There are, on this staff, any number of people who are, without a doubt, more well spoken and better qualified to comment on this subject than me. Many of them are in possession of the biological equipment that this product is, uh, aimed at. One of the staff has even commented on this brand’s questionable advertising only a few weeks ago. I must apologize in advance then. In the end you are not getting the insightful, well-reasoned and well-informed commentary that you, the loyal and erudite Coilhouse reader, deserve. Instead you are getting the blathering of the Catacombs’s most puerile and juvenile prisoner occupant.
“Hail to the V” is a new commercial for Summer’s Eve “cleansing wash and cloths”. It features an authoritative sounding voiceover by a woman with an authoritative British accent. (Which is redundant, really, because as any American and, of course, Summer’s Eve knows, a British accent is, by its intrinsic Britishness, authoritative. That is why it is in this commercial.) Anyway, this voice leads us through a number of different “historical” scenarios meant to illustrate just how gosh darn important vaginas are. Especially your vagina. Yes, you there, miss.
So, first we are shown a Neolithic woman, clothed in the skins of animals, holding aloft a neonate (also clothed in animal skins) while British Lady intones stoically about the cradle of life. Flashing forward in time, we are presented with another woman, costumed in order to suggest Egyptian royalty. Looking out over her subjects, she throws up her arms in a massive V (like the one in vagina) and British Lady refers to “it” (also, your vagina) as “the center of civilization”. Do you see where this is going, ladies? Do you? “It” (or, your vagina) is pretty damn important. But how important? Relax, we’re getting to that.
Now we come to the longest part of the ad. We find ourselves in a bamboo forest. There are two Asian gentlemen in this forest with us. One has a sword, while the other has a long, rubbery looking staff. They are fighting in a manner that Americans associate with Asia. There is also an Asian woman in the background, looking on, dressed in a manner that Americans associate with Asia as it was long ago. British Lady begins to pontificate on how, throughout history and all over the world (hence the excursion to Asia), men have “fought for it”. Quickly, we cut to Medieval Europe. There are knights on horses. They are jousting. They drive their horses towards one another, their immense, phallic weapons undulating angrily in front of them. There is a woman here, too, looking on. Some men, British Lady informs us, breathlessly, some men have even died for it. One of the knights falls, which pleases the woman who has been watching. As the victorious knight raises his visor to look at her, British Lady concludes with “One might say, it’s the most powerful thing on Earth,” which is true, I suppose; one might say that. But, then again, one might say all sorts of things when trying to market douche.
Finally, we are approaching our terminus, the payoff for this weird trip through time and space. We have, at last, been returned to the present. Inside a store, a woman is thoughtfully pondering a Summer’s Eve product. She nods her head and mutters to herself, presumably to signal her agreement with that last line from British Lady when, suddenly, American Lady — familiar, jovial, and friendly — cuts in and gets to the point, saying, “So come on ladies, show it a little love,” which, again, is something you might say when trying to market douche.
I’m just not sure it’s something you should say. I’m not sure how comfortable I am with a full minute of advertising that repeatedly references disembodied genitalia. “It” is the cradle of life, but isn’t “it” attached to someone? “It” is the center of civilization, but “it” isn’t the one throwing up its arms. But the strangest, most uncomfortable section is that last part, the longest part, the part where men are fighting for “it” — killing to possess “it”. That section is really weird because what I get from that section is that men have made war upon one another for your vagina. They have killed each other for your vagina. They have leveled cities and razed the land for your vagina.
The least you could do is ignore those damned health warnings and make sure it doesn’t smell.
Not everyone loves cats as much as this lady. Some of our readers are dog people. More specifically, some our readers are morally bankrupt sadists who like to watch dogs dressed up like people mince around on their hind legs, pretending to do people things.
Coilhouse dedicates the following inexplicable thirty seconds to them:
via Little Scarab
Had enough, sickos? Didn’t think so. So here are some more choice cuts from the infamous Dogville Comedies, produced and filmed in the early 1930s:
The treasure-dispensing giant in the green forest or the fairy who grants one wish
– they appear to each of us at least once in a lifetime. But only
Sunday’s children remember the wish they made, and so it is
only a few who recognize its fulfillment in their lives. – Walter Benjamin
Benjamin Birthday Cake! Photoshop by Nadya.
