Marzo 06, 2004
Theory is bullshit and Leah McLaren is still a liar.

Today in the Globe, two things:
1)This article which relates vaguely to that ill-conceived though brilliantly titled blog entry that precedes this one.
My feelings on cultural and critical theory, should you care to read them, are mixed up and frustrated; a great deal of it is clearly a corrupt, self-serving bullshit industry, fuelled by spineless sterile egg-heads rabid and desperate for tenure and publishing deals. Nvrthlss, I side with Bhaba and Butler as far as use of difficult language is concerned- academics are entitled to mandarin airs and esoteric terminology because they have to work hard at it. Judith Butler is still entirely inaccessible, unintelligible and absurdly clinical to a reader who hasn't got incredible patience, an up-to-the-minute academic terminological vocabulary and several feet of cultural, critical, and gender theory under their belts, as I learned the very hard way (sample passage verging on inanity: "If one follows Herculine's narrative self-exposition, itself a kind of confessional production of the self, it seems that h/er sexual disposition is one of ambivalence from the outset, that h/er sexuality recapitulates the ambivalent structure of its production, construed in part as the institutional injunction to pursue thzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz...." -from the "Subversive Bodily Acts" segment of "Gender Trouble"). I feel as though I've been defeated by theory in a lot of ways, and that its language, with its aggressive difficulty, thwarted my striving to figure it the fuck out. So anyway, arguments like this appeal to me because they belittle the blind devotion of the legions of cult stud adherents who are so excellent at parroting and ape-ing these ideas and who deep down I find, in spite of my rigourous sneering and hubristic derision, terrifically threatening and intimidating. So anyways,

2) I was at one of my favourite bars last night, which I guess happens to be everyone else's favourite bar, and who did I find sitting right by the doorway but the vivacious and vacant columnist that everybody loves to hate. At the time, seeing L-Mac slumming it with a bottle of domestic beer (held very primly; I think I may have seen an errant pinkie finger at one point) prompted a quick snigger and the odd glance across the room. She was still at it when we left, sipping and smoking an awful lot with a bunch of guys who looked like they'd spent lots of money to look really cheap. So big deal, right?
Well, sure, until I snuck a look at this fucking outrageous, self-congratulatory piece of shit-ridden "prose" in this morning's paper. Not only is she setting new standards for stultifying and self-indulgent journalism, but she's a big fat liar! How audacious is it to take credit for quitting smoking (COLD TURKEY at that) and devoting a whole column to patting yourself on your back for it, only to be out smoking like a bluddy teamster only 4 days after you said you'd quit and the night before you big fat fucking self-lauding column hits the motherbitching streets!!!???? HOW ENTIRELY SHAMELESS IS THAT!!!???!!! I'd call FRANK magazine if it weren't such a totally boring thing for anyone to write about.


Posted by at Marzo 06, 2004 01:25 PM

I once saw Judith Butler talk at the Wayne State University in Detroit MI. I was happily involved in grad school at the time, and thought my theory-talk was down. It wasn't. I missed a lot i think.

I found, when looking at these folks, to always approach the texts on your own terms. Ignore all the words you don't understand. It worked and professors said "Spancan, in this paper on the work of James Der Derian you really strove for clarity". I was also called a helpless modernist once too, but it was said with a smile.

I have forgotten all that shit now. So many words and sentences i can't understand. I was at a conference in Hamilton a few weeks ago on the culture of cities, metropolitian theory and such, and there was this one guy talking about the Gaze vs. the Glance and i didn't understand one fucking point he made. I tried and tried but he didn't say anything! Other people though were totally into it.

Does L.MacL live in Toronto then? I thought she was in london. I used to have a job in the early 2000s where i spent much of the day reading the papers of the world while killing time. I would read her back then, but i haven't read anything since, that i recall. it was the heady days when the Post was somewhat relevant and rebecca eckler vs. L.MacL was some kind of media story. At any rate i have a Toronto Life around here that has this big profile on her life if you want to borrow it. Russell Smith subsequently wrote a subsequent column about this piece. it is good to live in such a media capital.

once i saw rex murphy smoking outside of the CBC HQ.

