day 4 of kill your darlings, the word hoard is desiccated & gets ever thinner.

Word salad for future plundering…

Cutting slabs out and leaving them here like meat carcasses hung up for curing…

For example, cosmopolitan and transnationalising nomad that I am (ahem, I wish) I am at present absent-mindedly watching what I assume to be the show ‘Japan Idol’ on an overhead TV in a Korean bbq joint. I am resisting tuning in so I may be wrong. I am in Japan, but given the restaurant, this could also be ‘Korean Idol’; how to tell without attending more carefully? I dismiss the effort, and let this just be, this time, background, even though the sound is awful, cranked out through not very state of the art loudspeakers, although it is not overbearing. I am simultaneously concerned with my meal, typing up notes from reading, and avoiding looking at Facebook. What concerns me most is the preparation I should really be doing, but I am also only attending to it with part of my admittedly lazy brain. I’ve a language lesson and should be better prepared for a test coming up in an hour. Japan/Korean Idol as revision session perhaps? It might be ‘Supergirl’, from China (see Jian and Liu 2009), so I already know that is not really going to help, even though I seem to be able to process popular culture and its moves more than I can the declensions of nouns or the – nightmare – pictographs of Kanji.

My students walk into class with iPhone buds in their ears. They also listen to ‘Japan Idol’, and more or less tolerate my insistence on subjecting them to music from old Indian cinema, or diasporic British South Asian sounds, and commentaries. The point of reference at first, to get them interested, was The Beatles, but they also show me the influence of other traditions and ideas that lead them to an interest in India and this course, and I realise that the direction and question of influence is never straightforward. Despite being able to point to ‘the discursive construction of an “East Asian Popular Culture” as an object of analysis (Chua 2006: 200) the criss-crossing of national borders extends and extends. Of course this is true for film, music, television drama, comic books, magazines, websites and fashion magazines. In Japan the visibility of Bollywood’s cultural product is small (Srinivas 2013: 616), and even more the marginal visibility of Bengali Art film is less than some, but this term rather more than nothing. What they will make of it as they collect points and units for their degree awards is really not clear – the hope that the famous obsessive fandom of Japanese youth can be accessed to promote learning is of course not far away. I have something of that tendency for sure.

Also for the films of Ichikawa Kon, even though my students expected me only to know Kurusawa and maybe Ozu. I am able to introduce them to a great – lost on some – figure from their own film culture. But it is Akira Kurusawa who was the better known in Bengal, and who is famously paired with Satyajit Ray as the twin stars of World Cinema from this part of the world. Ichikawa Kon and Mrinal Sen are perhaps the two antithetical alternatives to that mainstream crown. Kon’s films are sometimes profound, sometimes comic, sometimes political, and while I will not belabour this analogy, and the depth of attachment of the Bengali public to Sen is possibly greater than the Japanese appreciation of their own Kon, I certainly class them together. That other book awaits another time however, even as I note also the potential to write such a comparison through the crucial importance of their wives as partner-actresses and muse-like support. No, that book must wait, my language class first. And in Bengal, Mrinal Sen himself is hopefully still to make another film, even though he is pushing towards his mid-90s as I write.

 

**

The terminology most explicitly avoided that I would introduce here, but develop elsewhere, is the language of Maoist analysis of compradore complicities and specific semi-feudal semi colonial associations within media reporting. I once described the Malaysian Multi Media Super Corridor as an example of a semi-feudal, cyber-colonial land grab. This must be further explored today.

**

A problem perhaps to be addressed is how did militant anti-racist and anti-imperialist organisations from 30-40 years ago, lead to a scene in which we are so atomised and reified into discursive competition the best we have are individual celeb thinker-artists who say all these good things, but practically overlook the ways compliance and complicity are the order of the day.

Sometimes compromised and conflicted; sometimes published in the West, but sometimes not; always engaged, never satisfied with mimicry, hybridity or recuperation. There is an alternative in formation and emergent on the back of a political tradition that does not need to pay the lip service of yore to the powers of empires. Maybe new empires are in formation, but the stakes are open for a critical transformation – which will not need first amendment rights, but take them.

**

It seems to me that there is a push-me-pull-you kind of denial at the heart of contemporary politics, where an absence of anxiety about the decline of the left exists in a space within which verbose talk about the decline rests somehow in comfortable reassurance that invests hope in media promotional social movements that circulate horizontally, as Hardt and Negri, among others, applauded (2000). Confronted by the entertainment-industrial militarisation of every theatre of the world, albeit with differing levels of war-footing, but combative all the same, the contestation that gains most visibility is a digitised connected one, already recuperated in its very conditions of possibility. It exists as spectacle, contesting in a spectral spectacularity that cancels itself out. Auto-marginalisation and self-deprecatory egoism that things likes or hits or eyeballs can be monetised for change.org.

