Saturday, December 31, 2005

the story so far

Simon Schama in the Guardian:
Sibyl looked mournfully ahead and saw that the second half of the noughties would see the beginnings of interPodding: wePods designed for Sharing; uPods that could store memories and retrieve them on command. But she sighed when she remembered the success of godPods, which purported to deliver personal messages from the Beyond to the wired. They were only half over and Sibyl was already sick of the Noughties. Roll on the Tenties, she thought. What a dickhead that would be!

YH finds "an antidote to [the] Frankfurterisch take on the Enlightenment..."

SM compiles some modest demands for litbloggersauditors; and here's the very newest and very latest thing you absolutely need to read, or die regressing.

broken flowers

Ah, Jorge Luis Borges. The barbs for French literature are well-placed.

bringing the past to light

A proposal: from now on, every crime committed in The United States (and very soon the world) shall be considered as an affront to the physical body of the "President" himself. This would have the added benefit of eliminating the need for a lot of trial lawyers, as well as activist judges. The law would simply become a matter of decree, just executions, spectacular public stonings and so forth.

Not that all property would necessarily belong to the "President," but the five or six owning corporations could all petition him equally for favor in his rulings.

Either that or someone could just give the Infinite Corrector, the Most Corrected-in-Chief–– a copy of SIMS (TM), Penal Eddition. We could tell him it was real (it could distract him from the bottle for a while).

King Torture

Meanwhile, somewhere in the UK...

Susan Sontag, writing a year and a half before she died (via):
The Bush administration and its defenders have chiefly sought to limit a public-relations disaster -- the dissemination of the photographs -- rather than deal with the complex crimes of leadership and of policy revealed by the pictures. There was, first of all, the displacement of the reality onto the photographs themselves. The administration's initial response was to say that the president was shocked and disgusted by the photographs -- as if the fault or horror lay in the images, not in what they depict. There was also the avoidance of the word ''torture.'' The prisoners had possibly been the objects of ''abuse,'' eventually of ''humiliation'' -- that was the most to be admitted. ''My impression is that what has been charged thus far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture,'' Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said at a press conference. ''And therefore I'm not going to address the 'torture' word.''

Words alter, words add, words subtract. It was the strenuous avoidance of the word ''genocide'' while some 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda were being slaughtered, over a few weeks' time, by their Hutu neighbors 10 years ago that indicated the American government had no intention of doing anything. To refuse to call what took place in Abu Ghraib -- and what has taken place elsewhere in Iraq and in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay -- by its true name, torture, is as outrageous as the refusal to call the Rwandan genocide a genocide.


To have the American effort in Iraq summed up by these images must seem, to those who saw some justification in a war that did overthrow one of the monster tyrants of modern times, ''unfair.'' A war, an occupation, is inevitably a huge tapestry of actions. What makes some actions representative and others not? The issue is not whether the torture was done by individuals (i.e., ''not by everybody'') -- but whether it was systematic. Authorized. Condoned. All acts are done by individuals. The issue is not whether a majority or a minority of Americans performs such acts but whether the nature of the policies prosecuted by this administration and the hierarchies deployed to carry them out makes such acts likely.

Considered in this light, the photographs are us. That is, they are representative of the fundamental corruptions of any foreign occupation together with the Bush adminstration's distinctive policies. The Belgians in the Congo, the French in Algeria, practiced torture and sexual humiliation on despised recalcitrant natives. Add to this generic corruption the mystifying, near-total unpreparedness of the American rulers of Iraq to deal with the complex realities of the country after its ''liberation.'' And add to that the overarching, distinctive doctrines of the Bush administration, namely that the United States has embarked on an endless war and that those detained in this war are, if the president so decides, ''unlawful combatants'' -- a policy enunciated by Donald Rumsfeld for Taliban and Qaeda prisoners as early as January 2002 -- and thus, as Rumsfeld said, ''technically'' they ''do not have any rights under the Geneva Convention,'' and you have a perfect recipe for the cruelties and crimes committed against the thousands incarcerated without charges or access to lawyers in American-run prisons that have been set up since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

So, then, is the real issue not the photographs themselves but what the photographs reveal to have happened to ''suspects'' in American custody? No: the horror of what is shown in the photographs cannot be separated from the horror that the photographs were taken -- with the perpetrators posing, gloating, over their helpless captives. German soldiers in the Second World War took photographs of the atrocities they were committing in Poland and Russia, but snapshots in which the executioners placed themselves among their victims are exceedingly rare, as may be seen in a book just published, ''Photographing the Holocaust,'' by Janina Struk. If there is something comparable to what these pictures show it would be some of the photographs of black victims of lynching taken between the 1880's and 1930's, which show Americans grinning beneath the naked mutilated body of a black man or woman hanging behind them from a tree. The lynching photographs were souvenirs of a collective action whose participants felt perfectly justified in what they had done. So are the pictures from Abu Ghraib. (more)

See also Tom Tomorrow; FRONTLINE; Paul Street; Gary Corseri...

