blog,personal commentary,reflections on the human condition,ephemera,notes from the underbelly
http://web.ncf.ca/ek867/wood_s_lot.html - Dec 19, 2014 11:54:43 AM - Nov 28, 2004 7:34:47 AM
December 19, 2014
The Group of Seven
currently unfolding at MILL OF PARTICULARS: The bLog of Robert KellyHEART THREAD Parts Ninety and Ninety-One
There is a certain subtext to humanity
they would never occupy this hill
this boulevard to heaven though I have seen
the shapes of them more luminous than light
sometimes by the Dogana or any sea-touched hand
land they walk even when they’re standing still
the form before form is a gasp in the mind
to see such absolute a shape dissolving matter
once you have seen such things you can’t lose
ghost girls of the Janiculum laugh in the cypress
a tree is left from their investigations
a doorway full of light that natural house.
Venus as the bride of Christ he taught
and every book their wedding gift
forlorn as a block of marble never carved
insatiable as apple trees he offered her
all the comparisons a likeness is a kiss
sudden stranger on a midnight bus
nowhere in Nebraska the one I never
if they don’t live here they don’t live anywhere
to know truth a little is to know the heart
who knows the picture that was never on my wall
I was afraid of images nothing else can wound.
"The Gas Works"
Lawren S. Harris
Edmund BergerIn the comments to my previous post, Sketches on Mutant Design, RS Bakker raised an important point on the technologies insulated in the core of neoliberal functionality: “I think we all need to bite the big data bullet. The machines are great at isolating patterns–they are here to stay. Critical theory has to break up the technocratic monopoly on the interpretation of those patterns.”
This is an important point to make: beyond the profit motivations of multinational corporations, military operations and the borderless surveillance state, big data plays a fundamental and necessary role in our lives. It contributes to an overall ease of life in every domain, from the bulk data-basing and analysis in healthcare to the massive logistics involved in transportation of people and goods around the globe. Big data is a media construct, and it is through its mediation that we grasp the scope of the world’s messy mesh. Knowledge of climate change itself has only been capable through the existence of big data, careful monitoring, sensor webs, and cybernetic technologies of feedback. All technics, ultimately, are xenotechnics that can help sustain the fleshy shell of the human. Big data technologies are no different.
How does one begin to tackle the issue of technocracy, of top-down planning, management, and monitoring? ...(more)
Tracks and Traffic
One of the many free books available at Metambesen - exploring "the flanges of words"The Language Of Eden [pdf]
What you find out
in the darkened room
of so many recitations
twilight of the word
Achilles listens to the ocean
make this water mine
and no woman ever
walked the hallways of his dreams
my hand on the telephone
waiting for the word
so many heroines
stretched out to judgment
caress the curve
the lovely nothingness
that shapes your speech
self is hysteria
Nihil is the resistant the Nothing
not the nothing but the not defined
it is all pervasive
it is what they try
to shape or shatter
making meaning where before
was only the pure
the pure voice
you hear it walking in the woods
everything and specifying nothing
Lawren S. Harris
Barrage Balloons, Buck Alec, Bird Flu and YouPlume
Paul Muldoonfor Dermot SeymourAfter those first paintings at Art Research and Exchange
I would never again be able to go home, never mind home on the range.
The Swede who invented the Aga
had previously lost his sight to an explosion. The rain summoned by a blackbird’s raga
came sweeping over the Shankill, over the burning car
where Boston and Lowther were dumped, having been fingered in the bar
as a Prod and a Pape
enjoying a wee jar together. A wee escapade. A wee escape.
Posting will resume in the new year - mw
December 18, 2014
Poetry by Joseph DonahueVoices on Joseph DonahueThe Secret History of Secrets
Touch each of your open
eyes with a forefinger, now,
feel a breeze sweeping
across a glacier; afterwards
you will begin to truly see
exactly what you’ve been
awaiting your whole life:
an upside down Christmas!
Trees hang root end up
from the rafters; slowly turning
as bodies weave through the tops,
gongs ring out, a weird music
wells from beyond a sheet
the smell of the pine
is delightful and eerie, in
this tribute to whoever lay
beneath the last pine lid
ever sanded smooth in this
abandoned car garage
once a coffin factory;
a dangling, Cabbalistic
wilderness, each branch
is a stage in the arc of
divine energy pouring
down in deep seeps in this
where a woman’s voice
elaborates a single syllable
that wraps around and
through the trees …
There’s no real way,
an authority assures me
to locate an event in time
or in space. There is only
before and after, only here
and there, there is only
a point when, wide awake,
its like you came home
after many years and found,
much to your delight, the old
kinship system had kept
a classification for you, like
that tangle of bare branches
that is a horizon with light
flying across it towards
the kind of defeat rarely
ever heard of, because it is
followed by so great a joy.
Edited by J. Peter Moore
The art of the unanswerable question
Geoffrey O'brienAs near as I can see — and this is just in riffling through one of Joe Donahue’s books, not even attempting to dig far down but just gathering from what is scattered so availably on the various emerging surfaces — we have here, at one point or another, letter, memoir, history, philosophical dialogue, mantra, aria, imagist snapshot, news flash, plot line, art critique, joke, memorandum, oracle, marginalia, tourist guide, surveillance tape, weather report, playlist, glossary … and none of those in isolation, none that is not so spun together with the rest as to be inextricable without risking rips and warps.Joseph Donahue poems, Blackbox Manifold 6
Yet interwoven as the elements are, there is no turn that does not yield bare statement. “Ralph Albert Blakelock / paints black trees”: this is information of the most straightforward kind, a guide to the identification of work, yet also the creation of an eternal present in which Blakelock is never done painting, and yet again, maybe, a whisper of astonishment at what is going on — did you hear? — in an asylum, as we have just previously been informed, an asylum where the sun is present at night (“At night the sun is in an asylum”). All of this is only the continuation of a stream of painterly evocations, Frederick Church followed by Thomas Cole. Art history, except that nothing can remain history. A present in which all of history is contained, and in which all its elements leak into each other, continuously imposes itself: “For the first time, we feel / what it means to live on a planet. … the water in the lake / has turned to a white mist. … Mist is spilling from the hollows. … The sun is the light of revelation.” It is that sun of revelation that leads in the most natural fashion into the mad blackness of Blakelock’s trees, “black trees without leaves / on a starless night.” The poem (“Hudson River School” in Terra Lucida) does not end there — it trails off into silence or perhaps into a different sound range inaudible at this time. I call it a poem, but it is a section of a larger section of a book which is part of a longer ongoing threadlike work.
We'll Leave a Light On
Without it, what savage unsocial nights
Our ancestors must have spent! All those deadly
Winter nocturnes in caves and unillumined icy
Fastnesses: they must have laid around and
Grumbled at one another in the dark like the blind,
Fumbling each other's features for the wrinkle of a smile.
