Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Rorty and Geuss, two kinds of philosophical foolishness: the metaphysics of intimacy, and the metaphysics of the macroscopic and the pseudo-universal. Rorty could have chosen to be a writer, but obviously that wasn't enough. He needed to make generalizations; he tried in his depressed half-assed way to make them stick, like Derrida, another passive-aggressive.
Nevertheless, I think that we should hold our noses, separate the life from the work, and adopt the same attitude to Heidegger’s books as we have to other people’s. We should test them not against our moral intuitions but against competing books. An original story about the history of Western philosophical thought is not all that easy to come by – no easier than an original story about the movement of the heavens or the structure of matter. Stories of the former sort try to explain why we use the words we do, and thus, among other things, why we have the moral intuitions we have. When a genuinely new story of this sort comes along, we cannot afford to dismiss it. We will do so only if we have the sort of egomaniacal faith in our own noses that Nietzsche and Heidegger had in theirs. Such faith may be a necessary condition for the production of works of genius, but we non-geniuses who think of ourselves as tolerant and open-minded had better try to lose this faith. 
We will be willing to separate someone’s life from his or her work precisely insofar as we think of moral character – our own and that of others – as varying independently of the possession and deployment of talents. To help ourselves think in this way, we should remind ourselves of a lesson Freud helped us learn: a person’s moral character – his or her selective sensitivity to the pain suffered by others – is shaped by chance events in his or her life. Often, perhaps usually, this sensitivity varies independently of the projects of self-creation which the person undertakes in his or her work.

I can clarify what I mean by ‘chance events’ and by ‘independent variation’ by sketching a slightly different possible world – a world in which Heidegger joins his fellow anti-egalitarian, Thomas Mann, in preaching resistance to Hitler. To see how this possible world might have been actual, imagine that in the summer of 1930 Heidegger suddenly finds himself deeply in love with a beautiful, intense, adoring philosophy student named Sarah Mandelbaum. Sarah is Jewish, but Heidegger, dizzy with passion, barely notices. After a painful divorce from his first wife, Elfride – a process which costs him the friendship of, among other people, the Husserls – Heidegger marries Sarah in 1932. In January 1933 they have a son, Abraham. ...
It's goes downhill from there.

Geuss: another form of morose self-aggrandizing self-pity (via Leiter and also the essay itself [pdf])
[One day] Dick happened to mention that he had just finished reading Gadamer's Truth and Method. My heart sank at this news because the way he reported it seemed to me to indicate, correctly as it turned out, that he had been positively impressed by this book. I had a premonition, which also turned out to be correct, that it would not be possible for me to disabuse him of his admiration for the work of a man, whom I knew rather well as a former colleague at Heidelberg and whom I held to be a reactionary, distended wind-bag. Over the years, I did my best to set Dick right about Gadamer, even resorting to the rather low blow of describing to him the talk Gadamer had given at the German Embassy in occupied Paris in 1942, in which Gadamer discussed the positive role Herder could play in sweeping away the remnants of such corrupt and degenerate phenomena as individualism, liberalism, and democracy from the New Europe arising under National Socialism. All this had no effect on Dick. His response to this story was that Gadamer had probably wanted to finance a trip to Paris—a perfectly understandable, indeed self-evidently laudable aspiration—and, under the circumstances, getting himself invited to the German Embassy was the only way to do this. As I persisted in pointing out that this in itself might “under the circumstances” not exactly constitute an exculpation, I came up against that familiar shrug of the shoulders which could look as if it meant that Dick had turned his receiving apparatus off. In this case, the shrug also made me feel that I was being hysterically aggressive in pursuing a harmless old gent for what was, after all, no more than a youthful indiscretion. In retrospect, I am not sure but that I don't now think Dick was right about this last point, but that was not my reaction at the time....

As the years went by, and we both left Princeton, I am afraid the incipient intellectual and emotional gulf between us got wider, especially after what I saw as Dick’s turn toward ultranationalism with the publication of Achieving Our Country. Dick had always been and remained to the end of his life a “liberal” (in the American sense, i.e., a “Social-Democrat”): a defender of civil liberties and of the extension of a full set of civic rights to all, a vocal supporter of the labor unions and of programs to improve the conditions of the poor, an enemy of racism, arbitrary authority, and social exclusion. On the other hand, I found that he also enjoyed a spot of jokey leftist-bait- ing when he thought I was adopting knee-jerk positions which he held to be ill-founded. That was all fair enough. I tried not to rise to the bait, and usually succeeded, but this did not con- tribute to making our relations easier or more comfortable for me. The high (or low, depending on one’s perspective) point of this sort of thing occurred some time in the 1980s when Dick sent me a postcard from Israel telling me he had just been talk- ing with the Israeli official responsible for organizing assassinations of Arab mayors on the West Bank. He closed by saying he thought this was just what the situation required. I often wondered whether in acting in this provocative way he was treating me as he would have liked to have treated his father, a well-known poet, and man of the (relatively) hard Left, who eventually, as Dick put it, “became prey to very powerful fan- tasies on which he was perfectly willing to act”; Dick had to have him institutionalized after some potentially murderous outbreak. Probably by wondering about this, I was trying to convince myself that I had an importance in Dick’s imagination that I surely did not have.