Friday, December 30, 2005

From the first issue of n+1

Editorial Statement

We are living in an era of demented self-censorship. The old private matters–the functions of the body, the chase after love and money, the unhappiness of the family–are now the commonest stuff of public life. We are rotten with confession. But try saying that the act we call "war" would more properly be termed a massacre, and that the state we call "occupation" would more properly be termed a war; that the conspiracy theories, here and abroad, which have not yet been proved true by Seymour Hersh or the General Accounting Office are probably, nonetheless, true; or that the political freedoms so cherished and, really, so necessary, are also the mask of a more prevasive, insidious repression–try saying all this, or any of it, and see how far you get. Then try saying it in a complex way, at some length, expressing as you do so an actual human personality.

We are living in a time when Nabokov and Henry James are read in Tehran but we have pornography and publicity at home; a time when serious writing about culture has become the exclusive province of bullies, reactionaries, and Englishmen; a time when journalists can refer to Vladimir Sorokin, a towering figure of Russian postmodernism, as a "shocking" writer who became a "best seller" after his books were trampled in public by a neo-fascist youth group; a time when a magazine like Lingua Franca can't publish, but Zagat prospers. In the future, it will be seen as a time when some of the best people in our intellectual class gave their "critical support" to a hubristic, suicidal adventure in Iraq.

The problem is hardly a lack of magazines, even literary magazines. Culture can expand now to fill the superstore. But civilization is the dream of advance–to find the new, or take what we know from the past and say it with the care that only the living can claim. "One must have been in exile and in the wilds to appreciate a new periodical," said Alexander Herzen, founder of the mighty Bell. Perhaps you live in the city or the town, and in the safety of your own country. But you have known the exile, and are acquainted with the wilds.

Reproduced with permission, and in gratitude.
You may of course subscribe, here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

"I am not a crook"

At the speed of blog, Alain at Long Sunday picks up on a previous note.

Perhaps some further help is needed to distinguish the terrorist:

from the democratic citizens:

Does that help you now, President Cheney? Ian McEwan?

Meanwhile, somewhere in the UK...

Holiday Cheer, updated, erased, updated

My post at Said the Gramophone is finally up. Quite an honor.

We have a running joke that the last song really says, "cept you in me, babe..."

Thanks also to The Decline, whose sugggestions very nearly made the cut (an impossible task, choosing three songs; they are inevitably just Mrs. Right Now's). The Decline suggested "Way it Goes" from the wonderful tribute album, Por Vida, which I have since purchased along with two other Alejandro Escovedo albums.


An interesting article on Canadian-born Impulse Magazine:
During the course of its brilliant 15-year run (its last issue was in 1990), Impulse proudly showcased contributions from so many cultural heavyweights, a look back at the roster is dazzling: Michael Snow, Andy Warhol, Duane Michaels, Alex Katz, Patti Smith, Leon Golub, Joel-Peter Witkin, Arnaud Maggs, Art Spiegelman, Komar + Malamid, Christian Boltanski, Semiotext(e) founder Sylvere Lotringer, Kathy Acker, Paul Virilio, Jenny Holzer, Eduardo Galeano, Gerard Malanga, Russ Meyer, James Wines, Maurice Blanchot, Bruce Mau, J.G. Ballard, Marguerite Duras, William Burroughs, Jean Baudrillard, as well as a lot of Canadian artists, writers, photographers and filmmakers who are now all in mid-career [...]

It's dizzying for sure. And sobering. The past sure is a different country -- and it's a really great place to visit. Actually, the whole Impulse Archeology exhibition gives a kind of pang: Everything's a lot tighter now, more bureaucratic, more circumspect. We're all more careful. But Impulse Archeology is a reminder of the way we all were. The exhibition doesn't so much awaken nostalgia as it does rekindle desire. Here's an excerpt from an editorial Garnet wrote in Impulse's summer issue for 1987 (it's on the gallery wall as you go in): "We want to know everything. We want it to be different. We want it fresh, we want it alive. We'd rather be a part of culture than history. At Impulse, we take it in and we give it out. We reflect the mirror in which we reside. You are the image in the mirror of the magazine you hold in your hands. We want you to know you are not alone. And we want you to know." It was bliss, wasn't it?

every year

I swear I keep wanting this wonderful fellow to begin speaking in Spanish.

