Monday, January 31, 2005


An accessible article on "Judaism and Alterity in Blanchot and Levinas," as well as a thoughtful nod to Derrida from John Caputo, is here (courtesy of Charlotte Street). The other articles, particularly the reviews, are very much worth reading as well. Apologies for the lack of posts of late. Been working, looking for work, and taking care of a flu-stricken girlfriend, among other things. Went for a long, warm hike in the snow today, in order to look down on (and across at) things for a minute or two. We ate snow and pushed each other and threw snowballs and, inevitably, began talking at length about Derrida and the finite idea of the logos on the way back down.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Edward Burtynsky


End the War in Iraq

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BBC NEWS: In pictures: Shooting in Tal Afar

The Children of Iraq

Yesterday Gore Vidal accused most Americans of thinking this war, and this Bush Presidency, was some kind of movie. Meanwhile Eliot Weinberger, in the London Review of Books, has been hearing things:

I heard the vice president say: ‘By any standard of even the most dazzling charges in military history, the Germans in the Ardennes in the spring of 1940 or Patton’s romp in July of 1944, the present race to Baghdad is unprecedented in its speed and daring and in the lightness of casualties.’

I heard Colonel David Hackworth say: ‘Hey diddle diddle, it’s straight up the middle!’

I heard the Pentagon spokesman say that 95 per cent of the Iraqi casualties were ‘military-age males’.

I heard an official from the Red Crescent say: ‘On one stretch of highway alone, there were more than fifty civilian cars, each with four or five people incinerated inside, that sat in the sun for ten or fifteen days before they were buried nearby by volunteers. That is what there will be for their relatives to come and find. War is bad, but its remnants are worse.’

I heard the director of a hospital in Baghdad say: ‘The whole hospital is an emergency room. The nature of the injuries is so severe – one body without a head, someone else with their abdomen ripped open.’

I heard an American soldier say: ‘There’s a picture of the World Trade Center hanging up by my bed and I keep one in my Kevlar. Every time I feel sorry for these people I look at that. I think: “They hit us at home and now it’s our turn.”’ (read more)

(courtesy of Steve) Update: and a response from Ron Silliman...

Some quite disturbing visual aid comes from a site currently under investigation by the U.S. Defense Department. From the Australian press:
THE US Defence Department has been asked to investigate a website being used by American soldiers to post grisly pictures of Iraqi war dead.

The site, which has been operating for more than a year, describes itself as "an online archive of soldiers' photos".

Dozens of pictures of decapitated and limbless bodies are featured on the site with tasteless captions, purportedly sent in by soldiers.

Captions include "plastic surgery needed", "road kill" and "I said dead".
(hat tip).

Public Can Force Iraq Troop Withdrawal, Lawmakers and Critics Say

Update: Dan Brett dares to actually talk about the elections:
But the elections! The elections tell us everything! Millions of brave Iraqis defying the terrorists to cast their votes. What is not told to the good people of America and Britain is who were contesting the elections and what their platforms were. There was a complete media blackout on the election contest, so it is no surprise that only a fraction of Iraqis living abroad bothered to vote.


Certainly, this election has put the Coalition in a difficult position, as it will make it near impossible to invade Iran with the support of the newly empowered Shi'ite leaders, nor will the Kurds willingly submit to Turkish demands on the thorny issue of Iraq's borders. Meanwhile, the Sunnis will become ever more embittered and hostile to both the government in Baghdad and the American and British military overlords.

Thursday, January 27, 2005


Sorry about the incoherent posts lately. I'm glad someone was able to put them to good use. Pleased also that discussions of Blanchot are taking place. Still waiting to be read, as he is.

what when words gone? none for what then. but say by way of somehow on somehow with sight to do. with less of sight. still dim and yet --. no. nohow so on. say better worse words gone when nohow on. still dim and nohow on. all seen and nohow on. what words for what then? none for what then. no words for what when words gone. for what when nohow on. somehow nohow on. worsening words whose unknown. whence unknown. at all costs unknown. now for to say as worst they may only they only they. dim void shades all they. nothing save what they say. somehow say. nothing save they. what they say. whosesoever whencesoever say. as worst they may fail ever worse to say. remains of mind then still. enough still. somewhose somewhere somehow enough still. no mind and words? even such words. so enough still. just enough still to joy. joy! just enough still to joy that only they. only!
- Beckett

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

yet another

Haruki Murakami site (via), in case the other two on the sidebar aren't enough. Perhaps more timely is this site dedicated to the Holocaust poetry of Paul Celan. Also, a genuinely moving first-hand account of surviving the tsunami, Gore Vidal on Democracy Now, and Viktor Yuschenko is blogging. And how's this for bridging the pond: The Beastles (via). A fact: it was Dylan who first turned the Beatles on, the result being less "She loves you, yeah, yeah" and more "Sgt. Pepper." As for Dylan's metaphorical-leaning literal-ness, I always thought it had something to do with his interest in the French--Rimbaud for example. As Kristeva says, English in America is essentially not a language, but more of a code, really. Dylan, with his unique blend of folk appropriation and existential sincerity, occasionally made the code sing, even if he's not a writer.
A list of books recently, temporarily given up on: Underworld by Don Delillo (the first 100 pages were terrific), and Matter and Memory by Henri Bergson. Suspect I will soldier on at some point, but right now just too busy working nights at a restaurant (among other places) and otherwise simply enduring the winter in this politically doomed country, full of depressed working people, with a minimum of head and heartache.

Monday, January 24, 2005

My Niece, The Silent Rapper

In a particularly pop-cultural, new year's moment.

...The girl dancing on the left is my niece as well, and so is the, um, young aspiring film director.

they forgot to say "subversive"

Meet The Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army, apparently quite proud of their J20 "victory," as part of Reclaim the streets! Hard to see Matthew Yglesias taking part. Not to sound as cynical as Richard Rorty, of course, silent blogger extraordinaire. Incidentally, the link to Left2Right will return when he posts something there, though I'm beginning to have my doubts. The Clown Army folks also have a homepage here.

Update: See Metafilter's post on Coulrophobia (fear of clowns).

well the Zapatistas have signed it

Some of them, anyway. And so can you too, gentle reader, sign it.
At the start of the Iraq War ZNet posted a web page featuring what we called the We Stand Statement. The statement quickly inspired over 90,000 online signatures as well as 25,000 more collected in pen and ink by the Zapatistas in Mexico.

