Things That Are Supposedly Dead


God — The year is 1882, before the internet, and people had a lot of extra time to think. German philosopher and downright misanthrope Friedrich Nietzsche, in The Gay Science (§ 125) says “Gott ist tot,” meaning God is dead (not a tater tot). Unlike popular belief, this was not a proclamation regarding the invoked deity, but a critique of secular humanity at large. “[…] and we have killed him,” he goes on to say, which kind of takes away the stoic punch. The first-person plural pronoun “we” is troublesome however, as Nietzsche seems to have excluded himself from this sick lot. As for The Gay Science, it is not an illustrated book about reach arounds, rusty trombones, or tossing salads[1], unfortunately.

The Author — Was it Barthes or Baudrillard who wrote the essay “Death of the Author”? Just wiki’d it and the answer is Barthes — in 1967, first published in the French journal Manteia, No. 5). Bathes and Baudrillard are both French post-structuralists, have white puffy hair, are a little fondue-pudgy, and I always get them confused. Anyways, Barthes proposes that the biographical i.e sociopolitical context of the author — which inextricably influences both intention and interpretation — should be devoid in the work, even though that’s impossible. For example, I am a depressed histrionic Asian-Canadian 36-year-old semi-impotent male living in one of the most liberal cities in the world. This means you may be pretty irritated right now. I get it, it’s okay. I’m dead.

Punk — Whenever a guy who thinks he has harsher or edgier non-corporate musical taste feels upset at the musical tastes of those around him, especially if the latter category feels like a diluted and heavy marketed version of the former, he’ll say “Punk is dead.” Before Taylor Swift, if you only knew three chords you could also be a musician. That’s essentially what Punk is. Guys who say “Punk is dead” either live in basements of co-dependent relatives or are destined to do so. They often have a part-time customer service job at the strip mall, a vocation whose natural indignation will crystallize into vague yet fervent anarchist sentiments. They’ll blast Dead Kennedys or Minor Threat as house pets cower under furniture. I want to say Basements are dead. Elmer’s glue in your hair is dead. Dumb is dead.

Painting — After Andy Warhol, and especially Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst, people in the art world (i.e. galleries, MFA students, critics) started saying painting is dead. I believe the notion arose in the 70s and really came into fruition in the 80s. Basically, the more inclusive outbound edges of sculpture grew into conceptual art, and the solipsist almost shun-like edges of the canvas seemed more and more archaic. Cezanne’s emphatic curiosity of form, Matisse’s bourgeois simplicities, and Van Gogh’s cuckoo-ness all started feeling rather narrow-minded. Warhol wore shades indoors, like an asshole[2]. Jeff Koons was a banker. Damien Hirst chopped a lamb in half, which I guess was more open-minded.

Liberal Class — Author and Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges publishes Death of the Liberal Class (2010), a non-fiction book purporting an end to radical ideology in America, implicating our corporations’ ill-influence over government, church, press, and academia. The Death of Etc. was and is fashionable, so why not? The book went on to sell not-so-many copies, demonstrating Capitalism and its finest. When Karl Marx, who wrote a book about not selling stuff, sells way more of that book than your book does, it’s time to start considering bowing out of the intellectual race and just go to a strip club. The American dollar is its finest drenched in the sweat of a dancer.

The Novel — In correlation with modernist painting being dead, I’ve heard similar things about the novel. It’s all about the post-structuralist idea of there being no absolute i.e. semantic/semiotic truth, and that the entire conceit of the novel is innately absurd, as the reader must delude herself that this fictional world is real, ignoring the non-fictiony economic elements of the author’s book advance, agent’s commission, deadline, career, as well as the biographical or personal elements of him being an arrogant and dramatic douche. Jonathan Franzen and Cormac McCarthy are beating the dead horse that is the novel — throwing in the imperative social and moral dystopia, respectively — and sales are damn good[3]. The novel is not dead, just usually really boring.

Print — The most recent thing to die, supposedly, is print. That you are reading this on the internet makes you complicit! You could be snuggling with some Tolstoy next to the final cracks of a Duraflame, or lying in a hammock with The Economist in your hands, and yet you read this list-as-article drivel on your work computer, MacBook, or worse, your greasy body-temperature smartphone (perhaps linked via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, Digg, or some aggregation site), probably skimming most of the content with a quick finger scroll down to the comments, on which you may even comment, should we be so lucky to grace our eyes on your indignant sicness. Pray tell, what are your deepest, most unresolved, and paramount feelings on the matter?

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