Tuesday, September 28, 2004

mo(re) ther's words

Threesome, Foursome

In the dooryard, puckered mint,
you pucker back, you leaf a hint.

Mind this hour; it is your time,
mine the mouth and yours the rhyme.

Mine's the mouth, though it is still,
full of words that will not fill.

Some spell narrowness, some breadth,
and recall the brush with death.

I make one, and we make three,
one half bound, one half free.

In the dooryard, puckered mint,
you pucker back, you leave a hint.

(I know you: you're the one who's bent so low.

(I know you: you're the one who's bent so low.
You hold me - I'm the riddled one - in bondage.
What word could burn as witness for us two?
You're my reality. I'm your mirage.)

Frankfurt, September

Blind wall-space,
bearded by brilliances.
A dream of a cockchafer
sheds light on it.

Behind that, raster of lamentations,
Freud's forehead opens up:

the tear
compacted of silence
breaks out in a proposition:
logy for the last

The psuedo-jackdraw
(cough-caw's double)
is breakfasting.

The glottal stop is breaking
into song.

-Paul Celan, glottal stop, trans. Nikolai Popov & Heather McHugh (2000)

whatever! poem

From the postanarchism lists, a rather lengthy "poem" inspired by Agamben:

The coming politics. Politics of local insurrection
against global management. Of presence regained over
the absence to oneself. Over the citizen, the imperial
Regained through theft, fraud, crime, friendship,
enmity, conspiracy.
Through the elaboration of ways of living that are
ways of fighting.
Politics of the event.
Empire is everywhere nothing is happening. It
administrates absence by waving the palpable threat of
police intervention in any place.
Who regards Empire as an opponent to confront will
find preventive annihilation.
To be perceived, now, means to be defeated.

Learning how to become imperceptible. To merge. To
regain the taste
for anonymity
for promiscuity.
To renounce distinction,
To elude the clampdown:
setting the most favorable conditions for
Becoming sly. Becoming merciless. And for that purpose
becoming whatever.

Critique has become vain. Critique has become vain
because it amounts to an absence. As for the ruling
order, everyone knows where it stands. We no longer
need critical theory. We no longer need teachers.
Henceforth, critique runs for domination. Even the
critique of domination.
It reproduces absence. It speaks to us from where we
are not. It propels us elsewhere. It consumes us. It
is craven. And stays cautiously sheltered
when it sends us to the slaughter.
Secretly in love with its object, it continually lies
to us.
Hence the short romances between proletarians and
engagé intellectuals.
Those rational marriages in which one does not have
neither the same idea of pleasure nor of freedom.
Rather than new critiques, it is new cartographies
that we need.
Not cartographies of Empire, but of the lines of
flight out of it.
How to? We need maps. Not maps of what is off the map.
But navigating maps. Maritime maps. Orientation tools.
That do not try to explain or represent what lies
inside of the different archipelagos of desertion, but
indicate how to join them.

the remainder

Sunday, September 26, 2004

structurally incompetent

A New York Times article on Kerry's management style causes me to recall this passage from Specters of Marx:

If there is a tendency in all Western democracies no longer to respect the professional politician or even the party member as such, it is no longer only because of some scandal that can now be more widely known, amplified, and in fact often produced, if not premeditated by the power of the media. Rather, it is because polititians become more and more, or even solely characters in the media's respresentation at the very moment when the transformation of the public space, precisely by the media, causes them to lose the essential part of the power and even of the competence they were granted before by the structures of parliamentary representaion, by the party apparatuses that were linked to it, and so forth. However competent they may personally be, preofessional politicians who conform to the old model tend today to become structurally incompetent. The same media accuses, produces, and amplifies at the same time this incompetence of traditional politicians: on the onehand, it takes away from them the legitimate power they held in the former political space (party, parliament, and so forth), but, on the other hand, it obliges them to become mere silhouettes, if not marionettes, on the stage of televisual rhetoric. They were thought to be actors of politics, they now often risk, as everyone knows, being no more than TV actors....Let us name with a single trait that which could risk making the euphoria of liberal-democrat capitalism resemble the blindest and most delirious of hallucinations, or even an increasingly glaring hypocrisy in its formal or juridicist rhetoric of human rights...

-Derrida, 80

Remembering the debate in Congress exactly two years ago (a debate at moments quite fierce, by USian standards - recall that our legislative branch has no two-drink minimum), the epic figure known as Robert C. Byrd comes to mind as well. Are there really any politicians still living who effectively bridge these worlds - the "traditional" and the "televisual?"
In any case, at least these guys have some style. Meanwhile, Moveon.org is still outfoxing things with various rockstars, and for the moment Michael Moore continues to do John Edward's job for him. Even better, Harper's Revision Thing: A history of the Iraq war, told entirely in lies. And, lastly, (I swear) further in lieu of the upcoming joint press conferen, er, "debates," here's the original Carole Coleman interview, or, for those especially desiring narcissistic revenge: the parody follow-up version. Or you could just skip the "debate" entirely and read this.
And so hence truly bleh, absofuckinglutely no more linkfesting for quite a while. It is an important event and should probably be watched. For he who's ego, in an otherwise near-total void of spontaneity and substance, betrays itself in a manner of vaguely less snoot, and perhaps even with an unchoreographed flick of the wrist flings a drop of genuine human sweat at the lens, upon which our "democracy" can pounce, snarl and attempt to shred its teeth. For the love of money, Kerry, while talking of yourself in the third person, do not make the dumbest President in history look agile, subtle and witty. Laugh incredulous but do not sigh twice.

dreaming of a friend

B.E. is dancing in the bowling alley of the street at night, hopping back and forth in front of a row of beer bottles, daring his adversary to throw one at him. It is the showy prelude to a fight; he is making and breaking the rules at whim. He is stealing the show, as usual, from the other asshole. The other asshole who is, as always, a well-picked foil, perhaps just beginning to realize how far out of his league he has now wandered. In dreamland a strange conflation of college night and childhood playground, and in the way of some dreams, a jolting memory of an event so real that never took place.

Jolting because the banality of the Real intruded on an elaborate subconscious fantasy, and the fantasy could no longer support itself? Jolting because even rationalizing this does not make the will to tears obsolete? Was the show already the fight? Something in these moments (were they episodes?) - an allure to which I was never immune, despite the repulsion afterwords, when the fight became vicious and cruel, personal rather than spectator-driven. (But is there any separating the two - don't they ceaselessly condition each other?)

The other night - Bruce Weber's "Let's Get Lost," documentary paean to jazz and junky great Chet Baker. An archive trembling in a league of its own, of a period my country has yet to appreciate, and likely never will. Which is a shame, maybe, because we might do well to get beyond our superficial infatuation with its 1960's aftermath.

B.E. was accidently shot and killed by one of his best friends at a New Year's party several years ago. He was 20. The community was devastated. He had touched a lot of lives. He was beautiful. The adored youngest child. Doe-in-the-headlights small-town stare. Hat worn low, brim curled tight. We used to skate on the puddle of a pond in his backyard. One day his older brother mimed a trigger-finger at us from the roof. There is nothing picturesque in any of this. People said B.E. had changed a lot. Perhaps he had. He remains for me a constellation of childhood buddy scenes, mimetic rivalries and pairs. But also never far removed from certain themes and textures of father-hunger, nor from a growing skepticism regarding the use of the word, "friendship" for something so grounded in mutual - if different - dueling needs.

In the dream we are children again. "Playing guns" as it turns out, for although the life-and-death panic is tangible, when the moment of execution comes, when the other we are fighting is caught and lies prone on the kitchen floor, he becames a certain Gautemalan child and instead of pulling the trigger 'I' said "bang." The style of the enemy's gun - a Mexican pistol? - suddenly became a source of infinite fascination, but this is interrupted by B.E. suggesting, like a good dictator, that "first we do a ---- of this, and then we drink a gallon of this," and 'I' have of course already agreed, like a good sidekick (for apparently there is a strong desire both to get loaded and for the dream to continue.) There is nothing picaresque in any of this.

Is not the elusiveness of charisma fed on envy - an envy for a seeming forgetfulness, the inadequacy of which remains transparent, potent and...tragic?

Martyrdom achieves perfection in death, but such delusional ambition is not the same as the desire traversing a creative, resilient, im-possible will to purity. No bitterness, no envy now, but still an enigmatic presence. A sort of ruthless and nostalgic prescience. Part of one's past 'self' seen comically, pathetically, and yet the tapestry looked back on is already one founded in active forgetting. And what might this mean - that "memory is a function of forgetting?"

The other night - awaking from a dream to contemplate and cry, possessive tears (are they ever not?), as much for themselves - mourning for the knowledge that what is singularly (mine?) in memory will vanish, and has moreover vanished already - as for any projected imagination of loss, for anything "proper" to the other. Mourning for a loss of knowledge already beyond the reach of any longing for language, for gestures that are certain. If only just words could be "found" - again, the will to flood the caesura.