-Michael Albert,

Sunday, January 23, 2005

so says Martin Amis

I didn't notice, while writing this book (I only noticed while reading it, for revision), how often my free will has been compromised by fame (otherwise known as the media); stymied, finessed, crosspurposed. You're not meant to mind about this, because fame is meant to be so great. And I don't complain: I genuflect, and think of my friend Salmon Rushdie...Actually there's a good reason, a structural reason, why novelists should excite corrosiveness in the press. When you review a film, or appraise a film-director, you do not make a ten-minute short about it or him (or her). When you write about a painter, you do not produce a sketch. When you write about a composer, you do not reach for your violin. And even when a poet is under consideration, the reviewer or profilist does not (unless deeply committed to presumption and tedium) produce a poem. But when you write about a novelist, an exponent of prose narrative, then you write a prose narrative. And was that the extent of your hopes for your prose--bookchat, interviews, gossip? Valued reader, it is not for me to say this is ency. It is for you to say that this is envy. And envy never comes to the ball dressed as Envy. It comes dressed as something else: Asceticism, High Standards, Common Sense. Anyway, as I said, I don't complain about all that--because fame is so great.

-"Introductory: My Missing" (from Experience)

Of course Nabokov's famous antipathy toward critics (as in those who aren't also writers) comes to mind. The four months I spent reading nearly all of Nabokov's novels (and most of his short stories and criticism--it was a fantastic four months) for a course with a Russian professor who seemed to get all her material from the safely modernist but quite thorough Brian also flooding back as I read Will Self's My Idea of Fun--as clear a tribute to Nabokov's false creators and ethics-muddling eidetic synaesthesia as any. It's also pretty damn raw, as far as fiction goes. Here is an excerpt from a particularly Blanchodian moment:
All over London The Fat Controller's creatures, his confreres and familiars, his agents and accomplices, his licentiates and legates, were stirring. They were feeling his presence--or maybe it was the anticipation of his presence, as it were, his pre-presence--as someone might sense the coming of a thunderstorm. First the fall in air-pressure, then the build up of humidity, then the agonizing apprehension that everything presages something else, that all there is is this awful, close waiting. But when at last it comes--what a disappointment. Rain is, after all, only rain. Sky piss. And thunder is, after all, only thunder. Just God, like a troubled pensioner, a little bit 'confused' and indulging his second adolescence by imagining that a rearrangement of the serviced flatlet's furniture will somehow engender a new charisma. (My Idea of Fun, 218-219)

Will Self, putting Delillo to shame. Special bonus question for anyone who's read the book, or anyone at all: Who is "The Fat Controller"? Is he Capital, God, an omnipotent Devil, an evil Santa Claus, Alfred Hitchcock, empire, J.P. Morgan, Will Self's narrator's subconscious, Will Self himself?

all the meta you need

Mark Dery (courtesy of Backword Dave).

blink, blinking

An informative article on Situationists and Architecture (New Left Review) (courtesy of).

Update: See also Tales of the city: applying Situationist social practice to the analysis of the urban drama (Winter, 2003). An excerpt:
Existing critical literature frequently identifies Mookie as a type of Baudelairean flaneur--a kind of dandy figure who wanders the streets, marked by detached interest in the environment in which he chooses to observe. (56) But while certain critics have named the derive and the flanerie as kindred spirits, (57) the Situationists had different thoughts:

The concept of derive is indissolubly linked to the recognition of
effects that are psychogeographical in nature, and to the
affirmation of a ludic-constructive behavior, something that opposes
it in all respects to the classical notions of travel and
promenade. (58)

The temptation is, of course then, to identify Mookie as a deriviste, but this analysis also misses the mark. In fact, Mookie is explicitly anti-situationist, adopting a passive, detached stance toward the world in which he moves. His interaction is friendly, terse, and smooth, but it is, above all else, his own. This is all the more striking in light of his action at the end of the film when he is transformed into an active, engaged, and enraged man. The disconnect between Mookie's detachment and final action is confirmed on a semesterly basis as students debate the motivation behind Mookie's attack on Sal's Famous, its plausibility, and its connection to his earlier characterization. Ultimately, they emerge unsatisfied.

The suggestion here is that Mookie's role as flaneur (and not as deriviste) represses the psychogeographical effect of his Bed-Stuy neighborhood, and that its collective effect erupts with the death of Radio Raheem. It is at this point that Mookie becomes the closest thing, we might say, to an actual Situationist. His detournement of both Sal's and the neighborhood becomes the explicit and literal playing out of psychogeographical effect--the inherent violence of the spectacle. It is, in fact, the creation of a situation.

A second point, and one that was framed by Mitchell in his appraisal of the film as "public art," is the consideration of Spike Lee himself. The genius of Do the Right Thing lies not only in the sophistication of its textual movement, but that it, in its own right, participates in the construction of a situation. The anger and confusion that the film generated (and continues to generate) from people who see Sal as a compassionate character and Mookie's action as destructive and unwarranted, is nearly unparalleled in popular cinema. The point is, however, that at its climax the film moves well beyond the clarity of character and narrative motivation. For Mitchell, it is a work of public art, necessitating an interaction between art and spectator, living in the interaction of the two. Adding the language of the SI, it is the transformation of everyday life. "Wake up, wake up, wake, up!" are the first words of the film (and not coincidentally, the last words of Lee's previous release, School Daze). "Revolution is not 'showing' life to people, but making them live," wrote Debord. (59) By constructing a situation both in the text of the film and in the larger apparatus of the cinema, Lee lashes out at the spectacle and begins carving out a space for a transformed life.

A familiar enough example, that. Of course Spike Lee also likes to create uncomfortable situations for the NBA spectacle. Is it always misplaced to criticize a black man for appearing to pander to a stereotype?

Another thought: Someone should really write a thesis entitled, "Engagement or Passivity? From Debord to Agamben and Stepping(Not)Beyond."

Final related link:
"Triumph of the Spectacle" by William McClure (Borderlands)

Heir to Whom?

In this May 2004 interview, in which he discusses his latest book, the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben explicitly aligns his project directly behind (or beyond) that of Foucault. He also makes little effort to conceal his affinity for Benjamin (and in particular--though in passing-- for Benjamin's reading of Neitzsche, although a sharp interviewer doesn't quite let him get away with it.) Agamben is certainly one of the most exciting and important thinkers alive today. Whether or not one subscribes fully to his conception of a sovereignty as opposed to Homo Sacer, there are few thinkers more deserving of serious attention and rigorous debate. One wonders, still, just how long will Agamben be able to keep it up without having to reckon (more fully) with Derrida's seminal readings of Benjamin in "Force of Law" (Acts of Religion), and of Carl Schmitt in Politics of Friendship.

