Sunday, February 07, 2016

Middle East Eye, Feb 6
US Secretary of State John Kerry told Syrian aid workers, hours after the Geneva peace talks fell apart, that the country should expect another three months of bombing that would “decimate” the opposition.

During a conversation on the sidelines of this week’s Syria donor conference in London, sources say, Kerry blamed the Syrian opposition for leaving the talks and paving the way for a joint offensive by the Syrian government and Russia on Aleppo.

“‘He said, ‘Don’t blame me – go and blame your opposition,’” one of the aid workers, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her organisation, told Middle East Eye.

Kerry told reporters on Friday, as tens of thousands fled the Syrian government and Russian bombardment of Aleppo, that both Russia and Iran, another of Syria's allies, have told him that they are prepared for a ceasefire in Syria.

He said he would know “whether or not these parties are serious” after a meeting of the International Syria Support Group – 17 nations including the US and Russia – scheduled to be held in Munich next week.

But Kerry left the aid workers with the distinct impression that the US is abandoning efforts to support rebel fighters.
Reuters, Feb 3
Syria says Saudi, Qatar, Turkey told opposition to quit Geneva talks.

Friday, February 05, 2016

History of Philosophy.

Leiter 2004
And please bear in mind that I take neither Dr. Lillehammer nor Professor Dennett to be disputing Timothy Williamson's point in his contribution to The Future for Philosophy that, "Impatience with the long haul of technical reflection is a form of shallowness, often thinly disguised by histrionic advocacy of depth...."
Leiter 2016
I have no crystal ball, so I can’t tell you whether there will be...a return to the core values of robust expression and debate which are essential for academic life, as even Herbert Marcuse realized in his famous polemic against “Repressive Tolerance.” There is some portion of the younger generation of professional philosophers (grad students and assistant professors) who consistently have the wrong views on these questions. They may well take over the discipline, that I cannot predict. It’s ironic, because other humanities fields, like English, went through this totalitarian catastrophe in the 1980s while philosophy remained a paragon of wissenschaftlich seriousness.
The comment he quotes approvingly, without linking, (he explains why) is a series of numbered points. No. 2 refers to a "Specialization exhaustion" in the humanities.  No. 6 begins:  "In both cases, the proponents of the new approaches are basically of two sorts: those already powerful and those not already powerful." That's the foundation of every conservative argument against elite liberalism since the 50s.  Left wing cynics have always understood white anger. Derrick Bell etc., etc.

Philosophy and economics are the last of the Modernist ideologies. The crisis in literature in the 80's was a response to change.
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.
Jason Stanley 2006 "In Defense of Baroque Specialization"  [repeats]

Leiter 2016
"I'm grateful to Jonny Thakkar for calling my attention to this nicely written essay by a recent Oxford DPhil."
It wasn’t that one could only be profound in German, or that philosophers interested in the sciences were doomed to wade in the shallows. It was rather a point about style—that some styles of thought and writing in philosophy, more than others, are able to convey that mysterious thing, depth.

The British moral philosophy of the early postwar years, the years in which Williams began his career, was many things—clever, incisive, often funny—but it was rarely deep. It was as if the aspiration to depth had been tarnished, with much else that was the tiniest bit Germanic, by its vague association with fascism.

...The hardest thing in philosophy, Williams wrote in the preface to Morality, published twenty years after The Language of Morals, was finding the right style, “in the deepest sense of ‘style’ in which to discover the right style is to discover what you are really trying to do.”
Leiter links to this because the author spends a bit of time mocking the "effective altruism" and other moralists. He makes them sound as if they've all taken vows of poverty, when I thought the point was that they hadn't. And according to Nakul Krishna the answers to Oxonian scholasticism include E.M. Forster. The eternal struggle between pedants to fops; not much has changed in 140 years. And then there's this.
The cover of my Pelican edition of Williams’s Morality bears two details from Marcel Duchamp’s Rotoreliefs, a set of double-sided discs that, when spun on a turntable at a specified speed, created the impression of depth. 
 That's just bizarre; appropriate, but not in any intended way.
What made the years of grad school bearable was the jokey solidarity among those of us unsympathetic to this understanding of ethics, the ones who wrote on Aristotle and Nietzsche and Wittgenstein, on ambivalence, alienation and anger, and who didn’t see morality wherever they looked.
Nietzsche and Wittgenstein by choice or not lived burdened lives. Aristotle is something else.
As Aristotle saw a long time ago, there’s no place in ethics for intellectual precocity. I had once seen a book-length gripe about everything other philosophers were getting wrong. I saw now that focusing on the errors of philosophers was a way of getting at something much more important: the evasions of human beings in their hankering after certainty and system. My favorite aphorism of Williams’s, almost a throwaway line in Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, goes, “The only serious enterprise is living, and we have to live after the reflection; moreover (though the distinction of theory and practice encourages us to forget it), we have to live during it as well.”
The Baroque is an aristocratic performance ethic, less than a virtue ethic. It's Catholic as opposed to Protestant, which is appropriate for a philosopher in an age of the decline of philosophy (philosophy defined as prescriptive and authoritarian). Theater and law re-stage philosophical argument are debate among equals, in a world without kings.
The decadence of mannerism presents as the self-narrativizing of a concrete idealism, attempting to inoculate itself against increasingly dominant narrative (relativist) culture. Mannerism is the model of aristocratic art in an age of incipient democracy. The baroque is the same model of conservatism in the age of a fully ascendant democracy: the age of theater.
"...we shall begin with the republican state, which has virtue for its principle."

