Monday, November 26, 2012

Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes pp. 145-167

This is the second to last section of the book. It continues to be particularly enjoyable (though perhaps difficult to apply to the current project, P.W.). In any case, we continue.

"One makes oneself intelligible" through categorization. In this case, Barthes divides his writing into phases, the last of which he calls "morality": "it is the thinking of the body in a state of language." (145)

He really resists meaning, which is a curious thought for those in communications studies, where meaning really is important (see his note on order on pg. 148).

A note: a collection of 4 essays was published posthumously as Incidents, probably not what he was intending (available for free from the University of California Press here, by the way).

Here is more of Barthes' "anti-meaning": "one dares not leave the fact in a state of in-significance; this is the movement of fable, which draws from each fragment of reality a lesson, a meaning." (151)

What a great story: he suggests that, at some level, he worries about a slight discolouration of the tongue, for the sole reason of being able to use the term "excoriation" (definition from the Apple dictionary: "damage or remove part of the surface of (the skin).") (152)

Another note: none of his books is "successful throughout," except, perhaps, The Empire of Signs (on Japan). (156)

Great section: "Choosing Clothes" on pg. 156 (now I'm writing in fragments).

The section entitled "Academic Exercise" on pg. 158 would make quite a final exam. And the Lord help anyone who might have had the (mis)fortune of sitting in a train compartment with Barthes (see the section called "A Projected Book on Sexuality" on pg. 164).

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes pp.113-144

Here we have less writing by this humble commentator than last time probably. Well, take what you can get, I suppose.

While I recognize Barthes' frustrations in much of his language here (his distaste for other languages--though he learned English in school), I do like how he lists his likes and dislikes (on 116-117) and then states, plainly, that "this is of no importance to anyone," that it has no meaning. (117) But of course things mean (especially to the, or at least this, reader).

An interesting though: "what I write about myself is never the last word: the more 'sincere' I am, the more interpretable I am." (120) I should mention that, if Camera Lucida was a kind of eulogy for Barthes' mother, it seems almost as if this book is a kind of eulogy for Barthes himself.

Barthes was unfashionable. (125) As an aside, the remaining members of the band Queen said a similar thing about themselves (throughout the band's career) in a 2011 BBC documentary I watched this week.

A thought: if writing constantly risks being vulgar (because it supposes certain effects of discourse, what of photography? "The imaginary grasped" by photography, as by writing, does it also "grimace"? What do you think this might mean? What does Barthes think about photography, then? (126)

The Neutral is a "back-and-forth, an amoral oscillation." (132) (Is it "willy-nilly," then?) He reveals here that The Neutral is not a "third term" (a kind of pseudo-synthesis, if you will) but rather "at another link of the infinite chain of language," that is, a constant second term, of course, leading to more. (132-133)

Another note related to the one above: am I correct in understanding that sleep (or, specifically, taking a nap at a bar) is the third term to "speaking/keeping silent"? (142)

The difficulty remains high with some of these fragments; his playfulness is highly evident though (though he seems to deny its presence).

Monday, November 12, 2012

Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes pp.75-112

On to the next section: Barthes begins to discuss writing. He moves then from writing to language itself. And he acknowledges the difficulty in his work: "He realizes then how obscure such statements, clear as they are to hum, must be for many others." (80)

"You constitute yourself": Barthes is speaking to himself here, and he precedes this statement with "worse still." (82) To be fixed seems not the ideal state for Barthes, and the account of his schedule does this to him (as does the book itself, no?). What, then, of photography? Does it also constitute the subject?

He speaks of film in a way that can be applied to photography: "here the image is the irremediable absence of the represented body." (84) irremediable = untreatable, incurable.

Note to self: he mentions "post-meaning" on p.87 - the absence of every sign.

He continues and accounts the practice of fragments (92-94). "One writes in order to be loved": another phrase destined for a t-shirt or Facebook status update. (104)

We see much of Barthes as a person in these sections (for instance, his afternoon snack of sugar in cold milk - I'm going to try this today in honour); these are personal images, but the fragments do not absolutely constitute the writer. We don't really know him. He is too slippery here (he talks a lot about the "drift" of writing - like a ghost, he drifts here as well).

I found this section quicker to read, maybe because I found (today, now) less to write down, less directly applicable to our discussions (on photography, or on less complex ideas in Barthes' oeuvre).

In any case, your mileage may vary.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Max Headroom useless information

I was looking through my computer files and found one from a bit of time ago. This file was created quite a while ago (it was originally a WordPerfect 6.0 for DOS file, but it might have started out as a WP5.1 file). In any case, it is a lot of useless information about Max Headroom. I'm not sure I need to keep it at this point in my life (I did have a ball pausing my cloudy videotapes in order to make out particular numbers on the screens or whatever). So, I'm inserting it here. Enjoy!


