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Thu Jan 02, 2014 1:19 am
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Post subject: My Review of McLuhan's THE MECHANICAL BRIDE (1951),... Reply with quote

... including phrases, ideas, clauses, and sentences (much is repeated in UNDERSTANDING MEDIA):

[[ participating in their own participation 4

huge technical panorama and conscious scrutiny 4

emotions are persistent emotional accompaniment 5

rapid turnover, planned obsolescence, and systematic change 13

vampire dreams 13

you create the consumer disease 13

hotel hermit 19

juicy piece of meat 21

obsolete wealthy 22

dream-locked majority 22

unweaned whimperings of hit-parade crooning 22

amorphous monotony 23

Proletcult 23

twang your synapses 24

cube root of pink toothbrush 24

pretentious infantilism 24

trade routes of contemporary fiction 24

felt in the viscera 26

cult of literary violence 26

undiscriminating helplessness 26

the disease is in excellent health 26

Churchill - the extrovert of the inside story 26

the sage and the slick chick 26

a big mental proletariat 26

the great are "humanized" by being made trivial 27

technology is an abstract tyrant 33

absorbed in the dream of technology 34

passionate acceleration 34

electronic brain 35

modern executives as robots 37

democratic contradictions 37

timid college graduates 40

business and politics become entertainment 40

technology means constant social revolution 40

the "economic" logic in feminism 40

Ciceronian program is in the ads 42

this public instruction is paid for by a tax of billions of dollars levied on the public VIA advertisement and entertainment 43

denuded minds 44

unprecedented self-awareness which harmonious life in an industrial society requires 45

pollster-geist operations 46

they are engaged in seeking the means of adjusting products to consumers and consumers to products, whether the article is corn flakes or legislation 47

their "science" appears as the conditioned reflex of that economy rather than as a contribution to human knowledge 48

it is that latter consideration which makes popular culture so valuable as an index of the guiding impulses and the dominant drives in a society 50

in exactly the same spirit of unimaginative isolationism there is the fact recorded by Siegfried Giedion in MECHANIZATION TAKES COMMAND, namely the irritation and incredulity of a physicist when confronted with parallels between the techniques of his science and those of modern art 50

do you want your social woe to show? do it the [Emily] Post way 51

technology needs not people or minds but "hands" 53

unobservant of the automatic leveling process exercised by applied science 53

when advanced science proclaims that "great-grandmother was so right", then the whirligig of time may be expected to bring in a great many more revenges 53

thus, it may very well be that the effect of mass production and consumption is really to bring about a practical rather than a theoretic communism 55

for us it is the process of arriving that has meaning, not the positive content of possessing ourselves and of enriching our experience and that of others through our wealth and leisure 55

life is dull for these children [of the rich] who cannot share the collective passion of those who hope to be rich; the speed, the stuggle, the one-man fury are not for them 55

except in an economic sense, the rich do not even form a class, as, for example, the "film colony" does 56

by proclaiming a set of social and intellectual distinctions in accordance with consumer goods, the chart ignores and conceals any real basis for such distinctions with a loud Bronx cheer; this is ever the way of "Time" and "Life" [magazines], and such is also the way of our cynical ad men 58

in England in the twenties it got so that all the studios of Bloomsbury and Chelsea were crowded with artist apes, millionaire bohemians who paid rentals so high that the real artists had to move out; something like that happened in Greenwich Village about the same time 58

real artists are never interested in arty surroundings 59

James Joyce's "quadrophrenia" 59

nobody who had read Homer or Joyce could be taken in by the chart hoax [categories of "high", "low", and "middle" brow] 59

so that the small, hygienic family unit of our cities and suburbs is, from this viewpoint, the realization of a Calvinist dream 61

the modern nose, like the modern eye, has developed a sort of microscopic, intercellular intensity which makes our human contacts painful and revolting 61

