Tracing Cynical Reason in 20th Century America

In this blog I trace cynical reason of 20th century American history as a phenomenon in two aspects: in the sphere of economics and in the sphere of cultural arts. Instead of complaining about the so-called poverty of contemporary politics or whining about the decline of contemporary morality, I insist on cynical reason as a dominant sentiment of the post-Fordist capitalist existence. In this respect, cynical reason extends further than the emotional or psychological response to the contemporary existence, and closer to a sociological analysis. Continue reading

The Great Philosophical Divide in Science Fiction

TomorrowLand Concept art

Life without utopia is suffocating, for the multitude at least: threatened otherwise with petrifaction, the world must have a new madness. – Cioran, History and Utopia

There’s a fault line running in science fiction that predates it: the Great Optimism -Pessimism divide. The most obvious trope of each is the role of utopia/dystopia in the science fiction work, but that is slightly more complicated than it appears.

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Cynics, Fanatics, and… Trolls?

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However, this proverb is far more profound than its attempt at cleverness. All three are actually interrelated and two of them are the dominant aspects of our modern times. The cynic is the average person, having become enlightened, but since none of her traditional beliefs or values are reliable, she sinks in a reflexive false consciousness. The fanatic is the reactionary who, in rejecting the secular wisdom of the Enlightenment, inadvertently recreates a secular version of his traditional beliefs or practices in fundamentalism. As for the troll? She merely avoids the pitfalls of either dead end by transcending the modern times in her utilization of cheeky humor and avoids the sin of seriousness in mocking either caricature. Continue reading

Change the World?

Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.”  Continue reading

Philosophy on Twitter

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Twitter is the perfect medium for today’s over-saturated media-soaked times.  Continue reading

The Concept of Decline in the West

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I’m interested in history as a narrative by philosophers of history, such as Hegel and Spengler. In this post I’ll go over the observations of two twentieth century thinkers: Oswald Spengler and Emil Cioran. Continue reading

Best anime of 2014

Another tough year, down the drain. There were several deserving shows, regardless of the endless flow of mediocrity, and they deserve a mention.

 

Space Dandy

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The dandiest guy in space

 

One of the all-time greatest creators in anime, Shinichirō Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo) returned with a fantastic premise in experimentation: start with a ragtag bunch of bounty hunters (Dandy, Meow, and QT) and throw them into impossible scenarios, and then… reset each episode, wipe it clean for the next one. This is anthology done right as each episode became a showcase for the top animators, directors and writers in the business. That did recycle the overall shtick, but somehow, each episode managed to shoot for the highest peaks in blending or bending genre, mixing parodies and homages. I often applaud creativity over technical execution, especially when ambition and originality plays a huge factor in this surreal and over-the-top series. You could say Space Dandy “saved” anime in 2014, but truth be told – there wasn’t much to save in the end. Both whimsical and great, Space Dandy would’ve been a strong contender in any other year, because there’s absolutely nothing like it.

 

 

Kill la Kill

Kill la Kill

Anime is an unique medium that isn’t as grounded in mimicry or verisimilitude – and that means the creators should push its boundaries every time, exploit the medium without respect to realism in the slightest. And Kill la Kill is the latest exponent of this philosophy, in a long line that dates back to Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and FLCL – a madcap, hyper-kinetic spectacle with a barely coherent plot and outsized, totally outrageous characters. Absolutely zero filler episodes means this show had impeccable pacing. Admittedly, there were plenty of fan-service-y innuendo and inside baseball jokes (many of the puns are based on Japanese words), so many of the references might fly over your head. Competently animated, and completely slick with its stylized aesthetic, Kill la Kill is a shot of adrenaline to your groin, and doesn’t let go until you’re pumped at maximum capacity, frothing at the mouth, ready to change the world – or at least blog on the next episode.

 

And… that’s it.

 

Two. Frigging. Shows. All. Year. Jumping Jehoshaphat. 2014 was a down year in Anime. I mean, we are talking the Leastern Conference bad in the NBA these days. Even my favorite anime bloggers burned out (Psgels) or delegated the burden (Scamp) or started blogging other non-anime content about Japan (Guardian Enzo).

 

Flops? Of the ones I did hunker down and watch…

 

PSYCHO-PASS 2

Decent science fiction ideas in the wake of Gen Urobuchi marred by substandard execution. No budget, one dimensional characters? Junk it.

 

Fate/Stay Night Whatever Whatever

No matter how great a studio is, it just can’t get beyond the ridiculous high school setting. Ufotable couldn’t escape the 15 ton ball and chain of shounen and that Yuji Everylead the Bland character.

Scifi film in dialogue with 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) GARY LOCKWOOD TTO 016FOH

A few weeks ago, I came across an article on Grantland that pushed forth the thesis that all science fiction films after 1968 are in dialogue with 2001: A Space Odyssey, and shared it with my colleague in intellectual crime, Paul. Continue reading

Ethics of Piracy

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The other day I got into a debate on twitter about the morality of sharing ebooks. Someone was posting free copies of Roger Zelazny’s books on kindle, and I replied that I was entitled to ebooks of the printed books I own. This writer challenged that assertion and asked for an argument. I refused to engage in his Empire-inflected moralizing, that the writer owned the medium his story is printed on, and used the Ship of Theseus example to deconstruct the notion of ownership.shipoftheseusargument

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The Hipster and Cynical Reason

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Smoke clove cigarettes? Wear ironic trucker hats? Skinny jeans? Horn-rimmed glasses with bug-eyed lenses? Graduated with a liberal arts major? Carry a shoulder-strap messenger bag? Soi disant exceptionally cultured, with at least one pop vice? Have at least one Republican friend, and describe him/her as your “one Republican friend?” Unwashed hair, but position said head on pillow at night to maximize cowlick? Yes, you’re a hipster. Continue reading