'You could see he was finished," said Holland of what would be Baker's last performance. 'But he played with so few notes, expressing so much. That was the magic of the man.'

-James Gavin, Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker, 363 (2002)

Friday, September 24, 2004

hopelessly in date

From a recent issue of Radical Philosophy this wide-ranging revisitation of Adorno and the 'Frankfurt School'/review of Claussen's biography:

Habermas's work was indeed important as a philosophische Westanbindung in the postwar period, which contributed to burying once and for all - let us hope - the reactionary anti-Western and anti-democratic traditions that had been so important for the German right. But since it has become clear that German democracy no longer stands on shaky ground and since 1989 the form of "radical bourgeois" society represented by the United States has become the dominant force in the contemporary world, might a reconsideration of Critical Theory be more timely than a historicizing approach to the so-called 'Frankfurt School.'?
Developments in the United States and around the globe since Adorno's death appear to have confirmed Adorno's more critical view of
burgerliche Gesellschaft. In a talk he delivered in Rome in 1966 on the concept of 'Society' for example, he argued that:

All society is still class society as it was at the time when this concept appeared: the excessive pressure in the Eastern bloc countries makes clear that it is no different there. Although Marx's prognosis of pauperization over a long period of time has not been proven true, the disappearance of classes is an epiphenomenon...Subjectively concealed, class differences grow objectively due to the constant progression of the concentration of capital.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that these tendencies have accelerated since Adorno's death. But, as Claussen points out, a purely rationalist Marxism, à la Brecht or Lucáks, is not adequate to the task of grasping the irrational rationality of bourgeois society...If Schwartzenegger's election in California can be seen as symptomatic of the persistance of sadomasochistic character structures in American society, then one could make a case, based on arguments put forth by the critical theorists in 1930's, that we are still living in the bourgeois epoch.

- Joe Ambromeit, "Remembering Adorno"

One may wonder how such an observation might be reconciled with Agamben's dual assertions that, while "the planetary petty bourgeoisie is probably the form in which humanity is moving toward its own destruction..[nevertheless] the petty bourgeoisie represents an opportunity unheard of in the history of humanity that it must at all costs not let slip away" (The Coming Community, 65).

On another note, a thorough reminder by Jean-Philippe Deranty in the latest issue of the kick-ass Contretemps:

It is impossible to understand the war waged by the USA against Iraq outside the larger framework of the neoconservative project that was formulated and came to prominence with Ronald Reagan's electoral victory in 1980....Europe represents a major challenge to the American drive towards Empire. The Project for a New American Century is explicit: 'to maintain US preeminence,precluding the rise of a great rival power, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests.' With its large population, its high level of economic and political integration, its self-sufficiency, in the not-too-distant future even its energetic autonomy, Europe is one of the biggest obstacles to American hegemony. The agenda behind the invasion of Iraq was not just the control of oil, not just a crusade for Christ and Capital. It was also partly the way to gain the upper hand in the economic hegemony of a region tradionally controlled by Europe.
Finally, the struggle between America and Europe is not simply a classical power-struggle between imperial nations. It is equally a cultural and political

- Philippe Deranty, "European and American Intellectuals at War"

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

yet another nod to Leonard Cohen turning 70

because the time is approaching when my children will ask me who Dylan, Waits and Cohen were, and I will answer them, perhaps before they ask. via wood s lot - well worth a look, as always.

And via infinite thought, a sociological bit on blogging in Iran: Gender and the “self,” inside the mirror

Perhaps one of the main reasons for the popularity of the internet and the high use of weblogs among Iranian women, youth and intellectuals is the search for and reconstruction of a lost or forgotten identity. In the process of recreating identities, the virtual space of the internet becomes a new mirror in which individuals see themselves the way they truly are or want to be, or see those parts of themselves that they have censored. For many bloggers, the weblog becomes a mirror into their souls; a place where they represent their true selves and define themselves according to their liking, without the social and cultural constraints that impede them in real spaces. For women, who are constantly playing roles in a moralistic society, this takes on added significance. The internet and weblogs become a mirror in which youth and women can see their "hidden selves" and/or "repressed selves." ...The greater freedoms accorded to masculine subjectivities is one of the main reasons that male bloggers tend to write under their own names much more frequently than women bloggers. Many men believe that they do not need to have multiple weblogs, because they can express themselves through a single weblog.

Third Witt, Left Wing

"The honourable thing to do is to put a lock on the door which will be noticed only by those who can open it, not by the rest."

"Everything ritualistic (everything that, as it were, smacks of the high priest) must be strictly avoided, because it immediately turns rotten.
Of course a kiss is a ritual too and it isn't rotten, but ritual is permissible only to the extent that it is as genuine as a kiss."

"When you bump against the limits of your own honesty it is as though your thoughts get into a whirlpool, an infinite regress: You can say what you like, but it takes you no further."

- Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, 9 (1930)

Is sincere speech ever possible? Again, the psychoanalysist insists - she can help - but her silence is didactic and her words are comfortably numb. Or perhaps she is the kind of person who insists on the predictability of addendas, making explicit the most obvious of subtexts. Or warbling them into displays of modesty and wit.

"We wanted to give the audience a chance to really work. Just with that one gesture - putting his hands in his pockets, smiling ever so slightly, looking away..." And yet they are shocked when millions of people apparently didn't get it, were left collectively shocked, in suspense as to whether or not Martin Sheen had decided to run for a second term as fantasy President of my beloved country.

Critiques of popular tv shows are often met with collective, preemptive groans in my family. "We're humanizing the bureaucracy again, I see."
"Hey, it's a good show. Are you gonna watch, or are you gonna talk."
"What is it Zizek says - that even the cynical, sarcastic viewer is ultimately still performing his consumer's duty to watch the show, complete with equally entertaining self-reflexive commercials (Enjoy! Enjoy!). Your vaguely troubled sense of indignation and sentimental nostalgia has been re-justified, re-buttressed, and given hope, but nothing truly political (no Act) has taken place. And the hope only exists for the next episode. The play of ironic distances you find so stimulating is actively working against everything you hold dear, has all kinds of nefarious motives, and relies on all sorts of distortions and dangerous myth."
"It's also just a good show."

It is a good...show, yes indeed. The dialogue is killer, the characters well-written. And especially because everyone is always walking, placing meaningless documents, memos and piles of papers in random, meaningless places. A sense of extreme urgency and purpose, greased with endless wit. And somehow everyone in this postmodern empire capital endears themselves to us as perpetual victims, charmingly humble and human and poignantly archetypal all at once. And why not? The truth of the place is almost certainly disappointing, more real than hyperreal. Enter the dvd director's commentary; rest assured, the Real is still cinema:

"Ah, what a wonderful actress she is."
"I love her strength."
"And again, we've had so much going on storywise, right now, if one were to say what the story is..."

to be continued..

"Literature to me will have always meant the death of families."
- Derrida, in a rare enigmatic moment

Sunday, September 19, 2004


Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Not that it works or anything. In fact all the comments have been erased. An exercise in letting go. Nicely timed with a coming to grips, even, with one's own glaring mediocrity as a writer. In any case someone needs to fix the damn ducts.


Shaviro at The Pinocchio Theory has apparently just finished the new Hardt/Negri book for us. He provides a thoughtful and generous summary here: Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

milking collective nostalgia for Clinton who is milking nostalgia for Kennedy: diatribe on "The West Wing" part II

Anecdotal, confessional, uncomfortable "experts," they flirt back and forth, these voices, between the technical and the personal. From indulging the projective imaginations of the viewer, to a certain numbness or detachment whose silence is uncomfortable - indifference? Something more and less than nausea. Fatigue?

This is not art. These commentaries destroy any such potential; even before they are voiced, they are implicit, and the show is destructed.

Bordering on the obvious, the banal, so often, their purpose seems pretty clear: self-flattery. Pampering a ready market of pathos and habitual cynicism, pandering to the pathetic level of analysis that passes for 'hope' today. Directors posing as philosophers, any novelty in their films smothered and overburdened immediately by their "theory," films saturated by commentary. Films deserving such thorough attention have no need for it. As Blanchot says, "perhaps the work is indifferent to what makes it great."

At the end, a hollowness deepened. TV shows are candy. Nothing truly political has taken place. Our collective mythologies have been made to parade and masturbate. Some questions have been rephrased without much risk. And the spectacle has gained a fresh level of immunity from critical thought. Who has the energy for real politics when something more real than reality itself is promised every evening, when catharsis is habitually promised and delivered. All this emotion climaxing in under an hour - that it was merely about the results of a banal, fictitious poll seems unimportant. We have been duped into feeling ourselves part of an idealized political machinery, living and breathing, for an hour at least, on their time, at their speed, communing with those who control the reigns of this great beast (they are victims, remember).

