Friday, June 30, 2006

Descartes Chomsky

Speaking at West Point [RealPlayer], in April on Just War Theory...

For a more critical, albeit general take, on Chomsky (if one were interested), one might see here, and here. And just in case it wasn't clear, I agree with all necessary caveats, giving respects where respects are due.

In any case this metafilter thread picking up on the Foucault/Chomsky "debate" that has been (re)making the rounds lately, begs the necessary corrective (tho stupidities continuing to have popular purchase is hardly news, and time is better spent showing instead of telling, and in other forms, I fully realize):
What's the most widely held misconception about you and your work?

That I'm a skeptical nihilist who doesn't believe in anything, who thinks nothing has meaning, and text has no meaning. That's stupid and utterly wrong, and only people who haven't read me say this. It's a misreading of my work that began 35 years ago, and it's difficult to destroy. I never said everything is linguistic and we're enclosed in language. In fact, I say the opposite, and the deconstruction of logocentrism was conceived to dismantle precisely this philosophy for which everything is language. Anyone who reads my work with attention understands that I insist on affirmation and faith, and that I'm full of respect for the texts I read.

More thoughtful, original posting, hopefully, in about a week (it is (other peoples') wedding season, and hiking time again).


is apparently, by mainstream jerk-off standards, "alive and kicking"

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

La Jetée

Courtesy of Dan Visel.

not by man alone

Listening to Coltrane, ballads (thanks to Eric), on a rainy day. Reminded, that sentimental Baker sings a version of this one.

Democracy, meanwhile, is maybe an old man listening too hard. He is trying to feel..profundity–as it were. And so missing feeling–and the putting at risk–altogether.

If only fitting back into one body were so easily accomplished.

Reading on America, Tocqueville and Nancy.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Reconstruction, har har (sure, why not)

Alexandra Heifetz:
...Among the real philosophers and career academics, things are worse. In 1989, Brian Leiter, now an analytic philosopher and law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, declared open war on continental philosophy by launching the Philosophical Gourmet Report. In the PGR, Leiter offered a ranking of the top philosophy programs in the US. At first hard copies of the rankings were distributed; then in 1996 the PGR went online. Geared toward prospective undergrads and based on the “quality of faculty” factor, the rankings were clearly, profoundly biased toward analytic programs. Some continental-leaning departments hung near the bottom of the list; most didn’t make it at all.

On the PGR website, which is now very fancy, there’s a section called “Continental vs. Analytic Philosophy,” a concise version of the introduction Leiter wrote for the book A Future for Philosophy. Here he distinguishes between them as two styles of doing philosophy, rather than categories for the kind of books to be read:

Continental philosophy is distinguished by its style (more literary, less analytical, sometimes just obscure), its concerns (more interested in actual political and cultural issues and, loosely speaking, the human situation and its “meaning”), and some of its substantive commitments (more self-conscious about the relation of philosophy to its historical situation).

Leiter seems to think he’s dropping a bomb—note the disparagements of “obscure” and “loosely speaking”—but the house of philosophy had begun to self-destruct half a century before. Since the 1950s analytic philosophers have made the same complaints: that continental philosophy has a messy literary quality, that it wastes time with “concepts-in-quotations,” and that it bothers itself with cultural things like genocide and the Internet. And yet, boom! Like a frantic seven-year-old, Leiter defends his kind of philosophy by pushing out people who don’t agree with him.

Not all continental scholars are concerned with historicity. Some are: the postmodernists, the feminists, the critical race theorists. But what the continental has tried to preserve (and what the analytic has tried to run from) is a sense that, even while pursuing self-preservation, philosophers should never give up on answering questions that are important and interesting to everyone. The analytic philosopher takes his scalpel to the concept of democracy; the continental presents us with an account of the brutal pacification of the east. One is not more philosophically interesting than the other, but certainly the second is more interesting to real people. And after all, there are still real people asking questions—for instance, the undergraduate who takes a course on ancient Greek philosophy and wonders why the platonic philosopher-king banished poetry while on television presidents use the highly poetic rhetoric of wartime. In universities with hard-core analytic cliques, like NYU or Princeton, continental philosophers end up outside of the philosophy department and find a home in comp lit, women’s, or African-American studies. In those settings they won’t be the ones to teach classes on the western philosophical tradition, and the task of teaching the ancients (and the recents) is left to the analytic philosophers. In their classrooms, “meaningful” words are more important than rhetoric, “sophomoric” everyday questions are banned, and in place of natural curiosity a student learns pragmatic methodology.

