Taksim Commune: Gezi Park And The Uprising In Turkey

synthetic zerØ

from brandon jourdan

View original post 41 more words

“Who Is Donald Draper?” – Updated

Don Draper was always a man in crisis. He held on to another man’s name as his fragile secret with which he was able to begin a life from scratch – a blank slate. The new identity was supposed to be a new start, the chance to be whoever he wanted to be and forget his troubled past, but it was never that easy. Don Draper is not just some empty name which we can filled up with our dreams for a life without all that “rough childhood” baggage, that is not why the character has been so fascinating to millions of Americans. Don Draper fascinates because he is able to take his own crises, his own truly frightened disposition as he teeters on the edge of breakdown into an understanding of the general sentiment of the population – his target audience. By living on the edge of secrecy and isolation, he can connect with the stranger and get a real sense for the desires of a decent sample of the population. His wit, ease, willingness to experiment, and observation skill allows him to probe people, learn from them their concerns, and make great art. Of course, that art is not art for the sheer pleasure of expression or taking sensation in new directions, but to channel that desire sweeping through the country into ends that satisfy the accounts (corporations) – getting people to buy their commodities. Don Draper is the great anonymous stranger, so mysterious and intriguing that you never feel like you can get to the bottom of him, wandering to wherever his fancy takes him as some seemingly wise traveling man of the world, collecting insights during his adventures but always coming back to the firm.

Not that he is necessarily infiltrating the masses consciously and strategically. His own life crises and urges toward flight seem genuine enough, but he also has to work, as nearly all of us do. Don Draper is the idealized businessman on the surface – handsome, practical, and articulate. His job is to reach the customer for the business clients he himself has helped win over; he has proven that he knows the customer and he can activate their desires to buy their products because he is better than any other at discovering what they want. He finds that desire by extracting himself from his contexts (becoming a new man each time) and hooking up with various other interesting individuals. But the individual that Don Draper is is a void, ready to take on whatever new form is needed to learn some new truth about people and assuage his angst. But instead of turning that intensity into existential art and improve himself, as he did for a time during his personal notebook phase in season 5, he tears that prospect up and turns toward the client.

His first known affair is with a young artist of the late 1950’s beat era, establishing himself in the contemporary pop-trends. When she turns to heroin a number of years later, he takes one of her artworks and contemplates it during a crisis at his advertising firm to make a bold strategic move. It is at this moment that he decides to tear up the diary and engage with his business issues more fully, in contemplation of an abstract painting fashioned out of the dark emotions of addiction.

The woman that he dates who is most similar to himself comes into his life at work. She is a psychologist who utilizes the ’focus group’ at an early era for the technique to extract from the participants a sort of group confessional. Her expertise are employed at Don’s advertising agency to extract consumer tendencies and reactions that help them more effectively target people. They made for a good team. She nails him when they break up: “… you only like the beginning of things.” It seemed as if he was taking a life-changing turn, being less engaged with his work at the office, exercising frequently, and acting less impulsively. But that doesn’t last long and his thoughts are recaptured by reestablishing his agency as a major force in the world of advertising. Don Draper must only experiment with different modes of living, affairs with women, and the various persons of interest he befriends. His flashes of inspiration and drifting desires always find their way back to his true home: the corporation on Madison Avenue.

His ad agencies takes on different names as the show progresses, depending on the partners that come to own it, with his name eventually reaching on the wall. After they merge with another agency to be more competitive, they have a hilarious conundrum of how to name a business composed of seven partners. “The business side of life” is always fought with shifting pressures from both the outside and in, which sets up a perfect complement to the other side of the show: the domestic family. Don Draper goes through two divorces and maintains a fairly amicable relationship with the family of the man whose name he stole. The image of the happy family that is perpetuated in the advertising strategies of American advertising in the fifties and early sixties gets upturned in the later part of the series, especially in the campaign they pioneer with the Burger-chef episode. Here Don defers to his protégé Peggy when her research shows that the family is torn up by the supposedly tranquil place of the house.  Peggy instead chooses to shoot their commercial inside of the store – selling it as a release from the chaotic place where conviviality is barely held together and into ’another place’ where the family can regain their sense of coherence. The image of the family moves from the dinning table to the fast-food restraint booth.  Both the firm and the family undergo turbulent transformation throughout Mad Men, where the roles are almost always up for grabs.