In other literary news, John Emerson posts Nine Theses for the MLA Convention; some more direct and mildly amusing stuff from the MLA conference if that holds any interest; and President Nixon answers some questions about executive power (via Counterpunch):
NIXON: Well, what I, at root I had in mind I think was perhaps much better stated by Lincoln during the War between the States. Lincoln said, and I think I can remember the quote almost exactly, he said, "Actions which otherwise would be unconstitutional, could become lawful if undertaken for the purpose of preserving the Constitution and the Nation."

Now that's the kind of action I'm referring to. Of course in Lincoln's case it was the survival of the Union in wartime, it's the defense of the nation and, who knows, perhaps the survival of the nation.

FROST: But there was no comparison was there, between the situation you faced and the situation Lincoln faced, for instance?

NIXON: This nation was torn apart in an ideological way by the war in Vietnam, as much as the Civil War tore apart the nation when Lincoln was president. Now it's true that we didn't have the North and the South—

FROST: But when you said, as you said when we were talking about the Huston Plan, you know, "If the president orders it, that makes it legal", as it were: Is the president in that sense—is there anything in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights that suggests the president is that far of a sovereign, that far above the law?

NIXON: No, there isn't. There's nothing specific that the Constitution contemplates in that respect. I haven't read every word, every jot and every title, but I do know this: That it has been, however, argued that as far as a president is concerned, that in war time, a president does have certain extraordinary powers which would make acts that would otherwise be unlawful, lawful if undertaken for the purpose of preserving the nation and the Constitution, which is essential for the rights we're all talking about.

Ah yes, how far we've come. We'd all be in despair alley were it not for American Samizdat's The Rose-Colored News Report.

D.H. Lawrence on Moby Dick

It is a great book.

At first you are put off by the style. It reads like journalism. It seems spurious. You feel Melville is trying to put something over you. It won't do.

And Melville really is a bit sententious: aware of himself, self-conscious, putting something over even himself. But then it's not easy to get into the swing of a piece of deep mysticism when you just set out with a story.

Nobody can be more clownish, more clumsy and sententiously in bad taste, than Herman Melville, even in a great book like Moby Dick. He preaches and holds forth because he's not sure of himselœ And he holds forth, often, so amateurishly.

The artist was so much greater than the man. The man is rather a tiresome New Englander of the ethical mystical- transcendentalist sort: Emerson, Longfellow, Hawthorne, etc. So unrelieved, the solemn ass even in humour. So hopelessly au grand serieux, you feel like saying: Good God, what does it matter? If life is a tragedy, or a farce, or a disaster, or any- thing else, what do I care! Let life be what it likes. Give me a drink, that's what I want just now.

For my part, life is so many things I don't care what it is. It's not my affair to sum it up. Just now it's a cup of tea. This morning it was wormwood and gall. Hand me the sugar.

One wearies of the grand serieux. There's something false about it. And that's Melville. Oh dear, when the solemn ass brays! brays! brays!

But he was a deep, great artist, even if he was rather a sententious man. He was a real American in that he always felt his audience in front of him. But when he ceases to be American, when he forgets all audience, and gives us his sheer apprehension of the world, then he is wonderful, his book commands a stillness in the soul, an awe.

In his 'human' self, Melville is almost dead. That is, he hardly reacts to human contacts any more; or only ideally: or just for a moment. His human-emotional self is almost played out. He is abstract, self-analytical and abstracted. And he is more spell-bound by the strange slidings and collidings of Matter than by the things men do. In this he is like Dana. It is the material elements he really has to do with. His drama is with them. He was a futurist long before futurism found paint. The sheer naked slidings of the elements. And the human soul experiencing it all. So often, it is almost over the border: psychiatry. Almost spurious. Yet so great.

It is the same old thing as in all Americans. They keep their old-fashioned ideal frock-coat on, and an old-fashioned silk hat, while they do the most impossible things...(full here)

courtesy of John Pistelli

Lazy Sunday

The Alcoholic in Chief, and then...

there's it just me or does one of those guys look very much like the now-legendary freestyle donut-warrior?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

hobbyhorse, anti-Enlightened

This just in: FRENCH THEORY IN AMERICA WAS REALLY NOT THAT GOOD. Yes, the originals are still better.