Found on this incredibly rich site, from an essay on Walter Benjamin:

"What is aura, actually? A strange weave of space and time: the unique appearance or semblance of distance, no matter how close it may be. While at rest on a summer's noon, to trace a range of mountains on the horizon, or a branch that throws its shadow on the observer, until the moment or the hour become part of their appearance -- this is what it means to breathe the aura of those mountains, that branch."(7) --Walter Benjamin (1931)

Benjamin's conceptual circling of the 'nature' of aura within the "contradictory and mobile whole" of his written works is the here-again, gone-again keystone to the architectonic of his critical-poetic universe ... One moment he banishes metaphor and analogy, and the next he brings it back ... As above, in 1931, he could describe in loving terms 'aura' yet still qualify a performative destruction of aura insofar as it liberated things from bankrupt aesthetic strictures of outmoded cultural politics. His relation to aura (by way of photography and film) is, however, by 1936, much changed in that the technical, revolutionary aspects of photography have already been turned to both counter-productive political and nihilistic, purely-commercial purposes. Atget's photographs of Paris, situated at the turn of the century and representing for Benjamin "the Pole of utmost mastery", may indeed have "initiated the emancipation of object from aura" (a signature motif taken up by Man Ray and the Surrealists) yet at the same time this 'tearing' at the veil succeeds in a second illumination more dear to Benjamin than the polluted atmosphere of outmoded aestheticism ... and, if the Surrealists "set the scene for a salutary estrangement between man and his surroundings", Benjamin's claims for photography are purely polemical such that they give "free play to the politically educated eye, under whose gaze all intimacies are sacrificed to the illumination of detail."(8) Such sentiments mirror the materialist notion that mid-day is preferable to evening ... that mid-day is the moment of absolute clarity (when shadows recede ...). Such, too, is revolutionary rhetoric ... while in the shaded workshops of revolutionary artists (alchemists) aura is kept in a secret drawer below the iconic tools of their trade, to be re-loaded -- in time -- purified and distilled.(more...and more here)

Does Agamben, perhaps in his closeness to Foucault, not miss something of a crucial weakness in this "here-again, gone-again" of Benjamin's? Part of what makes Benjamin so enjoyabe to read is certainly the pleasure one gets from disagreeing, or being given the chance to disagree with him. Indeed, we've come to expect such gestures, and on blogs especially, although that is a different universe of discourse entirely. The most popular blogs are those that consistently manage to just barely underestimate the intelligence of their audience. People flock to where they perceive themselves to be of value. Perhaps this is one reason why people find Derrida "pretentious" and "impenetrable." He requires a different kind of ear, or patience. Flattery, sophistry, pandering to the audience (in the usual forms, anyway--seduction is another thing), producing a book as if to merely respond on demand (as Derrida so accuses Fukuyama) is anathema. Derrida builds a rock solid case out of the most enigmatic phrases, and yet at the end he proceeds to leave the reader hanging, with no habitual reassurance or certainty. I think Nabokov accomplishes something of a mastery of this art as well, and indeed there is a conception of the poetic at stake in Derrida--a 'trembling'--that remains inseperable from the content of his argument. In contrast, even if one doesn't begin to fully understand Agamben's arguments, one is still often (though not always) at least allowed to leave with a sense of something certain having been said. I think The Coming Community may be something of an exception to this tendency (and as we all know, exceptions are not so easily bracketed off and dismissed).

Last summer I read Agamben's The Open: Man and Animal, a lengthy encounter primarily with Heidegger. Although as always Agamben peppers his prose with uncommon(but never abstruse!), vaguely heteroclite signposts (examples, he would say), that are at once precise, economical, and perhaps somewhat brutal in the glibness of their appropriative force. A sexier Foucault?

From anexcellent essay on Derrida by Matthew Calarco, "On the Borders of Language and Death: Derrida and the Question of the Animal":

In contrast to thinkers such as Agamben, Levinas, and Blanchot, Derrida clearly recognizes that something must be said about the anthropocentrism of a discourse that so quickly dismisses any relation between animals and their death(s) and/or language(s). The underlying argument here is that it is not sufficient to argue (against Heidegger) for the impossibility of a proper death for Dasein only to effectively leave in place (with Heidegger) the classically anthropocentric, hierarchical, and analytical distinctions between human Dasein and the animal. Derrida addresses this concern in the concluding lines of the paragraph we have been reading:

Against, or without, Heidegger, one could point to a thousand signs that show that animals also die. Although the innumerable structural differences that separate one “species” from another should make us vigilant about any discourse on animality or bestiality in general, one can say that animals have a very significant relation to death, to murder and to war (hence to borders), to mourning and to hospitality, and so forth, even if they have neither a relation to death nor to the “name” of death as such, nor, by the same token, to the other as such, to the purity as such of the alterity of the other as such. But neither does man, that is precisely the point! . . . Who will guarantee that the name, that the ability to name death (like that of naming the other, and it is the same) does not participate as much in the dissimulation of the “as such” of death as in its revelation, and that language is not precisely the origin of the nontruth of death, and of the other? (A 75-6/PF 336)

Derrida closes the paragraph with a question mark, as is typically the case in his work when such immensely complex relations are at stake. What we are left with at the end of his analysis, then, is a rather open-ended conclusion: the lingering forms of anthropocentrism and humanism that underpin Heidegger’s analysis of death should be called into question, and this entails the necessity not only for a more nuanced account of the various relations human beings have to death and dying, but also for careful analyses of how animals (and not “The Animal”) also die.

