Category Archives: critical

Responding to Emily Nussbaum’s reviews of True Detective

Regarding the show’s supposed “shallowness”—I actually think this is a strength: according to (maybe one of your favourite writers?) Elfriede Jelenik “characters should appear flat; they should appear without psychological depth” (its a paraphrase but you can find her essay on theatre somewhere)

The show does a great job of rendering the characters as flat as possible (it can’t escape them having *some* depth b/c its TV not theatre) 

If you read a lot into Russ’s vague pseudo-philosophical musings—then the joke is really on you (comparing it to Nietzsche is obvious and cheap; I think the real allusion is to Vico)

Most of Russ’s “weird philosophy” was a ruse to deflect the detectives interviewing him…they didn’t fall for it

TD represents a narrative of pure surfaces to depict a modern mythology of Man (Marty / Russ / Errol); the triumvirate represents the darkest of mankind’s desires and prides (which is present in all 3) but also what can maybe be described as the “dream that has starred man’s forehead for all the ages”—that is: to discover truth (in this case the truth about Marie Fontineau)

I can agree that women are somewhat mute/muted in the show—and yet all the men’s (Marty/Russ) energy is directed toward the end of uncovering the mystery of their disappearance (to give voice to their untimely deaths)

I can also agree that the representation of women is “unrealistic”—but if you can’t get over the fact that TV is highly stylized and not always an accurate representation of “reality” (that “the map can never be the territory” unless you’re in a Borges’ fable…) then you should maybe quit TV fiction and only cover news media and “reality TV”

You can read her piece on the finale here


End the War on Drugs

I have very little hope that this campaign will succeed, but its worth a try. If “urgent action” is taken, maybe regulating drugs will become a reality. Sign the petition HERE

Cheat Mode Nirvana: Western Buddhism and “The Rebel Buddha”

Disturbing news on the New Age Obscurantist front: an organization called Rebel Buddha left a flyer in my mailbox. It looks like this:

The Rebel Buddha is also a book by Dzogchen Ponlop. Reprinted here is the book description from Amazon:

There’s a rebel within you. It’s the part of you that already knows how to break free of fear and unhappiness. This rebel is the voice of your own awakened mind. It’s your rebel buddha—the sharp, clear intelligence that resists the status quo. It wakes you up from the sleepy acceptance of your day-to-day reality and shows you the power of your enlightened nature. It’s the vibrant, insightful energy that compels you to seek the truth.

Dzogchen Ponlop guides you through the inner revolution that comes from unleashing your rebel buddha. He explains how, by training your mind and understanding your true nature, you can free yourself from needless suffering. He presents a thorough introduction to the essence of the Buddha’s teachings and argues that, if we are to bring these teachings fully into our personal experience, we must go beyond the cultural trappings of traditional Asian Buddhism. “We all want to find some meaningful truth about who we are,” he says, “but we can only find it guided by our own wisdom—by our own rebel buddha within.”

The idiocy of such a book should be obvious, but let us take a closer look at a few of the particulars of the book description. First of all, the emphasis on “truth” is suspicious, especially as it is directly contrasted with “resisting the status quo.” Apparently, the “Rebel Buddha within” will help us to seek after truth while resisting the status quo; however, “the truth” is not defined as either an object of experience or an object of knowledge. Truth, then, is embedded in the status quo; it is not something that resists it. What, then, is this truth that the “Rebel Buddha” promises? It is described as “the part of us that knows how to break free of fear and unhappiness,” an “awakened mind,” and it is “vibrant and insightful.”

Even more ridiculous than this promise of truth is the doctrine of “understanding your true nature.” We are clearly in deep New Age Obscurantist territory here. Furthermore, the “discovery of our true nature” will “free us from needless suffering,” which, I believe, deeply contradicts Buddhist spirituality. As far as I understand it, the point of Buddhism is to realize that suffering is an effect of desire—it is not necessarily to put an end to suffering. Indeed, how could one go about discovering the truth that “desire causes suffering” without suffering just a little bit?

Western Buddhism isn’t even false consciousness. The “Rebel Buddha” is simulation in the purest sense: more true than the truth, more false than falsehood itself. No wonder all these hipster yuppies can support Tibet, a thoroughly undemocratic nation if ever there was one. The New Age Obscurantist belief and faith in democracy is actually the secret desire for “spiritual aristocracy” (as practiced in Tibet). Indeed, enthusiasm for democracy in general masks this passion to be ruled, the passion to be saved—the passions of the Obscurantist masses:

It is not death they desire,
but the dear pleasure
of being saved

(And, let us not forget, the role that Zen Buddhist propaganda played in fascist Japan, justifying nearly all the atrocities of Japanese soldiers in Asia …)

Western Buddhism is part and parcel of cultural capitalism, yet it is not a form of “capitalism with Asian values,” as is practiced in nations like China. The faithful of Western Buddhism instead are thoroughly democratic, consumerist beings that have replaced the idea of “Christian salvation,” with Buddhism’s “promise of enlightenment.”