What tedious repartee must have passed! Perhaps
This accounts for the dullness of much archaic
Poetry, whose somber cast is notorious and must
Have derived from the traditions of those
Long unlanterned nights. Jokes came in with candles.
Wasn't it by the midnight taper all writers once digested
Their meditations? By that same light we ought
To approach them, if we ever expect to catch
The tiger-moth of inspiration that dances
In the word incandescent.
A. J. Casson
1898 - 1992
A Being On Facebook but not Of Facebook:
Using New Social Media Technologies to Promote the Virtues of Jacques Ellul
Facebook is interesting from an Ellulian analysis for two reasons: first, a user is responsible for enframing herself. What is interesting about this phenomenon, is that it is usually the Other (with a capital O) who is enframed—I view the stranger as a means to my end. Sartre, for example, discusses this tendency in terms of his notion of the “instrumental complex”—I cannot help but view the world, including the people within it, as objects of use for me. I absorb them as part of my totality of narrative as Levinas might say. Of course there is a dialectical dimension to this relationship between self and Other as Sartre well- understood: “Hell is Other people”, Sartre wrote because they enframe us as well.
Ellul, too, is of course interested in establishing communities whereby we treat each other as neighbours and not as useful strangers who simply do things for us within the system. Facebook, I think Ellul would argue, does nothing in removing my perceived strangeness to others. If anything it acts as a powerful reductive agent in that I am become best known according to the pictures and comments I have made online. And certainly many corporations agree: scanning a job candidate’s Facebook profile has become a better interview tool than the interview itself.
A second interesting aspect of Facebook and the hobby of “Facebooking” itself, is that text is clearly subordinate to the images contained within a person’s profile. Most profiles simply consist of pictures with brief comments. Facebook, I would argue, is carving out new and mostly icon driven forms of subjectivity for 21st century persons. One presents one’s totality as it were as an avatar—an artificial character created through uploaded images, comments, as well as ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ which is then interpreted and judged by others, namely, ‘friends.’ But the consequence of this technology, I am sure Ellul would argue, violates the sacredness of the word. Pictures are substituted for description. And acronyms like lol, omg etc. are nothing more than canned expressions that are substitutes for real dialogue. Facebook, as a technology, would appear to be a form of social media that Ellul would abhor.
So what is to be done? Should one simply turn off and tune out from all forms of social media? Are we to retreat into some Luddian silent utopia?
Social Media Is Not Self-Expression
Rob Horning1. Subjectivation is not a flowering of autonomy and freedom; it’s the end product of procedures that train an individual in compliance and docility. One accepts structuring codes in exchange for an internal psychic coherence. Becoming yourself is not a growth process but a surrender of possibilities that we learn to regard as egregious, unbecoming. “Being yourself” is inherently limiting. It is liberatory only in the sense of freeing one temporarily from existential doubts. (Not a small thing!) So the social order is protected not by preventing “self-expression” and identity formation but encouraging it as a way of forcing people to limit and discipline themselves — to take responsibility for building and cleaning their own cage. Thus, the dissemination of social-media platforms becomes a flexible tool for social control. The more that individuals express through these codified, networked, formatted means to construct a “personal brand” identity, the more they self-assimilate, adopting the incentive structures of capitalist social order as their own. (The machinations of Big Data make this more obvious. The more data you supply, the more the algorithms can determine your reality.) Expunge the seriality built into these platforms, embrace a more radical form of difference.Marginal Utility
A blog about consumerism, capitalism and ideology.
December 15, 2014
John DePol 1913 - 2004
The Letters and Poems of Samuel Beckett Paul Muldoonnyt
Why radio might be the medium “best suited” to Beckett comes down to a single concept — silence. No writer has understood the power of silence better than Beckett. No one has understood better than Beckett that silence is not an absence of sound but a physical presence, perhaps even a character. That certainly seems to be the case with “Krapp’s Last Tape,” the monologue he wrote for Patrick Magee, which is the single greatest evocation of loss and longing of the 20th century. (Beckett’s affection for Magee is one of the many heartwarming discoveries of this volume.) It’s no accident, so, that it was an icon of the “silent” era, Buster Keaton, who would star in Beckett’s “Film” (1965), shot in some of the more dilapidated areas of Lower Manhattan. (....)
This enduring, endearing self-doubt is a mark of most great writers. For some, it may seem like a pose. Not for Beckett. Again and again, this volume of letters allows Beckett to come off as being genuinely assured of his vision of, say, how a part should be interpreted (describing one recalcitrant actor as “another Beckett specialist”), while being genuinely uncertain about his own role. Writing to the translator Arland Ussher in 1962 about Ussher’s musings on “Beckettism,” he asserts: “My unique relation — and it a tenuous one — is the making relation. I am with it a little in the dark and fumbling of making, as long as that lasts, then no more. I have no light to throw on it myself and it seems a stranger in the light that others throw.”
Discouraging, isn’t it? It’s just a fact that there are never very many poets around at any given time. I think poetry is always one or two poets away from extinction anyway. If it’s any comfort, it’s not a living tradition—it doesn’t depend on being passed from hand to hand. It could easily go underground for a couple of decades, or a couple of centuries, and then return. People disappear, or never really existed at all, and then come back—Propertius, Hölderlin, Dickinson, Büchner, Smart. Poetry is much more about remaking or realigning the past than it is about charting the contemporary scene. It’s a long game.
Landscape in North WalesStanley Spencer d. December 14, 1959
You Make Me Opaque Melody Nixonconjunctions
We Try to Share Perspective, Both Looking to Smash Something.“Night in St. Petersburg is virulent, insidious. I do not support him.” —Leo TolstoyWe do leave the coffee shop. Time passes. Listen. Time passes. I am willing to allow that. I am hungry and I eat cold cut meats that have stuck to the back of the fridge. I like to eat cold meats. I like to eat cake, but I couldn’t eat any. I watched your change lie, untouched, on the coffee counter. I lie in a white-night bed, think, I could imagine this place as St. Petersburg. Yes, I will give it that name: Think, for the light. I try to feel the night’s femininity, believe it is there. I imagine her embracing me, lying draped over me, tensing beneath me. I stir my hands through pools of her, let her flow like hair down my body. I search for muscles, but find none. I think of the audience I dreamed of, grow tired, and sleep.With contributions from leading radical names including Arundhati Roy, Benjamin Kunkel, Gabriella Coleman, James Meek, Nadya Tolokonnikova, Shlomo Sand, Walter Benjamin and Slavoj Žižek, this volume covers topics ranging from philosophy and Israel-Palestine politics, through to the politics of sex work, Mexico, feminism, and the misery of contemporary capitalism.
