Sunday, November 29, 2015

The first one is the same but the second one's gotten more complex. Teaching myself After Effects.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Two great "failures" signal the break between painting and architecture –Leonardo's Last Supper and Michelangelo's Last Judgment. That both works are about "last" events suggests that in the minds of their creators there might have been some other last thoughts. Wall decoration obviously was not the kind of ambitious goal Leonardo had in mind for painting –witness his inability to make emulsified paint stick on walls. If Leonardo expressed ambivalence about decoration, Michelangelo went even further, unleashing pure anger and frustration. There is no doubt about Michelangelo's intentions in the Last Judgment: he totally destroyed the visual coherence of the Sistine Chapel by blasting out the end wall. It is very hard to know what this mural means to say about painting. Michelangelo's florid aggressiveness seems to attack everything that has gone before, including his own work on the ceiling immediately above. The Last Judgment is illusionism run rampant. There is no compositional restraint, no pictorial enframement, no sense of physical weight; the figures float high and wide. Pictorial cohesion, architectonic space, sculptural gravity –all these aspects of Michelangelo's genius become just so many pieces of driftwood. Painting before the Last Judgment was painting one could look at, or at least into; after the Last Judgment painting became something one could walk through. Michelangelo dissolves the end wall of the Sistine Chapel so that we can exit the church through heaven and hell, moving out of the Renaissance toward Caravaggio's world, a world of sensuality and spatial incongruity beyond even Michelangclo's imagination. 
I looked through a copy of Stella's book soon after it came out. I think I stole one. But I put it down pretty quickly when it became clear he was still speaking as a formalist; he sensed the dynamism of Caravaggio's sense of space but couldn't describe the cultural change that produced it. Intellectually he was and is a modernist. But his work is not.
Here Berenson is writing about Perugino and Raphael, but we have a hard time keeping Caravaggio from our thoughts: "Art comes into existence only when we get a sense of space not as a void, as something merely negative, such as we cus-tomarily have, but on the contrary, as something very posi-tive and definite able to confirm our consciousness of being, to heighten our feeling of vitality" (Italian Painters of the Renaissance, vol. z, Florentine and Central Italian Schools, London, Phaidon, 1968, p. 88). After setting the scene for the importance of the positive effects of space on art and experience, Bcrenson notes that "space-composition is the art which humanizes the void, making of it an enclosed Eden, a domed mansion wherein our higher selves at last find an abode." He continues: "Space-composition ... woos us away from our tight, painfully limited selves, dissolves us into the space presented, until at last we seem to become its permeating, indwelling spirit ... And now behold whither we have come. The religious emotion ... is produced by a feeling of identification with the universe; this feeling, in its rum, can be created by space-composition; it follows then that this art can directly communicate religious emotion ... And indeed I scarcely see by what other means the religious emotion can be directly communicated by paining—mark you, I do not say represented" (pp. 88-89, no-91).
Stella's point is that Berenson doesn't like Caravaggio but nonetheless describes, unawares, the sense of pictorial space that only begins with him. I'd add that Stella's book describes the importance of cinematic space without noting the importance of film. Even more surprising, there's no mention of Bernini.  I want to say to Stella what Le Corbusier said to Oscar Niemeyer: "Oscar, what you are doing is baroque. But it's very well done."

That's not an insult. My argument is always that it's up to others to describe what we do. They do a better job of it. It's important to let them. Still...
Painting before Caravaggio could move backward, it could step sideways, it could climb walls, but it could not march forward; it could not create its own destiny. Without a deliberate sense of projective space, painting could not become real. The road to pictorial reality must pass through the dissolution of perimeter and surface. This is the road paved by Caravaggio to lead great art toward what we now call great painting.
That's where observation ends and fantasy begins. Art is never "real", and it does not "create" it's own destiny. What Stella is describing is Caravaggio's realization that with artists' new technical facility painting could now become a profoundly compelling lie. Theater is fiction. But then all art is fiction, including the art of the Church.  Mannerism recognized that but the art is torn between poles of indulgence and guilt. Caravaggio's work is not torn. It's at home with the new world of ambiguity.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Setsuko Hara 1920-2015

