blog,personal commentary,reflections on the human condition,ephemera,notes from the underbelly
http://web.ncf.ca/ek867/wood_s_lot.html - May 24, 2013 10:03:30 PM - Nov 28, 2004 7:34:47 AM
May 24, 2013 photo - mw
Nothing Funnier Than Unhappiness: A Necessarily Ill-Informed Argument for Flann O’Brien’s The Poor Mouth as the Funniest Book Ever Written Mark O'connellThe MillionsI would dearly love to be able to start this piece by saying that The Poor Mouth is the funniest book ever written. It’d be a real lapel-grabber, for one thing, an opening gambit the casual Millions reader would find it hard to walk away from. And for all I know, it might well be true to say such a thing. Because here’s how funny it is: It’s funnier than A Confederacy of Dunces. It’s funnier than Money or Lucky Jim. It’s funnier than any of the product that any of your modern literary LOL-traffickers (your Lipsytes, your Shteyngarts) have put on the street. It beats Shalom Auslander to a bloody, chuckling pulp with his own funny-bone. And it is, let me tell you, immeasurably funnier than however funny you insist on finding Fifty Shades of Grey. The reason I can’t confidently say that it’s the funniest book ever written is that I haven’t read every book ever written. What I can confidently say is that The Poor Mouth is the funniest book by Flann O’Brien (or Myles na gCopaleen, or any other joker in the shuffling deck of pseudonyms Brian O’Nolan wrote under). And if this makes it, by default, the funniest book ever written, then all well and good; but it is certainly the funniest book I’ve ever read.
... There’s something about the improbable combination of sober causality and delirious wretchedness (“As a result of the never-ending flailing of misfortune”; “a case of going from bad to worse”) that comes on like an outright petition for heartless juvenile ridicule. “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness,” as Nell puts it in Beckett’s Endgame. We should take this point seriously, coming as it does from an old woman who has no legs and lives in a dustbin.
Beckett’s contemporary Flann O’Brien understood this, too: unhappiness is the comic goldmine from which he extracts The Poor Mouth’s raw material. He is parodying Irish language books like Peig and, in particular, Tomįs Ó Criomhthain’s memoir An t-Oileįnach (The Islander); but in a broader sense, he’s ridiculing the forces of cultural nationalism that promoted these books as exemplars of an idealized and essentialized form of Irishness: rural, uneducated, poor, priest-fearing, and truly, superbly Gaelic.
O’Brien’s narrator, Bonaparte O’Coonassa, is not so much a person as a humanoid suffering-receptacle, a cruel reductio ad absurdium of the “noble savage” ideal of rural Irishness promoted by Yeats and the largely Anglo-Irish and Dublin-based literary revival movement. A lot of the book’s funniness comes from its absurdly stiff language (which reflects an equally stiff original Irish), but that language is a perfect means of conveying a drastically overdetermined determinism – a sort of hysterical stoicism which seems characteristically and paradoxically Irish. The book’s comedic logic is roughly as follows: to be Irish is to be poor and miserable, and so anything but the most extreme poverty and misery falls short of authentic Irish experience. The hardship into which Bonaparte is born, out on the desperate western edge of Europe, is seen as neither more nor less than the regrettable but unavoidable condition of Irishness, an accepted fate of boiled potatoes and perpetual rainfall. “It has,” as he puts it, “always been the destiny of the true Gaels (if the books be credible) to live in a small, lime-white house in the corner of the glen as you go eastwards along the road and that must be the explanation that when I reached this life there was no good habitation for me but the reverse in all truth.”
The Moral Status of Rocks Justin E. H. SmithA student in rural Iceland, of sheep-farming stock, had her guard down, or didn't yet have a guard. She didn't know how to talk to foreigners, or perhaps felt there was something she had to get across to foreigners, or to this foreigner, who showed an interest in her country. She said, in the hope of conveying to me the whole ethical-spiritual outlook of her country in a single concrete example: In Iceland we are taught not to smash rocks.
photo - mw"Four Preliminary Notes" & "A Stray Note" from UnderlightAaron McColloughpresented by Jerome RothenbergAaron McColloughUnderlight, Ugly Duckling Press, 2012A Quintessence Fear of getting stuck makes the soul aware, forlorn. The messenger, he ran; he took on need and got hanged. Sticking is constant. Her look says no amount of permission can overcome the law’s resistance. The window bounds everything, and all threats are announced. Measured in a friend and jackal, our evenings narrow, but friends pass. Permit these stops as the reed still quavers higher. Observe small minutes. Even if this means more defilement, unlatch the top again and put your face in the steam. Not a failure of the tongue; what the mouth cannot encompass with every organ and orifice. We are trying to make do with this dross, this sweat of the sun. The tree branch a warbler. The incisor that’s plugged in the hide.
Marcel Janco May 24, 1895 – April 21, 1984
Two prose poemsAaron McColloughjacketElegy Probably wishing this on you once as it happened. This chocolate bar. This passing dilemma. As it may not happen again — our own vexatious downer; as we cannot speak and only glare in the Tennessee heat and only pass in a memory of animus, I’m sorry. Morning glories in the chain-link fence, winding out. Mission of Burma. Beneath the ball diamond, through there the yellow cloud of white cloud honey suckle, kettle and cat bones. That you would die. Only one death for you and me and one more for me and who? The hand has pushed your death along as a hand pushes a crease to the corner of a bed. In lots more dangerous places. All the time zones and planets.
photo - mw
notes on the novel, genre, woolwich ads without products
Genre is also another name for myth. While it sometimes postures as science, it has far more in common with superstition. Throw salt over your shoulder, and lucky will occur. One character says something, the other, naturally, touches wood. We now, in our pharmacologically-lexiconed period, are far more likely to call superstitious practices the symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. One has to check, and check again, that the water’s not running in the bathroom before one leaves the flat. Push hard three times on the front door to make sure it’s locked… or else another storyline will ensue, the one that has an evening return to a gaping door, the laptop gone, the bedroom drawers dumped. This is literally it – some sort of chemical depletion or superfluity occurs, some traumatic event takes place, and then an almost mystical belief in certain irrational storylines takes over. To disobey the mandates of genre is to open oneself to an unhappy ending.
The novel makes us stupid in one sense, solipsistic, tends to make us look for our angle on things, what does this mean to us? What were the attackers yesterday, in both his words and deeds, and deeds both during and after the attack, trying to say to me? Or at least us? There is a counter-instinct, for those disciplined a certain way, to try to climb up the ladder of transcendent wisdom, to disavow the inwrought narcissism of our conditioned response. To gasp and yell when the news commentators reduce a global to a local question, an a serious question to a matter of insanity or unanchored spite. They might think what they want, but they have no right to act it out here. To force us into these stringent attempts to adjust the genre back to something we’re comfortable with. But the attempt to climb out of the fray of self-interest, however complex, however Wallace-ianly convoluted and self-reflexive, is of course a trope in yet another sort of story, another sort of myth, one that – we need to remind ourselves – has the deepest affinities with an imperial mindset, one that takes the world panoptically, one for whom impersonality is a transferable skill.
May 22, 2013
Composition with taches
ca. 1875Victor Hugo
26 February 1802 – 22 May 1885
Art of Victor Hugo:
an overview of his drawings
Control And Freedom: Power And Paranoia In The Age Of Fiber Optics
Wendy Hui-Kyong Chun
google booksIn this book, I do not condemn the Internet—if anything, I hold it dear. Liking it or hating it, as such, is as pointless as being ‘‘optimistic’’ or ‘‘pessimistic’’ about its future. Rather, what we need is a serious en- gagement with the ways in which the Internet enables communications between humans and machines, enables—and stems from—a freedom that cannot be controlled. Because freedom is a fact we all share, we have decisions to make: freedom is not the result of our decisions, but rather, as Friedrich Schelling and Jean Luc Nancy have argued, what makes our decisions possible. This freedom is not inherently good, but entails a decision for ‘‘good’’—habitation and limitation—or for ‘‘evil’’— destruction. The gaps within technological control, the differences between technological control and its rhetorical counterpart, and technol- ogy’s constant failures mean that our control systems can never entirely make these decisions for us.pdf available at monoskop
Fiber-optic networks, this book argues, enable communications that physically instantiate and thus shatter enlightenment; they also link to- gether disparate locations that only sometimes communicate. We must take seriously the vulnerability that comes with communications—not so that we simply condemn or accept all vulnerability without question but so that we might work together to create vulnerable systems with which we can live.