One cannot abstractly contrast the spectacle to actual social activity: such a division is itself divided. The spectacle which inverts the real is in fact produced. Lived reality is materially invaded by the contemplation of the spectacle while simultaneously absorbing the spectacular order, giving it positive cohesiveness. Objective reality is present on both sides. Every notion fixed this way has no other basis than its passage into the opposite: reality rises up within the spectacle, and the spectacle is real. This reciprocal alienation is the essence and the support of the existing society.
To describe the spectacle, its formation, its functions and the forces which tend to dissolve it, one must artificially distinguish certain inseparable elements. When analyzing the spectacle one speaks, to some extent, the language of the spectacular itself in the sense that one moves through the methodological terrain of the very society which expresses itself in the spectacle. But the spectacle is nothing other than the sense of the total practice of a social-economic formation, its use of time. It is the historical movement in which we are caught.

The spectacle presents itself as something enormously positive, indisputable and inaccessible. It says nothing more than “that which appears is good, that which is good appears. The attitude which it demands in principle is passive acceptance which in fact it already obtained by its manner of appearing without reply, by its monopoly of appearance.

-Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle (1967)

There's a book written by Michael Parenti, called, Land of Idols: Political Mythology in America. Unfortunately, it's one that doesn't do much to live up to its title (incidentally, Parenti junior's book,Lockdown America, has, almost to a fault, more substance). But Parenti senior writes of the "Number One Syndrome" that afflicts my poor country. The truth is, of course, that we remain number one in only two things: wealth (increasingly disporportionate) and military might. Neither of these is enough to ensure any kind of respectable future for democracy. It's a subject, one may rightly suppose, hardly flattering enough to be given sustained critical attention by TV shows. Herein ends my gripe. The next post in this series will be titled: "Why the West Wing is the Best Show Ever."

"He summed it all up by saying to himself, 'What an actor.'" - Blanchot, The Most High

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


"The wish of all, in the camps, the last wish: know what has happened, do not forget, and at the same time never will you know." (Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster, 82)

more photos

Of course such comparisons should not be made lightly. Just as any responsible person would not conflate Guantanamo with 'Auschwitz. Do recall, oh my sisters, and nodding as well to John Caputo, Derrida's "trembling" and "disquiet" at the "exemplary status" Blanchot gives to Judaism, and to brothers (Politics of Friendship, 304).
Will return to writing shortly. There's always Mark Kaplan


Tarkovsky is relatively new to me. Bergman might be to 'shame' as Tarkovsky is to 'patience.' Tarkovsky makes Bergman seem almost hasty, or, as Lars writes, he sometimes makes Bergman's actors seem like, well, merely actors. Tarkovsky demands that you meet him (you never do) somewhere slightly else. A difficult accusation to levy -- I also agree with Lars -- about someone as masterful and original as Bergman. (A professor of mine once claimed that Bergman was distinct from Woody Allen in that he left more room for hope, at the end of the day.) I watched "Andrei Rublev" last winter as a way to "relax" from writing a thesis on Blanchot, and it has stayed with me ever since. But last night "Nostalghia" made me feel something different - an experience that can only be described as, well, religious, perhaps, sharing a world after Nietzsche anyway.

The above photo belongs to those copyrighted by L.O. Lothwall at Nostalghia.com and I hope my use of it here is acceptable.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

brain-drain, etc.

From Christopher Allbritton, a conscientious post today at
Back to Iraq 3.0.

Monday, September 13, 2004

On Why "The West Wing" is the Best Show Ever (pt.#3)

Despite what I have said in previous posts (you, dear solitary and silly reader from the future, you with "too much time on your hands" as they of little patience like to say, who are reading backwards - yes, I did plan this, although it took Hugh to discover and co-sign it), what might the virtues of a show like "The West Wing" be? How about a list:

1.0) The show's sense of time is, in all its pathetic, sentimental, multi-layered embellishment, nonetheless educational, bringing the lay-person up to speed on the 'postmodern' pace of politics. Such an appreciation is integral to any efficient, informed and effective critique. The recent developments in activist counter-surveillance, networking, political blogs, etc. prove this. Giorgio Agamben comes to mind.

2.01) The show is hopeful, or rather it dares to be hopeful, which is certainly a courageous thing, given the apocalyptic tenor that now functions as default in so many otherwise intelligent circles. "Uncompromising gaiety," Derrida says, and - despite his pervasively charming melancholy (or rather, without which such serious gaiety would be impossible, mind you) - I think his choice of emphasis is absolutely right. He's nowhere near the same league as Derrida and never will be, but Clinton recognized the power of something resembling this "uncompromising gaiety," (which is anything but dogmatic or firmly ideological). Unfortunately, so did Ronald McDonald Reagan. In any case, "The West Wing" persists in this - dare we say "uniquely American" tradition. (At one point Derrida toys with the idea that "America is deconstruction," although of course he must drop it.) Still, something of this New World hope and optimism, though never neatly severable from the specters of a profoundly contaminated history, cannot be responsibly dismissed or conflated with said history.

3.002) "The West Wing" is a timely show, one that thematizes the ghost of JFK at a moment when the vested interests are desperately trying to conjure him away. Shakespeare. In a way, the show is a new 'literature,' and as such to some degree defers, resists, and desists (Lacoue-Labarthe). More than merely cite the name or frozen image of JFK, the show, as did Clinton, interprets his combination of charm, intelligence, pragmatics, and optimism in a fresh and transformative manner (Specters of Marx); it renders mourning relevant, and awakes us to the dawn of a new day (Thoreau). Not just waxing poetic here; it really is an archive that trembles in some respects. As such it refuses to be an isolated panacea, but neither does it pretend to be purely immune to contemporary economies of interest. The burden, and the power, as always, rests with the viewer, the one who hears (Ear of the Other. Now one could argue that the structure of the show - it's televisual, advertising context - preempts a responsible counter-signature, but things are not quite so simple (Zizek is wrong, yet again).

4.17) to be continued...(with less JD of both the liquid and mimetic wax kind)...

a thousand words

because freeway blogging is very much in. Cynicism+satire=kynicism?

Sunday, September 12, 2004


New photos by Sebastião Salgado:

more at the source, and many thanks to Charlotte.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

remembering Rachel Corrie

"An Israeli army spokeswoman claimed jeeps had entered the camp following shots directed at the nearby Psagot settlement and were met by stone-throwing youths.

A jeep inadvertently rolled over one of the boys, she said.

Aljazeera satellite channel, however, showed footage of the vehicle intentionally hitting the boy"

anecdote, revisited

Reluctant to post yet another block quote, but because this is a theme that especially intrigues me:

{"...another anecdote of disencounter, told by Derrida himself. Lacan is quoted as saying to René Girard, in Baltimore: "Yes, yes, but the difference between him (Derrida) and myself is that he has nothing to do with the people who suffer". Derrida considers this as an extremely imprudent expression, something Lacan could not say since he had no way of knowing about it, about the suffering of the people he, Derrida, dealt with. Lacan could not even guess what happened to Derrida in transference, denying him a place as a sujet supposé savoir.

Derrida is right, whoever deals with writing must also deal with suffering, because writing is a confrontation with death, and must also answer for the transferences he supports from his place... And, nonetheless, Lacan is also right: because what represents a hiatus in our understanding, a radical difference in their respective practices, is that the psychoanalyst must deal with the problem of psychosis.

If in the literary field, the endless reading that repeats itself as a mirror reflecting in another mirror, opens up to infinity the possibility of new readings. What happens when in the subject the cork that can clog the endless sliding of the signifiers is lacking, that situation that is the experience of madness itself?.

Such is the role played by the father's name that must, in Lacan's work, replace the mother's desire in the paternal metaphor. And when this function fails and delirium unleashes itself, it is the delusional metaphor the one that must clog the void, to stop the sliding of the signifier and to allow a process of restoration of a reality, as personal as it may be.

In this sense, it may be fitting to point out that Lacan, even in his early work, since the 11th Seminar, where he proposed the model of the fish trap, where the object a places itself in the hole that enables its opening and closing, that is, the temporary pulsation of the unconscious. And when, later on, we find the formula of the fantasy $ a, remain of the operation of the constitution of the subject where the Real is present, the object a produces the threshold of what is able to be represented and so stops the signifier's sliding.

So, I would like to conclude this presentation with an hypothesis, that the main difference that remains in the field cultivated by Lacan and Derrida, is Lacan's elaboration of the object a, a necessary loss for the existence of the subject.

The relationship between Lacan and Derrida deserves, in its complexity, a careful study of what here is barely sketched.