Introducing the Emerging Toronto Poets Foliolemon hound
Old Printing OfficeJohn DePolPhil Agre, an appreciation Michael TraversThe point, in any case, is that the practical reality with which AI people struggle in their work is not just ‘the world,’ considered as something objective and external to the research. It is much more complicated than this, a hybrid of physical reality and discursive construction. The trajectory of AI research can be shaped by the limitations of the physical world—the speed of light, the three dimensions of space, cosmic rays that disrupt memory chips—and it can also be shaped by the limitations of the discursive world—the available stock of vocabulary, metaphors, and narrative conventions.This also gives hints as to how exogenous discourses, like philosophy, are supposed to be incorporated into technological practices. Agre is of the opinion that the point is not to invoke Heideggerian philosophy, for example, as an exogenous authority thus supplanting technical methods: “the point, instead, is to expand technical practice in such a way that the relevance of philosophical critique becomes evident as a technical matter.
On Agre’s view, traditional AI practitioners have not conscientiously attended to this partitioning of levels of analysis. Particularly, the reflexive level that prescribes an awareness of the role of metaphors in technical work has been disdained, as though AI researchers could simply bootstrap their way to technical success without being aware of the underlying metaphors pervading their work. For Agre, this is particularly problematic because “as long as an underlying metaphor system goes unrecognized, all manifestations of trouble in technical work will be interpreted as technical difficulties and not as symptoms of a deeper, substantive problem”....(more)(....)Computation and Human Experience Philip Agre 1997google bookspdf at Monoskop Log
Phil was a seminal figure in the development of Internet culture. His Red Rock Eater email list was a early predecessor to the many on-line pundits of today. Essentially he invented blogging, although his medium was a broadcast email list rather than the web, which didn't yet exist. He would regularly send out long newsletters containing a mix of essays, pointers to interesting things, and opinions on random things. He turned email into a broadcast medium, which struck me as weird and slightly undemocratic at the time, but he had the intellectual energy to fuel a one-man show, and in this and other matters Phil was just ahead of the times -- now the web is stuffed to the brim with outsized personalities, but it wasn't so back then. Here's one of the last recorded posts on RRE, on Vaclav Havel, which includes an explanation of what Phil termed "issue entrepreneurship". I picked this out at basically at random from the archives, and it typifies the insight, clarity, and urgency of Phil's writing:What is needed and missing in the United States is the other major component of Vaclav Havel's life story -- the intellectual seriousness that believed down deep that the world is made of ideas and that the health of a society depends on the health of its language. ... Civilization cannot survive when language becomes the terrain of a thoroughly instrumentalized political war. Vaclav Havel and his colleagues won a contest of decency against the dead hand of an authoritarian system that had nothing living inside it. Today's authoritarians are altogether more resourceful. Today's civil society will have to discover a correspondingly deeper meaning in its own ideals.
Technology and Privacy: The New Landscape Philip E. Agre, Marc Rotenberg 1998google booksThe Network Observer monthly from January 1994 to July 1996
Red Rock Eater News Servicemid-1990s, ran for around a decade
December 12, 2014
b. December 12, 1863
Eileen R. Tabios at the Poetry FoundationPoetry from Eileen R. Tabios
Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole
I forgot clutching the wet mane of a panicked horse…. I forgot the night was unanimous…. I forgot how an erasure captures the threshold of consciousness…. I forgot how one begins marking time from a lover’s utterance of Farewell…. I forgot Mom beginning to age when she started looking at the world through heartbreaking resignation…. I forgot dancing furious flamenco with vultures under a menopausal sun…. I forgot learning to appreciate rust, and how it taught me bats operate through radar…. I forgot the plainest of bread can clear an oenophile’s palate…. I forgot dust motes trapped in a tango after the sun lashed out a ray…. I forgot the bliss deep within an ascetic’s eyes as he wandered with a beggar’s bowl…. I forgot how detachment includes. I forgot how detachment enabled a white rattlesnake to penetrate my dreams.
Claudia Rankine at the Poetry Foundationfrom Citizen: “Some years there exists a wanting to escape...”
Some years there exists a wanting to escape—
you, floating above your certain ache—
still the ache coexists.
Call that the immanent you—
You are you even before you
grow into understanding you
are not anyone, worthless,
not worth you.
Even as your own weight insists
you are here, fighting off
the weight of nonexistence.
And still this life parts your lids, you see
you seeing your extending hand
as a falling wave—
Claudia Rankine Interview
by Lauren Berlant
bombI met Claudia Rankine in a parking lot after a reading, where I said crazy fan things like, “I think we see the same thing.” She read a book of mine and wrote me, “Reading it was like weirdly hearing myself think.” This exchange is different from a celebration of intersubjectivity: neither of us believes in that . Too much noise of racism, misogyny, impatience, and fantasy to weed out. Too much unshared lifeworld—not just from the difference that racial experience makes but also in our relations to queerness, to family, to sickness and to health, to poverty and wealth—while all along wondering in sympathetic ways about the impact of citizenship’s embodiment. Plus, it takes forever to get to know someone and, even then, we are often surprised—by ourselves, by each other. Claudia and I have built a friendship through consultation about whether our tones are crazy, wrong, off, or right; about whether or not our observations show something, and what. And, through frankness: a form of being reliable that we can trust, hard-edged as it can be, loving as it can be (and sometimes the former is easier to take than the latter). We are both interested in how writing can allow us to amplify overwhelming scenes of ordinary violence while interrupting the sense of a fated stuckness. This interview, conducted via email, walks around how we think with and against the convenience of conventionally immiserated forms of life and art.
b. December 12, 1905
Public Seminar CommonsSo this is the Anthropocene: An historical time, perhaps even a geological time, in which what we think of as separate entities, the human and the natural, find their fates entwined. What was once a separate nature or environment is no in place to ground us as us.
Not only is God dead, so too is ecology, that pantheistic place God went into hiding. The biosphere is no longer a self-correcting, homeostatic deity. The later civilizations, said Valery, know they are mortal. This last civilization know the Earth is mortal too.
I feel like Nietzsche’s madman in the marketplace, saying such things. Nobody really wants to know that the world we inherited, the world of our ancestors, is already something unreal. People shrug it off, change the subject. Yet as Canada’s national poet Leonard Cohen once memorably put it: everybody knows. Everybody knows things can’t go on.
Cinema knows it. One of the things cinema is there for is to find some kind of objective correlative for feelings that can’t be acknowledged. Maybe cinema is not about desire at all, or even anxiety. Maybe it is about seduction, of turning us aside from unacknowledged feelings, and slipping us into worlds of objects and relations that displace those feelings onto something else. Thus: perhaps all cinema is now about the Anthropocene. Its all about a sense that this is not a Never Ending Story.
