It was just me and Skyrim. I had not stepped outside for five days. There was no pavement, no train to catch. Just a series of missed calls, a tall pile of dishes, and a dragon needing to be slain.
Life’s routines drifted past me. My days would begin around 1 or 2, when the sun briefly flickered through my apartment’s north-facing windows. My days would end when I was tired enough to retreat to my bed for another period of untimed slumber.
My eyes melted under constant lamplight and glowing rectangles. My lungs gasped for real air. My body craved a change in temperature, or risked slouching into delirium. I was frustrated with my unemployment, and I was taking it out on myself.
I quit my job a week before I bought Skyrim. I was working as a cheesemonger at Whole Foods. I thought, if my nine-year-old self could only see me now. Cracking open wheels of Parmesan, I felt my childhood dreams cracking along with them. I was nine when my mom pleaded with me not to become an artist—”Picasso didn’t get rich or famous until after he died.” I swear I never dreamt of being an artist again. Now, there I was, rewriting history, convincing my nine-year-old self to follow his dreams, to be creative, and succeed in doing so.
The path to success has been littered with obstacles — age, experience, economy. The job market for creative young adults has run dry. Skyrim was my escape from the economy; five days into it, I saw hope.
How could I say I needed a job, when I had so many? I was an assassin, a forager, a thief, a blacksmith, a merchant, a shaman, and an archaeologist. In the five days I spent playing Skyrim, I had logged 40 hours — a workweek of exploring dungeons, recovering lost artifacts, crafting enchanted necklaces, pickpocketing people in every new town, and selling my stolen goods back to a fence at the Thieves Guild. This life was profitable.
If I wanted a potion I saw at a store, I could wait for the merchant to close shop, follow him home, pick the lock to his house, hide in his basement while he finishes dinner, steal his shop keys in his sleep, go back to his store, and take every potion I want. Or, of course, I could kill him on the spot.
Skyrim not only allowed such autonomy; it demanded it. As an open-world game, it lacks a linear storyline, and rewards users for veering off of the main path. It insists upon complete user freedom, and implements an economy that supports that.
When I’m low on cash, I can visit the nearest inn and tell the innkeeper, “I’m looking for work. Can you help me?” The answer is always “yes.” There’s no searching Craigslist, no emailing resumes, and definitely no W-2 forms. Potential employers in Skyrim never need to check my references. And there is no shortage of jobs. I indulge my every whim, stealing horses, spending my savings on mead and swords. Skyrim exposes the paradox of utopia; a perfect world is only made possible by an imperfect one.
As the world around me crumbled for five days, Skyrim showed me another world was possible. For so long, I had clung to the traditional economic model of getting a “job” and sticking with it. But the joy of Skyrim lay in my ability to direct a career path — my ability to freelance. Whether it was thievery, alchemy, smithing, or treasure-hunting, the opportunities for profit were endless. Skyrim is a testament to the freelance economy. It dawned on me: why couldn’t I make this work in real life, too?
I have no fantasies about going into a Marriott and asking the concierge for odd jobs. But not having a boss, working from home, and setting my own hours seems like a good place to start. I have always had misgivings about the traditional job model in American society. For everything else in life, there’s a shorter option. If you want to live in a new city for a few days, just a find a hotel. If you want a relationship for a few days, just find a bar. But a means of making money for a few days? Outside of sketchy Craigslist ads, are we really this limited?
For as much as we brand ourselves as commodities, we tend to only think of ourselves as useful when connected to a power source — a “job.” Once we cede that power away from employers, and back to ourselves, we can then start to realize our true value. Rather than reducing our value to a sum of profitability, we can express it in other ways — intelligence, benevolence, innovation.
Freelance economy certainly has a strong place in society, and its rise has been well-documented. Nearly one-third of this country’s workforce is comprised of independent workers. Despite that, these 42 million workers are left without the protections and benefits that “traditional” employees are afforded — no health insurance, no unemployment insurance, no protection from race, gender, or age discrimination. For freelance workers to thrive in our economy, we need to revise our conception of not only employment, but humanity.
“Throughout Western Europe, provided you’re a citizen, you have a safety net because you’re a person, not because you’re a worker,” writes Sara Horowitz, founder of Freelancers Union. In contrast, the U.S. conceptualizes the social safety net in terms of jobs — long-term, full-time jobs. Our economy places weight on being “employed” in the traditional sense, making the road for freelancers a perilous one. Unemployment benefits are given only to those laid off from a permanent position, and health insurance goes only to workers with employers who choose to provide them.