Many questions remain: Is it that deconstruction and the appeal to différance can free philosophy from metaphysics? or, as is the case with Heidegger, whom, according to Derrida, remains in the field of ontology, a field he attempts to surpass, Derrida himself is trapped in the same disjunction? In a recent interview Derrida affirms that the deconstruction is the experience of the impossible. It is the definition of psychoanalysis itself, given by both, Freud and Lacan

Derrida psychoanalyst? A Lacanian Derrida?"}

full article, by Frida Saal

The final sentence is misleading, perhaps (and when is it not?). Might not deconstruction and psychoanalysis differ most significantly over conceptions of the subject? Does psychoanalysis, in the end, insist upon a certain unity - even if one that remains on the level of a "necessary fiction"? But then Derrida has of course insisted, again and again, that deconstruction is anything but a pure relativism, and that "the deconstruction of the subject in no way amounts to the dissolution of the subject."

"Freud had his ghosts, he confesses it on occasion" (Archive Fever, 89).

in lieu

The controversy surrounding weblogs by soldiers in Iraq has absorbed me. I find myself feeling the presence of old friends in the words of some of these guys. Wanting to write on Derrida, on this interview and recent articles in the new release of Contretemps. But for the moment more engrossed, reading. Here's an overview. The notorious, recently censored(?) weblog in question is My War. A good vodka morning to Vermont.

Friday, September 10, 2004

recent interview with Derrida

Jacques Derrida: "I am at War with Myself" by Jean Birnbaum (Le Monde).

interesting blog

Some excerpts from The Philosophical Lexicon courtesy of Ali Rizvi in Melbourne:

chomsky, adj. Said of a theory that draws extravagant metaphysical implications from scientifically established facts. "Essentially, Hume's criticism of the Argument from Design is that it leads in all its forms to blatantly chomsky conclusions." "The conclusions drawn from Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle are not only on average chomskier than those drawn from Godel's theorem; most of them are downright merleau-ponty."

dreyfus, n. (from "dry" & "fuss") An arid ad hominem controversy. "What began as an interesting debate soon degenerated into a dreyfus."

foucault, n. A howler, an insane mistake. "I'm afraid I've committed an egregious foucault."

habermass, (from the Middle High German halber Marx; cf. ganzer Marx) n. A religious ceremony designed to engender an illusion of understanding through chants describing socio-economic conditions. Hence also, habermass, v. "He habermassed Einstein; he attempted to deduce the special theory of relativity from the social structure of the Zurich patent office." "Nothing but a gadam habermass" - H. S. Truman.

heidegger, n. A ponderous device for boring through thick layers of substance. "It's buried so deep we'll have to use a heidegger."

quine, v. (1) To deny resolutely the existence of importance of something real or significant. "Some philosophers have quined classes, and some have even quined physical objects." Occasionally used intr., e.g., "You think I quine, sir. I assure you I do not!" (2) n. The total aggregate sensory surface of the world; hence quinitis, irritation of the quine.

rort, n. m. (1) an incorrigible report; hence, rorty, adj. incorrigible. n. (2) Fashionable but confused discourse. "Don't talk rort."

the whole shbang

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Art Spiegelman

Two recent articles/interviews re: the new book, one from International Herald Tribune, France and one from Time: Disaster is My Muse.

When Spiegelman came to speak at Vassar he created quite a stir by refusing not to smoke during his talk ("Do you want me to give this talk or not?") On second thought maybe it wasn't that big a stir.

Exquisite Corpse on Mel Gibson

A new issue is out. Runs the gamut, but in case you want a taste:

{"For much of his life, Gibson didn't quite grasp the profundities of the Sedevacantist Weltanschauung. But then things got really bad and his father's cult started to look increasingly good. Gibson reports that as a result of a way-out-of-control life with excesses of drugs and alcohol, he reached a low point over a decade ago. "I would get addicted to anything, anything at all. Okay? Doesn't matter what it is … drugs, booze, anything. You name it -- coffee, cigarettes, anything. Alright?"
            Alright, we got it! The obvious solution was fundamentalist religion--addicts usually pick up any convenient drug if it's lying nearby on the self. And it's perfect for the addictive personality since it's all about abject dependency. That's why it's proven to be such a great cure for addictions in so many tough cases. It's like methadone addiction as a cure for heroin addiction. Well, Gibson desperately needed some kind of cure. He says that he finally even contemplated throwing himself out of a window. Instead, he turned to the Bible--and apparently threw it out of the window after finding a few useful ideas. In reflecting on his conversion experience he concludes that "pain is the precursor to change, which is great . . . That's the good news." In Gibson's hands it's not exactly the Good News in what some might think of as the Gospel sense. Maybe the truth is that a lot of pain led Mel Gibson to change Jesus into what Gibson needed him to be: a bloody icon produced on behalf of regressive fundamentalist religion."}

full article

more Witt, query

"A mediocre writer must beware of too quickly replacing a crude, incorrect expression with a correct one. By doing so he kills his original idea, which was at least still a living seedling. Now it is withered and no longer worth anything. He may as well throw it on the rubbish heap. Whereas the wretched little seedling was still worth something."

"This is how philosophers should salute each other: 'Take your time!'"

"Philosophy hasn't made any progress? - If somebody scratches the spot where he has an itch, do we have to see some progress? Isn't it genuine scratching otherwise, or genuine itching? And can't this reaction to an irritation continue in the same way for a long time before a cure for the itching is discovered?"
-Wittgenstein, _Culture and Value_

Found these tapes of J.M. Berstein's lectures, but not the article on Agamben I continue to look for (short of paying $90 for it - libraries being scarce at the moment.) If anyone can be bothered to send me a copy I would be extremely grateful.
"Bare Life, Bearing Witness: Auschwitz and the Pornography of Horror" in Parallax Volume 10, Number 1 (January-March 2004).

Thanks to whoever dropped the comment.


"A typical American film, naive and silly, can - for all its silliness and even by means of it - be instructive. A fatuous, self-conscious English film can teach one nothing. I have often learnt a lesson from a silly American film."

Recently watched "Persona" and "les caribiniers," but the first time was better, and part of me kept wishing i had gotten some episodes of "The West Wing" instead. Politics as hobby - on weblogs, anyway, there seems no shortage of this.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Paris underground cinema

Courtesy of infinite thought; this is too good to pass up:
In a secret Paris cavern, the real underground cinema.

Zizek, faces, and the 'suprasensible'

"Between the man of faith and the man of science, there is little difference: both guard against destructive chance and reconstitute the requirements of order; both appeal to a constant which they pray to or theorize about; both are men of accomodation and of unity for whom the other and the same are complementary. Speaking, writing, calculating, they are eternal conservers, conservers of eternity, always in quest of something stable, and pronouncing the word 'ontological' with confident fervor."

Blanchot,_The Writing of the Disaster_, 90

Slavoj Zizek bugs almost everyone. Frenetic, irrisponsible, albeit occasionally entertaining, he has been known to fabricate entire scenes from films to fit his theory. The cliché phrase, "fiercely unapologetic" was invented just for him. He plays the angry radical and the "master" - as if nobody else had ever bothered to read Hegel and Lacan for themselves. His style is one of habitual overstatement and polemic. Although he hasn't begun to read Derrida, he drags - intentionally, perhaps - the invective misnomers, "deconstructionism" and "deconstructionist" through the mud at every chance. Derrida, to my knowledge, has never mentioned Zizek (and most likely never will), but then Derrida only recently stopped replying to Habermas in sparse footnotes. (To be fair, Zizek might actually BE the only one who reads Lacan.)

But Zizek sometimes makes you work for your distance. And as wickedly addictive as polemics sometimes are, writing on Zizek can help re-establish this distance so one can sleep. Zizek refuses to separate the most ruthless violence (that done by the postmodern neo-Nazi) from the culture of 'liberal tolerance' and 'diversity.' Radical fanaticism goes hand in hand with neo-liberal democracy. Sort of the Trotsky and Wolfowitz syndrome, although that is doing Wolfowitz a favor. The obscene pleasure to be found in films such as _The Passion of the Christ_ and _Elephant_ (after Columbine) temporarily, addictively, disrupts and quavers the symbolic:

"One should link Rancière's notion of post-politics to the notion of excessive, non-functional cruelty as a feature of contemporary life, proposed by Balibar: a cruelty whose manifestations range from 'fundamentalist' racist and /or religious slaughter to the 'senseless' outbursts of violence by adolescents and the homeless in our megalopolises, a violence one is tempted to call Id-Evil, a violence grounded in no utilitarian or ideological reason...The neo-Nazi skinhead's ethnic violence is not the 'return of the repressed' of the liberal multiculturalist tolerance, but directly generated by it, its own concealed true face."

