Monthly Archive for October, 2008

Foucault’s Madness and Civilization

Madness and Civilization is one of those must-read texts of 20th century continental philosophy. In it, Michel Foucault argues that reason is based on the exclusion of the mentally ill, who are placed in institutions where society attempts to forget them. This, he says, came as a result of the classical age and the Cartesian concept of cogito, where sane people were supposed to be able to exorcise madness from correct thinking, and mad people were those who gave primacy to their hallucinations. They were once romanticized in art, like in the proverbial ship of fools, but now they are bound to reason.

He traces the great confinement – a term he uses for the locking away of the insane – to the closing of the lazar houses in the 17th century. These institutions were then used to collect the rabble and the mentally unfit. Unreason, therefore, became akin to disease, and now it replaced leprosy as the great unknown terror. Later, in the industrial age, they were seen along with the rabble as potential cheap labor.

He argues that the conception that madness is defined along scientific terms is mistaken – it is really the prevailing morality that defines what madness is. Madness confined cannot cause fear, and it cannot offend reasonable and moral citizens of a state.

Continue reading ‘Foucault’s Madness and Civilization’

Firemen protest in Barcelona

The bombers – Catalan for firemen – are protesting right under my windows. I am not really sure what it is about, but I sure as hell want to find out now (I guess that’s the whole point of staging protests). Sirens are going off, someone is setting off firecrackers, and a helicopter is hovering right over my building.

View from my terrace:

Continue reading ‘Firemen protest in Barcelona’

Obama, the Dark Knight?

Cynical-C has unmasked the Dark Knight (at least it’s pretty obvious after this quick sum-up of last night’s debate):

David Lynch on Product Placement

I guess he forgot about Dennis Hopper’s passionate endorsement of Pabst Blue Ribbon in Blue Velvet:

“Heineken? Fuck that sheeeeit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!”

All Hail The Mighty Sun God

Stunning pictures of the sun.

The Weather Underground

A great documentary by Sam Green and Bill Siegel about the rise and fall of the Weathermen, the radical activist group that operated in the U.S. from the late 60s to the mid-70s.

This documentary gives an even-handed depiction of the incendiary atmosphere of that era, with the demented ideology of the Vietnam War hawks countered by the misguided ideology of violent radical activists. It shows how a twisted ideology on the right led to another twisted ideology on the left, and how they both played into each other’s hands.

I like how voices from all sides are heard, and how this documentary manages to be objective without romanticizing the Weathermen or demonizing them. There is so much cognitive dissonance on both sides of the issue, and this documentary manages to steer clear of it.

Reworking Spillane’s Kiss Me Deadly

Kiss Me Deadly, the 1955 film version of Mickey Spillane’s pulp classic, is one of those rare exceptions of a film adaption surpassing the original book. Mike Hammer, the protagonist, is a sleazy P.I. who specializes in divorce cases. This changes one night when he gives a ride to a hysterical woman with a deadly secret. Hammer and the woman are captured by some mysterious men, and, after getting tortured, they are put back in his car and rolled over a cliff. The woman dies in a ball of flame and Hammer miraculously survives. Similar to Spillane’s other novels, this violent episode serves as the catalyst to a relentless story of revenge.

The difference, though, between the movie and the book, lies in the secret that the woman holds. This important difference is the reason why Spillane’s book is merely entertaining, while the film version of it is a trenchant critique on 1950s America. (Don’t worry, Hammer’s knuckle sandwiches and nymphomaniac girlfriends are still in practically every scene).

Continue reading ‘Reworking Spillane’s Kiss Me Deadly’