Achieving Our Country, though, represented a step too far for me. The very idea that the United States was “special” has always seemed to me patently absurd, and the idea that in its present, any of its past, or any of its likely future configurations it is in any way exemplary, a form of gross narcissistic self-deception which was not transformed into something laudable by virtue of being embedded in a highly sophisticated theory which purported to show that ethnocentrism was in a philosophically deep sense unavoidable. I re- main very grateful to my Catholic upbringing and education for giving me relative immunity to nationalism. In the 1950s, the nuns who taught me from age five to twelve were virtually all Irish or Irish-American with sentimental attachment to certain elements of Celtic folklore, but they made sure to inculcate into us that the only serious human society was the Church, which was an explicitly international organization. The mass, in the international language, Latin, was the same everywhere; the religious orders were international. This absence of national limitation was something very much to be cherished. “Catholica” in the phrase “[credo in] unam, sanctam, catholicam, et apostolicam ecclesiam” should, we were told, be written with a lower-case, not an upper-case, initial because it was not in the first instance part of the proper name of the church, but an adjective meaning “universal,” and this universality was one of the most important “marks of the true Church.” The Head of the Church, to be sure, and Vicar of Christ on earth, was in fact (at that time) always an Italian, but that was for contingent and insignificant reasons. The reason most commonly cited by these nuns was that, as Bishop of Rome, the Pope had to live in the “Eternal City,” but only an Italian could stand to live in Rome: it was hot, noisy, and overcrowded, and the people there ate spaghetti for dinner everyday rather than proper food, i.e., potatoes, so it would be too great a sacrifice to expect someone who had not grown up in Italy to tolerate life there. I clearly remember being unconvinced by this argument, thinking it set inappropriately low standards of self-sacrifice for the higher clergy; a genuinely saintly character should be able to put up even with pasta for lunch and dinner every day. I have since myself adopted this diet for long periods of time without thinking it gave me any claim on the Papacy. In any case, it was obvious even to a child of six or seven that none of these sisters had ever been within a thousand kilometers of Rome.

Similarly, the (mostly) Hungarian priests who taught me from age twelve in a boarding school near Philadelphia had some residual Hapsburg loyalties—Grillparzer and Nestroy played a larger part in the curriculum than they would have in some other schools—but they were all very distinctly tri- or quadri-lingual men of the world, who knew very well that it was the accidents of history—specifically the closure of their schools by the Hungarian Communist regime in the late 1940s, and the failure of the uprising of 1956—that had brought them to a culturally insignificant place they would in the normal course of events never have chosen even to visit. They were not in any doubt but that the us (in the 1950s and early 1960s) was an empire which engaged in continuous dis- plays of exaggerated self-praise, as all such empires had always done, showed its soft side when that was politically expedient, but was as capable of impatient, insouciant, or fully-intended brutality as any other empire. These points were driven home pretty sharply in between discussions of the syntax, lexis, and meter of Vergil’s Aeneid. “His ego nec metas rerum nec tempora pono / imperium sine fine dedi” (1.277–78); that’s what they all think (in their prime), the “rerum domini et gentes togatae.” The two Spanish priests on the staff had had some experience in Central America and did not refrain from enlightening anyone interested about the operations of the United Fruit Company (and the cia) there and about some of the uses to which the us Marines were put. All the priests made the assumption which was all the more effective for not usually even being at all explicitly articulated that American power, influence, and prosperity, and the relatively relaxed and tolerant regulation of the non-political aspects of everyday life which they permitted, were highly contingent and transitory, a result of a geographical and historical conjunction that would not last or recur. McCarthy had recently shown how thin and fragile the culture of tolerance was. We were all encouraged to get on with our lives as quickly as possible: the prosperity and relative freedom might last twenty, even thirty or forty years, but that would be it, and the bubble could unexpectedly burst even more quickly than that, so it was best to make the most of the resources on offer at the moment. Philadelphia in 1960 was a pale shadow of Vienna in 1830: City Hall was a sec- ond-rate imitation of Vienna’s Rathaus, the Lyric Opera a poor provincial cousin of the Volksoper, and the orchestra, like virtually all the other major American orchestras in the era of Szell and Solti, was directed by a Hungarian (E. Ormandy). The recently departed John Foster Dulles was a kind of latter-day Metternich, and nato was the Holy Alliance. One might in the final analysis prefer the Holy Alliance to its opponents, but that was no reason to idealize it.
but before that, Geuss again (and another pdf)
of course, every philosopher will have his or her own favourite topics, periods, and themes, and in a book like the one envisaged it will not be inappropriate to allow these to guide the choice of gures to be treated, at least to some extent. My own favourites included Rosa Luxemburg, Ghandi [sic], Frantz Fanon, Julian the Apostate, and the Sphinx,...