(22 May 1925 – 30 August 1991)
Creation Stories: Myths About the Origins of Money
Christine A. Desan
The Challenge of Theoterrorism
new english review(....)
The politico-religious ideologies that target free speech go under a number of different names. “Fundamentalism,” “extremism,” “radicalism” – and these are only a few of the epithets that are used in the scholarly literature and political discourse on the subject. The most popular label is “extremism.” Although this term is current, I am reluctant to use it because it is too vague to be useful (there are many kinds of extremist behavior after all). A better term is “terrorism” perhaps, because this is used in legislation and scholarly literature. But even “terrorism” has many forms. The most remarkable development of the last decades is the resurgence of religious terrorism, or what one may also call “theoterrorism.”
Theoterrorism is the type of terrorism that legitimizes violence by referring to “God.” The theoterrorist thinks and claims that the violence he exerts on the nation-state is done “in the name of God.”
Arguably, the theoterrorist may be wrong in thinking he is a divinely appointed angel of vengeance. But it is perfectly possible not to enter into a discussion with theoterrorists or religious believers on whether or not the terrorist is right in his convictions. This would require an excursion into the philosophy of religion and theology that is unnecessary for someone interested in the social significance of theoterrorism. For an understanding of our contemporary world it may be more fruitful not to approach religion from a believer’s perspective, but from the angle of the social scientist who simply analyzes what other people think. In this case: what the religious terrorist thinks. What one may do is try to understand how his worldview is constructed.
Many people are reluctant to engage in this kind of research. They are concerned with something quite different: protecting religious minorities from discrimination and the “stereotyping of their religion.” Or they have the ambition to explain why the essence of Judaism, Christianity or Islam is averse to violence.7 I fully recognize the importance of that type of commentary from a believers perspective. But it is not the kind of approach that makes it possible to understand the theoterrorist challenge. I fear these well-meaning people are dangerously mistaken. The greatest contribution you can make to the peaceful coexistence of people of good will is to make a fair assessment of the role religion plays in contemporary terrorism, and not to suppress or censor people who dare to address this issue.
"Le Gai Chāteau"
Blogging Toward The Kingdom
Booze, rage and justice in the participation age
(1946–2011)... it is the straight sober world and its truths that are hard. Alienation. Inner rage. Many of my essays were born in an attempt to communicate working class alienation, separation and rage -- which is the same as middle class rage, but self-described and expressed differently). Most of the liberal thinkers I know still do not grasp that the anxiety working people have, even the Tea Partiers, are rooted in the same things as their own. Yes, the right is definitely cruel. And yes, it can by now be called fascist. However, to deal with what has happened, one must come to grips with what produced the internal distrust upon which fascist empires are built.
The brutal way Americans were forced to internalize the values of a gangster capitalist class continues to elude nearly all Americans. Most foreigners too. This is to say nothing of how our system replaced our humanity with ideology, our liberty with money, and fostered fascist nationalism through profound degeneration of the people's mind and spirit. It's not as if one can ever escape that sort of thing, either by going to a place like Mexico, getting drunk or whatever. We are made in Americas' image, whether we admit it or not, and America's image is the face on a ten dollar bill.
It is now clear to me that the people's rage is a tool in the hands of the new electronic and digital corporate state. Its various channels, eddies and pools, regardless of type, can be directed toward all sorts of mischief and profit. Left or right, the angry throngs on both sides can be managed and directed. They can be sent chasing various injustices, denouncing evil characters on Wall Street, Times Square bombers, BP executives, or whatever, worked up into slobbering outrage over Sarah Palin, and thus kept divided and working against each other for the benefit of last gasp capitalism.
Once outside the furious drek of American political and economic life, and having finished the last book I will ever write, I found myself asking: "Why did the good in the American people not triumph? How can it be that so many progressive, justice-loving citizens failed? Their positions were well reasoned. The facts were indisputably on their side. Obviously, there was, and is, more going on than merely losing battles to demagoguery and meanness. Why do we lose the important fights so consistently? What has kept us from establishing a more just kingdom? Something is missing.
The blinking reptilian elites now own our entire material needs hierarchy chain, top to bottom. You eat, shit, work, fuck and die at the pleasure of their Great Machine. The presence of six billion others, most of whom are in the same situation, all but guarantees this as our material destiny on a finite and increasingly poisoned planet, before the big hasta la vista.
May 21, 2013
Fisherman's House on a Lake
21 May 1471 - 6 April 1528
Argument with Myself
Mike Jay reviews Permanent Present Tense: The Man with No Memory, and What He Taught the World by Suzanne CorkinMemory creates our identity, but it also exposes the illusion of a coherent self: a memory is not a thing but an act that alters and rearranges even as it retrieves. Although some of its operations can be trained to an astonishing pitch, most take place autonomously, beyond the reach of the conscious mind. As we age, it distorts and foreshortens: present experience becomes harder to impress on the mind, and the long-forgotten past seems to draw closer; University Challenge gets easier, remembering what you came downstairs for gets harder. Yet if we were somehow to freeze our memory at the youthful peak of its powers, around our late twenties, we would not create a polished version of ourselves analogous to a youthful body, but an early, scrappy draft composed of childhood memories and school-learning, barely recognisable to our older selves.
Something like this happened to the most famous case of amnesia in 20th-century science, a man known only as ‘H.M.’ until his death in 2008. When he was 27, a disastrous brain operation destroyed his ability to form new memories, and he lived for the next 55 years in a rolling thirty-second loop of awareness, a ‘permanent present tense’.
For the long remainder of his life Henry was blandly unaware of his own story. He would readily volunteer that he had ‘a lot of trouble remembering things’; if pressed, he might speculate that ‘I have possibly had an operation or something.’ His short span of consciousness led to repetitive behaviour – making the same observation repeatedly, or mechanically eating two lunches in a row – but his conversation was characterised by a gentle wit and quizzical, punning exchanges that seemed to test every statement for possible meanings. (When Corkin commented on Henry’s love of crosswords by dubbing him ‘the puzzle king’, he responded: ‘I’m puzzling!’) He had occasional episodes of frustration, anger or panic, but was usually good-natured and accepting of the scene around him. In many respects he displayed the serenity and detachment promised by the Buddhist ideal of living in the now, freed from regrets about the past or anxieties for the future. He was certainly more content than his most extreme opposite, Solomon Shereshevsky, the subject of A.R. Luria’s The Mind of a Mnemonist. Shereshevsky’s inability to forget became a life-destroying torment. ‘The trail of memory can feel like a heavy chain,’ Corkin observes, ‘keeping us locked into the identities we have created for ourselves.’ Henry was, by contrast, ‘free from the moorings that keep us anchored in time’, though Corkin also wonders whether his lack of anxiety and emotional churn might have been related to the partial loss of his amygdala.
The U.S. as a party-state
An und für sich... Interpreting the party-state phenomenon through liberal democratic norms, the “totalitarian” analysis decides that since something like civil society or the private sphere no longer has the desired autonomy, we can only conclude that the state, as the only other available center of power, is over-dominant. This is a profound misreading of the situation, however, as Foucault points out in Birth of Biopolitics. The problem in party-states is not that the formal state structures are too strong, but that they’re too weak to restrain the party-movement that instrumentalizes them....(more)
Study of Changing Societies
Men above the World
(Epitaph for Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht)
(21 May 1897 - 24 March 1977)
SingingMPT (Modern Poetry in Translation)
Translation by Marco Sonzogni, Harry Thomas
…But when we began to sing
Our songs, senseless and good,
It seemed that everything
Stood as it once had stood.
