Sunday, July 31, 2005

if you hit "refresh"

things look a little better, I have found. (Don't forget to salivate for the upcoming book "blogevents" on Publicity's Secret and Resistances of Psychoanalysis coming soon to Long Sunday, in which we play against a stacked deck, for sure, but divide the winnings evenly at night's end nonetheless.)

By the way, GooglePrint is really something. I'm a bit confused though, if by searching for a specific word or phrase it isn't possible to read almost the entire book? In any case here are a few places where I suppose one could start:

Friday, July 29, 2005

go somewhere else, if you please

Charlotte Street, for instance, is really on a roll. Mark also shares this site dedicated to translating some lesser known writings of Proust.

No less interesting or pertaining to the subject at hand, from the future author of After Bataille: Sacrifice, Exposure, Community comes this eloquent synopsis:
One of the principal aims of this book is to counter a prevailing tendency to classify the work of the major French writers and thinkers of the two and half decades or so from the early 1960s to the mid-1980s – Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, Gilles Deleuze – as ‘theory’, that is within the broad sweep of structuralism, and thus to remove them to a space of abstraction, outside everyday life and outside the political, which, according to this view, can now be reclaimed as that of the real. I want, rather, to reassess the elements of their work, and in particular their late work of Foucault, Barthes and Deleuze, as a continuation of the perhaps specifically French tradition of reflection on mortality, which begins with Bossuet, LaRochefoucauld, and the moralists of the 17th century. One of the starting points of the book is that ‘life’, and thus death, appear as objects of theorisation, reflection and speculation, in the work of these thinkers, alongside and perhaps beyond concerns with language, discourse, ideology, subjectivity. This reflection on life and death is not a return to something real after the analytic and predominantly critical phase of the work of the thinkers involved. Indeed, life, as such, appears in their work as something like a myth, a concept to be analysed, which has a history and an ideological place. Thus Barthes, in his early text Mythologies addresses the ‘what goes without saying’ in the everyday life of the petit-bourgeoisie of his time; Foucault, in Les Mots et les Choses, undertakes a critical archaeology of the concept of ‘life’ and how it is constructed in the discourses of the human sciences. For Lacan, any recourse to biological or vitalist accounts of the human psyche are highly suspect, relative to the place of the subject in the field of the Symbolic and to the law of desire. This is to say that a large part of the work at stake here consists in a critical analysis of how life and lives are constrained, manufactured, produced. Foucault’s term ‘biopolitics’ - the management of life - can, I think, be taken as a general description of the concept of life held here; life, living, and ‘style of life’ enters into the field of power and ideology. Indeed ideology is the very means by which lives are produced, managed and moulded, for and by power. However, this critique, I will argue, is to be seen as a clearing of the ground.


The compulsion to communicate which drove Bataille, and drove him intellectually towards others, also conditions his legacy and its pursuit. A major and original aspect of this book is its engagement of Bataille’s thought with more recent readings of Bataille, particularly in the work of Derrida and Jean-Luc Nancy. ‘After Bataille’ signals in its ambivalence that to think after Bataille is also to some extent to think according to him, and, though certain historical and theoretical limits to his thought may be encountered, this legacy is again not exhaustible. As a contribution to intellectual history, I am concerned with the way Bataille has been read, and how these readings have functioned as pivotal moments in the history of what we might now dispassionately think of as theory. But I am also concerned, theoretically, with the passion or the compulsion to which thought tries to respond, and which must be its raison d’être. This communicates itself in a close attention to Bataille’s words, since the demand to communicate that which exceeds communication does not content itself with any words; on the contrary it attempts to find those words which annul themselves, to find that moment of intensity in the right words.


A methodological approach I adopt is to analytically exhaust certain figures of concepts which might seem to name the core of Bataille’s thought, to the point where they have to be rewritten, translated under different names, themselves to be exhausted. Thus sacrifice is rewritten as exposure. I ask, in the reading of Derrida on Bataille, to what extent this exposure is effected in writing, thus considering the specifically textual moment of Bataille’s legacy, in the 1960s and 1970s. I am thus led in Chapter Three to examine the complex relation between Bataille and Maurice Blanchot, and to ask if writing, as exposure, must not be re-written as friendship, suggesting a form of exposure not limited to textuality but insisting in the presence of the friend. In the same chapter the notion of friendship is engaged with that of community, moving onto more potentially political terrain, and I look closely at the debate around the question of community between Blanchot and Jean-Luc Nancy, which partly takes the form of readings of Bataille. The final chapter is generated by this concern, since the sticking point, so to speak, of both Blanchot and Nancy’s readings seems to come down to the issue of eroticism. In the final chapter then I engage in a close reading of Bataille’s scandalous narrative Madame Edwarda before looking at its intertextual relation to a short text by Marguerite Duras, La Maladie de la mort. The word ‘unavowable’, taken from the title of Blanchot’s essay The Unavowable Community, in which he reads Duras’s text as a way of attending to Bataille and the question of community which his work broaches, returns us to the sense of compulsion which has generated the book, naming without exhausting that which attracts and binds one being to another outside any nameable form of relation.

nb. This post is a continuation of a response (a response that will continue to go on responding) to things such as this.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Jon Stewart: Pussy. At least he heard about it. Even if the result was to run home to momma with a penis joke. Update: Jon Stewart: On motherfucking form. Yep, he definitely heard about it.

In other news, and for whatever it's worth, there's more on the London conspiracy speculation here and here (via).

Some crypto-fascists sinisterly networked with the New York branch of the ACLU have set up a new site in response to the militarization of the Subway here.

Some time ago Juan Cole linked to this animated whatsit of Iraq Extremist War Struggle Coalition Fatalities by geographic location project. It's pretty powerful, moreso than the $$ ticker, and also being kept up to date. Try clicking on the box next to US, or imagining that number multiplied by about one hundred, if you please. Update: There's also this little history lesson for those who may be in need (via).

fakin' the funk, or, a vampirish post on someone else's intellectual capital

Or rather, someone who's not: Shaviro, author by the way of the excellent Passion and Excess: Blanchot, Bataille and Literary Theory, writes:
What’s remarkable about In My Skin is not just the presentation of an obsession, but the affective tone and mode of presentation. Though the film is definitely visceral in impact, it’s also psychologically muted — which makes it all the more intense. No explanation, either psychological or sociological, is ever given for the main character’s obsession. It’s just a brute fact of her being, something that defines and dominates her very existence. At the same time, though we see some of the cutting, the cutting scenes are dominated by close-ups of her face. This leads us to identify with her emotional reactions, which range from dread to blankness to nearly orgasmic bliss — without our being able to ground these emotions, because (in the absence of any causal explanation) we cannot relate them intelligibly to what she is actually doing to her body. The result is a ferocious intensity that is at the same time very nearly abstract. Towards the end of the film, instead of these facial shots de Van splits the screen and gives us two different angles, both in extreme close-up, on the same few inches of skin, knife, and surrounding objects: the effect, again, is one of visceralness and abstraction at the same time. The more intimately the film reduces its focus to just the consciousness of its protagonist, the more oddly impersonal it becomes. (I can’t help thinking, at this point, of Maurice Blanchot, the author who — aside from Proust — has demonstrated most profoundly how intimacy is tied to impersonality: for the deeper you go, the more you explore interiority and the precognitive desires and feelings that drive us, the more everything that we know as “personality” and “psychology” falls away, and the more we discover an impersonality that is tied to otherness, to the Outside).

