Archive for the ‘Last Things’ Category

Superb Owl

February 5, 2013

In recognition of the victory of The Ravens, here is a haunted tidbit related to Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. Written by Gauguin in the Marquesas (tite flag) shortly before the painter’s death, it relates an anecdote from Paris, 1880.

… Do not get the notion of reading Edgar Allan Poe except in some very reassuring place….

Let me tell you a true story. My wife and I were both reading in front of the fireplace. Outdoors it was cold. My wife was reading Poe’s The Black Cat

The fire was about to go out and the weather was cold. It was time to go fetch some coal. My wife went down to the cellar of the little house we had sublet from the painter Jobbé-Duval.

On the steps a black cat gave a frightened jump. So did my wife. But after a moment of hesitation she continued on her way. Two shovelfuls of coal—and a skull emerged from the heap of coal. Shivering with frieght my wife left everything in the cellar, raced back up the stairs, and finally fainted in the bedroom. I went down in turn, and as I shoveled more coal I brought an entire skeleton to light. It was an old wired skeleton that Jobbé-Duval had used and then, when it had gone out of joint, had thrown away in the cellar.

… Beware of reading Edgar Allan Poe.

 

Yes, beware of reading EAP… especially his godawful poetry. Somehow the French have always thought him a badass. BTW, Gauguin compares Poe’s work to the paintings of Odilon Redon. (p.s. the expression on this “face” is not acceptable!)

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On The Offensive

November 15, 2012

In tandem with Israel’s assault on Gaza, the IDF delivered a ‘social media’ blitz, which included niceties such as the swaggering death notice tweet: “We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.”

The most repugnant dispatch was a vid-tweet of the actual assassination footage. “In case you missed it–”

“In case you missed it—” is demonically glib. In case you missed it is what you say when sharing a clip from SNL, not assassination footage. And: Of course we “missed it”—it was filmed from your fighter jet. Unless by “you” the IDF means “Palestinian pedestrians”, as in: “In case you were shopping the next block over and missed the targeted killing + lethal shrapnel”. But then why would the IDF be tweeting in English? Oh yeah, because this is part of a media campaign directed at Western audiences. Or maybe it’s a hat-tip to US citizens, “In case you missed it, we’re putting your military a$$i$tance to good use.” And, since we’re doing a close reading of tweets: In case you missed it is a dark preface to a video of a missile strike that didn’t miss its target (“In case you missed it, we didn’t miss”).

And what of the coincidence that this attack comes in the midst of Netanyahu’s re-election campaign and some supporters have already dubbed the attack his “Seal Team 6 moment”? Even if the man rubbed out—“our Bin Laden”—was Netanyahu’s “sub-contractor in Gaza”?

My Soi Disant Life

August 31, 2012

Several years ago the anthropologist/philosopher Jonathan Lear wrote an fascinating book (excellently reviewed here by Charles Taylor) about doomspirals’ fav topic: kultural devastation.

Lear explores this theme through an account of the Crow Tribe’s forced relocation to a reservation in the 19th century—& how this uprooting deeply undermined Crow society. Before displacement, the Crow were a nomadic people of the Great Plains whose way of life was intimately linked to the buffalo. The movement of the buffalo dictated the movement of the Crow; the social status of Crow men hinged on their relation to the hunt and the courage displayed protecting the tribe’s hunting grounds; the roles of Crow women revolved around facilitating the hunt and managing its bounty; and Crow women derived great pride in the ability and courage of their kinsmen. In this way, the hunt influenced the rhythms and rituals of the tribe, influencing marriage selection, social hierarchy, burial honors, as well as daily activities.

The central text through which Lear tells his story is a recollection of Chief Plenty Coups, who led the Crow through the transitional period into the confinement of the reservation. “When the buffalo went away the hearts of my people fell to the ground, and they could not lift them up again,” Chief Plenty Coups recounts. “After this nothing happened.”

Lear’s book takes great lengths puzzling over the words “after this nothing happened”. Plenty Coups, presumably, does not mean that nothing transpired after the tribe was confined on the reservation. But the motivating purpose of the tribe had been suddenly removed; the acts of greatest importance and symbolic value ceased to hold meaning, and the very roles that constituted a Crow being a Crow ceased even to be possible.

[The Crow] problem, then, was not simply that they could not pursue happiness in the traditional ways. Rather, their conception of what happiness is could no longer be lived. The characteristic activities that used to constitute the good life ceased to be intelligible acts. A crucial blow to their happiness was a loss of the concepts with which their happiness had been understood.