It's true, we've linked to things like this before. And now the most tired and tiresome debate in academic history is producing––in what must surely qualify as a miracle after decades of sucking on nature's pipe––indeed fresh juice. We could go further, of course, and point to a real, living example easily enough (no Real-ly, we could). Just as easy as the next fellow, in fact. Meanwhile, "Nobody needs French Theory," so sayeth Baudrillard, and like all mail-order mystics and dime-a-dozen pap gurus, his words they do carry an indulgent grain of truth. In any case John Holbo will be thrilled, we can be sure of it. (And no, it is not without some bemusement, we confess, that we observe the latter, irenic chief anti-Theory/[T]heory investor, caught unawares having been scooped twice in one week, first by one Michel Foucault and then by one Slavoj Zizek....the Rule of Affability, she dictates that we can only assume the latter response, no doubt the painstaking fruition of "serious study" of Zizek's better work, was far more Socratic than it was revealing.)

Oh, poor Socratic tick, you say, how thy smiling loophole, "I was only making fun of myself" doth find its cousin in the "I was only joking" for which the "Theorists" are forever castigated.

However, now that the 1970s and 1980s are probably over, and literature departments have had ample time to either earn some philosophic chops and genuine humility or risk being mocked off the podium altogether (it is only a matter of time; in the grip of this backlash we are forever ebbing and regressing––but don't think to hard about it, these things are all inevitable), well let's go off, shall we? Off to study some Francophone philosophy while we still can, shall we? And with someone interested in reading the philosophers themselves, that is, if we are truly lucky. Perhaps even in another language. Their own, for example. Poetry and literature too, absolutely, but please none of that Baudrillardian vomit. No, it was not your professors' faults, but you people have ruined literature departments for good. We mean it; that's it, man, we're back to The Snowman age again, Christian morality in Frost (yes, we remember that movie too) and counting caesurae, enjambments, alliteration and rhyming couplets; thanks for nothing. Don't get us wrong; we were brought up on this stuff, and we love it dearly. But the way things are looking now, if we're very lucky, in a good twenty years poststructuralism may even be discovered. Oh, how the image eternally returns, and the shape of the poem itself is so very snowman-like, almost an allegory of itself (one might someday say!) but Nietzsche he is long dead, and Bachelard was just some hobo in a Santa suit. And anyway none of them spoke English, and probably their ears were frozen (philosophers, as we all know, cannot sing).

The would-be genre historians of "Theory" are still all 'wong', of course (hell, in Russia they call it "filosophia," or so we hear; perhaps someone shall write a book condemning that soon enough), but let us leave them, for now. Condemned as they are to tread water upside down; happily lecturing the fishes, they are also drowning.

Still, Dear Lord, the sheer volume of bubbles they will release! Both goggled and madly googling, treading upside down as they address the same old gathered fishes (to be fair, those must be magnifying goggles) and gossiping so very freely about the whales! Our Vermont neighbor Greenblatt, sure, he's close enough for Derrida, as is Eagleton for Wittgenstein. These are exotic fish indeed, if one's target is actual philosophy. But so on they tred, splashing and quoting so much they can hardly hear themselves talk (noses, eternally pinched), but confident nontheless, that their books will eventually sell well enough, condemned as they are between the trivial and the obvious, and something they would rather still talk nothing about (let's call it for now the sun, shining on an upturned ass).

All by way of saying that I'm supremely grateful this year for some extraordinary pagan presence.

And...then...some and some...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Friday, December 23, 2005


I thought this was very interesting.

Plus ça change


Time to pick up some threads from back here shortly. (Sorry again, about all the fine comments being flushed, but I suppose some things are inevitable. This space has never really aspired to a popular audience anyway, at least not without serious disquiet and reservation, call it snobbery if you want. But I do sound a bit boring in comparison. Everyone should, I think, be forced to re-read their own blog at least once a year. A note to whoever's been downloading, please be advised by my pride that it's ancient and unworthy and long since revised stuff, there.)

note to self

Do not give correct email address to, ever.