The emotional tone of In My Skin, to the extent that it can be pinned down at all, is closer to horror than to any other genre. I was reminded a bit of Claire Denis’ Trouble Every Day. Except that in Monique de Van’s film, the vampire/cannibal and the victim are the same person. Monstrosity cannot be projected outward; it becomes a sort of auto-affection, and thereby an of self-love, a way of fashioning and relating to oneself. (As Foucault taught us, it’s precisely because the “self” doesn’t exist a priori, because there is no pregiven phenomenological subject, because “the given” is prepersonal or impersonal, that “care of the self” or “self-fashioning” becomes the most crucial existential and political issue).

In vampire stories, the vampire’s insatiable desire often wins our sympathy: because of the allure of shadows; or because the vampire suffers and endures more than his victims; or because such infinite longing can never be resolved in satisfaction; or because the inextricable intermingling of life and death is something we cannot conceive and yet know in our hearts; or because such desire, however cruel, seems more authentic (more alive, ironically) than the repression and coldness of the society in which the vampire’s victims live. In My Skin goes further than any other vampire story in exploring these dimensions, and in excavating the strange, impersonal intimacy at the heart of vampiric terror. In other words, In My Skin is the tenderest of all horror films.

The challenge remains, one supposes, just how to distinguish this potentially radical sense of impersonality (as the rigorously sober quodlibet basis for a community without belonging) from its cheap, superficial and sentimental advertising clone. Let this space help stand, in some modest way, for that endeavor.

Monday, July 25, 2005

punkered out?

Pop quiz (by request): Can anyone identify the following two people? First to answer correctly gets um, free hints in how to curse in Dutch.

Punk is academic now. Better than hippies, yes they were, but only barely. Dunno really, I guess it's lingering in Britain. Definitely over in this country. Just like the hippies are over. Seriously, what's the use in fighting hippies these days? They're basically beyond repair. Course I used to be one, in my own way, but that's another story best forgotten. Punks though, they really do seem to take themselves with a childish seriousness, don't they? Like hippies in denial. Honestly, some of my friends are punks. But they take themselves too seriously. Be this as it may something of a prerequisite for being interesting. From the second issue of Red China Magazine:
A reaction to the social developments of the 1960’s, punk recognized that as an alternative to corporate, capitalist America, the hippies were almost a complete failure. There are basic beliefs that tie the punk and hippie movements together -- celebration of creativity, humanism over greed, and a basic mistrust of authoritarian institutions, primarily the church and the government -- but while the 60’s spawned a moral code difficult to argue with (“love, man”), it failed to construct a feasible social structure to support it. The faults in this worldview lie in its collective fantasy, the idea that anti-establishment sentiment alone could serve as the foundation for a society. The flaws in this assumption were made apparent during the Rolling Stones’ concert at the Altamont Speedway...

The shallow goodwill of the hippie culture was eventually directed into a commercial surge that drove corporate, materialist America to new heights. One of the primary goals of the punk backlash was to turn back the tide of the sort of escapist cool personified by Henry Fonda and instead force the public to face the mess they and their leaders were making. People involved with the punk movement ingested the results of corrupt institutions of power, a destroyed environment, and the threat of mass annihilation as legitimate political policy, and they became a living byproduct -- filthy, disillusioned and angry. This is perhaps why the common misconception about punk was that its aims were destructive; punks were honestly facing a destructive social structure. As a result, many of their stances were developed by reaction, anti-escapism, anti-authoritarianism, anti-consumerism, but as with every cultural ideology that has posed a threat to hegemony in the last half a century, it was ultimately dealt with through appropriation.
When punk became palatable in the mid to late 1970’s, educated individualism was replaced by fashion and an honest approach to social realities was replaced with an aimless bad attitude. When Repo Man was made in 1984, punk had long been established as a cultural movement, and it had already largely betrayed its own suspicion of conformity. By the time of its release, Repo Man acted as little more than a death rattle for a movement that already had its teeth pulled.

Update: Part two of an interview with an aging Richard Hell comes courtesy of Buzzwords Deux:
But I've often had some kind of encounter with a trace of my mid '70s self and been really repulsed. On recorded interviews, I can hear myself slurring with narcotics in my system. I just seem pathetic and maddening. Mostly, I don't like that world, the world I inhabited then. I got out of it because I didn't like it. There was about eighteen months that were kind of ecstatic, but then it turned into the whole pop music thing, and being a public figure in that way, no matter what scale, where you're expected to stay current, and somehow speak for your constituency as some kind of representative of youth... And it's really competitive, everyone is always chewing each other up, and I found it hard to take. It had me turned around a lot. I'm just not interested in that. I don't go to any clubs. I basically think I wouldn't be interested in the mid '70s me. Punk is all water under the bridge. Frankly the only meaning of that to me is exploiting it. It's something people are excited by so I can take advantage of that in certain ways to make it possible for me to do the things that interest me now. Which I don't mean to be saying is cheesy or sleazy -- I was there, I earned it, I did what I did, and god knows the payoff whatever it is is smaller than what a half-competent sleazebag "Christian" evangelist gets or even an average insurance salesman.


3AM: Paul's point of view is that "all poetry is translation" (P 84), because each reader apprehends a poem in a personal way. But then he takes this idea one step further when he argues that translated poetry is more poetic because it is the most allusive (and therefore, from a Parnassian point of view, the most poetic) of all: it alludes to the original ("What does a translation do but allude? . . . In the future, all poetry will be translation," p 87). The idea is repeated again later on ("All poetry is translation!" p 122), but this time as an injunction to write your own poetry. This idea that translated poetry is more poetic than the original is fascinating, but could perhaps be reinterpreted in the light of the title: Godlike. Paul refers to the Parnassians (the original "godlike philosopher poets," p 101) who transformed art into a religion, as well as to Mallarmé in whose poetry the subversive dislocation of the signifier and the signified begins (in a nutshell: God creates and then names what He has created; if the signifier is arbitrary then there is no God). Maybe "all poetry is translation" because humans are incapable of genuine creation: we can simply translate what is already there -- or destroy it (self-destruction being another Rimbaldian legacy).