Continental philosophy isn’t obsolete. But the continental education, that ideal classroom in which Wittgenstein and Foucault are both taught, is becoming very difficult to find. This should worry us more than the fates of individual graduate students, whichever gang they choose. Today’s missiles are being dropped east of the Holland House Library.

Food for thought, as one revisits such things in turning to America.

Update: It has come to my attention that this polemic, excerpted above in the general interests of Internet communism, may be, as indeed polemics often are, slightly unfair, in this case to Brian Leiter, and furthermore that it may even contain factual inaccuracies of one degree or another. Please feel free to read his partly tangential, partly confirming, in any case blustering reply (linked several times by one "anonymous" soul in comments below) and come to your own well-nuanced and adult conclusions as always, needless to say.

Update 2: Also, dear fellow "random morons" if you will: please do take a look at this, and this. Thanks.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


A placeholder (light posting for a spell)

More and more and more on global warming. One thing consistently bothering me about the whole Gore book/movie exposé/presentation is that he never seems to emphasize the implications of a delayed response – that it takes roughly 40 years (though this may be decreasing as things accelerate) to register the effects of current emmission levels, etc. You might think, then, that the fact things are melting exponentially faster practically by the year would be cause for even greater concern, that is, when realizing that whatever we do, nothing will begin to improve for at least forty years! What we are seeing now, in Gore's footage, is the direct consequence of our actions forty years ago. We have no idea how much worse it's going to get, only that it will be exponentially so, and inevitably (at least for n + 40 years). And so on. Oedipus, indeed.

Naturally the very possibility, that no matter what we do a new Ice Age may be coming (at least for Europe) is, how shall we say, a prospective truth a tad too inconvenient for any politician to dare emphasize. Better to just go home, buy that hybrid car, praise the adaptability of capitalism, and pray.

A translation.

• An interview.

• Jodi Dean on Theory Blogging.

• A disturbing article (via). And, meanwhile...speaking of whom.

• A typically excellent post by Michael Bérubé (how very common and tired, the "dissenting" straw man so habitually beloved of conservative opportunists does become). Bérubé's still riding Chomsky, too, for those of you wishing to have that debate (go there).

• So much for Civil Rights, say the reactionary ruling class, bunker-headed politicians (for those of you interested in tomorrow's news).

• A discussion ongoing, with interesting...tangents.

Happy Father's Day (to the tune of Dylan's #7 installment)

Monday, June 12, 2006

they're talking Schmitt

Very good discussion ongoing, at that Eclectic Australian/American/Canadian/French/Italian/Swedish/Brit blog, as you know. Germans more than welcome too, as it leaves the blog economy of interest orbit altogether, becoming-journal..

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Foster Wallace

From an interview, courtesy of wood s lot (link to latter of which being hardly necessary):
Look, if the contemporary condition is hopelessly shitty, insipid, materialistic, emotionally retarded, sadomasochistic, and stupid, then I (or any writer) can get away with slapping together stories with characters who are stupid, vapid, emotionally retarded, which is easy, because these sorts of characters require no development. With descriptions that are simply lists of brand-name consumer products. Where stupid people say insipid stuff to each other. If what's always distinguished bad writing--flat characters, a narrative world that's cliched and not recognizably human, etc.--is also a description of today's world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world. If readers simply believe the world is stupid and shallow and mean, then Ellis can write a mean shallow stupid novel that becomes a mordant deadpan commentary on the badness of everything. Look man, we'd probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what's human and magical that still live and glow despite the times' darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it'd find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it. You can defend "Psycho" as being a sort of performative digest of late-eighties social problems, but it's no more than that.

