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Friday, April 29, 2011

Reading Eric Packer Through eXistenZ

Cronenber's Graphic Novel
Cronenberg's Film  eXistenZ
Eric Packer can be read through eXistenZ when he pops his head out of the roof of his limo and feels excited by the out of control demonstration. Each scene from then on begins to place him abruptly in another world in which he seems predestined to be in, in which he spontaneously responds or reacts, in which he has lost control. He feels exhilarated and free for the first time in his life. He is alive. He is playing the game!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Rothko Chapel That Eric Packer Wants to Buy


The Rothko Chapel was the last and one of the most important endeavors that Dominique and John de Menil, its founders, worked on together. This modern work of religious art commissioned for Houston is comparable in importance to the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence by Henri Matisse or le Corbusier's Chapel in Ronchamp, France.

Eric Packer wants the entire chapel and Didi Fancher tells him he cannot have it.
The Chapel is the culmination of six years of Rothko’s life and represents his gradually growing concern for the transcendent. For some, to witness these paintings is to submit one’s self to a spiritual experience, which, through its transcendence of subject matter, approximates that of consciousness itself. It forces one to approach the limits of experience and awakens one to the awareness of one’s own existence. For others, the Chapel houses 14 large paintings whose dark, nearly impenetrable surfaces represent hermeticism and contemplation. http://tinyurl.com/6jy4es2

discusses this kind of excessive consumption as signs that indicate the power and wealth of an individual. The de Menils' established a foundation to enable others to view and experience these paintings within a spiritual setting. Eric Packer wants the entire chapel for himself only. The crassness of this is what irritates Didi Fancher.

Philadelphia.  The New Barnes Collection Opens.  The controversial and infamous Barnes Foundation enters its next incarnation in life in center city Philadelphia.  If you don’t know what the Barnes Foundation is, it’s an extraordinary world renowned art collection put together by the now deceased Albert Barnes.  Up until now, due to strict provision in his will, visitors had to travel to Barnes’ former home outside of the city in order to see the collection, but a series of highly controversial court decisions changed all that, and the collection has been moved to a brand new museum in center city Philadelphia, that was designed to precisely replicating his home.  It’s a fascinating story and a world-class collection of great paintings, sculpture and other works of art.  The new facility officially opens on Saturday, so you can be among the first to check it out.

This is a tragedy of corruption and greed by the City of Philadelphia. To see the Barnes Collection in its beautiful home in Merion Pennsylvania where Albert Barnes lived with his collection, is to see it as it was meant to be seen. This is the kind of thing Eric Packer wanted to do to the Rothko Chapel collection.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Reading the Grid in Cosmopolis Through Foucault and Agnes Martin

Agnes Martin Print

On a Clear Day 1, 1973.

Agnes Martin
   Go to the links here for a number of prints including the upper one. Didi Fancher has a grid print on the wall. It may be an Agnes Martin drawing, or a derivative of her work, or one her assistants did it a la Andy Warhol. He pressed her against the wall drawing, a minimalist grid executed over several weeks by two of the artist's adjutants working with measuring instruments and graphite pencils. 

On the right is an Agnes Martin painting. They are usually large, 5 to 6 ft across and almost as long. They are pale and lovely. But they are not dangerous. Or are they?

Eric Packer's Grid
Foucault's Power/Knowledge grid is what Eric Packer is caught in on this last day of his life. H begins it in linear time, historical time, within a dialectical frame. It charts implies time that is linear. Only it doesn't chart because Eric is within a simulated reality. He is trying to go in a straight line from East to West. But he is in global Virtual Reality. Numbers (yen), information, sex all circulate in an orbit.   So are the "rats".

In an interesting article on Richard Serra's minimalist Tilted Arc 1981  and its removal by the courts from its site-specific selected and commissioned place by the GSA at 26 Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan,  the author says
Richard Serra: Tilted Arc from minimalissimo.com

Minimalist sculpture is a critique of commodification, with its outwardly simplified visual schemas which seem to diminish the uniqueness of these objects.  Their artistic value can be difficult to extract.  In this sense, Minimalism reflects many of the social and political issues addressed by the American counterculture.