Posted by: Spancan on Marzo 6, 2004 10:09 PM .

1. Your approach to theory makes good sense, Spancan. I always felt the more people obsessively strove to understand every last academic nuance, the more lost and frustrated they became. To the point where they ended up academics, which I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy. Just getting the gist, while maintaining the faith in the "Wha?" impulse is the only way ta go.

2. LMacL's notion of Cold Turkey outrages me. Fuck Frank, you should write a letter to the editor of the Globe. Canadians needs to know about this stuff. Plus, it would be fun knowing she wrote a follow-up article, or was forced to, by someone I know.

Posted by: ÿ on Marzo 7, 2004 01:22 PM .

This is a great entry Discourse. It's so great when then curtain is pulled on the media, and it's especially great in this instance. As far as the theory thing goes, I myself was in cultural studies, and for three out of the four years I didn't even understand anything. I mean not a single thing, but I wanted to take it because it was the closest thing they had to filmm and I wanted to make films.

I even made a film with P-Ron in second year -- my intro to cultural studies course without knowing anything...I mean it. I used to ask D what the hell was going on all the time. Anyhow we made this film about an art heist. I played an art thief, and I would get a call from an anonymous client asking me to steal a painting for them, but -- and here's the "cultural theory" part of it -- they wouldn't say what painting they wanted, they would only describe some theoretical bullshit and I would have to go steal a painting based on that. I don't think we actually corresponded any real paintings to any particular theories because we didn't actually have any real paintings or anything. Mostly we worried about getting the right shots, we shot a theft sequence outside the museum in Montreal -- and the cops even came! Then there was a nice escape/chase know, the call to the client etc. Also, neither of us knew anything about editing so that was a challenge. The tape to tape system we used brutalized the footage so much that parts of it ended up looking like pastel-coloured animation. point is, that after we submitted it -- and I swear to you, the first time I went to class in a month, it was a total coincidence -- P-Ron and I were asked to show the film and discuss it in front of our very large class. The professor, Ron Burnett, praised the film as a fabulous in-joke on the class material. We nodded and said "eah...ha ha...that's exactly what it in-joke, glad you liked it."

It was nothing of the kind. In fact, I don't think there was an element of humour in the whole thing. I really felt at the time that I didn't know what the class was about. I didn't even go to class and it was just something that coming out of high scholl, I really couldn't understand what cultural theory was. I'd just never been exposed to it. I didn't know what the internet was at the time...this was like 1994, even though lots of people used it. I remember the term "hypertext" was discussed a lot in class but I had no concept of what that was either. I just didn't see any practical use to any of it. Plus I thought the teacher was kind of a pompous ass, and all he seemed to do in lectures was name drop ("So I said to Francis Coppola -- this is back in the late sixties mind you...Francis, wake up brother!") or brag about where he could have been: ("I still have the parts to the original VCR in my basement...if I'd have wanted to, I could have made millions")

Eventually I came across Ferdinand De Saussure's book, which I think must have been this one. And I understood it enough to spin basically the rest of my university essays out of it. Well, that and Mythologies by Barthes.

I can remember how frustrated and intimidated I was by it as well. And by the teacher's pets -- you know who you are Isabelle -- who would sit and debate with the profs in a language similar to the quote you provided Discourse. Now I realise that those people don't know jack shit. Well, I guess I felt that then too. Theory can be fun for some, I'm sure. And it's a cool program. I got to write a paper on why Entertainment Tonight meets the classical definitions of what constitutes horror. But there was always the flipside of that -- like that course on Avant-Garde film,boo! Fuck you professor Wees. You are a weird man and you are an ass.And I don't care if a 25 minute movie about 10 guys in a room literally sucking their own dicks is art to you, you failed to explain why it ought to be for us, and I can't see it having any positive artistic affect on anyone save those wanting to lampoon it because it's just that ridiculous. And yes Isabelle, I remember you telling everyone after the screening how moving you thought it was. You were lying, or confused maybe.