A principal example of this dissolution of cultural meaning was the transformation of “coup sticks” from elevated cultural object to inert ornament. On the Plains, it was the practice of Crow warriors to plant a stake (a “coup stick”) in the ground, which marked a boundary that if the enemy crossed, the Crow warrior would defend to the death. It was of supreme status in society to be a man who could “count” many “coups”. Thus, the significance of the chief’s tribal name: Plenty Coups. But, with life on the reservation, after the buffalo, all significance was emptied from coup sticks. Old virtues were no longer possible. No more coups could be counted.

Was this morning reading an crazy story of a Montana man who was killed attempting to stage a Big Foot hoax. Stalking along a wooded highway in a full-body Chewbacca-type camouflage outfit, the man meant to spook passing motorists, but was instead struck by a passing car. It was one of those sad, weird ephemeral stories that float across our internet radar screens and pass as entertainment(?) in our nonsense culture. But what caught mine eye was a comment beneath the story by “BonzoDog1”:

“Highway 93 is notorious for being one of the most deadly roadways in Montana without any hijinks.  At least only the fool died. The two young women could have easily died or been seriously injured, too.
I thought too of several young members of the Crow Tribe who died in the 1990s trying to count coup by slapping the fenders of passing 18-wheelers going 80 mph on I-90 through the rez.

I don’t know if “count coup” is a phrase in current/regional circulation, or if any Crow actually used this phrase to describe the horrible event, or if this internet commenter is merely a royal butthead trafficking loaded phrases. But is it not vastly sad how the old rituals have been made low, profaned? Not that these young men profaned the old rituals but that there is no possibility to practice them? (As when Aristotle tells us that happiness is the function of exercising noble virtues, and we think: ‘I can’t really do those in junk-house trash-life 2012′?) Though Lear paints a devastating portrait of the reality of culture death, he does so to tell another story. After all, the book is titled Radical Hope. Lear writes of the continuity of the Crow people. He discusses how, through mobilizing Crow imagery and history, Chief Plenty Coups was able to re-imagine Crow values and rituals, transplanting them into the new context of the reservation, ultimately helping the tribe adapt and persevere. But… the slapping-truck-fenders story is a discouraging sign of the grim state of Plenty Coups’ project, and of, y’know, the centripetal tug of ye olde Boschian gyre. [&BTW, TanFin tells me that “counting coups” is the source of the band name “The Counting Crows”. Ugh/Ack, Modrn Lyf = Long December.]

America is Killing its Youth

July 31, 2012

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Ghost Rider (live @ Max’s KC 1976)

Keep Your Dreams (orig. version)

Vauxhall & Islam

June 15, 2012

If you’ll recall, during the parliamentary elections all the thousands of wooden ballot boxes of a voting district were trucked to a huge, centralized counting center. If you’ll also recall, these centers—housed under makeshift tents inside stadiums & schoolyards & social clubs—were scenes of absolute mayhem. Thousands of military personnel, military trucks, judges, polling staff, and political operatives converged on a single gated entrance. It took hours to fight the wild throngs at the gate to gain entrance to observe the wild throngs counting votes.

So this time around the procedures have changed: votes are now counted inside each polling station; these local results are recorded on a few small forms, which are then aggregated on the district and governorate level. So… [why always these long preliminary paragraphs?!] So…

Late into the night we sat in the polling station while the judge emptied the ballot boxes and tallied the votes. In front of the fixed gaze of campaign agents, the judge dealt out a long parade of ballots into separate piles, one for each candidate. Hamdeen… Hamdeen… Moussa… Foutouh… Morsi… Morsi… Morsi… Every time the judge said “Morsi” I grinned, imagining he was saying Morrissey Morrissey… Morrissey. And I pictured the Egyptian voter entering the booth, running his pen up & down the ballot, and ticking the box for Morrissey (over Shafiq and Abel Fotouh (and Depeche Mode and Flock of Seagulls)).

Caption Caption [Courtesy of Black Cherry]

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Caption Caption [Courtesy of Hell N. Carey]

We shared these crucial lulz images with a few friends. Farrah [pic’d at bottom] nodded but shook her head: “I always favored Johnny Marr’s guitar chops… over Moz’s crooning and dramatics. Conclusion: my ears hear Marrsi.” The Inimitable Tad (aka Field Marshal Tadtawi) took my Flock of Seagulls Elections Joke and raised me a Flock of Seagulls Elections Joke, sending me this ballot paper from the 2010 Malaysian elections.

The second party listed on the 2010 Mandaluyong ballot: Flock of Seagulls. (Party 69: Hotdogs; Party 77: Itchy Worms.) How u like dat civil disobedience?! Next level pomo stylie: pop culture / literal election ballot mash-up! Who’s Paper Rad now?? Mandaluyong is Paper Rad now.)