Zizek,_The Ticklish Subject_, 201-205

In _The Fragile Absolute_ (perhaps interesting to consider in relation to Derrida's _Gift of Death_), Zizek argues for a neo-Marxist agape - the Christian legacy being "too precious to be left to the New-Age freaks." But Zizek wants to gloss it every way, and his thoroughly psychoanalytic critique of this legacy is anything but convincing. In particular I am troubled by his reading of the word "suprasensible" - how can this be anything but fervently ontological?

"The distinction between APPEARANCE and the postmodern notion of SIMULACRUM as no longer clearly distinguishable from the Real is crucial here. The political as the domain of appearance...has nothing in common with the postmodern notion that we are entering the era of universalized simulacra in which reality itself becomes indistinguishable from its simulated double. The nostalgic longing for the authentic experience of being lost in the deluge of simulacra (detectable in Virilio), as well as the postmodern assertion of the Brave New World of universalized simulacra as the sign that we are finally getting rid of the metaphysical obsession with authentic Being (detectable in Vattimo), both miss the distinction between simulacra and appearance: what gets lost in today's 'plague of simulations' is not the firm, true, non-simulated Real, but appearance itself...The old conservative motto of 'keeping up appearances' thus takes a new twist today: it no longer stands for the 'wisdom' according to which it is better not to disturb the rules of social etiquette too much, since social chaos might ensue. Today, the effort to 'keep up appearances' stands, rather, for the effort to maintain the properly political space against the onslaught of the postmodern all-embracing social body, with its multitude of particular identities.
This is also how one has to read Hegel's famous dictum from his _Phenomenology_: 'the Suprasensible is appearance qua appearance'. In a sentimental answer to a child asking him what God's face is like, a priest answers that whenever the child encounters a human face irradiating benevolence and goodness, whoever this face belongs to, he catches a glimpse of His face...The truth of this sentimental platitude is that the Suprasensible (God's face) is discernible as a momentary, fleeting appearance, the 'grimace' of an earthly face. It is THIS dimension of 'appearance' transubstantiating a piece of reality into something which, for a brief moment, irradiates the suprasensible Eternity that is missing in the logic of the simulacrum: in the simulacrum, which becomes indistinguishable from the Real, everything is here, and no other, transcendent dimension effectively 'appears' in/through it. Here we are back at the Kantian problematic of the sublime: in Kant's famous reading of the enthusiasm evoked by the French Revolution in the enlightened public around Europe, the revolutionary events functioned as a sign through which the dimension of trans-phenomenal Freedom, of a free society, APPEARED. 'Appearance' is thus not simply the domain of phenomena, but those 'magic moments' in which another, noumenal dimension momentarily 'appears' in ('shines through') some empirical/contingent phenomenon...In short, one should distinguish here between two couples of opposites whicha re absolutely not to be confused int eh single opposition of appearance verus reality: the couple of reality and its simulacrum, and the couple of the Real and appearance. The Real is a grimace of reality: say, a disgustingly contorted face in which the Real of a deadly rage transpires/appears..."

_The Fragile Absolute_, 195-196

Computer generated faces have no 'suprasensibility' then? Do they still have an 'aura'? Might the narrow definition of "suprasensible" Zizek seems to be pushing fall closer - to borrow from Derrida - to a "faith without religion" or an "openness to the other AS OTHER?" Zizek pretends to disagree with Derrida while he merely borrows from him; one of many crucial differences being a fervent insistence, on Zizek's part, that everything be reinscribed within an idealized split between "the Symbolic and the Real." In the end, maybe there are good reasons why many folks - and not only Derrida - are so resistant to the tradition of Lacan.

Finally, as recent posts at The Weblog and Charlotte Street have taken up, such formulations may themselves be something of an impatient, Zizekian maneuver. Perhaps it is better - as Foucault once said - just to put the polemicist's book down.

the face of tomorrow

in a world without difference - a useless exercise? Composites made from 100 random portraits in various cities; one thing is certain - the noses are getting more snubbed.

On another note (old news already), Germans have helped a man grow himself a new jawbone in his back.

Monday, September 06, 2004

A place for innocence

"[In a corporate State, a place must be made for innocence, and its many uses. In developing an official version of innocence, the culture of childhood has proven invaluable. Games, fairy-tales, legends from history, all teh paraphernalia of make-believe can be adapted and even embodied in a physical place, such as at Zwölfkinder. Over the years it had become a children's resort, almost a spa. If you were an adult, you couldn't get inside the city limits without a child escort. There was a child mayor, a child city council of twelve. Children picked up the papers, fruit peelings and bottles you left in the street....child police reprimanded you if you were caught alone, without your child accompanying. Whoever carried on the real business of the town--it could not have been the children--they were well hidden.]"

--Thomas Pynchon, _Gravity's Rainbow_, 419

"[After September Eleventh, anecdotes about innocent children gained measurable value, beginning immediately with the piggy-bank anecdotes. As a market, multifarious desires drive the stock of children higher, yet each piggy-bank anecdote functions as a miniature Zwölfkinder where innocence is produced around the state exigency. Like Zwölfkinder, these anecdotes are mediated by various desires that coalesce around the children that star in them. Though they serve the state's desire for an innocence that would let it wage war with impunity, these anecdotes are of course not state-issued, nor do they directly serve the state's interests. Rather, the stories are more directly mediated by various public, institutional, and journalistic desires that can all take their pleasures in the same nexus of childhood and innocence, as the wildly diverse interests of Chaucer's pilgrims once found fulfillment in the same pilgrimage. The journalists that press the acts of specific children into a predictale form do so because there already exists a public market for patriotism, sentiment, stability, and perhaps even for a willful blindness to the actions of its state. Organizations such as the Red Cross have something to gain in the market as well. These institutions take their pleasure on the anecdotal dimensions of charity while the journalists take theirs in the consumption of the stories. Once again, the public and the state invest their various desires for stability in the object of their children. State and public look up lovingly over the shoulders of their children and their gazes meet, though their fantasies are different...."]

-David Rando. "Reading Gravity's Rainbow After September Eleventh: An Anecdotal Approach." PMC magazine.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

purposeless protests?

N+1 has done it again. Although I deem this worthy enough to quote some excerpts, you, dear reader (all reluctant three of you), should certainly read the entire thing. It is painless, and important, if that is possible.

[The protesters have mobilized around a zero. They are anti-Bush and anti-war. To call it a platform or an agenda would be doing it a kindness. Their wish is no longer utopian but nostalgic, a return to the status quo ante 2000...

"This is what democracy looks like!" The marches have taken on the trappings of religious ritual, and have as much immediate meaning as a good Latin benediction or prayer at Conservative synagogues; but those old slogans came from movements toward confrontational and initially unpopular ends, and not a contentless declaration of voting preference. Women's suffrage, civil rights for American blacks, increased funding for AIDS research, all were won through the use of street protests to shame an indifferent government into enacting reforms. In a democracy, even a vast number of citizens whose only aim is the removal of a government they view as hostile to their interests cannot possibly succeed through shaming, and ought not to...

But a pep rally against our pep-rallying president is still a pep rally. The catalog of events offered by the Village Voice is tricked out like the listings for another fringe festival. Plays, films, and art exhibits are all part of the themed anti-RNC listings, alongside the strippers of Axis of Eve, the retro 50s style of Code Pink, and the radical cheerleaders who will strip and form an "Abu-Ghraib style naked pyramid." I don't mean to poke fun, but this is protest as narcissism. The audience (and who is the audience?) is supposed to be wowed into some kind of political conversion or revelation through the stunning avant-garde techniques and displays of sheer personality by the hip and invigorated. Even I can be hip and invigorated, but not as a citizen, please. American democracy was designed to be boring, slow, and tiresome, because it's supposed to hold off the seductions and demagogy to which majoritarian structures are always susceptible.

When you find democracy entertaining, you know you're a little off the right track. It suggests you've become a spectator of yourself as a participant, similar to watching yourself have sex.


The new breed of demonstrators understand themselves as event planners for an audience of journalists who will then pass on the message to their readers and viewers. Primarily, they are performers. To this extent, at least, they can be evaluated aesthetically. Indeed some of them even wish to be appreciated aesthetically. They are fervent believers in the transformational power of the image. Whoever orchestrated the parade of a thousand flag-draped coffins believes that Americans need to see mock funerals in order to understand the cost of war. They succeeded in getting a front-page photograph in the Times , but it's unclear how many souls they enlightened and how many they alienated; some read the protest as merely another desecration of the American flag. The image was straightforward, but, once repeated and reconfigured in print or television, its message became ambiguous.

Visibility matters, but so does sophistication. Most of these groups are burdened by a sense of political theater as kitsch--as laden as Bush's Mission Accomplished farce. (Right wing kitsch will always beat left wing kitsch, since right wing kitsch elevates reality to some mythic dream while left wing kitsch offers only the consolations of victimhood and rage.) The stand-out exception among convention protesters has been Billionaires For Bush. The Billionaires are less Brecht than Oscar Wilde. They work backwards, beginning with their pseudo-advocacy. Their chants are pure wit, neatly reversing expectations: "Four more wars," "Reappoint Bush." They dress the part of camp moguls from the roaring twenties, down to the monocles, top hats, and ball gowns. Their style and their speech come from the elegant Hollywood of David Niven and Cary Grant, Grace Kelly and Katherine Hepburn. They are drag queen capitalists.

