One

I took the picture and didn’t think much of it. Only a few minutes later, as I was leaving Central Park, it occurred to me. I’ve just witnessed Bruegel.  Even better, I’ve just witnessed life. At its most glorious manifestation. One by Peter Bruegel, the other by Ana Tajder. A man. A woman. Netherlands, United States.  One in 16th century, the other in 21st. 500 years apart. Continents apart. Identical.

How persistent is true joy of life? And how simple! It just is. Must love it.

Consuming Love - Literally

I have again (look at my post from 7 Nov. 2008) found a heart in my fridge. Yes, it sounds funny but it again made me very happy - I like believing in signs. I started analysing what all this food coming to me in form of a heart could mean. I wished for something egoistic. But then as I was pealing the potato to make a soup, I realized that each piece of food that came from mother earth actually is a little heart. They don't have to have a heart form. Because they are pure love - they are the signs and gifts mother nature is giving us to tell us "I love you". Because they keep us alive. And healthy. And all it takes is some soil, sun and rain. That is all we should need to survive.I am not joking: we should see each piece of food nature gave us as a little heart. And each time we take it into our hand we should say "Thank you". Our major problem as a society is that we are ungrateful.

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Consuming Love, or What is Left of It

From The Vienna Review, February 2009 In two seminal books, Eva Illouz analyses the influence of modern capitalism on love and romance. A perfect topic for Valentine’s Day. Ana Tajder met Eva Illouz in Vienna.

Consuming the Romantic Utopia: Love and The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism

Will you be celebrating Valentine’s Day? Will you buy roses, go for a dinner in a luxury restaurant, buy a little teddy bear with a big red heart? Or will you boycott that kitschy capitalistic product of American culture, condemning it as a crass celebration consumption? Or will you simply be ambivalent? Well, don’t be. As Eva Illouz shows in her two books about the impact of capitalism on romance and love, the topic is too interesting for ambivalence. Professor of Sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a member of the Center for the Study of Rationality Eva Illouz is ready to challenge the most intrenched cynic. Her earlier book, Consuming the Romantic Utopia: Love and The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (1997) created a milestone in research of love and romance in capitalism. Following up on the topic was the 2007 Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism, a sampling of her 'Adorno' lectures. Whenever you finally meet a person you had found fascinating by reputation, you will be surprised about how much bigger you often imagine them than they really are. Our brain projects the size of our fascination with the person on their physical dimensions. When I meet Eva Illouz, this surprise stretched even further, to the nature of her personality. Her books are so well researched, so strong in their analysis, conclusions, theories and findings that you expect a very powerful, maybe even insistent personality. A rock. The reality is quite different. Eva Illouz is petite, gracious, and with the most gentle expression in her huge blue eyes. Contrary to my expectation, she does not project, in fact, at all; she absorbs. Still, the gentleness of her appearance cannot hide the immense intellectual power working in the background. A lot has changed in the ten years between the two books, Illouz confessed, and with it, a major shift in perspective. “Choice!” she exclaimed. In her first book, she explained how the economic ideas of choice emancipated human relationships and gave them new possibilities. Commodities did not corrupt relationships and feelings, she believed but served as a way of enhancing and transmitting those feelings. But then came the Internet and a culture of choice. “The problem is, people don’t know how to deal with choice,” she said. “Studies have shown that choice creates confusion, apathy and a shift from being a satisfier, a person who is happy with good enough, to a maximizer, a person who always wants more and better. “The problem is that we do not have a natural mechanism to stop the processes of maximizing our life choices.” In her lecture on Jan. 26 at the Bruno Kreisky Forum, Ambrustergasse 15, in Vienna’s 19th District, Illouz analysed the disenchantment and rationalization of love that were central to the discussion in Cold Intimacies. Three cultural phenomena are principally to blame for this, she said: The Internet technology of dating sites and social networks that has exploded choice; the emergence of popular science that influences our picture of love, and second-wave feminism that blames romantic love for deepening the divide between men and women. “Feminism tore down male chivalry and female mystery, taking the enchantment out of love,” claimed Illouz. So is it back to pre-18th century mode of arranged marriages? No, modern rationality is different, Illouz said. Two hundred years ago, parents made the decisions, based on a few basic criteria: good health, social class and an ability to provide. Sentiment and reason were kept safely at arms length. Today, this rationality comes from ourselves and hinges on a long list of criteria – including emotional compatibility, sexual compatibility and social compatibility. It is ideal that cannot be reached, one that gets us stuck in a rut of endless refinement. “We don’t have the cultural resources to reach the ideal.” Illouz says. The problem of choice cannot be emphasized often enough. While in pre-modern times, love was accidental and the object of love not subject to substitution, now the sheer volume of choice forces rational and analytic criteria. Choice also gives potential partners the characteristics of consumer goods and partners can always be “upgraded” for someone newer and better. So while choice has given us freedom, especially improving the position of women in our society, now that freedom again puts women at a disadvantage. While men still have the socio-economic power and love is still the way for women to gain a piece of this power, the disadvantage lies in the dimension of time. Men can profit from the choice their whole life long, especially if they are well situated. Women have a choice up until their early thirties. But at that point, if they want children and family, they must take the first choice that is “good enough”. Eva Illouz is currently a researcher at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin. The topic for next book is “Why love hurts.” Now that’s a perfect Valentine’s present.