in creating this role he [Clifton Webb] has at once embodied mechanical efficiency, moral disdain for ordinary humanity, and horror at human messiness and dirt 62

the bathroom has been elevated to the very stratosphere of industrial folklore, it being the gleam, the larger hope, which we are appointed to follow; but in a world accustomed to the dominant imagery of mechanical production and consumption, what could be more natural than our coming to submit our bodies and fantasies to the same processes?; the anal-erotic obsession of such a world is inevitable; and it is our cloacal obsession which produces the hysterical hygiene ads, the paradox here being much like our death and mayhem obsession in the pulps on one hand, and, on the other, our refusal to face death at all in the mortician parlor 62

Disney went genteel almost as soon as color tempted him to accept the appetizing eye appeal of the food ads; he now offers largely a cotton-candy world, as far as the screen is concerned; Hollywood went genteel long ago, even before the rise of the book clubs 63

Al Capp ["Li'l Abner"] is the only robust satirical force in American life;... "Dogpatch" is not in the South, it is not in the country; rather, it is the country of the ordinary mind insofar as that mind is bamboozled by chaotic imagery from the outside and drugged by sentiment from the inside 63

so "L'il Abner" is not a picture of American youth but of the confirmed adolescents of mature years - the people who educate and glorify youth and activism 64

muscular narcissism 64

maintaining the sentimental illusions of commercially imposed social ideals 64

working on this postulate of "cultural regularity" (organic unity) 65

housing conditions foster the neurotic child-parental love 65

Puritan culture 65

the American child of today nurses the feeling of being only adopted 65

the virtual rejection of the parents 65

humor has never appeared more starkly as a device for evading painful realities than in these "funny" books 67

"white woman's burden" 66

"diary of a nobody" 68

daily "self-violence" 68

promiscuous gormandizing 68

Wyndham Lewis' "mothering wedlock" 68

Kafka, Rouault, and Picasso have raised this combination of clown and citizen [Chaplin] to levels of tragic intensity 69

themes and manners are too European in art and literature 69

McLuhan's agenda 69 (see also 22 and 87)

American popular culture as materials for art 69

Americans' willingness to believe they are "different" and better 69

in terms of cold anthropological categories 69

neurotic immigrant humility 69

McLuhan predicts "fourth generation" (hippies) 69

squirrel cage of success obsession 69

Jiggs and Dagwood as necessary beacons of orientation, amid flux and stress 69

comic strips authors' anonymity 69

unisex 72

emotionally disastrous struggle which was at a high pitch from 1900-1935 72

self-possessed, unchaperoned woman and porn 72

power-nexus and cash-nexus are one 72

puny educational budget 72

"Are you in the groove?" 73

TV kills "bustiness" 75

regular changes "en masse" - given a different uniform every minute or so 75

latest shift of mental costume 75

daily COLLAGE 75

the stages of the cognitive/artistic process 75

cosmic laws 75

"impersonal, irresponsible, and unconscious" 75

extensions of man and community 75

transformation of the artist from bohemian "victim" to culture "hero" 75

in politics it calls for a proportionate extension of arduous vision 75

mother is deprived of community 76

business success is too specialized 76, 78

this helps to explain how it occurs that refined and idealistic women in our world are so often the mothers of ruthless men 76

little chemical factory is pumped with attention, a reward system 77

and bitterness rather than quiet self-possession is the state of mind of those not qualified for the narrow goals set up by technological and executive pursuits 78

the period of "promise" 78

virtual reality ("has the age-old battle between art and nature entered its last phase?") 78, 82

