Thursday, September 28, 2006

This is what waterboarding looks like

here (update 9/29: and now also here).

Update 10/04: And someone or other without a day job, locates this video.


Michel Onfray deserves to be translated better.

Monday, September 25, 2006


The revolution starts sometime.

On Salman Rushdie

In additon to Stephen Mitchelmore, Amitava Kumar makes an interesting point:
The trouble is that despite all his invention and exuberance Rushdie remains to a remarkable extent an academic writer. He is academic in that abstractions rule over his narratives. They determine the outlines of his characters, their faces, and their voices. Rushdie is also academic in the sense that his rebellions and his critiques are all securely progressive ones, advancing the causes that the intelligentsia, especially the left-liberal Western intelligentsia, holds close to its breast. This is not a bad thing, but it should qualify one's admiration for Rushdie's daring.

In the wake of the fatwa, writers all around the world sent letters to Rushdie and to the press, expressing their support for the man who had been forced to go into hiding. One of these letters was from Norman Mailer: "Many of us begin writing with the inner temerity that if we keep searching for the most dangerous of our voices, why then, sooner or later we will outrage something very fundamental in the world, and our lives will be in danger. That is what I thought when I started out, and so have many others, but you, however, are the only one of us who gave proof that this intimation is not ungrounded."

There can be no doubt that the threats that Rushdie faced and also the book-burnings and other protests were shameful and unacceptable. But I do not for a moment support Mailer's assessment. I don't believe that Rushdie has even found his most dangerous voice. In fact, I don't believe that Rushdie's is the most dangerous voice writing today. His is no doubt a powerful voice; often, it has been an oppositional voice; but it is a voice of a celebrity promoting commendable causes; more seriously, in some fundamental way, it is the voice of a metaphorical outsider, and therefore incapable of revealing to ourselves, in an intimate way, our complicities, our contradictions, and our own inescapable horror. I don't deny that it is a voice that can engage and delight and of course annoy, and yet it is very important to make a distinction: what Rushdie writes can easily provoke, but it is rarely able to disturb.

Not sure of course about this distinction wrt "abstractions" (as opposed to what exactly, reality? Reality of feelings?) but nonetheless.

nb. See Marco Roth's review of Shalimar the Clown, and also re: nuisance value. Though I suppose something more radical than nuisance even may be the case. The idea of literature as something ultimately beholden, for example, to a foundational Terror for its generative force.

journal watch

Collapse...looks interesting.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Dutch & Lucy

Too busy to blog, working as a carpenter and, after three weeks, still moving in. But not too busy to adopt these two apparently. Dutch is mostly shepard/collie. Lucy's got some Ridgeback in her. The humane society volunteer caring for them the last few years, sweet older man with a heavy southern accent, says he found her one night lying in four inches of water, chained to a truck. Both beyond sweet and gentle, independent and intelligent. Companions for 35 years now, dog-years-counting, and I like the idea of them keeping each other company for a variety of reasons. Also in a day and age when mature dogs are being put down right and left before their time, it is practically criminal how many people prefer-indeed, demand-puppies. Or ratty and exotic, yapping punt-pooches.

I look forward to being a benevolent, sparing sort of God.

10 years or less

Good speech by Gore (all necessary caveats implied, of course. As in, needless to say).

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Excellent interview with Sylvère Lotringer:
Now artists are turning into curators of their own works, or rather managers of their own brand-name. The name-of-the-author (of any gender) has replaced the name-of-the-father famously coined by Jacques Lacan. Artists now can claim the paternity of their own artistic identity in partnership with the media-machine that manages their career to everyone’s satisfaction. No wonder art is losing its artistic identity and can be found at work everywhere, engulfed by advertisement, performing in politics, entertained by entertainment. Art “innovators and change agents” are now being sent to the outer world the way sociologists used to be sent to factories with the mission of easing boss-worker tensions and making the workers’ unbearable life more tolerable. But they will hardly be the only ones to be working at it, the entire society is geared to that, from Hollywood to the entertainment and advertising industries, not to mention politicians polishing their act at the expense of politics, all making art for the “new creative economy,” pushing products on happy consumers, or better yet: turning consumers themselves into a product, satisfying their desires even before they begin to surface in what still passes for collective consciousness....There’s an aesthetic pollution of art in every way similar to the pollution of distances. Globalization makes things look small, even if they try to stand tall. One doesn’t look at any of it in the same way. The world interferes with our perception. It was the same with theory after it was so massively appropriated by a horde of fickle fans. Deleuze’s ideas didn’t become less interesting or generous after people started raving about them, but it took me a lot more effort to keep them fresh in my mind.