FallConor O'Callaghan at the Poetry Foundation
To unbalance. To keel over, accidentally, or submit to the pressures of gravity.
To plummet in worth, especially currency.
To lose altitude. To take place at some pre-ordained time and date.
To swallow tall tales at face value.
To lag such a distance back along the trail as to disappear from view.
To surrender, especially a country,
to the enemy camped in its margins for all of two nights and three days.
To vanish from the radar of grace.
To have no qualms any longer when it comes to telling friends and foes alike
precisely where to stick
their olive branches. To be the kind of sap who lapses now and then
into clandestine amorous crushes.
To indulge a whole continent its own broadleaf syllable for autumn.
To arrive back unexpectedly in the afternoon
and happen upon yourself dancing a single-handed two-step on the landing
to Bechet’s ‘As-tu le Cafard?’
The Poetics of Spaces: After Rain
After rain, we already know that it all looks different. This city, you, me. Rain changes everything and we only know to keep deferring moments until the next time it rains. When it rains, the people in this city seem to be in perpetual deferment. The clouds that move as the rain refuses to abate, the rain lasts for as long as it lasts and no longer, and during the rain, it either feels like a single, glistening moment or like a deeply black eternity. I wonder how wet I can get before I am filled to the brim. Because of the weather, plans change and so do my eyes. I can’t tell colors and it’s raining all over the place and I just want to sit down in a puddle and soak.
After rain, no matter how torrentious it might have been, we wonder where did it go: the rain. How could it leave us so quickly? The air is thick. No. It isn’t. It’s rather thin now. And all the bodies that accumulated inside of houses, under rooftops, slowly stumble out and blink and stutter. After rain, we stutter.
No. After rain, we wait.
December 10, 2014
Ponte-Campovasto 1914Peder Mørk Mønstedb. December 10, 1859
The Neuroplastic Dilemma: Consciousness and EvolutionFranco Berardi Bifoe-flux journal issue 60
The unbridgeable gap between information (zero-dimensional and a-temporal) and the body (multidimensional and evolving in time) is the condition of the interminability of the process of subsumption. The game is over, but the game is continuously opening again. The current theoretical focus on neuroplasticity can pave the brain to adapt to an environment that grows every day more intolerable for a psychological, aesthetic, and ethical mind that was forged in a previous age of human civilization. Adaptation to the connective mode of communication, adaptation to the ferocity of competition, to the barbarity and horror of the submission of life and attention to financial abstraction, may take the form of a sort of social lobotomy: a pharmacological or surgical cancellation of what in the human psyche is incompatible with abstract domination. But there is an alternative possibility. It lies in the conscious ability of the brain to reshape itself. In order to conceptualize the shift from the past forms of political action—now devoid of effectiveness—to the evolutionary horizon of conscious neuro-evolution, a preliminary question has to be answered: What is the relationship between consciousness and evolution? Can we envisage a nondeterministic adaptation to neuroplastic evolution? Can we consciously govern this neuro-evolution? In order to answer this question, we should focus on the relationship between aesthetic sensibility and the epistemic foundation of social action. Then we should focus on the creation of a platform (social, cultural, institutional, artistic, neuroengineering) for the self-organization of the general intellect and the recomposition of the networked activity of millions of cognitive workers worldwide, who must get reacquainted with their social, erotic, and poetic body. We must to walk this territory where technology meets epistemology, psychopathology meets poetry, and neurobiology meets cultural evolution.
March of Intellect William Heath c1830
Future perfect Social progress, high-speed transport and electricity everywhere – how the Victorians invented the future Iwan Rhys MorusBfore the beginning of the 19th century, the future was only rarely portrayed as a very different place from the present. The social order, like the natural order, was supposed to be static, with everything in its proper place: as it had been, so it would be. When Sir Isaac Newton thought about the future, he worried about the exact date of Armageddon, not about how his science might change the world. Even Enlightenment revolutionaries usually argued that what they were doing was restoring the proper order of things, not creating a new world order. It was only around the beginning of the 1800s, as new attitudes towards progress, shaped by the relationship between technology and society, started coming together, that people started thinking about the future as a different place, or an undiscovered country – an idea that seems so familiar to us now that we often forget how peculiar it actually is.
Inventing the future Mike AshleyDiscovering Literature: Romantics and Victorians - The British Library
photo - mw
Our Connection to the Future John G. MesserlyEthical Technology
So the copy and transfer of your old mind file—like the data on an old computer—would preserve, at most, only a sliver of a past self. Furthermore, the old mind file would be transferred into a reality so different from its previous one that if it survived and adapted, it would be unrecognizable. This future self would stand in relation to our current self as we now do to starstuff. We came from the stars, but we are not stars. Our current minds would not be well adapted to the future. They couldn’t be. They were forged in the past. We can’t live in the future, only some sliver of us can live there. So we live, if we live at all, in this reality, in this time. This is our time. And when that time ends, we have to let go of ourselves. And yet … we do live in the future. When we imagine it, when we long for it, we are, to some extent, there. No, our little egos will never be there, that is a triviality best discarded. But as long as there are minds free to roam space and time we live on … within other minds. No one expressed these sentiments as well as Bertrand Russell in his essay “How To Grow Old.”
Proxy Politics: Signal and NoiseHito Steyerle-flux
Computational photography is therefore inherently political—not in content but in form. It is not only relational but also truly social, with countless systems and people potentially interfering with pictures before they even emerge as visible.2 And of course this network is not neutral. It has rules and norms hardwired into its platforms, and they represent a mix of juridical, moral, aesthetic, technological, commercial, and bluntly hidden parameters and effects. You could end up airbrushed, wanted, redirected, taxed, deleted, remodeled, or replaced in your own picture. The camera turns into a social projector rather then a recorder. It shows a superposition of what it thinks you might want to look like plus what others think you should buy or be. But technology rarely does things on its own. Technology is programmed with conflicting goals and by many entities, and politics is a matter of defining how to separate its noise from its information.3 So what are the policies already in place that define the separation of noise from information, or that even define noise and information as such in the first place? Who or what decides what the camera will “see”? How is it being done? By whom or what? And why is this even important?Gary Barwin: Let’s begin by addressing the surrealist elephant in the room. We’ll leave the sewing machine and the umbrella for another time. Discussions of your work often invoke notions of surrealism, and in fact you edited an important anthology of Canadian poetry that engages with surrealism: Surreal Estate: 13 Canadian Poets Under the Influence (Mercury Press). How do you see your work in relation to “realism,” language, the “real” world, and surrealism? Stuart Ross: I don’t much concern myself with issues of what is real and what is surreal. I don’t set out to write surrealism, or to include surreal elements in my work. When I write, I simply don’t bother obeying laws of reality, and I have no problem if one of my characters, or some object, transforms into something else or flies, or sizzles, or otherwise does the “impossible.” My reading covers a real range: Patricia Highsmith is one of my favorite writers because I like the closet of terror and paranoia she thrusts me into, and she’s as real as it gets, but I also love Roland Topor’s Joko’s Anniversary and B. S. Johnson’s Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry and Roberto Bolaño’s Monsieur Pain. They’re real too, but they’re not real by being realistic. The “real” world: I don’t think there’s any such thing — or there’s nothing that’s not part of the real world. Language: it’s the thing I write in.