I originally suggested that Arendt and Ricoeur, who did feature in Critchley’s book, be excluded on the grounds that the first was certainly not a philosopher at all, and had not even been a particularly good practitioner of her chosen profession of historically oriented political journalist, and that the second had been utterly unmemorable either for his writing or, as far as I could tell, for his life—I had been his colleague for a couple of years at the University of Chicago in the very late 1970s, and had had some conversations with him, had jointly examined some doctoral dissertations, etc. and so felt that I had some basis for this judgment. I then realised that in fact both of those deaths could, contrary to first appearance, be seen as somehow ‘enlightening’ in that they were both especially appropriate to the lives the people in question had lived. Arendt died in a kind of traffic accident, an appropriately trivial conclusion to a singularly uninspired intellectual life, and I had not noticed the reports of Ricoeur’s demise until several years after the fact, as I had failed to notice his publications.
The misspelling of Gandhi is repeated. It's not a typo. I was curious about Geuss until I realized his universalism was anti-political; his "real politics" is an ideal and an absolute. He's a modernist. His contempt for Arendt makes perfect sense.

Friday, December 02, 2016


Memphis Jookin
I posted a video in 2010. It's interesting to see changes over time
Lil Buck’s very few numbers on Saturday ended with his most celebrated number, “The Dying Swan.” It’s said that Anna Pavlova, the most legendary exponent of the ballet version of this solo, never did it the same way twice; I’d guess from the few times I’ve seen Lil Buck that the same may well be true of him. He always ends, on the floor, wrapping his bent legs like hooks around his shoulders, but this time he gazed out at the audience while so doing, perhaps as if aware that this feat was part of his own legend and that he was trapped by it. Earlier, he reared up hugely and opened his body out to the air with a more amazingly throwaway speed than I have seen from him before; he spun around the stage on his knees; and inevitably his feet took him across the stage in gliding variants on the moonwalk.

If there was one feat on Saturday I hope I never forget, however, it occurred in an earlier solo, in which, with his torso angled toward the audience, he moved his shoulders in seeming orbit around his head as if they were a loose loop, an amoeba anchored only by his neck. I noticed too that he is achieving a new mastery of slow motion; he delivered some phrases as if showing us frame-by-frame breakdowns of running or gesturing.

These and other features were physically astounding. But, though there’s no doubt he shows the mind and musicality of an artist, his movement on Saturday never felt like sustained poetry; and his “Swan” has become — perhaps has always been — a collage of wow effects. Although Lil Buck comes from the world of jookin, I’ve seen, in Memphis, other jookin performers less physically accomplished but more entrancing in rhythmic continuity and witty invention. Most of his music, a collaboration with the violinist Yoon Kwon, was poorly chosen. Before his “Swan,” Ms. Kwon gave us a chunk from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” over a taped rock version of the familiar orchestration; and too much of the event felt like a synthetic assortment of clichés, lollipops and razzle-dazzle.



The famous/forgotten SNL video doesn't stay up very long. This is another one.
Toni Basil and The Lockers.


Basil's pretension got in the way. Break dancing was always loaded with irony and humor. At it's best, like the best hip-hop, it wasn't "pop". Camp humor is the self-depracating humor of insecurity, as opposed to the playful arrogance, and generosity, of confidence.

"I’ve seen, in Memphis, other jookin performers less physically accomplished but more entrancing in rhythmic continuity and witty invention." Macaulay doesn't slum. He's not a snob.
Brilliant pop stars are in a situation always verging on tragedy. Fame and genius become mixed. And there's the genius of Barnum and the genius of performance. Barnum was a stage manager not the lion jumping through hoops; Prince became both. And unlike most pop stars he was a brilliant musician. 
Bowie's performance as persona was more interesting than what became Prince's pop theatrics, but Bowie was more actor than musician. Dirty Mind came out as Bowie was fading into celebrity, but Dirty Mind wasn't pop. And when Prince became pop, it was with all the seriousness that Bowie gave up on. 
See also Marie Lloyd and Thérésa.


Thursday, December 01, 2016

[sic]

"In the course of the year 1838, the peaceful island of Barbados was rocked by a strange and bloody revolt. About two hundred Negroes of both sexes, all of whom had recently been emancipated by the Proclamations of March, came one morning to beg their former master, a certain Glenelg, to take them back into bondage. An Anabaptist minister, acting as spokesman for the group, read out a list of grievances which he had compiled and recorded in a notebook. Then the discussion began. But Glenelg, either from timidity or because he was scrupulous, or simply afraid of the law, refused to be swayed. At which point he was at first mildly jostled, then set upon and massacred, together with his family, by the Negroes, who that same evening repaired to their cabins, their palavers, their labors, and customary rituals. Swift action on the part of Governor MacGregor succeeded in suppressing the matter, and the emancipation pursued its course. As for the notebook of grievances it has never been recovered."

