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A Night of Distraction
I'm more interested in the Oscars than usual. I've always liked watching them. But this year, with its wave after wave of depressing news, seems to call for collective celebration of our capacity to distract ourselves from the world's problems. I was going to write, "distract ourselves from what really matters," but then I realized that the capacity to be distracted may be precisely what does matter to us most, whether in terms of defining what makes us human or helping us survive times in which need threatens to turn each of us into homo homini lupus, willing to devour the humanity in others with eyes that see only meat. The philosopher Martin Heidegger asserted that it is our boredom that distinguishes us from other creatures. His underlying premise is that animals can't help but be captivated by whatever mobilizes the force of instinct, whereas we humans can. Having witnessed the failure to be captivated of animals in captivity, I am skeptical of his claim. But the corollary notion to his thesis, that humans are especially prone to be moved by things that seem to run counter to both their instincts and their self-interest, strikes me as highly plausible. At any rate, I am sufficiently distracted by the procession of gowns that further speculations on what makes us watch spectacles, a.k.a. The Spectacle, will have to wait.

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barca_k From: barca_k Date: February 23rd, 2009 03:28 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
i have been contemplating for many days now this idea of "what really matters." we do seem to overpay the trivial & underfund the crucial; perhaps this ought to be taken as it is given, as a true barometer of what we do actually find important. boredom is worse than death.

i dunno.

but i'm loving watching the Oscars, as i always do.

cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 23rd, 2009 06:36 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Or perhaps, as Heidegger might have put it, the "gift of death" is inextricably bound up with our capacity for boredom or vice versa.

As far as the Oscars themselves went, I liked the prelude, found the early portions of the ceremony entertainingly goofy, but thought the pacing of the show was bad and that the speeches were pretty lame, for the most part. Part of the problem is that the Slumdog Millionaire folks had little of interest to say. I loved the movie, but not their stage presence.
From: ext_129711 Date: February 24th, 2009 02:06 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Animals and Oscars

I thought the best part of last night was Sean Penn's speech. I think he probably deserves an Oscar every year, and I'm glad that he's able to let his guard down for a night and laugh and enjoy himself. I thought De Niro's intro for him was very classy.

I'm a big fan of Kate Winslet (who isn't), but getting a bit tired of her "Oh, I'm so surprised to be receiving this!" act. I'm also just exhausted by the attention Merryl Streep gets. I mean, come one, of all the films made last year everywhere, Streep is once again better than 99% of the actresses out there?

I find Anne Hathaway breathtaking and surprisingly multi-talented. And of course, Dark Knight SHOULD have been nominated for best picture.

Isn't it surprising just how many philosophers use animals as foils for humans? Bacon, Descartes, Hegel, etc., etc. Agamben's book is great on this topic (The Open), and very short...Kojeve thought that at the end of history, in the Hegelian sense, that we return to a state of existence closer to animal-life than human-life, though he preserves for humans the capacity to make art...hm...I've been thinking about birds lately, and how ubiquitous they are in Western poetry. They can't just be good metaphors, can they?
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 24th, 2009 03:07 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: Animals and Oscars

Great to hear from you, despite the animosity I hold towards your Beavers at the moment!

That's funny. I've been thinking about all the imagery devoted to mowing. A different sort of pastoral, though the leading edge of a wing can be construed as a cutting edge.

I like Kate Winslet too much to be very annoyed, though you're right. I liked that Sean Penn made it clear that he had wanted Mickey Rourke to win.

I agree on Dark Knight, for practical if not aesthetic reasons. And Anne Hathaway was great, though the movie was a disappointment to me, especially for its return to Jonathan Demme's deployment of "magical blackness."

I love The Open. My grad-school colleague and friend translated it very well, if its readability compared to other Agamben texts in English is any indication. Although I'm not big on Heidegger, generally, I did like the seminar that Agamben draws upon, the one with the sliced-in-half bee discussion.
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