POSTED EARLY IN VIEW OF EVENTS
CSI IN IMAGE AND SONG
This post is about an essay entirely in music and images
Un essai entièrement en musique et en images
مقال تماما في الموسيقى والصور
I watch CSI shows. Here’s a quote from one of the best:
“It’s typical of aging and collapsing cultures that they become preoccupied with beauty, wealth, and hedonism” — “Bones,” the cultural anthropologist who is a beautiful woman AND an expert needed by federal authorities but who must fight them to do her job. Much of her work is with burned corpses.
By accident I was watching “Waco, the Rules of Engagement” just as the ISIS attack on Paris began. I saw that the simulations of burned people on “Bones” were accurate. I was still thinking about James Hillman’s structure of “Puer vs. Senex,” the young (esp. young man) versus the old (esp. authorities) because I think in metaphor and what some call “boxes” and I call “pot handles,” that is, bundled concepts. I have written about boxes versus bundles as ways of thinking: grammars, if you will.
This morning, before dawn, I came to the computer to see the newest work of le-too.tumblr.com, called “secretly, a little.” Their essays are entirely in image, music and poetry. They work as a consortium of boys (some of them men by now) who cooperate around the planet to photograph and compose images that are “puer vs. senex,” boys in a landscape formed by the aging exhaustion of industrial cities. This puts the boys (the photographers) in danger, partly from their own struggles to maintain identity and partly from authorities who are invested in secrecy about their own lives but determined to out everyone else. This is not new — it used to be the content of the news. One episode, reacting to the idea of “visceral” identity, follows up David Lynch’s literalisation in “Eraserhead” by using butcher’s offal.
The material is managed in something like chapters, gathered by musical themes, but images recur throughout: tender, serious, confrontive boy-faces and streets or trails that two or more of them travel along, seen from the back, possibly hooded, carrying only one rucksack each. The viewer should FEEL what is being said, without comment or deconstruction, but I am an old wordy woman and can’t resist. When I first turn on the computer before dawn or at 3AM, I leave the sound off so I don’t wake the cats, esp. “Hop” the Puer of the chowder who devotes himself to shredding old things like curtains or my socks. Or me.
Without sound the dance of the images is just as powerful as with the music but the Puer needs music — their lives are full of song: it’s the beat, the plaintive repetitions, the sharing. There is no dance in this essay except for the skateboards, a jump-and-glide choreography.
ISIS is a Senex organization, old men trying to control the new by destroying it, using the young as their cat’s paws. The protest movements (“I Can’t Breathe,” “Hands Up”) are young who seek justice rather than control. The Waco film is a governmental genocide of ideas in which the Senex is willing to burn alive the women and children united by a breakaway (renewal) branch of the Seventh Day Adventists. The film juxtaposes the closely analyzed visual records of what happened, with the lying and denial of the panel supposedly investigating.
I was shocked by who I saw and what they said. The most obvious excuse was that they were acting only on the information they were given, which showed how totally detached from reality they had become. The truth was that they were punishing disobedience, like a man who beats his defiant children, killing them. On the news of the time, Janet Reno sounded judicious and in control. With an unedited camera and uncensored testimony, she is plainly a fool, whose gender meant that she was designated to be the sacrificial goose from the beginning.
The citizens of the Texas area included those killers who are controlled only by their cowardice. “Let’s end this. Kill them all. I’m tired of this story on the news all the time.” The tanks came in, plowed away the carefully landscaped yard, smashed the cars innocently parked (these were working people who lived communally), and deliberately pumped the buildings full of poison and flammable gases. Inside, the people mistakenly took refuge in a concrete bunker with no ventilation that became a death trap when everything burned.
Boys see this. Their mothers try to limit them to their families, to prepare to be husbands and fathers, to be seduced and safe, protective providers. The boys collect “trace”’; they look for blood and tracks. They ask, “What kind of people do this?” Sometimes they set out for the horizon, but it’s the same everywhere.
Meanwhile, what is an honorable Senex to do? The old men with long beards in the hooded robes, the carriers of wisdom, the rescuers of the young, the men who walk the ridges carrying staffs with magic properties. Merlin, Castenada, Gandalf, Dumbledore. In the newest fantasy, “Game of Thrones,” there are NO wise old men. In the Waco hearings they are more scarce than women. They’re watching the clock because time is running out.
Our current political conversation has revealed that the Republicans have destroyed themselves and the Democrats have a gap in their genealogy where all the middle-aged politicians should be. Thus the Puers have no fathers — even George Bush the First has now rejected his foolish sons — and the Senex might be female, combining old with control issues, and forsaking gender roles. Using plastic surgery to seem like a Puer.
Words fail. Images are eloquent. Insectoid cartoon figures replace the humans who were reducible to gut piles.
The usual print platforms on the Internet, even the ones who welcome the color-hyped gorgeous images of National Geographic or the clever home-snaps of pets, do not know how to handle social indignation composed as image-flow. Where are the lines between the obscene, the upsetting, and the truth? Who is the intended audience? Not techies or MFA grads discussing their mood shifts. It is the person of the street, who now luckily carries a handheld, a receiver of a different sort of story than the public has known before. It changes who we think we are.
The sun is up now and the day is bright. The cats are onto me so there was no choice but to open cans and find clean dishes. (Sometimes I serve them on paper plates.) The day’s wind is just beginning. The forecast is a high of 55f and it looks like this will be the last day to clear the gutters before freeze-up. Human beings must serve their domestic environments in order to survive. But a major part of environment is other people, no matter where we go.
Oh, the pain and the blood and the burning! Paris, city of lights and guillotines, Da-da daring and catacombs of bones, artist outcasts and Napoleonic law. Cinematheque and Smash Street Boys and Show Me Your Life, the photographers of this essay, first began to define themselves a decade ago in Paris, in a hotel room not far from the Eiffel Tower. They were not bombers, but shuttershockers. People watch their work in Texas, Harlem, Germany, Russia without needing translation.
Former acting CIA director John McLaughlin says:
J.M.: “You have to do three things to combat terrorism: Destroy the leadership, deny terrorists safe haven and change the conditions that give rise to the phenomenon. At this point, we have to focus on the first two, because the third is too complicated and long-range.”
My comment: “And the third will interfere with income streams of the rich.”