Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Being Scene - the Self and the sound of two hands clapping...

We have recently posted on the home page of our public website the video of Gil Bailie and Ron Austin's presentation at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology last month of 'Being Scene: the self and the sound of two hands clapping'. The presentation is split into two approximately 30 minute video clips; the first featuring Gil and the second Ron. I am posting the video here as well.

Also, the 5th CD/MP3 in the Famished Craving series being excerpted here is now available for purchase on our webstore.

The Being Scene videos are a serendipitous companion to the Famished Craving series of archival audio excerpts as they both deal with the analysis of fame using the anthropological interpretive tools provided by René Girard and Christian theology. Ron Austin brings an enlightening overview of his experience in Hollywood working with the fame industry.

Over the past months of postings to the blog a number of items have come to my attention that in much the same fashion as Gil used in his original presentation in 1995 illustrate some of the themes being examined. Here are two that I would like to share with our blog visitors:

Lady Gaga (Stefani Germanotta)

A few months ago this pop music superstar phenomenon was interviewed on the 60 Minutes television news magazine. In this interview Ms. Germanotta states that she is a student of the art and sociology of fame. Her 2008 debut CD was entitled "The Fame". She is obviously a talented and smart young woman who seems to understand the game she has chosen to play, as Gil says of Ulysses in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, on the level of 'chess' as opposed to 'checkers'. Again from the 60 Minutes interview, she states unequivocally that an important aspect of the famous person's relationship with her fans is their desire to see the famous one fall, especially to see her die. Also, the ability to redirect attention to what the famous person wants to have the audience see is essential, she says, for her to maintain some modicum of privacy in a world dominated by the paparazzi. In her case it seems all of the attention is directed at her body and how it is displayed. She says one of the characteristics that make her unique among the famous is that she is completely open and truthful with the media and her fans; no lies to hide behind.

Lady Gaga is viewed both by herself and by many of her fans as a kind of icon of empowered individualism, giving them the inspiration to break the chains of whatever it is that holds them in bondage. She believes everyone has a destiny to become a superstar. It is of interest that much of the motivation for this seems to come from a sense of having been made to feel 'different' and 'disrespected' in her Catholic all girl high school.

Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman)

In 2004 60 Minutes' correspondent Ed Bradley interviewed Bob Dylan around the time of the publication of the first volume of Dylan's autobiography entitled Chronicles. Bradley says of Dylan that he "retreated from fame":

At his peak (ca 1970's), fame was taking its toll on Dylan. He was heading toward a divorce from his wife, Sara. And in concerts, he wore white makeup to mask himself.

In the 1960's Dylan was often called the 'voice of his generation' yet he resisted this title. Again from the 60 Minutes interview:

"If the common perception of me out there in the public was that I was either a drunk, or I was a sicko, or a Zionist, or a Buddhist, or a Catholic, or a Mormon - all of this was better than 'Archbishop of Anarchy,'" says Dylan, referring to being considered the voice of a generation opposed to everything.

Dylan was especially opposed to the media, which he says were always trying to pin him down. He wrote, "The press, I figured, you lied to it." Why?

"I realized at the time that the press, the media, they're not the judge - God's the judge," says Dylan. "The only person you have to think about lying twice to is either yourself or to God. The press isn't either of them. And I just figured they're irrelevant."

On the topic of Dylan's many musical awards:

"That must be good to have as part of your legacy," says Bradley.

"Oh, maybe this week. But you know, the list, they change names, and you know, quite frequently, really. I don't really pay much attention to that," says Dylan.

"But it's a pat on the back," says Bradley.

"This week it is," Dylan replies. "But who's to say how long that's gonna last?"

His success, however, has lasted a long time. Dylan is still performing all of his songs on tour, and he says he doesn't take any of it for granted.

So why is he still out there?

"It goes back to that destiny thing. I mean, I made a bargain with it, you know, long time ago. And I'm holding up my end ... to get where I am now," says Dylan.

And with whom did he make the bargain? "With the chief commander," says Dylan, laughing. "In this earth and in the world we can't see."

Some people believe that in this last comment Dylan admits to having sold his soul to the devil to achieve his success. In his 1980's song "Gotta Serve Somebody" he wrote in the refrain:

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody

Finally, Ron Austin mentions how the changes in Hollywood film stars beginning in the 1950's began to appeal more to the fantasies of adolescents, so that a viewer might actually imagine oneself being someone like Elvis Presley. Here Bradley asked Dylan about how he dealt with the image the public had of him:

"It was like being in an Edgar Allan Poe story. And you're just not that person everybody thinks you are, though they call you that all the time," says Dylan. "'You're the prophet. You're the savior.' I never wanted to be a prophet or savior. Elvis maybe. I could easily see myself becoming him. But prophet? No."

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