Post-lectem view on Pattern Recognition 29/40

March 27, 2007 at 7:35 am | Posted in Consumerism, Film, Globalization, Literature | 14 Comments
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Pattern RecignitionSo I’ve finished William Gibson’s Pattern recognition, but felt a bit let down by it in the end. SPOILER WARNING: If you haven’t read the book yet but intend to read it in the near future you probably should stop reading here.

I immediately liked Gibson’s take on our branded world and the idea of the main character, Cayce Pollard, developing an allergy against brands and labels. In terms of coherence, it didn’t quite make sense to me though why she had developed such an obsession with The Buzz Rickson’s, a Japanese designer version of a classic US Airforce flying jacket. You might say that this critique is beside the point – it probably is, and I probably read this book too much like I’d read a film (btw, have the rights for a film been sold already? must find out), and I very picky about narrative structure. It’s not at all like that that I expect every movie to tell a perfectly linear story – but if a film adopts a fairly conventional style (of cinematography and editing), then I do expect the plot information to be coherent. And PR is also written fairly conventional, hence my expectations towards coherence.

Back to the Buzz Rickson’s: I admit that until 2 minutes ago, I assumed that the Buzz Rickson’s had entirely been made up. It isn’t. How sad. It is available for € 455 from History Preservation Associates, and I really don’t like it. I had made up my own idea idea of a Buzz Rickson’s which had a slight velvety touch and a dark petroleum tint (wherever I got that from). That’s what it looks like:

Buzz Rickson

Cayce’s lack of reaction towards this iconic jacket probably has to do with the fact that it’s a slightly tweaked, Japanese version – Cayce also isn’t allergic to Hello Kitty characters, and this makes sense because branding and culture are related. But other than you’d expect, she feels at home at Starbucks, although Starbucks looks the same and operates the same way anywhere in our globalized world. The character Damien asks her this very question, but Gibson offers no answer to it. You might say I am just nitpicking, but I’m just a bit disappointed because I had expected a certain epiphany or revelation regarding the exact nature of Cayce’s allergy. In the end, the allergy is gone, and Cayce worries briefly whether she’d be able to continue working in her professing, hunting cool, but that’s it for that. No one knows what triggered it, no one knows why it’s gone in the end.

The end of the novel reminded be of what “Robert McKee”, in an impersonation offered by Brian Cox in Adaptation, said about voice-over:

…and God help you if you use voiceover in your work, my friends. God help you! It’s flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character. You must present the internal conflicts of your character in action.

Gibson’ voice-over are emails. Nobody knows in the end why the character Damien has to be shooting a documentary about a dig in Russia, where drunk fortune-hunters dig out WW2 treasures including a Stuka complete with mummified pilot. I thought the dig’s would have a function there, because the revelation of the identity of ‘the maker’ of the footage takes place in Russia, but Gibson doesn’t make use of Damien in that context. That leaves him with three story lines dangling loose after the revelation: The whereabouts of Damien, of Cayce’s Mom and of Voytek and his sister Magda, but instead of presenting the dénouement in action, all we get is a succession of emails (presented without subject line – I kind of resented that).

In an nutshell: While I enjoyed the read and eagerly followed in the footsteps of the main character through her marketing-imbued conspiracy, I was a but disappointed by the miserly secret that was to be uncovered. After that major build-up in which Gibson heavily drew on snippets of Baudrillard (having Cayce contemplate about Tommy Hilfiger clothes as simulacra of simulacra of simulacra), I was hoping for a bit more meat in the philosophical frying pan. And as conspiracy theories were one of its subtexts, I also hoped for a bringing together of all the plot lines that had been started.

I appreciate Cayce’s view on fashion though, while this might also seem to be completely beyond the point:-) Because she’s allergic to labels, she tries to give herself an ‘un-branded’ look, for instance takes her Levi’s jeans to a workshop to have the brand names on the buttons removed. Last week I went to one of those no-name fashion stores that flourish in suburban industry estates , and while most of the clothing there has the depressing appeal of poverty-chic (clothes that will fall apart in the wash quicker than you average H&M shirt), you can be lucky and find an absolute gem, something that looks completely underground-ish because it is so far removed from the available label styles but costs next to nothing. I bought a very odd looking T with a skull print (nothing special yet) for € 8, but the skulls were transparent (not quite sure whether intended or not) and a bit frillier than the rest, giving it a nice texture, particularly above the boobs;-) I like it particularly on top of a pink long sleeve – must post a picture some time…

Goat milk, what a delight! 18/40

March 10, 2007 at 11:46 am | Posted in Consumerism, Food, Lent | 16 Comments
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Just to share some simple news with you – I just drank an entire half litre of goat milk and it was absolutely divine! I think it was the first time that I drank that stuff. Because both lamb meat and goat cheese have such a distinct goat shed flavour, I kind of expected the same from goat milk. I was wrong – it’s the finest flavour a milk can have:-)

Had I bought a whole litre, I would have downed it all (a fine sentence for practicing conditionals;-)

Goat milk

LentDaily Lent (Day 18): At the same time, Lent seems to be beginning to get to me. Last night I dreamed that I went to a peculiar old-fashioned movie theatre with dark green velvet seating. There were several silver screens on the walls of the oval screening room and the seats – although looking as if they could break any moment – were mobile. So before the film began (it never began in my dream) the seats were moving around to make sure all people were positioned well to see the film. At the entrance you had to bargain for your ticket – most people had to pay ridiculous sums, also because the ticket vendor added ridiculous things to their request, such as bags and old magazines. I payed € 14 for a ticket and two giant sized slabs of Lindt , both dark chocolate, one with orange flavour and the other one with chili cherry mousse au chocolat filling on which I chowed happily away while moving around on my mobile chair. That catapulted me out of the Lent mindset to an extent that I almost ate some of the honey nut flakes for breakfast that linger in my cupboard (meanwhile stale).

