that Hitchens was much more concerned, in the 90s, with Clinton's fellatio, than with whether the sanctions against Iraq were designed to liberate the Iraqis or to encourage them to, see above, exchange jailors. The immorality of the blockade came down to that. The immorality of the end of Bush I's war came down to that too -- the encouragement of an uprising, the standing aside while it was crushed, the hope that some American leaning Ba'athist would come along, whose gas attacks we'd be quite prepared to allow -- that was what was awful. That is what is still awful. The same people who crafted that piece of criminality are busy, today, making war plans to the greater glory of Bush's presidential chances in 2004. Even Jeremiahs should sometimes figure out a trick or two.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Note: This is the second part of "Thirteen Ways of Looking at Celebrity Biography." The previous post contained the first part.

5. Novalis said that God was a problem whose solution was another problem.
The same can be said for the celebrity - not the flash in the pan, but the super celebrity, the one who transcends her epoch, the one whose enigma is always fresh - the one who can be found listed in People Magazine�s 100 most intriguing people of the century (Special Fall 1997 edition).


6. "Buckalo did let Reselli back out of the Copa deal. The terms of the split were that Roselli would honor his obligation to play the Copacabana each year for seven years, but in all other ways he was no longer under Buckalo�s control." - David Evanier, The Jimmy Rosselli Story.

An act of 1572, in England, proscribed "common players in interludes and minstrils." Players had to �belong� to a baron or an honorable personage - hence Shakespeare's membership in the "Queens men." The punishment for being a wandering player ranged from whipping, to having your ears lopped off, to being shipped out of the district.

Entertainers, like Jews and slaves, were outside the bounds of the Holy City - Augustine's City of God, Christian Europe�s millennial long dream. They were, one way or another, under the ban of social death. It wasn�t only the Puritans who objected to the actor. Here�s Bossuet, a French bishop, commenting about Moliere, who - according to legend - died right after acting in La Malade imaginaire: he "passed from the pleasantries of theater, among which he practically drew his last breath, to the judgment seat of him who said: cursed be those who laugh now, for you shall cry."

Another legend said that Moliere was denied burial in consecrated ground.

Consumer culture, which raised the entertainer to an industry, was formed, and is still being formed, by the overthrow of that old feudal master morality. This is one of those "long events" Nietzsche talks about which, over the centuries long arc of its happening, threads itself so closely and finely into the way things are that it is all but invisible.

So the contract is more than just money in the CB - it is a sign. A historically rich sign. Follow the performer, follow the contract.

7. Ariel: Is there more toil? Since thou dost give me pains
Let me remember thee what thou hast promised,
which is not yet performed me.

Prospero: What now? Moody?
What is�t thou canst demand?

Ariel: My liberty.
- William Shakespeare, The Tempest, I,ii

The primal scene in show biz is staged between stage mother or manager or agent or director or studio owner or mob boss - all Prospero surrogates - and the performer, always gaining his freedom with his pranks, his shows, his image. And the dialogue between them (Shakespeare�s such a prophet!) always oscillates between the rational register, in which everything is cashed out in unmistakable numbers, and the emotional register, where it is all a question of love: How now? Moody? The money made by entertainers, from football players to TV stars, evokes an emotional response that indicates some genealogically knotty issue, here. Perhaps this is why the numbers never seem to come out right. They are the least blur-able of symbols, but even as they are added up in the CB ("Jimmy was earning up to $5,000 per performance at major venues like Palumbo�s in Philadelphia..."), they don�t add up.

The grosses are, in the end, fetishes - libidinal detours.

Out of the pairing of Prospero and Ariel, we have endlessly repeated variants. The synth-pop trasmutation of it gives us the Human League�s "Don�t you want me." Invert the power structure and you have Judy Garland in A Star is Born (which, ironically, inverts the real structure of her life). Don�t forget, the political economy of love is still very much in question, with its pre-contractual substructure (absolute slavery) and its post-contractual longings (which would be - what? The brotherhood and sisterhood of man? Or ... depending on the kindness of strangers?)