So, yes, to improve yr amusement: for the hectic rest of campaigning, re-imagine every newspaper article about the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate to be a trippy article about our favorite grim dandy crooner, Morrissey.

DIY window tint in Damanhour. Nasser… ?… Sadat… Who will be next? Maybe Moz’s mug!

Morsi claims to be the candidate of the revolution, so, appealing to the frustration of activists, perhaps he should change his campaign slogan to “How Soon Is Now?” If elected maybe Morsi will change the popular slogan “The Army & The People One Hand” to “The Army & The People One Hand (In Glove)”.

&If SCAF steals the election: “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby”

———–

OUROBOROS OMNIBUS! Holy shint, there’re a lots of wordz to say about the ongoing hidden-in-plain-sight military-judicial coup—as Neil says “Counter-Revolution in tha buildingzz!”—but jah gotta do some work right now for the insane elections tomorrow. Pls consider the above/below an ruff draft! Much to set the quill to, including:

*Mubarak’s whack verdict! What up with that! Plus: The Mubarak verdict foreshadowed by the romance novel found in my hotel lobby.

I found this steamy tome about the sexy & the undead in my hotel foyer. We were sitting around waiting for the Mubarak verdict to be issued so I cracked the spine. Chapter One: “The Last Council”. Go on… The first line—I swear on baby jesus’ teal bonnet: “‘How much longer will the verdict take, do you think?’ Clary asked.”

Plus, the more/most serious issue: How the Mubarak verdict gave the green light to all the smaller, provincial police violence cases—the message: it’s cool to let the killers go now. [Winning quote from Morrissey: “We want the love between the people and the army and the police to return, because unity between the people would protect the people from the beasts that want to eat the flesh of the people [referring to thefts and killing of the ousted regime],” Morsy added.] [My emphasis??!?] Spoiler alert: for friends who remember that never-ending research project I did for that Harper’s article… well… the villain is now as free as cotton candy aloft in a fragrant zephyr. [So have we all agreed to forget how monstrous the Egyptian police were before & during the revolution?]

*Shafiq proceeding in the election + parliament being dissolved! KaBoom!

*Freudian Typos on Al Jazeera!

*Visiting Shafiq’s summer villa compound! AKA All Wealth Is Stolen AKA Scream Until You… Actually Just Keep Screaming!

* The military announcing the reinstatement of the Emergency Law. Almost forgot about that one!

*New nonsense t-shirts, including:

Not just fine art, “fine ass art”. In smaller print “Unway Lagoon Resort”

…and this afternoon’s acquisition:

“Why I got kucked out of The Beatles”. Great topic. And the four lads (crossing Abbey Road??–slant allusion??) are having the most _____ conversation. Gazing off toward the mushroom cloud two ask “Nice one boy?” one asks “one boy?” and the fourth remarks “Lao Scene in the northern mountains of Laos, near here we saw men walk”. At the bottom it mentions The Beatles again: “The Beatles Again”.

* An amazing new arts space in Alex leading to more reflections on the nature of political art! Y’know, fine ass art!

[Wait, an friend just sent an picture from last night—sorta sorry I’m not on Facepage to see these things!]

The fierce & charming Dina Wadidi last night at Teatro. (And also a shoegazing foreign dude on the floor with his friend Sabrine. What up, Sabrine!)

p.s. Dina sang a romping rousing rendition of Kifeya Aish [“Stop Cheating”] dedicated to Shafiq & all the judicial nonsense of yesterday.

* Some comments related to Maria Bustillos recent essay on Oscar Wilde +++ Ricks on A.E. Houseman’s “Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists?”. [Bustillos is the best—why are her books so terribly titled?]

*All I’m saying is that we’ve got some stuff to catch up on here! Egypt is getting weird! And I’m not just talking about the recently ubiquitous SpongeBob SquarePants paraphernalia or the tiny plastic lawn chairs.

Perhaps this is the wrong question, but what are we supposed to *do* with tiny plastic lawn chairs?

Grim Peeper

October 26, 2011

Leontius, the son of Aglaion, was coming up from the Piraeus, close to the outer side of the north wall, when he saw some dead bodies lying near the executioner and he felt a desire to look at them, and at the same time felt disgust at the thought, and tried to turn aside. For some time he fought with himself and put his hand over his eyes, but in the end the desire got the better of him, and opening his eyes wide with his fingers he ran forward to the bodies, saying, “There you are, curse you, have your fill of the lovely spectacle!”