- Jean Paulhan, "Happiness in Slavery," from the preface to The Story of O.
Weber [Parsons]
The Puritan wanted to work in a calling; we are forced to do so. For when asceticism was carried out of monastic cells into everyday life, and began to dominate worldly morality, it did its part in building the tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order. This order is now bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production which to-day determine the lives of all the individuals who are born into this mechanism, not only those directly concerned with economic acquisition, with irresistible force. Perhaps it will so determine them until the last ton of fossilized coal is burnt. In Baxter’s view the care for external goods should only lie on the shoulders of the “saint like a light cloak, which can be thrown aside at any moment”. But fate decreed that the cloak should become an iron cage. 
Weber ‎[Baehr/Wells]
The Puritans wanted to be men of the calling—we, on the other hand, must be. For when asceticism moved out of the monastic cells and into working life, and began to dominate innerworldly morality, it helped to build that mighty cosmos of the modem economic order (which is bound to the technical and economic conditions of mechanical and machine production). Today this mighty cosmos determines, with overwhelming coercion, the style of life not only of those directly involved in business but of every individual who is born into this mechanism, and may well continue to do so until the day that the last ton of fossil fuel has been consumed.

In Baxter's view, concern for outward possessions should sit lightly on the shoulders of his saints like a thin cloak which can be thrown off at any time." But fate decreed that the cloak should become a shell as hard as steel [stahlhartes Gehause]. As asceticism began to change the world and endeavored to exercise its influence over it, the outward goods of this world gained increasing and finally inescapable power over men, as never before in history. Today its spirit has fled from this shell—whether for all time, who knows? Certainly, victorious capitalism has no  further need for this support now that it rests on the foundation of the machine. Even the optimistic mood of its laughing heir, the Enlightenment, seems destined to fade away, and the idea of the "duty in a calling" haunts our lives like the ghost of once-held religious beliefs. Where "doing one's job" [Berufserfullung] cannot be directly linked to the highest spiritual and cultural values—although it may be felt to be more than mere economic coercion—the individual today usually makes no attempt to find any meaning in it. Whom capitalism is at its most unbridled, in the United States, the pursuit of wealth [Enuerbsstreben], divested of its metaphysical significance, today tends to be associated with purely elemental passions, which at times virtually turn it into a sporting contest.
 stahlhartes Gehause. Baehr: The "Iron Cage" and the "Shell as Hard as Steel"

repeats: Weber and Kafka

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"Why doesn't political philosophy matter?"

Leiter asks.

QS responds to Bertram
You’ve turned sexual harassment into an intellectual game, that is where the “creepiness” originates...

Chris Bertram 06.03.12 at 10:06 am
QS: your latest tells me that you see political philosophy as it is usually practised as involving a profound mistake. You are entitled to that opinion. It is not one that I share.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tweeted by Kaura: neurobio major often distracted by cogsci & philosophy // can't stop the weltschmerz
Moral phil/game dev are essentially the same job, you sit on a computer all day coming up with horrible scenarios to put imaginary people in
Retweeted by Justin Weinberg, the editor of Daily Nous.

Liked by Will Wilson: Mathematical physics and religious obscurantism. Computers are the worst tools except for all the others. Formerly: FoundationDB, Apple. Currently: Google.

Wilson, followed by Ross Douthat

tell me about it.

Culture, Determinism, Futurism and Data Culture, Make it Idiot-Proof, Mannerism and The Gothic, Naturalism, Pedants and Children, Philosophy, Sexuality, Utopia and Intentional Communities,

Monday, November 28, 2016

NYT: Combative, Populist Steve Bannon Found His Man in Donald Trump
At times, Mr. Bannon’s rants against the ruling class — in which he is at least as unsparing of Republicans as of Democrats — strikingly echo populists on the left. In a revealing 2014 talk via Skype to a Vatican conference, some of his words might have come from Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts or Mr. Sanders of Vermont.

“Not one criminal charge has ever been brought to any bank executive associated with the 2008 crisis,” Mr. Bannon fumed. “And in fact, it gets worse. No bonuses and none of their equity was taken.”

But if his scathing economic analysis sometimes seemed to dabble in Marxism, on other subjects, including race and religion, he made no concessions to political sensitivities. After Mr. Bannon met Mr. Breitbart at the 2004 screening of “In the Face of Evil,” the two men hit it off, bonding over their similar views and a common irreverent streak.

Ms. Jones, the film colleague, said that in their years working together, Mr. Bannon occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners.