The self-regard of the online social movements which network according to the algorithms of a geo-demarcated globalism, offer spaces of partial, perhaps potential, disengagement in a staged subsumption. Vernacular globalisations that offer respite for a time, but ultimately wait in line to compromise. The identity and digital compartmentalisation of the political, and the atomisation of parts that any movement, articulated globally, requires, means that questions of strategy and tactics are resolved to simple impossible choices – departure into defeat or the path of endless competition for celebrity endorsement. The political struggle becomes one of recognition by the digital spectacular, and only algorithms of approval count, as like meets like, confirms like, the same. A viable politics of group mobilisation across difference is undermined in such competition, in a zero and one containment.

Working out how it came to be thus is less difficult than refusing the demonisation and disregard of the need to build alliances across difference without becoming sectarian and self-interested. It seems this is only possible outside of the famous mainstream formula circuit, and even then the secondary circuit’s structuring in terms of leagues and scaled promotion, threatens to narrow possibilities there. If there is only one world domain of action, one global agenda, then the possibility of working outside of expectations is already recuperated. That there are some who do not follow the formula is the promise that is still possible to win.

Writing far from the UK, thinking about South Asian film and diaspora from another corner of Asia, and given trends and movements, the angular influences of culture are thrown into sharp relief. How we figure patters of production and consumption of popular culture is never simple. Even influences are not readily tracked when they are apparent: the old reception models, and the dissemination models that proffered a uni-directional distributive formula from an advanced centre, are faulty.

**

In the face of declining interest in explicit politics there might be reasons to despair if it were not that a desperate necessity means migrants continue to struggle and bring realisation with them across the deadly borders they have crossed. A lament for those who die in the attempt – the sea of bodies that wash up on the Mediterranean shores, the parched deserts of Arizona, the driftwood from destroyed and floundered boats off the West Australian coast – and monuments to tenacity that the privileged cannot even measure, do not diminish the importance of the gift that migrants bring those that have died sedentary in their suburban homes.

A consideration of unpublished – even unwritten – comparative tracts within Asia must immediately take into account the framing that such conversations might have in the wake of the emergence of two new economic ‘superpowers’ in the twenty-first century, China and India – which would have perhaps more significance in terms of encounter than that between east and west (Chakrabarty 2000). I realise the word encounter has a particular history in at least one context here, but I don’t doubt the possibility of separating the brutality of one kind of encounter, with the police, and that more cosmopolitan and engagingly transnational encounter that might add to our cultural repertoire and sensitivities in the coming era.

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Brand PhD. #gnnnngg

Can’t imagine the mad thinking behind this branding. In several ways a sign of the downward spiral. Or, a niche marketing gambit. What next: administrative razor blades, higher Education band-aids? I know there’s been a fashion chain called Anthropologie for a long time, but this. Pfffttt!

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Now with Belgian chocolate

And as a flapjack:

Orientalism for kids – again

Orientalism for kids – again

Am gearing up for another round of kiddy tv and hoping there are new programmes since the mind worms of Iggle Piggle and Peppa Pig did their damage. This time Theodor and I are reviewing the options for Annabel’s rapidly arriving toddler indoctrination sessions. First exhibit on review is Nicklodious’s ‘Shimmer and Shine’.

Flying carpets, shalwar kameez, wayang kulit shadow puppets, princesses and dragons (with bad breath). The two genies have 3 wishes an episode to bestow, of course wishes go astray, are wasted frivolously, but a lesson is learned. Nothing new then, and some pretty standard 1001 nights fare, along with a geography-hopping sampling of almost any magical tradition anywhere. Ok, not so worried about that, but there is a dad who eats popcorn – very suspicious. He may work in films. Big eyed anime influence, suburban values and cinema in-jokes. Does the obvious fun they had making this mean the stereotypes are somehow undone? Nope, but a popcorn munching genie is better than that 60s comedy dream of Barbara Eden.