Max Headroom: an artificial intelligence created by Bryce Lynch for the purpose of finding out how much Edison Carter knew about the Blipvert project in episode 1. Max originated from a download of Carter’s mind, and now roams the world-wide communications network at will. He is immensely popular and is a major ratings bringer for Network 23. Max believes that everything in the real world is just a television show. The name comes from the last image Edison Carter saw before losing consciousness in episode one, the maximum headroom warning on an underground parking garage gate.

Zik-Zak Corporation: motto - “know future”, major client of Network 23. Chairman is Ped Xing, and has base of operations in New Tokyo (when conversing with Network 23, they use Sat/Link 87-R, and sattelite 1b “Skycounsel” scrambler/descrambler 19 in episode 3). The corporation has been interested in Raking, with the thought of marketing the sport and building tracks, etc. (Ep. 2). They were also interested in purchasing the services of Max Headroom as well (ep. 3).
Mr. Kioko: analyst for the Zik-Zak corporation.

Gorrister: Edison Carter’s controller, killed; body taken to Nightingale’s by Breugle and Mahler (episode 1)
Murray: producer of Edison Carter show, used to be a reporter, and was once a controller as well (although not a very good one).
Edison Carter: host of “What I want to know” Show, satellites globally in prime time, personal identification code #7-4928B-DG-6629 (in episode 2, the G seems to be replaced by a 9). His identification number in the Security Systems computers is 5671KB (ep.4). He is 27 years old (ep. 3). He is 6'2". His neighbour is Mr. Reevis.
Martinez: helicopter pilot for Edison Carter (chopper 7). The chopper callsign for their Sybaris landing in ep.3 is Lewis 23.
Gladys Mcwilliams: wife of Stu (no children, unemployed, doesn’t vote, civil disability), man who exploded watching a Zik-Zak blipvert; lives in unit 019 of apartment complex 142zeta (episode 1)

Network list:
Network 23 - top network (located in section 5, area 23). It employs 9870 people and has a monthy expenditure of $6.7 million. The 208-210 floors of the Network 23 building are restricted access. The board room is located on level 148.
Pulsart TV
Flanel 25
Big Time: a 500-watt station run by Blank Reg and Domonique. Reg knows everyone in the Fringes. Big Time is guarded by Fang, their dog.

Television programs:
Missile Mike: very popular children’s show
Lumpy’s Prolotariot
Raking: “sport of kids”; race game involving betting, and consisting of kids on motorized skateboards, with accidents being refined as aggression. Teams include the Scorpions and Vipers.
Scumball: biggest televised sport
Vidicam unit:
Daytime Control: located on 40th floor; Murray is the producer
Night Control: extension 1987
2-way sampler:
Network 23 Rolling Databank: a collector of information on all the day-to-day runnings of the network. The file for the Edison Carter Show has the code 46CCW-9201-HAL-14.
Vidident: a computer program used in ep. 3 to identify suspects. It is accessed on Net 23 subterminal 171086. The program accesses the Diogenes Mainframe, and personality templates. The program used is vers 2.01 Rev A
Voice print Analyzer: like an audio lie detector, integrity is measured in percentages.
ICE: refers to security around a computer system. The ICE around the SS mainframe, A-7, is a Buss Guard Structure.

Locomotive road: road in fringes in episode 2.
Fringes: outskirts of the city where the less-fortunate or criminal element reside; people eat rats there (ep. 2). In the Fringes, justice is cashflow.

Ned Grossberg: one-time chairman of Network 23
Bryce Lynch: head of Network 23's Research & Development (on 13th floor); birthdate is Oct 7, 1988 (Libra) [126RD]. (Door code for R&D in episode 1 is IJ2FI; a code which is associated with Lynch often)
Blipvertisement: concept developed by Bryce Lynch (called Project X-LN247) where a 30s ad is compressed into 3s, to stop potential channel switching.