And, astonishingly, like a man who only finds his ideal of femininity once he stumbles into bed with a transvestite, the media have fallen for the Billionaires.]

These and all of the other articles copyrighted by N+1, are, as usual, well worth reading

First and Last Meta-ConfessionalZiz

1. Previously the comments were open to members only. Now they are open to any and all and possibly too many. I had foolishly assumed they would be open from the beginning.
2. I refuse to get off on confessing. Not that all confessions are purely self-masturbatory.
3. But senility and arrogance may be the natural result of talking like this, as if one were famous.
4. I have no desire to be famous this way.
5. There has been a plethora of words posted on this blog not selected, weighed and sweated out by myself but by others, often more interesting and intelligent others. This should probably stop. Hopefully it will at least subside, I will relax a bit and begin to attempt to really write. I have things to say, honestly I do, I think. (etc.)
6. This thinking in lists is a seductive method of avoidance, as is telling so. Avoiding what? See Spurious - he wrestles with it far more knowingly.

the spectacle is disappointing?

Big-Time Wrestling

Something and Nothing battle here
One we never get to see at all,
The other we watch closely
Changing costumes and masks
In hope it'll add up to something.

Our hearts are spilled popcorn
Under the stomping boots
Of some blong angel indignant
At the slow pace of his own demise
In the arms of nothing-we-can-see.

The heavy silence presiding
Has the air of a bow-tied referee
Occasionally raising a false hand
The color of old ivory. The Exits
Are red with the hangman's curtains.

--Charles Simic, _Jackstraws_, 32

Well, mabye there isn't much in the canon of "Best American Poetry" that dares to be truly atheistic...Simic does have his moments, though. He was born in war-torn Belgrade, Yugoslavia before emigrating to North America (not Canada) in 1954. His poetry is marked by interruptions, 'postlost, humor, heartache, surrealism, sexuality, absurdly juxtaposed objects... Sort of the American Celan, if that isn't too much of a stretch.

Here is another poem of his:

School for Visionaries

The teacher sits with eyes closed.
When you play chess alone it's always your move.
I'm in the last row with a firefly in the palm of my hand.
The girl with red braids, who saw the girl with red braids?

Do you believe in something truer than truth?
Do you prick your ears even when you know damn well
no one is coming?
Does that explain the lines on your forehead?
Your invisible friend, what happened to her?

The rushing wind slides to a stop to listen.
The prisoner opens the thick dictionary lying on his knees.
The floor is cold and his feet are bare.
A chew-toy of the gods, is that him?

Do you stare and stare at every black windowpane
As if it were a photo of your unsmiling parents?
Are you homesick for the house of cards?
The sad late-night cough, is it yours?

--Charles Simic, _Jackstraws_ (1999)


Adam Phillips writes on "Nuisance Value" for The Threepenny Review:

> "Clearly, at least in philosophy, people have to be able to have the nuisance experience. Either this vocabulary becoming a nuisance is itself an inspiration; or inspiration—or Rorty's version of inspiration that he calls redescription—is spurred by the nuisance experience...

What Rorty is drawing our attention to is how the interesting philosopher needs to be able to notice the nuisance value of an entrenched vocabulary. Whether a nuisance is an invitation or an opportunity or more obviously an annoyance, it is a demand. We may not want to be a nuisance—though why we don't is worth wondering about; but we do, Rorty implies, need to be able to have the nuisance experience. It is a nuisance when we are made to attend to something that we would rather not. Clearly nuisance and the notion of resistance, of preferring not to, go together. But whether the nuisance is, to use an entrenched vocabulary, the cause or the consequence of resistance —whether we resist something because it is a nuisance, or it is a nuisance because we resist it—is never so clear. How we make something or someone a nuisance, and what we use nuisances to do, and what, if anything, this might have to do with what was called (in an older entrenched vocabulary) appreciation of the arts, is the gist of this paper...

Nuisance, we could say, is the compliment we give to the unacceptable when we want it to be merely annoying; the nuisance never lets go, but it doesn't drive us mad (we don't describe stalkers as a nuisance; we don't say, unless we are characters in an Evelyn Waugh novel, that it is a nuisance to fall in love, or a nuisance when people die). Nuisance, in other words, makes us think of the inconvenient rather than the repressed; and therefore, perhaps, it is not suitable as a term of art. We may at least claim to like art that disturbs us, but we don't tend to describe a poem or a painting or a piece of music as a nuisance, even if their makers often are. We use the word nuisance when there is something that we don't want to be bothered by, but are. The relative blandness of the term is reassuring; it reminds us of our passion for convenience, the narcissism of small conflicts, the wish to be left alone...

And yet what is odd about the contest Rorty describes between the new more interesting philosophy and the older entrenched vocabulary is that it is a contest in which one party is encouraged to ignore the words of the other. And, of course, a nuisance is something by definition that you can't ignore; if you could ignore it, it wouldn't become a nuisance. Indeed, that peculiar act of trying to ignore someone or something—the act of seeing and then having to persuade yourself that you haven't really seen, or don't really need to look—is what you start doing with a nuisance. A nuisance is nothing if not good at engaging you; and then at having to deal with all the ways in which one resists being engaged. A nuisance is someone who does and doesn't take no for an answer. But there is, as Rorty intimates, a contest of sorts—an albeit ignoble or mock-heroic one—whenever there is a nuisance around. Though what is striking about nuisance, and so of some interest, is that unlike the artworks we would prefer to make and admire, the nuisance, the nag, and the pest don't tend to bring out the best in us, or in themselves. On the whole, no one wants to be a nuisance; and yet there are clearly situations, predicaments, in which it may be necessary to be able to be one; or, as we say, put up with one.

We don't think of the users or promoters of an entrenched vocabulary as trying or wanting to make a nuisance of themselves, though, given how unacceptable it is to be a nuisance, perhaps we should begin to notice just how much nuisance artfulness is there to conceal or make more pleasing (the word obsession, one could say, pathologizes nuisance just as the word preoccupation aestheticizes it). Every child has to learn how to be a nuisance and how not to be, because nuisance is one of the forms demand takes, even if we think of it as a peculiarly unimaginative, monotonous, and insistent form...

Nuisance is the nice word for the hateful exchange that a relationship can survive, and by surviving can become resilient rather than merely wishful.

So what Winnicott calls "the nuisance value of the symptoms" is always a sign of hope in the child. If the child is prepared to be difficult, he is at least hoping that there is a world he can live in as himself, with all his love and hate. "The nuisance value of the anti-social child," Winnicott writes, "is an essential feature, and is also, at its best, a favorable feature indicating again a potentiality for recovery..." All the child's so-called anti-social behavior, one could say—all his stealing, lying, incontinence, and so on—are simply the form his entitlement to have parents takes. The child is living as if, living in hope that, people can recognize, meet and where necessary withstand his need. It is the child who can't be difficult, the child who is too fearful to make a nuisance of himself, that we should be really worried about. The child who is a bit of a nuisance wants more life, wants the better life that can include whatever his development is going to be. The child who is no trouble may have given up hope..." <

full essay

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Russia and Chechnya

I would like to just add my voice to those already pointing out two recent and thoughtful posts from lenin and young hegelian.

Putin is predictably responding with neocon rhetoric, and there is outrage to requests for explanations from Europe. "Blasphemous," to simply request a report on why this might be happening in Russia. Just as blasphemous as a recent T-shirt in NY that read: "Down with King George; Off with his Head," one supposes. That particular blasphemer was arrested and secretly held without being charged for several days, as is now SOP in kindler, gentler, lockdown America. But "Let Freedom Reign" is apparently just the finest. Nausea.

What is really meant by "zero tolerance" is "zero charity." This is where the doctrine gets its substantial energy. Meanwhile, increasingly wealthy democrats continue to run on an outmoded platform of charity, which continually renders them both hypocrits and stupid. But new stirrings are afoot. The hope - the need - is for a new, self-aware politics to emerge - one seeking to acknowledge deep and inherent contradictions - before Karl Rove and Richard Pearle get to ignite their new nuclear toys.

Could one reason the poor vote their "values" instead of their pocketbooks be that they desire to forget their pockets?

Friday, September 03, 2004

My Old Man and the Sea

Currently reading a story joint-authored by father and son as they sail 17,000 miles around Cape Horn in a self-built 25-foot Vertue. As has happened before, it's a good story despite the laudatory cover blurb by one ridiculously smug, ferociously illiterate William F. Buckley Jr.