Baudelaire's "intoxication is a number" 79

"our highly cerebral sex life" 79

neural-itch graph of Audience Research, Inc. 79

"Big Barnsmell" 79

the thrills provided by both kinds of curves are calculated to ensnare and enslave, or to melt and waylay, the spectator 79

eager dream of Circean servitude which she engenders 79

jazz provides an analogy - its patterns, too, swell or contract as a volume of kinesthesia, or muscular excitement 79

modern physics 80

Romantic formula for fission 80

mixing hot and cool elements 80

the supreme form of cynical demigogic flattery 82

parallel worlds 82, 93

it would seem to take a certain amount of theology to bring off these masterpieces of sentimental vulgarity 82

the body as a living machine is now correlative with cars as vibrant and attractive organisms 84

penis envy (car envy) 84

streamlining fetish (organic shell form in the period of the late baroque) 84

speed and phallic power mixed with womblike comfort and ease ("floating power") 84

cult of Superman and rocket ships 84

the meaning of the twin desires for "comfort and power" could not be more directly stated in terms of sex and technology; the fact that these conflicting wishes are incorporated unconsciously in a wide range of popular objects testifies at once to their prevalence and to the character of the collective trance which prevents the recognition of the tensions 84

Galluputian and marketeer 84

"space" is the enemy for tribal man (voodoo menace) 85

"time" is the enemy for technological man (ragtime and bebop) 85

modern art and ancient demons 85

"hot jazz in stone" 85

syncopation in modern music is the symbolist technique of getting cosmic coverage by omission of syntactical connections 85

definition of "symbol" 85

jazz, Lambert suggests, derives from Debussy via New York, rather than from Africa 87

music by angles (jazz, all foreground) vs. music by planes (classical, deep perspective) 87

McLuhan's First Law 87, 96

the state as a work of art 87

the modern mind, whether in its subconscious collective dream or in its intellectual citadel of vivid awareness, is a stage on which is contained and re-enacted the entire experience of the human race 87

raw percept 87

the magic that changes moods is not in any mechanism; it is critical vision alone which can mitigate the unimpeded operation of the automatic 87

nostalgic player-piano music of the past 88

the flood 88 (see 90)

the pocketbook is the gland in the new body politic that permits the flood of goods and sensations not to be arrested by our protective shell but to sweep into our lives 88

propels us into the dream tunnel of equality and conformity 88

"a preview of bacteriological warfare?" 88

Schopenhauer's "pessimism" and Nietzsche's "energy" 90

Walt Whitman's "monistic lyricism" 90

submerging of the self in the cosmic flood 90

Mussolini, the jazz addict, was all for this Marinetti extroversion of the self and fusion with the activity of the machine; Hitler preferred Wagner and the introverted megalomaniac dream which hitches the superhuman energies of the machine to the psyche itself; but whatever the nature of this intoxication and lyricism - be it physical or psychological - it fetches up at the same result - the drowned man and the blood bath; since we are not yet finally committed to either of these merging courses, we are happily permitted some degree of critical reflection on other alternatives 90

"isn't it wonderful how the ad agencies create symbols for a general state of mind?" 90

Wyndham Lewis' "The Art of Being Ruled" explored "applied science", pointing to the unfortunate social effects of the vulgarization of scientific thought 92

fever, unrest, instability, liquidation, these are the conditions most favorable to the current market conditions and the ever-pressing need for quick turnover if expenses are to be met; naturally, therefore, they are the conditions of planned obsolescence, which are fostered, consciously and unconsciously, by every commercial agency of production, publicity, and entertainment; for example, if old movies were as available as old books, the movie industry would collapse into a modest affair 92

those headlines represent "human interest" attempts to gear science to the human nervous system 92

comic books, Reader's Digest, atmosphere of endless thrill and excitement, and the extent of the influence of applied science on the popular imagination 92

