Traffic

"The sound experience which I prefer to all others is the experience of silence. And the silence, almost everywhere in the world now, is traffic. … If you listen to Beethoven or to Mozart, you see that they're always the same. But if you listen to traffic you see it's always different." (John Cage)

traffic

 

[absolute silence]

 

Bird 1: "Chirp, chirp, chirrrp."
Bird 2: "Ch-ch-chirp."

Bird 1: "Chirp, chirp, chirrrp."
Bird 2: "Ch-ch-chirp."

Bird 1: "Chirp, chirp, chirrrp."
Bird 2: "Ch-ch-chirp."

 

[louis oosthuizen makes a short putt to force a playoff at the master's]

 

Bird 1: "Chirp, chirp, chirrrp."
Bird 2: "Ch-ch-chirp."

Golf Production vs. The Libidinal Drive(r)

A day at the golf course offers a very succinct expression of the late modern sportocracy, and after a few recent outings with my best friend Seabs and another with my Dad, I had an opportunity to collect my thoughts and interpret my experiences on the course.

Though it is a production orientation that marks the game of golf when taken as a whole, particularly at the recreational level, each successive stop on the assembly line chain is in fact imbued with libidinal desire. We find that for the most part these two drives are compatible, though we may note that in attempting to accommodate both, friction may be created. More on this shortly.

First, we must ask: What is the product of the commercial golf course?

It is the completed round of golf. It is a post-industrial retrieval of the industrial, but in the form of leisure. It is an agreement between capital and labour, in which the latter may lease the apparatus of production to simultaneously produce and consume this assembly-line manufactured round of golf. It is an opportunity to spend a few hours in a hyperrealized "natural" setting, through the payment of "green" fees — after which many will drive across the heavily fertilized and manicured grass on motorized golf carts.

More on the carts: as with process and supply chain logistics in many other industries, golf wants to streamline production and improve flow. To this end, the golf cart purportedly helps speed up play, and on many courses is a mandatory purchase. Increasingly, these mandatory carts feature embedded GPS and RFID technology designed to improve efficiency even further, thus presenting a radical challenge to the notion of a "good walk spoiled."

Every clock on the golf course assembly line is set to the same time: the time at which you teed off on the first hole. If the time on any one particular clock reads later than the time at which you began your round, then you have become "behind pace." We are outside of real time on the golf course: at once, we are presented with a pastoral time in which gentlemen would knock a ball about during their walk through "nature", and a production time in which completed golf rounds are turned out along the fashion of an assembly line.

Courtesy of Par Aide

It is only on a micro-scale that we begin to detect the libidinal in play. Manufacture begins before stepping to the tee, when the producer puts his ball into the Par Aide ball washer and vigorously pumps the handle up and down. This is a sub-process of hygiene, designed to deliver pristine white balls to the tee box once the pump has been suitably primed.

No gutta percha, this. We are strictly in the realm of balatajaculate, the spermatozoa of golf — evolved, though, in their ability to travel such long distances without a tail.

Then, with a violent swing, the game(te) begins, as the ball leaves the freshly mown (tee) box and shoots up the fairway.

Resample:

In many sports with a high degree of male bonding, one of the strongest unifying factors is the proverbial swinging dick, and so it is in golf. The driver in golf is nothing more than the extension of the male phallus, shooting Balatajaculate hundreds of yards in all directions (preferably straight) while onlookers go slackjawed or nod approvingly. Even with drivers made out of graphite or titanium or moonrock, or whatever, the man's always got the Number One Wood in his hands.

There's even a class of "golfers" out there who do nothing but hit long drives, evoking comparisons to the disembodied circus schlongs of the porn industry. Preying on our insecurities, both groups can sell our fears back to us, either as equipment to lengthen us on the tee, or in the sack.

If you can't grip it and rip it, then you're not a man at all — or so the subtext reads.

(This graphite extension prefigures the cyborgian coupling of man and machine, amputating the phallus in the process. Once detached, the woman then straps on the technological prosthetic herself, and bangs balls 250 yards plus, with the top female hitters being far more lengthy than the average male and his withering phallocentrism. As with the porn strap-on, men are initially intrigued by the act, but ultimately come to recognize the message of their own obsolescence in the process. Thus, Wie men perceive a threat to our manhood if women are allowed to join the men's golf competition.)

The farther a skilled golfer is able to hit the ball up the fairway, the longer he must wait on the tee box until the group ahead has cleared beyond the danger point of being hit. The further away this invisible threshold becomes, the more pressure against the ubiquitous clock of production. Meanwhile, in an unskilled golfer's hands, the libidinal drive(r) is apt to spray balatajaculate in every direction but straight. This in turn incurs the shame (and penalty) of the lost ball, which, when coupled with longer hitters on the tee box behind, has the potential to create serious bottlenecks along the assembly line, motorized golf cart conveyances be damned.

Thus, we see the slightest friction where production and consumption meet on the golf course. While the two co-exist peacefully for the most part, it would be misleading in this case to declare that the demands imposed by productive power and the libidinal drive(r) of consumption are one and the same, or even totally compatible. Instead, we might suggest that the site of prosumption may contain unique properties and problems that the factory space of the capitalist is not used to administering.

The Golf Manufactory

Resample: "Upon retirement, golf becomes the new work."

Let me rephrase that: In the post-industrial age, we retrieve the industrial in the form of leisure — in this case, the assembly-line manufacture of completed rounds of golf.

Robot Golf Butlers

Courtesy of KolnexI was playing golf the other day with my friend Seabs and was startled on one hole to see the golf cart of the man playing behind us escape him and start to pick up speed as it headed down the hill.

Only he wasn't on a hill. And the bag wasn't running away from him.

It was a remote controlled golf bag! I had never even heard of them before, much less seen one in action. But there it was, humming along about 20 feet ahead of its master.

I couldn't help but think of the Jetsons and robot butlers. And when that foursome came up to the next tee box just as Seabs and I were leaving, the robot golf butler politely paused to let us pass through.

I hoisted my bag over my shoulder, turned to the butler, uttered a "pardon me thank you," and trudged up the fairway to track down my drive.

Long Shot

Courtesy of CallawayJust learned from DeLanda's War in the Age of Intelligent Machines that Big Bertha was the name of a heavy mortar howitzer used by Germany to attack France in World War One.

Now it is the brand name of the best-selling golf driver in the world.

Callaway: "Hot and very, very long. The new Big Bertha Titanium 454 Driver delivers the kind of scorching power usually measured in horses."

War-pr0n and balatajaculate? Or a good walk spoiled? You decide.

Military - Science - Entertainment?

Virilio theorizes at length about the rise of a "military-scientific complex". Haraway, on the other hand, discusses "high-tech repressive apparatuses" of an entertainment nature in which the fruits of military research and development are incorporated into the latest leisure spectacles. Rheingold also alludes to this cozy relationship between the military and communications interests in the development of virtual reality and spectacle.

Is it possible, then, to merge the two ideas, and consider a military-scientific-entertainment complex, in which the militarization of science (Virilio) is normalized in the production and consumption of techno-fetishized entertainment?

In the context of sportsBabel, can we say that it is the trickle-down of advanced military research into professional sport spectacles that serves to render intelligible and normalize our implicit participation in the project of empire?

Evidence suggests that the relationship does exist. A few examples:

It seems we can answer in the affirmative for the first question, but, so as not to simply offer trite observations, I will suggest that the second question requires substantially further investigation.