At one point the agency opens up a branch in California, but after Don draper takes one of his vanishing-act “vacations” that double as quasi-reconnaissance missions. He let’s his desires pull him towards the same place to where a cultural shift is taking place in America: the California coast where young people are flocking to in the mid-to-late sixties. It’s this experience floating around L.A. that allows him to woo a defiant client later on by saying approximately this (left resonating in my head for many years afterward – quoted from memory):

Draper: “A number of people understand this but few can actually implement it, if you do not like what is being said, simply change the conversation.”
Client: “And what is that conversation?”
Draper: “I’ve been to California. Everything is new there, people are filled with hope. New York City is in decay, but with Madison Square Garden it can be a bright and shining new future.
Client: “Just like that, it’s that simple?”

It was Don Drapers little flight of fancy that gave him the courage to speak like this to a powerful person and win him over to his side. It wasn’t so much any particular epiphany that he had that allowed him to discern what it was about California that made it such an attractive place, he was just following his desires and linking himself up with the general movement of the activated population of young and edgy hipsters. He can detect the tendencies of the target audience – the amorphous persuasions of the movers and shakers of the cultural atmosphere. He can only do this by getting lost somewhere else, evading his identity, and following his impulses. When falling in with a bunch of jet-setter Europeans in California, he says very little at all and merely rides along.

It shouldn’t have been surprising that Don Draper ended up back in California with the only member left of the old Draper family (before he stole the name): a young woman to which he is like an uncle. Together they go to a hippy-communal retreat where much of the sentiments of the time are typified. She leaves him there after she has a crisis about an abandoned child (a common motif throughout the series), which is symbolic of the fracturing of the family at the time while highlighting the difficult choices that women face in gaining more freedom outside of their role in house. Adam Kotsko has a great articulation of this thought on the shifts in reproduction and elite power here [As Good as It Gets: Mad Men and Neoliberalism]. When she is gone, Don Draper goes into crisis mode, becoming totally despondent by the only pay-phone of the secluded retreat and looking like the spitting image of a scared runaway child. He calls back to his home (the agency office) to talk to his Peggy, who tells him: “Don, you can come home…[They’ll] take you back in a second… Don, come home… I don’t think you shouldn’t be alone.” He responds: “I’m in a crowd, I just wanted to hear your voice.” and before that: “I only called because I… I realized I never said goodbye to you.” The scene just reeks of a runaway boy calling home to his family as the feeling of loss and vulnerability crept in. It fits in properly to have a gushy love scene for two soon-to-be engaged office coworkers.

At the hippy-retreat, we constantly hear the refrain “how do you feel?” or “how does that make you feel?” or some other such enticement to express your inner thoughts to the rest of the group. Everyone there is more-or-less lost and seeking some kind of therapy beyond the psychiatric methods of healing that wrecked so much havoc on the bodies of “troubled” “hysterics”, and “deviants”. The psychoanalytic methods deployed on Don Draper’s first wife Betty demonstrate such techniques in the earlier seasons of the series. She would lie alone and talk while the psychiatrist would take notes – and describe his conclusions on the phone to her husband. As objects isolated and analyzed by a scientific procedure, patients cannot be faulted for seeking alternatives for care. The dominant formation of the family model was there at the start and all throughout the psychoanalytic discipline, and the individuals congregating at the California coast retreat are searching for another way. But they are not enacting some alternative mode of living altogether (as was once depicted when Roger went to attempt an abduction of his daughter from a commune [Mad Men’s Commune] – another instance of a mother abandoning her child in Mad Men), instead they are all strangers gathering for some healing in confessional-therapy sessions of the collective kind. This is where Don Draper thrives, but he must go through his dark period first to get his artistic pay-off. Right before his breakdown by the phone, he remarks to an attendant in frustration, “everyone just comes and goes as they please and no one says goodbye?” It’s as if any real attachment that one may find in a family setting or elsewhere cannot be found here.