Some sample passages:

"Up early, I am conscious that we have a great secret on board. This small vessel is preparing for the roaring Forties and Cape Horn. We don't need a terrified family. They believe we will pass through the Strait of Magellan, which (they don't know this) is actually worse." (37)

"Getting around below is like tree climbing--you need to have three points of your body secured at once, and even the cat makes dashes only to places where he can get wedged in. I share my lunch with him--Dad's feeling lousy and not eating. He has the watch now, and he's on deck, shouting commands. This seems to cheer him on these gray days when we sail three miles to make less than two in the direction we really want to go. "On the foredeck, look sharp there! Aloft, ready to wear shit--main braces--HAUL!" Then down to me, "You've got to learn how to give orders to this scurvy bunch, Dan." He's been on watch too long; it's my turn.
The high point of today was poking a hole in Dad's can of cola so it dribbled down his chest when he drank it. The low point was he didn't notice. Well, he finally did and we laughed hysterically for a half hour. I suppose this proves that there isn't much entertainment out here...
Took departure today, in the Conradian sense, and then we celebrated Halloween with a double candy ration. The candy is the yellow, orange, and white corn candy that Julia sent to Balboa for our Halloween. We're rationed to three peices each per day. The party never really took off, but we all came in costume. I was a pirate, wearing a bandana with a knife held between my teeth. Dad drew an arched black cat body on a piece of paper and put Tiger's head through a hole in it. His costume seemed to be that he was holding the cat, but he told me to notice that he was holding a fork upright and that made him Poseidon."

--Hayes and Hayes, _My Old Man and the Sea_ 80-81

There are also some more adventurous parts.

Hard to read, though, while listening to the news. A feeling of helplessness and habitual ennui of course directed at those knee-jerking with jingos and sandbox taunts and mob applause to a slightly different but ultimately similar helplessness. Norte Americanos and their stupidity complexes--that which Michael Moore subverts at the same time that he re-introduces it tenfold (the mighty backlash). Ulrich Beck writes about a "risk society," but the danger in any such conception is a normalization of risk. On the other hand, the world human toll from wars is arguable the lowest it's been in a century, so maybe Kant is right--war is becoming obsolete.

Hardly, she whispers.

But these mantras--the end of violence, the end of war, the end of Communism, the end of History -- the chanting of these neo-Hegelian, (neoconservative and neoliberal) slogans--their deliberately slow and logical, clear and simple and thoroughly zombied, self-entranced rhythms--betray their own fragility, as Derrida says. Neurosis and desperation. A self-herding crowd of lemmings where everyone is preaching to their fantasy double, to a projection of their idealized image--an unacknowledged firewall against the conscience and subconscious, the grotesque underbelly, the damned side, jouissance, surplus. In other words, a crowd in serious denial. The language of an addict. A self-fulfilling prophesy. Paranoia. Surpressing and suffocating risk is finally the greatest risk, is what creates a "finally" at all. Warring on, error upon error. Bipolar times.
Glib diagnosis is part of it too. I would prefer not to.

"And the sea will grant each man new hope, as sleep brings dreams." --Christopher Combokus

You can think of some other things the sea grants, but the word has long since been banished from every lexicon and replaced by error. Meta-religion.com,, complete with essays on "deconstructionism" and links to David Keresh. whoa. And I'm about to watch--for purely sociological reasons--"Passion of the Palestinian-Slaughtered Pulpating Christ," so you see how my subconscious is working.

I must have temporarily lost my earing.

God's Own Party

Of course to even begin speaking about some things is to risk legitimizing them, and some things do not deserve this risk. In an era of 'postpolitics' when History is just another narrative to be embellished, hollow gestures of citation invoke only a desperate nostalgia. Neo-messianic fundamentalism being one symptom of a paradigm in its death throes. I will say one thing, however: the parts of the speeches (including a few words by "reigning" George that must have cost him hours of relaxing repetition) in Spanish have set a new low in false-hearted pandering. Unfortunately it is a record likely soon to be broken.

"Do we not see around and among us men and peoples who no longer have any essence or identity--who are delivered over, so to speak, to their inessentiality and their inactivity {inoperosità} -- and who grope everywhere, and at the cost of gross falsifications, for an inheritance and a task, an inheritance as task?...The traditional historical potentialities--poetry, religion, philosophy--which from both the Hegelo-Kojevian and Heideggerian perspectives kept the historico-political destiny of peoples awake, have long since been transformed into cultural spectacles and private experiences, and have lost all historical efficacy...The total humanization of the animal coincides with a total animalization of man."

--Giorgio Agamben, _The Open: Man and Animal_, 76-77

Well, here's a toast to a 'messianicity without messianism.' To a faith without religion.


Thursday, September 02, 2004

Further proof of the affinities shared by Derrida and Bob Dylan

"Deconstruction is America," Derrida says somewhere. But then he drops it. This is what they miss, the droppings...

Being driven away from the Royal Albert Hall in London, Bob Dylan sort of mutters, "yeah, that was some kind of thing." "Do you want to know what they're calling you now," someone says, reading from the paper, "an anarchist." "An anarchist, oh my God," Dylan replies. (From the more than a little ironically black and white and also not so acoustic film, “Don’t Look Back.”)

<"We constantly need to say (to think): that was quite something (something quite important) that happened to me. By which we mean at the same time: that couldn't possibly belong to the order of things which come to pass, or which are important, but is rather among the things which export and deport. Repetition." (Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster, 7)>

<"'Something' took place, we have the feeling of not having seen it coming, and certain consequences undeniably follow upon the 'thing.' But this very thing, the place and meaning of this 'event,' remains ineffable, like an intuition without concept, like a unicity with no generality on the horizon or with no horizon at all, out of range for a language that admits its powerlessness and so is reduced to pronouncing mechanically a date, repeating it endlessly, as a kind of ritual incantation, a conjuring poem, a journalistic litany or rhetorical refrain that admits to not knowing what it's talking about." (Derrida, Philosophy in a Time of Terror, 86)>

Yukio Mishima

From a new journal on aesthetics and protest: Metaphysics, Protest, and the Politics of Spectacular Failure
by Colin Dickey

"In the wake of World War One, though, a new generation of writers emerges, writers who no longer accept the possibility of any direct correlation between words and experience. The high modernism of Faulkner, Joyce, Kafka and Mann, of The Sound and the Fury or Ulysses, is characterized by the way language comes to represent its own inability to represent the thing-in-itself, the world of things which are put forever out of reach of the world of words.

In and of itself, then, there is nothing new in Mishima’s point of view. What separates him is his response to this dilemma. Despite having the same suspicion of words, Mishima, writing in the wake of World War II, doesn’t adopt the same formal aesthetic. Though he cited Thomas Mann as his favorite Western author, his writings are hardly modernist, and bear closer resemblance to nineteenth-century realism than Mann or Joyce. Faced with the irrevocable separation of words and things, Mishima does not, as modernist authors had, seek to document this schism; his move to action is motivated by a need to overcome it. “Somewhere within me,” he wrote in 1969, “I was beginning to plan a union of art and life, of style and the ethos of action. 5”

Just as it seems necessary to differentiate Mishima from WTO protesters who are not motivated by aesthetics, it also seems necessary to set him apart from those writers who took, for various reasons, political action. The turn to action is, after all, not particularly new among writers or intellectuals. Foucault and Sartre protested along with everyone else in the May 1968 riots, Derrida has written letters to Bill Clinton to get Mumia Abu-Jamal released, and Jean Genet’s life among the Palestinians is well documented. Edward Said’s act of throwing stones at an Israeli bulldozer on the Lebanon border is probably one of the most recognized events in recent times that blurred intellectual and political action. Mishima stands apart from these writers in two respects. First, the actions of Foucault or Said run parallel to their writings, and may be applications of their writings. Mishima’s suicide, however, seems to be above all else an act of protest as a solution to a literary and metaphysical dilemma. It is a text, in and of itself."

full article

Le Regle du Jeu

"Some thingss never change -- or at least, not since 1939 in France"

...wishing Hector Rottweiller was back in blogness.

Nietzsche, Deleuze, and working class men in skirts

Robert C. Thomas (who also writes on Agamben, incidentally) says "The time has come to think about drag"

Goodbye to the gentleman scholar

This article in Crossings by Mary Refling paints a rather quite dreary picture of humanities academia where increasingly technological innovation passes for critical thinking: Goodbye to the gentleman scholar

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

History as Porn

First an emphatic denial that this is an attempt to get more readers.