This central concept of employment has only crystallized recently, with the New Deal, and the 40-hour workweek. Not long ago, there were other ways to make ends meet. We were farmers, growing the food needed to feed us, building the houses required to shelter us. In other words, we didn’t work for anyone but ourselves. Nowadays, if we tried to live so simply, we would violate health codes and zoning laws.
The basic freedom to make it on our own — a concept so embedded in the spirit of this country — disappeared with the construction of the modern-day “job.” The cowboy, once a representation of our independence, is now celebrated only as a relic of it.
In the end, it’s still up to me. Life is what I make of it, and I really can kill a shopkeeper and pawn off his belongings. I really can make a living pickpocketing on the street. I choose not to because I have better things to do. Like figuring out how to live on my own terms.
I was first introduced to Krautrock by a homeless guy in Frankfurt. How we met and why we were hanging out is too convoluted a story for a relatively short blog post, so I’ll stick to the relevant details of our conversation and say he was bragging about experimental German bands he had met in the 1970s: Neu!, Cluster, Faust, CAN, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk. I understood through context that he was bragging, but I hadn’t heard of any of the bands he was talking about. Maybe Kraftwerk?
Most of the music I was listening to at the time was the equivalent of comfort food. It was aesthetic succor for the nervousness I felt about my impending deployment to Iraq. I wasn’t ready, just yet, to cut the psychic tether keeping me in the orbit of my home. So the music I listened to used blues scales and accoustic guitars, and was recorded in studios so famous that there are Broadway musicals about them. Music in which you can anticipate the chord changes. Music that your parents understand. Music that shows up on the iPod playlists of your scoutmaster, accountant, and youth minister. Last year I heard “Vitamin C” by CAN and it changed my life.
If saying that a song changed my life is too cliché a hyperbole, then allow me at least the claim that it changed the way I listen to music. CAN is psychedelia that makes The Doors sound like children’s music (it is). Kraftwerk are as influential as The Beatles. Neu! aren’t rock n’ roll at all, and better for it. Cluster, pioneers of ambient drone, are about as “far out” as I can go. If you really want to understand the origins of this music you have to keep two things in mind: 1) The only thing, and the most important thing, that all Krautrock bands have in common is that they draw from the European avant-garde tradition from Wagner to Stockhausen 2) There’s a political consciousness permeating all of this that has to do with starting over and rebuilding a war-decimated Germany from scratch. Brick-by-brick and sound-by-sound. And if those two things seem to contradict each other, then you’ve stumbled upon the enigma that gives the music its mysterious power. It all sounds primeval and hyper-modern at the same time.
The best documentary about Krautrock that I’ve seen is this BBC 4 special. Watch it! The best book I’ve read about it is Krautrock: Cosmic Rock And Its Legacy. Read it! They’re great introductions. And if you’re already acquainted and want to go deeper, let me recommend this and this. I wasn’t ready in Frankfurt for what the homeless guy was telling me, but now, assuming he wasn’t lying, I’m impressed. I feel like it’s the same way with the music itself. The public wasn’t really receptive to Krautrock when it was being made (Kraftwerk is the exception), but I think if those same people were to listen now, they would recognize the drone, repetition, minimalism, and electronica for what it is — the origin of the most interesting and powerful attributes of modern music.
In lieu of their regular end-of-the-year Mean Week (which is exactly what you think it is,) HTML Giant has been running a Tournament of Bookshit, a literary competition between “book related shits” set against each other in an NCAA-style bracket. Bookshits match-ups include “literary marriage” vs. “child of famous author’s novel,” “everybody has a story” “vs. show don’t tell,” “ ‘curating’ a reading series” vs. “crossing off your typed name and signing your name below it in your book.” It is magnificent, the perfect antidote to hours of reading articles/blog posts about book criticisms or about movie reviewers breaking review embargos or whatever you get sucked into reading with growing exhaustion today.
Unlike college football teams, Bookshits can’t play for themselves (insert some kind of sports-related joke here I guess, I don’t follow football so I can’t make a joke myself and I don’t care), so the tournament is unfolding in the same fashion as The Morning News’ Tournament of Books, with book-oriented writers writing the matches. The shittier of the two Bookshits moves on to the next round.
