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May 16, 2007


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I especially love mass public events. Ballgames, movie premieres, concerts, graduation ceremonies, parades, protest marches, etc. That much more especially if it involves lots of people singing together in more-or-less unison. For precisely the reasons you identify in your last paragraph.

patrick j. mullins

Interesting. But I don't like most organized spectacle, except some festivals, as say, the Balkan Festival in Queens, or the Verizon Jazz Festival at the Columbia Quadrangle that lasts 6 hours, or some parades.

Mainly, I just like the streets, endlessly and without any order to the whole thing. Parks in which you hear all sorts of activity at the same time that aren't related to each other.

I've never been to a theme park, but I used to think that was my snobbism (which it also is), but it's also my lack of innocence about some things. On the other hand, I love a big Catholic mass, if I don't have to be a church member.

khalid mir

You're taking the mickey, right?

Haven't read it and don't know if it has the theoretical dimension you're looking for but heard that 'Kamikaze Diaries' is quite good.


There is a slow push in Hollywood to decrease the turn around time between theatrical releases of films and the inevitable DVD release to combat piracy. Honestly, if the studios wanted to, they could have DVDs waiting as you walk out the theater...

The growing concern is that people are moving away from the mass "spectacles" and prefer enjoying films in their own homes.

While their concerns are justified, the string of film successes over the past 5 months, have proven that the spectacle of a big opening is still an amazing lure for audiences... if the marketing is handled properly.

My fellow geeks here at UGO enjoyed Spider-Man 3, but didn't find it great. It wasn't the film on its own that made it enjoyable for us, but sharing that moment in time with other "geeks"; clapping as the Marvel logo faded onto the screen, cheers for Stan Winston's little cameo, applause for the birth of Sandman, cheers for Peter going bad... that is what elevated the film experience for us.

Unfortunately, we are going out today for an early screening of Shrek today, and it will just be press types (horribly stale, souless individuals) and not the public at large. The laughs won't be there, the wisecracks from the kids in the front row, or the feeling of mass anticipation as the screen goes dark before the movie starts. I hate these pre-screenings because the energy isn't there, just cynics that want the film to be over with so they can slam it in their columns.

patrick j. mullins

'There is a slow push in Hollywood to decrease the turn around time between theatrical releases of films and the inevitable DVD release to combat piracy.'

In early 2006, Soderbergh already had one of his films go to DVD within a week or so. Maybe you can refresh on what film this was, because I didn't see it, but did read about it in the LA Times; it was followed by a blog of comments from Angelenos who were fed up with many of the inconveniences of cineplexes (and admission prices are ridiculous to my mind too)--most of them were going to be fine with the DVD or netflix, etc. I mentioned this, because I hadn't kept up, and thought it would be universal practice already by now.


Patrick... you are on point..

The film was Bubble and since its release I fall into the same boat as you. I never followed up on the box office and sales returns... but honestly, if it was a successful test we would still be talking about it.

I'll look into the box office returns but that film fell below the radar and unfortunately wasn't a "critical mass" film.

I'll go out on a limb and say that skewed returns.

If it was a "critical mass" film (e.g. Michael Bay's TransFormers) I wonder if the results would be different.

There is something special about critical mass films...

A combination of marketing dollars [hot phrases these days are: viral, guerilla, and user generated], an anchor or legacy in pop culture [take Old Spice using Bruce Campbell in webmercials on YouTube], and a little social engineering-like ploys [film studios leaking info to "coming soon" sites, then having plants make comments] = presto a recipe for HYPE.

Hype and anticipation builds and you get butts in seats in the theaters.

Example: Spider-Man 3 that pulls a wild bunch in the box office and sets this special season truly off with a bang. There were sites like aintitcoolnews.com leaking early rumors on villains, pictures of Sandman a year before the film was released, and Venom months before his public debut in the trailer...

Now a truer test than Bubble would be to have DVDs ready, after a film like Spider-Man 3, as the audience walks out the theater.

If the film was "good" maybe a few of the viewers will pick up a copy. If the film is a POS, maybe those DVDs will remain in the theater.

In hindsight, maybe that is what the studios fear. How many times have you walked out of a theater with a gut reaction. Either you really loved the film or hated it, only later to go back and feel just the opposite.

Curioser and curioser.

Disclaimer: Don't provoke me... I can rant on this stuff forever and need guard rails to keep me focused on the conversation.

Consumer behavior is fascinating.