The only good part of that class is when the screenings were cancelled because his films were too avant garde apparently to make it into Montreal from New York City.

Man, I could go on for days, but I've already lost the thread. I just don't personally like theory all that much because it implies things like exclusivity and confusion (for me) and the wasting of time, and the lack of any real learning. And the thing that was the most maddening in that program was that inevitably you'd have lots of theorists writing about movies, and especially like Hitchcock and shit, and there would always be some jackass saying like...ah, I can't think of an example, but here's one I remember. When critics were analysing the Graduate -- in that scene where Dustin Hoffman bangs on the glass in the Church at the end and shouts: Elaine! All the theorists said -- well clearly Mike Nicholls has placed Hoffman in a Christ-like pose in order to indicate the character's own mock-crucifiction blah blah blah. When really, the reason Hoffman has his arms spread wide was under the advice of the chief builder on the set, after the priest from the church asked them to stop banging on the glass since it was a gift from Rome and was irreplaceable. So they figured that if he spread his arms out there would be less of a direct impact, it would distribute the weight. That's it right? And meanwhile, some poor bastard has sat up all night until his eyeballs were dry and his neck hurt and his thumb ached from rewinding, just so he could advance some theory that had nothing to do with what the authors were thinking. ANd it seemed like that was the case all the time. Good artists act on instinct, and because academics don't understand this, they ascribe a million different explanations which really only serve to support their own beliefs about something. That's all it seems to be. I suppose it is fun to analyse things and find connections but fuck...

Posted by: king on Marzo 8, 2004 04:47 PM .

Possibly I have a higher cutoff point for jargon than most. Judith Butler never bothered me, but clowns like the Krokers drove me crazy. I could see why people didn't like Deleuze, Baudrillard et al, but most of the coordinated attacks came from literalist British 'philosophers' (what's the name for that movement?) who had nothing remotely valuable to offer anyway. The whole argument seemed like a bizarre recontextualization of Catholic vs. Protestant, and I'm sure not going to side with the prohibitionists if you know what I mean.

Short answer: just because you don't like it don't mean that no-one else can either. But yeah, seems foolish to battle the hegemon and decry cultural capital when you're speaking in the most elitist babble imaginable. I suppose the system is begging for some sort of theoretical middleman to cut the hard shit down for the masses.

Posted by: D on Marzo 9, 2004 10:22 AM .

The bookstore I work at now sells cartloads of theory and as a result I've started poking my nose into some things again. I always found with Judith Butler that her shorter things (especially those used in anthologies [one of the biggest cult-stud rackets of all; recycle the same articles over and over while only ever having to recontextualize them with a new fragmented ideological concern and editorial schema; thus the same Donna Haraway, Stuart Hall, Umberto Eco, and Baudrillard, say, articles and essays get repackaged a hundred times over. Literally.] like "Is Gender Burning?" or that one from "Bodies That Matter" or whatever) are okay but when I actually try to slog through one of her big books then I get fucked up and feel like I might as well be in a remedial reading room at an inner-city high school. Also, I find theory only fun when there's nothing at stake; I hate the idea of reading a slab of this stuff, digesting it, assessing it and then responding to it. The way this shit is packaged too is outrageous; Deleuze gets all hyped by everybody for being so dynamic or whatever and then you sit down with one of his books and most of it is splitting hairs about Hegel. I think I'm just going to resort to reading John Le Carré novels for ever and become a middle-class liberal as soon as I possibly can.

Posted by: TheDiscourse on Marzo 9, 2004 07:15 PM .

Dude so i wrote the above mentioned paper on James Der Derian and i talked about Le Carre because people like what-the-fuck-was Bush Sr.'s vice president's name? I can't remember! Anyway, he would reference Le Carre and Robert Ludlum when justifying certain foreign policy decisions. Dan Quayel that's it. I forget how to spell it though.

