Now, What Was the Question Again...?
Maybe we all wonder often about the Internet. My thoughts tend to run confusedly, something like this: Like television, the Internet [this side of things] is a flat, one-dimensional screen that yields information when solicited and directed. Like a street sign [only] it can point to aspects of the way to practically anywhere, but it can never be confused for that end, which is always more than one-dimensional. It can point to information, but not process it.
Too, like television, it's better at trapping and ensnaring than actually showing the way; so one must proceed if at all with caution. It might substitute for living, or (best case scenario) be but a sliver of it.
The Internet, considered by itself, is simulacra, a copy of life without the three-dimensional original, to say nothing of God and spiritual things; but it is far more remote than in any Baudrillardian Disney World sense. In the physical illusion called Disney World we can at least walk through it, breathe in fresh air, eat, sleep, or what have you.
What the Internet does give, for the moment anyway, is the capacity to engage the world in some ways, talk with and back to others we would never otherwise meet; we can do some cross-referencing research, unlike redundant television; and so it can be a tool, a means [at most].
Is it similar to a book or a letter in that respect, minus the precious non-surveillant solitude which a book or letter affords? But just how precious can a thing be minus that non-surveillant solitude? Private clubs are precious precisely because they are non-panoptic zones. This thing however is never altogether private. Still, we can speak [or point to] the Word to both the watchers and visitors. And that may be something worthwhile in the final analysis. But does one really have something to say, a Way to point to? Or is it total vanity, narcissism, as in the graphic above? It can be the latter, to be sure. But so could writing in magazines, newspapers and journals. That temptation is ever present in any medium.
And so the thoughts go round and round...
Speaking of rambling circular thoughts... I watched Woody Allen's 1998 movie Celebrity again recently, starring Kenneth Branagh. I've heard for years that people either love or hate Woody Allen's 'comedy'. And I've said more than a couple of times that I've been watching his movies for many decades now, found them very entertaining and sometimes thought-provoking. I guess I would have counted myself as one who 'loved' his movies, or a good many of them anyway. But something has happened, and I come back to it on account of his influence on our culture. Unlike in the earlier days when I was still wandering my way out of Arcadia with all my half-ripe thoughts, I've been afflicted in the last ten years or so with the uneasy feeling that Allen has to be observed and not merely watched for entertainment. Not that I have not always known that he was part comedy, part dark philosophy (with more than a little quirky imitation of Ingmar Bergman, even to the point of using Bergman's famous Cinematographer, Sven Nykvist, in some films, and some of Bergman's famous actors) and, alas, part viciousness. Maybe it was his breakup with Mia Farrow and the revelation of the affair with Farrow's young daughter that finally broke the spell. He thought Farrow had a Mother Teresa "complex" I gather. And Allen had no time for that kind of piety at all.
Whatever it was for me, it involved the realization that after producing his considerable opus over many decades, it was getting near the time to tally up his overall affect on our culture. And so it was then that I started to get an uneasy feeling in my stomach. While it is true that in many of his movies he openly ruminates [obsesses] on and argues with God (like Job I thought), it is also true that in his major films another motif runs through, viz., infidelities, sundry affairs sometimes in the same movie and often enough with young bimbos, the dismal bondage of marriage (even when one comes to accept it as an inevitable curse), the hypocrisy of religion (a staple), the ultimate meaninglessness of life and the apparent [tentative I hope] conclusion that one can only hope for "whatever works," whatever gets one through the night, without any meaningful reference to right or wrong. Because for Allen so far there is nothing else, we all go around just once; in one movie a renowned philosopher openly pondering the problems commits suicide in the end.
Allen thus poses as a kind of pop-Zarathustra. And that can't be good. I used to think he was just raising the questions, pointing to the real conflicts in life which can beset one. But where and in what is the redemption? It's simply not there, not even in relationships. It's like he's stuck in Sartre's Being and Nothingness, 1943.
At the end of Celebrity, the Branagh character, who deliberately mimics Allen's neurotic persona and style throughout, after the formulaic infidelities [against his half-crazed Significant Other bedeviled with "Catholic guilt"] and frustrations about not finding serial relationships and sex as the panaceas to all his existential frustrations, finally takes refuge in a movie theater (another Allen metaphor / motif) where the final scene has a woman running away from something as a plane in the sky writes in huge letters for her (and for Allen?) HELP! The picture fades to rolling Credits.
That might sound like a potentially redemptive cry, but, alas, the movies which have come after 1998 have not changed basic course. I hope the gifted Allen has not hardened completely into stone by now. The questions and the guilt can be resolved while he still has breath. But it is getting quite late.---[The above post Updated 1 X]
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