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  • Mark 11:03 am on November 7, 2015 Permalink
    Tags: , , , festivals, hedonism   

    how the digital elites do festivals  

    From Elon Musk, by Ashlee Vance, loc 5351:

    Musk had made a number of art cars over the years at Burning Man, including an electric one shaped like a rocket. In 2011, he also received a lot of grief from the Wall Street Journal for having a high- end camp. “Elon Musk, chief executive of electric- car maker Tesla Motors and co- founder of eBay Inc.’s PayPal unit, is among those eschewing the tent life,” the paper wrote. “He is paying for an elaborate compound consisting of eight recreational vehicles and trailers stocked with food, linens, groceries and other essentials for himself and his friends and family, say employees of the outfitter, Classic Adventures RV…. Classic is one of the festival’s few approved vendors. It charges $5,500 to $10,000 per RV for its Camp Classic Concierge packages like Mr. Musk’s. At Mr. Musk’s RV enclave, the help empties septic tanks, brings water and makes sure the vehicles’ electricity, refrigeration, air conditioning, televisions, DVD players and other systems are ship shape. The staff also stocked the campers with Diet Coke, Gatorade and Cruzan rum.” Once the story hit, Musk’s group tried to move to a new, undisclosed location.

  • Mark 7:33 am on October 29, 2015 Permalink
    Tags: , , elite counter-culture, , hedonism   

    how many dancing billionaires are there at burning man? 

    From Elon Musk, by Ashlee Vance, pg 318:

    After arriving at Burning Man, Musk, a regular at the event, and his family went through their standard routines. They set up camp and prepped their art car for a drive. This year, they had cut the roof off a small car, elevated the steering wheel, shifted it to the right so that it was placed near the middle of the vehicle, and replaced the seats with a couch. Musk took a lot of pleasure in driving the funky creation. 19 “Elon likes to see the rawness of people there,” said Bill Lee, his longtime friend. “It’s his version of camping. He wants to go and drive the art cars and see installations and the great light shows. He dances a lot.” Musk put on a display of strength and determination at the event as well. There was a wooden pole perhaps thirty feet high with a dancing platform at the top. Dozens of people tried and failed to climb it, and then Musk gave it a go. “His technique was very awkward, and he should not have succeeded,” said Lyndon. “But he hugged it and just inched up and inched up until he reached the top.”

  • Mark 8:13 am on October 26, 2015 Permalink
    Tags: aspiration, , , , hedonism, , , , ,   

    the first gold rush of digital capitalism  

    From Elon Musk, by Ashlee Vance, pg 10-11. I think this understates the degree to which ‘playing hard’ was driven by a potent mix of fear and aspiration. But it’s a nice overview of circumstances which intruige me:

    And, in 2000, San Francisco had been over- taken by the boom of all booms and consumed by avarice. It was a wonderful time to be alive with just about the entire populace giving in to a fantasy— a get- rich- quick, Internet madness. The pulses of energy from this shared delusion were palpable, producing a constant buzz that vibrated across the city. And here I was in the center of the most depraved part of San Francisco, watching just how high and low people get when consumed by excess. Stories tracking the insanity of business in these times are well- known. You no longer had to make something that other people wanted to buy in order to start a booming company. You just had to have an idea for some sort of Internet thing and announce it to the world in order for eager investors to fund your thought experiment. The whole goal was to make as much money as possible in the shortest amount of time because everyone knew on at least a subconscious level that reality had to set in eventually. 

    Valley denizens took very literally the cliché of working as hard as you play. People in their twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties were expected to pull all- nighters. Cubicles were turned into temporary homes, and personal hygiene was abandoned. Oddly enough, making Nothing appear to be Something took a lot of work. But when the time to decompress arrived, there were plenty of options for total debauchery. The hot companies and media powers of the time seemed locked in a struggle to outdo each other with ever- fancier parties. Old- line companies trying to look “with it” would regularly buy space at a concert venue and then order up some dancers, acrobats, open bars, and the Barenaked Ladies. Young technologists would show up to pound their free Jack and Cokes and snort their cocaine in porta- potties. Greed and self- interest were the only things that made any sense back then.

    The idea I’m playing with is that a certain culture developed in this febrile atmosphere, before eventually becoming relatively autonomous from it through the mediation of tech books, magazines and blogs, as well as the diffusion of people into other aspiring tech hubs. The culture has become more extreme since then, while also becoming detached from the state of exceptionalism which initially licensed these extremes.

  • Mark 4:43 pm on October 8, 2015 Permalink
    Tags: , , hedonism, ,   

    liberating yourself from leisure activities 

    I just came across this advert in Dublin advert. On the surface, it’s interesting on a straight forwardly chronopolitical level: with sufficient resources, it’s increasingly possible to outsource tasks for others in order to save yourself time. But what stood out to me about this was the increasingly formal category of ‘relaxation’: it’s becoming that which awaits us when all other obligations are met, which of course they never are due to the escalation dynamics which kick in as we reflexively orientate ourselves towards demands upon our time.