Semi-related: in Peru there were DVDs (high quality, not like the stuff sold on NYC streets) of movies still in theaters in the US. I got Jim Carey's 23--which I still haven't watched.

Marc on sports: I like that you mentioned singing. I haven't experienced sport events in the mass way you describe, except every once in a while the superbowl. The more it is about separate teams and a competition, the less I get the 'spectacle feeling.' But I always get it at the seventh inning stretch.

Also, Kareem, for me the spectacle feeling comes from television as much as films seen in theaters. It usually is enhanced when other people are with me, though. And, it is greatly enhanced (distributed) when I can find conversations all over the internet about it. So, instead of a dependency on setting (theater or stadium), there is instead a distribution of affective intensity over various times, spaces, and media. And this distribution enables the spectacle feeling to persist longer, perhaps by installing me in a fantasy of an imagined mass.


Exactly. My favorite moments at sporting events are those when the competition is suspended, as it were. Like singing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch. Or when a play happens that so exemplifies a sport performed at its highest level that you no longer remember that teams or individuals are even competing.


I am especially fascinated by the fact that, as far as spectacles like
American Idol are concerned, everyone I know thinks that the performances are mostly crap, and all they are interested in IS the spectacle.

I'm a musician and artist living in NYC, and of course few of my peers would ever even admit they actually liked the performances, but I think for the most part they are into the mechanics of the spectacle. I think this is exactly the point at which rightful cynicism becomes irony, where we are able to ignore a display of blatant manipulation and start to enjoy being manipulated.

I find it equally fascinating that most of my "film" friends are ready and able to tear apart a film like INLAND EMPIRE or CHILDREN OF MEN, while they just laugh about something like AMERICAN IDOL or SURVIVOR. It's as though they believe that a spectacle with the power to seduce so many people is simply beyond any kind of critique, and the only things worth criticizing are things with limited focus like art films. When I mention that maybe they should invert the objects of their criticisms, they give me that look that says "why bother?". Ha ha it makes me feel like we've all lost the battle before it even begins....good thing they voted off Sanjay.

patrick j. mullins

I just went in hopes of some sense of some kind of spectacle, however arty. General Theological Seminary, which has stunning gardens at 20th and 9th and 10th, is part of the new High Line Festival, deriving from the elevated old train tracks that will be preserved by using them for public this, that, and the-others...although this is because they were not going to get a new lease of life by remaining charming, deserted weed gardens. David Bowie curated this year's festival, and this part had videos of still of photos of Claude Cahun's work. Now isn't that just enough to make you want to stand in line for 5 hours? And then when you get there, they say sorry, it's an hour later than we said, so you can go hang out at the French pastry place. And then when you come back they won't let you go in the place, but will let you watch a DVD of still of Cahun's work, none of which is interesting to me...although it should have been, because this very lispy person was also waiting and lecturing this arty lady about 'connoisseurship isn't taught any more, you know... people don't know an art object unless they've read a lot of commentary about it first...' so you see the 6 minute DVD, and you don't care what the commentary could have been, and you are not going to wait on them any more, the DVD has Bowie quoted as saying 'Cahun's photography is absolutely MAD! but in the nicest possible way'...I guess he's trying to make the transition into English Gentleman Farmer or something. Well, I think they knew the DVD would work wonders at sending home most of the people they kept shoving out already anyway, so I went home, since it was all of it horrible. So much for some kinds of paltry arty spectacle. Worst organizing I've ever seen, they even had one girl telling a patron 'I can't answer that and the man at the front desk is away right now...' even thought the man at the front desk was just chewing the fat 2 feet in front of her and heard her and paid her no attention. They should all be fired! I cannot for the life of me see what Claude Cahun's photos are about, much less why they'd do a big exhibition with reproductions and no real photos. What a bust. I guess secretly we thought there might be speeches and we would hear Bowie talk. Well, I don't even care if we would have, this was not a celebration. Even 4th of July Fireworks, no matter how many times, was better than this, and I didn't even quite go to it. It made me not join in a sense of union with my fellow man, and I tell you, I was up for it.

However, it now turns out that you can finally use Morningside Park at least during the day, so I was there too, with a friend doing some painting there. This was better, and the park is much wilder, with a gorgeous waterfall in it, than Central Park. That's one of the few real successes the student protests of the 60's had. Columbia was not successful in appropriating Morningside Park, so it remained one of the beautiful parks of Harlem. It is still a bit edgy, but the wait to finally be able to use it was worth it.