RH: There's a chapter in the book, which is an essay by one of the characters, Paul, and it proposes that translations are more interesting than "original" writing and that in the future all poetry will be translation. Now, that is a kind of provocation, although he does make a case for it, and I could make a case for it too, and I kinda like the idea. It's food for thought. It's not as if it's meant in any more dogmatic way than that -- though your interpretation, or extension of the idea, that only God creates, human beings translate, is really cool. Maybe I'll use that in the second edition… That essay in the book refers a lot to Mallarmé, a poet who is notorious for being untranslatable. The essay was stimulated by doing some translation myself, that was meant for the book. I was trying to translate from the French and... I don't speak French. So, I would use French dictionaries and look at other translations, and do my best to make my idea of a good poem using all the info I could gather. I felt a little bit daunted: can this possibly be legitimate? It was interesting and fulfilling, but it still seemed a little shady. Then it occurred to me that when two people read a given poem that is in their own language, they're reading two different poems: They're translating it into their own personal spheres, with their own connotations. Reading it in itself is an act of translation. And furthermore, nothing written is original anyway -- everything is just shifts in emphases. I don't make any great claims for this idea. Doubtless it's been proposed and destroyed in academia forever. I just went with it in my own way and took it places.

Friday, July 22, 2005

pickled tink

Sometimes I like to think the word, "demur" was invented just for me/me's, but all right Adam. Unfortunately for my street cred I don't have a digital camera, but it's nice to belong all the same.

1. How do you organize your collection? I separate those arguing in good faith (and most importantly heeding the call of justice) from those always already marked by the science of evasion, using a simple thickness quotient. Skinny books to the left, whether it's Eagleton or Agamben. Thick things like The Arcades Project to the far right, and everything else in the middle. Seriously, there's very little organization. At the moment, I'm lacking shelves. A mélange of poetry and philosophy, biographies and favorite novels rub skins. It's a bit of a mess. The history and cultural studies books have their own corner. My current room is small, with about 400 books (using the five-inch-finger method) arranged mostly by author and to a lesser degree country. So while I generally know what is in each pile and each row, sometimes I have to rummage pretty hard. A certain edition of Nietzsche next to Rabelais and Dante just because it's my father's copy and the wear on the covers seems to speak to the same era. Other times I am deliberately careful about not placing two particular authors spine to spine (such as Dostoevsky and Nabokov, or Kristeva and Derrida, for example). I doubt I'm the only one who does this. I guess my general rule is to make good (or at least interesting) bedfellows (again, hardly original), without risking too much offense. This is not so much a rule as a default, hopelessly faulty theory that nevertheless helped me accomplish the act of unpacking them from boxes. This being a relatively new place and many things having yet to find their space, accumulating cousins too rapidly as usual. Many of my books are still at my dear parent's home, sharing shelf space with previous generations (mostly 19th century English lit), some of which are perpetually on the verge of molding. Secondary stuff, memoirs and biographies go with the authors themselves. I used to have my Derrida (or for that matter, Foucault, Nabokov and Agamben) arranged chronologically in order of publication, but he's since become a bit scattered. When living in New York, I had a beautiful wooden floor hallway for books, obstacles for sock soccer. Library books, especially. Tomorrow morning at 7:30am everything on the floor goes somewhere else because we're painting.

2. What books or records do you keep separate from your collection for easy access? Thelonius Monk, Chet Baker and Leonard Cohen. Horizontal and uphill campaign on the desk, and in the bathrooms especially, yes (books, not records).

3. When you take down a book for reference, how long after you finish with it does it take you to reshelve it? Let's say a week, generally, if not within an hour.

4. What resource do you keep separate from your collection because you don't want anyone to know you have it? (Who wrote this thing anyway?) I guess there could be a pile of shame, where bad tome's like House of Leaves or wrong-headed but sometimes necessary references like Fashionable Nonesense or the most recent edition/horrendous translation of Mallarmé's complete poems could go. Their presence in the general population is mildy disturbing. I think there's more Italian opera than genre fiction, which now that I think about it makes me smile. Bearing in mind I'm not much of an opera man, truth be told.

I'd like to challenge/tag/risk offending Aboroto, Alphonse, and Archive, only if they are so inclined.

Update: Having painted the floor and let it dry, and re-organized so that favorite novels, essential philosophers and poets are on the desk (Zizek, Kristeva and Baudrillard are resigned to elsewhere), I have come to the stunning conclusion that I rather desperately need a bookshelf, preferably one of those tack-able to the wall kind, like. Thankfully this isn't my primary place of residence. But enough of this faux intimacy already.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Borderlands, the American word "theory" and a new blog (or two)

From the journal Borderlands:
7. 'There is a devil of difference,' wrote Marx, 'between barbarians who are fit by nature to be used for anything, and civilized people who apply themselves to everything' (Marx, 1993: 105). And so, it is not surprising that the pressure for the university worker to apply him/herself to an ever-changing, manifold range of tasks coincides with a renewed rhetoric of the university's civilising mission. Here, the 'creative individual and productive citizen' implies a person who can be entrusted with the responsibility of managing their own exploitation, entering into the labour contract freely , as it were. The 'barbarian', on the other hand, is figured as naturally predisposed—deemed 'fit by nature'—to systems of slavery and the use of force, suppression, and violence. It is thus not surprising that the previous incarnation of the culture wars—the 'history wars'— gravitated around the question of 'developmental genocide'.


9. Today, the culture wars position the university within a wider battlefield in which the polemos is no longer imagined as a clash of civilisations but as a recommencement of the moral crusade of civilisation against barbarism. Today's crusade is not principally waged against those classically impugned as barbarians beyond the gates, but rather against what are perceived to be simultaneously internal and global threats. According to George W. Bush, the 'great divide in our time' is 'not between religions or cultures, but between civilization and barbarism' (2001). Such declarations, crucial as they are to the conduct of asymmetrical war, are as conventional as they are injurious. For the ascription of barbarism is redolent not only with stadial conceptions of universal history but also with the correlate notion of a social contract that ostensibly distinguishes the civilised society from a war-like state (Neilson, 1999).

10. History attests that such a social arrangement has never prevented war—no more so than today when war itself has become preventative and the armed export of democracy has emerged as the talisman of civilisation. In 1850, Robert Montaigne wrote: 'We may then call these people barbarous, in respect to the rules of reason: but not in respect to ourselves, who in all sorts of barbarity exceed them'. Walter Benjamin went a step further in declaring that there 'is no document of civilisation which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.' At stake now, however, is not simply the observation that barbarism is the repressed content of civilisation, but the fact that war has become increasingly constitutive of the socio-political realm, which orders itself ever more rigorously in accordance with military logics and exigencies. (*)

When I said earlier that there is nothing "less interesting at this point than the so-called culture wars" I was (I hope it was obvious), in a sense, not being entirely serious, also often casually referred to as sarcasm. The word, "sarcasm" by the way, must always be prefaced by the word "tired," in blogland, as a rule. Speaking of tired words, if ever there was a need for an "evasive" "theory" critical stance about something...the increasing militarization of our society, in all its facets, and from Schmitt over to Benjamin, is quite clearly it. So if you're desperate for a cause, why not choose that one? Gary, despite having temporarily abandoned Levinas, has been making some interesting progress.

By the way, the new issue of Borderlands is really very good.