Plato, Republic, Book IV

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Number of the ten most popular prime-time television dramas that regularly feature corpses: 8

Harper’s, March 2011

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Everybody Loves Raymond Looking Qaddafi’s Slain Corpse! True, prime-time drama gives us a good sample-spoon of necro-gawking, but on special occasions we get the real thing! Sci-fi distopianists/CNN have long promised us live war & death as entertainment, but it’s hardly as regular or often as we might like. But what a feast for the eyes we’ve had lately in Libya! And where’s his body now?? In the industrial fridge?? In the desert!! I hope bedouins don’t exhume his shallow grave because they’re only likely to have lo-res cell phone video capability, which is good for that authentic snuff film vibe, but the blood hues and depth-of-field for deep gashes are well nigh of satisfactory.

I swear, if it weren’t for all the iPads lying around, I might think the 21st Century wasn’t too modern. Hunting down Arab kings and killing them like village dogs? Am I reading all this on a boastful parchment scroll brought back from Antioch in the Lord’s Year 1245? Are we bringing back desiccated heads from battle and hoisting them on pikes in the town square? I’m glad that the New York Times has found its calling in the digital age! The more things change, the worse they get! It’s also cool how the hard-learned lessons/rationale of the international tribunals at Nuremburg or Tokyo or The Hague are not even garbled side-chatter in the national conversation… forget we ever learned 1 thing about transitional justice/salvaging an teensy slice of humanity from carnage… everybody just do that right-dark urge!

How quaint a disposition, that young Leontius! How passé to be conflicted about staring at the gory result of public executions. Don’t worry, history won’t frown on your grim-grave voyeurism. In a few short centuries the Romans will spread gladiatorial arenas about the realm and institutionalize blood-sport death-entertainment. In Libya even? You bet! Shit, about a hundred miles from modern-day Sirte they built a massive arena at Leptis Magna where archaeologists recently uncovered an huge mosaic depicting a gladiator “resting in a state of fatigue and staring at his slain opponent.” Like Pee-Wee said: Take a picture [make a mosaic], it’ll last longer. This gazing-at-gazing-at-corpse art—esteemed by scholars as one of the finest examples of representational mosaics extant and a “masterpiece comparable in quality with the Alexander Mosaic in Pompeii”—originally graced the walls of a dang swimming pool at a Roman villa. Ah yes, spare no expense to capture in portrait the unfortunates of mortal combat… an glorious ting to ogle whilst splish-splash chillaxin in my roman play-tub.

Joyce Carol Oates, an aficionado of face-punching, wrote in On Boxing (1987) that the allure of the brutal contest is the dramatic arc of the fight and, ultimately, the satisfaction of “a final and incontestable judgment”. The spectators enjoy vicariously the struggle and share in the triumph. And when this spectacle is geo-political we all get to play at Empire and share in the kill, the final judgment. Now, as with the ancient arena, once the opponent “lay prone on the sands, everyone regardless of status or age could indulge in a short-lived group fantasy of being a dominus, a master, with the power to grant life or death.”

And what better way to play empire than dress-up?! This Halloween, go gung-ho for country and show the whole neighborhood that you, too, have internalized the sociopathic ideals of constant global warfare and that you are on trend with Arabphobia.

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Oh yeah, we got him! And now that the death-image trophy is beamed real-time to all our glowing screens we can recline & glib-smug-chuckle at the distant death of our imperial villains.

The satisfaction of “a final and incontestable judgment” indeed!

I like how the Late Night Show, which has nothing to say on any weighty matter, weighs in on the metaphysical terrain of HELL. Y’know, our show doesn’t have any religious affiliation, and we don’t really condemn or endorse anything of consequence, but from time to time we like to venture a lil’ divine judgement on the passage of souls in the afterlife. In jest of course.

It gives the show real backbone! We are not wishy-washy; we take absolute stands on matters of moral gravity! Reminds me of how the Washington Post editorial board recently took a bold, courageous stand against the inscription on the MLK memorial you’ve got his meaning all wrong! — while never pecking one lonesome keystroke for anything resembling MLK’s message. This, of course, the same editorial board that championed the Iraq War with red spirals in their eye(s). e.g. See Section A1 for our coverage on Fuck Peace; See the Style Section for our beloved annual contest Fuck Peeps.

LET’S BE HONEST WITH OURSELVES AND JUST BLOW UP THE WORLD. WITH A MIRROR AFFIXED TO THE MOON SO WE CAN HAVE ONE LAST FRONT ROW SEAT FOR DEATH!