Posted by: Spancan on Marzo 10, 2004 12:00 AM .

At one point I thought I would become a prof. The deal-breaker was the realization that I would have to read, by the truckload, thick, inpenetrable books of theory that I hated for the purposes of disagreeing with them. Thank the gods I abandoned that dream and instead I view shoddily made B movie after shoddily made B movie. That's livin'!

Dis, you don't have to try, it just happens. I now consider myself almost too fancy for words if I make it all the way through the Globe Books section. Middlebrow though and thru.

Posted by: D on Marzo 10, 2004 07:51 PM .

Just testing that comments are working here.

Posted by: D on Julio 30, 2004 10:16 AM .

Discourse et al,

Did you happen to read Leah McLaren's article on "Status Anxiety" last weekend? If you missed it you can get it here. In it you will learn that Status Anxiety is the most dominant social disease of our time -- according to Leah McLaren. You will also learn about the new, exclusive, media and arts club Spoke. Actually you won't learn anything about that club. All you will learn is that Leah McLaren is a member while many others did not make the cut. In fact, it seems as though the whole article was written just so that Leah McLaren can tell us that she was invited to join Spoke. And if that's not bad enough, she ends the article with the word: Touché.


Posted by: king on Agosto 4, 2004 08:47 AM .

Dude, of course I read this article; my entire week is framed around the weekend Globe and Mail. I'm not at all kidding. Most of my saturdays begin with a bleary-eyed stagger to the doorstep in my pyjamas followed by a clawhanded fight with the elastic band that binds the paper followed by a couple of minutes of humming and smiling with a sense of smug complicity with the words and ideas of Heather Mallick followed by precisely three minutes of white-knuckling over L-Mac's weekly "column". Incidentally, she bought that Alain de Botton book from the bookstore several weeks ago so she's obviously been working on that "column" for quite a while; can you believe that? Think about it.
I want to go to the Spoke so badly.

Posted by: TheDiscourse on Agosto 4, 2004 07:27 PM .

You have to read her film reviews. I guess the big dogs are on vacation, and someone let her do reviews.


If she keeps doing reviews when Ricky G gets back I'll stop reading the Globe, so help me God. I'll pretend I like the Sun. In a way, I already do: all the other papers' front pages are covered in terror alerts, whereas the Sun is covered in big-titted beauties, like they don't even give a shit. "Terror, what-the-fuck is that?! Tits!"

Posted by: D on Agosto 5, 2004 12:46 PM .

I don't know...I still want a piece of rebecca eckler's ass on my kitchen table for the weekend.

Posted by: J on Agosto 6, 2004 03:32 PM .

Eckler and McLaren are both ASS-tastic!

Posted by: Sassy on Agosto 9, 2004 11:14 AM .

Yeh...maybe...but a "Good piece pie is always nice."...Even if it has to be 'eaten' in the morning... -Whippin' cream and the works, I'd say.

Posted by: J on Agosto 10, 2004 09:06 PM .

G'all darn it, Sassy: your a funny gal; I've been reading some of your entries(below: "__", etc.); made me laugh pretty damn hard (er, LOL[aughter])