"time-masks" (Buck Rogers and parallel worlds) 93

the misleading effect of books like George Orwell's "1984" is to project into the future a state of affairs that already exists 93

ordinary human appetites for comfort, prestige, or power have in history been troublesome enough, but when they are given exaggerated expression by means of applied science they promise swift destruction 93

the aura of science and intercellular photography 93

these two ads help us to see one of the most peculiar features of our world - the interfusion of sex and technology; it is not a feature created by the ad men, but it seems rather to be born of a hungry curiosity to explore and enlarge the domain of sex by mechanical technique, on one hand, and, on the other, to POSSESS machines in a sexually gratifying way 94

a dynamic floral vortex 94

there is some sort of relation between the dynamo of abstract power which imparts motion to "the line" and the dynamo of abstract finance and engineering which moves the passions of the tired businessmen idolatrously seated in front of that line; "the line" is not carnal or sexy in the way in which the hoofers of burlesque aim to be 96

(McLuhan's probing of "ARCHETYPE") there will be many variations, but they will tend to be variations on certain recognizable themes; and these themes will be the 'laws" of that society, laws which will mould its songs and art and social expression 96

but discontinuity, whether in cultures or physics, unavoidably invokes the ancient notion of harmony; and it is out of the extreme discontinuity of modern existence, with its mingling of many cultures and periods, that there is being born today the vision of a rich and complex harmony; we do not have a single coherent present to live in, and so we need a multiple vision in order to see at all 97

the ad agencies flood the daytime world... Hollywood floods the night world with daytime imagery 97

(the quotation that gave Andy Warhol the idea of "15 minutes of fame") floods of new stars and starlets coming off the assembly lines have unconsciously sabotaged the illusion of their being gods and goddesses; attention is too widely dispersed; the magic is weakening, and many of the dreamers are stirring discontentedly 97

(McLuhan intuits the "ANDROID MEME") striving constantly, however, to watch, anticipate, and control events on the inner, invisible stage of the collective dream, the ad agencies and Hollywood turn themselves unwittingly into a sort of collective novelist, whose characters, imagery, and situations are an intimate revelation of the passions of the age; but this huge collective novel can be read only by someone trained to use his eyes and ears, and in detachment from the visceral riot that this sensational fare tends to produce; the reader has to be a second Ulysses in order to withstand the siren onslaught; or, to vary the image, the uncritical reader of this collective novel is like the person who looked directly at the face of Medusa without the mirror of conscious reflection; he stands in danger of being frozen into a helpless robot; without the mirror of the mind, nobody can live a human life in the face of our present mechanized dream 97

anybody who takes time to study the techniques of pictorial reportage in the popular press and magazines will easily find a dominant pattern composed of sex and technology; hovering around this pair will usually be found images of hectic speed, mayhem, violence, and sudden death; "Look" and "Life" are only the most obvious places in which to study this cluster of interests 98

that strange dissociation of sex not only from the human person but even from the unity of the body 99

the display of current feminine sex power seems to many males to demand an impossible virility of assertion 99

hence the malicious insistence on a sort of abstract sex 99

it makes inevitable both the divorce between physical pleasure and reproduction and also the case for homosexuality 99

there may be some relation between the fact that England, the first country to develop know-how and industrial technique, was also the first to develop the IDEAL of the frigid woman 99

sensation and sadism are near twins 100

this is a different way of phrasing what is for Wilhelm Reich only a behavioristic fact; too simply, he thinks of our machine landscape as an environment which makes people incapable of genital satisfaction; therefore, he says, they break out in fascist violence... was it not the mistake of D. H. Lawrence to overlook the comedy in a situation of this type?; the human person who thinks, works, or dreams himself into the role of a machine is as funny an object as the world provides; and, in fact, he can only be freed from this trap by the detaching power of wild laughter 100

... and "Finnegans Wake" by James Joyce - the latter especially being a great intellectual effort aimed at rinsing the Augean stables of speech and society with geysers of laughter; it is not a laughter or comedy to be compared with the whimsy-whamsy article of James Thurber or Ogden Nash; for the latter kind is merely a narcotic which confirms the victim in a condition he has neither the energy nor appetite to change 101

if only "for increased reading pleasure" readers should study these editorial ghoul techniques - conscious or not as they may be - and their poetic associations of linked and contrasting imagery 101