Here at the California retreat is where everyone must feel their most open and vulnerable, yet also encouraged by others to and expecting themselves to express their deepest feelings openly and gain some peace and tranquility. Stuck here for a few days is where Don Draper will excel. A woman comes up to him seeing that he is lost and implores him to come to her therapy session, with her stated reason being “I’m late and I don’t want to go in alone.” There, Don Draper is jostled from utter fright and listlessness into passion and direction by one average man’s self-reflection. The man is constantly worried that his family doesn’t love him, but he understands at the same time that “they’re trying” – he just “can’t see what it is.” He says this twice. “I just don’t know what it is.” How does one find that human connectivity, that true bond people always seem to long for in the relationship, that spark in-between we call love?

The man then gives us a dream-image of himself as a food jar on the shelf of a house cupboard in a kitchen, which isn’t picked by his family to eat. In this image, the man is seeking love as the product seeks to be consumed.

The love we feel with a friend or with our family can feel right and true, but it can also feel lacking and for good reasons. The oft-spoken of disintegration of the traditional family that happened during the time-period of Mad Men is a real disruption of a form that survived and reproduced itself by-and-large through conservative means. The rituals and repetitions that solidified that formation took a major hit with advent of new technologies that bursted into the fore with the speed of electricity that flew through them: television, the billboard, the internet and computer all assert themselves into our home lives with a glut of new images and styles. They are suddenly present and demanding your attention, tugging your desires to meet their ends.

Donald Draper is there to fill the void left in the family, a void that he and his like have helped create in their clinical dissection of the desires of the masses. He does this not as the returner of good-old values (far from the case) but as an above average man that learns from his crises – a trait one would find admirable if not for the purposes to which that education is made to serve. His bro-hug with the average man comes off as self-serving and unequal: Don Draper is not overlooked, he is very much desirable, and he is very interesting. He isn’t really commiserating or sympathetic to him. He seems to be saying something more like: “congratulations on such great self-expression. I needed to be reminded of what ordinary people are feeling, for I have been lost.” He is now ready to become new again, “a new day, new ideas, a new you” the guru says, as Don Draper has become many times already. And then the commercial kicks in:

“I’d like to buy the world a home and furnish it with love… And it’s the real thing, what the world wants today. And it’s the real thing…”

There is no doubt that this was a Don Draper commercial.  He has found it again.  The direction of the population, the desire of the youth, the new ways people are formulating for relating to each other: he has found a way to insert the commodity in them.

If it doesn’t make you furious, or at least irked in a mysterious way, then you have missed the point of Mad Men.

The Century of the Self


Well it turns out, according to series creator and writer/director of many episodes including the finale Matt Weiner, you are not missing the point of Mad Men by being angry.  He wanted to end on a good note: [Matt Weiner Interview on the Mad Men Finale]

Fictional characters take on a life of their own however.  It is strange for me to say that Matt Weiner doesn’t understand his own character – one that he has crafted over many years – but my interpretation of Don Draper as a man who uses his own crises to target the desires of the population and better sell things to them holds up.  Don Draper, like his creator himself, doesn’t understand what ad-men like he have done to the world.  It’s not that the Don Drapers of the world were bad people, they are terribly intriguing and get a great deal out of their expressive capabilities.  They can change your life for the better with some profound advice.