Donald Richie

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tushnet: "Mathematicians" and the Law
A fair number of the mathematicians say that in the course of their work they have made more than a few mistakes -- pursued lines of analysis that didn't pan out, thought they had proved something when they hadn't, and the like. (The thought here is clearly stronger than the one Andrew Wiles articulates in connection with his proof of Fermat's Last Theorem, which in its initial version had a mistake that forced Wiles to do quite a bit more work before he eliminated the error.) 
That led me to wonder whether academic law really has a category of "mistakes." One test that occurred to me was this: What's your estimate of the number of papers presented at workshops that are never published, just put back in the drawer, because the author[s] concluded that the paper was just wrong? My own estimate is "not many at all" (I don't exempt myself from this -- I do have a handful of papers in my "drawer" that I'm never going to publish because they didn't work out, but not many).
A new tag. Kurt Gödel meet David Addington

Robert Reich
The other night I phoned a former Republican member of Congress with whom I’d worked in the 1990s on various pieces of legislation. I consider him a friend. I wanted his take on the Republican candidates because I felt I needed a reality check. Was I becoming excessively crotchety and partisan, or are these people really as weird as they seem? We got right into it:

Me: “So what do really you think of these candidates?”

Him: “You want my unvarnished opinion?”

Me: "Please. That’s why I called.”

Him: “They’re all nuts.”

Me: “Seriously. What do you really think of them?”

Him: “I just told you. They’re bonkers. Bizarre. They’re like a Star Wars bar room.”

Me: “How did it happen? How did your party manage to come up with this collection?”

Him: “We didn’t. They came up with themselves. There’s no party any more. It’s chaos. Anybody can just decide they want to be the Republican nominee, and make a run for it. Carson? Trump? They’re in the lead and they’re both out of their f*cking minds.”

Me: “That’s not reassuring.”

Him: “It’s a disaster. I’m telling you, if either of them is elected, this country is going to hell. The rest of them aren’t much better. I mean, Carly Fiorina? Really? Rubio? Please. Ted Cruz? Oh my god. And the people we thought had it sewn up, who are halfway sane – Bush and Christie – they’re sounding almost as batty as the rest.”

Me: “Who’s to blame for this mess?”

Him: “Roger Ailes, David and Charles Koch, Rupert Murdoch, Rush Limbaugh. I could go on. They’ve poisoned the American mind and destroyed the Republican Party.

Me: "Nice talking with you.”

Him: “Sleep well.”
repeats: Tony Judt
But this is not at all the conclusion Robert Reich would have us reach. In his version of our present dilemmas no one is to blame. “As citizens, we may feel that inequality on this scale cannot possibly be good for a democracy.... But the super-rich are not at fault.” “Have top executives become greedier?” No. “Have corporate boards grown less responsible?” No. “Are investors more docile?” “There’s no evidence to support any of these theories.” Corporations aren’t behaving very socially responsibly, as Reich documents. But that isn’t their job. We shouldn’t expect investors or consumers or companies to serve the common good. They are just seeking the best deal. Economics isn’t about ethics. As the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan once observed, “If people want morality, let them get it from their archbishops.” 
In Reich’s account, there are no “malefactors of great wealth.” Indeed, he contemptuously dismisses any explanation that rests on human choice or will or class interest or even economic ideas. All such explanations, in his words, “collapse in the face of the facts.” The changes recorded in his book apparently just “happened,” in a subjectless illustration of the creative destruction inherent in the capitalist dynamic: Schumpeter-lite, as it were. If anything, Reich is a technological determinist. New “technologies have empowered consumers and investors to get better and better deals.” These deals have “ values... out of the system.... The story of what transpired has no heroes or villains.”
repeats: some evidence for Reich.
The link to Reich's blog via Leiter, whose "hermeneutics of suspicion" consistently puts him above it.

Monday, November 23, 2015

"He'll go a long way in life, that little lad."

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Pedantry is a form of immaturity, but pedants by definition see themselves as the most serious of serious adults. Though their opinions adapt, the pedantry is constant; the illusion of consistency is all that matters.