"__Funny, there doesn't appear to be a site about transexual lego. Yet. Give 'er a couple weeks. Also, there doesn't appear to be a song about Google, which is really a shame. Frankly I think Google should be elevated to minor deity status. Get Poseidon outta there, throw in Google... shake up the pantheon a bit.
Searched the web for "God".
Posted by: D on Julio 17, 2002 05:04 PM .
Oh, fuck me. There has to be a better way to kill time. RIght - wasn't I writing some scripts or some shit? Sayonara, cruel I King!
Posted by: D on Julio 17, 2002 05:05 PM .
I'll try some of whatever D is smoking.
Posted by: Sassy on Julio 18, 2002 01:28 PM .
It's called "Stank". He smokes it, but apparently it's a lot stronger if you "snort" it anally.
Posted by: king on Julio 18, 2002 01:59 PM .
What's the definition of a "cult thread" D?
Posted by: king on Julio 18, 2002 02:01 PM .
"Stank" huh? Never heard of it but then again I tend to stear clear of substances that require anal snortage.
Posted by: Sassy on Julio 18, 2002 02:07 PM .
CUlt thread is a thread/page on a website wherein someone (or more than one person) carries out activity without the knowledge of the site's user/owner. The classic example is metafilter thread 1142, which was just a normal thread until wacko/genius Neale took it over, and eventually others joined in (warning - it takes forever to load and even longer to read). Maggo started his own on d/blog - it's here (you've seen it, King). There are others on MeFi, but I'd be killed if I revealed anything.
Posted by: D on Julio 18, 2002 02:08 PM .
Oh, look - I've been uncovered.
Posted by: D on Julio 18, 2002 02:08 PM .
PS - I'm off the stank now, I'm into "critch" something heavy.
Posted by: D on Julio 18, 2002 02:09 PM .
Back to work! Gotta take the edge off this "critch" high.
Posted by: D on Julio 18, 2002 02:10 PM .
Oh man, I'm all "critched" up.
*mist comes out of ears*
Posted by: D on Julio 18, 2002 02:11 PM .
Hope there are no narcs reading this! I sure am fucked up on "critch", and I'd hate for some dirty narc to fuck it up for me.
Posted by: D on Julio 18, 2002 02:11 PM .
I mean pleasant law official! Sneaky, yet pleasant!
Posted by: D on Julio 18, 2002 02:12 PM .
Haven't tried "Critch" either and I thought I knew my stuff. Apparently I'm missing out gotta find me some "Stank" and "Critch".
Posted by: Sassy on Julio 18, 2002 02:15 PM .

Posted by: j on Agosto 10, 2004 09:22 PM .

Hey J - Thanks for the compliment, makes me happy that someone can appreciate my ummm "unique" sense of humor. I have a bit of a potty mouth as one can see and my mother recently told me that she thinks I should filter myself a little more because she feels that I may be giving guys the wrong impression. I am not exactly sure what kind of impression she thinks I projecting but my mom is English, comes from a proper typically British family. I guess her etiquette and manners skipped a generation. Too funny.

Posted by: Sassy on Agosto 11, 2004 10:00 AM .

"Potty mouth": 'There's nothing like dry humour -as in terms of having your say and saying it -without actually saying it - yet being funny in all the right ways...once it's been said.' (Er, "Point!") :)
And __"Yah!"___ it was a compliment, because unique humour is a hard thing to find, because, (because, because), people have a tendency to 'think' that you're trying to be off-handed, when in fact you might very well be trying to enlighten their minds...and "Golly-gee'Willi-kers": don't we all need that once in awhile. ? [Er, "...Another point."]

But, (Hey), I digress: my comments about 'Le Rebec' have been an association that I found of interest, because her so-called "fiance; marriage; child thangy, thang, thang...." -so-called: discovery of life through media blurbs she calls informative jingles about "what we all seem to think we need to know... (-at least: She thinks so)", lit up _my- interest, as it proved a point to me, whence she began her career: "That getting the right things in life (ie. through money, et al. -and she has it now, no less) does _not__ prove least in terms of where comfort should be provided: ie. to your 'mate.' -She seems confused [mate; life; even despairingly about her place w/ child in life], so I thought a good (either) banging or lesson in table 'manners' [with the tongue] might be of some interest to her...perhaps.. set her straight..."It comes from the heart."" -Should we laugh or cry?
Anyways, hopefully the guys keep your interest...and hopefully "They _have_ some table manners!! LOL! (Second "L" stands for "lovin" :) Er, "Point" ! )
As Leah MacLaren: nothing like a hard-assed yuppie, scratching her way to the top. -I heard the view is only good if the clouds aren't settled in...mindfully.

Posted by: j on Agosto 11, 2004 07:43 PM .
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