The celebrity�s social function is to embody the history, here, in fear and trembling, through booze and percadan, car wreck and drug bust. The contract is the nexus of love and value, and thus the source of pain and sorrow. The CB of the future, the perfect CB (Mallarme�s Book, to which all things in the world ultimately tend) will track these paradoxes with an infinite understanding of their connotations.

8. "The brave dreams of an invert seldom can be transmuted into real events," Irving Shulman, Harlow: an intimate biography

Consumer culture is a scandal to the Marxists and a stumbling block to the Tories. The Marxists have long forgotten the punk Karl who wrote, "everything that is solid melts into air." The Marxists have seen fire, and they�ve seen fascism, and they�ve grown so old. The Tories are caught between the glorious theory of free enterprise, where every man�s a king, and the moral monopoly of Christianity, where Old Adam has to be knocked on the head with a billyclub if he gets too happy.

Every contradiction evolves a storyline. The storyline on celebrity is put in classical form in Daniel Boorstin�s book, The Image: A guide to pseudo events in America.

The storyline is of a G�tterdammerung.

Boorstin lays it out. Once there were heros. The hero is a "human figure - real or imaginary or both - who has shown greatness in some achievement. He is a man or woman of great deeds."

And then, suddenly, there came a time when the hero was replaced. His replacement was also a mockery - the celebrity. The celebrity, according to Boorstin, is a person who is known for his well-knowness.

There�s no point in going into how a hero can be both real and imaginary, or how imaginary people perform great deeds. Boorstin�s book, which was published in 1961, is not the first to feature the rivalry between the celebrity and the hero. But certainly since the book appeared, the rivalry he describes, and the mournful moral consequence of a society that allows itself, somehow, to worship the idols of the marketplace, has become a structural constant of cultural criticism.

9. Susan Faludi, interviewing Sylvester Stallone for Esquire, writes about the way one of Stallone�s paintings symbolized "the fleeting quality of modern fame, the way celebrity has corrupted, and caused the death of, the classical hero." The painting depicts Hercules as a Christlike figure, bleeding from a bullet wound, with a clock near him. The clock symbolized time. As in, the fleeting quality of time. The image, silk-screened onto T-shirts, was retailed by Planet Hollywood in its Celebrities Limited Edition.

The bitter sense that somehow, in the past, the heroes were rampant, is scrolled around the pages of Nick Tosches Dino: "Like Dean and Jerry, most people would not even read. Ajax was no longer a Homeric hero; he was the Comedy Hour�s sponsor�s foaming cleanser, no longer a contender with Odysseus for the Arms of Achilles but the consort of Fab, which had itself transplanted Melville�s musings on "The Whiteness of the Whale" with the dictum "Whiter Whites without Bleaching."

10. The storyline insinuates itself in the CB. It produces a whole subclass of CBs in which the point is that the hero rivals some usurper, some Hamlet�s uncle, some fake - some supposedly bigger celebrity. Tosches is the master of this. In his three recent books - on Jerry Lee Lewis, Dean Martin, and Sonny Liston - he opposes authentic second tier celebrities against hollow first tier ones. Lewis is pitted against Elvis from the very introduction of the book, which shows Elvis wrapped in a prophetic slumber while Jerry Lee, armed, hammers at the gate of Graceland, demanding entrance. In the boxy Dino , it is Frank Sinatra who proves to be the hollow giant - a man whose heart follows his dick, a man who falls for the ersatz glamour of the Kennedy boys, while Dean lays back, his virtu protected by his disengagement. It is this image of Dean that moves Tosches to write lines like: �as the god-king of mob culture, he had blown aside the Beatles with the breath of his might." In the Devil and Sonny Liston, his most recent book, it�s Cassius Clay that is marked down as a motormouth and a gull, who never notices Liston is fixed - that Clay�s victories are bought.

If the values can be inverted like this, however - if we look back at the sixties and see the Beatles, if we forget where Sonny Liston is even fucking buried, if we ignore the Killer - there must be someone somewhere who is benefiting.