Either that or Google is just selling us off, in pieces, as we all expected they eventually would. Spam filter my ass. Really, is there anything less interesting than spam?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Cheney Administration Votes "Go Fuck Yourself" #722

Merry Fucking Christmas, and we'll target gay pride rallies as terrorist plots if we damn well feel like lying about it. So this may be the straw that breaks the camel's back, eh? Undercover feds nostalgic for cointelpro days, staging arrests to provoke the crowd to justify tear-gassing them, and snapping photos from unmarked cars, etc? I must say, even if the NYTimes sat on these stories for a year, it hardly comes as any revelation, at least not to any of those who actually attended these protests. Yes, that's right, I confess to looking kindly on one of those "potential terrorists" insofar as he protested this war before it began as opposed to two years too late, and only when politically feasible. And I further confess that on more than one occasion he may have pointed out the aspiring photojournalist undercover gents, on more than one occasion as they sat in their speedy unmarked cars, to kind middle-aged yuppie folks concerned about the sea turtles as they deigned to walk across the street, on their merry way to and from exercising their legal right to peacable assembly (despite the very latest in police provocation) and to that dreaded once-revolutionary force known as freedom of speech. (This fellow I know, even his blond dog was a potential terrorist, wearing a T-shirt that proclaimed, "I'm more loyal than Lieberman, Daschle, Clinton...etc.") Pointed them out, he did, half a decade ago, as they sat there snapping pictures and telling jokes.

But anyone who's read anything about the 60's era knows that it was only a massive public outcry that instigated all the reforms in 70's in surveillance laws, reforms explicitly designed to protect these rights (while in reality the insidious military-prison-industrial backlash--including the despicable torture of modern-day slaves, otherwise known as US inmates--has happily quadrupled itself, unabated). But whatever nudges the decrepit and rusting wheels of justice along at this stage, hey, let's have it. They blatantly broke the law this time, yet still expect us to blindly entrust the constitution to pathological liars. Just when you think this all-war all-petty-emotional-blackmail all-the-time schtick can't possibly get any more ridiculous, it does. That would be Chutzpah, folks; spelled "real balls." When the alternative is Lieberman, I'll grant you that it's not exactly a tough sell.

Harold Bloom waxes blunt; New discoveries in Sovietology; And better news elsewhere, particularly from the global south (narcosphere has more).

Sunday, December 18, 2005


Do check out Mark Thwaite's Books of the Year Symposium (of which I'm greatly honored to be a part, if slightly embarrassed to be placed, straggler-fasion, on top). Truly, there is not enough time in the day, nor days in the week..

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Friday, December 16, 2005

oh dear...

A bit of (feminist) Theory, and NPR self-destructs. All their pat humanistic clichés and softly-smug male condescension, it comes a crumblin' down.

Typepad, meanwhile....well.
During routine maintenance of our network and storage systems last night, we experienced an issue with our primary disk system where data from published blogs are stored. [oops!] We are currently running diagnostics on the device, and working to restore your data as soon as possible. Verifying data can be a slow process and will take time. [i.e., all day]

In the meantime we are currently deploying backup copies of your weblogs from approximately 2 days ago. [actually, six] This is what will be displayed for your blog. [weird] The TypePad application is currently unavailable, which means that users will not be able to log in, and visitors to weblogs will not be able to post comments. We are working to bring TypePad back online as soon as possible.

We appreciate your patience as we work through these issues. [We also have no way to transfer ownership, and our spam filter just plain doesn't work.]

Say, who knows anything about WordPress?

John Whitelegg issues the sole dissent in a debate on environmentalism and capitalism:
At the core of this debate I am sure that Jonathan [Porritt] and I share a vision of what a sustainable community, town, city, region or world could look like. I don’t think we will get there by putting all our eggs in the basket of capitalism. Capitalism, after all, has given us slavery, small children working down coal mines, death and disease from pollution, and appalling disregard for people and communities – including my own family and community when cotton mills shut down in Oldham, Lancashire, in the early 1960s. Such depredations continue around the world today, often invisible to the eye even of the most informed or sensitive of observers.

This destructive, unsustainable dynamic has to stop. The process of stopping it will involve all those things that capitalist do not like (including regulation and taxation); changes in local government to give local communities and local people more power over what happens on their “patch”; and the kind of social change that ended slavery and brought down the Berlin wall. I have absolutely no doubt that this social change will take place and if I have my way it will be sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

ipop, you pop, we pop (and look to France)

Thinking of Zizek's recent comments (he has some funny things to say about Rawls, indeed)...but also about another student rebellion (and a genuinely populist one at that--in eclectic composition not unlike the genuinely international, though unfortunately-dubbed "anti-globalization" movement, whose roots are traceable back to Seattle, etc.)...