Stone Stair New York, Part 1 Ian Dreiblattdrunken boatcontra mundum press has just published a voice full of cities, a heaping anthology of Robert Kelly’s essays, selected by Pierre Joris and Peter Cockelbergh. the book is a winding labyrinth of wonder; trails of intelligence, attention, desire, and pleasure that curl inward and nest among each other. The overdue assembling of them into a book affords an opportunity to feel how richly and intricately these thoughts coexist, how the roof of one serves as floor of another, shared walls enlacing to produce a tremendous contemplative cortex, dotted with sancta in which old gods – the oldest gods – still darkly sleep. I’ve been particularly rereading one piece from 1971 called Identity Preference Temple-Complex. it’s a short essay that begins by inquiring into ‘certain vectors of desire’ – where does that feeling originate in us, and what are the suns it grows toward? what does it mean to be both made of the past and endlessly multiple in a world of ‘felicities, miseries & confusions?’ remembering Robert Duncan’s notion of The Poet as a single voice spoken thru many mouths in a given age, he wonders whether there might not likewise be a voice – a prounikos he calls it, a ‘carrier’ – some polyvocalic, integral whole of Desire that speaks as the illusorily discrete desires inside each of us. & as soon as this question is posed, the essay shifts radically and introduces a second section with the observation that scholars of ancient mesoamerica do not refer to mayan population centers like uxmal and palenque as ‘cities’ – rather, they call them ‘temple-complexes’, emphasizing the way in which it was not distinctly economic, military, or agricultural concerns that animated these places, but cultic ones, rituals of tithe, sacrifice, purification, time-keeping, formalized contemplation. So, altho the word will prove very problematic – which we’ll get to – we might casually name as religion the primary force that gave these places coherence. & then there’s an amazing passage where he turns his attentions to new york city, and describes it, too, as a temple-complex, one where ‘a bewildering hierarchy of temple-functionaries arrives each day… ready to devote (in the technical sense, sphagia) one-third of their biological time to the national cult.’ As to the object of this cult, the question of ‘what god is worshiped on this most complex of all human altars,’ the answer is Preference, the continual act of choosing to think some things better than others and to design a self as the sum total of all these choices. this will be familiar to anyone who’s lived under late capitalism. (Reminiscent of it, I think, is the thesis of Bourdieu’s landmark la distinction, which was published eight years later.) & then, affirmingly, the essay considers some fertile heresies that thrive amid but against the grain of this religion, among ‘those deeply committed to some one or few actual substances,’ like drugs, sex, and poetry, any immersion into ‘the worship of the thing, as meaningful existent.’
December 09, 2014
New Voices in Uruguayan PoetryNight Up North
Translated from Portuñol by Dan Bellm
Artigas is an abandoned station
the hope left behind by a train that won’t come back
a road that disappears heading south.
I don’t know how it is in civilized places
but in Artigas
people have a last name.
we come from the border.
Not from this side, not from the other.
The ground we walk on isn’t ours
nor the language we speak.
Artigas has a language that nobody owns.
This tongue of mine
sticks out its tongue at the dictionary
dances a pagode on top of the map
makes a kite from a schoolboy’s tunic and sash
flies loose and free in the sky.
Artigas is a land lost up North
that doesn’t show up on maps.
Jesse Lee Kercheval
words without borders
Nothing is real
Poetry & poetics of Juan Luis Martínez
During his lifetime, Juan Luis Martínez got to publish just two books. In 1971, he submitted his first book of poems to the Chilean press Editorial Universitaria. After two years of thoughtful review the publisher rejected Pequeña Cosmogonía Práctica (Small Practical Cosmogony) because it was impossible for them to classify. A frustrated Martínez finally decided to self-publish the manuscript in 1977, changing the title to La Nueva Novela (The New Novel). Listed as one the most enigmatic books of Chilean literature, labeled as the first object-book in the history of Chilean poetry, and considered a seminal work, La Nueva Novela stands as an iconoclastic and disruptive book of poetry. Built as an endless maze of quotes, based on a complex system of literary, philosophical, artistic, and scientific references, its fragments, even though they are constantly aiming to different directions, still draw together a coherent poetic unit, where skepticism, irony, and humor are protagonists. Using strategies such as the eradication of the traditional notion of authorship, appropriation, plagiarism, and recontextualization, Juan Luis Martínez perfectly embodies in advance all the premises of today’s conceptual writing. Despite the fact that La Nueva Novela had a poor and restricted circulation, it succeeded in becoming a foundational book, opening the doors of the neo-avant-garde in Chile, and forging an interesting legacy of experimental writing, which still prevails.
Life is the art of being well deceived.The Care And Management Of Lies
I have been systematically rethinking the nature of the lying. The purposes of the liar might be better served by attacking propositional attitudes other than belief. Indeed, I suspect that tyrants often do not want all their underlings to be deluded. If they will act only on what they know, then they can be paralyzed by doubts that do not affect their beliefs.
3 quarks daily
Bookplates by the Russian artist Vladimir Zuev
From the collection of Richard Sica
the metaphysics of logic
Penny Rush interviewed by Richard Marshall.
One important thing that non-classical logics have done that classical logic has not (although, who knows, it may have, had Frege lived longer) is, after stepping carefully in problematic domains, to revise or rebuild completely in the light of suspicious results: classical paradoxes or limitations in areas like quantum physics, the foundations of mathematics, and plain old everyday reasoning in inconsistent or even just possibly inconsistent situations – have all inspired non-classical logics, and as a result we now have logics offering more nuanced and accurate models of deduction across at least some contexts and at most, more contexts than those classical logic can handle.
The advent of such logics means there are not many who would make the claim that classical logic can handle everything the alternatives can – it is widely acknowledged, for instance, that paraconsistent logics can handle inconsistent situations, and classical logic cannot (it explodes). But some may still claim that classical logic is to be preferred nonetheless. Even that sort of claim, though, has now to accommodate the fact of other logics and the apparent failures of classical logic (often quite glaring): so, even if it is to be preferred, the role and nature of classical logic are no longer the straightforward matters they were once considered to be.