(Courtesy of archive : s0metim3s)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

humanist quantifiers on "why we enjoy music"

Farhad Manjoo in Salon (for those relishing cogscispeak):
Contrary to long-held assumptions, the cerebellum did turn out to play a role in some emotions -- particularly the way we derive pleasure from the rhythm, or groove, of a piece of music. When we listen to a song, our ears send signals not only to the auditory cortex, the region of the brain that processes the sound, but also straight to the cerebellum. When a song begins, Levitin says, the cerebellum, which keeps time in the brain, "synchronizes" itself to the beat. Part of the pleasure we find in music is the result of something like a guessing game that the brain then plays with itself as the beat continues. The cerebellum attempts to predict where beats will occur. Music sounds exciting when our brains guess the right beat, but a song becomes really interesting when it violates the expectation in some surprising way -- what Levitin calls "a sort of musical joke that we're all in on." Music, Levitin writes, "breathes, speeds up, and slows down just as the real world does, and our cerebellum finds pleasure in adjusting itself to stay synchronized."

But it's not just the cerebellum that perks up to songs. What's interesting about how our brains respond to music -- rather than, say, language -- is the large number of systems that are activated by the experience. In addition to the cerebellum, music taps into the frontal lobes (a "higher-order" region that processes musical structure), and it also activates the mesolimbic system, which Levitin explains is "involved in arousal, pleasure, the transmission of opiods and the production of dopamine." This is why certain music can feel so pleasurable, producing such deep emotions -- it's simultaneously operating on various parts of our brains, and the response is something on the order of taking a hit of heroin.

Yeah, or something...(via)


The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

-Auden (via)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

teh funny

Lore Sjöberg on the ultimate blog post:
Creating your own blog is about as easy as creating your own urine, and you're about as likely to find someone else interested in it...However, there are many popular blogs already in existence, and if you want people to think you're cool, you're probably better off claiming you were a "guest blogger" for one of them. Your average blog has so many guest bloggers and such a crappy search feature that nobody will ever be able to prove you wrong."

See especially the parodies. Personally I always sort of mumble it under my breath, with a half-apologetic shrug and ever-so-briefly overturned palm: "...well, and I'm a blogger too, you know, so a wireless connection would then be nice. But it's not essential, no..." Which is not to say it can't sometimes be a force for good, of course.

(via here)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

music for a rainy day


Not bad. A little rushed, but not bad. Of course in the infinite deferral begging (or praying?) always what comes next... (still too mechanically, and monotonously rushed for my taste–I much prefer Nikolaeva, or indeed the man himself–incidentally no enemy to the avant-garde–anyway via here–part of the excellent here). More on Shostakovich and Nikolaeva at the wiki.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Who needs TV

Karl Rove's father was gay a new book reveals; Woody Allen once met Billy Graham; Parodies of Spike Lee's Katrina doc already; the ghost of R. Murrow embraces the risk of appearing today a little forced, not once but twice; Riverbend presents a re-description of Bush's Iraq War history more honest than some, and I am glad.

How to avoid being paranoid

A review of the later Sedgwick via wood s lot:
It is a genre of criticism that has spread through various disciplines and relies on an imagined hiddenness: `What marks the paranoid impulse... is... the seeming faith in exposure... as though to make something visible as a problem were, if not a mere hop, skip, and jump away from getting it solved, at least self-evidently a step in that direction' (139). This preoccupation with exposure worries Sedgwick because of its reliance on:
    an infinite reservoir of naïveté in those who make up the audience for these unveilings. What is the basis for assuming that it will surprise or disturb, never mind motivate, anyone to learn that a given social manifestation is artificial, self-contradictory, imitative, phantasmatic, or even violent?... How television-starved would someone have to be to find it shocking that ideologies contradict themselves, that simulacra don't have originals, or that gender representations are artificial? (141)

Acknowledging that the paranoid impulse may have been valuable for making sense of particular historical conditions, Sedgwick wishes to question the inherent usefulness and radicality of this reading practice in every context.

Still missing her

Following on...

Also: very cute.

Update: damn.

"Fish Swim...."

    "Radio is the theatre of the mind; television is the theatre of the mindless."

    -Steve Allen

    "To be avant-garde is to know what is dead; to be of the rearguard is still to love it."

    -Roland Barthes

Dylan's radio shows continue to bless the summer, with due reference to John Peel and an entire generation (an aside to Ellis: have spotted yet another, barely neutral Zion reference. Not only that, but the man reads an email from Alan Dershowitz! Anyway regarding such matters, I'm with Eric, who really says it best:
But what’s fascinating in the documentary is Dylan’s refusal to play along. My interest is not, as it is for Dylanheads, to protect the messiah from persecution so much as it is to point to the value of Dylan’s resistance to interpreting, to explaining his work. Dylan refuses to read for his audience, which is also a refusal to recognize the distinction between (passive) listener/subject and (active) artist/leader. In this sense, his “mutiny from above” (as Posthegemony called it), his refusal to interpret, is mirrored by his turn away from (obviously) protest songs. At one point in the documentary, Baez remembers that she had a grand plan for the music she and Dylan would do together and laments that her political-artistic project was never carried out. They would sing clear-thinking protest songs and draw clear political lines. In other words, Baez was advocating a sort of pop paternalism, a program in which their music would enlighten the people about the evils of racism, war, etc. It was this soft authoritarianism that Dylan turned his back on.