For some readers, Derrida’s “conclusion” is likely to be frustrating. What one would perhaps wish to see here is a detailed discussion of the consequences—whether they be philosophical, ethical, political, or institutional—that follow from the notion that “animals also die.” Although this kind of demand is understandable, it betrays a common misunderstanding of the scope and capacity of deconstruction that misses its essential modesty and radicality. In complicating our understanding of the differences between those beings called “animal” and those called “human,” Derrida is seeking to do little more than create the conditions of possibility for another way of rethinking the forms of relation that obtain between these singularities. To demand of deconstruction that it do more than this is to deprive it of its radicality, of its ability to incessantly question the categories and decisions that guide “positive” ethical and political projects....(read the whole thing)

Friday, January 21, 2005

The Agony Becomes Intolerable

Feel like a little Strindberg and Helium? (courtesy of Chris at Splinters)
An arresting post at Side Effects. Contra the tendency here, of late, felicidades to those who decline the virus of blogspeak--who would prefer to write.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

More on Sontag

Worth reading, by Scott McLemee (via Cliopatria):

There were long periods when she simply disappeared from view. When she returned, it might be with an essay on a topic so utterly uncontemporary as Japanese puppet theater or the fiction of Machado de Assis. Indeed, with much of Sontag’s work during the ’80s and ’90s, there seemed to be an element of capriciousness in her choice of topics. She had avoided the constraints of scholarly “professionalization,” to use that rather grim word so beloved of the MLA folk. The price was a tendency toward genteel self-delight that -- because of its aristocratic tone, and her solemn manner as Great Writer -- could be quite maddening, even to an admirer.

Update: Excellent post at Alphonse Van Worden on Sontag's seeming inability to get one of Godard's jokes.

...certainTaylored postmodernists?

Unfortunately, Taylor’s “Yes” to network culture is often unqualified, turning his book into a paean to neo-liberal economics.


Stripped of the scientific jargon, this statement is neither new nor particularly exciting; 19th century social Darwinists such as Herbert Spencer would have heartily agreed.

In conclusion, while I believe that Taylor is correct in his critique of post-structuralism, that it offers an unqualified “No” often better left unspoken, Taylor’s own unqualified “Yes” is far more insidious.


While Taylor is right to insist that the academy is already imbricated in “corporate culture” through its reliance upon corporate donors and through its own bureaucratized structure, his critique of academic “autonomy” begs the question of whether the academy should still play any sort of critical role at all in the contemporary “network culture.” Taylor’s “survival of the fittest” model of society makes one doubt whether there is any room for scholarly integrity in a purely functional world.

Spot on. Except for the alleged "critique" of post-structuralism bit. From here (via here).

Update: For an alternative, maybe try this review (pdf) of Steven Shaviro's book, Connected, or What It Means to Live in the Network Society, in the latest issue of the excellent Janus Head. I'm no "network culture" theorist, but all this neo-Darwinian illness metaphor stuff sure sounds a bit like it could make use of Derrida's conception of 'auto-immunity', or an 'auto-immunitary logic'....

From "Better than (Real)Life: Cyberspace as Urban Space:"
Relating cyberspace to urban space is not simply a clever language game of analogy and signification. Instead the two concepts and experiences constitute an increasingly intertwined development of late capitalism and modernity. This development which when used to emphasise the contradictions and complexities of modernity can be described as a harbinger of postmodernity. Cyberspace is 'built' around pre-existing conceptualisations of the social world - of urban space and the social imaginary. The development of cyberspace is not premised solely upon the achievement of a particular techno-economic level of social development but also requires a previous articulation in the social imaginary of what can be described, with the benefit of hindsight, as pre-cyberspaces. Pre-cyberspaces that are formed through literature, mythology, science, religion or language shape the manner in which a cyberspace is mapped and consequently simulates 'reality'. The homesteading version of early Barlovian cyberspace while developed as a critique to the loss of community engendered through urbanism was only a brief precursor to subsequent urban development. Increasingly, with the persistence of cyberspace and its significance as a place in which forms of identity can be constructed, it has been brought into a relationship of reciprocal feedback with other urban space (Burrows 1997, p.238). Baudrillard�s charting of simulacra emphasises the complexity of this relationship, "The imaginary was the alibi for the real, in a world dominated by the reality principle. Today it is the real that has become the alibi of the model, in a world controlled by the principle of simulation. And paradoxically, it is the real that has become our true utopia - but a utopia that is no longer in the realm of the possible, that can only be dreamt of as one would dream of a lost object." (Baudrillard 1994, 122-123). The practices and artefacts, however, that are found in cyberspace cannot be construed as representative or meaningful of a generalised provenance, or a single space, requiring instead more sensitive and particular 'regional' readings. The suggestion that all urban space or cyberspace can be described with �meta-narratives� and generalisations should be treated cautiously. To do so in the context of cyberspace is to fetishise the artefacts of technology and ignore the variety and versions of human dimension in what is a socially constructed and culturally diverse space.

Black Thursday

Go read the Agamben quote at wood s lot. Some protest coverage via Surprising nobody, ANSWER is providing the comic relief.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

A list or two

Some new blogs: Vitro Nasu, moleskine modality, At Any Street Corner, OBSERVING THE OBSERVER, Outside the Text, The Importance of Disappointment and Alphonse van Worden.

Update: Also I Cite, by the soon-to-be author of a book entitled "Zizek's Politics."

Some books currently reading: Oblivion by David Foster Wallace; My Idea of Fun by Will Self; Slow Learner by Thomas Pynchon; Chronicles: Volume One by Bob Dylan; Dispatches by Michael Herr; Serendipities by Umberto Eco and Counterpath by Jacques Derrida. Oh and some Martin Amis, next to the Bergman essays residing in the bathroom, along with Heidegger (Poetry, Language, Thought). And John Barth (coming soon!!!). At least until he gets his hands on the latest Agamben and Murakami.

On another note, is it just him or do the blogs have the new year blues a bit? Come on now, lighten up you spoiled brats.

Update: Ron Silliman touches on precisely what irks me about the Dylan memoir:
But it’s precisely the awe that is telling here. Even with 30-years hindsight, Dylan can’t really separate received culture – that veneer of media – from the work itself. Given the role of media in his own life, that’s a gap worth exploring.

Granted that separating such stubborness or blindness from that which makes Dylan unique is maybe not so easily done. As Silliman also notes:
Reading Bob Dylan’s Chronicles: Volume One, you realize that Dylan is never going to let you see the source of the residual, simmering anger that has always been so close to the heart of everything he has ever done in the arts.

Hard to distinguish sometimes between mere stubborness and a useful kind of discretion. Often as useful as having an umbrella, Nietzsche says.

Update II: Silliman has a second post on Dylan, dealing more directly with issues of prose style, literal vs. metaphorical writing, and song-writing vs. poetry.

Today's MLK

Got Democracy Now? Welcome to The Grand Delusion, the sequel. Already in theatres in Iran everywhere.