“I said, ‘That would exclude a lot of African-Americans,’” Ms. Jones recalled. “He said, ‘Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.’ I said, ‘But what about Wendy?’” referring to Mr. Bannon’s executive assistant. “He said, ‘She’s different. She’s family.’”

Mr. Bannon’s African-American friend from his Goldman years said that he had been at pains to defend him in recent years to mutual acquaintances put off first by Breitbart’s reputation and now by Mr. Bannon’s association with Mr. Trump. Most Christmas seasons over the past two decades, he said, Mr. Bannon was “my only token white guy,” or one of two or three, invited to an annual dinner at a New York City club for nearly a score of African-American friends who work or worked in finance.

“Now I’m getting a lot of, ‘What happened to Steve?’” from concerned black acquaintances, the friend said. He said he hoped Mr. Bannon — and more important, Mr. Trump — would more forthrightly denounce the bigots who have cheered them on. Still, he said, he completely rejects the accusations against Mr. Bannon.

“Hell, no, he’s not a white nationalist,” the friend said.
Passive observation, not even observation from above, voyeurism without the acknowledgement of voyeurism that would even make it enjoyable. It's bad art and bad politics. Bannon's a fascist. It's not that the article doesn't say it directly but that reading it you get the impression Scott Shane would never want to be seen as jumping to conclusions.

Shane tweets his work: "My attempt to understand Trump's lightning rod".

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Castro was a dictator who took care of the poor. Calling him a "communist" or defending him as a one is stupid.

A lot of Yugoslavs miss Tito.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

TBogg, an old member of the "reality-based community".
Harry Frankfurt, meet Bernard-Henri Levy

Anglo-American academic philosophers think Levy is an idiot, but they make the same pedant's defense of truth. Jason Stanley [etc.] did that on twitter and I replied with the images above. He deleted his tweet.

Rashomon A new pic this time.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Another from the first years of the 60s.

Alfred Kazin, Contemporaries,
The Village Today: or The Music the Money Makes
Saloon Society, by Bill Manville; photographs by David Attie, design by
Alexey Brodovitch. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce.

Bill Manville, who writes a column for the Village Voice, is an acute if perhaps too glibly rueful observer whose subject is New or Upper Bohemia. Whatever Greenwich Village may once have been or may now be supposed to have been, anyone who has recently strayed down MacDougal Street on a Saturday night knows that now it is a playground. What Coney Island was once to the honest workingman, Greenwich Village is now to the unmarried or ex-married young professional. The Village streets, pads, coffee houses, and bars are jammed with people who look a million times more sensitive, artistic, and "interesting" than William Faulkner or Igor Stravinsky, but who live by teaching economics, analyzing public opinion, writing advertising copy, practicing psychoanalysis, or "doing research" for political candidates. They are not intellectuals, but occasionally dream that they will be. That is their secret ambition. Meanwhile, being young and frisky, they are not yet the "managers" in our highly organized technical society. But they have the skills someday to become managers. Just now they don't want power any more than they want marriage. They want a good time, and a good time is what they go to the Village for, and a good time in the Village is what they get. The LeRoy Street Saloon, Chumley's, the San Remo, the White Horse Tavern, the Kettle, Minetta, O. Henry's, Louis's, the Riviera, Julius's, the Casa Allegra, El Faro. . . .

What I like most about Bill Manville's reports of conversations in these places is his honesty. He is aware of himself and his friends as the genuinely new fact the young always are, and he has the intelligence to notice what they want and what they miss. Maybe "honesty" in a writer is only a form that intelligence takes — perhaps this is why supposed rebels like the "beats" write so badly. But the vital difference is that the beat writers tend, on their own testimony, to be victims of mother and yearners after sex, and so write about sex as if it were the revolution. Manville's people are far more worldly than that. What the traveling salesman was once vis-a-vis the rural areas, these charming lechers and morning drinkers are now to all the humdrum and respectable marrieds in the suburbs.

The lines are carefully drawn: "Married and unmarried people should never mix. You can't be sentimental about these things; when your friends marry, you have to drop them, and they have to drop you." The same character says honestly, "God, I hate rent-payers, taxpayers, husbands, fathers, citizens, voters. I hate the New York Times, the Bronx, apple pie, motherhood, the forty-hour week, the Beat Generation, and Shirley Temple!" These are people who need just to support themselves and to pay the analyst, people (as Manville doesn't say) whose technical skills are automatic enough to leave them mentally free. They haven't moved to the Village because it's cheaper. But the blunt and concentrated pursuit of pleasure is still a vaguely subversive way of life in America. It is this that gives Manville's people their gallantry, charm, sauciness — and that touch of tristesse which Manville exploits like a musician sneaking in a few bars of Brahms.