The first round is about halfway finished; my favorite game so far has been the battle between “Gordon Lish” and “Foot Fetish,” written by Crispin Best, which includes the line, “Gordon Lish in a room at Twitter headquarters, brutally shortening URLs.”
Twitter is wonderful. It allows me to talk to Sean Parker and Kevin Durant. It helps social movements organize. It’s an excellent way to keep up with breaking news. It facilitates internet-wide conversations. I’m probably not the first douchebag with a liberal arts degree to say this, but Twitter is the closest thing we have to a public sphere. Everybody gets a voice; nobodies get to talk to somebodies. The powerful still command the most attention and dominate Twitter’s search results, but more than any other platform, Twitter allows marginalized viewpoints into the fray. Moreover, I’m an active tweeter. And despite my initial misgivings, I’ve found it somewhat personally rewarding.
Mostly, though, Twitter is terrible.
Here’s exhibit A:
Forget everything you know about the internet for a moment, and dispassionately think about how fucking weird it is that we have collectively chosen this as a means of communicating. I mean, really think about it. Dude probably went into debt trying to get through grad school, learning to craft and defend a complex argument. And what he’s talking about here, an NBA team’s 2011 free agency prospects, is an incredibly complicated subject that would merit at least a paragraph or two.
Consider also that this guy is taking the time to publicly engage some schmo in conversation. That’s admittedly pretty amazing, and we can thank Twitter for making this sort of thing typical. But Twitter’s also to blame for how amazingly limited these conversations tend to be. There are a few ways to respond to tweets, and they’re all ugly and difficult to follow.* Meaningful dialogue is near impossible. It’s hard to believe the platform that has gone further than any other in realizing the internet’s communicative possibilities is so antithetical to dialogue.
And I’m sorry to state the obvious, but one cannot express nuanced ideas in 140 characters. When news outlets tweet, they’re often limited to the basic facts about what is happening. There’s no room to situate reports of isolated occurences in their larger context; to explain to the reader how to understand them. Conversely, when people express opinions in tweets, Twitter leaves them no room to back up their arguments with facts. Sure, tweets can link back to unbridled long-form content. But Twitter itself is increasingly a site for thoughtful discourse — and it should be, because it holds enormous potential. And as things stand, tweets are rarely persuasive. Rather, they fragment us further. Twitter ultimately allows the user to see the world through his or her own worldviews, never meaningfully challenging prejudices, never truly educating. It contributes to our media environment’s epistemic free-for-all, wherein truth is more a matter of perspective and agenda than shared facts.**
The fundamental idea of Twitter remains genius and revolutionary and worth keeping: digestible ideas shared in real time. We can fix all of its problems without sacrificing that. Keep the feed, forever putting the emphasis on staying in the moment. Keep the simple formatting. Hashtags are great. No reason to change things up too much or to impose any stylistic restrictions. Just allow a more generous character count. Let users create threads. Create a means for retweeting and adding your own comments. Allow better image and video integration.
Oh wait, I’m describing Tumblr. Let’s just all move to Tumblr.
*Here are your options for tweet-dialogue: (A) Take the aforeposted tweet’s route, clumsily tacking a response on to the end of the original message, perhaps in paranthesis or in caps to differentiate your answer. This is probably the worst; it’s unbearably ugly, and you wind up with half the characters to respond. (B) You can just tweet your response without retweeting the original message. This makes things a little difficult for third parties to follow — clicking on a tweet allows you to see the back-and-forth, but it only works some of the time, and looks terrible. (C) Probably your best option is to just retweet the original message, and then respond in a separate tweet. Still, this is also clunky, and looks terrible in the feed. Compared with the simple linear conversation of Facebook statuses, or chat programs, or real life, all of Twitter’s options suck, and discourage conversation.
I always liked the sound of the term ‘film essay.’ It sounds so intellectual, like something more than fiction, more than documentary, some kind of employment of image and narration that I can’t quite picture but must be wonderfully engaging. But I recently saw Grin Without a Cat, and I’m not sure there exists any film that more deserves to be called an ‘essay’ than this epic assemblage of words and images.
The film was created by French New Wave director Chris Marker in 1977, detailing the rise and fall of Leftist movements in the 1960s and ’70s, particularly in France and Latin America. After its original release in 1993 it was cut from four to three hours, and retooled a bit with a new post-fall-of-Communism closing dialogue.
