Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Matrix: The Artist as Superman

Neo-avant-garde (1999); Historical Avant-garde (1916)
The impulse to write my first essay about Star Wars was born out of a frustration. My frustration was that a movie that had created such an obvious aesthetic break: even as a very young boy I could instantly recognize scifi movies made before Star Wars (because they sucked), from those made afterwards (they still sucked, but at least they looked like Star Wars). That the seminal film of my youth had garnered little, if any, serious consideration; and that what scholarly attention it had received was so obviously wrong-headed, spurred me to action.

My experience of The Matrix was entirely different. So much philosophical, theoretical and intellectual ink has been spilled over franchise that I've hesitated to write anything about it - for years. Not because I had nothing to say, but because, almost immediatelyThe Matrix suffered from an embarrassment of riches; too much - too serious - attention can, as it turns out, be as bad as too little. Or, as Joss Whedon recent quipped about his own blockbuster, "At some point the embarrassment of riches is actually embarrassing." Enough time has passed, and the logorrhea has lapsed into an embarrassed silence, as the disappointment with the Trilogy has cemented into a consensus: the sequels "ruined the mythology". For myself, I enjoyed The Matrix sequels in much the same spirit I enjoyed the Star Wars prequels (they are all good-spirited and fun, if still deeply flawed, movies). I'd like to contribute one more flood of words about The Matrix, serious, but not a philosophical. I am less interested in what The Matrix might tells us about reality, than what it tells us about movies. In a season of superhero movies, in an era of superhero blockbusters, what follows is a consideration of The Matrix as a truly singular Hollywood portrait of the avant-garde artist: the artist as superman.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Selma Alabama, 1965, According to The Rev Robert Leonard Powers

"Basement in Selma" Franklin McMahon (1965) - illustration for Look Magazine [RLP standing at center]

I traveled to Selma Alabama this past weekend to meet my two older sisters Sarah and Rachel, to witness the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. We went, because in 1965 our father, Robert L Powers, answered Martin Luther Kings' call for white clergy members to joined the black protestors in a march to Montgomery. I've posted about my father in the pasthe was an ordained Episcopalian Priest, although by the time I was born he was no longer wearing the collar, and was instead practicing psychology. My father passed away two years ago, and my sisters and I went to memorialize him. I have been thinking about what I might say about our time in Selma, about my father, about race, equality, and voting rights in America (no small beer in that list). But yesterday my brother-in-law reminded me that five years ago I asked my father to email me an account, in his own words, of his time in Selma. It took me only a few seconds to find after being reminded of it. The comedy (which I think my dad would have appreciated) is that my sisters and I spent our weekend together struggling to remember what we could of our fathers visit: when did he arrive? how long did he stay? who did he meet and see? The discovery of his email is exciting for me, but I wanted to share it as a reminder to those who have not been to Selma, this is a jubilee year, just because you missed being there when President Obama spoke (my sisters and I did too - we made our plans well in advance of Obama and arrived to late to see the President), does not mean you have missed taking part. Even if you father or mother wasn't in Selma 50 years ago, it is never too late to answer King's call. I am very happy my sisters and I did. What follows is my father's unedited email, sent to me on March 12th, 2010.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

2H2K - August 2050 - “No faiR"

MUDC work train on the 3rd Avenue El[This is the sixth short story in a series, the 1st story is here, the 2nd is here, the 3rd is here, the 4th here, and the fifth.] 

His phone vibrated a warning. Rush hour. Dean realized. He could feel the heat rising across his face. You're such a fucking fuckup.

He'd missed the early morning free ride by two minutes; pictured himself looking in the mirror one last time Pausing to The faRe had gone up to 45 minutes. It would clean him out. Two fucking minutes - classic.

Whether or not he got the job he wouldn’t have enough to get home, much less eat for the next 16 hours when his Gimmie would come through.

Dean paused at the entrance. If he waited the three hours until the faRe dropped back down to 25 minutes, he'd be late for the interview… Fuck it.

He pushed through the turnstile. He had ten minutes left If he got really hungry, it was enough to get a coke or a candy bar. But not both.

Either way, it would have to hold him over.

He had nothing to do for the rest of the day anyway. He could always walk back over the bridge.

Dean looked at his sneakers, disposable orange Juntos. Or at least they used to be orange. They had seen better days. Not the best gear for a job interview. Much less a long a walk... 

Dean watched the well dressed commuters passing through the turnstile, as if 90 minutes a day meant nothing. It probably doesn't.

It was a week night, the faRe would drop to zero after nine. I need this job.

It was a nice day, not too hot, he could always find a park to a hang out in. With that decided, he wondered what would happen if they wanted him to start work today. One Problem at a time Dean.

2H2K - August 2050 - #adviceforyoungjournalists - An Introduction:

The Craven Family, Peter Manzel (2001)

When I started working on this series of short stories about the second half [2H] of the 21st Century [2K] I asked my friend Felix Salmon: "What kind of company would the 'Felix Salmon of 2050' work for, and what will he be doing?" This was well before Felix was "post-text" - well before there were even rumblings of him leaving Reuters (the only job I had ever know him in up until then). I asked Felix because I trying not to imagine dystopian 2050, but instead, I had set myself a more difficult goal: to imagine a "well-paid middle-class lifestyle down the road." Since then I have tried to imagine a future in which there is a place for Felixes, lots of them. He is not the type of person I have had in mind as I've written these stories - he is EXACTLY the person I have had in mind. So I was not surprised when he advised young journalists yesterday: "if you’re more career-oriented, and want a good chance at a well-paid middle-class lifestyle down the road... if you enter the journalism profession today, have probably never been lower." The reason I wasn't surprised, is because it agreed with the answer Felix gave me to my question over a year ago; an answer that didn't discourage me, but pointed me in the direction I have taken with these stories.