2

But first things first. Manville has caught the delicious, the delirious, the whirligig music that money makes for so many people in New York just now. Here, at last, is a paean to good living by Greenwich Village as she is, not as she was when Edna St. Vincent Millay and Joe Gould burned their manuscripts to keep warm. "The cocktails came, so cold the gin smoked off the ice. Salad and steak, asparagus tender as love itself. Two kinds of wine cooled beside the table in silver ice buckets." On the wings of such food, sex follows swiftly. A young man named Phil confesses, "Wherever I go, I see magnificent women hurrying into saloons, stores, hotels, theaters, women so wonderful, so beautiful, so radiant and distant in their brilliance, they make me want to yell: 'Stop, stop, I don't
want to lose you!' "

That is downtown today, and even when it laughs at uptown in the person of a brazenly cynical millionaire out of a play by Bert Brecht or a movie by René Clair, it's hard to see what the difference is. Maybe it's that downtown always has uptown to laugh at. Here is a Villager describing the millionaire who arrives "a. little late, more than a little loaded. He has the standard uptown animal with him — taller than him, blonde of course, a certain dead-head serenity, a mink tent, and a Southern accent. Vanner himself is wearing an apricot-colored shirt and a tie that instantly lowers real-estate values for two blocks around. He glitters and winks with sharp metallic lights, and in fact he's encrusted all over with little bits of metal; gold cuff links, gold ring on the finger, a gold pin at the collar, another on the tie. . . , He's the kind of man who laughs a lot, you hip?"

Manville has a sure sense of style in his own writing. Sometimes, to be sure, he introduces names that remind you of Damon Runyon —George Gam, Lou the Ladies' Man, Perlman Pace, Maggie Singleton, and Big Mary; occasionally his interjected meditations on the world at large have the sentimental bitterness that reminds you of the pompous Broadway columnist. The very showiness and anxious cleverness of his obiter dicta tell you just how bourgeois and unintellectual the world of modern professionals really is. And this, I sadly discovered, is not a book to be read twice; it is journalism, not literature. But it has the great virtue of journalism — it brings news, it really informs us. And what makes these clever yet sometimes merely wistful conversations come alive is the fanaticism of people today trying to make a world entirely out of pleasure.

The "normal" world, the armed, busy, and political world, impinges so heavily that one has to blot it out to get a little privacy. But privacy is not enjoyable any more if it's experienced alone; hence the party in our age of the party — the party that starts Saturday morning ("Don't tell me about early in the morning, we'll pull the shades. We'll wear dark glasses") and that ends, really, never. Everything builds up and builds up all the time. The only question is the one Lou Manx discovered in his own mind when he fell ecstatically in love, and was ecstatically happy. "Then I thought: 'Is
this all I will ever feel in my life? Is there nothing left now but the long, slow, peaceful walk, hand in hand, to the grave?' So I broke up with her. Love is not enough."

[1960]
I'm resisting the urge to highlight what I think should be obvious.

A new tag for criticism. There's lots of overlap. As always I did word searches to find old posts that fit, but I'm sure I missed a few. And since technocrats and academics qua academics, as "experts" now see themselves as critics, and as intellectuals, and since times are changing, there's a lot of overlap with the tag for The Discovery of Experience.

Kazin's is the sort of imagination I grew up with, a faded version of something much older.
Even reading earlier into the century, Dwight Macdonald, Alfred Kazin, and Edmund Wilson, something bothers me about the American reportorial style; an artlessness that leaves me suspect even when I want to agree with its arguments. “The triumph of the fact,” as Macdonald called it, came early. C. Wright Mills, writing in the mid 1950s, was a man in the grey flannel suit, rebelling against himself. Read The Power Elite for its language and you’ll sense it’s more symptom than critique. The description itself is flat: a jeremiad written as an end of year report. Without the historical awareness of what he was or what he came from, he was unable to describe his surroundings or himself as anything more than another example of the American pendulum, swinging from rationalism to irrationalism, from Puritan to drunk, and back again. The true genius of American art is only evident in the art of drunkenness, when the artist knows intuitively that the poetry of drunkenness needs to be the description of drunkenness: the rational description of irrational action. This is where critics would have an equal role: in the reciprocal relation of artist and critic, participant and observer, actor and historian. But they would only have this role if they threw away any pretense at a universal knowledge of value, and saw only its description in the relations among people. In democracy philosophy is parasitic.
Pankaj Mishra on Edmund Wilson.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Jamelle Bouie: There’s No Such Thing as a Good Trump Voter
People voted for a racist who promised racist outcomes. They don’t deserve your empathy.
Donald Trump ran a campaign of racist demagoguery against Muslim Americans, Hispanic immigrants, and black protesters. He indulged the worst instincts of the American psyche and winked to the stream of white nationalists and anti-Semites who backed his bid for the White House. Millions of Americans voted for this campaign, thus elevating white nationalism and white reaction to the Oval Office.
I'm seeing this link passed around by Muslims who've spent years trying to explain the difference between Hamas, Hezbollah, The Muslim Brotherhood, and Al Qaeda and ISIS. And now they've become the equivalent of liberal Zionists. The human mind is a fragile thing.