The days were merely days.
Seven made a week.
Killing we thought was wicked.
Of dying we didn’t speak.
The months sped by so fast,
With too many to come for complaints!
Again we were only young:
Not martyrs, the shamed, or saints.
We had these thoughts and others
As long as we could sing.
But it’s all hard to explain,
Being a cloudlike thing.
3 January 1946
Poetry and the State, Series 3 No.15
Edited by David Constantine, Helen Constantine
May 21, 1844 – September 2, 1910
Husserl’s Theoretical Horizon, or a Ghost Is a House You Live inMemorious 19
C. Dylan Bassett
Ghosts do not happen alone. Ghosts are made
from rooms and glass and cherry trees. They lie down and become
horizons. You see by them.
Some ghosts want to undo you, to take you apart.
They crawl in cupboards and bang against the wood.
They rearrange furniture and hide
your good shoe. You cannot fight them, you do
not know their names. Other ghosts want
to hold you together, to bake your favorite lemon cookies
in the middle of the night and climb in bed with you
and comb your hair with their glassy fingers.
You hate these ghosts most of all.
You know their names exactly.
May 20, 2013
news standNew York City1963Street Exposure: The Photographs of Ronald Reis 289 photographs and contact sheets made between 1957 and 1973 primarily in London and New York CityDuke University Libraries Digital Collections
*** I told this story late at night the other day while I was making cocktails for friends, and I didn't think much about what it was about or what it meant or where it was headed. I just told it. But I can now see some kind of pattern, some kind of meaning in the bare fabric of the thing. A warped reflection of what's been passing through my mind lately. There's something there about what happens when we excavate and examine the past. It can as easily induce insanity as it can generate revelation. To some extent it's about how we regard it, about how we comport ourselves in the presence of history. We can choose to hold it close or to cast it away. It can engulf us or it can reignite something that's been lost or forgotten. Either way, the excavation will lead us to seeing and maybe even understanding something new and strange. There are labyrinths beneath our feet all the time. Beneath our apartments, our homes, our towns and cities. They are there. ***
Emily Dickinson’s manuscript of “The way Hope...Emily Dickinson at Amherst CollegeThe way Hope builds his House It is not with a sill — Nor Rafter — has that Edifice But only Pinnacle — Abode in as supreme This superficies As if it were of Ledges smit Or mortised with the Laws —Memory on Legs (January 3) On the third day of the year 47 BC, the most renowned library of antiquity burned to the ground. After Roman legions invaded Egypt, during one of the battles waged by Julius Caesar against the brother of Cleopatra, fire devoured most of the thousands upon thousands of papyrus scrolls in the Library of Alexandria. A pair of millennia later, after American legions invaded Iraq, during George W. Bush’s crusade against an imaginary enemy, most of the thousands upon thousands of books in the Library of Baghdad were reduced to ashes. Throughout the history of humanity, only one refuge kept books safe from war and conflagration: the walking library, an idea that occurred to the grand vizier of Persia, Abdul Kassem Ismael, at the end of the tenth century. This prudent and tireless traveler kept his library with him. One hundred and seventeen thousand books aboard four hundred camels formed a caravan a mile long. The camels were also the catalogue: they were arranged according to the titles of the books they carried, a flock for each of the thirty-two letters of the Persian alphabet.
The Perils of Publishing (April 24) In the year 2004, for once the government of Guatemala broke with the tradition of impunity and officially acknowledged that Myrna Mack was killed by order of the country’s president. Myrna had undertaken forbidden research. Despite receiving threats, she had gone deep into the jungles and mountains to find exiles wandering in their own country, the indigenous survivors of the military’s massacres. She collected their voices. In 1989, at a conference of social scientists, an anthropologist from the United States complained about the pressure universities exert to continually produce: “In my country if you don’t publish, you perish.” And Myrna replied: “In my country if you publish, you perish.” She published. She was stabbed to death.
Draft 74: Wanderer Rachel Blau Duplessisfascicle Book I This the place where hopes had left their traces, stark in storm, stoked in “astonishing nights, foreigners among humans,” whose eye thirl, window whorl they Open Wide seeking wordth and depth, if ever, given ques and querl, this wordth and depth could be, and want to speak to sight, to sigh and rage, not for that hour, nor for that place yet nowhere unembellished by some trace, documentary (that and more), witnessing (that many more) and witless, hurtful, “jesting air”—en- joined, frozen in mo ti on but not to crumble, rather stand. This has to stand, inside, longside as It; and yet is split, is double split, in impulse, turn, and goal. Still somehow moves (un- sanctioned? leaden?) fated, stripped, by road or pathway or through trackless field, Up hill or down. What hope then for the wanderer? Yet and Yet and Yet in place. Aura of words in a storm face. There are plenty of reasons to wonder. Book X The loops of thought and new-mint sound began to rise along the toil of push. Or this was just posturing. It was really the small crumple exaggerated pinch and poke; poppit, prime and pry. So from the rubbish gathered up a stone. Then from the rubble gathered up a stone. One for the heavy-laden grave. Two for the split in the person. Three, three, and on and on. But then began a rubble wall. random pieces placed in counter-poise. Slate, granite and conglomerate, sandstone, limestone, brick, and shale wedged up from field or quarried from, or found and piled, or gathered up at the dusty sides of road. The force retained as each rock balances. The brightened chips of brick get set at angles. Sometimes such a wall will stand, or even under pressure simply shatter round the edge because of energy. The properties of various stones and of mixed elements allow for inner motion and for give and hold. This is one thought, sometimes proportionate. Although sometimes not. Voices of the dead give speeches on these principles of physics.
speaker's cornerHyde ParkRonald Reis... as time had gone by, years had passed, I am now able now to understand why for instance the Tower of Babel story was a story I didn’t like at all. This God acting like a universal chief of police, punishing and hating and being—how could he find that giving us the diversity of languages was a punishment? The diversity of languages is one of the best treasures of the human condition, of the fact of being human in this earth. Because diverse is the best thing, I mean, the best of the world is the fact that the world contains so many worlds inside. And so many languages. We have different languages because we have different musics and we are walking musics. As we are walking time. Eduardo Galeano interviewed by Robert Birnbaum
May 17, 2013 _______________________
John Lanchester on Google Glass(....)
The cruder and more obvious problem with Glass is less to do with the user’s self-engagement, and self-withdrawal, and self-whatever, and more to do with the effect on the rest of us. Imagine a world in which anyone around you can be recording anything you say, filming anything you do. We already live in a version of that world, of course – especially in Britain, global capital of the CCTV camera. But you can see a camera or a phone or a tape recorder when it’s held up in front of you. Glass is different. William Gibson tried on a pair briefly at a conference, and tweeted: ‘Expect Google Glass to be reworked into less obvious, more trad spectacles, sunglasses etc, for covert use.’ A racing certainty, I would have thought. (And a disaster for those of us who are lifelong spectacles wearers of the old-fashioned type. You already have to leave your phone outside places where they’re super-sensitive about recording images or words: blockbuster movie previews and 10 Downing Street. Can it be long before we’ll have to leave our specs behind too, or at least prove that they’re Glass-free?) It’s hard to get one’s head around the disruptive potential of this omnipresent recording. At the end of an hour’s general chat in a newspaper office the other day, the conversation turned to Glass, and we all replayed the talk in our heads, editing out the bits we wouldn’t have said if it had been possible someone present had been recording everything. The conclusion was we’d have managed about five minutes’ small talk about the weather, followed by a 55-minute silence.
an assemblage by John Latta
Isola di Rifiuti(....)
not offend Pythagoras
—Louis Zukofsky, out of “A-19” (”A” 13-21, 1969)
One goes on asking questions. That, then, is one
Of the categories. So said, this placid space
Is changed. It is not so blue as we thought. To be blue,
There must be no questions. It is an intellect
Of windings round and dodges to and fro,
Writhings in wrong obliques and distances,
Not an intellect in which we are fleet: present
Everywhere in space at once, cloud-pole
Of communication. It would be enough
If we were even, just once, at the middle, fixed . . .