No matter how much an artist puts into his artwork, he doesn’t get the final say on it. Both Weiner and Draper don’t know what their work is doing to people.  The call for empathy and an end to the cynical disposition of commentators on Mad Men by Weiner is as naive as the hippies that who pop up in the show every so often.  One’s life is far more pleasant without advertisements and the mad rush for consumer items they inspire.  Don Draper is the creative kernel and pretty face of the most far-reaching mechanism of control ever brought down upon the population.

Imagining a World without Cars

Stepping out of the front door to my co-rented house, the streets are lined with cars packed into every available sliver of parking space. A common talking point amongst neighbors in passing is the parallel parking skills of a driver and how much space a car leaves for the next spot, front and back. I carry my small, blue one-speed bike (much too small for me, but cheap and easy to maintain) down the stoop and wade through two cars to get on the road. I bike up my street and almost without fail avoid one car before reaching the bigger street, where a row of speeding cars greets me in the far right lane. I get on the busy street constantly looking over my left shoulder and try my best not to simply trust the car drivers to avoid running me over. Thus begins the adventure of riding through the perilous city streets everyday.

Dodging giant chunks of metal speeding past me is the most immediate concern of my day. Screw up just once on the road and anyone: biker, car-driver, pedestrian, or skateboarder could end up dead.  City and most suburban streets are dangerous places. The imperative that everyone who enters them act in a strictly predictable way, with any slight deviance from the norm putting so much at stake, makes everyone edgy. “Driving like a lunatic” puts everyone around you at risk but sticking your neck out and yelling out the window from the comfy confines of the driver’s seat is likely to arouse “road rage”. Our disposition can take a sharp turn from pacified (with your favorite tunes on and a temperature set perfectly to the degree) to incensed at someone who so blithely brought us so close to death. And such is life on the road: so casual and familiar a place, yet a place where we must also constantly straddle the line between tranquility and fury, life and death.

Stop on any street (on the sidewalk of course!) and look around you: you will almost always be able to locate about 30 cars just in your immediate sight. These vehicles are heavy and travel at a speed unheard of just 100 years ago (without tracks), and with just a gentle push from your right foot. The driver sits as they please and barrels from one side of the town to the other, transporting living bodies through a grid of straight lines and inside a steel cage. We control the car’s movements, but stand back and gaze upon the elegant mess of a city street and everything goes according to plan – if your lucky.

A car is sold as a commodity of freedom. Finally at the age to drive, we can now travel dozens of miles away without doing a lick of exercise and be alone, with our friends, or on a date. A car is a status symbol, one only briefly confined to one’s class in the first half of the twentieth century and now representing something purportedly more democratic: the freedom of the individual to travel to wherever it likes. The thrill of owning a car is sold as a ticket to the free life but also as an identity [Jeep’s 2009 ad campaign]. Unbound by your place of upbringing, you can now go to any-place your heart desires (the idea of ’anyplace’ being the main selling point vs any particular place) and deck-out your interior and exterior however you find stylish. With this one big purchase, the ritual is completed and the coming-of-age story closed. Now you’re off into the ’real world’ of the road.

Hiding in plain sight behind our now common sense notions of individuality and personal freedom is a sprawling world of metal objects zooming past each other at the distance of a few feet, a giant industry that created a new form of capitalist production [Fordism], and a rule-ridden “public space” where you either behave exactly according to geometrical lines on the ground and lights hanging in the air or risk fines and jail time. The police can and do pull people over whenever they want and can make up any reason to claim why they are doing so, “probable cause” being a flexible phrase that the police can always invoke by lying, then searching your car [When Can Police Search Your Car?].  Before going on, I feel it is important to note the shear dominance of the automobile and the roads its tires roll over on the daily life of an American. The concrete grids mapped onto the landscape must be maintained at tax-dollar expense (though mostly from, thankfully, a gas-tax [Transportation FAQ]) so that we can choose wherever we want to live and still get to work on time. These roads are not only dangerous and hurried, they are the place where we expend most of the carbon, threatening most life on the planet (only surpassed, perhaps, by our use of electricity indoors [EPA: Emissions by Sector], and interact with the most strangers. Unfortunately, the only time we give these strangers moving at different speeds second notice is when we collide, and that contact we make with them is often deadly [Car Crash Fatality Statistics]. To get past our fossil-fueled present and envision a sustainable future, we will have to imagine our roads otherwise than blank spaces only to be filled up by personalized cars.