I don't think I'm being overly dramatic about this and nor do I feel I'm shanghaiing you. After all, you're like all the rest, you like the world on your plate ready to be forked into two chunks, don't you? There's nothing more comforting for you than saying, 'This is either this, or it's that.' You do it all the time, it's as primary as breathing for you. I'm merely providing you with another fine opportunity to exercise your fine discrimination.

-Will Self, My Idea of Fun

Friday, January 14, 2005


Tonight I smoked the last cigarette of a man condemned, called up from the reserves, to be potential cannon fodder in this civil war we have created. He threw the empty pack into a corner of the wall outside the bar. He seemed surprised that I would smoke. I didn't know him well enough to confront him directly, husband of a friend of a friend, and anyway what could I have said that would have changed his mind? His issues run deep, and they are not mine.


Happy preemptive Martin Luther King Day.

cartoon credit


From Slow Learner (1984) by Thomas Pynchon:

I enjoyed only a glancing acquaintance with the Beat movement. Like others, I spent a lot of time in jazz clubs, nursing the two-beer minimum. I put on hornrimmed sunglasses at night. I went to parties in lofts where girls wore strange attire. I was hugely tickled by all forms of marijuana humor, though the talk back then was in inverse relation to the availability of that useful substance. In 1965, in Norfolk, Virginia, I had wandered into a bookstore and discovered issue one of the Evergreegn Review, then an early forum for Beat sensibility. It was an eye-opener. I was in the Navy at the time, but I already knew people who would sit in circles on the deck and sing perfectly, in parts, all those early rock'n'roll songs, who played bongos and saxophones, who had felt honest grief when Bird and later Clifford Brown died. By the time I got back to college, I found academic people deeply alarmed over the cover of the Evergreen Review then current, not to mention what was inside. It looked as if the attitude of some literary folks toward the Beat generation was the same as that of certain officers on my ship toward Elvis Presley. They used to approach those among the ship's company who seemed likely sources--combed their hair like Elvis, for example. "What's his message?" they'd interrogate anxiously. "What does he want?"
We were at a transition point, a strange post-Beat passage of cultural time, with our loyalties divided. As bop and rock'n'roll were to swing music and postwar pop, so was this new writing to the more established modernist tradition we were being exposed to then in college


One year of those times was much like another. One of the most pernicious effects of the '50's was to convince the people growing up during them that it would last forever. Until John Kennedy, then perceived as a congressional upstart with a strange haircut, began to get some attention, there was a lot of aimlessness going around. While Eisenhower was in, there seemed no reason why it should all not just go on as it was.

Since I wrote this story I have kept trying to understand entropy, but my grasp becomes less sure the more I read[...]When I think about the property nowadays, it is more and more in connection with time, that human one-way time we're all stuck with locally here, and which terminates, it is said, in death. Certain processes, not only thermodynamic ones but also those of a medical nature, can often not be reversed. Sooner or later we all find this out, from the inside.

Such considerations were largely absent when I wrote "Entropy." I was more concerned with committing on paper a variety of abuses, such as overwriting. I will spare everybody a detailed discussion of all the overwriting that occurs in these stories, except to mention how distressed I am at the number of tendrils that keep showing up. I still don't know for sure what a tendril is. I think I took the word from T.S. Eliot. I have nothing against tendrils personally, but my overuse of the word is a good example of what can happen when you spend too much time and energy on words alone. This advice has been given often and more compellingly elsewhere, but my specific piece of wrong procedure back then was, incredibly, to browse through the thesaurus and note words that sounded cool, hip, or likely to produce an effect, usually that of making me look good, without then taking the trouble to go and find out in the dictionary what they meant. If this sounds stupid, it is. I mention it only on the chance that others may be doing it even as we speak, and be able to profit from my error.

This same free advice can also be applied to items of information. Everybody gets told to write about what they know. The trouble with many of us is that at the earlier stages of life we think we know everything--or to put it more usefully, we are often unaware of the scope and structure of our ignorance. Ignorance is not just a blank space on a person's mental map. It has contours and coherence, and for all I know rules of operation as well. So as a corollary to writing about what we know, maybe we should add getting familiar with our ignorance, and the possibilities therein for ruining a good story. Opera librettos, movies and television drama are allowed to get away with all kinds of errors in detail. Too much time in front of the Tube and a writer can get to believing the same thing about fiction. Not so. Though it may not be wrong absolutely to make up, as I still do, what I don't know or am too lazy to find out, phony data are more often than not deployed in places sensitive enough to make a difference, thereby losing whatever marginal charm they may have possessed outside of the story's context.


The problem here is like the problem with "Entropy": beginning with something abstract--a thermodynamic coinage or the data in a guidebook--and only then going on to try to develop plot and characters. This is simply, as we say in the profession, ass backwards. Without some grounding in human reality, you are apt to be left only with another apprentice exercise, which is what this uncomfortably resembles.

I was also able to steal, or let us say "derive," in more subtle ways. I had grown up reading a lot of spy fiction, novels of intrigue, notably those of John Buchan...My reading at the time also included many Victorians, allowing World War I in my imagination to assume the shape of that attractive nuisance so dear to adolescent minds, the apocalyptic showdown.

I don't mean to make light of this. Our common nightmare The Bomb is in there too. It was bad enough in '59 and is much worse now, as the level of danger has continued to grow. There was never anything subliminal about it, then or now. Except for that succession of the criminally insane who have enjoyed power since 1945, including the power to do something about it, most of the rest of us poor sheep have always been stuck with simple, standard fear. I think we have all tried to deal with this slow escalation of our helplessness and terror in the few ways open to us, from not thinking about it to going crazy from it. Somewhere on this spectrum of impotence is writing fiction about it--occasionally, as here, offset to a more colorful time and place. (Pynchon, Slow Learner, 8-19)


Great show about Django Reinhardt and the Nazis on NPR last night. Will update the link if/when it becomes available.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Eagleton redux

Terry Eagleton, earlier criticized in a hatchet response to his latest book (hardly a "review" as some have claimed), certainly deserves respect and attention for one simple reason: he is an unapologetic Marxist. That is, he understands how impotent political criticism can be without such a structural critique of capitalism as such. That's right, Capitalism. Such a critic is a rarity indeed, within the hallowed halls or whatever anti-intellectual cliche one wishes to use academia, currently going through one of its periodical psuedo-identity-crisis episodes. Eagleton's is a critical stance that some folks would do well to take up. At the risk of becoming potent and truly important, that is. Just don't take his word on Derrida, okay? But let's give Eagleton just a bit more space to speak for himself:

Capitalism needs a human being who has never yet existed--one who is prudently restrained in the office and wildly anarchic in the shopping mall. What was happening in the 1960s was that the disciplines of production were being challenged by the culture of consumption. And this was bad news for the system only in a limited sense.

