The Greatest Monster of All

Earlier this month Stephen King’s The Dark Tower hit cinemas to a resounding chorus of uninterest. We’re soon going to be treated to another attempt at bringing IT to the screen, and there is the ever present possibility that a production company somewhere intends to create a campy, largely unengaging adaptation of a lesser King novel like Gerald’s Game or Duma Key. It seems nary a year passes without audiences once again falling under the spell of mild interest that news of a fresh Stephen King movie or shitty television show usually conjures, but how is it that one author has managed to so overwhelmingly capture the public imagination? Think about it, the 1990 version of IT was almost inarguably a bunch of complete shit, yet Tim Curry’s Pennywise the Clown endures as a classic character in the “Grisly Child-Murderer” canon. How can this be? Why is it people still get (sort-of) excited even though the last good King adaptation was, what, The Green Mile? That was ’99 for Christ’s sake.

Hi folks, in case you hadn’t guessed it’s your family Doctor: Dominic Ray Weinstein! Ha ha, just kidding of course. I have a doctorate in postmodernist theory so would never be a family phsyician, due to lacking the necessary expertise.  Also, I know that the concept of the family unit is inherently oppressive, and I’m super against that. What I can prescribe, aside from over-the-counter medication and narcotics I purchase from a man called Damo who lives above the chippy, is a healthy dose of social commentary! To be taken roughly once-a-week and administred via the visual cortex, on an empty stomach or at least 30 minutes after a meal if you really must. Keep out of reach of children and do not operate heavy machinery for 2-3 hours after ingestion. May cause irritability, inflamation and an inescapable awareness of the futility that is existence.

So how does King do it? Well, I have discovered that his pop-culture immortality is due to his aforementioned Magnum Opus IT. This singular piece, the crowning jewel in the jewelled crown that is King’s bibliography, was released in 1986. As you may recall from my earlier posts I have pin-pointed the high-watermark of western society as the 1980’s, but I was not aware that IT would so resonantly lend credence to my theory: we will never surpass the pop-culture of the 1980’s and should in fact stop trying. IT is King’s greatest work due to the villain, “Pennywise the Dancing Clown”, better known to you or I by a far more insidious moniker:

Capitalism.

Is it all falling into place now, dear readers? Do not worry if you are incapable of connecting the dots, I am extremely well read and shall do it for you. Besides, if you were all capable of reaching the same complex and thought-provoking conclusions as I there would be little point to this blog! Feel no sense of shame at your less impressive wealth of knowledge, some people are put on this earth to do the thinking, others to ensure that these far more valuable “thinkers” have food, electricity and a healthy Patreon subscriber base.

Pennywise is a direct metaphor for Capitalism, of this there can be no doubt. Think: Pennywise targets children, they are its primary victims and even those that survive its destructive influence are warped by it for the rest of their days. Now turn on your television (I cannot because it is 2017 and, like most intellectuals, I watch all my shows on a 5 inch smart phone screen), go to the Disney channel, or Cartoon Network or Fox Kids if that’s still a thing, and watch. Odds are within the first 30 seconds you will see advertisements for at least 12 products, whether you start watching during the commercials or the actual programme makes precious little difference. As we all know, the end goal of Capitalism is to kill everybody on earth, but only after torturing them in an excruciating manner for as long as possible. Even the most ardent Rothbardian will admit this. Of course, to maximize “profits” (in the economic and sadistic sense) one must get at ’em young.

This is why they give out toys with Happy Meals, why banks now feature cartoon characters in their advertisements and why you can sometimes find the Superman logo on ecstasy. It is as the warrior poet Allen Ginsberg once remarked, “We’ll get you through your children“, however Ginsberg was talking about benevolently indoctrinating children with postmodernist ideology, rather than maliciously offering them goods and services  they desire. But that is precisely what makes Pennywise so terrifying: he offers Georgie that dope ass parafin boat he thought was lost. He promises to give Ben “fat” Hanscom one of his magical wind-defying balloons, and presents Eddie with the knife he eventually uses to stab his overbearing bitch mother to death. Like Capitalism, Pennywise offers the children (and that one gay guy) of Derry what they believe their heart desires. But there is always a price, and that price is not based on the Labour Theory of value.