Computer generated people program: program developed by Bryce Lynch that created the parrot in episode 1, and went on to create Max Headroom.
Ben Cheviot: Network 23 executive board member, and chairman after Grossberg’s departure. Clearance code is CT0011.
Edwards: Network 23 executive board member; Ratings analyst
Theora Jones: best controller available (previously worked for World1). Father unknown; mother deceased; 12 years spent in state homes. In episode 2, she receives a call on line 74, and her input code is THEO-274-GGF.
Shawn Jones: Theora’s brother, raker known as Ace; occupation as a busboy in “The Fresh Start” restaurant (fired in episode 2 - and where a drink called a Blizzard costs 2.18 Kredits), lives at Metroprojects Block 555/A with girlfriend Winnie and child.
Metropolice [metrocops]: police & security force
Casualty supervisor: possibly a city official consulted about the location of injured people.
Breugle & Mahler: hoods, may have killed Gorrister in Episode 1. Mahler is the muscle of the two.
David: employee of control, takes over as Edison’s controller briefly in episode 2.
Stanley: employee of Network 23 (possibly a janitor).
Terry: employee of control.
Jack: Net 23 employee greeted by Theora in Ep. 3.
Jack Friday: head of Network 23 sports, on floor 85.
Simon Peller: politician sponsered by Network 23; thinks of legalizing the sport Raking until he finds out what it is all about.
Miss Julia Fornby: Network 23 executive board member; coordinator of research and development. She agrees to steal the Max Headroom program for the Mother, a very rich and powerful (and dying) woman in episode 3. She had an affair with Cheviot. She may also be a PR person for the network.
Ashwell: Network 23 executive board member.
Grace: Rick’s bodyguard at the Ouza Bar in episode 2.
Rick: “be nice to animals” He is a blank, and knows many people. He is a friend of Reg and Edison Carter. He is a Rickshaw driver.
Poncho: a woman in the Fringes who is a friend of Reg.
Mel & Rayna: boyfriend and girlfriend from the River, that come to the city to sell blood at the body bank. They are blanks. Rayna is abducted for the use of her pituitary for the Mother. Rayna’s Type is 86.2.
Valerie Towne: C.E.O. of Security Systems Inc., lives on the 23rd floor of Sybaris.

Security Systems Inc.: largest and most powerful corporation of its kind in the world; has access to more priviledged information than any government, and their power reaches into government, homes, police, and the courts. SS is administered by A-7, a mainframe on level 7 of their headquarters, the Citadel. In ep. 4, Valerie Towne fabricated a buy-out scenario to push up the price of SS stock, to gain a world monopoly on security.

Nightingale’s Body Bank (open 24 hours): Florence, proprietor.
Dr. Mason: a surgeon at Nightingale’s.
Dr. Moon: a colleague of Fornby and head of the Transplantation project for the Mother.
Edie: doctor at Nightingale’s
Pantagenate: the head of Nightingale’s
Metro Tax Bureau: or Tax data centre, burns in episode 2, by torcher “all heated up over new TV tax”.
Ouza Bar: Carter visits this establishment in episode 2, and meets Rick there.
Caligula’s: a Fringe bar frequented by Breugle and Mahler.

Sybaris: condominium complex for the rich. The Mother, an old and dying woman, owns a whole floor in ep. 3 (the door code for that floor is 506274). Sybaris security are authorized by code 69B to use deadly force.

News items 20 min in the future: Missile missing from AKG, Man sings whole of Shakespeare, Assassination of medic team in Bolivia, Nuclear submarine explodes.
Containment System R-7: the city is built on this radioactive site.
Human inaliable rights 20 min into the future: consumer credit, unlimited television, personal security.
Credit fraud is a worse crime than murder.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes, pp. 43-75

To make these parts a bit easier, consider the interesting ideas with particular reference to photography. This is not easy material; be thankful that we can, in fact, skim it. There are useful ideas, though.

Immediately, we are introduced to the Roland Barthes of the biography: “he.” Consider his thoughts on the adjective in relation to photography. For Barthes, an image names him (let us assume, perhaps wrongly, that he is speaking of a photographic image here), and it stands for domination and death (ideas that seem to foreshadow Camera Lucida).

He calls photography an “analogical” art in a rather difficult section. The analogy is in the realm of the imaginary; he likens these things to a mirror (again and again, the truth of the “image” is contested). (44)

He links back to the photos from the start of the book, as he mentions his work spaces: “it is the structure of the space which constitutes its identity.” (46)

An aside: he speaks of God who reverses victories. (47)

An important notion of the doxa: “Public Opinion, the mind of the majority.” (47)

What a great quote: “he imagines, each time he writes something, that he will hurt one of his friends-never the same one: it changes.” (49)

More referring to photographs:“the art of living has no history: it does not evolve: the pleasure which vanishes vanishes for good, there is no substitute for it.” (50)

In his section on Chaplin (on p.54), he mentions the “third term,” something I've written about in the past (in relation to Feist and others).

On pp.55-56, he speaks of recording himself playing the piano, and then listening to it. He then discovers that the past of playing coincides with his present of listening, which results in "commentary [being] abolished." (56) Can the same be said about photography? It seems that he might be suggesting that, just as writing about oneself (committing an "image” to paper) is "suicide," so photography is death.

Another aside: Barthes composed music and suffered from migraines.

His discussions of the degrees of language (first – writing, second – writing about writing) as well as his ruminations concerning his own voice, are particularly worthwhile, though certainly far from the present discussions of photography.

He ends this present section being rather hard on himself, suggesting that he never defines the terms important to him, and that his writing on the "large objects of knowledge" are important to no one. (73-74)

Do not be too concerned if much of this writing is enigmatic. It is difficult writing, and it works really well to read through it a few times, and get what you can from it. Barthes’ writing seems to encourage fragmental understanding (as it is written in fragments anyway). So, be encouraged and continue on. Dialogue is welcome!