(McLuhan anticipates Jean Baudrillard's theme of "seduction") perhaps that is what the public wants when it reaches out for the INSIDE story smoking hot from the entrails of vice or innocence; that may well be what draws people to the death shows of the speedways and fills the press and magazines with close-ups of executions, suicides, and smashed bodies; a metaphysical hunger to experience everything sexually, to pluck out the heart of the mystery for a super-thrill 101

in other words, his [Charlie Chaplin - ed.] is a popular dream art which works trance-like inside a situation that is never grasped or seen; and this trance seems to be what perpetuates the widely occurring cluster image of sex, technology, and death which constitutes the mystery of the mechanical bride 101

but "Superman" is not only a narrative of the conquests, actual or imagined, of a technological age; it is also a drama of the psychological defeat of technological man 102

unconsciously, it must be assumed, the anonymous oppression by our impersonal and mechanized ways has piled up a bitterness that seeks fantasy outlets in the flood of fictional violence which is now being gulped in such a variety of forms 102

once the basic postulate of mind-body mechanism went to work in society, curious dualities were bound to spring up in education and popular entertainment; first, the body politic fell apart into the incompatible spheres of business and government; Rousseau popularized the idea of the noble savage and opposed nature to civilization; then the poet and artist identified himself with nature, and society began to glare at him with distrust; as the world of business encased itself in mechanical routines it envisaged as hitched to the cosmic laws of the universe, the individual was compelled to make endless "adjustments" to the procrustean force; scorning such soft compliance, however, was the residual aristocrat - the unreconstructed survivor of the wreck of feudalism; Byron became the ultimate archetype of this resistance... 104

their Inca-like savagery 104

cinema, cubism, symbolism, and thriller use the same method of simultaneous vision by reconstruction? 104

that is a very frank statement of the theme of detective fiction, namely, its obsession with violent death and human gore, which contrasts with the colorless lives of its readers 106

narration by flashback is now used by almost all novelists, since it provides an oblique light, a richly varied view of character and action; in addition, the method of the sleuth DOES have some relation to contemporary science as well as to art; one of the procedures in modern chemical research, for example, is to take a compound or a chemical reaction and then to work backwards from that to the FORMULA which will produce that compound or reaction 106

it was Poe who discovered the technique of this intellectual cinematograph half a century before the movie camera was invented; and just as movie "stills" when projected in sequence can reconstruct human actions, so the mental movie of the sleuth reanimates the corpse in order that the reader may see exactly how and why he was killed 106

Joyce's famous remark that, "though he might have been more humble, there's no police like Holmes," contains a world of insight; it includes the modern world and elucidates it at the same instant; Joyce explored popular phraseology and heroes with a precision which this book ["The Mechanical Bride" by McLuhan - ed.] cannot emulate; in the above phrase which refers to "no place like home," Joyce diagnoses the collapse of family life and the rise of the police state amidst a welter of sentiment which is partly rosy and partly lethal; homes are now a part of a police system; Holmes, the home-hater and woman-hater, is the hero of the "home-loving" and feminized middle class; the arrogant, sterile Holmes and the happy prolific homes of the late Victorian world are fused in a single image which arrests the mind for contemplation and insight 107

and the curious reader will find it profitable to consult Wyndham Lewis's "Art of Being Ruled" on the nature of the modern scientist's obsession with the romance of destruction 108