I forget how many times I've said this. Weimarization begins with an elite isolated from the experience of the larger community: one part openly corrupt, concerned with wealth and power, the other engaged with intellectual formalisms, earnestly but as a result of the arbitrariness of their constructions -the foundations are contingent- with the same concern as their peers for power politics,  on a much smaller scale.

America and technology have spread the neotenization of the elite to the broader middle class. Our new sophisticates have the arrogant provincialism of the petty bourgeois.

Academics as a group are the most unobservant, unintellectual, anti-intellectual people I know, and yet they see themselves as justified in leading. The academicization of intellectual life, bureaucratic reason from Max Weber to the Frankfurt School, is the proximate cause of the rise of the radical right. If technocracy is authoritarian rationalism, the governing of individuals as tokens, as the mass, irrationalism becomes the only model for life as individual experience. Anger is the only agency that's left.

Weber was a model of technocratic anti-humanism. Adorno was a petulant, moralizing, self-hating adolescent. Benjamin was a child. They were the confused children of technocracy.

If you live for ideas then you're living for the next test. Every experience must fit into one or another narrow predetermined category, living life by inches, or by millimeters. Mechanistic authoritarianism is fundamentally perverse, and it dumbs you down.

Art schools and degrees in creative writing: the academic study of ourselves by ourselves is a prescription for brittle mediocrity. Film schools are still trade schools; that saves them from the worst of it.

I'm tired of being right. I just want to enjoy my life.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Introduction to Politics

When trying to make a good bend, there's more than on way home. Just make sure your method can accommodate improvisation. 
You must overbend the material past the desired bend angle and allow it to return to the desired shape with the springback.
I lost patience with a couple of journalists who were complaining about the "fascist", "Maoist", student "thought police", so I thought of a way to explain political activism in the simplest way possible.

repeats: Political journalists imagine themselves as moral philosophers, but their job is to be ambulance chasers and get the story. No one listens to reason when their own deeply-held beliefs are questioned. No one, includes angry college students and pompous reporters.

I'm not impressed by the students. I'm not impressed by anyone. But the students are acting as their own advocates and journalists should do the same for their readers.

Related: the annoying response to the CNN anchors berating the representative of a French Muslim organization. The questioning was absurd, “If your camp is the French camp, then why is it that no one with the Muslim community knew what these guys were up to?”, but so was his reply.
“Sir, the Muslim community has nothing to do with these guys. Nothing."  
The CNN interviewers were right to be impatient. By that logic no community, religious or secular, has anything to do with groups who commit crimes in its name. It's the "no true Scotsman" argument, a form of evasion accepted by guilty liberals while liberal Zionism is more simply denial. Denial is a luxury of the powerful. But of course liberal Zionists are among the first to defend the spokesman's response as such.

Of course CNN would never interview an angry Arab after the Paris attacks unless he was full of inarticulate rage.
With all the talk about the relation of Syrian refugees to Jewish refugees in in the 30s, including the absurdity of Zionist moralizing -Ten Jewish Groups Urge Congress to Allow Syrian Refugees Into U.S.,   Where's the Jewish Morality in Decision to Shun Syrian Refugees?- the most obvious parallel is ignored by all sides.

Syrian refugees to Europe are the legal equivalent of European refugees to Palestine in 1947.

The Syrians haven't come with dreams of conquest.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Faith-based groups, who play a key role in resettling refugees to the United States, say they are dismayed by the wave of anti-refugee fervor set off by the Paris terrorist attacks and are urging supporters to contact elected officials on behalf of victims of the Syrian civil war.
Evangelical Christians, as well as Christians more broadly, are a core group in the Republican electoral base and are among the most passionate advocates for aiding refugees.
Serious conservatives are always worthy of respect.
We, the undersigned Black alumni of Yale University who work in multiple fields pertaining to racial justice and Black culture, write with deep frustration, concern, and offense over the hostile and violent racial conditions that your students recently brought to national attention. Having lived through experiences like this at Yale and been made painfully aware of similar environments elsewhere, we applaud and are inspired by the students’ assertion that they are unstoppable; we raise our voices in solidarity with theirs in order to further bring light to the systemic violation facing students in institutions of higher learning across this country, and indeed, around the world. We know that Black students at Yale are underrepresented, as are Black faculty...
The tensions within an enclosed self-regulating community, and an enclosed self-regulating class.
One of the signatories makes an appearance here.