The critique continues and of course all this folds in with DeLillo's Cosmopolis in a seamless fashion. An Agnes Martin grid resonates with a Foucauldian grid of power/knowledge/capital and this grid was exactly what got Tilted Arc removed from its site after  an almost 10 year court battle. NOt to mention the GRID of traffic Eric Packer is moving in quarter inches all day.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Map of Eric's Route for the Day Starting at 1st Ave Going West on 47th St

 Eric Packer on his Appointment in Samarra.

Follow Eric on his route starting at 47th St. and 1st Ave. right by the Japan Society (yen you know). You will see the green park where he starts going West on 47th St. His residential tower is imaginary at 89 stories, (WTC had 107 stories) and is De Lillo's judgement on the Twin Towers which Eric does not pass that day in April 2000. De Lillo finished the manuscript before 9-11 and left it unchanged. The description of Eric's residential tower:

It was nine hundred feet high, the tallest residential tower in the world, a commonplace oblong whose only statement was its size. It had the kind of banality that reveals itself over time as being truly brutal. He liked it for this reason. This is a referent to Hannah Arendt's definition of EVIL: "Evil is banal."
Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at 47th between 1st and 2nd Ave

Michael Chin is in the car, sitting in the jump seat that faces backward and there is gridlock at 3rd Avenue.

Jane jumps into the limo at 47th and Madison. She has been running in the nearby Bryant Park when she gets the call.
Bryant Park

The violent demonstration occurs just before 7th Avenue and North  of where Broadway intersects at 7th, right before the triangle. Vija is in the limo now. The description in the book and the map are a little off I think, as the book puts it at the intersection a few blocks south and closer to Times Square.

Then follow Eric West across town into Hell's Kitchen just before the shipyard. I often like to follow characters on maps. Sometimes some insight appears that you hadn't thought of. In this case we see that Eric is following Elise all day, who is always ahead of his route when he sees her all day long. I knew this but didn't really know this until I saw the map. But it fits with the way I am reading Elise  - through Gradiva (Hansen and Freud) and hoping the film will make this clear.

Scene in Hell'a Kitchen from Past
Old Barbershop in Hell's Kitchen


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Reading Cosmopolis Through DeLillo's Clairvoyant Underworld Book Cover

Cover Art Chosen by DeLillo
The cover of the first edition of DeLillo's 1997 Underworld. DeLillo himself chose the image for it. Scary huh?  That's not an airplane up there but it sure looks like one now that we know the future context and perceive the image with hindsight. Actually it is a bird. A bird, a gull maybe, like the one Eric Packer sees into that dawn of his last day alive.

August 1974 Philippe Petit walks a tightrope between the Twin Towers.

Man On Wire youtube


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ddpV1GvF7E&NR     can paste in browser

Now approaching the 10 year anniversary of the loss of the twin towers, Petit says, .... and that are now gone. Interviewed recently for his one-man show of his life story, Petit said that the towers still exist -- in his mind. "I don't see time begin and end. In my head, the twin towers are still alive.... On the subject of the towers disappearing, of course it was an immense -- sadness is not the word -- it was something alive that was pulled out of me," he said. Years after the attack, he holds onto that 1974 memory. "Nothing can change that. The memory of this adventure is an intimate, romantic, poetic, joyful feeling that will continue...for the rest of my life." LINK

Dan Goodwin Climbing Millennium Tower 

Spider Dan has climbed an amazing list of towers:
The list of towers "Spider Dan" has climbed before reads like an encyclopaedia of famous American towers. Starting off with the Sears Tower, Chicago in 1981, he has also conquered the World TradeCentre (North Tower) New York, the CN tower in Toronto and the Hancock Centre, also in Chicago. 

These buildings are seductive.  And seduction is coupled with challenge. Always. Just like mountains, like Everest. They are objects beckoning the subject. They were Strange Attractors from Baudrillardian theory. Just as particles in a particle accelerator with opposite charges seek each other, play with each other, and when they collide....pouf!

These are beautiful films but the suggestiveness of the Twin Towers is inescapable. Add the bomb and explosion in 1992 and it seems incomprehensible our government did not perceive the seductiveness of the Twin Towers.