Bindungsangst

My big excuse to those who don't speak German! But this is very interesting. It is the description of Eva Illouz's lecture on fear of commitment. Eva Illouz's Kolloquium "Es liegt nicht an Dir, sondern an mir": Bindungsangst als Problem der Soziologie Die Suche nach Liebe ist eine schwierige Erfahrung geworden, die nur wenigen modernen Männern und Frauen erspart geblieben ist. Trotz des weitverbreiteten und fast kollektiven Charakters dieser Erfahrungen besteht unsere Kultur darauf, dass sie das Resultat einer gestörten Psyche sind. Die freudianische Kultur, von der wir durchtränkt sind, vertritt die starke These, dass sich sexuelle Anziehung am besten durch unsere vergangenen Erfahrungen erklären lässt und dass Liebespräferenz in der frühen Kindheit durch die Eltern-Kind-Beziehung geprägt wird. Die Annahme Freuds, die Familie bestimme das Muster der erotischen Karriere, war bisher die Haupterklärung für die Frage, warum und wie wir daran scheitern, eine Liebesbeziehung zu finden oder aufrecht zu erhalten.

Die zentrale These dieses Projekts lautet so: Wenn viele von uns "eine Art bohrender Angst oder Unwohlsein" in Bezug auf die Liebe haben und das Gefühl, dass uns Liebesdinge "aufgewühlt, ruhelos und unzufrieden mit uns selbst" i zurück lassen, so deswegen, weil Liebe etwas an sich hat, das man als "Gefangensein" des Selbst in den Institutionen der Moderne bezeichnen kann; auch spiegelt und verstärkt sie dieses Gefangensein. In einer berühmten Passage formuliert Karl Marx: "Die Menschen machen ihre eigene Geschichte, aber sie machen sie nicht aus freien Stücken, nicht unter selbstgewählten, sondern unter unmittelbar vorgefundenen, gegebenen und überlieferten Umständen." Wenn wir lieben oder schmollen, greifen wir auf kollektive Ressourcen zurück und tun dies in Situationen, die wir nicht selbst gestaltet haben; genau diese Ressourcen und Situationen möchte ich in meinem Projekt untersuchen. Ich erläutere diese Strategie anhand eines Beispiels: der "Bindungsangst". i Harry Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love, Princeton University Press, 2004, p. 5.

Am I human or am I dancer?