Also Mezomian Community is, I think, well worth your time. Among other things, he writes:
So communities are always paradoxical, they are created in the suspense and tension of paradoxes which cannot and will not be resolved. Blanchot and Nancy are wrong to make dying the community above all – this is a contemplative view of community, which makes it the “common” ground of dying members seeing their own dying in the dying of others. The community of lonely, dying members, trying to transcend their own insufficiency in sharing the dying of the other. Such a view of community could only have been written in the aftermath of Auschwitz, which of course it was, stemming to a certain degree from Bataille. Today, this image will no longer suffice – and, incidentally, there is no community of the dying of the suicide-bomber and his victims, is there? Dying as they may be, their dying is not the same, only from a point of view which would claim all dying to be the same, no matter what life it occurs from. This makes no sense.

It's not that I disagree with this final statement, necessarily, (nor am I am quite sure, honestly, where this particular thought of his may be going), but even if our society today is one in which not all dying is reported or respected as the same (vis-à-vis Iraqi civilians and Londoners, for example––but has it ever been any other way?), I'm still not convinced that death as-such isn't still "the great equilizer." Certainly the ways we mourn (or are prohibited from mourning, such as with the Saudi terrorist attack of almost five years ago) and how that voice of a forever dying God the MSMedia reports, are different, not equal, profoundly unjust, etc. But they are a fundamental distortion of reality, and from them one should hardly expect a vision of true possibility or the community to-come. Death remains the great equilizer (though no two lives are ever the same), despite all conjuring, despite all cheaply therapeutic, cynical advertisements to the contrary.

As for the Holocaust, well...just substitute "Jews" for "terrorists" in Bush's recent speech defending the Patriot Act––just listen to the way he says "the homeland"...a speech in which his eyes alternate between those of an angry fanatic and those of an affable salesman with a bigot's smirk at every other phrase––and you see how very far we've come. This is a man who quite clearly admires Hitler (hell, it's practically a family value), only this time much of the educated world does not fail to see it. The shiny badges and straight postures, the strange mixture of boredom, occasional puzzlement and mostly death-defying empty stares behind him––that made-for-TV bleacher backdrop of working-class uniforms and badges (what's the word for this?) two blacks, one woman and four men, the silent chorus––is perhaps the eeriest of all.

Update: London, London, it had to happen twice, to justify now everything. (Forgive the following for its thinking out loud quality; but this is a blog.)

Far more important, of course, that we be routinely confronted with random searches, heavy Kevlar, machine guns, chemical dectector guns (oooh, something new!), dogs (not new), etc. (i.e. "The Tanks") in our public spaces than it is for these ridiculously macho measures to be of any potential use. (Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" notwithstanding, terrorism cannot be normalised. That is madness. We will not get used to it, their suggesting of this possibility is itself the madness.)

{Speaking of madness, Josh Ritter (not the singer, probably, but maybe his blogging double?) has been posting since November but is new to me (hat tip in this direction). His posts are generous, clear and patient, and the latest one deals with Lyotard and postmodernity.}

Of course, only Socialist countries have peacable, affordable public transportation, and we all know how Socialism is Dead. It's a new State, now, for sure, but never has it's stability and sustainability been less certain.

Inevitably enough, Bush is going mad with Mission once again; his madness given lease; who knows, maybe even "divine" vindication...He's a sick man, you say, and the disease he's spreading has just entered a new stage of development; that's all. But this is no longer irony; there needs be a far more somber word. It's not his disease much more than it would be John Kerry's, necessarily, but is it truly ours?) If anything, these metaphors of sickness and disease should not be taken lightly!

One can note how the body language and gestures are even more drunkenly overextended. How the man (and his cronies) are stuck saying "I appreciate..." and "I look forward to..." every other sentence. And appreciate he, for one, most surely does! Thank you London bombers, klutzy, alienated kids, wannabe revolutionary tools, symptoms that dignify the disease. Strange repetition compulsion at work as always, not unlike that to be found concluding each episode of "Cops". Isn't this exactly how the virtual seeks to sanction or maybe "struggle against" its own peculiar trauma. In order for "reality TV" to be reallyreal, after all, it must perform two seemingly opposed actions at once: the unforeseeable or spontaneous and the reassuring or Symbolic. First and foremost the virtual must repeat itself, and right away,so depriving each traumatic incident of its originary violence and unique momentum, while at the same denying the potentially radical or transformative work of genuine mourning. Why this need for repetition? Will it disappear or morph with time, once we have become more at home (whatever that might mean) in a potentially perpetual state of virtual trauma? A safety valve-like function, then, if you will. To finalize the reality of the real, the virtual demands its repetition. Which, perhaps not so ironically, happens to have the precise result of keeping the wound festering and open. So we are left uncomfortable with the trauma, but also rather fundamentally alienated from a position from which to assess its origins; we are confused and overwhelmed (or rather overwhelmed and underwhelmed at once). One gets the feeling, even, that sometimes these events are not really events at all so much as concocted for their own repetition primarily (as if the sequel were always already in mind, but at the expense of the present itself). That's Society of the Spectacle, Spectacle, to you, Mr. Guy Debord. But no, all this still demands to be qualified.

There is an element of hysterical preemption in reality TV, certainly; but maybe also with respect to our collective positioning vis-a-vis the virtual, in the broad sense at least. Baudrillard raises some of these questions in his mostly bullshit pamphlet on "The Spirit of Terrorism", I seem to remember. But as usual he takes it too far, trying to be provocative, ending up a slave to the symbolic (as well as his own masturbatory stream of consciousness), glorifying the worst excesses of the virtual (not to mention the terrorists themselves). As Alphonse says, he thinks it's all happening on TV, or at the very least remains rather unconcerned with combatting this rather distinct impression. In short, he gives a bad name to French theory. (Any number of passages, say from The Spirit of Terrorism or America, the ones where I once scrawled "no, no, no" "self-contradictory" or "bullshit, all" in the margins would probably suffice, some rainy day.)

So returning to the initial thrust of two paragraph's ago, this noting by itself is not enough, especially so long as it remains content to rest on the plane of the spectator, the diagnostician. The point is to take (and first of all to think) responsibility for the way in which one intervenes and affects change. This mere noting is not "honesty" as Baudrillard suggests; it is laziness. The fact that he would even deign to call it "moral" should give one pause enough. Nothing is less certain, no, but that is a far cry still from saying everything is uncertain:
JD: I do not accept this opposition between reader-based and author-based meaning. It comes from a misunderstanding of deconstruction, one which sees deconstruction as free interpretation based only on the fantasies of the reader. No one is free to read as he or she wants. The reader does not interpret freely, taking into account only his own reading, excluding the author, the historical period in which the text appeared and so on.

Just to throw a Fish in the machine.

And also to bring this little ramble, in preparation for future posts, back to the question of 'literature', understood as open, and something other than the cheap and sentimental genre of political discourse. A different kind of noting––one forever less self-assured, and trembling. A cynicism-defying disquiet, sober humility in the face of death and all that.