I'm still trying to figure out why Bowie was such a genius. Yeah he made some good pop songs and appropriated some good images from lesser-known underground musicians, and he sure knew how to shock mothers in the 70s, but....why is he still such a cult figure among academics?

I hang out with a bunch of New School philo students and faculty, and they absolutely think Bowie is the Jesus of rock n roll. When I talk about how much more power and originality is to be found in acts like The Stooges, they scoff. One kid actually said "Bowie was cooler because he was sober, and the Stooges were fucked up on drugs all the time." Kids are so terrifyingly puritanical these days.

I think that despite Bowie's decades long embrace of cultural opportunism for his own evolving "image", and his advocacy of only the most superficial of marketart, he maintains an image of authentic "bohemianism" for these kids. The scary thing is they are both probably right. The bohemian these days is probably not interested in experience or events, but approximation and accumulation.

I have hope in that the kids that attend the concerts i find truly amazing, the ones in the outer fringes of the noise/outrock/freejazz scene, are for the most part working class. There's hope for the future!!


Ha, sorry, Patrick, but i just read your post again and had to stifle a laugh at your cry of "They should all be fired!" Hopefully you meant that in an ironic sense, and not in a whiny one.

Reminds me of my past (and probably future) role of underling arty party organizer. You're surrounded by a sea of liberal, indifferent affluence, all demanding some sort of answer as to why they aren't having a good time, and the only proper response is one of sarcasm or outright lies. That or your basic surly petulance. Gotta give em what they want, now...

patrick j. mullins

'One kid actually said "Bowie was cooler because he was sober, and the Stooges were fucked up on drugs all the time." '

Bowie was better once he GOT sober, I'd agree, but the kid ought to know about the earlier periods of terrible cocaine problems and the Thin White Duke period. By the time of the Serious Moonlight Tour in 1983 and the 'Let's Dance' album, Bowie was simply a magnificently subtle and sophisticated musician. Of all rock musicians, he's the one I've been most influenced by and admired. Even weird songs written in the countries he's toured like 'Tumble and Twirl' for Borneo I've liked, and those songs like 'Putting Out Fire with Gasoline' too, but 'Criminal World' is just a work of art--'where the girls are like baby-faced boys', and the perfect camp of 'Shake it Shake it What's My Line'. Add to this the truly traditionally rich and resonant singing voice, the physical beauty combined with even doing a pretty good pirouette as in the video of 'Loving the Alien'--well, you see, I like most of it.

Now, when he gets into wanting to be a big Arts patron, it gets into the real silly and pretentious--an article in The New Yorker at the time of 'Basquiat' (this will remind me to finally request a copy and watch it) in which he keeps telling Julian Schnabel 'you're just WRONG' is funny but also tedious. I think it's possible that he continued to exude and possible even assimmilate (if not quite scientifically literally) all the drugs he'd played around with in the 70s, and when there is that rare case of a person moving away from drugs without getting corny about it and getting religion with it (I definitely am glad people have AA, but they are trying sometimes, the people, because they 'got religion' too much, and also because they say 'go ahead, have a drink' and then, in my experience, have ALWAYS offered only ROTGUT!). So I think Bowie got off drugs without having to use GUILT as a means of doing it. Of course, the younger generation is not nearly always going to love him, but I'd say Bowie is one of the greatest musicians of the last 40 years.

'They should all be fired!" Hopefully you meant that in an ironic sense, and not in a whiny one.'

I did, because although 'the man at the front desk' was not doing his job properly last night on several levels, they are all real sweeties there and let me use the grounds all the time without ever proselytizing--this is a good trait about Episcopalians, I've noticed. You really should go there if you need pastoral tranquility from time to time, as they only require a picture ID--and it is light-years more therapeutic than any of the public parks. I've composed and written a lot there in the last year.

'Reminds me of my past (and probably future) role of underling arty party organizer. You're surrounded by a sea of liberal, indifferent affluence,'

Oh, Lord, I was totally unclear here. There were maybe 8--count 'em--8--waiting and being told to watch that terrible DVD, and these kids were probably volunteers who had been given NO information or who gave out among themselves conflicting information. The silly fellow with the 'connoisseurship' lecture was like from Woody Allen's 'Manhattan', having been parodied 25 years ago. But none of them could answer questions, they'd just say 'I'll go and ask...' and then would just stand there. I'm only going on about this because it was notably ridiculous.