[Sir Arthur Conan - ed.] Doyle, in common with his age and ours, was obsessed with the psychic stench that rose from his own splintered ego 108

the noble savage, utterly above society and commerce, with his unspoiled faculties of a superhuman perfection and keenness, his nose for danger, his eye for clues, and his stomach for scalps - here is the complex image built up sentimentally by Rousseau, digested by Darwin, and expressed by Doyle as the type at once of the sleuth and of the scientific mind 109

the indiscriminate cluster of items included in these images becomes in turn a means of "popular thinking" about society and politics; but real thinking or discrimination can't begin until the cluster has been considered genetically and analytically 110

the scientist, the businessman, the artist, the extrovert, and the expert are only especially obvious examples of deep confusion to themselves and the popular mind alike; and the work of James Joyce, tightly linked as it is to popular imagery, is also deeply purgative of its confusion 110

the popular sleuth thus offers a window onto a complex psychological landscape; this landscape includes the figure of the superman as he has taken his stand on all the moral, political, and scientific issues of the West from Da Vinci to Holmes; it also includes the platform at Elsinore and the ghost-stricken figure of Hamlet; Hamlet the Dane saw one ghost; the modern Hamlet stares at a whole assembly; and not least among these is Philip Marlowe, Chandler's echo of Christopher Marlowe's supermen Tamburlaine and Dr. Faustus, that Nietzschean politician and scientist 110

TOO MUCH GOLD IN PAGES 107, 108, 109, AND 110 TO TYPE HERE [pay attention - ed.]

market turnover calls for human turnover 112

these consumer pressures in turn affect the entire character of a society 112

unrest is present no matter what may be the present house, car, job 112

it is not a human future but only the shadow of next year's models 112

these magazines would be useless commercially if they portrayed any scenes or homes that were already possessed by the income group to which they appeal 112

excepted from this endless faking of the future and of pasts to fit the unreal present are gangsters and dead-end kids; they are off the consumer track 112

an ad like this, then, is a machine for taking spectators for a ride; our job here is to keep an eye out for the many views which that ride is not intended to reveal to the straphanger 112

in fact, the picture story really says: "Understand our kind of rivalry and you understand why your car is somebody and you are nobody" 113

... an anesthetic for any brain cells that persist in keeping active in spite of a big kinesthetic extrovert way of life 113

from this point of view ads can be seen as a kind of social ritual or magic that flatter and enhance us in our own eyes; what Kipling was to the aggressive British imperialists, these ads are to our domestic economy; they act as a sort of firing spark in the internal combustion engine 113

our hit-parade tunes and our jazz are quite as representative of our inner lives as any old ballad is of a past way of life 113

the psychological misery of millions 115

since conformity is the sign and reward of success, then go out and get the means to be a facsimile 115

as successors to Sinclair Lewis's "Babbitt", they illustrate how very far this corrosive spirit has penetrated the popular mind; in fact, the reader is left with the question whether there is anything left for this corrosive to destroy 115

are ads themselves the main form of industrial culture? 117

why is there no sense of community in our festivities and relations; whence this trait of "keeping it in the family?" 117

the loud, confident self-congratulation that we are as we are and that only a cheap sneak would ask any questions 117

lead, kindly coke? 118

coke ads concentrate on the "good girl" image as opposed to the dominant "bad girl" of popular entertainment - though there has been some recent tendency in Hollywood to blend the two types; the "good girl" is the nineteenth-century stock model which has long been merged with the mother image 118

with the globe itself becoming a coke sucker 120

"real life" often appears, at least, to be an imitation of art; today, of poster art 120

the divorce, then, between the cloistered purity of the home and the cynicism and lust of the great battle raging in the world without is perhaps the most expressive dramatic feature of the nineteenth century; without an understanding of the bearing of that drama, even such things as coke ads and Powers models are undecipherable hieroglyphics 120

the willful self-deception, the obtuseness, and the ad-agency hamminess of these words are all to be found in the feminine images of our ads and magazine covers; only, with us, there has been a shift from religion to soap as the guarantee of pure-hearted womanhood 120

a large crowd always craves some strong emotion to provide a sense of cohesive meaning and to start moving the undershaft of collective dynamism 122

the century of spectacular prize fighting which lies behind us coincides with the era of the maulers and bruisers of industry; a more subtle age of bureaucratic and monopolistic business enterprise calls for the more complex sport of "push-button football"; ... sport is a kind of magic or ritual, varying with the changing character of the dominant classes; and it embodies in a symbolic way the drives and tensions of a society 123