Vija: "You live in a tower that soars to heaven and goes unpunished by God."
She found this amusing.
"And you bought an airplane. I'd nearly forgotten this. Soviet or ex-Soviet. A strategic bomber. Capable of knocking out a small city. Is this right?" (C 103)

Baudrillard might say that the World is thinking this 9-11 Event that's coming.

Collapse of Twin Towers
It is probable that the terrorists had not foreseen the collapse of the Twin Towers (any more than had the experts!), a collapse which - much more than the attack on the Pentagon - had the greatest symbolic impact. The symbolic collapse of a whole system came about by an unpredictable complicity, as though the towers, by collapsing on their own, by committing suicide, had joined in to round off the event. In a sense, the entire system, by its internal fragility, lent the initial actions a helping hand. ( The Spirit of Terrorism 8)

Baudrillard- The Spirit of Terrorism

But governments lie within the order of production not seduction. The meaning of the Event of 9-11 lies in its secret. The 24/7 media coverage of circulating information drowned us in bits, but information is not knowledge. It is not knowing. The circulating bits of information reveal and conceal the meaning of any Event.  The media circulating information becomes the Event. The secret of 9-11 is that governments are powerless to stop terrorism except to put the domestic population under more and more surveillance to create the empty sign of a security it cannot provide.

What does this have to do with Cosmopolis?

Eric Is Shorting the Yen

Eric Packer's Residential Tower

Eric is doing what's known as shorting the yen. He is borrowing yen in huge amounts with his multi-billion hedge fund. A hedge fund hedges. It hedges its bets. It plays both sides. It protects equity capital. But Eric of Packer Capital isn't. He is gambling in the world of cyber-capital. If he borrows huge amounts of yen, then when it drops he pays back the yen at a much lower rate relative to the dollar (or whatever currency) and the difference is his huge profit. The speculative cyber-capital profit.

Say I agree to buy your house for market value in six months and pay you for it in six months when I expect the bottom to drop out of the real estate market. But I take possession and control of it now. By written agreement. You say yes for the option money I pay.  I get your house and sell it at today's high market price say $1,000,000. In six months I pay you for your house which is now worth $300,000. I have made 700,000 minus the option price I paid you, in profit. And not only that, I have borrowed the $300,000 that I used to buy your house. This is what Eric is doing with the yen.  He is within a world where he knows numbers signifying yen, chart. A world of linear time, historical time. It charts. Even if it charts according to patterns of nature so complex they cannot be seen as the numbers run across the screen. Eric sees these patterns. He is performing within dialectical, linear, historical time. A world where if the yen goes up, then it must come down. A world of polar opposites, of good/evil, up/down, origins and utopian horizons of cyber-capital progress continuing into a future of expanding opportunity and visionary innovation.

But he is in a simulated reality. Like the actors on the simulated set of Water For Elephants. Only the actors know they are but Eric Packer does not.

This is where Vija comes in, the voice of Foucault. Vija, VJ(ay) Day, a pun bringing the Bomb to mind? A kind of playful puzzle that DeLillo likes to toss out for our and his amusement (as Nabokov says he does). An inversion opposing the strength of the Yen opposed to the Dollar? For chuckles?

Since DeLillo has the reputation of predicting the future, and the critiques of Cosmopolis were using the stock market crash under Bush II as confirmation of his genius, were they not a bit ahead of themselves? The derivative market crash was still to come in five years following publication.

Now I am wondering if an Eric Packer was pulling the strings behind that meltdown only stopped by vast outpourings of treasury money into the pockets of the gambling bandits, which we are witnessing in $4.00 a gallon oil at the pump. But separated in time so the connecting dots are not drawn. Just a tidbit for my paranoid imagination to play with.

I think it may have been Baudrillard that discusses that an author might consider taking responsibility for his characters and their actions. The example given was in Graham Greene's novel  The Quiet American set in 1950's Viet Nam. A terrorist hides a bomb in the bicycle frame outside a coffee shop where it blows up, projects metal pieces, killing and wounding people. I think it is Ballard who reports that a similar incident occurred outside the coffee shop he had always frequented. He immediately connected it to the fictional account in Greene's novel and reflected on a writer's responsibility for the actions of his characters.