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

End Time

September 21, 2011

 

 

 

Some Thoughts on The Apocalypse (Nothing New Here)

May 31, 2011

Do you guys know about Warhammer 40,000—the max-dystopian sci-fi fantasy book series based on the tabletop miniature wargame of the same name? Perhaps it goes without saying: Warhammer 40k is thrashingly bonkers. Indicative of the general maximalist vibe, the action takes place in the year 40,000. (None of this namby-pamby 2050A.D. stuff!) From what I gather, the fictional universe is one of constant total war wherein intergalactic humanoid mercenaries romp perpetually over wasted landscapes of gore & skulls, slashing their way through storms of violence in an attempt to […I missed that part]. Id Est: An Toto Wampage.

Like any cult hobby, Warhammer 40,000 is a world unto itself. Fans participate in this world by painting elaborate miniatures, playing with their armies of miniatures (basically tabletop LARP), and/or consuming the many Warhammer 40k books penned by a roster of sci-fi authors. Or, if you’re like me, you participate in this world by drinking BLLs in your friend’s basement and asking him to explain what, exactly, is a Chaos Space Marine?

One of the most interesting aspects of a fictional universe set 40 centuries in the future is the confused relationship to the past—and in particular, the space dudes’ relationship to the technologies they use. Even though the characters fly around in massive spaceships and are themselves composed of robotic appendages, they only have a functional understanding of these technologies inherited from some hazy & distant past. They know how to recharge the ship’s space batteries (I’m making this example up), but they don’t understand the principles by which the batteries operate. As a result, a kooky thing has happened to their space culture. The space dudes attribute the functioning or non-functioning of a space battery to superstitious forces and thus a confused spirituality has arisen in which space dudes pray and make offerings to the unknown magic that governs the space batteries.

**

ANYHOW! The other day I was thinking of the Warhammer predicament with the space batteries in relation to a thought experiment posed by the British philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre in After Virtue. MacIntyre asks us to imagine a scenario where the natural sciences suffer the effects of a catastrophe:

A series of environmental disasters are blamed by the general public on the scientists. Widespread riots occur, laboratories are burnt down, physicists are lynched, books and instruments are destroyed. Finally a Know-Nothing political movement takes power and successfully abolishes science teaching in schools and universities, imprisoning and executing the remaining scientists. Later still there is a reaction against this destructive movement and enlightened people seek to revive science, although they have largely forgotten what it was. But all that they possess are fragments: a knowledge of experiments detached from any knowledge of the theoretical context which gave them significance; parts of theories unrelated to the other bits and pieces of theory which they possess or to experiment; instruments whose use has been forgotten; half-chapters from books, single pages from articles…. None the less all these fragments are reembodied in a set of practices, which go under the revived names of physics, chemistry and biology. Adults argue with each other about the respective merits of relativity theory, evolutionary theory and phlogiston theory, although they possess only a very partial knowledge of each. Children learn by heart the surviving portions of the periodic table and recite as incantations some of the theorems of Euclid. Nobody, or almost nobody, realizes that what they are doing is not natural science in any proper sense at all….

In such a culture men would use expressions such as ‘neutrino’, ‘mass’, ‘specific gravity’, ‘atomic weight’, in systematic and often interrelated ways which would resemble in lesser or greater degrees the ways in which such expressions had been used in earlier times before scientific knowledge had been so largely lost.

MacIntyre poses this thought experiment about a collapse of science to make an analogy. MacIntyre believes that in our current age the language of morality is in the same state of grave disorder as the language of science in his hypothetical scenario. In his view, our moral language—and thus, our moral reasoning—is comprised of disjointed fragments of conceptual schemes shorn from the original contexts from which the moral assertions derived their meaning. One consequence of this collapse is that moral arguments are interminable—not that they go on and on, though they often do—but that they have no grounding on which they might be compared, let alone resolved. They are incommensurable. Moral discussions in MacIntyre’s view are now a hodgepodge of conclusions & arguments extracted from the larger systems of utilitarianism, humanitarianism, Christian morality, and Kantian ethics, admixed with the arbitrary emotivism of “Because I wish it / Because I said so”.

This view that we have become unmoored from the “grand narratives” or “legitimizing myths” that formerly framed our ethical culture has an essential overlap with thinkers like Frankie Lyotard. And MacIntyre’s view that we are flailing about, unaware of the significant historical background of our beliefs, sounds a lot like Freddie Jameson (e.g., “the present [is] an age that has forgotten how to think historically in the first place”). Which is only to say that MacIntyre sounds quite du jour. Which is fine—we don’t mind our kontemporary konfusion described by our contemporary thinkers—it’s comforting even!

But then we remember that this is basically the argument Nietzsche was making 130 years ago. He was ranting against a European bourgeois culture in which the moral sentiments ostensibly grounded in Enlightenment rationality or the Christian worldview had outlasted the collapse of the credibility of both. (Y’know, ‘God is Dead’—not in the sense that the Old Man in the Sky has been felled, but that He is no longer a viable bedrock for absolute morality.) My point here is that when reading the distressed diagnoses of MacIntyre/Lyotard/Jameson/et al asserting that we live in the turbulent wake of a cultural collapse, you have to hear Nietzsche in the background saying, “Dude, don’t act surprised about this news in 2011—I’m covering the same beat in the 1880s and I’m saying it’s already happened!”