Meanwhile Negri: "This movement wants something, but it does not yet know what it wants."

Zizek's calls the recent riots in France a "zero-level protest," or "a protest that wants nothing" in speaking of the "cycles of violence" identifiably linked to the neoliberal state (which produces its own excess and backlash, etc.) Violence being de facto an admission of relative impotence. But in his conception, if "post-ideology" means anything it is the context of this certain nihilism.

Might it be at all valuable, or worthwhile, to point out the deep roots of this alleged "post?" After all, what has come to be cited and invokded as "May '68" was by no means a purely, or clearly, utopian confluence of identity politics or politically-targetted and precise rebellion, judging from Blanchot and similar on the matter...Zizek opposes the recent riots to May '68, but his argument (such as it is) only serves to unite them. One wonders if he's even read much of the history (and philosophical fall-out), or whether he's borrowing yet another page from those who have patiently explored these questions in more detail (for instance, Nancy).

So what does this conception of a "post-ideology" (or a post-politics) actually mean? And in describing too quickly a return to such things as "an operatic staging of the other" does one not also risk prescribing their inevitability? Is it just that Zizek does a disservice to the nuances of his own argument (is there more room for hope outside of this banal mimetic or sacrificial indemnification), or is it that he simply doesn't have much of an argument to begin with? Nothing wrong with that of course (his comment about philosophers rightly (re)posing the questions is well-taken, and somewhat uncharacteristic perhaps), but maybe it's high time to hold Z. accountable for the seductive but pat maneuvers he makes, in this his apparently full-time capacity as a "public intellectual."

I don't mean to merely degrade him, of course. He is without question one of the most unconvential, engaging and brilliant theorists today. But as is the case with most popular spokesmen figures, those more familiar with the actual history (and in his defense, perhaps Z. would say that he was only citing popular history, I don't know), cannot help but raise their eyebrows, incredulous...still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Anyway, this makes many of the same arguments Z. does. There are some condescending overtones there, mixed in with equal parts romanticization and apocalypticism. It's all a bit redundant, indulgent and quite lazy. But then I also tend to think that Baudrillard should have long ago been hung from the nearest available billboard:
But it is also a movement without strategy, a movement more prone to gaze at itself on television screens, drawing its ephemeral strength from the media coverage it produces, and thus depending on the self-censorship of information put in place to avoid "the telethon effect." It is a movement nevertheless more Luddite than playful, sustaining itself at the source of real despair, but lacking utopia, its horizon limited by bars and block towers.

For sociologists, journalists and certain revolutionaries, this movement is incomprehensible since it resists the well-oiled arguments they use to explain social movements: neither social analysis, nor the study of the composition of class succeeds in defining its specificity.

These riots are made by an unidentifiable mob—rebellious bodies whose existence is reduced to bare necessity, and who have not found any other language than that of destructive gestures.

Let us not fool ourselves; in everyday life many of this mob are detestable; some are numbed by religion, many alienated by consumerism, or enthusiasts of masculine values, sharing with the masters of society the stupid worship of sport (some riots were suspended during televised football games). Many are contemptible in their behavior toward women—whose absence in the riots signals an unacceptable limitation. Most of this mob would certainly not be friendly to us.

What is remarkable, however—beyond them—is their revolt. Through their actual contradictions, they represent the dark face of a vengeful social unconscious held back for too long, as those in bygone days representing the “dangerous classes.” But, at the risk of plunging back even more bitterly in their poverty, it will be necessary for them to draw on the lessons of their recent experience in order to gain lucidity. Already they have seen at work the repressive role of the imams and of Islam, mere auxiliaries to the police— as is all religion. This movement still has to get rid of all forms of puritanical and masculinist morality so that women will join them as equals—like the women fire-raisers of the Paris Commune in 1871—to take an active part in all future stuggles. Likewise, they must have done with the stupid gang rivalry that nails them to their “territories” and deprives them of a mobile offensive. And finally, they must learn to choose more directly political targets.

In a society in which all previous forms of belonging, and therefore of associated consciousness, have been wiped out, these events testify to the eruptive and uncontrollable return of the social question, firstly under an immediately negative form, that fire—emblem of all apocalypses— symbolizes. Indeed, unlike the rebellions in Los Angeles in 1965 and in 1992, the population of the districts here did not massively join the rioters. And in contrast to May ‘68 neither poetry nor brilliant ideas are on the barricades. No wildcat strike is going to spread widely with these troubles. But the rulers have been give a good hotfoot and have been forced to unmask themselves.