It's rare for me to walk out of something, I want to make sure of what it is no matter how bad it seems. But the idea that we were about to witness some extraordinary event that consisted only of video images of photographs was just a bit much--that's why it was appropriate to mention here: They were really presenting that we were getting Spectacle, consisting not only of only an obscure but probably interesting photographer (in some ways--it's epicene and andrognous photos by Ms. Cahun and her lover), but given that photos are already removed from their subject, we don't even get to see a material photo--but rather some absurdly 'haunting' posts with blue screens stuck on them.

However, I may go back tonight and force myself through it, just because the regular staff is so dear that I don't want to be offensive to them. I'm even willing to lie about their shitty exhibition...


"The silly fellow with the 'connoisseurship' lecture was like from Woody Allen's 'Manhattan', having been parodied 25 years ago. But none of them could answer questions."

I always knew that the art world was in love with its own cliches, but being immersed in it for the last two years has almost been claustrophobic for me. Art openings/events used to be amazing parties in the nineties....there were many different "types" jostling for attention, using various methods of conversational seduction, mostly in irreverent, healthy, skeptical tones toward the art world. Everyone wanted "in" but seemed unwilling to compromise certain things about their beliefs or practice. Now art events/openings are like prechoreographed events, filled with people who could give a crap about the art, spewing art-magazine platitudes. You can almost mouth the words coming out of some rich SVA graduate's face as she/he expounds upon the value or lack thereof in displayed artworks. No longer a "party", these openings feel like corporate mixers, networking events. Wait, that's exactly what they are...my cynicism undermines me.

At least now the simulation of artistic innovation is mostly gone, and it is strictly about market viability. Now things are more ruthlessly honest. There's that.


Speaking of spectacle, anyone here heard of:


He's an amazing artist that stages "spectacle" performances that all address gloabalization and inequality in the most perverse, poetic forms. He's paid migrant workers a day's pay to have lines tattooed on their backs. He mocks minimalism and does things like line up six black cars outside the gallery with their motors running. He's like the anti-richard serra. He's a perfect artist for our times, as he aggressively addresses art's criminal complicity in the injustices perpetuated by globalism. Working for almost twenty years to bit by bit melt down the art world's golden cow, he's had shows all over the world at some of the most prestigious venues.

In the last ten years he's had THREE show in NYC...art folks here think his work "goes too far".

Jodi, I'm interested in what you might say about the efficacy or lack thereof in these types of performances. Do they "go too far"?

patrick j. mullins


This is very informative in today's LATimes. It looks like luxury movie theaters are actually thriving. I saw 'Brokeback Mountain' at the ArcLight in Hollywood, and paid $13.50--easily more luxurious than any cinema I know in NYC, but I don't care about such things personally. But if this new Landmark PoshPlace can charge $11 and make a go of it, then it's of interest the way the market is so much more complex than you'd expect. I now recall that Soderbergh's film not only went to DVD almost immediately, but also to Cable--ultimately, I'd think this is primarily going to happen, because there can't be that many perfect Landmark and ArcLight theaters as described in this weirdly-hyped article (some of the involved personnel talk about these mere movie theaters as if the Kennedy Center was just about to open, but that's typical movie-bizz tone, I guess).

One thing that was talked about more pre-9/11 in culture matters was this NY-LA competition, and Angelenos had claimed victory. This is half-true, because they've some formidable new examples of everything, but not nearly the quantity of regular production in all lively arts fields as NY--and their theater is often no more than the usual National Company production of a B'way show (sometimes more pleasant seen there, you don't feel the need to be so bitchy and critical--I would have hated 'Hairspray' here). On the other hand, they do have Hollywood itself, which nobody else does, and B'way in itself is not any longer much in the national consciousness. But I can see some real B'way shows for less than twice the price of 2 of these movies, and this way you get some Spectacle-sharing, as it were, with those on stage as well as all that unified-audience sensation, which, I must admit, I've never really experienced in a movie theater. I find movie audiences to be made up mostly of individual people still in their private cells, and that there is not the interaction as at a live concert--whether classical or rock--or live theater. Although I still prefer to see certain big movies in a theater, because they don't work very well on TV.

patrick j. mullins

'But I can see some real B'way shows for less than twice the price of 2 of these movies,' should be 'But I can see some real B'way shows for less than twice the price of 1 of these movies'

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