My jam here is not that Nietzsche’s or MacIntyre’s specifics are right, but to point to the more general notion of the slow unwinding of culture. [FINALLY CLOSING IN ON MAIN POINT] I bring this up in relation to our ubiquitous cultural fantasy about a Mad Max/The Road­-variety apocalypse (…on which—don’t get me wrong—I enjoy riffing as much as any!) But this cultural fantasy is just that—a fantasy—a hypothetical escape route from our Boschian gyre / a wishful return to some simpler Natural State. Something like a gritty update on Treasure Island. And implicit within this fantasy, another: that the apocalypse is coming. But I’m like: Forget Apocalypse Now, I’m saying Apocalypse Already. Nobody is going to be Raptured one decisive day; the world adrift will continue to drift.

And that’s fine—me suspect that’s how it has always gone down! & I’m not trying to cruise around on a Bummer Enforcement Patrol—I’m just rappin’ about constant flux, baby! Quit dreaming about the world getting taken care of. Or made anew.

[To be continued… like the worlb]

Clarification! Retraction!

March 1, 2011

When I suggested in an earlier post that some capable military should destroy the Libyan Air Force, this was in the context of Qaddafi attacking his own people with fighter jets. At the time it seemed like there might be an extended campaign of murdering protesters with F-16s—and it seemed like this should be stopped!

But now that U.S. ships are closing in on Libya and neo-cons are dusting off the old dream, I TAKE EVERYTHING BACK! I mean, I know that the American leadership has proven it has stellar insight into the political dynamics of the region and the two ongoing foreign wars have been executed with glistening wisdom, but… [And I recognize that such an intervention is founded on bold virtue, seeing as how international condemnation gained momentum as it became clear that Qaddafi was through. (Oh shit, someone else might control those maxi oil fields! We better arrange proper introductions!)]

Also, can we get back to basics on this one: The top four European countries who lobbied to end the ban on arms sales to Libya in 2004—France, Germany, UK, Italy—were the same countries that became the top exporters of weapons to Qaddafi.

Also, one for the blooper reel:

“The [Obama] administration has submitted a proposed budget for fiscal 2011 that included military assistance increases for Bahrain, Libya, Morocco, Oman and Yemen. Officials said several Middle East countries also received forward funding over the last year as part of the Foreign Military Financing program.”

 

Trash Jetty

January 16, 2011

Has you is noticed everyone in the nooz talking about blood libel last week? Apparently all of a sudden we were pretending to care about the proper meaning of words? Weird! If everyone in the nooz is going to attend to the to the phrase “blood libel” with such historical fidelity, can I ask that we also be more careful in our use of “tragedy”—as in the oft-repeated Tragedy in Tucson?

A tragedy, by definition, implies inevitability—a situation where the awful conclusion is the necessary outcome of its circumstances. Y’know, like, the hubris of the victorious king blinds him to, and ultimately determines, his sad fate. Thus, “senseless tragedy” is an oxymoron (or, at best, poetic usage), because labeling something a “tragedy” alludes to a certain logic, a cosmic plot guiding the characters & outcomes.

Now I’m not saying that the events in Arizona necessarily weren’t tragic—perhaps a concoction of societal forces compelled this outcome—but that is a grander & perhaps darker claim than what I take most nooz heads to mean. It seems most of them want to say the exact opposite—that the evil of the situation is “unknowable”.

What is wylde is that this misunderstanding of tragedy is part of a tragic misunderstanding. We inhabit a milieu wherein our pundits & politicians refuse to see the true societal ills that stalk the nation and instead talk endless noise about bogeymen like [fill in the blank]. When our true kulture problemz catch up with and consume us, it will constitute an actual should-have-seen-it-coming tragedy—and within this tragic plot, the prevailing misunderstanding of what is a tragedy will heighten the dramatic irony. Toto Meta-Aeschylus! Way to go nooz doodz! You are earning the starring role you so strive for!

Quintessential Doom Spiral

In Praise of and In Response to BOOK REVIEW

August 25, 2010

Excellent book review, sir.

Though Curle set out in To Tame the Hydra to write an idiosyncratic & “personal” book about the underpinnings of violence, I agree that his ruminations on the universal mind are unhelpful. (And I typically go in for this sort of stuff! [Though again, minus the poetry.])