Derrida and Husserl both take seriously the idea that an independent reality is entirely ‘other’ – but they do so in quite different ways. Derrida’s is negative – he shows just how tricky it is to posit a reality which is essentially different from us (or, to draw any sort of line between ‘us’ and ‘reality’) without somehow coming unstuck. He gives lots of good reasons to suspect that something strange is going on whenever we try to articulate any sort of external ‘ground’ in philosophy at all – which he thinks means that traditional, foundational philosophy is in a quagmire, and I guess I agree, but I like the quagmire – we are there because there’s a very interesting fracture that we just keep falling into: one that no bridge (built after scrabbling up one side or the other) can span.
On the other hand, Husserl’s phenomenology grapples more directly with the fracture itself and so the resultant picture, messy and confusing as it is, portrays our situation more faithfully than one which tidies things away too neatly, or is apparently without holes. The point, to reiterate, is that I like that it’s a strange situation we’re in: for one thing, I think allowing it to be strange (rather than trying to resolve it) casts light on a number of other such fractures through philosophical enquiry, but also it just seems right to me that what goes on at the everyday level when we simply discover our world is in fact not simple in the sense of able to be captured in any account reducing the phenomenon: be it to an epistemological process, ontological division, or scientific method. Any such reductions are our own – and that what is not our own (not us) is unsayable needs, I think, saying!
Art-exlibris.net - The Digital Exlibris Museum
A Weapon for Readers
Tim ParksImagine you are asked what single alteration in people’s behavior might best improve the lot of mankind. How foolish would you have to be to reply: have them learn to read with a pen in their hands? But I firmly believe such a simple development would bring huge benefits.
We have too much respect for the printed word, too little awareness of the power words hold over us. We allow worlds to be conjured up for us with very little concern for the implications. We overlook glaring incongruities. We are suckers for alliteration, assonance, and rhythm. We rejoice over stories, whether fiction or “documentary,” whose outcomes are flagrantly manipulative, self-serving, or both. Usually both. If a piece of writing manifests the stigmata of literature—symbols, metaphors, unreliable narrators, multiple points of view, structural ambiguities—we afford it unlimited credit. ...(more)
December 08, 2014
Frédéric Bazille b. December 6, 1841
On selves, forms, and forces Bruno Latour Comment on Kohn, Eduardo. 2013. How forests think: Toward an anthropology beyond the humanJournal of Ethnographic TheoryI read How forests think as part of a vast movement to equip anthropologists, and more importantly, ethnographers, with the intellectual tools necessary to handle a new historical situation: the others are no longer outside; nonhumans have to be brought back in the description in a more active capacity. Both of those features, naturally, mark the disappearance of older notions of nature and of its counterpart, namely culture; disappearance, that is itself due to the fact that everybody— ethnographers as well as former informants—are pulled deeper and deeper into the same ecological maelstrom. Whatever the term—is it an ontological or a semiotic turn?—the importance of the book relies on the most crucial turn of all: that is, a turn to experience and how to describe it empirically.Nicholas RowlandInstalling (Social) Order
The Battle in Philosophy: Time, Substance, and the Void – Slavoj Zizek vs. Graham Harman S.C. Hickman http://darkecologies.com/2014/12/03/the-battle-in-philosophy-time-substance-and-the-void/
I’ve begun a long arduous process of tracing down this ancient battle between substantial formalists (object oriented) and non-substantive event (process) based philosophers, and have begun organizing a philosophical work around the great theme of Time that will tease out the current climate of Continental thought against this background. In some ways I want to take up Zizek’s philosophical materialism of non-substantial self-relating nothingness vs. Harman’s substantial formalism where they intersect in the notions of Time and Causality. We’ve seen work on both of these philosophers, but have yet to see the drama they are enacting from the two world perspectives of ontology vs. the ontic, substance vs. void or gap. I think this would be a worthwhile battle to bring to light what is laying there in fragments. Stay tuned.
Man on a Balcony (Portrait of Dr. Morinaud) 1912Albert Gleizes b. December 8, 1881Yu Xiang’s “I Can Almost See the Clouds of Dust” Reviewed by Naomi Long Eaglesonwords without borderslike one exile after anotherYu Xiangexcerpted at flowerville (....)
At this moment, my cry is not a scream ~~~ please believe in an incorrigibly stubborn life believe in a severed finger that performs for dead spirits please leave behind the earth that keeps shattering ruins that keep shattering leave behind the mudslide that blocks forklifts and cranes please leave behind, leave behind the right not to die ~~~ You can’t see me, as if you won’t see me in this life again No one notices me. In the crowd no one notices me. I see a body another body each blurrier than the other
another review by Christina Cook
In Search of a Transient Eternity: Chinese Poet Yu Xiang Fiona Sze-Lorrain & Yu XiangTranslation has played an important but equivocal role in the history of anthropology and linguistics. At least since Saussure and Boas, languages have been seen as systems whose differences make precise translation exceedingly difficult, if not impossible. More recently, Quine has argued that, in purely abstract terms, reference is ultimately inscrutable and translation between languages is in principle indeterminate. From a Kuhn-inspired point of view, we argue, on the contrary, that the challenge posed by the constant confrontation of “incommensurable” (yet translated) paradigms may become a field for ethnographical inquiry. This approach can provide a new anthropological way to define translation, not only as a key technique for understanding ethnography, but also as a general epistemological principle. Social anthropology would be thus defined not only as the study of cultural differences, but also and simultaneously as a science of translation: the study of the empirical processes and theoretical principles of cultural translation.
Personnage 1970Wifredo Lam b. December 8, 1902
The Ode to Translation or the Outcry Over the Untranslatable Natalia FedorovaFutures of Electronic Literature Marjorie C. Luesebrink and Stephanie Stricklandelectronic book review
Translation is the sign of life, it indicates both interest to the phenomenon on a global scale and the presence of the reader (or readers). Translated and translatable also means valuable – something not read in the original language will hardly go through the translation sieve. Translation in case of electronic literature, written at least in two languages: a natural language and the language of code - is the translation of both. For this reason it has an immence educational potential and can be an and excellent exercise in the process of training to write on digital surfaces. Translation teaches both about the other language, about your own language, and about the work itself. Gregory Rabassa has stated (in his contribution to the Crafts of Translation) that “translation is essentially the closest reading one can give a text,” which suggests that the translation of a computational system to produce linguistic or narrative creativity would involve a very deep analysis and understanding of the system. John Zuern points out that paying attention to what happens “when we translate (or don’t translate) electronic texts will lead to finer-grained insights into the relationship between “electronic” as a category and “literature” as a category”. Just as literary translation allows for an extremely close reading and for new insights about a text, the translation of these text-machine electronic literature works allows for a better understanding of how they are literary and how computing and language come together in them. For the sleeping e-lit on the Russian and post Soviet space the flow of translated works can be a source of inspiration and a possible way to gain momentum for the future development. It is not only and not so much setting the standard but allowing to understand the paradigm, the way to know what has been done outside the world of Russian language and thought.E-lit authors Stephanie Strickland and Marjorie Luesebrink organized a panel on the “Future of E–Lit” at the ELO 2012 conference, allowing emerging and early career authors to articulate institutional and economic, as well more familiar technological, developments that constrain and facilitate current practice. The panel papers were released in ebr in March 2014. Luesebrink and Strickland followed up with comments on the papers, offering a “progress report” on the future of the field. The individual responses are available as glosses on the essays and in full here.