The title, which from the original French Le Fond de l’air est rouge translates literally to something like “the base of the air is red,” is so strange and somehow awkward it almost resists interpretation. But the idea is actually central to Marker’s non-linear, impressionistic, sprawling depiction. The film is almost an elegy to the heady ideals of the 1960s and ’70s, ideals to which Marker himself was deeply devoted, and this is the importance of the red air and the cat-less grin — that despite their undeniable power, those ideas could somehow never become reality, and the world they envisioned could never exist.
Marker works through juxtaposition, weaving together collected footage of protests, televised press conferences, guerilla fighters in Venezuela, interviews with Castro, countless speeches, conversations with theorist after theorist, and oblique but constant references to cats, including periodic footage of raccoons in trees. He analyzes Leftist/Socialist/Communist movements across the globe, their dreams, their splinterings, their failures, their alliances with sometimes China and sometimes Russia, all the while circling through and around and between ideas. Marker’s own narration, read by a small cast of luminaries including Yves Montand and Simone Signoret, is less an explanatory or guiding voice and more a kind of parallel text to the footage and interviews.
This is all to say that Grin Without a Cat is not like any film I have ever seen, and rarely have I felt so electrified by any book, movie, TV show, or other information-delivery system as I did attempting to follow Marker’s diffuse ideas. Three hours is a long time to watch a film like this, and I never did quite understand the raccoons in the trees, but I left wanting to see it again, and soon. The film is an education, and it most certainly still holds value for the young revolutionaries of the world — and anyone else who likes to think about things.
As one last comment, I’ll leave you with a rare moment of wisdom from an Amazon.com reviewer: “It’s some kind of work of genius, rent it, watch it, don’t get mad at yourself for falling asleep twice, you might emerge thinking that, in spite of all that, it’s the best thing you’ve ever seen.”
A few weeks ago I championed a recent trend of literary authors dabbling in television writing. I applauded novelists turned showrunners like Bored to Death’s Jonathan Ames for attempting to use “television to annually craft a novel in a different medium than the page.” So it caught my eye when the New York Times recently opened a short blog entry titled “Periodic Novel, Coming Soon,” with this: “Could people talk about books with the same timely intensity that they do the latest episode of ‘Mad Men’ or ‘Top Chef’?” The Times query was inspired by the announcement of House of Leaves scribe Mark Z. Danielewski’s forthcoming The Familiar, a 27-volume novel to be published a volume at a time every three months beginning in 2014. Danielewski’s editor, Edward Kastenmeier, claims that the books strive to fashion a “serial relationship” with readers, later elaborating: “You await the next one; you want to talk about it. Everybody will be engaging the book in roughly the same cycle.”Part of what makes Danielewski’s experiment interesting is precisely the competitive and comparative aspect with television that the Times hinges its notice on. Given the success with which programs of the HBO and AMC ilk have applied novelistic structure and characterization, with each episode and season simulating chapters and books, it will be fascinating to see how well Danielewski’s inversion (distributing a novel nearly at television’s pace) actually works.
What makes the Times’ missive more intriguing, however, is how, well, familiar this model is to the novel’s history. Before dropping into readers’ laps in its current tome form, Anna Karenina ran as a serial publication between 1873 and 1877. Dickens serially published his entire oeuvre. More recently, Michael Chabon (another author soon to be occupying the small screen) crafted his short novel Gentlemen of the Road serially in the New York Times Magazine. And do we really have to stretch our minds to imagine Kastenmeier’s world in which readers are “engaging the book in roughly the same cycle” when that aptly describes how nearly everybody experienced Harry Potter?
Granted, some differences between these examples and Danielewski’s experiment are notable. Unlike the Tolstoy/Dickens/Chabon model, The Familiar will be released book by book, not nestled within the pages of journals or magazines with relatively cheap subscriptions. And unlike Harry Potter, which stretched its reading cycle with seven books over a decade, Danielewski’s installments will hit shelves at what the Times considers “a rapid timeline almost unheard-of in the publishing industry.”
Nonetheless, the Times question of “timely intensity” sells literature disappointingly short. That readers immerse themselves into longform serial narratives with the same dedication as Breaking Bad viewers isn’t something that’s ever gone away, nor does it appear to be endangered in the near future. That the newest crop of readers now don’t merely want, but seem to need, their favorite story’s next installments so hastily delivered, however, should inspire some real uncertainties.