of much greater import is the fact that education as a status escalator or mobility agent is also a very crude device for insuring that its products will often be mentally narrow to the point of helplessness; those who submit to training only because it will link them more effectively to a great economic and bureaucratic mechanism are using their best years and faculties as a means of enslaving themselves; they are seizing opportunities in order to have the economic means to be exactly like everybody else 126

far from teaching detachment or developing the power of gauging human goals, our higher education is servile and unrealistic 128

there is actually emerging a large number of independent critical minds today; as the nightmare moves to its unwelcome dramatic peak, the sleeper stirs and writhes; it is nice to be enfolded in a collective dream as long as the comfort is greater than the pain; but we have nearly passed that critical point; consciousness will come as a relief 128

there is something quaintly pre-industrial about all this [McLuhan is commenting on a description of the Chicago business elite - ed.]; it is so porous, so biological, so self-consciously self-congratulatory; like the face in the present ad [see "I'm Tough", p.130 - ed.], it is theatrical and phoney in the same way as sports-page ferocity; the real toughness today has shifted from the personal Darwinian melodrama to the abstractions of logistics, Cybernetics, and consumer research 131

James Aldridge, writing in the New York Times for June 24, 1942, gives a popular, Raymond Chandler sort of view of the post-Darwinian brand of abstract toughness; Darwinism got rid of the human quality in killing; our time has gone a step further and got rid of its animal character 131

... sex is not enough in a technological world, and here is James Aldridge plainly giving the reasons why today brutality is not enough, and he advocates scientific killing in place of a mere brutality; killing is now to be regarded as equivalent to the pre-scientific attempts to find and kill individual fleas or lice which are now handled EN MASSE; simply by unconsciously spouting the language of modern applied science, Aldridge arrives at the same concepts as those which inspired the methods of the Nazi death camps; both sex and death have been subtly neutralized by the popularization of laboratory procedures 131

to make just those signals and sounds which will attract the average mouse to his special outlet is the object of "the selling game" 132

in "classical economics" of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries it was assumed that the "laws of the market" were psychologically geared to those of a mathematical universe; each private person was a little world on the model of the physical universe 132

both the human body and the body politic soon came to be thought of as machines geared to the mathematical laws of the universe 134

to talk of freedom but never of power is partly, at least, the result of confusion and timidity of mind; yet to have created a power which destroys freedom is alarming even to an industrialist 134

nor is it obvious any longer that a man who can discover or create a demand has thereby a social right to make himself rich 134

more obviously than most entertainment, competitive sport is a direct reflex of the various motives and inner dramas of a society; but private games like chess, bridge, and poker are no less expressive; and for businessmen, golf is the recognized dramatization of the most immediate kind of personal competition 135

excitement, not fun, is the object or function of sport in a competitive industrial world; the passions which sport arouses systematically are much too intense to leave any scope for that element of detachment which provides fun in life and art; one has only to listen to the tense gunfire delivery of radio sports announcers to understand this 137

at this point God gets the Hegelian brush-off 140

is it an accident that the narcissistic heroes like Tarzan, Superman, cowboys, and sleuths are weak on social life? 141

the terror inspired by wild beasts, which led tribal societies to get psychologically inside the tribal totem animal, is being repeated today to the degree that those who are confused or overwhelmed by a machine world are encouraged to become psychologically hard, brittle, and smoothly metallic; the slick-chick and the corporation executive, as they now register on the popular imagination, are already inside the totem machine 141

and it should be noted that the perennial adolescence of the confirmed athlete matches up very well with the Baby Snooks mentality of the equally self- and body-centered "love goddess" 143

but our casual indifference in managing and scrapping cars and equipment, which so shocks the European, may yet prove to be rooted in a complex of attitudes which can save us from the worst effects of mechanization 144