Fitting my research on romance/love/relationships & modern capitalism (I am preparing an interview with Eva Illouz for today), here a few lines from the last Killers song "Human":

pay my respects to grace and virtue send my condolences to good give my regards to soul and romance they always did the best they could and so long to devotion, you taught me everything I know wave good bye, wish me well

I actually looked the lyrics up because I couldn't believe he is really singing "are we human or are we dancer" - but he is. So, as a dancer, I wonder why I am not human?

"Every one belongs to everyone else"

Here a few excerpts to illustrate how Aldous Huxley predicted a decline of monogamy in Brave New World (our world?). I believe that "How can you be stable if you are feeling strongly?" says it all:

Family, monogamy, romance. Everywhere exclusiveness, a narrow channelling of impulse and energy.

"But every one belongs to every one else," he concluded, citing the hypnopædic proverb.

The students nodded, emphatically agreeing with a statement which upwards of sixty-two thousand repetitions in the dark had made them accept, not merely as true, but as axiomatic, self-evident, utterly indisputable.

……………………

"But after all," Lenina was protesting, "it's only about four months now since I've been having Henry."

"Only four months! I like that. And what's more," Fanny went on, pointing an accusing finger, "there's been nobody else except Henry all that time. Has there?"

Lenina blushed scarlet; but her eyes, the tone of her voice remained defiant. "No, there hasn't been any one else," she answered almost truculently. "And I jolly well don't see why there should have been."

"Oh, she jolly well doesn't see why there should have been," Fanny repeated, as though to an invisible listener behind Lenina's left shoulder. Then, with a sudden change of tone, "But seriously," she said, "I really do think you ought to be careful. It's such horribly bad form to go on and on like this with one man. At forty, or thirty-five, it wouldn't be so bad. But at your age, Lenina! No, it really won't do. And you know how strongly the D.H.C. objects to anything intense or long-drawn. Four months of Henry Foster, without having another man–why, he'd be furious if he knew …"

.................................

"Of course there's no need to give him up. Have somebody else from time to time, that's all. He has other girls, doesn't he?"

Lenina admitted it.

"Of course he does. Trust Henry Foster to be the perfect gentleman–always correct. And then there's the Director to think of. You know what a stickler …"

Nodding, "He patted me on the behind this afternoon," said Lenina.

"There, you see!" Fanny was triumphant. "That shows what he stands for. The strictest conventionality."

…………………….

Lenina shook her head. "Somehow," she mused, "I hadn't been feeling very keen on promiscuity lately. There are times when one doesn't. Haven't you found that too, Fanny?"

Fanny nodded her sympathy and understanding. "But one's got to make the effort," she said, sententiously, "one's got to play the game. After all, every one belongs to every one else."

"Yes, every one belongs to every one else," Lenina repeated slowly and, sighing, was silent for a moment; then, taking Fanny's hand, gave it a little squeeze. "You're quite right, Fanny. As usual. I'll make the effort."

...................................

No wonder these poor pre-moderns were mad and wicked and miserable. Their world didn't allow them to take things easily, didn't allow them to be sane, virtuous, happy. What with mothers and lovers, what with the prohibitions they were not conditioned to obey, what with the temptations and the lonely remorses, what with all the diseases and the endless isolating pain, what with the uncertainties and the poverty–they were forced to feel strongly. And feeling strongly (and strongly, what was more, in solitude, in hopelessly individual isolation), how could they be stable?

Internet Networks & Love Life

Eva Illouz, author of “Consuming the Romantic Utopia: Love and Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism” and “Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism” will be speaking at Bruno Kreisky Forum on 26 February.

Here a few sentences from an interview about how internet networks influence our love life:

"Internet networks develop a culture of freedom, which is a culture of “choice”. Everyone can look out for everyone, everybody gets endless possibilities to search for a partner. This technology of choice has a very negative influence on emotions. It leads to high rationality in love life and leaves no space for intuition.

The problem with the idea of consumerist “choice” is that one assumes that consumers know what they want. But that is absolutely not the case. Human beings do not know what they want – there are studies which prove this. Even more so: the more choice they have, the more confused they are about their wishes. They know even less what they want. And when this consumerist behaviour infects love life, it doesn’t make life any easier.