—Wallace Stevens, out of “The Ultimate Poem Is Abstract”
. . . And truly it little matters what I say, this or that or any other thing. Saying is inventing. Wrong, very rightly wrong. You invent nothing, you think you are inventing, you think you are escaping, and all you do is stammer out your lesson, the remnants of a pensum one day got by heart and long forgotten, life without tears, as it is wept. To hell with it anyway. Where was I . . .
—Samuel Beckett, out of Molloy (1955)
Sointula, British Columbia
Findians, Finglish, Finntowns
books from Finland
_______________________(....)Post-Nihilistic Praxis and Some Further Axioms
On the first axiom (Life is an accident and has no divine significance), I am convinced that this is still to be thought through. In order to think this we ought to return to Paul Virilio, this time not as dromologist but as the thinker of the accident. If life is an accident, indeed, if creation itself is an accident, then within all temporalities is the one temporality, the overarching cosmological rhythm of that accident working itself out: creation is catastrophe, the moment everything begins and ends are immanent, and so there is no need to mourn or weep. All we have is this world: a world that is in free play, that has absolutely no reason to be this way or that beyond the reason we give it. This is the emancipatory quality of nihilism that opens us up to euphoric visions
"Rain, Mist and Sun"
A. J. Casson
Haruki Murakami on "The Great Gatsby"
Translated by Ted Goossen
from "In Translation: Translators on Their Work and What It Means"
Columbia University Press(....)via Open Culture
These were the texts I had kept close athand over the years, the books I loved. Most of them, of course, already existed in standard translations; yet if I could refresh them—“wash them anew,” as we say—even slightly, my efforts would have been worth it.
My translation of J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, which I published several years ago, is part of this “rewashed” series, as is, of course, this version of The Great Gatsby. I have no desire to take exception with the translations of my predecessors. Each is outstanding in its own way.In fact, if a reader who had grown attached to a novel through one of those translations were to demand to know why I had gone to the trouble of producing yet another version, I would find it hard to justify myself. Nevertheless, it is my conviction that, as I wrote when my version of Catcher came out, every translation possesses its own “best before date.” Although numerous literary works might properly be called “ageless,” no translation belongs in that category. Translation, after all, is a matter of linguistic technique, which naturally ages as the particulars of a language change. Thus, while there are undying works, on principle there can be no undying translations. Just as dictionaries eventually become outdated,so, to some extent, does every translation (including, of course, my own)grow obsolete as times change. I would even go so far as to say that whena specifc translation is imprinted too deeply on the minds of its readers for too long, it runs the risk of damaging the original. It is therefore impera-tive that new versions appear periodically in the same way that computer programs are regularly updated. At the very least this provides a broader spectrum of choices, which can only benefit prospective readers. (....)
I translated Gatsby at an extremely personal level. I wanted to make my long-standing image of Gatsby clear and concrete, so that readers could picture the distinct colors and contours of the novel and feel its textures. To do this, I strove to eliminate anything that was the slightest bit obscure or that might leave the reader feeling as if they had somehow missed something.I have always felt that translation is fundamentally an act of kindness.It is not enough to find words that match: if images in the translated text are unclear, then the thoughts and feelings of the author are lost....(more)
A. J. Casson
May 16, 2013
The Watch Factory
b. May 16, 1893
On the Constant Moment Clayton Cubitt... the Decisive Moment itself was merely a form of performance art that the limits of technology forced photographers to engage in. One photographer. One lens. One camera. One angle. One moment. Once you miss it, it is gone forever. Future generations will lament all the decisive moments we lost to these limitations, just as we lament the absence of photographs from pre-photographic eras. But these limitations (the missed moments) were never central to what makes photography an art (the curation of time,) and as the evolution of technology created them, so too is it on the verge of liberating us from them.via Emptybottle
To the photographer that still thinks photography mostly means being physically present, crouched behind their Leica, finger poised to capture the classic vision of the Decisive Moment, this coming Constant Moment might be terrifyingly sacrilegious, or perhaps just terrifying, like an insect eye dispassionately staring. Just as we still (!) have partisans that argue film capture is more "genuine" than digital capture, we will certainly have those who will argue that a photographer must be in a place and time in order to genuinely photograph that place and time. There will be counter-movements, inevitable copyright battles, privacy concerns, and a reevaluation of authenticity and authorship.
Which is why I began this essay emphasizing the centrality of curation, not action, to the photographic act. Just like Cartier-Bresson, I began my artistic life as a painter. Like Cartier-Bresson I enjoyed the vitality of the 20th Century photographic hunt, the way it forced me into the world to seek out that which illuminated hidden places in my mind. And like Cartier-Bresson I've enjoyed the synaptic electrical pulse of discovery, as the forms in front of me seemed to arrange themselves out of chaos into an order that meant something about the way life felt there and then.
The Constant Moment doesn't end any of that. All it does is capture the billion missed Decisive Moments that previously slipped through our fingers, by expanding the available window of temporal curation from "here and now" to "anywhere and anytime."...(more)
Someone is Writing a PoemAdrienne RichIn a political culture of managed spectacles and passive spectators, poetry appears as a rift, a peculiar lapse, in the prevailing mode. The reading of a poem, a poetry reading, is not a spectacle, nor can it be passively received. It’s an exchange of electrical currents through language—that daily, mundane, abused, and ill-prized medium, that instrument of deception and revelation, that material thing, that knife, rag, boat, spoon/reed become pipe/tree trunk become drum/mud become clay flute/conch shell become summons to freedom/old trousers and petticoats become iconography in appliqué/rubber bands stretched around a box become lyre. Diane Glancy: Poetry uses the hub of a torque converter for a jello mold. I once saw, in a Chautauqua vaudeville, a man who made recognizably tonal music by manipulating a variety of sizes of wooden spoons with his astonishing fingers. Take that old, material utensil, language, found all about you, blank with familiarity, smeared with daily use, and make it into something that means more than it says. What poetry is made of is so old, so familiar, that it’s easy to forget that it’s not just the words, but polyrhythmic sounds, speech in its first endeavors (every poem breaks a silence that had to be overcome), prismatic meanings lit by each others’ light, stained by each others’ shadows. In the wash of poetry the old, beaten, worn stones of language take on colors that disappear when you sieve them up out of the streambed and try to sort them out.
And all this has to travel from the nervous system of the poet, preverbal, to the nervous system of the one who listens, who reads, the active participant without whom the poem is never finished.
I can’t write a poem to manipulate you; it will not succeed. Perhaps you have read such poems and decided you don’t care for poetry; something turned you away. I can’t write a poem from dishonest motives; it will betray its shoddy provenance, like an ill-made tool, a scissors, a drill, it will not serve its purpose, it will come apart in your hands at the point of stress. I can’t write a poem simply from good intentions, wanting to set things right, make it all better; the energy will leak out of it, it will end by meaning less than it says.
I can’t write a poem that transcends my own limits, though poetry has often pushed me beyond old horizons, and writing a poem has shown me how far out a part of me was walking beyond the rest. I can expect a reader to feel my limits as I cannot, in terms of her or his own landscape, to ask: But what has this to do with me? Do I exist in this poem? And this is not a simple or naive question. We go to poetry because we believe it has something to do with us. We also go to poetry to receive the experience of the not me, enter a field of vision we could not otherwise apprehend.
