October 19th, 2010 / 1:38 pm

In wheel life

The first scene of Reservoir Dogs follows a group of men around a table having a discussion about Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” my favorite moments being when the camera’s view is completely obliterated by someone’s back — and a black occurs like said movie’s premature end. Tarantino (both writer and actor here) proposes that the song is about a woman in coitus with a man of such large girth, that the pain is that of a virgin’s incipient intrusion. In 1917 an unidentified photographer took multiple pictures of Marcel Duchamp and patched the images together.

The zoetrope — or (from Greek) “wheel of life” — is a device we owe our first moving images to, a kind of cyclical Sisyphus, like our tethered earth moving in circles and never going anywhere, just forcing seasons into chapters, as if a grand story were being told. Should Duchamp look a little like Andy Garcia, and should Zoetrope be Ford Coppola’s production Co., then we’ll have to block Godfather III out of our minds.

Madonna’s sacrilegious invocation (to name herself after Virgin Mary, mother of Christ) is not a big deal in a secular world. If humor is masked pain, and if pain is implicitly directed at a present/absent god, then perhaps the story of Mary is the first, and best, “your mom” joke ever told. The zoetrope spins, each frame a little different than the former, an aggregate of near images which the mind fills in.

They photoshopped the virgin, like we photoshop a date in dim light in the back of a bar, the spear in one’s olive pointed at next o’clock, into a dark room with a stranger’s body that stays that way until the morning, which is a fancy way of saying a one night stand won’t keep the sun from coming up. If marriage is a chronic one night stand, then every birth is a porno. Co-dependence is a double dildo: however hard it may be, we stay together.

Maybe we each have a conjoined twin separated at birth by the surgical knife of a parallel universe, and years later with half the heartbeats missing, we go looking for this person. You see them at the stoplight next to you, moving to a song on the radio that you try, in the spare moments of red, to find. As they drive away, you try to pronounce their license plate, “chz2697.” Maybe that’s what love is, a language you need to learn.

Second Life is just a virtual 3D world, where those who’ve failed irl go for a better place. Their use of second simply means “alternate,” not “subsequent” — the latter being a welcomed invitation for reincarnation, so too bad it isn’t. (Reincarne asada is what happens when you reheat last night’s burrito.) There’s a pink dot on my driver’s license that says “donor” because I’ve always been a parasite in search for an eternal host. In a Tibetan “river burial,” a body is chopped into pieces and thrown into the river, so if something smells fishy, you dead.

The Social Network dramatizes the supposed moment when Zuck conceives and codes the “relationship status,” its primary function to either entice or preclude amorous solicitations. In the mock or documentary Catfish, an emotionally disturbed genius housewife creates around 30 facebook profiles to corroborate an intricately choreographed story of a family whose daughter seeks the attention of one of the filmmakers. To call her manipulative would be putting it mildly. Love — that numbing cough syrup that lubes the voice into a nicer person — happens over their first phone call, and keeps happening, until her story cracks, until a surprise irl moment shows who she really is. She stands on the porch, in her irrevocable self.

In real life there is no Second Life, no “wheel of life,” no real doll, no conjoined twin, no photoshopped self — just okay face you with your missing better side daydreaming the day to waste in a flickering loop like some animated grainy .gif, a stacked zoetrope, that keeps on happening over and over again. In wheel life, you’re always a little bit more real than the image next to you. The robot dance is the modern zoetrope: that glorious conceit of being embedded in each frame. This is when the microwave goes 0:00 and my burrito is done, again.


  1. Henri


  2. jereme_dean


  3. Quash100

      ‘Love — that numbing cough syrup that lubes the voice into a nicer person’

      What a disgusting stomach-churning line. love it.

  4. Mike Young

      lovely! “Maybe we each have a conjoined twin separated at birth by the surgical knife of a parallel universe, and years later with half the heartbeats missing, we go looking for this person.” great line, great graphic essay.

      made me think these thoughts: “all we say to say again and again how experience of the world isn’t the world, i’m glad for it, how boring life would be if experience were real”

  5. Ken Baumann


  6. links for 2010-10-20 / Tyler Madsen

      […] In wheel life | HTMLGIANT […]

  7. phifarka

      Just write a novel already.

  8. @chiffrerougea03

      i like this a lot. creatively yet clearly articulated.

  9. herocious

      Donor equals parasite in search of an eternal host. Makes me breathe through my nostrils.