    Having spent the day hanging around airports due to circumstances beyond my control, I’ve been struck by how orientated the space is towards the stimulation of shopping, eating, boozing and gambling. Manchester Airport literally has betting terminals scattered at regular intervals around the airport, even near some of the gates. Surely the justification for the centrality of these activities is that they constitute leisure. So what exactly is the personal shopping service saving time in order to help people do?

  • Mark 4:04 pm on August 31, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , hedonism, , ,   

    Spring Breakers, Late Capitalism and Nihilism 

    My friend Marta just posted an analysis of Spring Breakers which we saw together a few months ago. I wanted to write something about this but found myself struggling to articulate anything despite being captivated by the film. I really like this section of the article in particular:

    “Look at all my shit. I’ve got shorts, every fucking color. I’ve got designer t-shirts. I’ve got gold bullets for motherfucking vampires. Scarface on repeat. Constant, y’all. Got Escape, Calvin Klein Escape, mix that shit up with Calvin Klein Be. Smell nice, I smell nice. This ain’t a bed, this is a motherfucking art piece. My motherfucking spaceship. USS Enterprise, I go to different planets on this motherfucker. Me and my fucking Frankins’ here we take off! Look at my shit.”

    If Alien is Spring Breakers’ image of the self-made man then it is not difficult to see why critics would see Korine’s representation of the American Dream as ironic. Franco’s characterization is nothing short of bizarre. With his cornrows, his gold capped teeth and a dollar sign tattooed on his neck (and many more seemingly incoherent designs decorating his chest and arms), he is much closer to Franco’s usual bumbling con-man persona (see this year’s Oz, the Great and Powerful, for instance) than the gangster image he is trying to convey. Yet there is an honesty and tenderness to Franco’s performance which counterbalances the parodic elements of his characterisation. Alien is something of a holy fool: a self professed “gangster with a heart of gold,” he takes real, innocent pleasure from having things. As he shows off his possessions he is like a child in a toy shop, gleeful and overexcited. He is equally pleased by his dark tanning oil as he is by machine guns, but above all he is delighted at being able to show it all off to the girls whom he adores.

    If Alien is living the American Dream then that dream is composed of both stuff and stories about stuff. Possessing is only half of the success; the other half is flaunting those possessions. As Alien enumerates all he can think of, Candy and Brit sit on the bed covered with money squealing with glee. Although they are not particularly active or verbal in the scene their presence is key: they are the audience that Alien needs in order to live out his dream. As his monologue comes to a close, he pauses and asks with a hint of uncertainty, “You like my shit?” and then repeats with conviction, “You fucking love it, don’t you.” His treatment of the girls as an audience is similar to the way in which Faith casts her friends in her fantasy of “the time of their lives.” In her monologues she never refers solely to her own experience but speaks for all the girls. During the pool scene, Faith muses on the possibility of endless togetherness: “I wish we’d be able to buy a house here together… We could freeze life… Freeze it and say: this is how it’s gonna be forever.” Even though, from the very start, the girls are shown to be seeking quite different “thrills,” Faith refuses to recognize the very real differences between her friends’ desires.


    What fascinated me about the film was its portrayal of the culturally inscribed hedonism of ‘spring break’ as a social institution. This demarcated time for celebration and ‘going wild’ affects a carnivalesque stance when in reality it seems little more than a reductio ad absurdum of expressive individualism – an institution grounded in a promise of personal meaningfulness, ‘finding yourself’ amidst hedonism, in fact stands as a culmination of the meaninglessness incipient in the circumscribed pleasures late capitalism allows. The private catharsis of drinks, drugs and sex is made public during ‘spring break’ and the film portrays the nihilistic collapse into a perpetual present which ensues when these are pursued as ends in themselves. The subjective well-being which late capitalism presents as happiness – attained through having shit, being able to flaunt it and narcotising the interaction to a sufficient degree to avoid confrontation with its hollow core – cannot actually sustain the experienced meaningfulness of one’s existence when it is lived rather than simply believed. What makes Alien such an astonishing character is the sense in which he does live this but only through a continual reaffirmation of the underlying logic: the film gets weirder and weirder as Candy and Brit join him on his collapse into the perpetual present. He moves ever more wholeheartedly into the reality of his own life but this in turn renders his existence ever more dreamlike, vacillating between outright fantasy and childlike indulgence of whim. In short I read the film as a parable about hedonism in late capitalism. I might watch it again and try to write something a little more extended about it. With the potential exception of Place Beyond the Pines this was certainly my favourite film of 2013.

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