A democracy which, in order to face up to a quantitatively limited movement (considering the number of participants), has been obliged to put back in force an old colonial law, but also to reveal its constituent deception: that is, where the police abuse their powers, the state of emergency gives to their abuse the legitimacy that it lacks. What we long ago called "individual freedom" is today known as the “discretionary power” of the cops.

In a flash, such warning lights have revealed—during these November nights—the return of a possibility that seemed to be lost: that of throwing power into a panic even when its forces are harassed in a disorganized manner through the whole territory by a handful of forsaken social casualties. From now on, we can imagine the strength of an uprising that would—beyond the inhabitants of the ghettos—include the whole population suffering from the rise of impoverishment, and would turn into civil war against the organs of capital and the state.

Beyond recent infernos presented as the very image of a nightmare, it is time that the dream of concrete utopia is raised anew.

Perhaps those such as Derrida's warnings about Benjamin (and an apocalyptic turn) are not to be taken so lightly.

Isn't it just possible that we're entering a more desperate, and more disenchanted stage of the necessary global protest against neoliberalism, marked also – though hopefully not equally – by episodes of localized populist outbursts (of the worst sort)? And the world ended in banality; Oy. Time to fight for some articulation.

Anyway, the funny bits on Rawls and operatic staging and the racist construing of the other during "Katrina" were all well and good, even if he still just gets it all from Derrida. The debate with Laclau (and 'Long Sunday) over populism has provided lots to think about.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

vote, act

for Political Theory Daily Review. And if you haven't seen it already, the the Al Jazeera Staffer's blog is worth a look, and link (don't believe me--watch Control Room). Yes, it's been mentioned once or twice before.

Alternatively, one could start reading Amy Goodman's latest book in the middle, on page 181, with the subtly-titled chapter, Killing the Messenger (you may email me if you desire a gmail account to access GoogleBookSearch).

Update: Meanwhile, the time of impeachment draweth ever nigh...

Ah, the affable and sinister salesmen, may they continue to inherit the world.


On the recent tribute to Gillian Rose (insert jealous remark #722 here). By all accounts, a writer worthy of serious attention (though maybe not for the next LS Symposium?--how the word doth fly, +1).

Also of great interest, a rather thorough review of Deconstruction and Democracy. This Matthias Fritsch ought to get himself one of them blog.

growth, expansion, good

I've added Leiter Reports to the blogroll (right there, smack dab between AvW and 'lenin). To make up for it, here's this which looks promising. Maybe it's my quarter-age showing, I don't know. One simply can't write off the analytic icks forever, now can one. After all, they do rule the roost. And my sources say things about the roost that would have you drooling on your bowtie, let me tell you. Planes to catch right and left, and affable brown-skinned people to cook your pasta for you and such. Maybe when the guest-bloggers leave, I'll antiseptically remove it, in a gesture sure to take the world by storm, and shake it to its very roots. There are still some good 'ol grudges, of course. Not to mention the more obvious things, and things (and things).

Chomsky watch

So I watched this thing a while 'go. Not to subscribe, without some reservation, to the cult of Chomsky, but... Dershowitz is an ass. Oliver Kamm meanwhile, is a nobody. Right then.

the well

Please see A on events in Australia. The news, or should one say "the newscycle," from everywhere, was unbearable today. The tone of course was set early enough. Three times this morning, just myself and my visible breath, hand-making wreaths in the greenhouse smelling of balsalm and sap (yes, I'm a hardened farmer these days), my eyes well up with tears. How else to describe that feeling of despair; a resevoir suddenly tapped. I lean on the table for a few seconds, and put my head on my arms. There are sizes of despair. These waves were semi-pleasant; warming far more than crippling, and they didn't last long. Just checking in, my heart. Tinged with the familiar feelings of profound powerlessness and ineffectivity. Also a glimpse of another sort of well, in the return to...inoperativeness and im-potentiality. For maybe the second time this year, NPR was good a bit better than too little too late. How refreshing to hear genuine outrage, people calling on Bush by name, calling him a liar. People not intimidated by the latest Patriot Act, obviously (and how poised we are, to repeat that movie...I don't usually do this but, sign the motherfucking petition, please.)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Another Benjamin