There is a Yiddish expression offered on someone’s birthday which is affectionate and contains a subtle blessing: “Bis hundert und zwanzig.” In other words, people are wished a life that extends to their 120th year. So what should we do if someone dear (if not near) somehow turns 120? What are they wished then and each year thereafter? I offer these questions as a point of entry for considering Walter Benjamin, a writer whose life ended in suicide as he contemplated his chances of eluding the Nazi Gestapo some seventy-three years before this question may have become material for those around him. Today marks the 119th anniversary of Benjamin’s birth – the last time someone could have addressed him with the wish of living to 120.
Walter Benjamin was a literary critic, philosopher, memoirist, and collector during Germany’s ill-fated Weimar Republic. Among his adventures were sojourns from Berlin to Moscow to witness the building of history and to Marseilles to smoke hashish and to Riga to have his love rejected. His last seven years were spent in exile while his works were banned and burned in his native land. Under other conditions, Benjamin’s Francophile desires would have found their easy appeasement in Paris, but the Third Reich cast an increasingly tall shadow and he became, tragically, a prisoner in the country of his dreams. In his forty-eight year life, Benjamin ran with Bertolt Brecht, Rainer Maria Rilke, Asja Lacis, Theodor and Gretel Adorno, Siegfried Kracauer, Ernst Bloch, Hannah Arendt, Georges Bataille, Leo Strauss, Max Brod and Gershom Scholem. And in many ways, Benjamin’s thought is a playful and poetic montage of the ideas of his associates – a “constellation” of Romanticism, Idealism, Marxism, Surrealism, and Jewish mysticism that is more than its unlikely parts: “Satan is a dialectician, and a kind of spurious success…betrays him, just as does the spirit of gravity.”
Einbahnstrasse by Sasha Stone (1928)
Benjamin brought to this heady mix his fascination, at once childish and insightful, for art and artifacts as relics containing clues to history. The scion of an antiquities dealer, Benjamin discerned an impending revolutionary–cum-spiritual cataclysm by contemplating and indexing paintings, books, and the most banal debris of economic life he could find, regarding them as might wily Detective Columbo if he was prodigiously stoned. As Bloch wrote of Benjamin’s book One Way Street, “when the current cabaret passes through a surrealist philosophy, what emerges into the light of day from the debris of meanings…is a kaleidoscope of a different sort.” The spooky thing is that Benjamin’s apocalyptic vision of lawmaking described in 1921 as “bloody power for its own sake” came to pass in many ways a little more than a decade later.
Walter Benjamin lived in a milieu of such vastly assimilated German-Jewish life that he had little formal understanding of Jewish culture, Yiddish, Hebrew, or even the Jewish religion. He did, however, harbor an abiding interest in Jewish mysticism and mused furtively over those bits of religion and culture he encountered. And he certainly seemed to have found spiritual sanction for his already-existing fetishization of objects in the Kabbalist’s meditations on words, names, and numbers. According to this mystical orientation, influenced by neo-Platonism, reality has multiple dimensions – like a faceted diamond – only a few of which are directly accessible to us. We may approach them only indirectly, as they appear to us as abstract notions like numbers, letters, names, and sentiments. In such times as Benjamin playfully, and perhaps also earnestly, speculated on the mystical significance of language and numbers, he may have come to consider 119 alongside its constitutive outside, the number 120, the last year we can legitimately hope for someone else. If so, it is entirely likely that Benjamin, a thinker who invited the mystical, would have been intrigued by the delimiting function of 120 and may have further speculated on 121 as a possible portal to other dimensions. Operating, then, as a detective, Benjamin may have investigated the year 120 as a future crime scene – a time-place where this phrase will be eternally transcended. Looking outward, 119 years of life may have been considered the furthermost edge of his generation, a remote vantage from which to contemplate the eternity of space, like a balcony atop “Saturn’s ring.” Upon returning from such reveries, Benjamin would hopefully have finally mentioned that the actual root of this folk expression comes from the biblical datum that Moses lived to be 120. This, then, could have been followed by an analogy that is possibly both specious and interesting, like noting that Moses and Benjamin never completed their exodus from brutality.