For some it is a one-off bulk payment, Pennywise catches them and pulls their arm or head off and they die at a young age. Infant mortality. I wonder if we can think of something else that has caused more infant mortality than any social system or eldritch spider monster could dream of… Oh yeah, that’s right: Capitalism. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, I could potentially get them, but I’m pretty certain that the mortality rate has risen in at least twelve countries over the past 300 years. Also, while the proportional amount of dead kids has in all likelihood gone down since the year 1400AD, the total number of dead kids worldwide is almost certainly much bigger. At a certain point to even suggest that Capitalism has failed is a denial of reality bordering on the Nazi-esque; Capitalism is not failing, it is succeeding. Succeeding in its true goal of killing children for shits and giggles, just like a certain Dancing Clown.

But what of those who survive, against the odds, to adulthood? Like the grown-up versions of the Losers Club they forget the false promises, the frivolous cruelty, and ‘move on’ with their lives. Yet once again Stephen King, with a scholarly understanding unparalelled since Marx himself, shows us the truth of our supposed liberation from childhood evil. Capitalism is entwined in our lives, an inescapable reality that we may feel is wrong but cannot quite recognise until it is too late. This is why, when an ardent Anti-Fascist champions the minimum wage while tweeting on an iphone and drinking starbucks, they are not being ‘hypocrites’. They are so traumatised that they are unable to recognise the darkness which casts a shadow over their entire being. Like the adults of Derry, they are unable to see what is directly in front of them literally every single day of their lives.

Consider the paralells:

The Losers Club forget that one another even existed until they receive Mike’s phonecall.

The wretched of the earth had forgotten the spirit of Communist social arrangement until Marx’s wake-up call.

Is it a coincidence that Mike and Marx are both four-letter words that begin with an M? No, 100% definitely not. It was intentional.

The lives of the adult Losers Club, like ours, seem all well and good until they are reminded that there is another way to live. Yet the discovery of this higher path is too much for some, the Fascists of the 20th century were unable to process Marx’s revelations just as Stanley Uris could not accept what had happened to him as a child. In both cases it led to madness and suicide, Fascism destroyed nations while Stanley painted the bathroom with his wrists. Yet stronger individuals rose above primal fear, refused to give in to the spectre that had dominated their way of being. Despite knowing that every single previous attempt to kill Pennywise, including their own, had failed disasterously, the Losers tried again because “hey, maybe this time it will work!”. Remind you of a certain ideology?

This is where we come to the crux of the argument, the reason that Stephen King’s largely hit & miss catalogue has become so cherished by so many. It is rare that you will ever see me defend the almost entirely relative concept of truth, however there must always be an exception to the rule. King bottled that exception before unleashing it upon an unsuspecting populace, a populace that had come to believe the niggling discontent in the back of their mind was simply meant to be there:

Pennywise the Clown is Capitalism, the true villain of our lives we fear too much to recognise, yet it can be killed. In the end, it is defeated, not by private police forces or recreational nuclear warheads, but by belief. Once the children and adults do not fear Pennywise, when they no longer believe in him, he loses his power over them. Then, understanding the power of belief, they create weapons against him using their minds. This, my friends, is how we will defeat Capitalism, how we are defeating it. We believe it can be done, we invest all our thought and emotion into this belief and everything will turn out ok.

King’s novel resonates so deeply with the human condition because it speaks the truth of the human condition: it reminds us to be terrified of our foe while doing everything we can to kill it, regardless of the consequences that such an action may incur. By the end of the novel Derry has a bright future ahead of it, freed from the oppression of Pennywise. Perhaps, sooner than we think, our world will also throw off the shackles of an unnatural and manifestly evil presence.

Heavy stuff huh dear readers? Don’t worry, you’ve got a while to digest this meal of the mind before I prepare the next dish. Catch you on the flipside,

Dr D. R. Weinstein

 

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Ready Player One: The Tale of Our Time

Well well folks, the Doctor is in! Doctor Weinstein that is.

Today I’ve decided to tackle what some believe to be ‘low culture’, and I do not do so lightly. While my considerable critical prowess is generally reserved for dredging insight from the depths of socio-political discourse, I can no longer allow myself to languish in the kind of Ivory Tower intellectualism that has withered the common man’s faith in modern Academia.