Some cities are already embroiled in a war between cars and cyclists as shown in this documentary: [Bikes vs. Cars: War on Cyclists], and car driving will not go down without a fight. People are attached to these things and the convenience, status, and ’freedom’ they provide. Managing the reduction in car driving will be key to stopping runaway climate change and will have to be done with minimal outrage. Not only do alternatives need to be readily available in public infrastructure to travel long distances (which America is currently failing at epically [Last Week Tonight: Infrastructure]) but people will need to be able to live closer to their work and their family and friendship networks. This would ideally happen gradually, but this planetary problem has a time-limit; we only have so many years to plan for this change and one can only hope for fair warning. It’s hard for me to get over the expectation that family members have of being able to converge seasonally for celebrations and holidays while having moved so far away from each other. The good reasons we have for taking long car rides hide the decision to move so far away from each other in the first place, leaning on the car to whisk us back to see loved ones. We simply cannot make these long journeys (often worsened by jet-fuel) anymore without very low-carbon public infrastructure as an alternative.

People I talk to almost always bring up the prospect of electric cars and while this sounds appealing, there is a lot of energy that goes into making a car at the point of production [Carbon Footprint of a New Car], so some kind of renewable energy will be required to assemble them and gather all of the raw materials they require. Bicycles can be created entirely from bamboo, as some of the earliest ones were [Bamboo Bicycles]. It’s not unimaginable but I find it hard to believe that these electric cars could replace gasoline-powered cars one-for-one, especially thinking of where the electricity will come from when most electricity is generated by coal, which is worse than oil. It would be much easier to get everyone, by-and-large, to simply travel less, shorter distances, slower, and by low-carbon rail when necessary.

The planning of cities is a big culprit in this matter as well, and, to be quite honest, some cities just won’t function without cars and need to be abandoned [America’s Most Unsustainable City]. Many people simply need to own and drive a car to and from work because they live in the residential district which is on the complete other side of the city from the industrial, commercial, or financial district. This will have to change too, and the migration of people to houses closer to their work will have to be assisted instead of restricted by high rent and real estate bubbles. Many people have moved out of cities and into suburbs, who then commute long and tedious hours that almost nobody enjoys. A forewarning and assistance of some kind (be it state or otherwise) will be necessary for this massive transition in housing and transportation. If this seems too far-fetched and like central planning just consider the alternatives: do we really think that we can all collectively cover this much space in our travels everyday without the assistance of gase-powered automobiles?

The supply chains industry distributes all of the goods we consume via cargo-ship, seaports, airports, rail, and trucking – all using massive amounts of fossil fuels. Wind power has been used for thousands of years to transport goods by sea but, again, much slower and rail could be powered by other means. But trucking handles a great deal (~70%) of domestic and close range distribution [Logistics: Transportation Industry] and a different method must be found for getting goods to us from nearby. Why not paid bike caravans full of goods in their trailers traveling on car-less, roads? Without just-in-time logistics and with a better planned distribution system, we could afford to travel slower and in a big pack for the last short-distance leg of the chain ending at the market. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Some sectors just need to travel fast and will not negotiate: ambulances and fire trucks will need to be kept running. But this is not very difficult to deal with: with so few cars on the road, these fleets could easily be converted to electric power, itself powered by solar energy. In a nightmare scenario, the police would still be able to cruise in their cars while regular people could not. So let’s not let that happen.