The wish that one live beyond the culturally sanctioned, and quite generous, lifespan of 120 is redolent of the posthumous reception of Benjamin’s work throughout the humanities. The fervent interest in his work throughout the humanities since the 1980s is so unlikely as to seem almost a form of Messianic fulfillment on an individual scale. After all, his life was unfulfilled in most respects. He was a failed academic, a divorcee whose affair was an awkward mess, a minor radio personality whose voice was never recorded, and a writer whose masterworks were unfinished or forever lost in history. Years later, his work even achieved “fame” on its own terms when, in 1969, his most significant essay was mistranslated as “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” by Harry Zohn. For Benjamin, a work has achieved “fame” when it its translation transmits information not contained in the original. Two generations of scholars and art critics referenced his most significant essay through a misleading title, when now, as if language shifted its tectonic plates under our feet, the essay is emphatically translated as “Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility.” In the digital age, articles like this one are re-posted with attention to errata, such as mistaking today for his 121st anniversary, whereas it is only his 119th. If only Zohn had used WordPress his translation would have been unfinished and arguably better for it. Perhaps as the author of that essay – however titled – Benjamin would have come to consider fame in the age of American Idol in terms of having a finger puppet refrigerator magnet in one’s visgage. “All that is holy is profaned,” sayeth Marx. What does familiarity breed? So much for the “aura” of the author, eh?
In his essay on “The Metaphysics of Youth” Benjamin contemplates one’s diary as a temporal domain, an inner life expressed in writing which begins in medias res, with life already in motion, and which can never be concluded by an author whose death occludes continued authorship. The project is never finished and the life, as written in the diary, exists in its own sort of time, like the life the mind, an eternal moment delimited by birth and death, and unable to experience either. Benjamin’s life is thus suspended within the pages of his books, essays, memoirs, and personal effects – as in his Paris address book shown below. Something of his life may sometimes seem to flash in our minds as we read him, just as Benjamin once suggested that art and artifacts can communicate something of their creation in flashes. In this sense, Benjamin’s work has escaped the bounds of the moment in which it was written, although it has yet to allow its readers to tear the fabric of time and usher in the Messianic moment of utter destructiveness in which history is fulfilled and completed.
Of course, I cannot literally wish Walter Benjamin 120 years of existence because I have no known way of communicating it to him. I can, however, wish it for him in spirit, and I do. Whether this wish, now communicated in language, effectively gives him happiness, is beyond the scope of this essay to determine, but my wish that it do so has some affinity with Benjamin’s own work. In his essay, “On Language as Such and on the Language of Man,” Benjamin posits language as constitutive of thought and life as we know it – not merely a conduit for them – as, in his example, a divine speech act once set the universe in motion with illumination: “Let there be light.” Likewise, Benjamin may have noted that the wish that someone live to 120 implies a blessing, as in the Yiddish expression: “From your mouth to God’s ear.” As this is the last time I may properly wish Walter a 120th year, I am ever-more concerned that it take the form of a blessing where numbers and sentiments are tangible – on the other side of language.
This essay is dedicated to Lionel Ziprin, z”l.
Friday! It is now! At this very moment! Time for the FAM! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Today’s Friday Afternoon Movie is 1991’s Blood in the Face, directed by Anne Bohlen, Kevin Rafferty, and James Ridgeway, based upon Ridgeway’s book Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture. You may assume from the title of that book that this film may be about white supremacists. You would assume correctly. Blood in the Face, filmed mostly in Cohoctah Township, Michigan, is an encounter with the ultra-right, lunatic fringe — at least as it existed 20 years ago.
What makes the movie work, I think, is how casual, for lack of a better word, the entire encounter is. The directors eschew the usual tropes associated with exposés and documentaries. There is no narrator, there are no experts being interviewed in order to provide commentary or context. By and large the filmmakers stay out of the actual film (with the exception of Michael Moore, who makes an appearance around 7:12 in part one, interviewing a uniformed neo-Nazi). The majority of the interviews are conversational in tone, giving the disturbing illusion of actually being amongst these people. Oftentimes it feels like it’s just you and a bunch of crazed racists; an uncomfortable experience, to say the least.
Trunk animations strange and visually dense Winter Poem, animated anddirected by Rok Predin, with a lovely score by Ivan Arnold. If I am being honest, I’m not sure I know what is going on, but it certainly is nice to look at.