Deep heart's core sound (PoemTalk #66)
W. B. Yeats, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree"
Bibliodeath: My Archives with Life in Footnotes by Andrei Codrescu
reviewed by Kenneth Warren(....)Galatea Resurrects #20edited by Eileen Tabios
For poet Andrei Codrescu the shift from codex to Kindle supplies technological provocation for a psychologically charged account of the self-extension fantasy that had once imbued his old-school 20th Century investment in books, poetry, and reading. With Bibliodeath: My Archives with Life in Footnotes (2012), Codrescu enters into the book’s deepest talismanic powers and exits through the lucidity of naked 21st Century data. In a powerfully articulated conversion narrative that involves both religious experience and technology, he notices that the angel of death is at once shepherding the book to its ending and dictating the very code through which the poet’s own self-portrait must ultimately be cracked as the matter of soul. As witness to “Bibliodeath,” he reports:The literate millions watching the guillotine are privy to the first public demonstration of the passage of the soul from one body into another, a reincarnation that is not a metaphysics. Yet for all that, the soul does (not) move to a better place, where it may be cleansed or overlinked, though it is surely lightened. The former body of the book also preserves the original content, making it still useful to the old reading habit.Obviously it’s not so much the collapse of pulpy cultural clout into digital-screened techno-power that is being mourned in Bibliodeath: My Archives with Life in Footnotes, but rather the depth of feeling for the slow mo living totality aroused in believers by the old-fashioned book.
Utopophobophilia John Holbo crooked timber... what makes utopianism attractive is not that it is some saccharine sweet, obviously artificial, Panglossian notion. Rather, it’s a tasty combination of sweet and bitter. It’s satisfying to get to be a lover of humanity while feeling deep contempt for it at the same time. This is what makes conservatives such suckers for utopia – and they aren’t the only ones.(....)
... Love of hating on utopia by utopians. Where the hell does that come from?
People tend to think that bad utopianism means taking too sunny a view of human nature. As a result, people who are cynical about human nature assume they can’t possibly be engaging in utopian thinking.
The truth is that utopian political thinkers are typically very cynical about human nature – albeit selectively so. From Plato on, utopian political plans typically hinge on clever notions for how to leverage weak humanity into social strength. The foundation of Plato’s Republic is deluded and brazen, even if the apex of the pyramid is wise and golden. Marx thinks that communism is inevitable not because all men are implausibly angelic but because they are mostly selfish and deluded, hence rather predictably self-destructive. Free market utopianism is similar. It assumes ‘base’ motives, and ignorance, but predicts a system can be built that will leverage this base matter into something positive – as mathematically ideal as anything Plato dreamt of.
This isn’t to say all these cynical, let’s-turn-weakness-into-strength social schemes are the same, or equally flawed – or necessarily flawed at all. The point is this: from the fact that a lack of cynicism about human nature would be a recipe for unhealthy utopianism, it doesn’t follow that cynicism about human nature is a recipe for anti-utopianism.
b. May 16, 1898
_______________________In evaluating dysfunction or illness, we have long followed the seemingly straightforward model of diagnose, treat, evaluate, iterate.Modern Mythology
However, diagnosis has long been the secret -- or not so secret -- Achilles heel of the psychiatric establishment. Many philosophic issues arise, issues of cultural relativism, ethical issues of financial interests in pharmaceuticals, to name a few. These are issues that 'by the book' psychiatrists frequently dismiss as 'merely philosophical.' Indeed, it's been a relatively long time since Freud or Jung were taken entirely seriously by the establishment doling out the meds.
It might be facile to point out that war is state mandated murder, but there it is. However, even when the state mandates it, many people recoil. (Are those that recoil, those that develop PTSD, those that accept it and adapt, or those that enjoy it the ones with a disorder?)
How can we come to grips with this issue when evaluating our own mental and/or physical wellbeing? Can we trust our pharmeceutical methodology at all when it seems likely that the placebo effect itself is getting stronger?
These are issues that we will continue to wrestle with for all time, I believe. It is the mythologizing reflex itself which forces us into a conceptual hall of mirrors.
May 15, 2013
Interior Strandgade 301901Vilhelm Hammershųi (May 13, 1864 – 13 February 13, 1916)I dwell in Possibility – A fairer House than Prose – More numerous of Windows – Superior – for Doors – Of Chambers as the Cedars – Impregnable of eye – And for an everlasting Roof The Gambrels of the Sky – Of Visitors – the fairest – For Occupation – This – The spreading wide my narrow Hands To gather Paradise – It sifts from Leaden Sieves - It powders all the Wood. It fills with Alabaster Wool The Wrinkles of the Road - It makes an even Face Of Mountain, and of Plain - Unbroken Forehead from the East Unto the East again - It reaches to the Fence - It wraps it Rail by Rail Till it is lost in Fleeces - It deals Celestial Vail To Stump, and Stack - and Stem - A Summer’s empty Room - Acres of Joints, where Harvests were, Recordless, but for them - It Ruffles Wrists of Posts As Ankles of a Queen - Then stills it’s Artisans - like Ghosts - Denying they have been - Emily Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886)
Soldier of the First Division 1914Kazimir Malevich d. May 15, 1935
The Master and Margarita [pdf]Michail BulgakovMay 15, 1891 – March 10, 1940 translated by Michael Glenny
How sad, ye gods, how sad the world is at evening, how mysterious the mists over the swamps. You will know it when vou have wandered astray in those mists, when you have suffered greatly before dying, when you have walked through the world carrying an unbearable burden. You know it too when you are weary and ready to leave this earth without regret; its mists, its swamps and its rivers ; ready to give yourself into the arms of death with a light heart, knowing that death alone can comfort you. The magic black horses were growing tired, carrying their riders more slowly as inexorable night began to overtake them. Sensing it behind him even the irrepressible Behemoth was hushed, and digging his claws into the saddle he flew on in silence, his tail streaming behind him. Night laid its black cloth over forest and meadow, night lit a scattering of sad little lights far away below, lights that for Margarita and the master were now meaningless and alien. Night overtook the cavalcade, spread itself over them from above and began to seed the lowering sky with white specks of stars. Night thickened, flew alongside, seized the riders' cloaks and pulling them from their shoulders, unmasked their disguises. When Margarita opened her eyes in the freshening wind she saw the features of all the galloping riders change, and when a full, purple moon rose towards them over the edge of a forest, all deception vanished and fell away into the marsh beneath as their magical, trumpery clothing faded into the mist. It would have been hard now to recognise Koroviev-Faggot, self-styled interpreter to the mysterious professor who needed none, in the figure who now rode immediately alongside Woland at Margarita's right hand. In place of the person who had left Sparrow Hills in shabby circus clothes under the name of Koroviev-Faggot, there now galloped, the gold chain of his bridle chinking softly, a knight clad in dark violet with a grim and unsmiling face. He leaned his chin on his chest, looked neither at the moon nor the earth, thinking his own thoughts as he flew along beside Woland. 'Why has he changed so? ' Margarita asked Woland above the hiss of the wind. 'That knight once made an ill-timed joke,' replied Woland, turning his fiery eye on Margarita. ' Once when we were talking of darkness and light he made a somewhat unfortunate pun. As a penance he was condemned to spend rather more rime as a practical joker than he had bargained for. But tonight is one of those moments when accounts are settled. Our knight has paid his score and the account is closed.'
