Sunday Reading!

How to stop worrying about class:

Today’s New York Times contains a fine example of how ideology works at the high end: report information that might trouble the established order, but conclude on a tranquilizing note that allows the comfortable reader to turn the page (or click “close tab”) without changing his or her worldview. Both functions are important. Outlets like the Times do report tons of important stuff that one would be hard-pressed to learn otherwise. But, as Alexander Cockburn put it long ago, a primary function of the bourgeois press is reassurance.

Ryan Gosling, the selfless man:

Gosling’s presence in a film assures it will be taken as an important revelation of the American zeitgeist, which in turn reinforces his own cultural significance. His fame has reached the level of tautology: It has transcended causal logic altogether, acting as a feedback loop that amplifies the ideas and cultural assumptions that he transmits. Such resonance allows his films to serve as especially effective bearers of ideology. They target psychological spots that have already been softened, bypassing rational argument to establish the sort of beliefs that can perpetuate society on its current terms.

Consider the recent film Drive, a nouveau-noir thriller in which Gosling plays a stuntman and getaway driver who, in an effort to protect his neighbor and inamorata from the thugs who would do her harm, becomes entangled in a cycle of Mafia-related violence. If that premise sounds familiar, it is because the movie fits the tried-and-true formula of patriarchal fantasy wherein viewers are asked to accept that violent death at the hands of others is the primary existential threat and, consequently, that women need male protection to survive.

Under late capitalism, the true existential threat is deprivation. Far more will succumb to a lack of food, uncontaminated water, or medicine than will be murdered. Scarcity pervades our everyday lives and terrorizes us: Even our relative opulence cannot quite suppress the mantra of “work or starve” humming quietly in the background. Capitalist society trains us to cater to capital to escape this threat, placing great value on those who are able to suck up to bosses.

Patriarchal fantasies play against this. In their contrived worlds, social value accrues to brutes who can physically overpower would-be aggressors — which is to say that men are rendered heroes by default. Hence Ryan Gosling’s character in Drive.

Frank Zappa with his parents:

Noam Chomsky channels his inner Malcolm Harris:

My feeling is that student fees are instituted, basically as a technique of indoctrination and control. I don’t think there’s an economic basis for them. And it’s interesting that, you look at the timing — like when I went to college, I went to an Ivy League university, The University of Pennsylvania. Tuition was only $100 and you could easily get a scholarship.

Students today are over $1 trillion in debt. That’s more than credit card debt. A trillion dollars of debt? That’s a burden on people coming out of college. It’s got them trapped. It (tuition) is a technique of control, and it surely isn’t an economic necessity in the richest country in the world. All sorts of things started happening — the university architecture changed. Universities that were built, worldwide, in the post-’70s and on, are usually designed so that they don’t have meeting places, designed just to keep students separated and under control. Look at the ratio of administrators to faculty: it’s gone way up the last couple of decades … not for educational purposes, but for more techniques of control.

What you’re talking about, I think it should be opposed, because it’s a general form of indoctrination and control, which goes down to kindergarten. I mean, that’s what No Child Left Behind is about. It’s training for the Marine Corps. It’s a way to make sure that children aren’t free, independent or inquisitive, exploring.

Occupy Oakland stay-away order:

Joseph Briones, 30, was arrested along with 408 others at an Occupy Oakland protest Jan. 28. He is one of 12 who were apparently issued the restraining orders, and is therefore barred from being within 300 yards of Oakland City Hall, potentially for the next three years, according to Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Teresa Drenick.

But based on a Feb. 8 hearing, Briones and his lawyer understood that he did not have a stay-away order against him, said Occupy Oakland media committee member Omar Yassin. “That’s why he was at the plaza, carefree, on Wednesday,” said Yassin. That’s when Briones was arrested.

In a Feb. 9 press release, Officer Johnna Watson of Oakland Police media relations said that “Joseph Briones is one of four individuals charged with a violent felony offense stemming from the Jan. 28 protest.” But according to records at the District Attorney’s office, that’s incorrect; Briones is charged with three misdemeanors.

While everyone scrambles to get their story straight, Briones is still in jail. He has a hearing at 2 o’ clock today. If found to have violated a stay-away order, he could face six months in prison. So far, Briones is legally innocent of any crime; he has not been convicted of any of the charges leveled on him in connection with Jan. 28. None of the other 11 who are prohibited from going near City Hall have been convicted of anything either.

Besides all that, the stay-away orders may be entirely illegal...

Literary Composites (Humbert Humbert):

Lindy watches The Phantom Menace:

If you're like me, you probably haven't watched Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace since its original release in 1999, because you've had literallyanything else to do. And you probably think, in your hazy hindsight, that it's just "not that good" or "pretty bad" or some other relatively gentle descriptor that lets George Lucas off the hook for being an affably clumsy old billionaire man-frog. However, having recently rewatched Phantom Menace to prepare for its upcoming 3-D rerelease (do you like the Star Wars prequels but just wish you couldalso have a headache???), allow me to say this: HOOOOOO MY GOD FUCK US ALL BECAUSE THIS MOVIE GOT BIT BY A RADIOACTIVE GARBAGE AND IT IS A FUCKING MONSTERPIECE THEATER THAT TRANSCENDS BAD AND GOOD-BAD TO COME BACK AGAIN TO BAD AND REDEFINE COMEDY ITSELF. Seriously. Seriously. Drinking game: Take a shot every time something hella dumb happens and/or every time Jar Jar Binks makes you want to personally send tear-soaked reparations to 110 percent of the black people on earth. Oops, sorry about how you're dead now (alcohol poiz).