Curle is interested in the complex nature of the culture of violence, so let us remind ourselves what we are talking about:

[Scholars of conflict make] the distinction between direct violence (children are murdered), structural violence (children die through poverty), and cultural violence (whatever blinds us to this or seeks to justify it).

–Contemporary Conflict Resolution (2nd edition), Ramsbotham et al. p. 30

But by talking about the universal mind lurking behind culture, Curle’s level of explanation goes one step too far—we need to speak of cultural violence directly, lest we further confuse an already convoluted subject. As Wittgenstein reminds us of tricky problem solving:

Not that it is easy to speak directly of kulture, or stanch its many toxic currents. (Keep on trucking, artists! Me love your new gallery space!) But to tame the hydra, I venture that its one immortal head isn’t to be found on the plane of the meta-mystical mind. A thought made concrete this morning by Toronto Tom’s good brains.

Connect 2 Dots

March 31, 2010

Because Doomspirals Brown alluded to the DAZZLE of MODERNITY…:

If modern life is indeed so suffused with the sense of the fleeting, the ephemeral, the fragmentary, and the contingent, then a number of profound consequences follow. To begin with, modernity can have no respect for its own past, let alone that of any pre-modern social order. The transitoriness of things makes it difficult to preserve any sense of historical continuity. If there is any meaning to history, then that meaning has to be discovered and defined from within the maelstrom of change, a maelstrom that affects the terms of discussion as well as whatever it is that is being discussed. Modernity, therefore, not only entails a ruthless break with any or all preceding historical conditions, but is characterized by a never-ending process of internal ruptures and fragmentations within itself.

Jah pull this quote from David Harvey’s great book with a weird cover, The Condition of Postmodernity, because him just found out that Mr. Harvey has an new 13-part series of online lectures in which he explains everything you ever wanted to know from your internet about Marx’s Capital. I’ll downlow it to my gadget and give you a full report next time we have nothing better to talk about.

Princess Mononoke: A Highlight

March 26, 2010

Theater of War

March 3, 2010

I’ve been reading about peace processes that took place in Latin America in the 1980s/1990s and came across a wild nugget about the Peruvian guerrilla organization Sendero Luminoso (“Shining Path”). Sendero Luminoso were atypical among Central & South American revolutionary movements as they were a vanguard movement rather than a popular movement: i.e. keen on carrying the banner of pure ideology rather than mobilizing a base. Anyone who strayed from doctrine was subject to assassination: not only the political bosses and big landowners of the countryside, but leftist intellectuals who sought to reform the state (rather than smash it) or peasants who participated in rural farmers’ markets (“capitalist practices”). In reality, Sendero Luminoso was only a thousand or so individuals strong, and in a few short years the group would lose the guerrilla war because they alienated their social base, but Peruvians in the urban areas couldn’t grasp the group’s limited & power waning power–they just knew there were neo-Maoist madmen in the mountains who claimed to be the Fourth Sword of Marxism and wanted to ransack the nation-state and destroy its seats of power. And how could the people of Lima not be terrified when the group was pulling wildstyle David Copperfield/Criss Angel shit up in the mountains?:

“The guerillas’ weakness was not evident to those who lived in the capital. In the mid-1980s, Limeños had been subjected to blackouts that would reveal an enormous bonfire in the shape of a hammer and sickle etched into the desert mountains and silhouetted against the sky.”

Wha-ii?! Dudes would trip the switch on the city’s lights and draw all eyes to their looming, blazing, menacing logo?! Like a badass Al-Qaeda lazer show.

Lap of Gods

January 12, 2010

Abraham Lincoln Speaks

December 29, 2009

Under New Governance Your Majesty

August 7, 2009

Darkness from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Crack-Up” (Esquire, 1936).

In a previous article this writer told about his realization that what he had before him was not the dish that he had ordered for his forties. In fact — since he and the dish were one, he described himself as a cracked plate, the kind that one wonders whether it is worth preserving…

Sometimes, though, the cracked plate has to be retained in the pantry, has to be kept in service as a household necessity. It can never again be warmed on the stove nor shuffled with the other plates in the dishpan; it will not be brought out for company, but it will do to hold crackers late at night or to go into the icebox under leftovers…

“To hold crackers late at night”!!! Ha ha ha!!

So, since I could no longer fulfill the obligations that life had set for me or that I had set for myself, why not slay the empty shell who had been posturing at it for four years? I must continue to be a writer because that was my only way of life, but I would cease any attempts to be a person — to be kind, just, or generous. There were plenty of counterfeit coins around that would pass instead of these and I knew where I could get them at a nickel on the dollar. In thirty-nine years an observant eye has learned to detect where the milk is watered and the sugar is sanded, the rhinestone passed for diamond and the stucco for stone. There was to be no more giving of myself — all giving was to be outlawed henceforth under a new name, and that name was Waste…

The conjurer’s hat was empty. To draw things out of it had long been a sort of sleight of hand, and now, to change the metaphor, I was off the dispensing end of the relief roll forever.

