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Tuesday
Apr302013

Steven Soderberg Describes His Own Present Shock

Here's the beginning of Steven Soderbergh's State of the Cinema Address, delivered Saturday in SF:

So I’m getting comfortable in my seat. I spent the extra $60 to get the extra leg room so I’m trying to get comfortable and we make altitude. And there’s a guy on the other side of the aisle in front of me and he pulls out his iPad to start watching stuff. I’m curious to see what he’s going to watch – he’s a white guy in his mid-30s. And I begin to realize what he’s done is he’s loaded in half a dozen action sort of extravaganzas and he’s watching each of the action sequences – he’s skipping over all the dialogue and the narrative. This guy’s flight is going to be five and a half hours of just mayhem porn.

I get this wave of – not panic, it’s not like my heart started fluttering – but I had this sense of, am I going insane? Or is the world going insane – or both? Now I start with the circular thinking again. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s generational and I’m getting old, I’m in the back nine professionally. And maybe my 22-year-old daughter doesn’t feel this way at all. I should ask her. But then I think, no: Something is going on – something that can be measured is happening, and there has to be. When people are more outraged by the ambiguous ending of The Sopranos than some young girl being stoned to death, then there’s something wrong. We have people walking around who think the government stages these terrorist attacks. And anybody with a brain bigger than a walnut knows that our government is not nearly competent enough to stage a terrorist attack and then keep it a secret because, as we know, in this day and age you cannot keep a secret.

Something is going on – something that can be measured is happening, and there has to be. When people are more outraged by the ambiguous ending of The Sopranos than some young girl being stoned to death, then there’s something wrong. We have people walking around who think the government stages these terrorist attacks. And anybody with a brain bigger than a walnut knows that our government is not nearly competent enough to stage a terrorist attack and then keep it a secret because, as we know, in this day and age you cannot keep a secret.

So I think that life is sort of like a drumbeat. It has a rhythm and sometimes it’s fast and sometimes it’s slower, and maybe what’s happening is this drumbeat is just accelerating and it’s gotten to the point where I can’t hear between the beats anymore and it’s just a hum. Again, I thought maybe that’s my generation, every generation feels that way, maybe I should ask my daughter. But then I remember somebody did this experiment where if you’re in a car and you’re going more than 20 miles an hour it becomes impossible to distinguish individual features on a human being’s face. I thought that’s another good analogy for this sensation. It’s a very weird experiment for someone to come up with.

So that was my Jet Blue flight. But the circular thinking didn’t really stop and I got my hands on a book by a guy named Douglas Rushkoff and I realized I’m suffering from something called Present Shock which is the name of his book. This quote made me feel a little less insane: “When there’s no linear time, how is a person supposed to figure out what’s going on? There’s no story, no narrative to explain why things are the way things are. Previously distinct causes and effects collapse into one another. There’s no time between doing something and seeing the result. Instead the results begin accumulating and influencing us before we’ve even completed an action. And there’s so much information coming in at once from so many different sources that there’s simply no way to trace the plot over time”. That’s the hum I’m talking about. And I mention this because I think it’s having an effect on all of us. I think it’s having an effect on our culture, and I think it’s having an effect on movies. How they’re made, how they’re sold, how they perform.

 

Reader Comments (7)

For what it's worth, a few years ago I coined a term for watching movies in this manner.

Godzillaing.

I don't think that requires too much explanation.

May 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLeigh Mortensen

The first paragraph merely tells me the passenger liked action sequences.

May 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNarrator Jack

That speech of Soderbergh's was cited in the NYTimes review of "Iron Man 3". Seems to be quite the meme ... And the book is a legit one too.

http://movies.nytimes.com/2013/05/03/movies/iron-man-3-with-robert-downey-jr.html?ref=movies&pagewanted=2

May 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLee

For me there is a major stumbling block in this otherwise good piece:

"We have people walking around who think the government stages these terrorist attacks. And anybody with a brain bigger than a walnut knows that our government is not nearly competent enough to stage a terrorist attack and then keep it a secret because, as we know, in this day and age you cannot keep a secret."

The fact that secrets are kept all the time from us is less the point that I would like to make (although we now know for instance about the NSA Data Center in Utah (http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/) now, it was kept under wraps for long enough to get off the ground -- no visibility initially, and no transparency likely ever). What I would highlight in regards to the quoted comment is just how detrimental to a free-thinking society it is to offhandedly dismiss significant numbers of thinkers who happen to walk amongst the confused and paranoid -- both subgroups exist. What commentary like Soderberg's does is further hammer in the last nail on the coffin when there are still countless vital questions that need to be asked and considered if we are to look at Boston or 9/11 or other instances in which there are claims of government false flag operations. For example, why were (numerous) emergency drills being run at and during the Boston Marathon with agents from various government agencies? Or, why has Dzhokhar Tsarnaev repeatedly been refused legal council when he is clearly not a threat to anyone at this time? These are just two such questions. There are some smart people in the government too. (Watch out for them, folks.)

The main issue I take with all this is that we do not have a healthy society of inquiry. We are content to accept any and all mainstream, official accounts of what is going on -- damn the 'mistakes in earlier reporting' and the 'burden of proof', and especially damn the 'crackpots' with their 'crazy conspiracy theories'. Our inability to question and think clearly is not merely a side-effect of our Brave New World-like existence of our swimming in tweets or gorging ourselves on facebook cat meme images. We also have the intellectual elite, like Mr. Soderberg, who play the role -- perhaps the most important -- of propping up the rulers and media moguls by helping add credence or credibility (whatever that means anymore) to the official account of things and especially by silencing and marginalizing dissenting voices, often through such offhand remarks. Personally it saddens me to see how little value is given to (true) skepticism in our world today.

May 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter84adam

It does seem that the collective action of society is being drawn into a state of consciousnesses that is unable to conceptualize time as linear. This disability is something that I myself can see very clearly, as if it where a blanket placed over their eyes. I have not been effected to a certain extent as I have not watched television for almost ten years and I do not prefer to use the internet for anything more than what I may need it for, very little. This blindness perpetrated within societies subconscious cannot be sustained without what looks to be a permanent mental abstraction, society cannot travel much further into where corporate media has them headed. We are at risk of losing reality in a way that may not be retractable for certain people once the event horizon of their emotional states have been passed. Though who can truly tell what effect the magnetic field will have on the unknowing until we witness it first hand. When all we have of the past is a fraction of an effect to base observation off of. That, we in the present have already begun to enter. A time of pure genius and complete madness seems to be hovering like a future fog awaiting our embrace. The sooner society clears it, by the weeding out of madness, the sooner it can move on from this time of unfortunately short sighted manipulation. As is the master so is the pupil. thecollapsingpoet.blogspot.

May 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Domon

I am very happy to hearing that you are now feeling comfortable than past. You need take rest and feel himself that man what thing that every time not ok for him. so never tension. Every thing will be ok.

May 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commentershamsul

I think every man has the same rights and this is normal as long as he does not interfere with other human beings ... it could be she likes or just need refreshing.

Warm regards from tips seo (",)

May 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRiecky
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