The Master and Margarita [pdf] Mikhail Bulgakov Translated from Russian by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
The Lethality of Loneliness We now know how it can ravage our body and brain Judith Shulevitz
that the culture of the book is dead; that the solitude of the mind is dead. Arran Jamesattempts at living
... The internet has always been a way of organising as much as it has of distraction; of communication as much as noise; as much to do with bodies as it has to do with the disappearance of bodies. We may well be alone in here, but I also wonder if that isn’t therapeutic at times. Out there (or ‘over there’ in Will Self’s words for the Australian-Iraqi nightmare interzone of ‘The Butt’) we are too upclose at times, too forced together, in these pockets of affective manipulation, enforced happiness (cf. Houellebecq and democracy), of the psychopolitical normalisation of unhappy subjects, the regulation of unhealthy bodies, and so on. Sometimes alone is good. At the same time, an excessive alone-togetherness, an arrangement of disembodied minds in cyber-seriality, is no good, can lead to the emergence of psychopathologies, of anti-social behaviours and psychologies, distorted logics, and utopian flights from fantasy. This means things are dangerous, these technologies are dangerous, it doesn’t mean that they necessarily give rise to these things, ex nihilo, from nowhere: the question of supply and demand is a question of desire; of its inculcation, its habituation, its naturalisation; all processes that can come undone, be interfered with, disrupted. Then, as a psychiatric worker, I have this question about psychopathology and anti-sociality: do we mean distressing, desubjectivating, crippling, or do we mean different, bad, not normal. The question is one that strikes throughout the history of psychiatry, and is best expressed today in the neurodiversity movement. Autism is a form of neurodiversity! they cry, as if difference were the sole consideration, the only factor that can be made to count. What kind of diversity? What are the effects? What is adaptive and maladaptive, in what ways does it help you cope and in what ways does it prevent coping? If the problem is that the new accelerative technologies burn us out then its not luddism we need, it’s a way to distance ourselves from those technologies, to cultivate spaces of deceleration and destimulation, but also to foster a kind of techno-literacy- rather like the campaigns of the old working class for the right to read- and ‘perceptual training’
Rooms by the SeaEdward Hopper(July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967)After great pain, a formal feeling comes – The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs – The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’ And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’? The Feet, mechanical, go round – A Wooden way Of Ground, or Air, or Ought – Regardless grown, A Quartz contentment, like a stone – This is the Hour of Lead – Remembered, if outlived, As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow – First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go – Emily Dickinson
May 14, 2013
Still Life with Flowers
b. May 14, 1919
from Memoirs of My Nervous Illness
Daniel Paul Schreber (1842-1911)
Translation from German by Ida McAlpine and Richard A Hunter
Outsider Poems, a Mini-Anthology in Progress (53)
The infringement of the freedom of human thinking or more correctly thinking nothing, which constitutes the essence of compulsive thinking, became more unbearable in the course of years with the slowing down of the talk of the voices, This is connected with the increased soul-voluptuousness of my body and — despite all writing-down — with the great shortage of speech-materials at the disposal of the rays with which to bridge the vast distances separating the stars, where they are suspended, from my body.
The whole society deal
... The homogeneous society, in which the archaic has no place to hide, is the effect of the penetrative tendency of capitalist culture, which roots out its opponents from the intimate sphere. Of course, its opponents might produce the elbow room that makes capitalism tolerable – and capitalist overreach might well be keyed to the sound of a gravedigger digging his own grave, which is what Marx heard. We at this point give capitalism much more time than Marx could give it in the nineteenth century, and we can watch the process of total change. Ethan Watters, a journalist, has pointed out that the variegated understanding of emotions in different cultures are in the process of being changed, or at least confronted, by an American model that is convenient to Big Pharma. This is from a NYT magazine article he wrote on the subject:“We have for many years been busily engaged in a grand project of Americanizing the world’s understanding of mental health and illness. We may indeed be far along in homogenizing the way the world goes mad.No matter – all madnesses must get in line! Or so it would seem as the Blue Pill bears down....(more)
This unnerving possibility springs from recent research by a loose group of anthropologists and cross-cultural psychiatrists. Swimming against the biomedical currents of the time, they have argued that mental illnesses are not discrete entities like the polio virus with their own natural histories. These researchers have amassed an impressive body of evidence suggesting that mental illnesses have never been the same the world over (either in prevalence or in form) but are inevitably sparked and shaped by the ethos of particular times and places. In some Southeast Asian cultures, men have been known to experience what is called amok, an episode of murderous rage followed by amnesia; men in the region also suffer from koro, which is characterized by the debilitating certainty that their genitals are retracting into their bodies. Across the fertile crescent of the Middle East there is zar, a condition related to spirit-possession beliefs that brings forth dissociative episodes of laughing, shouting and singing.”
b. May 14, 1905
‘Another World is Possible’
interview with Colin Wright, author of Badiou in Jamaica: The Politics of ConflictYou describe Alain Badiou’s philosophy as revolving around three key questions: i) How does genuine novelty enter the world? ii) How is it distinct from mundane change? iii) And how can it be made to endure? And yet capitalism has become so hegemonic in recent years that it has become pretty difficult to even imagine an alternative to it.
I think the problem you describe, of the commodification of the political imaginary by capitalism, is a very serious one, especially given that this extends to images of resistance to capitalism as well (I refer to this in Badiou in Jamaica a few times as 'rebel chic'). Zizek's reading of the epidemic of apocalyptic Hollywood disaster movies is relevant here. He suggests that capitalism's hold on the collective imaginary is such that it is now far easier, particularly in the face of mounting evidence of environmental catastrophe, to picture the whole planet going up in flames, than it is to conceive of the end of capitalism. So it's a serious problem. I also think that part of addressing this problem does indeed have to take place on the level of the political imaginary itself. For all its many problems, at least the motto of the World Social Forum that 'Another World is Possible' acknowledges the need for an imaginative space in which alternatives to capitalism can be elaborated. But it certainly can't be addressed only at that level, since enormous amounts of energy can be wasted on building utopian visions, when significant change, at least from a Marxist perspective, never comes only from ideas.
Capitalist Realism [pdf]
An Interview with Mark Fisher(....)via Attempts At Living
Depressive hedonia would be just a way of thinking about the form that depression takes in a world where stimulus is always available, I think. I don’t think we’ve remotely got to grips with the affective consequences of the kind of cyberspace-matrix that the young especially are embedded in.
Part of what I’m describing in the book really is the tensions between a kind of crumbling disciplinary framework – in which teachers are there as these prison-guards of this collapsing system. – Well, on the one hand they are prison guards. On the other hand, they’re required to interface with this constant world of stimulus, and be entertainers. – There’s a tension between being a prison guard and an entertainer – it’s pretty difficult to say the least. In terms of depressive hedonia, depression is usually described as a case of anhedonia, where the sufferer of depression is unable to derive pleasure from anything. It seemed to me that there’s almost an opposite syndrome in place with teenagers, where pleasure is so easily available that, well, that it’s this very availability of pleasure that’s depressing in many cases. I guess there’s a kind of consumer model of pleasure which is involved, which doesn’t build up people’s sense of self-esteem, sense of well-being, or perhaps more importantly a sense of involvement in things. Instead of that you’ve got this kind of rapid-fire small bursts of pleasure. And one of things that’s removed by this is a kind of productive boredom.
R: In a talk you gave about ‘Capitalist Realism’ earlier this year you called for the development of a ‘leftist psychotherapy’. Could you explain what you mean by this?
M: This is really serious, I think. Since there are so many people who are depressed – and I maintain that the cause for much of this depression is social and political – then converting that depression into a political anger is an urgent political project. Of course it’s not only about that. It’s also about levels of real distress and suffering in society, which can not be handled or dealt with by the individualising, privatised assumptions of the dominant forms of treatment in mental illness, which are, in this country, cognitive behavioural therapy – which is a kind of combination of positive thinking and kind of psychoanalysis light: the focus on family background of the sufferer, and on then of converting thought patterns from these negative into positive ones. There’s that. And on the other hand, brain chemistry focus – the horrible loop whereby massive multinational pharmaceutical companies sell people drugs in order to cure them from the stresses brought about by working in late capitalism. Neither of these things are very effective – all they do is largely contain people’s depression rather than actually deal with the actual cause of depression. One can apply Marx’s arguments about religion very directly to this – that religion was the opium of the masses. Anti-depressants and therapy are the opium of the masses now, in lots of ways. That isn’t to say that they don’t do anything at all. They do in many cases relieve intense suffering, which people are undergoing. But it’s just the same as religion. As Marx said, it’ll make people better in a kind of savage and pitiless world – religion wants real comfort to people in the same way, in a world of relentless competition, of digital hyper-stress, etc. Being able to talk to someone for an hour in cognitive behavioural therapy or having something which will take the edge of things via antidepressants – that will make people feel better, but just as with religion, it doesn’t get to the sources of that sort of misery in the first place. It in fact obfuscates it.If you want to look at the rise of capitalist realism, one can also look at the decline of anti-psychiatry. As anti-psychiatry declined, then capitalist realism grew. I think there’s a relation there between the two. That normalization of misery as part of the privatization of stress has been absolutely central to the rise of capitalist realism.
How do we get beyond that? ...