The President of Amherst
Student protesters themselves are engaged in serious conversations about the importance of free speech and have asked themselves questions about uses of language that respect that freedom. They are also asking themselves and us how the College protects free expression while also upholding our anti-discrimination policies and our statement of Respect for Persons. Censorship and silencing are not the answer. I believe our students know that. It takes time, attention, and serious discussion to sort out and make clear how we protect free speech while also establishing norms within our communities that encourage respect and make us responsible for what we do with our freedom. That is the discussion we need to have. It must involve all members of the community—students, faculty, staff, alumni—and it must be the kind of discussion that reflects the traditions of Amherst and a liberal arts education at its best.
Leiter has two posts criticizing a piece by "two philosophers... Kate Manne (Cornell) and Jason Stanley (Yale)":  "When Free Speech Becomes a Political Weapon"

Another post: "Philosopher Robert Paul Wolff on events in Paris"  Wolff's post is bland, passive and useless.

Manne and Stanley's piece is silly, an earnest attempt at opening up a closed community while defending its status as exclusive.  I made roughly the same comments there as below. The defenses of "free speech" are defenses only of "appropriate speech".  It's the same with Hebdo and the defense of the Muhammed cartoons. All the major participants would say that hate speech laws are justifiable, with the powerful left to define what's hateful and not.

At the end of Leiter's first post.
ADDENDUM: Several readers point out that Manne and Stanley also, falsely, state that "hate speech" is an exception to the constitutional protection for speech, along with 'fighting words" and slander. Although this mistake is perhaps telling, it's also largely irrelevant to what is so wrong-headed with the argument in this piece.
From my comments at The Chronicle
Angry claims of threats to "freedom of speech" have become like claims of those who defend "the right to bear arms" and who say "abortion is murder". Ask the former if the right includes shoulder held rocket launchers and the latter if women should be tried for murder and both say "no". 
This isn't about freedom of speech but insult and deference to authority. The kid with the video camera in Mizzou is autistic and the whole thing has now reduced him to tears. But he can't imagine that the kids forming a circle were protecting friends who were as oversensitive as he is. Autism is self-blindness. And that's what philosophy has been reduced to: the objective, aperspectival reason of autistics, now brought to bear on emo kids. It's sad all around.
The screaming at Yale is about the cluelessness of dorm daddies and dorm moms. It's not about the classroom and it's not about tenure, but it's definitely about prep school. Even Leiter refers to "Christakis's odd e-mail", odd and deemed inappropriate by many. Again, were the kids oversensitive, maybe, but what the hell is the response?
I'd only glanced at the reddit link. It gets much more interesting.
I wanted to help Mark and agreed to be his temporary, pro bono publicist for the next few days, and to interview him at Skepticon live on stage, mostly with questions I prepared in advance. During the session, Mark said multiple indefensibly racist things that, in my opinion, cannot be reconciled with a continued relationship with him.
Schierbecker claimed his speech rights were violated. They weren't. The same holds for protestors who interrupt speeches by Israeli politicians.
"These students had the courage and conscience to stand up against aggression, using peaceful means. We cannot allow our educational institutions to be used as a platform to threaten and discourage students who choose to practice their First Amendment right."
You have no right to legal right to interrupt a public speech. If you think you have a moral duty, that's something else. Politics is messy, even pushy. Leiter thinks pushiness is tantamount to fascism.

Legal realism, Leiter's preferred model of law, is predicated on the distinction between law and morality and on the assumption that for the purposes of legal decision-making, reasons are not causes: ideology is the best predictor of results.  The only parties exempt from this judgment of course are legal realists themselves and their closest kin. "Determinism for thee but not for me"

Leiter sees the culture of debate in the closed system of elite academia as based in a form of morally neutral super-law where questions of earthly law and morality are discussed. All adversarialism is bounded by the collaborative model of the academy as for France and Laïcité, it is bounded by state morality.