is it being replaced; or is the power of inner renewal increasing in proportion to the increasingly numerous mechanisms for anticipating and controlling the thoughts and feelings of many millions with which the present book is much concerned? 144

consequently, in practice, everyone is intellectually and emotionally a patchwork quilt of occupied and unoccupied territory 144

the low quality of mental habit engendered thus far by universal literacy, when confronted with the extreme complexity of current affairs, cannot be said to produce thought; so that the exhortation to "think for yourself" is, in these circumstances, a cause of discouragement only; it positively encourages a plunge into any collective myth that happens to have appeal 144

a commercial society dedicated to the smash and grab and one-man fury of enterprise has produced just one popular type of tragic hero - the gangster; would it not be strange, therefore, if this gangster were not a sort of reversed carbon copy of the go-getter? 145

in short, the gangster world is a kind of streamlined or short-circuited version of the usual success pattern 145

the Greeks were prepared to admit that even a good family man who paid his bills and income tax might be offensive to the gods; our entertainment shows few signs of any eagerness on our parts for that degree of catharsis 147

so, by and large, it would appear that the gangster hero provides us now merely with another stock mechanism of emotional evasion, much as the Oscar Wildes and the artists of his generation functioned as scapegoats or public victims for the grossness and hypocrisy of commercial Europe 147

the endless use of the Barnum and Ripley technique of stressing the feasibility of the impossible as a challenge to curiosity and emulation results in the tediously terrific and the forcible feeble 148

the fact is pointed out lest it be supposed that it has been argued here that there is value in merely attacking vulgarity and stupidity; because today there is far too much of these commodities intermixed with valuable articles to make such a course desirable; what is needed is not attacks on obvious imbecility but a sharp eye for what supports and is now involved in it; it is from this habit of dissociation that the means of recreating shopworn values can come; as said earlier, our situation is very like that of Poe's sailor in "The Maelstrom," and we are now obliged not to attack or avoid the STROM but to study its operation as providing a means of release from it 148

but the superiority of the pulps is in their absence of pretentiousness, and the readers of this form of entertainment are altogether undeceived by it; they are never under the impression of having bought or read something with "class" 152

the air of unreality which has hovered over the little-magazine coterie culture in general is due to their neglect of the close interrelations between the good and bad work of the same period; the result of this neglect is, finally, failure to see the goodness of the good work itself; the great artist necessarily has his roots very deep in his own time - roots which embrace the most vulgar and commonplace fantasies and aspirations 152

why is the American heart split between the frontier and the small town? 154

closely associated with these cultural dynamics is the deep nostalgia of an industrial society, a nostalgia bred by rapid change; obsolescence is a major reality in this kind of world of business turnover; competitive machine processes are often out of date before they can be widely applied; books are discarded before a fraction of the potential readers have heard of them; hair, clothes, educational, and hit-parade patterns are switched faster than the young can grow into them; and record albums of the songs of 1930 or 1935 do a roaring trade as quaintly sentimental revivals of forgotten eras; a twenty-five-year-old can get wistful about reminiscences of ten years ago; in such a world the lasting qualities of horse opera with the fringe on top have great appeal 156

again, under complex conditions of rapid change, the family unit is subject to special strain; men flounder in such times; the male role in society, always abstract, tenuous, and precarious compared with the biological assurance of the female, becomes obscured; man the provider, man the codifier of laws and ritual, loses his confidence; for millions of such men horse opera presents a reassuringly simple and nondomestic world in which there are no economic problems; in that territory mating, likewise, is a simple affair without elaborate courtship and dating preliminaries 156

horse opera and soap opera, then, embody two of the most important American traditions, the frontier and the home town; but the two traditions are split rather than fused; they show that radical separation between business and society, between action and feeling, office and home, between men and women, which is so characteristic of industrial man; these divisions cannot be mended until their fullest extent is perceived 157 ]]


Bob Dobbs
 
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