Monday, July 18, 2005

from Specters of Marx

{Following on from here and here. Posted in the interests of cyber-communism, mainly, but also as a cyber-communist supplement to a new old post (somewhat monstrous) at LS.}
A time of the world, today, in these times, a new "world order" seeks to stabilize a new, necessarily new disturbance [dérèglement] by installing an unprecedented form of hegemony. It is a matter, then, but as always, of a novel form of war. It at least resembles a great "conjuration" against Marxism, a "conjurement" of Marxism: once again, another attempt, a new, always new mobilization to struggle against it, against that which and those whom it represents and will continue to represent (the idea of a new International), and to combat an International by exorcising it.
Very novel and so ancient, the conjuration appears both powerful and, as always, worried, fragile, anxious. The enemy to be conjured away, for those sworn to the conjuration, is, to be sure, Marxism. But people are now afraid that they will no longer recognize it. They quake at the hypothesis that, by virtue of one of those metamorphoses that Marx talked about so much ("metamorphosis" was one of his favorite words throughout his life), a new "Marxism" will no longer have the face by which one was accustomed to identify it and put it down. Perhaps people are no longer afraid of Marxists, but they are still afraid of certain non-Marxists who have not renounced Marx's inheritance, crypto-Marxists, pseudo- or para-"Marxists" who would be standing by to change the guard, but behind features or quotation marks that the anxious experts of anti-communism are not trained to unmask.


This dimension of performative interpretation, that is, of an interpretation that transforms the very thing it interprets, will play an indispensable role in what I would like to say this evening. "An interpretation that transforms what it interprets" is a definition of the performative as unorthodox with regard to speech act theory as it is with regard to the 11th Thesis on Feuerbach ("The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it").
If I take the floor at the opening of such an impressive, ambitious, necessary or risky, others might say historic colloquium; if, after hesitating for a long time and despite the obvious limits of my competence, I nevertheless accepted the invitation with which Bernd Magnus has honored me, it is not in the first place in order to propose a scholarly, philosophical discourse. It is first of all so as not to flee from a responsibility. More precisely, it is in order to submit for your discussion several hypotheses on the nature of such a responsibility. What is ours? In what ways is it historical? And what does it have to do with so many specters?
No one, it seems to me, can contest the fact that a dogmatics is attempting to install its worldwide hegemony in paradoxical and suspect conditions. There is today in the world a dominant discourse, or rather one that is on the way to becoming dominant, on the subject of Marx's work and thought, on the subject of Marxism (which is perhaps not the same thing), on the subject of the socialist International and the universal revolution, on the subject of the more or less slow destruction of the revolutionary model in its Marxist inspiration, on the subject of the rapid, precipitous, recent collapse of societies that attempted to put it into effect at least in what will call for the moment, citing once again the Manifesto, "old Europe," and so forth. This dominating discourse often has the manic, jubilatory, and incantatory form that Freud assigned to the so-called triumphant phase of mourning work. The incantation repeats and ritualizes itself, it holds forth and holds to formulas, like any animistic magic. To the rhythm of a cadenced march, it proclaims: Marx is dead, communism is dead, very dead, and along with it its hopes, its discourse, its theories and its practices. It says: long live capitalism, long live the market, here's to the survival of economic and political liberalism!
If this hegemony is attempting to install its dogmatic orchestration in suspect and paradoxical conditions, it is first of all because this triumphant conjuration is striving in truth to disavow, and therefore to hide from, the fact that never, never in history, has the horizon of the thing whose very survival is being celebrated (namely, all the models of the capitalist and liberal world) been as dark, threatening, and threatened.
(Derrida, 50-52)

Funny to think, that was almost 12 years ago. Say what you will about this being a relatively "weak book" and better symposium: I think the premise has aged pretty well. For anyone further interested in Derrida, as opposed to just the potential source of Brad DeLong's crush, see John Caputo's excellent essay on Politics of Friendship, here pulled from the google cache.}

the art of pronouncing things dead, again and again

Date: Sun, 17 Jul 2005 15:43:28 +0200 (CEST)
From: H A N Speckens
Subject: Re: Re: [LNC] RE: we're not afraid
To: Language in New Capitalism
Message-ID: <24445257.1121607808544.JavaMail.www@wwinf6001>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"

The creation of the National Security Service comes on the heels of other developments that are equally ominous. Homeland Security's Michael Chertoff announced this week that the 180,000 public employees in the government's largest agency would be further corralled under the central authority of the president. Invoking the pretext of "national security", Chertoff plans to appoint a few new agency chieftains (Bush loyalists) who will be tasked at consolidating the disparate groups under a model of corporate rule. The changes represent even more power for the president.

Similarly, the release of a 40 page document from the Defense Dept. states the intention of the Pentagon to "expand military activity" within the United States; a practice that has been banned since 1878 under the provisions of the Posse Comitatus Act. American's would be surprised to know that the administration is maneuvering to sidestep the existing law and deploy troops inside the country on the president's orders. Consider, for a moment, the potential for disaster if Bush is allowed to use the military as his own private resource; dispatching protestors, patrolling cities and supervising elections as happens in third world nations. The Pentagon document clearly "asserts the president's authority to deploy combat forces on US territory to intercept and defeat threats." (Washington Post)

Sounds like a military dictatorship to me.

Is there any doubt where all of this is heading?

The National Security Service, which is an autonomous, domestic spy-agency, signals a tectonic shift in the political landscape. The genesis of the Police State marks the end of American democracy; the final wooden stake to the heart of privacy, security and personal liberty. Bush's meteoric rise to power has been accompanied by a breakdown of traditional safeguards at every juncture; leaving the system vulnerable to incalculable damage. The message to citizens is clear; all of the institutions upon which democratic societies depend (the executive, the Congress, the Judiciary, the media, the military, and law enforcement) have withered beneath the Bush onslaught and been reduced to rubble. The entire system has been corrupted from top to bottom. America is a gaunt, skeletal figure; rattling around in its cage, ready to be blown over by the first brisk wind. Democracy is dead.

How odd, that those most eager to defend Democracy today, albeit from the "illiberal post-modernist dunciads" whatever that is (it sounds about as convincing as a fluffed-up version of MacNamara's, "the Cynics...are destroying our country" to me), are those who habitually equate any concern for the causes of terrorism, or desire to lay blame accordingly at the feet of war-mongering politicians, with apologies for fascism. I mean this sincerely; it's odd. Are people that desperate for a Mission, to make such obscene historical errors? I mean, how desperate do you have to be for friends, to get your life's mission only from an opportunistic frat boy cum President, with his market-tested pious slogans?
While not producing the same level of carnage as 9/11 or the Madrid train attacks,

He sounds almost sorry, doesn't he?
the London bombings of 7/7 have quickly become one of those crucial events that mark a defining point in the history of a society.

Yep, that's about where I stop reading, as it's obvious the author is a complete fucking tool.