Political Philosophy and the Dead Hand of its History
Gordon GrahamThis essay explores the relation between political philosophy and the history of politicalthought. It focuses on this question — Are they allies or rivals? The question arises in partbecause the two disciplines so evidently share a very large number of figures and texts. Thatthe list stretches from Plato and Aristotle through Hobbes and Locke to Marx and Mill isprobably uncontentious. Whether it extends to (say) Rawls and Habermas is moreproblematic. Certainly, these authors are very likely to be studied in courses on ‘contemporary political philosophy’ and much less likely to appear in the reading lists for ‘history of political thought’. For the purposes of studying their philosophical ideas they are not historical figures – at least not yet.
Telling it Straight
R. A. Lubowitz(....)Toska Issue Four - Spring 2013
I wake and my brain is bone dry. A vague recollection that I was to be writing something amusing and purposeful for a writing class. I was supposed to be trying to tell it straight for once. I don’t remember why. It seems so pointless, writing.
I’m spending the day with my daughter. I buy her candy and watch videos on YouTube. I notice her little perfect pinky fingernail as she clicks her way through doll commercials, notice I’ve never taken the time to look at her pinky, and I try to make a mental snapshot although not sure why. That which demands awe again passes through me and it’s gone, I’m a weeping sieve.
There’s a promise of emptiness when I notice beauty. I’m still a child gazing up at the canvas of sky and feeling mainly my own smallness, sadness that I can’t soar to penetrate the mysteries and eat the colors and build castles in the cottony caverns. I can only stand, earthbound, dumbfounded and left out of something I don’t understand.
All the weeping willow trees of Earth, romantic and aching, synesthetic boughs crying and swaying in the winds, the luscious minor chords of sad love, seeing them dance, it will always be, unrequited. The universe’s poetry flat, inaccessible, unless I’m gazing with four eyes, clenched on some hilltop, bathed in oxytocin, with a sapphic blue-skinned soul mate that can’t possibly exist. Now, imprisoned by two eyes and one perspective, I need someone, anyone, to step in my mind, before I toss my cookies in this weightless, transparent box of isolation, this glass elevator through space and time, going up or down or standing still, I’ll never know.
...(more)No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody or something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.
- Vladimir Nabokov
May 13, 2013
Mario Sironi b. May 12, 1885Gabriel Blackwell( )Gabriel BlackwellNow alone, knock on Bobby (that most famous of wooden noumena, the not-in-use-just-now dummy of ventriloquist Signor Blitz (famed, as you already know, for the spectacle of his opening routine (involving an as-yet unhandled Bobby firing a pistol at Blitz from across the stage as Blitz enters (the ventriloquist, seeming to exhale cordite, having caught the bullet between his teeth (the trick being that Bobby talks all the while (first, professing anger at his constant manipulation by Blitz, then, once he’s pulled the trigger, expressing sorrow at having killed his master (Blitz slumping over on his back opposite Bobby, both thrown backward by the force of the shot (Antonio Blitz, incidentally, formerly strictly a magician, signature illusion: the bullet catch (given up for the safer profession of ventriloquism when the trick went wrong and tore off the outer lobe of his left ear (leaving him with what could with kindness be called an “unfinished” look (proving the man you’ve just seen to be, actually, not Antonio Blitz at all but an impostor (proving him to be, rather, an American, Clive Robertson (claiming to be the “Original Signor Blitz” (having never seen the original “Signor Blitz,” actually a third man, ...(more)
Shadow Man: A Biography of Lewis Miles ArcherGabriel Blackwell Reviewed by Nathan HuffstutterRenée E. D'AoustThe Behavior of PidgeonsGabriel BlackwellconjunctionsTime And Language: An Interview With Gabriel Blackwell
Polar Co-Ordinates VI 1980Frank Stella b. May 12, 1936)
The Abdication of the Cultural Elite Andrew Reynolds reviews Stephen Schryer's Fantasies of the New Class: Ideologies of Professionalism in Post-World War II American Fictionelectronic book review
... In particular, he scrutinizes the widespread new-class “fantasy” that intellectuals could influence American society by disseminating their own culture, leading “through example rather than through specific social reforms” (6). Schryer discovers this ideology of professionalism at work across a range of late-twentieth-century novels by the likes of Ralph Ellison, Mary McCarthy, Saul Bellow, Marge Piercy, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Don DeLillo. In telling the story of how post-WWII intellectuals, especially those associated with the corporate university, lost touch with their class identity, Schryer offers yet another censure of the new group we apparently love to hate: not straight white men but academics in their precariously leaning ivory tower. I view Fantasies of the New Class as a companion piece to Andrew Hoberek’s equally outstanding The Twilight of the Middle Class: Post-World War II American Fiction and White-Collar Work. The two studies make identical claims about the structural proletarianization of the professional middle class (PMC), and they cover some common ground - The Adventures of Augie March, Invisible Man, White Noise - in the course of demonstrating how this transformation was resisted or denied within the pages of American novels. Schryer essentially repeats Hoberek’s thesis, yet he also valuably extends it by examining academic sociology alongside literary culture in each chapter. Pairing John Crowe Ransom and Talcott Parsons, Ellison and Gunnar Myrdal, Bellow and Irving Kristol, DeLillo and Christopher Lasch, Fantasies of the New Class provides a broader perspective on the ideology of professionalism expressed by post-WWII American fiction. Schryer’s writing is also like Hoberek’s in its admirable clarity. I particularly appreciated how Schryer stays on his message and avoids bogging down in minutiae or convoluted argument. This sense of purpose is perhaps to be expected, given that Fantasies of the New Class takes to task the conception of intellectual labor as a non-instrumental type of technical expertise, a conception engendering the sort of literary scholarship (e.g., deconstruction) that prides itself on being rigorous, opaque, and impractical.
+ -1962Joseph Beuysb. May 12, 1921
Reflections on the Opacity of Affect larva lsubjects(....)
Did my irritation, my affect, really have anything to do with the world of meaning and the signifier in this instance? Please readers, do not misunderstand me. I have no doubts about the importance of phenomenological and semiotic insights. I’ve also experienced first-hand– in my own analysis and in my work with my analysands back in the day when I was still practicing –the profound impact that interventions at the level of meaning and the signifier can have. It’s not a question of saying that the psychiatrist is right and that the anti-psychiatrist, the humanist psychotherapist as they call them at Dusquesne, is wrong. It’s a question of noticing the opacity of affect, the fact that the causes of affect aren’t given to consciousness– a point the structuralists and post-structuralists have repeated ad nauseum in their discussions of the agency of the signifier –and that in some instances, there are causes that aren’t governed by the domain of meaning and the signifier (Catherine Malabou makes this point nicely in The New Wounded). What I want, I suppose, is a framework where I can have my phenomenology, semiotics, and naturalism too. Here I think back to graduate school. As I dwelled among the phenomenologists, semioticians, structuralists, and post-structuralists, I was also secretly reading the work of biologists, physicists, meteorologists, neurologists, and all the rest. I took joy in this, but also felt ashamed. The phenomenologist in me felt dirty and guilty for taking research conducted in the natural attitude seriously. The critical theorist, Foucaultian, and post-structuralist in me felt ashamed for taking these things seriously when they’re formations of bio-power, capitalism, neoliberalism, patriarchy, and everything else that is bad. The Continentalists in me heard a super-egoic voice crying “scientism!”, “positivism!”. I felt as if I had to read these things under the covers at night with a flashlight. Somehow I felt as if I was betraying Continental axioms by taking these things seriously in addition to phenomenology and the semiotic turn. ...(more)
Filz Tv Joseph Beuys 1970Poems Lakey Comessotoliths Issue twenty-nineBackdrop dominates silent room, slab of wood from endangered species, replica chairs, sparkling tableau, visited through wide-angle lens coated in petroleum jelly, transparent, though nothing is as it appears. Bewildering thermoplastic dream fades in and out, fragile beyond years, helpless, forlorn, spreads sand on gallery floor, just where is not immediately clear. Areas are delineated in miniature ridges, moistened impressionability. Unusual birds with bright blue feathers fly into excavation.