There was no simple rise and fall of radical ideas. We have seen already that revolutionary nationalism chalked up to some signal victories at the same time that it unwittingly prepared the ground for a 'post-class' discourse of the impoverished world. While students were discovering free love, a brutal US imperialism was at its height in south-east Asia. If there were fresh demands for liberation, they were partly reactions to a capitalism in buoyant, expansive phase. It was the soullessness of an affluent society, not the harshness of a deprived one, which was under fire. European Communist parties made some inroads, but political reform in Czechoslovakia was crushed by Soviet tanks. Latin American guerrilla movements were rolled back. Structuralism, the new intellectual fashion, was radical in some ways and technocratic in others. If it challenged the prevailing social order, it also reflected it. Post-structuralism and postmodernism were to prove similarly ambiguous, subverting the metaphysical underpinnings of middle-class society with something of its own market-type relativism. Both postmoderists and neo-liberals are suspicious of public norms, inherent values, given hierarchies, authoritative standards, consensual codes and traditional practices. It is just that neo-liberals admit that they reject all this in the name of the market. Radical postmodernists, by contrast, combine these aversions with a somewhat sheepish chariness of commercialism. The neo-liberals, at least, have the virtue of consistency here, whatever their plentiful vices elsewhere. (After Theory, 28-29)

One can easily enough imagine the effect such a book will have. Their general discomfort with the seemingly impotent state of cultural theory, English or Humanities departments (not to mention their habitual fear and distrust of the French) to some degree vindicated, yet not quite comfortable swallowing Eagleton's brand of Marxism whole, academics and NPR-listeners will hopefully have been given some fresh ammo, some Nietzschean soundbites, to help them carry streadfastly on against the forclosure on thinking that is fundamentalist politics. But having been given all the soundbites so conveniently packaged for them, they may remain largely uninspired to read for themselves. In short one gets the disturbing impression that at the end of Eagleton's book the reader in good faith is left with voila: Terry Eagleton. Having taken the time to read himself, it wouldn't hurt him to go further in providing hospitable or original readings, perhaps ones that gestured toward a place beyond his own text. One might wonder if the risk of taking the popular audience as a fundamental starting point is to sometimes become trapped within it. Ignorance becomes more tolerable every time it is so naturalized. A form of cheap therapy, even.

While one may agree that the often polemical, show-off style of folks like Zizek, Baudrillard or David Foster Wallace is lamentable, especially as it spreads like a virus contaminating the writing of so many, again what Eagleton fails to do is rigorously distinguish between what is generally slandered as "postmodernism" and the subtle insights of poststructuralism. (The latter, of course, raises difficult questions for a neo-Marxist.) In fact Eagleton more often than not fails to acknowledge any distinction whatsoever. So he risks taking the worst sloganized prejudices of the tired "culture wars" as both his beginning and, unfortunately, his end point. Just hang in there, ye academics, don't bother to read Derrida, wink, nudge, nudge.

We can never be 'after theory', in the sense that there can be no reflective human life without it. We can simply run out of particular styles of thinking, as our situation changes. With the launch of a new global narrative of capitalism, along with the so-called war on terror, it may well be that the style of thinking known as postmodernism is now approaching an end. It was, after all, the theory which assured us that grand narratives were a thing of the past. Perhaps we will be able to see it, in retrospect, as one of the little narratives of which it has been so fond. This, however, presents cultural theory with a fresh challenge. If it is to engage with an ambitious global history, it must have answerable resources of its own, equal in depth and scope to the situation it confronts. It cannot afford simply to keep recounting the same narratives of class, race and gender, indispensable as these topics are. It needs to chance its arm, break out of a rather stifling orthodoxy and explore new topics, not least those of which it has so far been unreasonably shy. This book has been an opening move in that inquiry. (Eagleton, 221-222)

Cue readers everywhere scratching their heads wondering just what the "It" refers to. How is one to "break out" of the mysterious straw man entity: theory/postmodernism/cultural theory when breaking out is precisely what has been so lambasted for the proceeding 200 pages. I guess we'll have to wait for the sequel.

Update: A very balanced and very official review of After Theory (courtesy of Political Theory Daily Review).


"To make of the recollection of the fragmentary logos transmitted by teaching, listening, or reading a means to establish as adequate and as perfect a relationship of oneself to oneself as possible."

Soon to appear on an Archaeology of surfAce(s) will be a collaborative project seeking to engage with Derrida's writing.

Also of note: Hypomnemata (see "Thoreau, Walking") (courtesy of philosophical conversations).

How quickly the obstacles to such an ideal appear! Tangled web of self-important memes, psychological projections and boredom’s props. But then the simple beauty of a “no.” Or an excuse: “The Real World”, say, though what is meant by this becomes less clear all the time. Wishing for the clean slate. All this was just a harmless diversion to begin with. Flatter oneself by invoking Bartleby: “I would prefer not to.” After all it’s always hit or miss, miss or miss. Sort through the clutter, through the merely repetitious, for just a bit of treasure, then proudly shared as if for one’s eternal doting parents—but it’s The Web, the future! you say. No, you are not concerned with the future, really. If you were it could all be erased today without causing a stir, without a single curse. That is the future, erasure. The blank page. So strike your fancy, pick your battles, sometimes delve, get lost and change, but don’t, don’t you dare, neglect the truly important stuff. "Publishing" and such, another word becoming less clear, more manically defended, demanded with displaced desperation, and invoked as a comforting, clear and present enemy, perhaps, but more importantly the discomforting, chance touch, disquieting stuff, beyond or before, not yet the stuff of words. The fluff of words. And call it “God”, if you must. Though he is very, very dead. And some little man is made to howl with timeless agony through a bullhorn in an empty chapel somewhere every time you say God's name, thus making you feel important about killing him again. Easier to kill him again than to avenge his disappearance.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


mulling wine

Writing, or wishing to write, "without affectation or fatigue, as the most natural and easiest thing in the world," Debord begins. A book that is as painless and easy to read as it is unsettling, provoking, resist/desistantly enigmatic. A beautiful economy of words, re-calling Benjamin, Blanchot, Agamben, Nancy and, again in his own way, Derrida. But what remains of Guy Debord? He published so little, and so much.

