I ♥ †

22 01 2012

Audio, Video, Vanitas

The new video for the Justice single “On ‘N’ On” pairs the emptiness of space with the emptiness of vanity, and it’s a tour de force that bisects asteroids and carcasses in its linear push toward infinity. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Roll the tape.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIW1m3jbEsg&ob=av2n

This thing is straight-up infested with vanitas symbols. Some of these, like the goblet and the hourglass, are striking even though they occur only once. The musical instrument in this tableau is an electric guitar positioned between two nudes, and the fruit, though spilled as bounty from a cornucopia in one of the few active vignettes of the video, is colorless. Other visuals are serial, and become more interesting with each iteration. Among these recurrent vanitas symbols are diamonds, coins, and swords, as well as the steady depictions of stars, planets and other celestial bodies and phenomena (I guess this includes all the Kubrick nods; that light show at the bridge is essentially a 2001: A Space Odyssey homage). Most prominent, though, are the vanitas symbols involving the human form, including long flowing hair, the female nude, skeletons, and skulls.

Fig. 1. An assortment of skulls.

There are also hybrids. Though no mirrors occur per se, many visuals are twinned or doubled—often as a mirror image. And included among the video’s representations of the human form is imagery that borrows heavily from the exploded diagrams and cutaways of classic anatomical illustration. These repeated suggestions of a human corpse range from the the realistic to the surreal, and reinforce a tone that is more empirical than ghoulish. But my favorite thing about this video? The vanitas symbols of coin and skull are combined in the appearance of an Indian head nickel that has been altered by carving.

Fig. 2. Hobo nickel.

Though it was the crucifix, and not the cross, that was a popular inclusion in vanitas painting, the Justice logo has its own assigned meaning when it comes to momento mori symbolism. Because it has come to indicate death when attached to a name or date, the symbol of the cross will forever signify  justice pour tous. Not to mention that, when it’s hurtling through space, a monolithic slab of a cross passes as another good 2001 reference.

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Goodness Spacious

22 09 2011

Season Premiere of Community Proves Enlightful

Glee mockery has been a running theme, but I was still disconcerted when the promos for Season Three of Community strongly suggested a Greendale musical number. Imagine my relief, then, when this number turned out to be little more than an intro daydream—thereby leaving the show’s fiercely-protected fourth wall largely unmolested. This, by the way, was the first of the episode’s many misleads (my favorite was Dean Pelton’s goatee), which provided extra tension as the table was set for the study group’s junior year.

After a hilarious set-up and pay-off involving the study group’s bias-driven misinterpretations of Troy and Abed’s homosociality, the collective, it’s-the-beginning-of-a-new-semester resolve suggested by the musical fake-out and early dialogue quickly degenerates into a delicious laugh pie of snark, sight gags, and  melancholic authenticity well before the end of the first act. Also, Britta bought the wrong textbook.

Britta’s doing it wrong.

And then the fanboys did saith, “Let there be continuity,” and so the best bits of throwaway dialogue and ad lib from Seasons 1 and 2 did get tweaked and whole notha leveled. Jeff got to plug a line into the “shut up, Leonard” formula. Troy got to follow up—but not top—his description of Britta as “the AT&T of people” (itself an offshoot of the shared “you’re the worst” construct). Pierce got to rezone his soul at the Laser Lotus Celebrity Center. There were no novel manifestations of the Springfield effect among the faculty, staff or student body, but this was unsurprising given the need to introduce the recurring characters of the show’s prominent new guest stars.

Evolution.

The saturnalian anchor of the episode’s plot was the role reversal of Jeff and Pierce. Jeff’s narcissism cellphone gets him kicked out of his biology class on the first day which, by his own decree, makes him ineligible for participation in the study group. Pierce, who was on the waiting list for the class, also gets Jeff’s spot in the group. This, of course, makes Jeff go mental, which culminates in a monkey gas-induced 2001 homage. By episode’s end, Pierce has told the study group a convincing lie to restore the natural order. Jeff sees through this lie, and confronts Pierce about it; the shared secret, coupled with what small semblance of gratitude Jeff can muster, affords the two men one of those those touchingly brief windows of intimacy in which Pierce gets to be a father. Wrap the episode up by having one character mess with another character’s name (“Starface”), and Dan Harmon can tie yet another Community episode with a big bow of that-was-awesome.

So yeah. Naysayers take note. This shit is still going strong like Donkey Kong, and the integrity of the Greendale universe was maintained despite a few isolated incidents of envelope-pushing. Rubicon uncrossed.