Honestly, in what possible sense other than in a hypothetical vacuum of worldviews, a clash of ideologies taking place in some abstract desert somewhere, could terrorists, by definition themselves out-of-power, be totalitarians? Oh, but then I'm an apologist, I get it. Wow, that's really fucking clever. You'll probably sense that I'm naive; maybe I don't read the echo chamber of British pro-war apologist blogs enough? Bleh. You can keep your Derbies and Norms, and I, my Hanes and knickerbockers.

Update: Thank God for lenin, for in the absence of someone to ritually insult these douchebags, life would indeed be unbearable.

"once upon a time, Jefferson owned slaves"

Link: Onegoodmove is always where I get my Jon Stewart clips. There's not much less interesting at this point than the so-called culture wars, so when the author of 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America, and Al Franken is Number 37 appeared on the show, I was glad to see him treated properly.
Bernard Goldberg wrote a book and then appeared on the Daily to promote it. It's not much of a book. Jon charaterized it as the kind of a book you'd write with friends, a drinking game book where you sit around ranting about all those you hate. Bernie tries to defend it as a serious effort but his heart is just not in it. His defense of the tripe he has written is half-hearted, he tries, he attacks the courseness of society. He incorrectly compares racist epithats with a garden variety fuck you Bernie, as if they are in the same category. Why did he write it, gas money for his SUV perhaps. I can guarantee you he won't be going far, the book sucks. I've not read it, but a book that contends that Barbara Streisand is one of the top 100 screwing up America is pathetic on the face of it. So the video is amusing because Jon gives the book the lack of respect it deserves. Jon's performance was masterful he had walked the fine line from laughing Bernie out of the studio to just enough respect to keep him seated.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


I need to work (and find a job). Feel free to direct any questions about the Evil Empire/Institutional Network of French Theory to Brad DeLong. I dunno, I guess he read some Foucault once as an undergrad. Or, you could chew on this. Happy belated birthday to Ingmar Bergman and to Woody Guthrie. Also some neat stuff here, here and here.

nb. I'm not really on hiatus, just reminding myself I can be. Maybe this will help.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

To the City?

In the 1920's Brecht wrote a poem called On the Crushing Impact of the Cities. It ends like this:

"So short was time
That between morning and evening
There was no noon
And already on the old familiar ground
Stood mountains of concrete."

Just as capital is compelled continually to reproduce itself, so its culture is one of unending anticipation. What-is-to-come, what-is-to-be-gained empties what-is. The immigrant proletariat, unable to return home, suffering from being who they were, yearned to become, or for their children to become, American. They saw no hope but to exchange themselves for the future. And although the desperation of this wager was specifically immigrant, the mechanism has become more and more typical of developed capitalism.

Time, they often say in New York, is money. This can also mean that money is what time is like. Money, being purely quantitative, has no content, but it can be exchanged for content: it purchases. The same has become true of time: it, too, is now being exchanged for the content that it lacks. Work-time for wages, wages for the unlived time "encapsuled" in the purchase: the "speed" of the automobile, the eternal present of the television screen, the time "saved" in a hundred household appliances, the peace of the retirement pension to come, etc. etc. The fourth lesson of the city is the pie in the sky, in which the denial of space and time combine.

Photographs of Manhattan, often make the island look like a monument. Fasanella's paintings show it as the most temporary and make-shift of stations. In truth, nothing can be kept there. This is why he inscribes in protest on the brick wall of a tenement building, a plea, which challenges all of the city's lessons, as do his paintings: Lest We Forget.

This plea might be mistaken for nostalgia. It is not. It is a frontal protest against what the modern city, with its empty space and time, imposes: impersonal ahistoricity. It is on the site of such a protest that the only forces capable of defeating urban dehumanization can meet and join forces.

––John Berger, 1978 (About Looking, 101-102)

A simple, half-hearted lament (or, let's be honest, something of an exercise in written masturbation): Recently relieved of his job at the bookstore ("sales are down, lalala"), he thinks to himself, "it's alright, I needed to move on" (they'd been planning this sudden relief for weeks). He knows the truth about the quality of the job he did, although sometimes it's merely the fact of being non-threatening that counts for more. The most common thing in the world, perhaps: Being told. Even at staff meetings (unpaid), where there was talk of which paper bags to order, this is purely the function: Being told. Nevermind the larger problems, the rosy picture being painted over mounting debts. Do the job you're told to do, not the job you could do. It's not about potential standards; it's about the path of least resistance. Don't expect the effort of giving honest feedback; it's easier just to let you go. After all, sales ARE down. You are dispensable; their avoidance of your gaze couldn't be more clear. Some people, nevertheless, so unused to honesty, they first assume the worst about one's motives. Why is this? Is honesty in generally attractive, confident people so uncommon? Honesty of the intelligent sort, of course, not the purely affected, not the faux-profound, therapeutic sentimentality or new-age racket. (God, the books we sold were awful.)

Sovereign, uncurious, Hollow Men, maybe. Hounded and worn thin. Losing the impression management game wasn't particularly difficult, in this case. The boss––who when he spoke honestly, at last, gave the distinct impression of channeling his own father's irrational condemnations––had all the literary sensibility and love for books of a Donald Rumsfeld, and the days were long. No way to spend a summer. Working in Alaska taught him not to expect much gratitude in certain things. He'll miss some of the regulars there, but not the callous charm with which he was used. Nor the endless questions about that book, you know, the one with the pink cover. But no hard feelings here. It is, after all, the most common thing in the world.

Ok, maybe a few hard feelings. Two weeks notice would have been nice. Nobody is having any fun here, the boss had said, as if groceries and rent were always merely an afterthought.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

128,000 Iraqi Civilian Casualties

{following on from here}

Now says an Iraqi humanitarian organization:
The 128,000 figure only includes those whose relatives have been informed of their deaths and does not include those were abducted, assassinated or simply disappeared.

Well no, obviously. From the LNC listserv:
John Matson writes:
"It is hard to get figures that agree on the war deaths in Iraq"

I agree entirely. And the fact that the number of Iraqi deaths is
unknown, whereas we know how many US soldiers have stubbed their toes is
in itself a marker of structural racism - they are 'mere Arabs' after all.
However, any discussion should proceed from up-to-date figures, not by
citing a BBC report from almost a year ago. Taking this as our starting

Iraq Body Count is now 22,838 - 25,869. However, their methodology is
inherently flawed. To use the reports of the major media is simply daft
given what is self evident about news values.

Brookings Institute: as of May 31, 2005, 12,700-23,000 (not including
deaths from crime) or 29,700-60,800 including deaths from crime. Quite a
large range that. What they say about 'deaths from crime': these are
"based on the number of bodies brought to the Baghdad morgue with mortal
gunshot wounds. We recognize that our estimates could be too high as a
result of that some of the gunshot victims could be insurgents killed
intentionally by U.S. military, but also that they could be too low
since many murder victims are never taken to the morgue, but buried
quickly and privately and therefore never recorded in official tallies."
In short, they "recognize that these estimates are most probably lower
than the actual number since many separate incidents go unreported or
unnoticed." See LINK

UK foreign secretary said that casualties were >10,000 in February 2004
and for some reason hasn't raised this figure since. Why we should take
him to be an authority figure, given his ideological stake in the
killing, is beyond me.