The political aspects of Western Buddhism aside, Western Buddhists do not read Buddhism incorrectly; indeed, their readings of Buddhism come from authoritative Eastern masters. Proof that they occupy the discourse of the university could not be more forthcoming. What is incorrect about Western Buddhism is its rationalization of the Beautiful Soul syndrome within late capitalist societies. The Western Buddhist easily renounces the world’s suffering in pursuit of his own “enlightened” mode of consumerism (being green, buying fair trade products, etc.).

The “Rebel Buddha” is a sign of a failed revolution. What might have once been a site of actual resistance (actual engagement with Buddhist spirituality, asceticism opposed to rampant, excessive consumerism, etc.), the field for a real event in spiritual life, is now reduced to a marketing tool without any consciousness (class, spiritual, or otherwise).


Look what I found: Peter Sloterdijk’s Critique of Cynical Reason on Scribd. I understand that between Rage and Time and whatever else you’re reading right now this will seem like a heavy addition to your reading list. I have yet to really start Rage and Time, so don’t feel too bad. In fact, my reading has consisted mostly of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. Yeah, I know. Shut up, I’m injured.

ZORN und ZEIT (thank me later)

I have found the English translation of Peter Sloterdijk’s Rage and Time in PDF file format, originally written in the German. Now none of you have to buy this book to read it. You’re welcome.

speculum inferni, misfortune rules this existence

Saturday, September, 11, 2010, 3:40 p.m.
I am biking to work on my bright orange bicycle when suddenly a car door opens and I hit the ground. This happens on Gerrard Street East, just west of Greenwood. The driver doesn’t bother to ask if I am OK. I know there is at least one witness who asked if I was OK; I think you were driving a white car … if you saw me get hit by this idiot, please contact me. If you or someone you know lives or works or was in the Greenwood / Gerrard St. E. area (near Little India) on Saturday, September 11th, will you please ask them if they saw me get hit by a car door that day!?


Here are pictures of my body after the collision. I may need surgery on my shoulder. I can no longer do the most basic things for myself without great difficulty. The driver has been charged but I would like to try to find anyone who witnessed this event.

fuck fox news

the following is an e-mail message i received earlier today. sign the petition — you know you want to.

From: C
Subject: Is Fox ‘News’ your kind of news?
Date: September 2, 2010 5:18:36 PM EDT (CA)

Hi friends, C here, asking:

Want to sign a petition against Fox News North?

If yes, read on.
If no, you know what to do.

Canada: stop “Fox News North”

Prime Minister Harper is pressuring the Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to approve plans for a ‘Fox News North’. If successful, this would bring American-style hate media to Canadian airwaves, and be funded by our license fees!

I’ve just signed a petition to the CRTC urging them to stand strong and resist the PM’s calls for a conservative propaganda news network. Please join me in signing:


Here’s the original email I received:


Dear friends,

Prime Minister Harper is trying to push American-style hate media onto our airwaves, and make us all pay for it.

His plan is to create a “Fox News North” to mimic the kind of hate-filled propaganda with which Fox News has poisoned U.S. politics. The channel will be run by Harper?s former top aide and will be funded with money from our cable TV fees!

One man stands in the way of this nightmare — the Chairman of Canada’s Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Konrad von Finckenstein. He’s rejected the plan as a violation of CRTC policies, so now Harper is trying to get him out of the job. Let’s urgently send a massive wave of public support to von Finckenstein, with 100,000 Canadians encouraging him to keep standing up for Canada, and standing firm against Harper’s pressure. Sign the petition below and forward this email to everyone — we’ll publish full page ads in Canadian papers when we reach 100,000:

Harper hatched his scheme in a secret lunch last year with media-mogul Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox News. Harper’s top aide Kory Teneycke also came to the lunch, and then left the government to head up Sun Media Newspapers and the new “Fox News North”.

Fox News fuels hate. While constantly claiming to be ?fair? and ?balanced?, it allows hysterical anchors like Glenn Beck to compare Obama to “Lucifer” and “Hitler”. Bill O?Reilly, another anchor, has threatened to boycott Canada, and Anne Coulter says Canada is ?lucky the US allows it to exist on the same continent.? The network has calculatingly spawned the tea party movement in the US, a mobilisation of the fringe right which threatens violence upon its opponents and wears guns to political rallies.

This is a fight for the soul of Canadian democracy. Our media is not perfect, but a ?news? network that slavishly serves a political agenda through mass manipulation and fear threatens the fabric of our democratic society.

The CRTC is part of our democracy — it was made an independent commission precisely in order to protect against this kind of government manipulation of the media. Harper knows that he must bully his way through this institution in order to create Fox News North. And there are dark rumours in Ottawa that if von Finckenstein will not leave his job, Harper will simply force him to give in. Von Finckenstein is upholding the best tradition of Canadian democracy and civil service in the face of a full scale attack on that tradition. Let’s show him, and Harper, that Canada stands with him.


“Fox News North” is Harper’s long term strategy to make radical conservatism the political centre in Canada, tearing down the country we love to make us look like the U.S. Thankfully, Konrad von Finckenstein and the CRTC are standing in his way — let’s stand with them.

With hope,

Ricken, Emma, Iain, Laryn and the rest of the Avaaz team