The campaign slogan was “Traditional Goes Digital,” and it included three images: Squaw, Brave and Chief. These were created for Australian printing company ColorChiefs in 2006, and recently resurfaced on the How to Be a Retronaut blog, to such wry comments as “Native American steampunk use ALL the parts of the 8088.” The images have also garnered some critique, both for their cultural appropriation and sexism. As blogger Ikwe recently wrote on Tumblr, “it’s not very creative to sexualize a native woman in this way but it’s packaged with a new futuristic sexy theme so it’s sooooo groundbreaking and chic. Oh yes, the ad also reminds us that we are moving forward from our primitive and savage ways. Meh.” Paging Dr. Adrienne!
Looking at this somewhat clueless ad campaign did lead me through an interesting Wikipedia tunnel. Come with me on a magical journey:
Cargo Cult on Wikipedia:
With the end of the war, the military abandoned the airbases and stopped dropping cargo. In response, charismatic individuals developed cults among remote Melanesian populations that promised to bestow on their followers deliveries of food, arms, Jeeps, etc. The cult leaders explained that the cargo would be gifts from their own ancestors, or other sources, as had occurred with the outsider armies. In attempts to get cargo to fall by parachute or land in planes or ships again, islanders imitated the same practices they had seen the soldiers, sailors, and airmen use. Cult behaviors usually involved mimicking the day to day activities and dress styles of US soldiers, such as performing parade ground drills with wooden or salvaged rifles. The islanders carved headphones from wood and wore them while sitting in fabricated control towers. They waved the landing signals while standing on the runways. They lit signal fires and torches to light up runways and lighthouses. In a form of sympathetic magic, many built life-size replicas of airplanes out of straw and cut new military-style landing strips out of the jungle, hoping to attract more airplanes. The cult members thought that the foreigners had some special connection to the deities and ancestors of the natives, who were the only beings powerful enough to produce such riches.
Which led to Cargo Cult Programming on Wikipedia:
A style of computer programming that is characterized by the ritual inclusion of code or program structures that serve no real purpose. Cargo cult programming is typically symptomatic of a programmer not understanding either a bug he or she was attempting to solve or the apparent solution (compare shotgun debugging, voodoo programming). The term cargo cult programmer may also apply when an unskilled or novice computer programmer (or one not experienced with the problem at hand) copies some program code from one place and pastes it into another place, with little or no understanding of how the code works, or if it is required in its new position.
Voodoo Programming on Wikipedia:
In computer programming, deep magic refers to techniques that are not widely known, and may be deliberately kept secret. The number of such techniques has arguably decreased in recent years, especially in the field of cryptography, many aspects of which are now open to public scrutiny. The Jargon File makes a distinction between deep magic, which refers to (code based on) esoteric theoretical knowledge; black magic, which refers to (code based on) techniques that appear to work but which lack a theoretical explanation; and heavy wizardry, which refers to (code based on) obscure or undocumented intricacies of particular hardware or software. All three terms can appear in source code comments of the form:
Deep magic begins here…
In fiction, the term comes from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, an early book from C. S. Lewis‘s The Chronicles of Narnia, which describes ancient laws and codes as “deep magic from the dawn of time.”
This month, timeless alien beauty Tilda Swinton (the polyamorous, gender-defying star best known for starring as the hero/heroine of Orlando, based on the Virginia Woolf novel of the same name) appeared in a photo shoot for W Magazine by Tim Walker inspired by David Bowie’s The Man Who Fell to Earth. In the interview accompanying the shoot, Swinton cites both Bowie and her father as figures who influenced her style. “They are individuals with whom I share the same planetary DNA,” she says. Of her father’s uniforms, Swinton says: “from childhood, I remember more about his black patent, gold livery, scarlet-striped legs, and medal ribbons than I do of my mother’s evening dresses. I would rather be handsome, as he is, for an hour than pretty for a week.”
This is not the first time that Tilda Swinton has appeared in a David Bowie-inspired shoot. Previously, she emulated Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie in a 2009 shoot with Craig McDean.
I don’t know if I’ll ever understand Tilda Swinton being a Roman Polanski apologist, but these photos sure are stunning.