La Rencontre des amis (Oiseau)Wifredo Lam 1974
December 05, 2014
Views Of North America, Ca. 1897-1924
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Draft 112: Verge
Rachel Blau DuPlessis (....)
Sizes, wires, assizes in the site, other boundaries on this border. Maps and lines are drawn over bodies. Where did “history” put this place? Why did it not “stay there”? What about “them”? Should they live here, or are they basically foreign? What are the facts about myself? What is my where? It’s true that once there was an ending. It seemed as if this were what I had wanted. Why did it then open? I hardly can remember, but then it’s suddenly vivid, though even my own stories have veered over time. Another time pulses through the stifled civic membrane.
“When the axe came into the forest, the trees thought, ‘It’s fine; that handle is one of us.’” What led to what? The incomparable, the scale off, the trans-located, exiled, awkward and alarmed, the clatter, the shattering, have all been part of our lives for so many years. This is what we have. Then you get tired. Then resigned. Then it becomes half noticed. Or less. ...
Where is one’s own sense of what happened? Can one access one’s own history with others? Articulate its stakes? There is shame on every level. Shame for every side, and rage and shame for micro-twists of fractal sides. Twinned and tripled cataclysmic dreams bleed over all four margins down into the tight-sewn gutter of the page. The book tries to contain and present these bloody verges. It fails. Bad blood escapes.
b. December 5, 1890
"Lie close," Laura said,
Pricking up her golden head:
"We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?"
"Come buy," call the goblins
Hobbling down the glen.
b. Dec 5, 1830
Untitled (Walking Figure)
b. December 5, 1891
All the Red Young Žižekian Guys
It should be understood that the existence of casual gift giving and six generations of iPhones is only made possible by the spectre of extreme poverty. This is not something that can be solved with a telephone campaign and, as such, is not something that any kind of charity is equipped to handle. Charities are, in their very nature, a necessary catharsis. Charities exist because within the current framework children will never stop starving. Žižek is right in saying that charity is not, and never will be, revolutionary. New theories, however, might be.
Today we are trammelled by the thought that what is, is it. This concept props up the ideology of global capitalism. We find ourselves striking small attitudes. Keeping the memory of revolutions past alive appears to us to be all we are capable of, with the monolith of the present being unalterable. Žižek is relevant because he provides an understanding that all that holds it in place is gravity. He may not be able to tell us the form our revolution will take, but he can remind us that there is a form a revolution can take.
The City on the Rock
Evening, Ronda, Spain
For decades, the idea of a language instinct has dominated linguistics. It is simple, powerful and completely wrong
Children have far more sophisticated learning capacities than Chomsky foresaw. They are able to deploy sophisticated intention-recognition abilities from a young age, perhaps as early as nine months old, in order to begin to figure out the communicative purposes of the adults around them. And this is, ultimately, an outcome of our co-operative minds. Which is not to belittle language: once it came into being, it allowed us to shape the world to our will – for better or for worse. It unleashed humanity’s tremendous powers of invention and transformation. But it didn’t come out of nowhere, and it doesn’t stand apart from the rest of life. At last, in the 21st century, we are in a position to jettison the myth of Universal Grammar, and to start seeing this unique aspect of our humanity as it really is.
1957 - 2014
One rusty horseshoe hangs on a nail
above the door, still losing its luck,
and a work-collar swings, an empty
old noose. The silence waits, wild to be
broken by hoofbeat and heavy
harness slap, will founder but remain;
while, outside, above the stable,
eight, nine, now ten buzzards swing low
in lazy loops, a loose black warp
of patience, bearing the blank sky
like a pall of wind on mourning
wings. But the bones of this place are
long picked clean. Only the hayrake's
ribs still rise from the rampant grasses
December 04, 2014
b. Dec. 2, 1859
Jorie Grahaminterviewed by Thomas GardnerThe Visible WorldJorie Graham I dig my hands into the absolute. The surface breaks into shingled, grassed clusters; lifts. If I press, pick-in with fingers, pluck, I can unfold the loam. It is tender. It is a tender maneuver, hands making and unmaking promises. Diggers, forgetters. . . . A series of successive single instances . . . Frames of reference moving . . . The speed of light, down here, upthrown, in my hands: bacteria, milky roots, pilgrimages of spores, deranged and rippling mosses. What heat is this in me that would thaw time, making bits of instance overlap shovel by shovelful—my present a wind blowing through this culture slogged and clutched-firm with decisions, overridings, opportunities taken? . . . If I look carefully, there in my hand, if I break it apart without crumbling: husks, mossy beginnings and endings, ruffled airy loambits, and the greasy silks of clay crushing the pinerot in . . . Erasure. ... ...(more)
Round and round
Translated by Hildi Hawkins
books from Finland(....)
When you increase the speed of the movie, you realise that many people go in and out of the house’s doors. It looks as if a revolving door has gone made and is, by turns, sucking people in and chucking them out – them and their belongings. The changing seasons follow their even cycle, leaves changing from browny-red and –yellow to deep green and then pale buds, finally disappearing completely into the wrinkles of the bare branches. The colour of the house brightens and fades, and the birch trees that stand outside it atrophy to saplings that are then dug up and carried away.
I derive particular pleasure from seeing the pastel-coloured two-storey buildings that went up behind the house in the 1980s and 1980s demolished; in their place rise little wooden houses with vegetable gardens. At some point, too, potatoes grow in the garden of my house.
I have been told that gazing backwards is an activity that increases with age. People begin to seek explanations of themselves in the past, their family roots, the places they have visited. Perhaps, in every person’s life, there is a watershed; once one has passed it, one turns one’s gaze back in the direction from which one has come. I myself am still travelling with my gaze fixed firmly forward, but on the level of ideas I understand the wisdom that is hidden in history. It is clear that I would not be as I am if I had not lived the kind of life I have lived, if my parents’ backgrounds and choices had not been those they were. And I would not be myself if I had not lived where I have lived, moved from place to place and finally ended up in the family home, the same house where my grandmother brought up her family and where my parents celebrated their wedding. My family’s path is a circular one, and I have clearly been unable, or perhaps even unwilling, to stray from it.
writing outside philosophy: an interview with simon critchley
by Andrew Gallix
3:am... on the one hand, many of the authors I have been obsessed with over the years have endeavoured to take a step outside philosophy, by which is usually meant the circle and circuit of Hegel’s system or Heidegger’s understanding of history as the history of being. I respect and love that gesture, that can be found in Bataille, Levinas, Blanchot and others. But, on the other hand, what I learned from Derrida very early on — my master’s thesis was on the question of whether we could overcome metaphysics — is that the step outside philosophy always falls back within the orbit of that which it tries to exceed. Not to philosophize is still to philosophize. Similarly, any text or philosophy that simply asserts the value of metaphysics is internally dislocated against itself, undermining its own founding gesture. This leave us writing on the margin between the inside and the ouside of philosophy, which is where I’d like to place Memory Theatre.