This weekend I viewed the latest offering from auteur Christopher “Chris” Nolan, and while a review of Dunkirk itself is not the purpose of this article, I cannot begrudge my fans the opportunity to slake their lust for my insightful observations.

I was unimpressed.

Certainly Dunkirk looks very good for a Hollywood blockbuster, although it was sophmoric when compared to Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive or J.J. Abrams Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, lacking both their visual style and earnestness. Furthermore, it forewent the use of evocative biblical imagery as seen in Snyder’s severely underrated Batman Vs. Superman or Hideaki Gainax’s Japanese anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. Despite the problematic history of organised Western religion, the appropriation of its imagery acts as a way of encapsulating for future, more Atheist, civilisations the true extent of our subliminal indoctrination. In point of fact I detected no blatant homage anywhere in Dunkirk, which had the unfortunate effect of grounding the narrative visually and philosophically in the visceral moment. One came to feel, watching Dunkirk, that the entire world lay between that titular coast and Weymouth Harbour. The sombre and steady shots perpetuated a sense of inescapability, an oppressive endlessness of surf & sea that mirrored the torturous sun & sand of David Lean’s 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia.

But times have changed since 1962, so too has technology. No longer can directors simply capture real landscapes while also capturing audience’s hearts and minds. The (post-)modern audience demands, nay, deserves more! Even when the camera is inside a sinking ship, or tracking an aerial battle, that now familiar and much loved violent jittery motion known as shaky-cam is barely present. Even a novice film-maker cannot ignore innovation. With Nolan eschewing shaky-cam and 3-D, not to mention CGI, for his latest film one begins to sense that his choices are the result of malice for audience rather than ignorance of craft.

Praise has been lavished upon the sound design, both AFX and music, but as usual I am not so easily swept up in blind admiration (though the same cannot be said for the masses). For one thing the film was unnecessarily loud: I could barely hear the critical cogs whirring within my own cranium, in-depth thematic analysis was rendered nearly impossible as I was constantly at risk of losing my train of thought thanks to some overly-visceral gunshot or heaven-rending Stuka dive. The uninitiated may believe that “tension” makes a film “better”, but the true Cinemauteur (a term I coined) knows that tension is merely a parlour trick, gunfire & explosions are impressive to children & fans of Michael Bay only. Imagine a war film with no reference to war in it whatsoever, now that would be real tension: the audience would be forever wondering when the movie they thought they were going to see starts, yet it never does!

Hans Zimmer’s best work? An absurd position to take, most of the time you can’t even tell it is Zimmer. Where are the trademark bass horns? In fact, throughout the experience I was constantly unsure as to whether I was hearing his rumbling score or the sound of approaching aircraft and distant artillery. Some choices were downright nonsensical: why so much ticking? The movie is about boats, not clocks.

My greatest criticism, aside from the frankly disturbing lack of diversity, is the lack of characterisation. There is virtually no exposition, no backstory, barely any dialogue to speak of at all. How are we supposed to know who is on the right side of history? Where are the villains? Dunkirk is both a lesser war movie and lesser moral parable than Wonder Woman.

But this blog is not about Dunkirk, well, not just about Dunkirk. While I was waiting for the main feature to start a trailer began, and from the first line I was instantly hooked:

“I wish I’d grown up in the 1980’s, like all my heroes”

Ready Player One, as I came to learn upon devouring it on the train back from London, is more than simply a rousing testament to the cultural vitality provided by Postmodernism: It is a stirring love-letter to the Millenial Spirit. It follows the story of a young 40-something called Ernest Cline as he uses his considerable skill and knowledge regarding mainstream culture from half a century ago to recreate the character arc of Charlie Bucket from Charlie & The Chocolate Factory.  However, rather than ownership of a sweet manufactury in some hellish neo-Dickensian version of late 20th century England, the protagonist of Ready Player One seeks to become CEO of a simulated reality monopoly founded by a man with severe autism.