LM: Are you saying that writers of your generation have an obligation not only to depict our condition but also to provide the solutions to these things?

DFW: I don't think I'm talking about conventionally political or social action-type solutions. That's not what fiction's about. Fiction's about what it is to be a fucking human being. If you operate, which most of us do, from the premise that there are things about the contemporary U.S. that make it distinctively hard to be a real human being, then maybe half of fiction's job is to dramatize what it is that makes it tough. The other half is to dramatize the fact that we still "are" human beings, now. Or can be. This isn't that it's fiction's duty to edify or teach, or to make us good little Christians or Republicans; I'm not trying to line up behind Tolstoy or Gardner. I just think that fiction that isn't exploring what it means to be human today isn't art. We've all got this "literary" fiction that simply monotones that we're all becoming less and less human, that presents characters without souls or love, characters who really are exhaustively describable in terms of what brands of stuff they wear, and we all buy the books and go like "Golly, what a mordantly effective commentary on contemporary materialism!" But we already "know" U.S. culture is materialistic. This diagnosis can be done in about two lines. It doesn't engage anybody. What's engaging and artistically real is, taking it as axiomatic that the present is grotesquely materialistic, how is it that we as human beings still have the capacity for joy, charity, genuine connections, for stuff that doesn't have a price? And can these capacities be made to thrive? And if so, how, and if not why not?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Leiter Industry

Matt Christie
to Brian Leiter Aug 31 (23 hours ago)
From: Matt Christie Mailed-By:
Date: Aug 31, 2006 4:23 PM
Subject: please correct your post

Mr. Leiter-

While I understand your feelings of umbrage, which are indeed in this case to some degree justified, if not also desiring to be an institution unto themselves: if you are going to resort to calling names, and specifically to calling myself and those who frequent my site "random morons," twice now I do believe, kindly at least have the courtesy to link properly to my post!

Unless, of course, you are afraid for what free-thinking people may actually find?

I look forward to your productive participation in our upcoming symposium on Derrida, and in particular on the articles appearing in SubStance Magazine.

Yours bemusedly,


Chris Marker

Films not yet seen:

- Chris Marker : Les Statues Meurent Aussi (1953, 30mn.)

- Chris Marker : Sunday in Peking ( 1956, 22mn.)

- Chris Marker : Dimanche à Pékin (1956, French Version, 22mn.)

- Chris Marker : Letter from Siberia (English version. 1957, 62mn.)

- Chris Marker : Description of a Struggle / d’un Combat (1960, Hebrew with english AND french subtitles, 60mn.)

- Chris Marker : Cuba Si (Original french version, some Spanish… 1961, 52mn.)

- Chris Marker : La Jetée (english or french version – 1962, 28mn.)

- Chris Marker : Al Valparaiso (English subs. 1962, 34mn.)

- Chris Marker : Le Mystère Koumiko (subtitled –1965, 54mn.)

- Chris Marker : La sixième face du pentagone (Original french version, 1968, 28 min.)

- Chris Marker : The Train Rolls On (1971, 32mn.)

- Chris Marker : The Embassy (English Version. 1973, 20mn.)

- Chris Marker : Sans Soleil / Sunless (english or french version – 1982, 110mn.)

& / Chris on Chris (documentary, 10mn.)

- Chris Marker : A.K. The Making of Ran (English Version 1985, 71mn.)

- Chris Marker : Le Tombeau d’Alexandre / The Last Bolshevik (1992, 2 x 60mn.Fench & english versions)

- Chris Marker : Level Five (English Subtitled. Upgraded ! 1997, 110mn.)

- Chris Marker : IMMEMORY CD-ROM (1997, hours of exquisite delights ! French PC)

- Chris Marker : One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevitch (1999, 55mn.)

- Chris Marker : Chats Perchés (2004, 59mn) / Petit Bestiaire de Chris Marker includes 5 shorts : Chat écoutant la musique, An Owl is an Owl is an Owl, Zoo Piece, Bullfight in Okinawa & Slon Tango (26mn.)