NYT: Can Trump Save Their Jobs? They’re Counting on It
INDIANAPOLIS — By the time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years this month, Paul Roell was already asleep. He did not stay up to see Barack Obama win the presidency in 2008, or watch in 2000 as the margin of votes separating George W. Bush and Al Gore in Florida shrank to the vanishing point.

After all, he has to clock in daily at 5:30 a.m. at the soon-to-be-shuttered Carrier factory here, where he has worked 17 years.

But shortly before 3 a.m. Wednesday, when the networks projected that Donald J. Trump would be the next president of the United States, Mr. Roell was wide awake. His wife, Stephanie, was up, too, and they exchanged high fives in the wee hours.

In fact, Mr. Roell was so keyed up, he did not sleep at all that night and headed straight to the plant before sunrise, bleary-eyed but euphoric. “I don’t watch sports, but this was my World Series,” he said.

It is precisely this level of enthusiasm, from Mr. Roell and millions of like-minded Americans, that pollsters and the campaign of Hillary Clinton did not appreciate, even though it was vividly on display in February after a video went viral showing furious Carrier workers here learning from management that their jobs would be going abroad.

Carrier’s decision to move the factory to Monterrey, Mexico, will eliminate 1,400 jobs by 2019. Mr. Trump quickly made the factory Exhibit A in his argument against the trade policies of Republicans and Democrats alike.

He cited Carrier again and again on the campaign trail, threatening to phone executives at the company and its parent, United Technologies, and to hit them with 35 percent tariffs on any furnaces and air-conditioners they imported from Mexico. To the cheers of his supporters, he predicted at rallies that Carrier would call him up as president and say, “Sir, we’ve decided to stay in the United States.”

Now his supporters expect action. “If he doesn’t pass that tariff, I will vote the other way next time,” warned Nicole Hargrove, who has worked at Carrier for a decade and a half and is not certain what she will do if and when her job goes to Mexico.

...And while Mr. Roell is a conservative, Mr. Trump’s tough talk about Carrier, the economy and the future of American manufacturing jobs also appealed to moderates like Darrell Presley, a steelworker in rural Crawfordsville, Ind., who voted for Mr. Obama in 2008. “He was for change, and said he would take care of the middle class, but he didn’t live up to those expectations,” Mr. Presley said. “I feel like the American people are at the point where they’ve had it, and this was the last chance.”

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Trump and the Revolt of the Rust Belt
The election is over and a potentially disastrous candidate has won. The damage to civil tolerance and multiculturalism is likely to be profound. A lot of people’s lives will change. Naturally, people are asking the question: who could have voted Trump into office? Well, clearly white people. This isn’t terribly surprising. White people have plenty to answer for in American history and show no particular energy about improving their record. Others blame people of color who didn’t turn out for Clinton as they did for Obama, never mind that expecting black people to turn out for anyone other than Michelle Obama as much as they did for Barack Obama is entirely unrealistic. Latinos voted for Trump at a slightly higher rate than they did for Romney. As baffling as that is on the surface, pure block voting is simply not how voting works and Latinos still voted overwhelmingly for Clinton.
The problem for explanation is not that any of these factors are irrelevant as such, they aren’t. They just don’t have much to do with the actual reason why Trump won. The reason he won should be obvious to anyone who pays attention to the electoral map rather than exit polls. The Rust Belt revolted against the rolling out of a neoliberal New Economy and multicultural society. The fact of this economic transformation is nothing new, people have been talking about it for years. In fact, policy makers, politicians, and journalists had also stopped talking about it, probably because they were exhausted by the conversation. Democrats learned that they could win presidential contests handily with only marginal nods to the industrial Midwest (Clinton: “Trump ties are made in China!”). Some states would just be written off by Democrats. Coal-mining and unionized West Virginia, solidly Democratic since the New Deal, was flipped to the Republican column in 2000 by climate warrior Al Gore. No one much cared, even though a Democratic West Virginia would have prevented a Bush presidency. Other states, it was assumed, would participate just enough in the economic transition to fracture any conservative Old Economy majority that might emerge in the Rust Belt. And even if it didn’t, there were enough black people and union workers to prevent a Republican victory in those states. Democrats were so confident of their support in Rust Belt states that they were part of Clinton’s “blue wall” that, it was argued, would deliver her the presidency even if Trump won traditional swing states like Florida.
The cultural transformation from a tacitly white society to a more multicultural one is considerably newer and much more at the center of political discussion—a transformation that was supercharged by the Obama presidency. This isn’t simple progress; it animated white supremacists, xenophobes, and homophobes as much as it did the tolerant. Such people are always around, there may even be more of them, but they don’t deliver electoral majorities. But this conversation was also a heavily coastal phenomenon. The Rust Belt has a lot of black people, but few Latinos. When workers were in unions alongside others who had different color skin, holding together a viable multiracial working class coalition was possible. But unions have been destroyed, with the Democratic Party complicit, and stunning economic decline has made it easy for narratives of zero-sum competition between different social groups to take hold. Democrats have offered precious little to prevent people in the Rust Belt from feeling embattled and forgotten. More to the point, the Clintons are avatars of free trade, financialization, and identity politics, a triumvirate of characteristics that associates them pretty directly with what many people associate with the causes of Rust Belt decline and crisis. But it didn’t matter that Democrats stood for these things when Republicans stood for most of them as well. When lines of political conflict were organized around abortion, guns, and taxes, as the Republican operative Grover Norquist wanted, there was no room for a distinctively Rust Belt politics. Trump changed that particular calculus. It may have been cynical, but the message was clear: he would be a protectionist president. This is a part of the country that does things like smash Japanese cars at civic events. Trump’s message was likely to resonate, but probably only in the Rust Belt. People have been suspicious of the role of the white working class for a variety of suspect reasons: sure, Trump supporters were on average affluent, but they are always Republican and aren’t numerous enough to deliver the presidency (538 has changed their view in the wake of the election result). Some point out that looking at support by income doesn’t show much distinctive support for Trump among the “poor”, but that’s beside the point too, as it submerges a regional phenomenon in a national average, just as exit polls do.
more