The discussion of free speech has gone off the rails on all sides.  Bureaucracy has become so ubiquitous as state and social institution, that people need to refer to a higher authority for everything, even their gender and need to rebel.

enough for now.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

I should  write something on Stella.

Most of the reviews are off the mark, as judgment and even as description.  Roberta Smith's review is the best, and the only one that doesn't smack of moralism.

Stella is the most important American "fine" artist alive. That's my bet, though I'm going to be around long enough to find out if I win.  But he's made a lot of work and he's made a lot of crap, and critics and other members of the self-described sophisticated audience for art (as opposed to film etc.) still follow preferences based on their ideological positions.  Smith's tastes, within her preference for abstraction, are more catholic than most.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

repeats and repeats and repeats. At this point the silence is absurd. TPM can mock republicans but adds nothing.  Benjamin Wittes trolled the debate on Twitter, bemoaning the lack of seriousness. I said he was no better and today he responded. I replied with the usual, facts not opinions, and no reply.
France’s booming arms trade has proved one of the few bright spots for the country’s struggling economy. But as President François Hollande heads to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, will there be a moral and strategic cost to the deals he might bring back?

Friday, November 13, 2015

"...other people have rights tooChristakis misses the point entirely. His voice makes me cringe; his response predicated on the people he's defending being as earnest and well-meaning as he is and somehow only misunderstood.  He's a library nerd defending frat boys, but he can't bring himself to think of them that way. A defense of free speech begins as the defense of schmucks.

The girl yelling at him has the anger of a campus anti-porn campaigner in 1985. It's the anger of someone fully vested in the system, already a member of the elite, demanding and still struggling for full equality within  it.  It's the anger of a moralizing bourgeois reformer of her own class. They deserve each other. That in itself is a sign of progress.

The video above via Leiter, who draws sharp distinction between protests at Yale and in Missouri. The people he links to don't.

Conor Friedersdorf calls it "weaponizing safe space". Maybe it is. But shoving a camera in the face of someone in tears does not become a moral act if the scene is played out in public, and the government did not stop them from publishing the record of the exchange. The student journalists could just as well interviewed the protestors standing in front of them as opposed to those being protected, and photographed the group from a distance. As it is they defend cheap voyeurism as enlightened "objectivity". As with Christakis, both of them, the condescension is offensive, the lecturing by those who identify unthinkingly with power.

Cobb:  Race and the free speech diversion
Friedrichsdorff: Free speech is no diversion.
Dialogue as Diversion. About Israel and BDS. Neither Friedersdorf nor Cobb would make the connection.

Politics is not an idea; and people who think the principle of free speech is founded in idealism miss the point, which is why so many oppose it as misguided idealism and not principled conservatism.
Idealists divide speech into the important and unimportant, the "high-value" and "low value", the "propositional" and the merely expressive. Those who proclaim "the harm of hate speech", including Leiter, would never see condescension or contempt as actionable. They proclaim the existence of a line where none exists.
BOSTON (AP) — It's not always the slurs and the other out-and-out acts of racism. It's the casual, everyday slights and insensitivities.

Sheryce Holloway is tired of white people at Virginia Commonwealth University asking if they can touch her hair or if she knows the latest dance move. At Chicago's Loyola University, Dominick Hall says groups of white guys stop talking when he walks by, and people grip their bags a little tighter. And Katiana Roc says a white student a few seats away from her at West Virginia University got up and moved to the other side of the classroom.

As thousands of students took part in walkouts and rallies on college campuses across the country Thursday in a show of solidarity with protesters at the University of Missouri, many young black people spoke of a subtle and pervasive brand of racism that doesn't make headlines but can nevertheless have a corrosive effect.

There's even a word on campuses for that kind of low-grade insensitivity toward minorities: microaggression.
The logic of hate speech laws results in authoritarian micropolicing. But for the powerful to ignore the corrosive effect on others of lives lived under constant low-level aggression appears to those others as itself a form of low-level aggression.  Claims to "objectivity" are seen as expressions of contempt.

The obvious parallel to the protective circle around the protestors in Missouri.
On Friday, the holy day for Islam, Christian protesters in Tahrir Square joined hands to form a protective cordon around their Muslim countrymen so they could pray in safety.
Sunday, the Muslims returned the favor.
more above.