Oh damn, there’s a prince in it, daft boy in specs – and now sitar fusion cartoon songs. I preferred the Beatles cartoon trip to India bit posted on my film course blog.
This is what we do on Sunday mornings…

Island Story: Journeys Through Unfamiliar Britain, JD Taylor

JDTaylorJust started JD Taylor’s book, bought in Waterstones sociology section yesterday. Brilliant. I mean, the placing of this book in that shelving – shame its four floors up from ground. If there were two copies I would have moved the one I did not buy down to the new books section at the entrance, alongside stuff from Owen Jones and Russell Brand…

Dan by bicycle around Britain – possibly the last book to Unite the disparate multi Island nation (not one nation, emphatically not):

“I reach Leith, a port town now absorbed intoEdinburgh metropolis, but still retaining its own independent spirit. It’s a bustling though evidently impoverished place, by no means as grim as the early-90s immortalisation in Irving Welsh’s Trainspotting. The Banana Flats cotch over the scene like a piece of Thunderbirds’ concretopia, as colourful as a stubbed out snout. The old docks have now been gentrified by posh restaurants, luxury apartment blocks and a moronic Ocean Terminal mall, a non-place inflicted on Leith for once having any kind of character”

So in 20 years this will be the first of the many travel volumes of the by then portly, but still adjectively agile, latter day Jonathan Meades, William Dalrymple, Bill Bryson, Ian Sinclair. Only he will still seem precocious and young – eat your heart out Owen Jones.

“David meets me in the centre of Nottingham. A friend of a friend, he’s kindly offered me a place to stay and help repairing my bike. He smiles, is gracious and issues wise observations as I tail him up to Canning Circus. A local man, bike enthusiast and university researcher, his insights are as consoling as the porters we clink in the beer-garden.

In the Midlands, these working class communities where things were once made now seem abandoned of political importance. Poverty creeps. There’s a danger of seeking out some master to put it right, David warns. ‘We’ve found a problem, do something about it.’ He remembers the riots of 2011, the local police station getting firebombed. ‘For one small moment’, something important happened. Young people were out in the streets, talking politics and the future. They felt like they had power, that for a moment they might be heard…”

Reasons enough to buy the book. Info here: http://repeaterbooks.com/politics/another-island/

La ligne d’écume: Encountering the French beach

new book from pavement with chapters by Ffrench, Collier, Launchbury, Gledhill, Fuggle etc.,…

Laligne\

Edited by Sophie Fuggle and Nicholas Gledhill

As a trope, theme, myth and very real space, what is at stake in the frequent artistic, cultural and philosophical articulations of the beach in French thought? Adopting a variety of approaches, this is the question that the essays in this collection seek to address. The beach in twentieth and twenty-first century French philosophy, literature and visual culture represents both limit and liminal space. It is a site of multiple encounters with both the other and the self, of arrivals and departures, of both hedonistic freedom and colonial subordination. At the same time, it is the no-man’s land where, as Michel Foucault suggests at the end of The Order of Things, man’s image is literally washed away.

The essays compiled in this collection, explore the French and Francophone beach via the various encounters this complex and multiple space engenders alongside the role it has come to play in both a French and global cultural imaginary. Bringing together a range of critical perspectives from scholars working in fields such as literature, film, philosophy, gender and cultural studies, the collection analyses the violent erasures and appropriations associated with the French beach whilst also calling for a reimagining of the beach as creative, ethical space.

Strands book series

ISBN: 978-0-9571470-7-2

£18.99 (inc. postage)

Table of Contents

Introduction
SOPHIE FUGGLE & NICHOLAS GLEDHILL

I. Beach Archaeologies

Beneath the Cobblestones, the Beach: An Idea in Everyone’s Mind?
CHRISTOPHER COLLIER

Devant la mer: Thresholds of Fiction and Theory
PATRICK FFRENCH

Death on the Sand: From Tragic Humanism to Depressive Realism
NICHOLAS GLEDHILL

II. Framing the Beach

Proust and the Beach as Écran
ÁINE LARKIN

Vacance: Vacancy and Vacation in the Films of Jacques Rozier
GILLES CHAMEROIS

III. War Zones

Bodies on the Sand: Corporeality and the Beach in the Films of Catherine Breillat and François Ozon
FIONA HANDYSIDE

Colonies de Vacances
SOPHIE FUGGLE

‘Elle ne sera bientôt qu’une épave soudée à ses rochers’: Women Writing the Wreck of Beirut
CLAIRE LAUNCHBURY

IV. Eroded Identities

Between Real and Ideal Space: Embodiment and the Beach in Michel Houellebecq
ZOË ROTH

The Beach as Liminal Site in Abderrahmane Sissako’s Heremakono
THÉRÈSE DE RAEDT

 

Buy it here: http://www.pavementbooks.com/lalignedecume