The heady villainous feeling continued…

Let the good people function as such — let the overworked doctors die in harness, with one week’s “vacation” a year that they can devote to straightening out their family affairs, and let the underworked doctors scramble for cases at one dollar a throw; let the soldiers be killed and enter immediately into the Valhalla of their profession. That is their contract with the gods…

So what? This is what I think now: that the natural state of the sentient adult is a qualified unhappiness. I think also that in an adult the desire to be finer in grain that you are, “a constant striving” (as those people say who gain their bread by saying it). only adds to this unhappiness in the end — that end that comes to our youth and hope. My own happiness in the past often approached such an ecstasy that I could not share it even with the person dearest to me but had to walk it away in quiet streets and lanes with only fragments of it to distill into little lines in books — and I think that my happiness, or talent for self-delusion or what you will, was an exception. It was not the natural thing but the unnatural — unnatural as the Boom; and my recent experience parallels the wave of despair that swept the nation when the Boom was over.

* * * * *

And, a pithy retort via “When Novelists Sober Up” by Tom Shone

When Fitzgerald went public about his creative decline in Esquire, in a piece entitled “The Crack Up”—a prototype for all the misery memoirs we have today—Hemingway was disgusted, inviting him to cast his “balls into the sea—if you have any balls left”.

*  *  *  *  *

P.S. “When Novelists Sober Up” has a good bit about “Hemingway’s liver protrud[ing] from his belly like a long fat leech,” and John Berryman, a poet I’ve never had the pleasure of reading, making disingenuous and thus amusing attempts at rehabilitation before jumping off a Minneapolis bridge, “his body splitting like a melon upon impact with the ground.” (Points subtracted for so many shitty indie-rock bands being enamored with this).

P.P.S. More:

Only the advent of rehab, in the 1960s, interrupted this fall—enforced incarceration flattering the writer’s sense of drama, the Kafkaesque me-versus-the-system fable playing out in his head. John Berryman sat in rehab looking like a “dishevelled Moses”, his shins black and blue, his liver palpitating, reciting Japanese and Greek poets and quoting Immanuel Kant. When he found out the doctors around him were serious he buckled under, declaring himself “a new man in 50 ways!” and affecting an ostentatious “religious conversion” which he proceeded to pour into a series of poems to his Higher Power (“Under new governance your majesty”). Ten days after leaving he found he needed a quick stiff one to get the creative juices flowing again and downed a quart of whisky. “Christ,” was all he could say the next morning.

More Vaise IRL

July 14, 2009

An interview with one of them “Coming Insurrection”/”Invisible Committe”/”Tarnac 9” neo-situ dudes:

Q. How are you spending your time?

A. Very well, thank you. Chin-ups, jogging and reading.

Q. Can you recall the circumstances of your arrest for us?

A. A gang of youths, hooded and armed to the teeth, broke into our house. They threatened us, handcuffed us, and took us away, after having broken everything to pieces. They first took us into very fast cars capable of moving at more than 170 kilometers an hour on the highways. In their conversations, the name of a certain Mr Marion (former leader of the anti-terrorist police) came up often. His virile exploits amused them very much, such as the time he slapped one of his colleagues in the face, in good spirits and at a going-away party. They sequestered us for four days in one of their “people’s prisons,” where they stunned us with questions in which absurdity competed with obscenity.

Q. You come from a very well-to-do background, which oriented you in another direction. . .

A. “There are plebes in all classes.” (Hegel).

Q. Why Tarnac?

A. Go there, you will understand. If you don’t, no one could explain it to you, I fear.

Q. Do you define yourself as an intellectual? A philosopher?

A. Philosophy was born like chatty grief from original wisdom. Plato already heard the words of Heraclitus as if they had escaped from a bygone world. In the era of diffused intellectuality, one can’t see what “the intellectual” might make specific, unless it is the expanse of the gap that separates the faculty of thinking from the aptitude for living. Intellectual and philosopher are, in truth, sad titles. But for whom exactly is it necessary to define oneself?

: P

Thank You Once Again, Harper’s

January 20, 2009

Weekly Review sent me here.

I approve of the conceptual content, but not the syntax.

Juan Maldacena at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton… showed that the physics inside a hypothetical universe with five dimensions and shaped like a Pringle is the same as the physics taking place on the four-dimensional boundary.


Songs of Just Hate

August 14, 2008