Having certainly, thanks to one of the rare positive features of my early education, acquired a sense of discretion, I have sometimes known the necessity of demonstrating a discretion still more pronounced. A number of useful habits have thus become like second nature to me; this I say while conceding nothing to malevolent persons who might be capable of claiming that such habits could in no way be distinguished from my very nature. No matter what the subject, I trained myself to be even less interesting whenever I saw greater chances of being overheard. In some cases, I also made appointments or gave my opinions through letters personally addressed to friends and modestly signed with little-known names that have figured in the entourage of certain famous poets: Colin Decayeux or Guido Cavalcanti, for example. But it is quite obvious that I have never stooped to publishing anything whatsoever under a psuedonym, despite what some hack libellers sometimes insinuated in the press, with an extraordinary aplomb, though prudently confining themselves to the most abstract generalities.

It is permitted, but not desirable, to wonder where such a predilection to challenging all authorities could positively lead. 'We never seek things for themselves but for the search'; certainty on this subject is long established. 'One prefers the hunt to the catch...'

Our era of technicians makes abundant use of the nominalized adjective 'professional'; it seems to believe that therein lies some kind of guarantee. Of course, if one contemplates not my emolulments but only my abilities, no one can doubt that I have been a very good professional. But in what domain? Such will have been my mystery, in the eyes of the blameworthy world.


The greatest difficulty, however, is this: this book naturally contains a fair amount of information that must be rendered accurately in translation. But in the final analysis, the question is not one of information. For the most part, its information resides in the very manner in which it is expressed.

Each time--and there are frequent instances of this--that a word or sentence presents two possible meanings, both of them must be recognized and retained, for the sentence must be understood as wholly veracious with regard to both meanings. This also implies that the sole truth running through the entire text is the sum total of the possible meanings to be found therein.

To give a very general example of this effect, all the epigraphs to the chapters must first be understood, of course, as ironically levelled against the author. But the reader should also be aware of the fact that he is not apprehending merely irony here: in the final analysis, should they be perceived as truly ironic? The doubt surrounding this question should remain intact.

Different types of vocabulary (military, legal) are used conventionally according to the particular subjects touched upon, at the same time that the tones of quotations from very diverse epochs are blended into the text. The translator should not lack the ability, nor for that matter be surprised, to make out a word of familiar or even slang provenance, on the odd few occassions when these occus in the author's language. It will have been used deliberately, like salt, precisely to bring out the flavour of the others. Likewise, sometimes the irony is closely interwoven with the lyrical tone, without taking anything away from its positive gravity.

In any case, it is impossible at the present time to arrive at any proper conclusion about what the full and definitive meaning of this work will be: this remains wholly in abeyance, since it is only the first volume. The end of the book is projected outside of itself.

This continual shift of meaning, which is more or less evident in every single sentence, is present too in the general movement of the entire book....

-Debord's Panegyric (Verso, 2004)

Monday, January 10, 2005


If these silly awards are your cup of tea, the only vote worth casting is for The Young Hegelian. Vote here. Of course in a just world Charlotte Street ought to win hands down for "Most Deserving of Wider Recognition" (although hardly sure that's what Mark Kaplan is really after). Vote here. Blink, blink.

Sunday, January 09, 2005


Literature, painting, music, film and theater beget and bring forth themselves. New mutations, new combinations arise and are annihiliated; the movement seems--seen from the outside--nervously vital. With magnificent zeal the artists project to themselves and to a more and more distracted public pictures of a world that no longer cares what they like or think. In a few countries artists are punished, art is considered dangerous and worth stifling and directing. On the whole, however, art is free, shameless, irresponsible; the movement is intense, almost feverish, like a snake's skin full of ants. The snake is long since dead, eaten, deprived of his poison, but the skin is full of meddlesome life.

If I have become one of these ants, I must ask myself if there is any reason to continue my work.

The answer is yes. Although I think that the stage is an old, beloved kept woman, who has seen better days. Although I and many other people find the Wild West more stimulating than Antonioni and Bergman. Although painting and sculpture, sterilized, decline in their own paralyzing freedom. Although literature has been transformed into a pile of words without any message or dangerous qualities.

I think that people today can dispense with theater because they exist in the middle of a drama whose different phases incessantly produce local tragedies. They do not need music because every minute they are exposed to hurricanes of sound passing beyond endurance. They do not need poetry because the idea of the universe has transformed them into functional animals, confined to interesting--but from a poetical point of view unusable--problems of metabolic disturbance. Man (as I experience myself and the world around me) has made himself free, terribly and dizzingly free. Religion and art are kept alive as conventional politeness toward the past, as benign, democratic solicitude on behalf of nervous citizens enjoying more and more leisure time.

If I consider all these troubles and still maintain that I want to continue to work in art, there is a simple reason. (I disregard the purely material one.) The reason is curiosity. A boundless, insatiable curiosity that is always new and that pushes me onward--a curiosity that never leaves me alone and that has completely replaced my craving for community. I feel like a prisoner who, after serving a long term, suddenly is confronted with turbulent life. I note, I observe, I keep my eyes open; everything is unreal, fantastic, frightening, or ridiculous. I catch a flying grain of dust; maybe it is a film--what importance does it have? None at all, but I find it interesting and consequently it is a film. I walk around with the grain of dust that I have caught in my own hand. I am happy or sad. I jostle the other ants; together we accomplish an enormous task. The snake's skin moves.

-Ingmar Bergman
"Each Film Is My Last." Films and Filming (July 1959). Reprinted in An Artist's Journey (1995). Ed. Roger W. Oliver.


Every single home, shop and shed in Khalil's neighbourhood has a big "x" mark sprayed in red to indicate that US and Iraqi forces have searched it.

Some are burnt or simply levelled to the ground.

"I saw them burn homes with my own eyes on the 14th (of December), there was no fighting, why?" said an angry Ismail Ibrahim Shaalan, 50.

His son was angry at both sides. "Insurgents beheaded people and the Americans destroyed our city, we do not know who to believe now," said Wisam, 14. Another neighbour emptied a pair of shoes and a sweater from inside a paper bag on to the ground, saying this was all he was able to salvage from his destroyed home.

"Is this the olive branch that Allawi extended?" said a bitter and tearful Alaa Abdullah, 25, who has just returned to the city.

Most are returning to destroyed and looted homes in a city that resembles a disaster zone with no power, heat or running water. Some are finding bodies of relatives that stayed behind.