My earliest memory of a fake tornado is watching the beginning to “The Wizard of Oz”, in which the black and white sky becomes more black than white, and the wind works itself up into an almost comical crescendo, until the coming of the actual funnel cloud. Chickens cluck and horses neigh. The wind, which grows stronger and stronger, picks everything up and swirls it in a slapstick funhouse chaos. It almost looks delightful. What a great doorway to pass through into another world — a world that Dorothy wasn’t nearly appreciative enough to be romping through, I thought. Kansas without the tornado looked more hellish.
My earliest memory of a real tornado was during first grade. It had rained all morning — not hard rain, but steady sheets. It’s always hard for me to be anywhere but home when it’s raining out. It doesn’t feel right to be stuck in a classroom, in an office, in a car. I need to be on my own bed with my own books. And so I spent the entire morning staring into the gloom.
Around lunch the rain stopped. The darkness lifted and the sun shone down, but through a green muddy lens, like a dirty emerald. Everything was still. No chickens would have clucked. No horses would have rolled their eyes back and stomped around. It was like the atmosphere itself, the moisture and its weight, held everything down and closer to the earth.
Including us. Because we were rushed out of the classroom, away from the giant wall of windows facing north, and brought into the flourescent haze of the hallway, where we were ordered to curl up with our heads tucked in between our knees and our hands protecting the backs of our necks. Maybe we were down there for ten minutes. Maybe an hour. Maybe three days. Maybe seventeen years.
When we went back into the classroom the green had gone and the tree branches were shaking again and swaying together in a reassuringly familiar way. Even more than being scared, I remember being disappointed in how fake Dorothy’s torando was. How silly and — although I wouldn’t have had the vocabulary to call it this at the time — how mechanical and deus ex machina it was. In real life the tornado itself had turned out to be Oz. Strange and alluring and powerful and violent.
This notion was confirmed years later when, while driving with my family through Kansas on the way to Denver, I saw two tornados from the highway. Unable to stop the van, I peed into a BigGulp cup and dumped it out of the window. No wizards or witches or emerald city. Just a cup full of piss and a highway falling into disrepair.
“A hundred meals and zero shits.” This best line from Keith Gessen’s account of his recent O.W.S. related arrest and incarceration should have been the piece’s title, for its heart is really in its bowels.
Published yesterday under the more sanitized, New Yorker appropriate title “Central Booking,” the n+1 editor’s long blog post describes his arrest and the following 32-hours he spent in jail. Nabbed for blocking traffic on the morning of November 17 as part of an O.W.S. action to shut down the New York Stock Exchange (“or at least impede its smooth functioning”) Gessen and his co-protesters were taken to Central Booking, also known as the Tombs, where they sang songs, made chessboards out of miniature cereal boxes, “held discussions about European history, foreign wars, the situation of Americans in small post-industrial cities,” and waited out the interminable procedure of being processed.
The post has a few faux-sinister asides (“If we [as a society] keep going the way we’re going, we will be judged very, very harshly—and sooner, perhaps, than we think”), but on the whole, it’s more concerned with reportage than rhetoric (O.W.S. is more likely to put on a puppet show than a show trial, and Gessen presents it as such.)
“Central Booking” is a rich account of the system and Gessen provides a nuanced report of the various dynamics at work that make jail, even in its most temporary iteration, such a fucked up mess. It’s also a great portrait of O.W.S. behind bars, with many lessons for future arrestees (singing Bohemian Rhapsody with your cellmates won’t make you many new friends, I speak from experience). What Gessen really nails though, is the very basic, disgustingly solvable, gut-level indignity prisoners experience:
[S]itting there, with the stench from our filthy toilet filling the room, and with the filth in our filthy sink making me less eager than I ought to have been to drink from it, despite being thirsty, I became angry—really, honestly, for the first time. I thought for the first time, with genuine venom, of the hypocrite mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire, who shut down the Occupy Wall Street encampment for reasons of “health and safety” but has not deemed it worthwhile to make sure that the toilets in facilities that he has control of meet even the most minimal standards of health and safety, such that, while I watched, about forty men, eating a total of a hundred meals, over the course of a day and a half, refused to perform a single bowel movement.
When I spent 20-some-hours in Philadelphia’s Roundhouse last week, the situation was much the same. About an hour after we were locked in our cells (3 guys in an 8×4, if memory serves), the janitor (not a corrections officer, mind you) walked by and urged us not to drink the water from the fountain built into the top of our stainless steel commode. “This is the drunk tank,” he told us. “Guys come in here drunk as hell, fucked up on all kind of shit, and nobody thinks to throw up in the toilet. Stay away from that fountain” Duly noted, we thought, and then proceeded to wait five or six fairly excruciating hours for our 8 oz. of bottled water.