People's Kifah >37,000 This is an interesting study, given that in
contrast to the above estimates, it is actually drawn from field
research in Iraq. A novel approach - actually talking to Iraqis instead
of guessing. However, this projection is only for the period March 2003
to October 2003.
It is not unthinkable that this figure may have increased in the last 2
years. If the increase occurred proportionately (which I grant is
unlikely given the slaughter that took place in the first few months)
civilian deaths would stand at 172,666.

Lancet: >100,000 Until the report I posted on, this is the most recent
and accurate report. Although based on a sample & projection, it is
methodologically sound. The Iraqi humanitarian organization applies
and updates this research and hence it is the most accurate and up to
date figure we have.

John E Richardson
Dept of Journalism Studies
Sheffield University

Next, a return to discussing poetics. But first may I gently nudge your attention this-away and that- away.

Some more timely thoughts on protest here. And here's putting the lie to all those pious calls for "respectful silence."

Saturday, July 09, 2005

if you need a laugh, etc.

go here, or here.

Speaking in the inevitable journalistic tone at once so propre and so banal, so grotesque...the blog-time does seem ripe for some self-criticism. For instance (speaking now as the esteemed, old and wizened curator of a museum full of quotations) Waggish has been doing a fantastic, patient series on genre, which seems to be culminating with, Thoughts on Genre: Blogs:
Blogs are not content-focused, in that the content rolls by too quickly to be lasting. (Yes, they provide content, but when it's so subject to being missed or disorganized, the structural integrity of the content is not the focus.) But nor are they personality-focused. If Josh Marshall started writing exclusively about Andrei Tarkovsky tomorrow, he would lose much of his audience, who would nonetheless stick with Kevin Drum. Not to say that they're the same, but they are not unique in the way that novelists are. They can be replaced.

Blogs, then, are topic-focused. (And by topic I effectively mean the definable gestalt of the blog.) Individual content matters less in a blog than sticking to a consistent topic over time. And this is where the analogy to 30s romantic comedy seems apropos; these movies too stuck to a remarkably consistent topic, and the individual variations were practically indistinct. To put it another way, it was up to the individual to distinguish what variations they preferred, because the level of homogeneity was so high.

Yes. A return to the 30s then, and not just the 50s, in some sense.

To risk belaboring the obvious, there are also certain dangers unique to blogging, are there not? How strong is the (not unrelated) drive to pigeonhole one's audience, or in any case one's perceived audience? Blog posts so often responding to so many things at once lose their sense of urgency, their responsibility to be precise, altogether. Or (not quite conversely) they risk giving the impression of a gated community (perhaps many are more like cloisters). Sometimes, this sort of community founded on topicality is not gated so much as cared for, but this seems rare enough. People of course have this impression that the Internet is there just for their own personal therapy, a nodding drunk in every corner, eager for your redundant stories, each time more nuanced still (the Internet after all is where Freedom reigns--freedom to Troll away the hours, put off your dreams and their trembling hints of responsibility). Emptying the contents. The Happy Blogger is she who has just completed a lenghty post and is now free to walk away, a drunk in Dionysia. Or just "sit back," as Mark says, "and enjoy the chortle chorus" (Mark, is this a Teagleton line by any chance?). But the responsible blogger must also first respond, and in the comments section especially. Failing to respond to legitimate criticism, or what is worse merely providing a romping ground for trolls, is no solution either, however perversely flattered with attention it may make one feel.

Indeed, the words, "glib" and "blog" seem almost to be joined at the hip. All the glaring failures of a corporate lacky press notwithstanding (and should they even come as any kind of surprise, really? when we've been heading in such a direction for more than a few decades?), there is still something vaguely dishonest in the near continuous blame heaped by blogs upon the MSM. In fact, it's a bit as if the bloggers see themselves superior not just to the mainstream media but also to humanity in general! That will be (and is) the backlash line, in any case, as predictable and, lamentably, quite effective as ever. For bloggers, again predictably enough, this is already a tired line of inquiry. They see themselves as having defended against such attacks long ago. But the impression persists, and it is a dangerous one: blogs are written only for other bloggers, which also means primarily white, relatively well-off, vaguely resentful, and with too much time on your hands. Well surely that's an impression worth disproving.

Friday, July 08, 2005

If the U.S. were Iraq Today

...It would look like this (via). Oh my. Fuck Blair indeed. Yes and Fuck Ian McEwan too and his soappy instant revisionism as well. I agree with John B and Dsquared, this incident if anything lends credence to the general thrust of The Power of Nightmares thesis.

ACTION ALERT * UNITED FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE | 212-868-5545 | Click to subscribe

United for Peace and Justice is horrified by the senseless death and destruction caused by the bombings in London on July 7, 2005. Our hearts go out to the people who have lost loved ones and those who have been wounded, as well as the countless people whose lives have been forever shaken by these events. UFPJ opposes terrorism - acts of violence against innocent civilians - in all its forms: bombs on public transportation in London, planes flying into buildings in New York City, or the armies of the United States and Great Britain waging war on the people of Iraq.

As we write this statement, there is no certainty as to who who is responsible for the London bombings. UFPJ hopes that as those who committed criminal acts are brought to justice there is no rush to judgment or assumption of guilt. It is in these moments that smear campaigns against individuals and whole communities can easily take hold, often shaped by and feeding racist stereotypes. We must counter those who will claim that the bombings reflect the supposedly violent nature of Muslims or the religion of Islam.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair's comments that this was an attack on our values and way of life echoed much of the language George W. Bush used to justify his war on Iraq. We were told by the Bush Administration that our nation had to go to war in Iraq in order to fight terrorism, to make us and the world safer. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, none of us is more secure since the Bush Administration launched its so-called war on terror. The war on Iraq and the military occupation of that nation has certainly not made the Iraqi people any safer, nor has it lessened the risk of future terror attacks elsewhere around the world. Instead of feeding the cycle of killing it is time for a new direction in our policies. It is time for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, time to end U.S. support for Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories, time to stop supporting repressive regimes in the Middle East and other places, and time to remove U.S. military bases from oil-rich countries like Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Just as we mourn the loss of life in London, we mourn the daily loss of life in Iraq. We use this occasion to re-commit ourselves to doing all that we can to end the war in Iraq, including building a massive anti-war march in Washington, DC on Sept. 24th. We will also be vigilant in ensuring that this new round of violence is not used by the Blair and Bush administrations as an excuse either for new military attacks in foreign lands or for domestic policies that scapegoat Muslims, immigrants and people of color.

The scapegoat line is perhaps questionable (and domestic policies that punish the poor and middle class? educational institutions? independent media and investigative journalism?) but otherwise not a bad statement. No match for Galloway, etc. but I suppose we'll take what we can get.