What makes the book so impressive, elevating it from pulp to literature, is the awe-inspiring pastiche of 1980’s mass-media aimed at children and young adults. Nary a paragraph goes by without a direct reference to, or substitution of description with, some reference to a video game or film from the dying decades of the millenium. Certainly, the author does not shy away from including homages to cultural artifacts from as early as the 1960’s and as late as the 2000’s, but the point isn’t strictly to further impress upon the reader the significance of the modern Renaissance known as the Reagan era. Rather it is to encapsulate the perspective of the socially retarded individual whose only recourse from an unending sense of alienation is to psychologically anchor themselves in a period of their life when it wasn’t humiliating to obsess over elongated toy commercials, like cartoons and comics. A time free from social shaming, when the world was simpler because the television only had four channels and it was easier to sweep structural paedophilia under the rug. Ready Player One is surging with heartfelt yet bittersweet social commentary.

So why compare these starkly unrelated examples? Surely Dunkirk, a flick about white men running away from things and Ready Player One, a novel portraying the responsibilities implicit in the human condition, could not be held to the same standards by any reasonable person? Yet, they are both about young people facing down the Leviathan of their time, whether it be indulging in somebody else’s nostalgia as human civilisation crumbles around you or the Wehrmacht. Both contain soundtracks strongly related to the thematic current of the narrative, whether it be an original score by Hanz Zimmer or a cool song by Rush. Both, it has been argued, contain valuable moral lessons for the disillusioned youth of today, but which truly presents a positive paradigm? The answer, to anybody with the intellect to see it, is clear.

What is Dunkirk other than a celebration of that most toxic form of masculinity, War? That was a rhetorical question of course. Some have tried to argue that it should be viewed as a tribute to unimaginable self-sacrifice and bravery; An attempt to recognise in some way the enormous burden that war places upon all of its victims, while maintaining a refusal to play in to cheap sentimentalism or moral grandstanding regarding the wider ideological battle taking place. These people are, obviously, wrong. Dunkirk truly contains nothing of philosophical value: it doesn’t even get close to passing the Bechdel Test, all of the characters are cis white males, there is no attempt to qualify the hypocrisy of an inherently oppressive British empire claiming to fight for freedom, not a single mention of the Holocaust, Dresden, Nagasaki, Hiroshima or Nanking. It may well be the least intersectionally conscious blockbuster since Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World.

Now consider Ready Player One: the author has no problem stating the few things that even the ardent Postmodernist must accept as truth, or at least the closest thing to it: There is no God, anyone who does believe in a God is either lying to you or a coward who cannot accept the inescapability of oblivion. Global warming is the greatest threat mankind has ever wrought upon itself and the digitally woke youth are the only ones with the knowledge and tenacity to wrest the future of humanity from Boomer WASP capitalist fascists. It speaks truth to power, unlike Dunkirk where hardly anybody speaks at all.

Furthermore, Dunkirk takes place in the ’30’s or the ’40’s, before the civil rights movement in America, yet never once is there any dialogue detailing the problematic nature of allying with such a nation. Ready Player One is a world wherein there exists no cultural heritage outside of that which could be watched on television or purchased for 25 cents between the years 1980 and 2007. This was a period wherein the perception shifting academic revolutions of the 1960’s had taken root in American intellectual life, before the cataclysmic election of President Donald Trump was even a conscious possibility. The absolute peak of Western civilisation.

Now to my final point, the nail in Dunkirk’s metaphorical coffin and the recognition of Ready Player One’s strong Postmodernist principles. The former showed us the ugliness of the world as it is, whereas the latter presents to any willing to seize it a vision of the world as it should be:

The OASIS is a virtual reality wherein every conceivable combination of things that were cool when the author was young can exist: you can fly an X-wing, a Y-wing, the ship from Firefly, an A-wing, the Millenium Falcon, Star Trek ships, other ships from Star Wars or a DeLorean! The only limit is your imagination if all you can imagine is stuff they probably sell in Forbidden Planet.

Everything is referential, to the point where literally no pop-culture exists after the first few years of the millenium that isn’t in some way an uncritical glorifcation of intellectual property created in post-Vietnam America, or Monty Python. All traditional structures have been obliterated, leading to people forging identity groups based on things that matter, like ’80s nostalgia and geek culture.

There is no religion too, not in anybody that isn’t a smackhead or lonely old cat lady. In Ready Player One, an entire generation of children eschew education and real human contact in order to spend near to every waking hour examining a several thousand page mission statement written by a dead recluse who believed that anybody willing to spend years playing arcade games and watching movies dozens of times is prime material for most powerful private citizen on the planet.

