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A glorious McSweeney post – “Why you should not have broken up with me, according to various critical theories”
This cracking piece is by Tommy Wallach:
WHY YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE BROKEN UP WITH ME, ACCORDING TO VARIOUS CRITICAL THEORIES
Ferdinand de Saussure famously said, “In language there are only differences.” What he meant by this was that words have no meaning except insofar as they contrast with other words. Thus my failure to hold down a job for more than a month cannot implicitly carry the meaning of “failure” ascribed to it by you, Tandy. A word such as “unemployed” carries a semantic value only in terms of its partner word “employed,” just as “flat broke” defines itself relatively to “financially independent” and “manic-depressive” to “emotionally stable.” The noble goal of deconstruction is to overturn these simplistic oppositions and, in Derrida’s words, reject a “hierarchizing teleology” of language. In short, the deconstructionists certainly would not approve of my being compared to our more “successful” friends, such as Steven, who grew up in a wealthy household and whose job at the New Yorker is a clear-cut case of nepotism.
Marx believed that the arc of history bends inevitably towards a more equitable distribution of the means of production, but that the battle for socialism would be a long one. I’m confident he would agree that my current financial straits are an inevitable result of the current socioeconomic moment, rather than “a permanent shitstorm born out of sheer laziness,” as you described it in your letter. In spite of your attending that Occupy rally last year, which I missed because I was hung over from drinking too much at your work party (you’re welcome for supporting you, BTW), you seem to have forgotten the socialist credo: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” If you were ever incapable of making rent on your own, I certainly would have been willing to get a job in order to help out. But you always insisted on focusing on the negative; you had no trouble criticizing me when I couldn’t pay for dinner, but you never thanked me for going to the trouble of ordering it in the first place.
Structuralist readings of texts tend to collapse differences, seeing the underlying patterns and paradigms and ignoring surface variations. Viewed this way, our relationship is really no different from that of Romeo and Juliet. True, we did not overcome decades of internecine violence and the harsh judgments of our families in order to be together, but all of your friends did originally tell you not to date me, because of my criminal record and facial tattoos. To focus on the things that make us different from other couples—my request that you not look me in the eyes during meals or sex, the fact that I’ve yet to introduce you to my parents even though I still live with them, my insistence that you give up your cat for adoption because of my childhood attraction to Catwoman—is a failure of intellectual rigor on your part. Our relationship is all relationships, and don’t all relationships involve some amount of compromise and/or abandonment of one’s more physically attractive cats?
Life is meaningless, and any attempt to find connection through human relationship is doomed to failure. In other words, your insistence that I support you and validate your existence was misguided from the start. Also, your stubborn belief that it was “wrong” of me to send those late-night texts to your best friend, Sarah, posits a dualistic notion of good/bad that is belied by human experience. There is no such thing as morality, only authenticity (i.e. acting in accordance with one’s freedom). And there was nothing inauthentic in the way that I asked Sarah if she was “down to clown around on the town, Leroy Brown” (though her refusal on the grounds that she was your best friend reeked of bourgeois conformism).
Looking at the data, our relationship was clearly a winner. We were together for three years—more than 10% of our lives. Have you held on to anything else for that long, other than that cat you were so attached to before we got together? By my calculation, I spent over $2000 on gifts and meals for you during our relationship, which represents more than 15% of my earned income over that period, if you include the money I got from that settlement with the guy in the motorized wheelchair who ran over my foot at that AA meeting. And while I can’t speak for you, I’ve achieved orgasm in 98% of our sexual encounters (and the other 2% are accounted for by times the commercial break ended and I willingly forewent climax). The numbers don’t lie, Tandy; unlike your friend Sarah, who gave me her word she wouldn’t tell you about those texts I sent.
All questions must, in the end, be settled within the cultural and social context in which they are raised, yet you insist on viewing our relationship through the lens of your parents’ relationship, in spite of the fact that this represents a reactionary, pre-feminist interpretation of man as “provider.” And sure, it’s technically true that both of your parents had careers, and that your mother was significantly more successful in her field than your father was in his, and yet that didn’t cause any problems because they were both happy and fulfilled in their own way. But Tandy, it’s unfair (not to mention philosophically untenable) to take us out of our historical moment. The job market is bad for everyone, and for no one so much as an ex-con with an uncompleted minor in philosophy. Then again, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised you’re giving up on me. Looking at the history, it’s clear you’ve always been a quitter: I mean, look at how quickly you gave up on that cat.
This piece originally appeared on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, which you can find here.
Full screen, HD, you can thank me later.
“From the frame of reference of a human on earth, it can seem that the stars move across the night sky. In fact, it is just the rotation of the earth that constantly reveals new parts of the night sky.
By using software to track the stars and keep them still, the rotation of the earth is revealed.” More vids on Alex Rivest’s channel here.
Paul Cronin’s book of conversations with filmmaker Werner Herzog is called Werner Herzog – A Guide for the Perplexed. On the back cover of the book, Herzog offers a list of advice for filmmakers that doubles as general purpose life advice.
1. Always take the initiative.
2. There is nothing wrong with spending a night in jail if it means getting the shot you need.
3. Send out all your dogs and one might return with prey.
4. Never wallow in your troubles; despair must be kept private and brief.
5. Learn to live with your mistakes.
6. Expand your knowledge and understanding of music and literature, old and modern.
7. That roll of unexposed celluloid you have in your hand might be the last in existence, so do something impressive with it.
8. There is never an excuse not to finish a film.
9. Carry bolt cutters everywhere.
10. Thwart institutional cowardice.
11. Ask for forgiveness, not permission.
12. Take your fate into your own hands.
13. Learn to read the inner essence of a landscape.
14. Ignite the fire within and explore unknown territory.
15. Walk straight ahead, never detour.
16. Manoeuvre and mislead, but always deliver.
17. Don’t be fearful of rejection.
18. Develop your own voice.
19. Day one is the point of no return.
20. A badge of honor is to fail a film theory class.
21. Chance is the lifeblood of cinema.
22. Guerrilla tactics are best.
23. Take revenge if need be.
24. Get used to the bear behind you.
I bet this is some of the stuff you learn at Herzog’s Rogue Film School:
The Rogue Film School is not for the faint-hearted; it is for those who have travelled on foot, who have worked as bouncers in sex clubs or as wardens in a lunatic asylum, for those who are willing to learn about lockpicking or forging shooting permits in countries not favoring their projects. In short: for those who have a sense of poetry. For those who are pilgrims. For those who can tell a story to four year old children and hold their attention. For those who have a fire burning within. For those who have a dream.
A lesson from Mervyn Peake to start the new year:
THE TROUBLE WITH GERANIUMS
The trouble with geraniums
is that they’re much too red!
The trouble with my toast is that
it’s far too full of bread.
The trouble with a diamond
is that it’s much too bright.
The same applies to fish and stars
and the electric light.
The troubles with the stars I see
lies in the way they fly.
The trouble with myself is all
self-centred in the eye.
The trouble with my looking-glass
is that it shows me, me;
there’s trouble in all sorts of things
where it should never be.
He says on his Vimeo page: “High plains storms are some of the most beautiful and wild in the world. I spent May – September 2014 photographing all types of severe weather in Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Colorado. This time lapse project is a result of that effort. From rainbows to tornadoes, there is a little bit of everything in here.”
Copyright Nicolaus Wegner/lightALIVE Photography. Found by browsing kottke.org
And if you liked that, watch his first one!
An amazing animation about dependence.