3:AM: Would you agree that the memory theatre and the “perfect work of art” envisioned at the end of the book correspond, respectively, to the two poles between which literature oscillates according to Maurice Blanchot? On the one hand, what you have called the “Hegelian-Sadistic” tradition, driven by the work of negation of human consciousness, and on the other, a striving after “that point of unconsciousness, where [literature] can somehow merge with the reality of things” (Very Little . . . Almost Nothing). Both poles, of course, are unattainable, but I suspect you have more sympathy for the latter, which is on the side of “The Plain Sense of Things” (Wallace Stevens) — “the near, the low, the common” (Thoreau) — and “lets us see particulars being various” (Memory Theatre) . . .
SC: That’s very interesting and I stole the “particulars being various” from Louis MacNiece, who is underrated and underread in my view. I remember reading Blanchot’s account of the two slopes of literature and it making a huge impact that continues to reverberate, particularly in relation to the INS [International Necronautical Society] work that I do with Tom McCarthy. On the one hand, literature is a conceptual machine that comprehends all that is, digests it and shits it out. That transforms matter into form. On the other hand, there is a kind of writing — poetry usually (Ponge, Stevens, late Hölderlin) — that attempts to let matter be matter witout contolling or comprehending it. I am more sympathetic to the second slope, but the attempt to let matter be matter without form is also an unachievable fantasy. We can say with Stevens, we don’t need ideas about the thing, but the thing itself. But we are still stuck with ideas about the thing itself, with the materiality of matter. Form, even the form of the formless, is irreducible.
The Forest at Pontaubert
Between the Species
Volume 17, Issue 1 (2014)The Summer 2014 issue of Between the Species addresses important theoretical issues that show how careful philosophical reflection about nonhuman animals can help clarify our notions of moral agency, equality, and the nature and scope of our obligations. In addition to these fine examples of philosophical argumentation, we include a work of fiction, “The King of the Meat Eaters,” by an anonymous author. All inquiries concerning this piece may be directed to me, email@example.com. Also, this issue includes the first interview in the history of the journal. One of our Associate Editors, Angus Taylor, had the opportunity to interview Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlikca, whose book Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights is perhaps the most important work in the field in many years. Finally, this issue contains a book review of Lisa Kemmerer’s Animals and World Religions.
links collected by the Book Forum's Omnivore
December 03, 2014
photo - mw
Winteringposted at Slow Muse
Dakota Territory, 1884
Already, winter makes a corpse of things.
Snow reshapes what ice has taken. You've lost
interest in letters. So let sunrise come.
Let smoke grow darker by the light of day—
what I could spare of you I've burned already.
The fencepost needs repair. Let sunrise come.
Let panels of light make thirsty the ice-
caked stump of oak. Let the sky go empty
as December's intimations, when in snow
we fashioned ourselves side by side as fallen
angels: yours, the greater wingspan; my outline
barely reaching. Daybreak. I lay my body down
in powder. Roots torque up through the chest's
blankness, snarl of knots unloosed. What comes,
on parting you insisted, will come. Ice splits,
in the distance. What breaks will break. Let it.
via riley dog
One Way Street: Fragments for Walter Benjamin
Directed by John Hughes
The Political Walter Benjamin, a Review Essay
Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life by Howard Eiland and Michael E. Jennings.
Working with Walter Benjamin: Recovering a Political Philosophy by Andrew Benjamin
Benjamin was, undoubtedly, a melancholic man. A recent book devoted to the subject explained: “Beyond being a personal trait or choice of subject, melancholy represents a cornerstone of his epistemological and metaphysical claims.” Yet his biographers remind us that “to treat Walter Benjamin as a hopeless melancholic is to caricature and reduce him. For one thing, he was possessed of a delicate, if sometimes biting, sense of humor, and was capable of an owlish gaiety”. Indeed, the new biography, a masterpiece of its kind, offers no caricatures. It depicts Benjamin as a multifaceted human being whose own sense of self could be characterized, using one of his favorite adjectives, as intense. Examined here are his interests in friends, playful objects, institutions, political mechanisms, culture, religion, art, gender, law, and even gambling and drugs. But beyond everything else he was an obsessive intellectual who pursued his ideas to a self-destructive degree. He hovered between two opposite states: an intense engagement in both spirit and body and a chilly disinterest that was both personal and intellectual. His thinking proceeded through negation: to think about friendship one began with its demise; objects and institutions were seen via the idea of destruction; culture, via decline; religion, via eschatology and apocalypse; law, via its suspension; and so on.
Benjamin scholarship has grown, during the past two decades, into a vast territory. He has inspired societies, conferences, journals, and countless dissertations; the Benjamin name has become a brand. With this has come the growth of a sort of personal myth, to correct which the biography offers an image of a political Benjamin, “although one that operates at a considerable distance from party politics”. This political Benjamin is not new, but for the first time it is the key to a wide range of his activities, from the critical to the theological, philosophical, and literary. The richly detailed narrative of a life proves as satisfying for theoreticians as for historians.
Reflection – 42nd Street
New Atheism, Old Empire
At face value, and by its own understanding, New Atheism is a reinvigorated incarnation of the Enlightenment scientism found in the work of thinkers like Bacon and Descartes: a critical discourse that subjects religious texts and traditions to rational scrutiny by way of empirical inquiry and defends universal reason against the forces of provincialism.
In practice, it is a crude, reductive, and highly selective critique that owes its popular and commercial success almost entirely to the “war on terror” and its utility as an intellectual instrument of imperialist geopolitics.
Whereas some earlier atheist traditions have rejected violence and championed the causes of the Left — Bertrand Russell, to take an obvious example, was both a socialist and a unilateralist — the current streak represented by Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris has variously embraced, advocated, or favorably contemplated: aggressive war, state violence, the curtailing of civil liberties, torture, and even, in the case of the latter, genocidal preemptive nuclear strikes against Arab nations.
Its leading exponents wear a variety of ideological garbs, but their espoused politics range from those of right-leaning liberals to proto-fascist demagogues of the European far-right. ...(more)
1921 - 1986