Continuing with the themes of Agamben, Stalin, and well, porn. This from 3am magazine:

<>"If pornography is the most political form of fiction because it deals with how we use and exploit each other in the most urgent and ruthless way then a pure, modern politics would also be pornographic. It would contain no mystical smokescreens such as "rights of man" nor would it attempt to place a new perspective on man, nature, history and ultimate destiny. It would be as purely atheistic as an advertising agency, as a beach, as 18-35 package holidays. The outer world, along with Freud's inner, becomes eroticised and quantified, then disappears into a mass communication fantasy. The only struggle left is to struggle to run your own fantasy and not have others run you into theirs. All other angsts are hangovers from a way of life from years ago. The deep, centred nineteenth-century worries about personal integrity are as relevant now as questions about the existence of God."


"Barber writes history in the carnage-infected prose of a novelist cranking up to the heights of Sade's One Hundred and Twenty days Of Sodom, but without the desolating coldness and boredom of that book."

Richard Marshall reviews Stephen Barber's _Annihilation Zones_


This passage from Giorgio Agamben continues to haunt me. If someone wishes to explain it to me or attempt, er, to sell me on it, do please feel free, as they say. Agamben's point of departure is Walter Benjamin's 'aura'. They both -- Benjamin and Agamben -- ontologize in ways that are discrete and beautiful, but ultimately make me quite uncomfortable. rather quite, really.

"Today, in the age of the complete domination of the commodity form over all aspects of social life, what remains of the subdued, senseless promise of happiness that we received in the darkness of moview theaters from dancers sheathed in Dim stockings? Never has the human body -- above all the female body -- been so massively manipulated as today and, so to speak, imagined from top to bottom by the techniques of advertising and commodity production: The opacity of sexual differences has been belied by the transsexual body; the incommunicable foreignness of the singular physis has been abolished in its mediatization as spectacle; the mortality of the organic body has been put in question by its traffic with the body organs of commodities; the intimacy of erotic life has been refuted by pornography. And yet the process of technologization, instead of materially investing the body, was aimed at the construction of a separate sphere that had practically no point of contact with it: What was technologized was not the body, but its image. Thus the glorious body of advertising has become the mask behind which the fragile, slight human body continues its precarious existence, and the geometrical splendor of the "girls" covers over the lines of the naked, anonymous bodies led to their death in the Lagers (camps), or the thousands of corpses mangled in the daily slaughter on the highways.
To appropriate the historic transformations of human nature that capitalism wants to limit to the spectacle, to link together image and body in a space where they can no longer be separated, and thus to forge the whatever body, whose physis is resemblance -- this is the good that humanity must learn how to wrest from commodities in their decline. Advertising and pornography, which escorts the commodity to the grave like hired mourners, are the unknowing midwives of this new body of humanity."

-Agamben, _The Coming Community_, 49-50

I promise this posting of long passages will not become a habit.

On another hand

On another hand, Neruda's naive fawning over Stalin is perhaps reminiscent of that of Julia Kristeva and Sollers, of "Tel Quel" fame, over Mao...

"Bad Poet, Bad Man," writes Stephen Schwartz:

(begin quote)

Neruda never bothered to hide his great enthusiasm for Stalin. Upon the dictator's death in 1953, he wrote a threnody declaring:

To be men! That is the Stalinist law! . . .
We must learn from Stalin
his sincere intensity
his concrete clarity. . . .
Stalin is the noon,
the maturity of man and the peoples.
Stalinists, Let us bear this title with pride. . . .
Stalinist workers, clerks, women take care of this day!
The light has not vanished.
The fire has not disappeared,
There is only the growth of
Light, bread, fire and hope
In Stalin's invincible time! . . .
In recent years the dove,
Peace, the wandering persecuted rose,
Found herself on his shoulders
And Stalin, the giant,
Carried her at the heights of his forehead. . . .
A wave beats against the stones of the shore.
But Malenkov will continue his work.

This poem remains in print in Neruda's Spanish-language collected writings. It does not often appear in anthologies of his work in English.

(end quote)

For the full article: Bad Poet, Bad Man

See also this
on Czeslaw Milosz, by Christopher Hitchens, courtesy of Steve at Splinters.

Projecting our narcissism onto cows

According to Pablo Neruda, regarding the Argentinian writer Omar Vignole:

He used to walk all over Buenos Aires with his cow, leading her by a rope. Around that time, he published some books, all with intriguing titles: What the Cow Thinks, My Cow and I, etc. When the P.E. N. club had its first world congress in Buenas Aires, the writers, who were headed by Victoria Ocampo, trembled at the thought that Vignole would turn up with his cow. They explained this imminent threat to the authorities, and the police cordoned off the streets around the Plaza Hotel to prevent my eccentric friend from showing up with his ruminant at the luxurious place where the congress was being held. It was all in vain. The festivities were in full swing and the writers were discussing the classical world of the Greeks and its relation to the modern meaning of history, when the great Vignole burst in upon the conference hall with his inseparable cow, which, to top things off, started to moo as if she wanted to join the debate. He had brought her into the heart of the city in an enormous closed van that had somehow eluded the vigilance of the police.
--Memoires, 43

Neruda goes on (forgive the lenghty quotes. I haven't learned how to italicize or indent yet either...):

Something else I want to tell about this same Vignole is that he once challenged a wrestler. The pro called his bluff, and on the night of the match my friend showed up at a packed Luna Park right on time with his cow, hitched her to a corner of the ring, shed his super-elegant robe, and faced the Calcutta Strangler.
Well, neither the cow nor the wrestling poet's gorgeous apparel could help him here. The Calcutta Strangler pounced on Vignole and tied him into a helpless know in double-quick time. What's more, adding insult to injury, he placed one foot on the literary bull's throat, amid tremendous whistles and catcalls from an audience that demanded that the fight continue.
A few months later Vignole brought out a new book: Conversations with the Cow. I'll never forget the unique dedication that appeared on the first page. If memory serves me, it read: "I dedicate this philosophical work to the forty thousand sons of bitches who hissed and called for my blood in Luna Park on the night of February 24."

--Neruda, Memoires, 43

One often gets the impression reading Neruda that he is repeating and embellishing other stories...
On another note, Neruda writes of his friend, Alberto Rojas Giménez:

Being generous to a fault, he attracted so much attention that one day, ina café, a stranger came up to him and said, "Sir, I have been listening to you talk and I have taken a great liking to you. May I ask you for something? "What is it?" Rojas Giménez asked, looking put out. "Let me leap over you," the stranger said. "What?" the poet asked. "Are you so powerful that you can leap over me hear, sitting at this table?" "No, sir," the stranger said meekly. "I want to leap over you later, when you are resting in your coffin. It's my way of paying tribute to the interesting people I've met in my life: leaping over them, if they let me, after they're dead. I'm a lonely man, and this is my only hobby." And taking out his notebook, he said, "Here's my list of people I've leaped over." Wild with joy, Rojas Giménez accepted the strange proposition. Several years later [...]friends present at his wake that night had an unusual visitor. A torrential rain was falling on the rooftops, with lightning and the wind together illuminating and shaking the huge plantain trees on Quinta Normal, when the door opened and a man all in black, drenched by the rain, walked in. No one knew who he was. Before the curious eyes of the friends keeping vigil, the stranger braced himself and leaped over the coffin. And he left immediately, as suddenly as he had arrived, without uttering a word, vanishing into the night and the rain. And so Alberto Rojas Giménez's amazing life was sealed with a mysterious rite nobody has yet been able to puzzle out.

--Neruda, Memoires, 39-40

Neruda is a neat and tidy storyteller, leaping with grace from punch line to solemn decree, guiding the reader with that pervasive modesty and nostalgia so invocative of another time, another patience, a lost art. But then, there are some good reasons why it has been "lost." Although still endearing, such patient, simple formulas -- and especially their haunting morals -- are decidely outmoded, which doesn't necessarily mean they cannot still be heard, or begun to be heard for the first time even. I am thinking of the Russian Formalists and their insistenc that literature is never passed on directly, from generation to generation. Rather it skips one, going from grandfather to grandson, or in a "Knight's move" from uncle to nephew. Such distance is required for literature to be heard -- for receptiveness to begin.
To say Neruda's romantics are outmoded is not to subscribe to the "dumbing down" of discourse, however -- that which followed in the wake of the Beats, say (hippies being intolerably dumb). Neruda's anecdotes are beautifully economic, full of eccentric characters, passionate and --for lack of a better word -- compassionate.
But what vanity and improvisation and gloss is storytelling. What self-congratulatory delight in those who pull it off (there is always a deception at every story's heart -- one that originates with the speaking self). Story tellers rely on an arsenal of baggage; they are moral, immoral, modest, wicked, ironic, superior. Ungraspable. Their faith in some 'loophole' or 'superaddressee' being such an alluring enigma, such presence and yet indifference (why don't you acknowledge that your style, your buffer and umbrella, is a madness? becuase to do so would be even more mad?) Such vague promises, yearning to be yet to be defined. Such silent sacrifice. Loopholes remaining beautifully unfinished.