The Golden Hour 9/40

March 1, 2007 at 1:04 am | Posted in Alps, Austria, Consumerism, Food, Lent | 3 Comments

There are a couple of moments in the evenings, probably no more than half a minute, when the Rhine valley appears to be set aflame by a golden light. I have so often wanted to photograph it, but never had a camera at hand. I’m mostly at my office when it starts, but it is even more impressive from my flat, with the summits of the local mountains reflecting the sunlight, dramatically set against a backdrop of suddenly dark blueish clouds.

When it began today, I quickly launched the webcam that’s mounted on the Karren, the local mountain, and began capturing pictures. I gathered 50 and put them together into a tiny film. The film begin with the golden moment – which is not immediately apparent, as its effect derives from the contrast to the previous light. But you can see how the scenery falls back into grey after a few seconds. Lovely. The lake in the background is Lake Constance.

I imagine this magic moment is caused by the light finding a gap somewhere in the Swiss mountain ranges which it can only pass through at a certain angle and at a certain hour, for just these precious moments. That might not be the accurate explanation, it’s probably nothing more but the clouds giving way to the sub for a moment, but I like to think about it that way:-)

LentMy daily Lent message (Day 9): Whoo, nearly a quarter of Lent is over! Not only do I eat less, but my interest in food is generally declining. I went to the supermarket after work tonight, which is normally the worst time to shop as I am sooo hungry. Under such circumstances, I often drool at the sight of the original Austrian Schaumrollen vom Guschlbauer, dem Schaumrollenkönig. A Schaumrolle could be translated to cream role and is something close to a croissant with marshmallow filling, covered with sugar or chocolate icing, and it’s definitely the heroin of carbohydrate addicts like me. I think there was only one time that I actually dared to buy one and it was absolutely divine. ‘One’ is actually a lie, as they don’t come in single packs;-) No wonder America has a problem with obesity – I won’t forget the sight of the double dozen doughnut packs in the Walmart in Maryville, Missouri when I visited my boyfriend there. Scary!
GuschlbauerGuschlbauer
With my Lent mindset, however, I went into the supermarket and just bought 1 kilo of Basmati rice, a litre of milk and half a litre of sour milk. It seemed as if the shop had nothing else to offer. I win, consumerism loses, Cool:-)

Lent: Day 2 of 40

February 22, 2007 at 10:13 pm | Posted in Consumerism, Food, Lent, Lifestyle, Religion | 6 Comments

LentLent is going to be harder on me than I initially expected. I am about to meet a colleague in an hour in a restaurant and I won’t drink alcohol (!). But that’s what I wanted.

Up to this moment, this is what I consumed in the course of this day:

  • a pot of black tea with milk (no sugars)
  • a small bowl of oat meal (no sugar)
  • a serving of cottage cheese
  • four hardboiled eggs (on offer, as Easter is coming)
  • a banana (fruit sugar must be allowed – what’ s funny is that I couldn’t eat bananas as a teenager with an eating disorder; I was too afraid they would give me constipation;-) I actually only started eating them again about a year ago. I had practically forgotten about the existence of bananas)

And I really like the wines that they have in the place we are going to… (Gabriel’s Cucina)… money could buy me things… but I will desist!

EDIT: I survived, but picking from the menu alone is more difficult than it was when I was ‘just’ a vegetarian. Find a meal that has neither sugar nor meat in it! And they had a fresh redcurrant soup for starters today, sigh. The baby turbot with black rice also sounded divine, but I felt that it was unappropriate to indulge in such a treat if one meant to take lent seriously. Instead, I had a salad for starters and very wholesome spaghetti with potatoes, hot sauce and parmegiano, mineral water to drink – and an espresso without sugar to finish:-( All the food was really really nice – I need to think of taking my mother there one day.

40 days is a long time – but the last time that I didn’t drink alcohol for 40 days was probably before I started drinking at all (i.e. around 15 – probably the average age for a German… back in the days, that is). And as you can see in the top right corner, I have even created my own Lent logo now;-) I have to be careful, or the Christian fundamentalists will begin hanging around this page (interesting though how any engagement with Christian practices holds the danger of leading to unwanted affiliations).

Fighting Consumerism with Lent

February 21, 2007 at 10:44 pm | Posted in Consumerism, Food, Lent, Lifestyle, Religion | 2 Comments
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Lent (RELIGION)
noun [U]
in the Christian religion, the 40 days before Easter, a period during which, for religious reasons, some people stop doing particular things that they enjoy:
The children have promised to give up sweets for Lent. [CALD]

I am giving up sugar, alcohol and meat for Lent. I have never given up anything for Lent before, but considering the role that the addiction to consumerism played in a couple of discussions I was involved with or had with myself, it can hardly do harm to learn to give up things. The 40 days before Easter are nothing but a welcome opportunity, and also a reason that one can offer if people ask why one declines their Mousse au Chocolat, and a better reason than saying that one wants to shed some weight.

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