Love him or be underwhelmed by phases of him–and it's probably true that all the born-again stuff didn't simply go away, or not entirely, but only became suppressed to some degree–these shows are something special, and not just to borrow from Bukowski, "radio with guts." They are also a glimpse of an America (of which there have always been many) and perhaps most intriguingly from a certain distance.

One wonders about the nature of this distance, as it seems to encourage something other than sentimental attachment. It is not only that one feels far enough away from these songs to be released from the power (of fear) they once may have exercised on the collective unconscious–as always the generative force, the foundational tension that gives birth to any 'subject' (or so people say). Their cultural moment has decidedly passed and therefore, being still not purely foreign or forgotten they are said to "endure." One neither desires a return nor to forget completely. One is pleasantly surprised to be reminded of these songs, each one an act of resistance and therefore affirmation in the humble manner that only songs can be. As testimonies of the everyday, to moments of pause and of taking imperfect account, of small transcendences. But like Nietzsche said of friends, in order to preserve their force one ought to keep them close but not go over to them.

Anyway here's to the day when it doesn't take a celebrity to sell a responsible re-working of the archive, ever more accessible though parts of 'it' become. Call it nostalgia touring if you must, but for most people confronted these days by the unbearably homogenous and mantric Viacom robot playlists, or the canned music of working-class "classic rock" permanent teenage therapy, one wagers it's an education.

    "One must always reaffirm something of the past in order to avoid a relapse into something far worse. Strategic problems are therefore also essential, and always inevitable in philosophy. Philosophical concepts, sentences, discourses, or arguments are always also stratagems."


Back to Basics

    "But I wonder whether this conceptual apparatus will continue to survive for long. I may be mistaken, but the id, the ego, the superego, the ideal ego, the ego ideal, the secondary process and the primary process of repression, etc.–in a word, the large Freudian machines (including the concept and the word "unconscious"!)–are in my opinion only provisional weapons, or even rhetorical tools cobbled together to be used against a philosophy of consciousness, of transparent and fully responsible intentionality. I have little faith in their future...

    "I prefer in Freud the partial, regional, and minor analyses, the most venturesome soundings. These breaches and openings sometimes reorganize, at least virtually, the entire field of knowledge. It is necessary, as always, to be ready to give oneself over to them, and to be able to give them back their revolutionary force...(Derrida, "In Praise of Psychoanalysis," in For What Tomorrow)

    "It is probable that Marx had in mind the impression felt in the Crystal Palace when he wrote the chapter of Capital on commodity fetishism. It is certainly not a coincidence that this chapter occupies a liminal position. The disclosure of the commodity's "secret" was the key that revealed capital's enchanted realm to our thought–a secret that capital always tried to hide by exposing it in full view.

    "Without the identification of this immaterial center–in which "the products of labor" split themselves into a use value and an exchange value and "become commodities, sensuous things which are at the same time suprasensible or social"–all the following critical investigations undertaken in Capital probably would not have been possible.

    "In the 1960s, however, the Marxian analysis of the fetish character of the commodity was, in the Marxist milieu, foolishly abandoned. In 1969, in the preface to a popular reprint of Capital, Louis Althusser could still invite readers to skip the first section, with the reason that the theory of fetishism was a "flagrant" and "extremely harmful" trace of Hegelian philosophy.

    "It is for this reason that Debord's gesture appears all the more remarkable, as he bases his analysis of the society of the spectacle–that is, of a capitalism that has reached its extreme figure–precisely on that "flagrant trace." The "becoming-image" of capital is nothing more than the commodity's last metamorphosis, in which exchange value has completely eclipsed use value and can now achieve the status of absolute and irresponsible sovereignty over life in its entirety, after having falsified the entire social production. In this sense, the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, where the commodity unveiled and exhibited its mystery for the first time, is a prophecy of the spectacle, or, rather, the nightmare, in which the nineteenth century dreamed the twentieth. The first duty the Situationists assigned themselves was to wake up from this nightmare. (Agamben, "Marginal Notes," in Means Without End)

(via Blogging for Resistance)

    "But the very aim, and I do say the aim, of the psychoanalytic revolution is the only one not to rest, not to seek refuge, in principle, in what I call a theological or humanist alibi. That is why it can appear terrifying, terribly cruel, pitiless. Even to psychoanalysts, even to those who, on both sides of the couch, more or less pretend to put their trust in psychoanalysis. All the philosophies, the metaphysics, the theologies, the human sciences end up having recourse, in the deployment of their thought or their knowledge, to such an alibi.

    "Among the gestures that convinced me, seduced me in fact, is its indispensable audacity of thought, what I do not hesitate to call its courage: which here consists in writing, inscribing, signing theoretical "fictions" in the name of knowledge without alibi (therefore the most "positive" knowledge)....(Derrida, "In Praise of Psychoanalysis")