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Lecture 16: "Convulsions, coma, miscarriage"

  1. Lecture 16: “Convulsions, coma, miscarriage” PATRICK MOONEY, M.A. ENGLISH 10, SUMMER SESSION A 16 JULY 2105
  2. Things themselves, if they exist “No one sees the barn,” he [Murray] said finally. A long silence followed. “Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn.” He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced at once by others. “We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies.” There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards and slides. […]
  3. “Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We’ve agreed to be part of a collective perception. This literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism.” Another silence ensued. “They are taking pictures of taking pictures,” he said. He did not speak for a while. We listened to the incessant clicking of shutter release buttons, the rustling crank of levers that advanced the film. “What did the barn look like before it was photographed?” he said. “What did it look like, how was it different from other barns, how was it similar to other barns? We can’t answer these questions because we’ve read the signs, see the people snapping the pictures. We can’t get outside the aura. We’re part of the aura. We’re here, we’re now.” (12–13; ch. 3)
  4. “Abstraction today is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory – PRECESSION OF SIMULACRA – it is the map that engenders the territory and if we were to revive the fable today, it would be the territory whose shreds are slowly rotting across the map.” — Jean Baudrilliard, “The Precession of Simulacra” (1981) “Four phases of the image” 1. It is the reflection of a basic reality; 2.It masks and perverts a basic reality; 3.It masks the absence of a basic reality; 4.It has no relation to any reality at all; it is its own simulacrum.
  5. “‘The flow is constant,’ Alfonse said. ‘Words, pictures, numbers, facts, graphics, statistics, specks, waves, particles, motes. Only a catastrophe gets our attention. We want them, we need them, we depend on them. As long as they happen somewhere else. This is where California comes in. Mud slides, brush fires, coastal erosion, earthquakes, mass killings, et cetera. We can relax and enjoy those disasters because in our hearts we feel that California deserves whatever it gets. Californians invented the concept of life-style. This alone warrants their doom.’” (66; ch. 14)
  6. “Wherever you are, even in California, nothing is more demoralizing than being there and nowhere else. One of the pleasures of travel is to dive into places where others are compelled to live and come out unscathed, full of the malicious pleasure of abandoning them to their fate. Even their local happiness seems tuned to a secret resignation. It never compares, at least, with the freedom to leave. This is when you sense that it is not enough to be alive; you have to go through life. It isn't enough to have seen a town; you have to have gone through it. With an idea, it isn't sufficient to have thought it; you have to have gone beyond.” —Jean Baudrilliard, Cool Memories II: 1987-1990
  7. [Jack: ] “Just because it’s on the radio doesn’t mean we have to suspend belief in the evidence of our senses.” [Heinrich: ] “Our senses? Our senses are wrong a lot more often than they’re right. This has been proved in the laboratory. Don’t know know about all those theorems that say nothing is what it seems? There’s no past present or future outside our own mind. The so-called laws of motion are a big hoax. Even sound can trick the mind. Just because you don’t hear a sound doesn’t mean it’s not out there. Dogs can hear it. Other animals. And I’m sure there are sounds even dogs can’t hear. But they exist in the air, in waves. Maybe they never stop. High, high, high-pitched. Coming from somewhere.” “Is it raining,” I said, “or isn’t it?” (23; ch. 6)
  8. How do you know what you know? “Where did you get that idea?” “I got it secondhand from Steffie.” “Where did Steffie get it from?” “Denise.” She paused, conceding the possibility that if Denise is the source of a rumor or theory, it could very well be true.” (52; ch. 11) “Where is the media?” she [Bee] said. “There is no media in Iron City.” “They went through all that for nothing?” (92; ch. 18)