The level of disappointment, especially in the world of internet dating,  is very, very high. Even when in relationships, people are on the look-out to test their market value. Because maybe, they could find a more "valuable" partner. They zap like TV channels.  Additional to that, the repetition turns them emotionally blunt. Goethe's Werner wouldn't commit suicide today, he would just go to the PC and zap himself to the next affair."

To read the whole (very interesting) interview (in German), go to Robert Misk’s site: www.misik.at

Put a Ring On It

Not to start a year with a comment on Middle East (which I would really like to do), here a more positive topic. Or is it?Beyonce's new hit "Single Girls (If You Like it Put a Ring On It)” is constantly repeated on gotv (Austrian MTV) so I already started singing (and dancing) along. I am only wondering if this is a message for the girls or the boys? Christmas present from my gay neighbour Marcus: a book called "Suche Mann zum Kinderkriegen (Searching for a Man for Babies)". Subtitle: “Why men disappear when it gets serious.” It is cute, but maybe not so fitting.

Yesterday, I passed by a shop with cake decorations. A whole window is dedicated to wedding cakes. Looking at all that kitsch is always amazing but when I looked at it yesterday, I started screaming. Photo is attached.

I am considering writing a book with a subtitle "Why women disappear when it gets serious." And I think that the shop should start producing decorations with grooms dragging brides to the altar. Things are changing. image005

Little F...ed Riding Hood

OK for the start – today, an old granny would live in a nursing home or would have a nurse visiting her regularly. And please, today, a mama would never ever send her daughter to walk alone through a dark wood to visit her old grandmother. Because today’s mom fucked with the wolf too many times. Today’s mom KNOWS the wolf. Maybe he is even still her lover. This is why today’s mom would put the Little Red Riding Hood into her SUV and drive her to the grandmother. Yes, I know it can happen that Little Red Riding Hood’s dad is on a business trip and her brother is ill and the teenage babysitter doesn’t have time to baby-sit because she has an appointment for her pregnancy check up. Well, if it really didn’t work in any other way, then mom would make sure to prepare Little Red Riding Hood for her trip through the woods.

Of course, she would never allow Little Red Riding Hood to wear that red sexy hood! No, off goes the short red number, on goes a long grey coat. And that little skirt and little white socks? No! “Where’s your jeans, Hoody-Baby?” Little Red Riding Hood would whine and tell her mom that it is not fair that Little Green Riding Hood can wear her cool hood and she has to wear that grey sack. Mom would of course hate the idea that her daughter feels inferior so she would allow the red hood. But jeans would have to stay. Next, mom would tell LRRH about her own rape experience. “You know, when I was your age I was hitchhiking to the sea side. And two nice young boys offered me a ride to the next city. But they didn’t take me to a city. They took me into the woods. And tried to rape me. I was lucky that a jogger was passing by, saw what happened and rescued me. You can never, ever trust no one! Not even young nice boys. And especially not wolves!” And finally, she would prepare the basket with wine and cake for the granny, but make sure to put a pepper spray, a mobile phone with 911 on speed dial, and a condom on top. Just for the case that instead of a wolf, Little Red Riding Hood meets a cute hiker and really cannot resist.

So off goes our Little Red Riding Hood into the deep dark woods. And hey, the wolf appears. A modern LRRH would never waste time to talk to an old, hairy wolf. She knows she is too cute for him. She is aware of the fact that she looks a bit like Britney. So today, the wolf would have to put some effort into his appearance if he wants to talk to little girls. He would take a loan to buy a shiny Porsche, put on a fake Rolex (or if he is a finer wolf, a Panerai). He would have his hairs removed by a laser treatment. He would maybe even die the rest of his hair blond and get a funky cut. He would put on a sleek suite and always have a Blackberry in his hand to look very busy. And he would never, ever be so stupidly bold like the wolf in the story and simply ask the Little Red Riding Hood of her grandma’s address. No, he would be all charming and tell LRRH that he actually got lost and needs her help. He would tell her about this urgent business meeting he is going to with investors from Quatar and that unfortunately, he is off to St Moritz tomorrow early in the morning but he would be really happy to thank her for helping him with a nice dinner in Fabios or whatever fancy restaurant there is in that wood. He would entangle her into a nice conversation so that she wouldn’t even realising she is giving him her grandma’s address.