Also the kid with the video camera is autistic,  and a racist.
Autism as contemporary intellectual model. That's a bingo.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

UCLA, The Daily Bruin
Zoey Freedman: Free tampons would slow flow of gender inequality
To most government officials, feminine hygiene products are a luxury item. But, every day, women are being poisoned by their own bodies because they lack access to even the most essential health products. 
Meanwhile, most men have no problem getting covered for pills that will help them get a boner. ...
Inserted before the first sentence. Italics in original
Editor’s note: This blog post refers to individuals who menstruate as women because the author wanted to highlight gender inequality in health care. We acknowledge that not all individuals who menstruate identify as women and that not all individuals who identify as women menstruate, but feel this generalization is appropriate considering the gendered nature of most health care policies.
The last of these.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Terry Turner is dead.

More at Survival International

I first read him when I was living with Graeber in Chicago in 87.  He didn't publish much. He gave his students copies of unpublished manuscripts.


Guardian "Amazonian tribe take initiative to protect their lands from dam project"
In September, a group of Munduruku made one last attempt to put pressure on the authorities. Making another long journey to Brasilia, they met Maria Augusta Assirati, then president of Funai. In an exchange filmed by one of the Indians on his mobile phone, Assirati conceded: “You are right. It is essential that your land is guaranteed because the land is under pressure from loggers, miners and a series of other elements.” 
However, in a tacit admission that she was being sidelined, Assirati added: “But I can’t dictate the priority interests of the government.” Nine days later, she left office. A few weeks after that, the Munduruku started the long process of digging posts in the ground to mark out their land.
Terry Turner, Chicago and Cornell, on the history of tribes with cameras.

"I realized that this is a way a very material way in which you can study the process of the formation of representations. It's a material… it's an objective correlative as TS Eliot might put it of that process and it it's a it was profoundly interesting. I thought it's an interesting …it's a field method. You know, my one contribution to I think the literature on methodology or field methods: become an assistant film editor of an indigenous cameraman as he edits footage. If you’ve done a shot record you have a total inventory of what the raw material, of the representation is, and then you cans see how he plays over this raw material and shapes it into a finished construction."
When he refers to people giving cameras to the Kayapo before he got there, I assume he's referring to visits in the 80's. He's been working with the Kayapo since 1962.

"You know, my one contribution to I think the literature on methodology or field methods: become an assistant film editor of an indigenous cameraman..." He's not laughing when he says that. He's smiling; I cracked up.
Terry Turner: The Kayapo against the dams again
This will not be the first indigenous encampment organized by the Kayapo in their effort to stop the building of dams on the Xingú. In 1989, when the government first set out to implement its plan for a giant hydroelectric complex on the Xingú, with financial support from the World Bank, the Kayapo led a great rally of 40 indigenous nations at Altamira against the scheme, setting up an encampment of several hundred Indians at a Catholic retreat center just outside the town. The five-day rally was extensively covered by national and international media, and succeeded in persuading the World Bank to withdraw its planned loan for the construction of the dams.
I don't like anthropological films. Turner put himself in the position of an anthropologist studying filmmakers.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A new tag, covering everything from Nazi Germany and the USSR to transsexuals, Israel, hippies, Al Qaeda, and geeks. Added now because it covers the recent posts relating to Germaine Greer.

Utopia and Intentional Communities

Obviously there are a lot of posts from the past that fit it. I'm not going to search back and add them all. That's not the point.
… But now we have another problem.
What is that?
What if we find out what makes each of us internally consistent? What if I find your proper name, that thing which describes exactly what you are?
Than I will always be honest, or predictable at least. And you will be able to interpret everything I say and never be wrong. And of course I’ll know your name as well.
No dishonesty, no subterfuge, no Freud, no art… Then we can all be logical positivists.
But it doesn’t matter. That dream’s irrelevant.
I want unification.
It’s an illusion.
I want the illusion.
Do you want the illusion or do you want the illusion to be real?
What’s the difference?
One means that you have an appreciation of the arts. The other means that you’re a fascist.