- Chris Marker : Les Groupes Medvekine Box set : Chris. Marker et Slon etc. Coll. 243mn. On 4 DVD un-compressed : À bientôt, j’espère, La Charnière STDK, Classe de Lutte, Rhodia 4/8, Sochaux 11 juin, Les trois quart de la vie à Sochaux, Avec le sang des autres, Septembre Chilien

- Chris Marker : Olympia 52 (1952, 82mn.)

- Chris Marker : Owl’s Heritage (1989, 13x26mn.)

Any recommendations?

Eduardo Galeano

I was curious about Eduardo's new book of stories, having heard some things in the news lately. So, I decided to buy a copy.

Not here, precisely, but sometimes he looks rather like John Malkovich.

Latino Boom

Good news for literature is sometimes worth repeating. The recently released Latino Boom (now with its very own website!) is a unique and unprecedented anthology of Latino fiction, poetry, short stories and drama, and by all accounts an essential volume for any teacher in the complex and growing field. Or for that matter just any lover of literature. Anyway I've had the chance to read through a good portion of it, and it really is very good.

From the preface:
Latino Boom presents some of the best Latino Literature from the past 20 years. As the first anthology of its kind to supplement its selections with contextual background materials, it also maintians a holistic approach that distinguishes it...Based on our own firsthand experience as teachers...this work has been tested where it counts most...
Indeed, I can vouch for this, as one of the editors is my brother.
By maintaining this focus on recent writings, dating from 1985 to the present, we have been able to concentrate upon works in four major genres–the short story, poetry, drama, and the essay–and include selections our students have often found most enjoyable and fascinating. Yet we want to emphasize the fact that this anthology presents only the tail end of a long tradition of writing by Latinos, one that stretches back to the European conquest of the Americas in the early 1500s, and much of it written in Spanish.

Beyond the need to limit the scope of the book, we have chosen to concentrate on the modern period because it offers some of the richest literary achievements that have substantially changed the landscape of Latino writing. After all, it was not until the late 1980s and early 1990s that the labels themselves–Hispanic American literature and Latino literature–came into common use. All over the United States, prolific young Latino writers are reinventing the literary landscape. The explosion of South American literary works in the 1970s and 1980s–a period referred to as the "Latin American Literary Boom"–is now mirrored in the U.S. Latino literature.

Focusing on contemporary works also allows us to broaden the book's range to include Latino authors who have been underrepresented in anthologies and other collections, namely women and other less–well-known writers from a wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. With an eye toward looking at works in their entirety, we have avoided excerpts from longer fiction such as novels. There are a few exceptions to this general guideline, however: Sandra Benítez's "Fulgencio Llanos: El Fotógrafo," and–it could be argued–Edgardo Vega Yunqué's "The Barbosa Express" are both stories and individual chapters in genre-bending novels composed of a series of connected short stories.

It's got a lovely cover, doesn't it?

In very short, the anthology renders a complex period bravely accessible, while steering admirably clear, in its conception, of such things as over-simplification and easy polemic. The approach is deeply pedagogical and literary, with careful outlines of various schools of reception, and detailed engagement with such questions as revolve today around narrative and autobiography, just to name a few. There is throughout a very native, deeply polyglot sense for this literature's often hybrid, heterogeneous origins and currents. As such, it is also a collection with a very real social conscience, and obviously unafraid to grapple with issues of cultural and historical context (there are wonderful, detailed maps and admirably unflinching, politically objective timelines detailing various U.S. invasions throughout the years, and so on). Needless to say, however, the literary is nowhere sacrificed purely to questions of mere politics. All in all, a highly original, and admirably-contextualized compilation. Clearly an indispensable volume not only for teachers, but for anyone concerned for the future of literature in the 21st century. There will no doubt be much more to come (provided, of course, we are to survive, to some day read about it, and in places other than the NYTBR.).

nb. Might I also direct your attention to some very wonderful scans, perhaps of related interest: A Nation of Poets: Writings from the Poetry Workshops of Nicaragua (courtesy of Mark Woods).