The Golden Age of Free Speech

Some scientists predict that within the next few years, the number of children struggling with obesity will surpass the number struggling with hunger. Why? When the human condition was marked by hunger and famine, it made perfect sense to crave condensed calories and salt. Now we live in a food glut environment, and we have few genetic, cultural, or psychological defenses against this novel threat to our health. Similarly, we have few defenses against these novel and potent threats to the ideals of democratic speech, even as we drown in more speech than ever.

– Zeynep Tufekci, It’s the (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech

Only a joke can save us

It is as if lack and excess were two prizefighters, each confined to its corner in order to avoid a traumatic collision in the middle of the ring. Social cohesion is the referee that keeps each fighter in its respective corner. But the referee is actually holding up an image of the fighters in their corners so that we don’t see how they are inseparably battling out in the middle of the ring all the time. Comedy strikes us with a momentary insight into this structure by throwing out the referee.

– Todd McGowan, Only a joke can save us : a theory of comedy

Listening to Silence

Silence remains one of the few phenomena that can generate awe. It helps to define the extraordinary from the ordinary. Respect is often heard in silence. Its presence at the theatre or before public speeches creates an opening for the performance to begin. Many musicians have used the phenomena of so called silence to enhance their musical scores. Sudden silence creates an abrupt impact on the space of the music, whilst gradual silence creates a soothing ambiance. If one is to listen to the many variations of music, when the composer has added a period silence upon the piece, it is the momentum of the music that carries through the interval of silence.


The True Life

With boys, the end of traditional initiation leads to a childlike stasis, which can be called a life without Ideas. With girls, the lack of external separation (men and marriage) between girl and woman, between young-woman and womanmother, leads to the immanent construction of a womanhood that could be called premature. Or: boys are at risk of never becoming the adult they contain within themselves, while girls are at risk of having always already become the woman-adult that they ought to actively become. Or again: with boys, there is no anticipation, hence the anxiety of stasis. With girls, the retroaction of the adult on them consumes their adolescence, or even their childhood itself. Hence the anxiety of prematurity.

– Alain Badiou, The True Life

What Is Sex?

The conclusion we can draw from all this would thus be the following: Whenever it comes to social, cultural, or religious covering up of sexuality, we can be sure that it never overs up simply what is there (for example, the sexual organs), but also (and perhaps primarily) something which is not there; it also covers up some fundamental ambiguity which is, from the outset, of a metaphysical order. In other words: the more we try to think the sexual as sexual (that is, the more we try to think it only for “what it is,” without censorship and embellishments), the quicker we find ourselves in the element of pure and profound metaphysics. This is why there is no “neutral” way to speak about sex—even if we pretend not to hide anything, and speak only of facts, something else seems to get added, or to disappear.

– Alenka Zupančič, What Is Sex?

Cinema and Cinesthesia

In the theater, the home theater, or the portable theater, we are exposed to affects before which we are prototypically motionless and, at any rate, about which we are powerless to do anything. Short of closing one’s eyes, turning off the device, or walking out, the experience of cinema lies in ceding perception, in becoming the medium for images that are not our own. Thus, among early generations of film critics, cinematic experience frequently inspired the avowal that the cinema was somehow capable of possessing its viewer. Before the moving image, natural perception is gripped by a waking “dream” (Vuillermoz), a “hallucination” (Goudal), the flash of pure “photogénie” (Epstein), the “kinetics” of machine age (Vertov), the fantastic “modulations” of cineplastic matter (Faure), the “explosion” of images (Benjamin), and the variable “stimuli” of montage (Eisenstein).19 As Georges Duhamel famously complained of American movies, “I can no longer think what I want, images are substituted for my thoughts” (52).

– Gregory Flaxman, Once More, with Feeling: Cinema and Cinesthesia