The photographer did not approach this enormous undertaking as a scholar, or with the advice of ethnographers and sociologists, but, as the publisher says, "from direct observation." It was assuredly a very impartial, indeed bold sort of observation, but delicate too, very much in the spirit of Goethe's remark: "There is a delicate empiricism which so intimately involves itself with its object that it becomes true theory." [...] The more far-reaching the crisis of the present social order, and the more rigidly its individual components are locked together in their death struggle, the more creative--in its deepest essence a variant (contradiction its father, imitation its mother)--becomes a fetish, whose lineaments live only in the fitful illumination of changing fashion. The creative in photography is its capitulation to fashion. The world is beautiful--that is its watchword. In it is unmasked the posture of a photography that can endow any soup can with cosmic significance but cannot grasp a single one of the human connections in which it exists, even when this photography's most dream-laden subjects are a forerunner more of its salability than of any knowledge it might produce. But because the true face of this kind of photographic creativity is the advertisement or association, its logical counterpart is the act of unmasking or construction. As Brecht says: "The situation is complicated by the fact that less than ever does the mere reflection of reality reveal anything about reality."

-from "Little History of Photography"

Saturday, December 10, 2005

necessary aversion

John, on 'bookslut' Jessa Crispin on Pinter (more on Pinter and teh populism here). His comments on Rumsflee, also good. Yesterday, I heard Rumsfeld referred to the terrorists as "injuns" before correcting himself. This would be the kind of lame, direct inter-blogging I used to loathe. I still do, really.

In other news (that becoming-universal medium the mediocrity (and uncertain future) of which Benjamin described so well, in that essay, you know the one--it has to do with literature and politics), the tireless Michael Bérubé responds to the insomniac culture wars of the day with:
After all, at one point in our recent history, in certain contexts, virile, heterosexual masculinity was signified by lots of makeup, tousled hair, platform shoes, leather-studded body suits, and screaming, high-pitched vocals. It’s a wacky, multiaccentual world out there, in which a Nortel ad can quote Lennon’s “Come Together” and the BJP can quote Donna Haraway. Get used to it.

This sort of thing apparently gets him quite a lot of visitors.

(Certainly one can intuit easily enough why it is so fashionable and so tempting, and in this stolen age of regressive fundamentalisms especially, to adopt the Anglo-analytic approach, a toolkit ready-made for problems that must be solved. Unfortunately, I was long ago seduced by the the dark side (a wonderful consequence of that first necessary rupture, back in high school I think it was). What can I say? I was always more interested in reading, and the contradictions inherent to the problems themselves (not least of all the problem of 'reading'), than in their resolution onto some inevitably trivializing, and often violent and reductive plane. Perhaps the answers that were required seemed obvious enough not to warrant an infinite neutralization of the sort that followed from the meticulous logical faith in abstractions (there are places for this sort of rigor, but not in reading literature, and as a wise man once said, it's seriousness kills me). One could still debate moral relativism with Richard Rorty, I suppose (and he's right about the straw man the analytics constantly string up, of course). But far more interesting, more literary things have been going on in the meantime (not to mention the poetics of phenomenology). And to seek to diminish the role of literature in addressing itself to these questions, however indirectly, is to dismiss a great heritage. Those who would rather talk in circles than tackle the question of literature's relation to the history of philosophy (and there is ample good material on the subject) are simply irresponsible. Either that or they haven't read enough John Barth, or enough international modernist literature. Or enough German and then French (granted, though, they may be sometimes cute).

Clearly if something of value in "Theory" or "literary theory" is to survive (speaking in the pop-institutional idiom), "it" will have to confront/seek to avoid this complicity with, or easy cooptation/bastardization by advertising. Nothing new there. Then again, last time I checked, the real Theory was being done, as always, by people who still read. There is precious little real Theory out there, yes (but the alternative is just as frozen as it was in the 1950's, if you want to compare rotten apples, and so continue to ignore the barrel). Agamben seems to think, following a certain more-messianic-than-Marxist Benjamin and perhaps contra Zizek (to continue this somewhat obsequious chesstalk), that it must be a resistance taking place from within, to some degree. I'm not so sure.)

And wood s lot links to a rather timely article (soundtrack may be found here) on another faith-based villain (that special one conservatives are always invoking in their ill-planned preemptive strike on Godwin's Law (incorrectly attributed here.)) (The s lot (honestly, wherelse to get your daily blogpulse, dear reader?) -also links to some interesting essays on Derrida, Kant and the 'death of philosophy,' including a certain rather important one.) Sorry for the relative silence around here; no profound statements (especially not about boredom) intended. Sorry also, for the less than literary post. Fuck politics; back to books and politics shortly.