Gessen is right to be unsettled by the stint in jail and right to complain about the conditions. There are plenty of discomforts that you just have to accept in such a situation and jail shouldn’t be fun, blah blah blah, etc., of course. But filthy toilets and dirty water are wrong, and obviously so. At the end, he writes that “[t]o be on the other side of the law-and-order machine in this country is awful. It is dehumanizing, and degrading, and deforming. It fills you with a helpless rage: because, once there, you can only make things worse for yourself by speaking up.” It’s a fine, straightforward note to end on. Gessen’s conclusions are obvious ones because they are basic and visceral. You feel his best points in your stomach.
“Perhaps the most disturbing and disgusting film ever made.” –Amazon.com
Over Thanksgiving I watched the 1975 Italian film Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. It was Pier Paolo Pasolini’s final film—he was murdered weeks before its release, either by a seventeen-year-old street hustler or a group of right-wing extortionists. In the film Pasolini, an avowed leftist, replaces the four French libertines in the Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom with wealthy Italian fascists during the final days of Mussolini’s regime. (Read a good, short essay about the film’s relationship to the written word here.) As in Sade’s original work, the protagonists kidnap a group of young people and lock them in a remote castle for four months of fetishistic abuse, which is shown in graphic detail.
Salò was banned in Italy upon its release and has been banned on and off pretty much everywhere else since. I can’t figure out when the ban was lifted in the U.S., but I do know that in 1993 Criterion tried to release it and ran into other problems (something to do with the Pasolini estate), leaking only a handful of highly coveted VHS tapes onto the American film-buff scene. Criterion tried again in 1998, but the edition was similarly limited. As recently as 2007, a person had to put down a $400 deposit at Scarecrow Video in Seattle, the largest independent video store in the country, to rent it.
The copy I encountered, however, was a brand new Criterion DVD. In 2008 the company successfully released a deluxe edition with lots of special features, including three short documentaries about the film and its reception. So nowadays if you want it, it’s yours. In order to help you make your decision, I’ve rounded up some of the best and worst audience reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, which you can read below. I’d give you a review of my own, but I’m still a little shell-shocked and am likely to remain undecided until I watch it again. Heaven knows when I’ll muster the courage.
On the one hand:
“A brave, intelligent and important film.”
“A masterpiece of cinema.”
“Unflinching and breathtaking.”
“A film of torturous beauty.”
“Uncompromising. A brilliant work of art.”
“Beautiful in its brazen abandon of all cinematic and moral convention.”
“Wholly evocative and hauntingly beautiful.”
“A daring, eye-opening achievement in film.”
“Beautifully shot and remarkably relevant.”
“Genius. Worthy of the highest rating.”
“A fascinating film, and a big slap in the face of censorship and right wing extremism.”
“Highly recommended for pervert and professor alike.”
“Poetic. This is Pasolini’s masterpiece.”
“This film is utterly transcendent.”
And on the other:
“Let me put it this way – I hate this movie.”
“Literally made me puke.”
“The most disgusting film I’ve ever seen.”
“Some sick shit disguised as European high art.”
“Vile and twisted. I felt dirty for days.”
“Sickening, absurd and unnecessary.”
“Brutal, disgusting, depraved and repulsive. A movie you would recommend to absolutely nobody.”
“A film for perverts. Simple as that.”
“This movie should have never been made.”
“Barbaric, deplorable, baffling garbage.”
“Redundant and grueling.”
“Dick Cheney’s favorite film.”
“I don’t understand how anyone could mistake this for art.”
A Chinese “Absurdistan” needs a conflicted iconoclast, a figure torn between the tug of China’s commercial bounty and the critical imperative to keep his distance—let’s say, an outspoken, frequently-censored blogger who does glamour-spots for an instant-coffee company.
The blogger in question asks, “Can’t you be independent, and free of influence, and still rely on advertising?”
I like watching the video above — the independent, iconoclastic Chinese blogger forced to shill instant coffee — in conjunction with the Wall Street Journal‘s infographic about the children of Chinese leaders (who are, apparently, known as “princelings”). Is this what the 99% looks like, in China?
(Also, can you imagine if we referred to the sons of the CEO of Goldman Sachs as “princelings?” I have to say, their career trajectory wouldn’t be out of place on that earlier infographic.)