Of course, today’s granny is just like today’s mom – she met the wolf many times before and wouldn’t simply let him in. But maybe the last time she met the wolf was very, very long ago (she only became granny when she was 80) and already forgot how bad the wolf was. She would like the wolf’s charm, and after all, the new wolf looks like a fine young man, so she would let him in. And actually, today’s granny wouldn’t even be endangered, because the oldest woman today’s wolf would eat would be 26. 27 is too close to 30 and that is too close to a biological clock. But for the sake of the story we have to assume our wolf either didn’t eat a woman for so long that he is starved to death and would eat just anything. Or that he is so hungry for Little Red Riding Hood’s young flesh that he will make himself devour granny with his eyes shut, visualising the pinkness that’s already on her way to him.

Now, Little Red Riding Hood arrives to granny’s house and sees that big, hairy wolf in her granny’s bed. Come on! What the hell happened to our Little Red Riding Hood in the original story? Was she blind? Or did she eat some weird mushrooms in the woods and was too high to react? How could she not recognise the wolf in her granny’s nightie? Whatever was going on with the original Little Red Riding Hood, today’s Little Red Riding Hood would immediately react. She would try to run and find her phone to call 911. She would kick wolf’s arse with her Taek Won Do moves. But, although she is the junior champion in Taek Won Do, the wolf is bigger and stronger and would manage to catch her and eat her.

And now comes the hunter. In contrary to the hunter from the tale, today’s hunter who passes by a house and hears an old woman snoring loudly wouldn’t react. He would either think that the old woman has an old lover or he simply wouldn’t give a shit about the old woman. But we have a very nice hunter here who kills the animals but helps old people so he would go in to check on the old lady. He would find the wolf asleep in the bed, and would immediately shoot him. Our nice hunter does not shoot the wolf but cuts open his belly and frees Little Red Riding Hood and granny. In the story, the hunter skins the wolf and everybody lives happily ever after.

BUT! In our story, the hunter doesn’t care about wolf’s skin! He wants a reward for having freed the ladies. So while granny is collecting her savings to pay the hunter, the wolf starts chatting up the LRRH and explaining to her what has actually happened: He was driving by on his way to a business meeting and remembered that her poor ill granny is alone and wanted to check up on her. The crazy old witch opened the door and so badly wanted to be eaten by him that she simply jumped into his mouth. And the moment he saw LRRH, he was so overwhelmed with love that he lost his brains and just wanted to be as close to her as possible. Oh, he swallowed her out of pure love! Hearing this story from this charming, loving, strong, cool wolf, Little Red Riding Hood would become totally disgusted with her old crazy grandmother. Yes, she knows her mom warned her – but this wolf is different! This wolf is nice and successful and soooo strong! And he loves her!

She would make sure the old witch was locked into a nursing home. And then she would move into granny’s house with wolf, her cool new boyfriend. Every day, while wolf would go to his imaginary business meetings (actually he would just drive through the woods searching for young flesh), she would work hard at her new job as a secretary – this way they at least had one secure income. After all, the Porsche needs regular service. And she likes her wolf in his Prosche. The wedding will of course be postponed for better times.

So basically today, not the wolf would get fucked. The poor old granny would get fucked. And then the Little Red Riding Hood would get fucked. Because after she gave birth to wolf’s two kids and his business has finally kicked off, he would find a Little Pink Riding Hood (she is of course 15 years younger than LRRH) and marry her. Women never learn their lessons.

And the wolf would live happily ever after.