Of course simply withdrawing is not about to cure this wound either. The wealthiest Americans should be taxed severely in order to pay for state of the art infrastructure, schools, public transportation and teacher salaries in Iraq over the course of the next 50 years. If we have to postpone plans for a few interstellar missiles in order to pay for it as well that wouldn't break my heart.

Karl Rove – Sometimes The Cover-Up Is Worse Than The Crime

July 12, 2005

During yesterday’s daily briefing with White House reporters, Press Secretary Scott McClellan learned how difficult it can be to defend the indefensible. McClellan was given countless opportunities to clear up previous White House statements regarding the involvement of Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove in the outing of an undercover CIA agent. McClellan instead dodged all questions regarding the scandal, frustrating the White House press corps and causing NBC White House news correspondent David Gregory to exclaim, “this is ridiculous.” It is indeed ridiculous that the White House is not being forthcoming about a possible breach of national security and criminal activity that involves one of its highest ranking staffers.

* McClellan’s excuse for his silence doesn’t hold up when compared to his past actions. During yesterday’s briefing McClellan noted 23 times that he could not comment because there was an “ongoing investigation.” That did not stop McClellan from previously talking about Karl Rove and his role in the scandal. On October 1, 2003, McClellan said, “There is an investigation going on ... you brought up Karl's name. Let's be very clear. I thought – I said it was a ridiculous suggestion, I said it's simply not true that he was involved in leaking classified information, and – nor, did he condone that kind of activity." So it was OK for McClellan to talk about Rove and the scandal in 2003 but not yesterday?

* With each “no comment,” the White House is losing credibility with the American people. Even if Rove is not found to have committed any crime, the fact that he leaked Plame’s identity to Time magazine when the White House previously denied any involvement is damaging to the White House and the president. The fact that the White House seems unwilling to even stand by bland assertions that the leak is a "serious matter" (which McClellan did not say yesterday) or that the White House wants to find out the "truth" (which also wasn't stated) indicates how this matter has become one of credibility for the Bush White House. The inability to stand behind those statements yields little confidence that Bush will hold to his pledge to fire anybody who leaked the agent's name.

* The president, known to speak up for his friends, has been noticeably silent on Karl Rove. When right-wing conservatives started attacking Attorney General Alberto Gonzales following Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement, President Bush was quick to come to his defense. Since it was revealed that Rove was Matt Cooper’s source, President Bush has not said a word about Rove’s involvement in Plamegate, nor has he issued a statement of support. President Bush knows he can put an end to all these questions by demanding that Karl Rove himself come forward and tell all that he knows.

My goodness, somebody get that guy from NBC a tissue.

thinking about genre

From an article on David Markson (previously mused upon here):
There is no such thing as a great definition of genre. From Aristotle onwards, attempts to describe works of literature in terms of their shared characteristics have been limited to few, yet fundamentally different ideas. Classical genre theory defines genre in terms of regulations and prescriptions, whereas modern genre theory attempts to avoid hierarchies, genre being a matter which can only be described, for example, by identifying a set of structures in a given work. Genre however, whether purely regulated, prescribed, or described, is performative of its own mode of existence. We could say that genre manifestations occur in two modes: monologic and dialogic. When monologic, genre assumes one of the four most agreed upon manifestations: epic, lyric, dramatic, or satiric. These four, like the monologue, are most powerful when they are indicative of an inner form. On the other hand, when genre is dialogic, in the sense that the inner form of a dramatic structure enters a dialogue, for example, with a satirical element, the inner form assumes an outer expression, such as we may have in an instance of what is called dramatic irony (Empson, 1973: 38). We have a case of dramatic irony when the narrator makes direct recourse to the reader's participation in the events, for instance when the character is portrayed in a situation which to the character her/himself seems heroic, and the reader is told beforehand that there are other solutions. The character's actions are thus rendered pathetic. And most often the reader's participation is manifested in the reaction: "how stupid, the idiot is doing the wrong thing!" At this point then we can say that genre enters a self-reflexive mode, is marked by the plurality inherent in dialogism and becomes a definition of writing which is addressed to nobody. Now, this assumption is problematic in the context where genre, although considered the most culturally and historically located of categories, is also seen as fixed in the sense that it is representational rather than performative. From Bakhtin onwards genre was extended to represent not just literary forms, but also modes of subjectivity which are seen as transformative interventions in the way genres are being systematized. Emile Benveniste's "shifters" relying on the capacity that pronouns such as "I" have to combine "conjunctions of past usage(s) with present appropriation" (Benveniste, 1971: 291) point to the fact that what is at stake is also the question of how to determine generically forms of subjectivity that are not manifested in genres which are context situated.

I have enormous (if still conflicted) sympathy for what seems to be the desire to both affirm and resist at once that motivates (and often in a contradictory manner?) what might be called "good genre" writing (but is that not still like a good bad movie?)
Update: Or maybe, as John most eloquently says, Make Me Care! (What cruel irony is the current fashion of pronouncing things dead, as if this were a novel gesture! Are Panurge and Pantagruel dead?)

More than "affirm and resist at once"...maybe "good" genre writing is simply identifiable by way of its concern for the question of framing, for negotiating, exposing and in some sense commenting on (transforming, and morally, even!) the processes of framing that often, say, limit our collective, or cultural imagination. Surely some genre writing has been able to re-pose this question in both sensitive and provocative ways?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The whining about the capitalist media has to stop

* Diane Rehm: Whiner. (Oh god, and then it gets worse. Good fucking morning. Isolationism, anyone?)
* A nice summation of economics as pseudo-science, in audio installments (fit for AM talk radio!) here (thanks Alphonse). And speaking of the AM...shortwave via blog, anyone?
* A series of posts by Archive, thinking about permitted protests and the G8 circus in terms of Agamben (Not what democracy looks like, no not really). That's as far down the blogroll as I got.
* Oh, and I wonder if Anne Finegan has read my story, (not a good story), "Clift". Uncanny.

Day & Night—2005

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Staged 8

In which patronizing tolerance as unmistakably Christian charity takes on epically banal and grotesque proportions, unashamed and as if for the first time in the history of hypocrisy.

And yes, I read every one of those links, and so should you. Better than flipping back and forth between Extreme Makeover and CNN's Iraq coverage anyway (why oh why do the victims of this show never seem to look happy at having their homes invaded and redecorated?)

At the same time, one has to look frankly at the eagerness of all this anti-Live 8 commentary, and ask once again who are the ones "making history" and who are the ones choosing to dignify the process with their response, however clever, almost as if on demand...much of it cynical and gleeful at once.

What "Live 8" really needs is a Beavis and Butthead commentary, no? Anybody else notice how the lovable dork duo (Wayne's World, etc.) seems to have become so mean? South Park locking hippies in the basement is funny, and "hipsters" today deserve all the shit they get, God knows, but nobody seems to be providing that bullshit protector/safety valve function on a popular scale anymore—that is, in a way that doesn't merely emulate the cruelty of late capitalism (those last words carefully chosen just to send Daniel Green running for the hills, or wherever it is that "literature as literature" dwells—his castle, perhaps?).