Did someone copy Eric Packer in 2008? We will never know, will we?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Reading Eric Packer As Baudrillardian Seer

Available at Amazon.com

Yes I said Packer is a seer. He is not a loser, nor a nihilist as Rob Pattinson has called him. And it is important to make his character crystal clear. Why? Because De Lillo has emerged as a great American writer  of his generation and has written clairvoyantly of our time.  His novels have predicted similar singular events that occur soon after their publication. The characters in his novels are now the subject of extensive academic writing, dissertations, theses, and numerous papers and books within the academic world. Eric Packer is consistently described in terms of his downfall: that is, losing all his billions betting on the yen. Not to mention his sexual exploits, all lumped together, undifferentiated, the same meaning attributed to each one, carbon copies of the same experience, as if he is a paid prostitute. Elise Shifrin is given short shrift as the estranged wife, one of his fucks for the day by academics, men and women, and cold and frigid by Pattinson girlfans. None of them are anywhere close.

My problem with this is not unlike my problem with Nietzsche, who is tagged with being a nihilist when he so emphatically counters this label in his The Genealogy of Morals in the last pages of this essay, one written near the end of his life. But Nihilist is pasted on him forever and anyone speaking or writing about him must continue to deal with the erroneous labeling.

I see this is going to happen with Eric Packer. Decades from now someone may think otherwise and present convincing evidence, but it will drop into the fold of the prevailing Discourse and be lost until another Foucault comes out of the intellectual woodwork to say and write otherwise.  All these writers, Schuster  in his book Don DeLillo, Jean Baudrillard, and the Consumer Conundrum  and http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=schuster+%2B+de+lillo&x=0&y=0

John N. Duvall's The Cambridge Companion to Don De Lillo  (composed of a different author on a wide variety of topics in each DeLillo novel) without exception do not acknowledge Eric Packer's great game playing heroism in the face of evil and ruinous, global cyber-capital speculation. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=+duvall+%2B+the+cambridge+companion+to+don+delillo&x=11&y=14

I am not saying he acts heroically, but instead acts within a game. He is in it to win it. And I see that I am going to have to go against heavy hitters to stake my claim on the character of Eric Packer. I think I have Cronenberg as a possible ally. One can read Cosmopolis through Baudrillard, but  one can also read it through eXistenZ, which is what I think Cronenberg will do in his upcoming film. And eXistenZ and Baudrillard can each be read through the other, illuminating both in a singular way, and taking the character of Eric Packer out of the psychological and interpretive dead end. After all DeLillo says through Packer that Freud is dead.

Available at Amazon.com

Available at Amazon.com
All these writers are incredibly intelligent, well acquainted with Lacan, Baudrillard, Virilio, Lyotard, and others. They all write within the interpretive, hermeneutic mode put to bed for good by Foucault. I am beginning to realize that if you come to Baudrillard without being first steeped in Foucault and his genealogical tool chest, as Baudrillard himself once was, then it is likely that Baudrillard's refusal to engage in the interpretive method, so completely a part of western thinking and writing since the Biblical commentaries, will not impact you enough to toss it as Baudrillard did in Forget Foucault.  It is painful to let it go as that is the mode in which we have all been educated. It is enchanting and seductive and allows us to feel how very intelligent we are as we read it and understand it. 

Here is Nietzsche on it:

We knowers are unknown to ourselves, and for a good reason: how can we ever hope to find what we have never looked for? There is a sound adage which runs:"Where a man's treasure lies, there lies his heart." Our treasure lies in the beehives of our knowledge. We are perpetually on our way thither, being by nature winged insects and honey gatherers of the mind. The only thing that lies close to our heart is the desire to bring something home to the hive. (preface The Genealogy of Morals)

Reading Cosmopolis Through Spencer Tunick's Performance Art

Mexico City

Spencer Tunick's Performance Art Piece This is huge and spectacular. See all the rest of his performances with nude/naked bodies while you are there. Very beautiful.

A slideshow that is spectacular:

And another one:

Down on left perhaps London. I don't think it is New York so tell me if you know.

And of course the last one is from the Concentration Camps just after liberation and too late for many.  The image taken with film cries out in a way the posed bodies do not, (digital?) but then the context is deathly, the bodies starved.
I am wandering within McLuhan's  thought about the medium is the message. What if these images were presented differently. Some large, some very small. Would the message be different? Say the Camp bodies huge, the performance bodies small or the reverse? What about the order? If I included or you imagined the bodies in Haiti, or Afghnistan, or Tsunami, or Bosnia victims piled up, would that affect your perception of these images. If you have read the scene these refer to in Cosmopolis, does that change your perception?