"I buried my father three days ago," said Qisma Diab, 55, as she waited with nine other women at an intersection for a special bus to take them back to a checkpoint through which they entered earlier. The few that stay are setting up tents next to the rubble of their homes and living off rations handed out by US and Iraqi forces.

A US Marine admitted that in some cases they were forced to use "alternative means" like torching or bombing homes they believed were being used as sanctuaries for insurgents.

"If we could not get in there we had to use alternative means," said Sergeant John Cross.

But an Iraqi soldier nearby admitted that in some cases Iraqi troops burnt homes if they found pro-insurgency literature or material.

His remarks provoked the anger of a man who overheard him and a scuffle ensued, which is broken up by a passing national guard patrol. In a similar scene of anger and frustration, an argument broke out between an old-man and an official with the Red Crescent handing out blankets and heaters.

The humanitarian agency tried to venture Wednesday into some of the worst neighbourhoods of Fallujah to look for bodies, but was told by the US military this work was being done by the health ministry and that it was better off distributing aide to returning residents.

It takes about six hours for people to make it through a security checkpoint at the entrance of the city. They are then handed small orange cards that list 13 "new rules of conduct" such as a ban on graffiti and public meetings.

"This is an insult," sayd Khalid Ibrahim, 42. "They treat us like Palestinian refugees."


From a brief and benign review of Umberto Eco's On Literature:

What emerges from these encounters with other writers is a clear sense that literature matters to Eco because it brings with it the power to transform the reader, and the society of which he or she is a part. "Bad literature brings no redemption," one of his characters complained in Foucault’s Pendulum; and this new book speaks loudly and persuasively of the redemptive properties of good writing. Literature, Eco argues, can console and seduce us with its promise of a "world of values". Tolstoy is worth reading because he sees more clearly than other 19th-century novelists that God is unknowable and mysterious. James Joyce warns us, through the alphabet soup of Finnegans Wake, that the godless modern world is so chaotic it is almost impossible to extract consistent meanings from it. A work of literature, in Eco’s terms, is partly a reflection of the historical moment which produced it; but a novel is also "a machine for generating interpretations". Ambiguity and difficulty (which he calls "openness") are the chief qualities that he values.

Not so sure about this alleged "redemption" or whether Eco's own motives ought to be so quickly conflated with those of his characters. A bit simplistic maybe to suggest (or risk suggesting, anyway) that Eco advocates a purely utilitarian view of literature. It would be fun to read an Eco-style commentary on "It's a Wonderful Life" sometime. His essay on "Casablanca" could just as well form the template.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Robert Fisk, John Pilger

Parrhesia is not dead. Oh no.

Civil War, Cancer, On the March

Funny, I always imagined Diane Rehm to resemble some sort of cardigan-wearing, grandmother-type. Her show--on form this morning--is really THE reason to support NPR, even if she still occasionally suffers from the 'suffer the children' Christian prejudice. Of course there's always Alan Chartock's little empire of sophistication too. Any shortwave radio fans out there?

When I heard about this little catastrophe (don't think too hard about it, these things are inevitable), all I could think of was the eerily nostalgic scenes (already nostalgic! But then isn't all futurist writing?) from DeLillo's realist/dystopian novel White Noise. Is this possible? Can novels be realist, nostalgic and dystopian at once? At what point do such exercises, to some degree dramatizing the entirely predictable, become normative or risk naturalizing the very conditions they seek to expose and critique? Would that be a fundamental misreading? Perhaps the question is more appropriate to pose in relation to Ulrich Beck's Risk Society. Like Habermas, Beck's more traditional, rigidly sociological writings risk naturalizing what he likes to call "The Risk Society," if not even, in some sense, what Derrida liked to call "the worst" itself. Which is precisely why the poststructuralist critique (and not Eagleton's watered-down version) is so important and so very inescapably necessary. How else for "the inevitable" to be rendered otherwise, really?

In a photo opportunity at the White House, Bush was asked about comments by Brent Scowcroft, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who served as national security adviser under presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush and until recently chaired the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Scowcroft told a Washington luncheon yesterday that he expects "an incipient civil war" between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Iraq after the Jan. 30 elections. He said the U.S. military presence in Iraq is inflaming the Middle East and hurting the war on terrorism, and he suggested turning the operation over to NATO or the United Nations.

"The Iraqi elections, rather than turning out to be a promising turning point, have the great potential for deepening the conflict," Scowcroft said at the New America Foundation luncheon, expressing a view increasing shared by both Democratic and Republican foreign policy specialists.

Asked if he shares Scowcroft's concerns, Bush told reporters today, "Quite the opposite. I think elections will be such a incredibly hopeful experience for the Iraqi people."

He said that 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces "appear to be relatively calm." The four remaining provinces "are places where the terrorists are trying to stop people from voting," he said. "So I know it's hard. But it's hard for a reason. And the reason it's hard is because there are a handful of folks who fear freedom."

Ah, reasons. It's hard because the terrorists are stingy. Got Civil War? Got Cancer? Does the cynicism of late capitalism have any other limit than apocalypse? I confess that David Wallace's new book annoys me, although I've only just begun. In endlessly toying with the possibilities for absurd situations (a "postmodern Borges," let the critics collective gush), he seems on some level content to be an entertainer merely. After all, there is life after parody. There is a grown-up world to share after going through the professional student-grooming machine. To mistake the machine for the world. Why oh why are so many writers content to be one trick ponies? To be fair, Foster Wallace does go a ways toward re-thinking such things as limits of course, in his way. His psychological delvings are often brilliant, and he is clearly a master of form, especially for those with the very precise declination of boredom to meet him on the page. The impact is often sort of breathtaking, really. In a persistently excessive and simultaneously picayune kind of way.

Thursday, January 06, 2005


I would recommend the article on Bourdieu in the third issue of Naked Punch (rigorously proofread by yours truly) (The Nation has an online copy --thanks Sam). Likewise noteworthy: Left Curve. And for those who haven't seen it yet, excerpted from The Sublime Object of Ideology, Zizek on cynicism/kynicism from "The Autodidact Project" site:
It is here, at this point, that the distinction between symptom and fantasy must be introduced in order to show how the idea that we live in a post-ideological society proceeds a little too quickly: cynical reason, with all its ironic detachment, leaves untouched the fundamental level of ideological fantasy, the level on which ideology structures the social reality itself.