11. "The files of the Warren Commission show that he was one of the last people Jack Ruby called before the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Whoever, whatever, he really was, Barney Baker�s secrets dies with him, in March, 1974. - Nick Tosches, The Devil and Sonny Liston
.
In 1679, the French explorer Lasalle left a group of 15 men in the heart of the American wilderness, at a fortress on the Mississippi river named, appropriately, Fort Heartbreak (Crevecoeur). When he returned in 1680, he discovered his men had gotten tired of living at the end of Lonely Street. They had killed his second in command, burned the fort, and left a message in charcoal for their old commander on a punctured boat they�d leaned on a tree: "Nous sommes tous sauvages," it said. We are all savages.

This marauders� Declaration of Independence interpenetrates the more stately one Jefferson penned ninety years later to indicate a certain hidden system of paths through the continent�s dreamlife. Greil Marcus, in his book on Bob Dylan, calls this the Old, Weird America.

The Old Weird America is a sub-imperial braid woven out of New Orleans whorehouse slang, desperate coal miner winters, elevated Okies in L.A. bungalows and all the bandit chances of a casually amoral Volk. It�s art is linked, by ties of dread - the Wilderness keeps growing, the commander is probably dead - to its paranoia. Some of that feeling crops out in the CB - naturally. Because that is where the celebrities come from. It isn�t democracy, it is the Old, Weird America we are seeing up there, in lights. However it is genteelly bent to taste. The rivalry isn�t between the hero and the celebrity, but between the marauder and the image.


12. Errol Flynn: The Untold Story; The Secret Life of Tyrone Power; Peter Lawford: The Man who Kept the Secrets.

Leo Lowenthal, a Frankfurt School Marxist, once wrote, about "popular biographies": "Whatever the biographers proclaim about their heroes, they are heroes no longer. They have no fate, they are mere variables of the historic process."

Lowenthal had that old European idea about fate. For him, it was inextricable from the Hegelian program, Fate (God, this is so old!) is the confrontation of a great figure with the never completely unified moral universe, in which two contrary duties can be equally compelling.

Americans and the ancient Greeks have a more stripped down idea of fate. It is about hunting. It is about who is the hunter and who is the hunted.

A foot for flight he needs
Fleeter than storm-swift steeds,
For on his heels doth follow,
Armed with the lightnings of his Sire, Apollo.
Like sleuth-hounds too
The Fates pursue. - Sophocles, Oedipus the King

The hunt disrupts the usual order of things, the agricultural order, the lists, the official hierarchy, the difference between play and work. The American dream life returns to the archaic order. You have to merge with the flow of the hunt, you have to take secondary details, side-events, pseudo-events, seriously.

It is the private dick�s method. The paranoid method. The method by which great CBs are made. The biographer - the unauthorized biographer - wants a secret. So the biographer�s interests are not wholly consonant with his subjects. And yet the value of the secret depends on the value of the fame. Even killer biographers, like Kitty Kelly and Albert Goldmann, depend upon the fame of their victims (Nancy Reagan, Frank Sinatra, John Lennon) to preserve the interest in their stories.
That paranoid method has not yet been put to its maximum use. Mailer was always almost there - he was never able to quite write it down. But celebrity itself has now become a conspiracy, a constant flow, from radio, tv, movie screen, HTML, Java Script and out there, to the always stereotypically passive consumer, the one who "doesn't read." I think someday, though, the scream will come from the CB - the consumer will have absorbed too much, all the good objects and bad objects, will have felt inside himself some basic, cancerous transmutation, and will expell it - some consumer, some fan, some biographer - in the pentacostal tongue, the American glossalalia, that will penetrate to the heart of all conspiracies and explain, in paranoid metaphors and exaggerations, just what America means.

13. �That�s the great thing about living in Los Angeles. Anything that happens in the news - great tragedies, scandals - people just think: "what a great idea for a movie!"
Sissy Spacek, Interview Magazine, May, 1977