Thursday, November 10, 2016

I'd put in a new post, but it's a perfect introduction to the post below. Even American historians have no sense of history. It's pathetic. "The American has got to destroy. It is his destiny"
Tocqueville was an adult, writing about children. And the children of those children produced more children.

Some images from The Vulgarians, by Robert Osborn, published in 1960. Full text and images available here.  I still have my parents' copy. It's moralizing, so childish too.








A paragraph from 2011 on Daniel Mendelsohn's review of Mad Men: Mendelsohn reminded me of graduates of Wellesley who were pissed off by Mona Lisa Smile (since Alfred Barr taught the first academic course on Modern Art at Wellesley in 1926), and my mother's contempt for Todd Haynes for Far From Heaven. Haynes doing his best to undermine the world of Ozzie and Harriet that only 6 year olds at the time confused with reality. Homosexuality and interracial sex? Of course.

Harriet Nelson started smoking at 13, and hung out at the Cotton Club

Mendelsohn
Since the summer of 2007, when Mad Men premiered on the cable station AMC, the world it purports to depict—a lushly reimagined Madison Avenue in the 1960s, where sleekly suited, chain-smoking, hard-drinking advertising executives dream up ingeniously intuitive campaigns for cigarettes and bras and airlines while effortlessly bedding beautiful young women or whisking their Grace Kelly–lookalike wives off to business trips in Rome—has itself become the object of a kind of madness.
His exchange with Molly Haskel is fun. Interesting to remember that Mendelsohn is a famously a fan of historical fiction. He must have written about his argument with James.

To the Editor:
Re "Young Ladies on the Verge of a Breakthrough" by Katha Pollitt [Dec. 21]:

I was a student at Wellesley during the period of "Mona Lisa Smile," studying art history and later becoming a professor of art. The film presents art classes at Wellesley in the 1950's as needing shaking up; in one scene the president of the college warns the Julia Roberts character, "A little less modern art, Miss Watson."

Quite ludicrous. Wellesley pioneered the study of modern art. Alfred H. Barr Jr., a professor of art at Wellesley in the 1920's, later became the first director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He introduced the Bauhaus to the public in a landmark exhibition at the Modern in 1938 — years after Wellesley women studied it. When I began to teach art history, I unearthed my Wellesley notebooks as a resource, and I have them here now. I am happy (but not surprised) to see that an entry for Jan. 27 — the year would have been 1953 or 1954 — shows Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky and Mark Tobey. Earlier sections on Picasso, Cézanne and van Gogh note assigned reading in Barr, Greenberg and The Partisan Review. We did not paint by the numbers, one of many unfortunate misrepresentations of Wellesley by this film.
VIRGINIA SMITH
Manhattan
---
related 11/20

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

updated, again
He deleted the tweet.
I blame liberals for everything. Always.

(see the arrows and numbers on the right of the bottom graph)
When Harold Washington won his first term as mayor of Chicago, after an election in which the white vote was split between two white candidates, one of the first things he did was tour white working class neighborhoods. He walked around and said "Hey, These streets are a mess! These garbage cans haven't been emptied for weeks! We'll have to do something about that!" And he did. The locals were shocked. They never thought a black mayor would give a damn about them. Washington won his second term running against only one significant opponent.
Michael Moore in July: 5 Reasons Trump Will Win. 
Greenwald post mortem: Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit

Mark Blyth is good, again

Monday, November 07, 2016

From the people who brought you Funny or Die, Anchorman, The 40 Year Old Virgin, etc, etc.