All of this is merely a means to stimulate your imagination for what a sustainable future that is not at odds with the biosphere could look like. This blog post isn’t going to jump start a bill to send before congress. A good idea concocted recently has been solar roadways that would capture sun energy and use it to power nearby electricity needs and its own lighting [Solar Roadways Already Producing Energy] [Solar Freaking Roadways]. Yes, legislators, please try it.

We desperately need to be able to imagine how a society could work that doesn’t consume this much fossil fuel and excrete this much carbon into the air. Without the ability to see how it would work, what we would do differently, how we would get around, how we would relate to each other, etc. then we will fumble our words and remain locked in stunting fear or other sad affects. It hit me hard and gave me a glimmer of hope upon seeing an artwork done by my friend Sandy, who would ride his bike around Oakland with big posters glaring out at everyone who passed by. The posters were usually Occupy inspired art, but this one stands out as being a positive image of what a desirable future would look like:

And then there is this trend: [Millenials Reject Car Culture]

It is important to stay positive and creative, but until cars as the dominant for of travel are usurped, I’ll be getting pissed at every car that gets in the way of me and my beautiful, low-maintenance, exercise-giving, gas-less blue bike that costs nothing to park, rides nearly anywhere in the city, endangers next-to nobody, and doesn’t harm the biosphere. And I’ll be secretly pissed at every other car I see; secretly, that is, to decrease the chance I get killed by someone who got angry all-of-the-sudden and could only express that rage by pushing their foot on the gas petal. Everyday.

Astra Taylor on The People’s Platform

This question of organization in the age of the internet seems to be one of the most crucial in any political project. How do we relate to each other on the internet, blogosphere, email, comment sections and all? How does this new form of largely isolated interaction effect more vulnerable embodied assemblages (groups/collectives)? Coming together in a common place as proximal bodies for a common purpose can never be replaced and I feel it must be emphasized – even in a blog post. What blogging does for me and others (to get all meta on you) is exchange ideas, or, if not an equalized interaction, absorb and affect each other’s expressions. I’ve learned quite a bit from the blogosphere – it is a neat surrogate for academia – but the emplacement of the student at the screen as the site of learning and sharing has its drawbacks. The internet has a great many strange places within, but the one in which the embodied user tends to inhabit is the glowing screen.

The debt activism that Asta Taylor is involved in is one case that I can relate to: I’ve done some organizing with Strike Debt Bay Area. It is extremely difficult to reach out to people *as debtors* and organize individuals into a collective *as debtors*. The isolation and shame attached to the position of debtor vis-a-vis creditors makes it less than desirable to claim as a subjectivity to come out as and own (although ‘gay’, ‘queer’, and I’m sure many others have odd histories of their own worth noting), yet the vast majority of people here in America (and many other places) are debtors burdened by the extractive economy. Is it alone, in our rooms, cafés, and other places of comfort that we will break off from adherence to a morality that sucks our energies up and keeps us from straying off of the main road? For some people yes. But for a mass movement of active bodies, most people need to meet up with others in greater gatherings. Debtors Assemblies have played that role, but in order to get people to come, to build that force, you’ve got to advertise. If you want to get people to come to your events I’ll give you some advice I gave to some students at the last Strike Debt Bay Area meeting: images everywhere. Posters, flyers, stickers, bulletin boards, walls, heavily trafficked areas… If you have a good idea, you need to get in people’s faces.

Too often do I turn off my tablet after a few hours and then think: “Okay, what did I just do on that one screen?”

synthetic zerØ

“The Internet is said to be a space of democratic expression and transformation, both culturally and politically. But how true is that claim? What are some of the economic, technical, and legal obstacles in place? Drawing from her recent book, “The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age,” and her experience as an artist and an activist, Astra Taylor — filmmaker, writer, and political organizer — addresses campaigns by musicians against streaming services and debtors against creditors to reflect on the larger question of how to organize and leverage change in an age of virtual networks — be they networks of cultural distribution or financial ones.”

View original post