No Drama (an aphorism in honor of Adorno)
No Drama – I’m listening to Brendel’s complete cycle of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, and in some pieces one stops cleaning one’s flat and makes a homo gesture and a homo facial expression as if Beethoven cuts to the quick of Being right there, right here and now…one that would be mocked in one’s family of origins for a range of reasons, starting with the disappointment of my parents when I turned out to have no willingness to practice dull scales (my talent not an issue and for that reason unknown even to me today), and continuing with the fact that in many families, there is a certain economy of pain in that the person who sucks it up, especially Mom, loses the ability to see pain or joy.
As in a dream, Mom with her Betty Draper cigarettes inhales pain to make it go away. Literally this removes, if not all, then some of the air in the room, and replaces it with carbon monoxide: when serving Mass I thought it normal to be nauseous but I now realize I was a second hand smoke victim. Which isn’t Mom’s fault, any more than my pipe was my fault when as it happened it, along with cat shit and cat dander, screwed up my eldest son’s system in the way it did. We simply had no idea.
Now, what is important here is that entertainment replaces culture. Mass pseudo culture does our feeling for us when we’re exhausted from modern jobs therefore the genuine endogenous feeling that might come to us watching Shakespeare or listening to Beethoven is considered pretense or inauthentic in a universal, unreflective, uniquely American Heideggerianism.
But: catching oneself unawares, misting up or dancing to Shakespeare or Beethoven is about as Authentic as we can be…whereas yukking it up late at night after working 16 hours at The Hangover while mindlessly snarfing Cheez Doodles and drinking cheap wine is to be a creature of mass media, just where they want you to be.
I mean, The Hangover IS a funny movie and an Improving Moral Lesson which gambled and won, since its central event, the wild night in Vegas, isn’t actually filmed, and, the movie is all about the consequences, and the Hero’s (more precisely, Idiot’s) Journey in cleaning up a mess. That, by Hollywood standards, is almost an art film from France, fer Chrissake.
But the sequel, much more lavishly funded, wasn’t funny and was offensive, for Bangkok in The Hangover II is just a place where white guys can still piss on Asians, trash their neighborhood and be funny and cool. And in both films the 1% continued to celebrate just what it is they can get away with being rich and good looking.
“Entertainment” has manufactured the very ideas of “pretense” or “unnecessary verbosity” and “inauthenticity”, but dialectically we must note that categories are precisely inverted. “Pretentious, verbose” writing , especially mine, doesn’t pretend to the ability to construct a grammatical sentence above a low upper bound of complexity, it is the thing itself, behind which there is no reality, no Oz behind the curtain for a plucky little girl from Kansas to unmask. Nor is it Inauthentic to want to dance to Bach’s Kunst der Fuge, or Clifton Chenier, the King of the Bayou.
This theme can be pursued through popular culture extensively. In the series of ads “PC v Mac” the Mac is personified as a pleasantly laid-back and “hip” young man in casual clothes whereas the PC is personified by a man in a jacket and tie who seems rather neurotic and is ever keeling over from computer viruses or having to read manuals before getting out of the box. PC is also unable to hold hands with (link to) the cute Japanese girl who personifies a new digital camera.
Some of this constitutes dishonesty on Apple’s part, some of it is true. In fact, and admittedly in response to the true ease of install of the first Mac in 1984 (when installing it was for me almost a religious experience), PCs today install just as easily and nobody ever reads a manual. PCs and not Apple INVENTED plug and play. The only reason why it is indeed the case that Macs don’t get viruses is that PCs are more common.
But where it gets interesting is the very real, normalized-hip, male conventionality of the Mac persona, for the PC guy’s movie is personified by a man in a dress whereas the Mac’s movie is HOT. It’s almost as if the PC guy is the one willing to take risks. It presumes we want to see hot girls. Well, I certainly do, but does everybody?
Mass media has inserted us into a Poseidon adventure in which everything’s upside down by insisting that it do our feeling for us. But like the heroes of that movie we struggle to emerge out into the real world, where Beethoven and Shakespeare could cause a riot in a nunnery.
“No drama” is a male trope which contains the imprint of World War II, as Richard Yates (Revolutionary Road) knew. The right to feel is taken and given back only to military volunteers, while a feminine right-to-feel is celebrated…Chris Rock emphasizes this in his comedy routine on marriage which has an element of truth: perhaps the modern husband’s job IS complicated by an unspoken demand: if women are systematically screwed then YOUR job is to comfort her and zip it about your own pain.
To have as I have the right to be solitary, urbane, cultured and to complain as I complain about minor aches is an aristocratic privilege and perhaps one of these days I will be found out. I certainly insisted on pissing and moaning when I had minor ailments when I was still married. But better than Chris Rock’s remedies for either modern marriage or, in “Ten Ways Not To Get Your Ass Kicked by the Police” (starting with shut the fuck up) would be a society of mutual recognition and respect, with mutual comfort in marriage and no police brutality.
So…listen to a complete Beethoven symphony or an uncut and high quality performance of King Lear and shut the fuck up. It’s the only true “escape” which can contain the memory of the mess we’re in.