  9. “The radio said a tank car derailed. But I don’t think it derailed from what I could see. I think it got rammed and something punched a hole in it. There’s a lot of smoke and I don’t like the looks of it.” (108; ch. 21) Babette’s head appeared at the top of the stairway. She said a neighbor had told her the spill from the tank car was thirty-five thousand gallons. People were being told to stay out of the area. A feathery plume hung over the site. She also said the girls were complaining of sweaty palms. “There’s been a correction,” Heinrich told her. “Tell them they ought to be throwing up.” (110; ch. 21)
  10. “Could a nine-year-old girl suffer a miscarriage due to the power of suggestion? Would she have to be pregnant first? Could the power of suggestion be strong enough to work backward in this manner, from miscarriage to pregnancy to menstruation to ovulation? Which comes first, menstruation or ovulation? Are we talking about mere symptoms or deeply entrenched conditions? Is a symptom a sign or a thing? What is a thing and how do we know it’s not another thing?” (123; ch. 21)
  11. “There must be something in family life that generates factual error. Overcloseness, the noise and heat of being. Perhaps something even deeper, like the need to survive. Murray says we are fragile creatures surrounded by a world of hostile facts. Facts threaten our happiness and security. The deeper we delve into the nature of things, the looser our structure may seem to become. The family process works toward sealing off the world. Small errors grow heads, fictions proliferate. I tell Murray that ignorance and confusion can’t possibly be the driving forces behind family solidarity. What an idea, what a subversion. He asks me why the strongest family units exist in the least developed societies. Not to know is a weapon of survival, he says. Magic and superstition become entrenched as the powerful orthodoxy of the clan. The family is strongest where objective reality is most likely to be misinterpreted. What a heartless theory, I say. But Murray insists it’s true.” 82; ch. 17)
  12. “Who knows what I want to do? Who knows what anyone wants to do? How can you be sure about something like that? Isn’t it all a question of brain chemistry, signals going back and forth, electrical energy in the cortex? How do you know whether something is really what you want to do or just some kind of nerve impulse in the brain? Some minor little activity takes place somewhere in this unimportant place in one of the brain hemispheres and suddenly I want to go to Montana or I don’t want to go to Montana. How do I know I really want to go and it isn’t just some neurons firing or something? Maybe it’s just an accidental flash in the medulla and suddenly there I am in Montana and I find out I really didn’t want to go there in the first place.” (45; ch. 10)
  13. Advertising and the creation of desire “‘Even as we sit here,’ I [Murray] tell them, ‘you are spinning out from the core, becoming less recognizable as a group, less targetable by advertisers and mass producers of culture. Kids are a true universal. But you’re well beyond that, already beginning to drift, to feel estranged from the products you consume. Who are they designed for? What is your place in the marketing scheme? Once you’re out of school, it is only a matter of time before you experience the vast loneliness and dissatisfaction of consumers who have lost their group identity.’ Then I tap my pencil on the table to indicate time passing ominously.” (50; ch. 11)
  14. “You have to learn how to look. You have to open yourself to the data. TV offers incredibly amounts of psychic data. It opens ancient memories of world birth, it welcomes us into the grid, the network of little buzzing dots that make up the picture pattern. There is light, there is sound. I ask my students, ‘What more do you want?’ Look at the wealth of data concealed in the grid, in the bright packaging, the jingles, the slice-of-life commercials, the products hurtling out of darkness, the coded messages and endless repetitions, like chants, like mantras. ‘Coke is it, Coke is it, Coke is it.’ The medium practically overflows with sacred formulas if we can remember how to respond innocently and get past our irritation, weariness and disgust.” (51; ch. 11)
  15. “Advertising in its entirety constitutes a useless and unnecessary universe. It is pure connotation. It contributes nothing to production or to the direct practical application of things, yet it plays an integral part in the system of objects, not merely because it relates to consumption but also because it itself becomes an object to be consumed. A clear distinction must be drawn in connection with advertising’s dual status as a discourse on the object and an object in its own right. It is as a useless, unnecessary discourse that it comes to be consumable as a cultural object.” ―Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects (1968)