There is no fixed gender or race in the OASIS, and while this makes relationships frought with uncertainty and distrust it also allows people to truly express their inner selves. Or pretend to be white so that nobody berates them for being a gay POC, but even Utopia can’t be perfect straight away.

The petrodollar has been replaced with a Labour Value currency that can be earned via back-breaking identured servitude or by killing Goblins in a simulated Dungeons & Dragons, forging a society where all skills are equally rewarded no matter their perceived “worthlessness”.

Dunkirk is a farewell to a world that can never exist again, while Ready Player One is a glimpse of what humanity has practically already become, and this humble blogger happens to think that is a future worth using social media activism to fight for.

This is the good doctor, signing off.

 

The Island Nation Mission Statement.

Well folks, this is it: The Island Nation website inaugural address has arrived, and who better to communicate our mission statement than me, Dr Dominic Ray Weinstein, lauded clinical psychiatrist and documentarian.

I have just returned from a whirlwind tour of New York City, where I observed comedy from the lowly open mic level to the heady-heights of podcast host/radio guest, and in doing so have proven a theory that has long been rattling around in my considerable cranium. Perhaps theory is the wrong word, what I have achieved should instead be recognised as the unveiling of an axiomatic and fundamental universal law:

The last thing on the mind of any aspiring comedian or satirist should be making people laugh.

Do not get me wrong, I am well aware that numerous individuals seek comedy expecting to laugh. Folks come to a stand-up show with the belief, the secure belief, that a series of diverse and wittily observed anecdotes are going to be performed in a manner intended to elicit reactions ranging from nods of grinning approval to outright gales of hysterical laughter. These folks,  ‘civilians’ as I shall refer to them from hereon, are not necessarily ‘wrong’ in their view of what comedy ‘is’, they simply lack the education required to perceive that when someone more intelligent disagrees with you about something you are almost guaranteed to be wrong about that subject.

So yes, technically comedy ‘can’ be used purely to make people laugh, but our question to you here at Island Nation is:

Should it?

More than anything else, comedy is an artform, and true art has only one purpose: to radically shift the Overton window, alienate the majority and deconstruct traditional forms in order to fundamentally reshape the social structure of a nation. Foucault, Derrida, Saussure, even Marx: these are names that precious few correctly recognise as history’s greatest and most influential artisitic talents.

Would you show an early Kandinsky to someone if there was even the slight possibility that they would laugh at it? Of course not! The notion that anybody would find humour in Kandinksy’s genuine attempts to elicit a mass utopian cultural shift via the medium of paintings exclusively consumed by the nihilistic children of hyper-wealthy industrialists is frankly the only laughable thing about Kandinsky! The simple fact is, if you laugh at art, you haven’t correctly interepreted it. If we accept this is true, which it definitely is, how could anybody give something created with the intention of causing mirth the title of ‘art’?

With this in mind, let us turn to Island Nation’s mission statement: Comedy is inarguably art, and as those visionary Modernists revolutionised artistic endeavour into becoming an elaborate political debate, so too shall Island Nation revolutionise comedy.

“But Doc” you may cry, “Modernism has been consigned to the past, we are sitting at the end of history bathed in the golden glow of Postmodernism”. In a sense you are correct, wrong to doubt me, but right that we have progressed as a society to the point of Postmodernism. However, if those misguided Modernists had not laid the foundation for the Postmodern revolution then the world would have been deprived of truly great thinkers like William S. Burroughs & Damien Hirst, as well as essentially any form of critical theory with prefix “Post”. If there had been no Carlin or Hicks to get the ball rolling we wouldn’t have now reached the point where “comedic enterprise” is soon to be freed from the shackles of being funny in any way whatsoever. We are entering the age of Post-humour.

So folks, I present to you not only Island Nation, but also the culmination of nearly 100 years of cultural revolution. Do not expect jokes, punchlines or even puns here, for comedy is no longer kyriarchically chained to the social construct of humour. No. Comedy is the vessel of knowledge, a tool for re-shaping the world view of the audience, a way for those fortunate enough to be correctly educated to ‘bring up’ the unwoke masses.

It’s time to take comedy really, really seriously.*

*It should be noted that the views expressed by Dr D.Ray Weinstein are entirely his own and are in no way representative of the beliefs held by the Island Nation corporation or our affiliates.