De Lillo of course is self-referencing White Noise when the students are preparing for a rehearsal for an imagined catastrophe, lying down fully dressed, some in official helping roles. During War II we used to have air raid drills, hiding under our desks. The same during A bomb cold war time children rehearsed along with their teachers. A kind of higher level fire drill.
Liberation of a Camp

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rob Pattinson Is Reading Michel Houellebecq's The Art of Struggle

The poems of Michel Houellebecq fit the character of Eric Packer. They are short, in French and English on facing pages with wide white borders around them.

                                                                           THE DOLE

I cross the city with nothing in mind
And the endless turnover of souls,
The overhead line, I know it by heart;
Days go by, I've nothing to say.


Sometimes we live in a fraudulent stillness
With little feints and little tortures
The cafes were swarming with cleavage,
Two o'clock and the city was hot

Everything was set for reproduction:
All teeth, behavior and smiles
Everything made endlessly impossible
Fragments of a dream, soon unprimed.

Humans were busy in the walls of their city:
Crowds on the streets and mobile phones;
Anxiety all the way, hostility and looks:
Everything runs smooth, my nerves are raw

Cosmopolis - Reading Eric Packer Through Lacan

Reading Eric Packer through Lacan:

Eric Packer is speculating on the yen. He has a yen. Not a real want, nor a desire, just a yen. You know like a yen for chocolate ice-cream, a day at the beach, something or other that you have a yen for but that is not really very important. As the day continues he buys-borrows-more and more yen. He wants all the yen there is. All that he can get. If he accumulates a huge pile of yen, will all that yen equal Desire, or even an honest to good want? In fact if he acquires all the yen available will that be enough? Maybe all it will ever be is yen? For what?

Lacan has taught us that desire is coupled with lack. Always. Desire/Lack are coupled. As soon as Lack has been quenched, satisfied, satiated, filled, fulfilled, it disappears, and with it disappears Desire. The paradox of consummation. Is yen then what's left? Then only  yen?  Is yen the Accursed Share, the remainder after the excess? No desire, no want, just a yen?

Eric Packer is packed. Packed with stuff: a shark tank; a lap swimming pool; a kennel of borzoi dogs; an atrium of modern art.  Excess Consumption as Schuster writes. The consummate consumer. One Rothko is not enough, he wants all the Rothkos in Houston, along with the entire chapel including its walls. Does he want the landscaping around it also? Old money (like Shifrin money) has endowed this spectacular chapel of Rothkos. Eric is packed with New Money. Cyber-money. Numbers.

His crotch is packed also. He has a New York pair of brass balls. Packer. Pack-her. Pack her with cock. Fuck her.

He rides around in a limo that is as self-contained as a home and office combined. The early US limos were Packards. They were usually black and illegal gangsters like Al Capone rode around in them and the early legal robber barons: Vanderbilt; J.P Morgan; Frick. Eric is packed in the limo. Is the limo a Packard? Customized of course.

And Eric. Air-ic. All will go into the air, the void, into nothingness, be disappeared.

Elise.  A tease.  A seductress. A lease, to please on command. A contract, a marriage contract that can be easily broken.

Shifrin. Shifting. Into hiding places, into shadows, into book stores, ephemeral, disappearing. Academic writers are giving Elise Shifrin short shrift. She is his estranged wife.  She is  one of the four women he fucks during the day. That sure marginalizes her. I'm not going to.

De Lillo does this. Former women:From his The Engineer of Moonlight in which the engineer of the title searches to find a scientific, mathematical language to make the world empirical, his wife Maya; And his ex Diana Vail.  The goddess of night, moonlight, the moon, the feminine, the hunt, veiled in illusion.  Seduction. Nabokov and Pynchon his student with all their amazing names. And of course, David Foster Wallace's Hal Incandenza and Don Gately.

Eric is packing with an old rusty gun. And then of course Eric Packer packs it in.

No doubt more can be excavated and I will appreciate that in the comments.