Friday, November 25, 2005

The Turkey as Social Ornament and Installation

The turkey is the monumental sculpture of cooking: it has a monstrous scale, it is heroic, it has to please a lot of different people. Like bridges and libraries, it’s real function is ceremonial, the carving of the turkey and the cutting of the ribbon being roughly equivalent; after that, it’s just a large nuisance that people drive past that might as well just be gathering pigeon shit. Like monumental public sculpture, no one expects it to be really any good, just iconic and hard to miss.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Stories I Wrote for Girls Who Never Wrote Back I: The Caligari/Hitler Express


I, Cesare, somnambulist and slave to Caligari, sleep like a mannequin full of hay. The old physician’s hands pass over my face, my only dream, and I awaken to the scent of laurel. I am in a coffin.


-Cesare, how do you like these curtains?
-They are fine, Master.
-You sound less than enthusiastic, Cesare.
-I am a somnambulist and slave to Caligari.
-Yes, yes, but what do you really think of these curtains?
-What do I really think? There’s not much to say. They’re black curtains. Enormous black curtains.
-So, what are you saying?
-I am sure that they will go with the black throw rug and the black Chenille throws on the black sofa.
-So I know what I like. Is that a crime?
-Well, it should be.
-Cesare, I don’t quite care for your tone. In fact, I command you to like these curtains.
-Master, I just love these curtains.
-Very good, Cesare. These Are nice curtains. (To sales person) I will get these, please.
-Yes, Cesare?
-Master, how do you know I am not just saying I like these curtains?
(Pause. The doctor waxes very darkly.)
-Cesare, somnambulist, slave, you like hot dogs, don’t you?
-Yes, Master, I like hot dogs well enough.
-Then you will hate hot dogs. Really. After you eat ten thousand of them.
-Um, Master...
-You will not actually eat all then thousand. After the first two hundred and fifty I expect you to pass out from the pain.
-Master, how can I pass out if I am already asleep?
(This is a dark, vexing day for Caligari)


-So my problem, Doctor, is that I can’t seem to remember the plot of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” It’s sort of like a dream.
-I see.
-I watched it once while getting high. Could this be part of the problem?
-Do you feel you have a drug problem?
-No. Also, since seeing the film -what I remember of it -I have this incredible difficulty trusting Doctors. Specifically, psychiatrists. In fact, it’s remarkable that we’re talking now.
-Why is that?
-Well, for one thing, psychiatrists ask a lot of questions. No one who asks a lot of questions can be trusted. Particularly if there’s a pad involved. If there’s a lot a questions and things are being written down, things aren’t going well. That was true even the schoolyard. Remember that cootie catcher?
-Tell me about it.
-No, I just asked you about it. If this were a normal symmetrical conversation you would now tell me something yourself. You see what I’m talking about? Besides, there’s nothing to the cootie catcher, that’s the whole point. You’re whole profession, in its classical form, is dominated by the myth of origins, the myth that the genetic origin of things explains and gives understanding, that somehow its discovery and our knowledge of it will have an emancipation effect. And what did it do for Oedipus?
-It’s never the knowledge that does the harm, as much as how we come to know it or ignore it.
-This reminds me of a book I read once. Well, I didn’t read it, but I read about it. It’s called “From Caligari to Hitler” by Kracauer. Kracauer’s argument was that the rise of Nazism was foretold in the movie. In the original script there is no framing device: Dr. Caligari really is corrupt figure of authority who is capable of Mengele like experiments for the purpose of psychological manipulation to the point of murder . He’s arrested. In the final film, he's not: the whole thing turns out to be the narrator's psychotic phanstasy. This framing device, making the whole plot a matter of Francis’ sanity, represents an inward psychologistic turn that neutralizes the critique of authority implicit in the plot. It turns it inward. It’s this way with the whole of modernism: psychological bourgeois narratives, narcissism, rather than critique, transformation, ecstasy!

The doctor snaps his fingers and there is the scent of laurel, then blackness.