Diamond merchants huddle in conference away from resolute plotting,
avert eyes from female spectators and exhibition.
Milling about, past recrimination casts a red glow over small dunes.
Your name is a whisper, repeated to no one, least of all, you.
That's the nature of dreams, passing through hour glass at regular intervals,
one hour later this month than last; one hour earlier just past winter.
Take care with your glass-blown smile. It could be misread.
b. May 13, 1882
Is Social Science a Joke? David Auerbach reviews Richard Biernacki's Reinventing Evidence in Social Inquiry: Decoding Facts and Variableswaggish(....)
I have to cheer when he cites Erving Goffman and Clifford Geertz as spiritual guardians:“Whatever it is that generates sureness,” Goffman intimated darkly, “is precisely what will be employed by those who want to mislead us.” Goffman left it to us to discern how the riddle of cognitive framing applies to sociological practice and to one’s framing of one’s own results. Geertz expressed a similar kind of caution more cheerfully: “Keeping the reasoning wary, thus useful, thus true, is, as we say, the name of the game.” The only intellectual building material is self-vigilance, not the reified ingredients “theory” or “method.”Damn straight. Biernacki’s points are very well-taken, and his individual critiques are devastating. He has little trouble justifying his main charge:If you reconstruct how sociologists mix quantitative and text-interpretive methods, combining what is intrinsically uncombinable, you discover leg-pulling of several kinds: from the quantitative perspective, massaging of the raw data to identify more clearly the meanings one “knows” are important or, again, standardized causal interpretations of unique semiotic processes; to zigzagging between quantitative and interpretive logic to generate whatever meanings the investigator supposes should be there.Each study was narrated as a tale of discovery, yet each primary finding was guaranteed a priori. Where I have a problem is his suggested retreat to a “humanist” mode of inquiry, which, while extremely attractive to people like myself, does not necessarily solve the underlying problem. I will explain this later.
Va. Monitor U.S.S. Onondaga
Selected Civil War Photographs Collection
library of congress
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May 10, 2013
Chang Dai-chien (May 10, 1899 – April 2, 1983)
I is not a SubjectVanessa PlacevoltaI is not a subject. What I is, is a context. In this particular context, I exist as a speaker, as the keynote speaker, if I read my invitation correctly, at this Poetry Colloquium. Representing some part, I suspect, of an argument. An argument about what? If I take my cue from the title of this event, it is an argument about poetic freedom. For, I suppose, or against. It was suggested in my invitation that conceptualism might challenge the—and here I quote from the email description sent me that may or may not still be accurate: “very notion of poetry, the lyric ‘I,’ the autonomous speaking subject, the voice, the human, perhaps even our ideas of creation, creativity, and freedom.” Where, one might add, do I sign up? But of course I already have. As have you. We are here, all of us volunteers, some paid, some paid better, enacting our particular form of capitalism that rewards the trade in signs and signification, where value is measured in bits and bites of attention. Where what is current is currency. For attention, it need hardly be said, is measured, like each of us, in the moment. The moment being, like each of us, terribly singular and absolutely fungible. Put another way, today’s widget is the eternal soul. That is to say, the transcendent image of the unique individual who thinks carefully, yet collectively. I say transcendent meaning transferrable, I say collective meaning with an eye towards the whole.
There it is, in so many places Catherine DarleyPoemas del rķo Wang
Walls. Clays deserted. Closed desks, books. Synagogue, dust, traces. Covers, hinges – and time stopped. Absence. Books placed there to wait. Books rescued from the fire. Books closed so that the words do not escape. Books of lead. Traces written in the dust. A message deprive of a sense. Like the bat which falls when stops to hear. And you, where are you?
Rain1904-05Mikhail Larionovd. May 10, 1964
Mind the Masses: A Hobart and William Smith Student Collaboration crowd theoryfull text at I citefrom the introduction
The plethora of information and interpretations of crowds leads to a number of different debates. Why “Mind the Masses”? There are two reasons, which are closely related. First, one should mind the masses because the crowd is a force with the great power and ability to exert its will. How does this force work? What are its potentials? What do past crowds tell us about the force of a crowd? What forms the will of the crowd? Additionally how the crowd works and forms cannot be understood without understanding how the crowd influences the brain. Consequently, our second reason to mind the masses is because the book explores the mind of members in a crowd and/or the crowd’s mind. The mind of a crowd and its members is mysterious. How do members of crowds think? How does a crowd’s mind work? What happens to the individual? Does the crowd have a single mind? What influences the crowd’s mind? Does a crowd need a leader? If so, what is the dynamic between the leader and it’s members? Or does a crowd follow an idea? Does a crowd have to be physical? Is it purely psychological? Social?
This book illuminates the debates around these questions by giving conflicting accounts of the crowd. The contributors to this book help one understand the implications of the crowd and it’s affect on political and social life.
derek beaulieu's Prose of the Trans-Canada A 1:1 scale road map of language Gary Barwinjacket2derek beaulieu’s Prose of the Trans-Canada is an epic inscribed scroll, a graphemic saga as Odyssean and graphic a roadtrip as traveling the eponymous Trans-Canada highway. The 16” x 52” work is named after Blaise Cendrars’ monumental Prose of the Trans-Siberian (1913), a milestone in the history of artists books and visual poetry.What Comes in through Your Eye Leaves by Your Teetha close reading of Prose of the Trans-Canada by Geof Huth
beaulieu’s Prose of the Trans-Canada pulses with the Brownian motion of language. An entomological ‘teaming’. Clouds billowing from an alchemical retort. A Mercator projection of the cerebral cortex–like folds of writing. A cloud-town view of the not-flatland of the alphabet freed from the governance of the invisible hand. A Borgesian one-to-one scale map of language. A CAT-scan or phonological EEG of the submorphemic structures of writing. A glyphic Bayeux tapestry, a pre- or post-codex scrolling trafficking in the prose tattoos of trans -cribed, -gressed, -ferred, -(Cendrars)ent Canadian coast-to-coast (litoral to literal) journey.
Lisa Robertson on Peter Culleylemon houndPeter CulleyNew Star Books
German-Jewish critic Theodor Adorno claimed that lyric poetry reached its end with Auschwitz. Paul Celan proved him wrong with poems that voiced the terrible exile of the body, the exile of all compassion from the forms of political life. He believed that it is the poet’s specific work to bring into the world’s language the texture and condition of its own political demise: “Eternity decays.” The lyrical poem makes the temporal breach of that decay audible. This is the seriousness that Peter Culley brings to his writing. He gives us the utterly anxious pause where meaning can’t yet find its story, where the speaker can only come to language by descending to an irresolute specificity — gouged lawn, saucepan, smell of burnt sugar.
Culley’s poetry is remarkable for its suspension of rhetorical elegance, together with all the stubborn rawness of the refusal to stop seeing. The inconsistencies and ravelled edges resulting from this charged refusal are themselves the troubled condition of “being,” which is but one refraction among many in natural history.
Returning Boat on a Spring RiverChang Dai-chien
Exodus by Lars Iyer Nikolai DuffyThe Literateur
In The Writing of the Disaster Maurice Blanchot, about whom Iyer has written two books, writes that the grand irony is apathy: ‘not Socratic, not feigned ignorance – but saturation by impropriety (when nothing whatsoever suits anymore), the grand dissimulation where all is said, all is said again and finally silenced.’ And then, as Blanchot goes on, ‘if the “possibility” of writing is linked to the “possibility” of irony, then we understand why one and the other are always disappointing: it is impossible to lay claim to either; both exclude all mastery.’ This disappointment is everywhere in Exodus, and joyously so. Iyer makes exuberance out of folly. As he puts it in interview, ‘For me, the art of exaggeration is the literary art of our times. It is only through exaggeration that we can express ourselves in this sentimental age; that we can break through to the truth. Exaggeration and wild despair: that’s the remedy. Hyperbole is all you have left when you’re being backed into a corner.’