Against my argument that Nakul Krishna is just a mannered fop.
The success of Doniger’s opponents in having her book withdrawn from the Indian market is not a simple triumph of bullying; at least in this case, their means were constitutional ones. Their success is, rather, the product of the slow accrual of power to an emigrant intelligentsia with its fact-checkers and open letters on the one hand, and an Indian vanguard with its legal notices and hurt sentiments on the other. Doniger’s liberal defenders need to confront the fact that her opponents too claim the moral and political high ground. Not for the first time, it looks like liberalism is awkward when confronted with the question of power, at a loss about what to say to those to whom liberty is not the highest value.
That's smart.

Leiter again, 2016
"A nicely written piece by philosopher V. Alan White--do take a look."
In a very forceful sense of what's contingent, I should not be writing this sentence. I'm writing this one as well only because my mother finished the interior of a casket in a way that displeased someone, the wife of the factory's owner. Had this one person said, "Well, I wouldn't have tacked that fabric that way, but it's ok," or the like, I would not be writing this sentence either. But she didn't say that to my mother. She said something like "You need to redo that lining--it's not right." To my now long-lost mother, whose intricately crocheted doilies sit on my furniture as I write these sentences, that was needless comeuppance. She defended her work, and was sent home for the day.

And that is why I'm writing this sentence. One small moment that could have happened--the boss's wife might have caved and acknowledged my Mom was doing a good enough job--did not. And that's why I'm writing this sentence.
The fact of a working class childhood, described in uninteresting language. Like Laurie Paul.
The "discovery" by philosophers of the of fiction and "art", not as idea but practice and heuristic.

Leiter: "condescension from below"

I'm not much interested in Williams, or the rest. Amusing to find out he was a "harsh" critic of Rorty. They obviously had too much in common to get along. He took form and formality seriously in a way Rorty didn't (and I say that without reading either beyond a glance). Googling Williams and Rorty, the third link down, following Williams' review of Rorty in 1989, and Rorty reviewing Williams in 2002, both in the LRB, and above Williams reviewing Rorty again in the NYRB in 1983 , was CT, and Bertram confirming my lazy assumptions.
I’m very puzzled by the claim, repeatedly made in this thread, that Rorty was anathematized by the anglo-american philosophical mainstream because he challenged their methods and their conception of the boundaries of the subject. First, I don’t think it is true that he was anathematized, just that he wasn’t taken as seriously as his fans would have liked. Second, it is very easy to point to philosophers who reject scientism and who also challenge those same boundaries and who have always been treated with the utmost respect by “insiders”. To name but one: Bernard Williams.

...My experience of reading Williams is, in some respects, akin to my experience of reading Nietzsche, in that he had the power to say something (often, merely by the lightest of comments in passing) that is profoundly unsettling. My experience of reading Rorty does not involve being unsettled in the least, just thinking “no, that’s wrong”, “what’s the _argument_ for _that_?” etc. Lots of people are even more “open-faced” in their “dissent” than Rorty, but I find it hard to believe that degree of open-faced dissent is a good predictor of long-term impact. Really having something to say, and saying it well, on the other hand, probably is.
Bertram is saying that Williams took writing seriously, and was able therefore to communicate his desires for some things to be just so, with the result that a reader who disagreed would at least understand the desire, and the complexity of Williams' person and experience. That's what good writing does.

And of course Krishna was raised to be a technocrat.
My parents were part of the educated Indian middle class who approved of books only as long as they were called, say, Advanced Statistics; when they caught me with a copy of Middlemarch they told me I oughtn’t to be reading storybooks at my age.
Modernism and progress, "backward" peoples. "Engineering the Revolution" or Jihad.

This is the age of reality
But some of us deal with mythology
This is the age of science and technology
But some of us are stopped by antiquity

LKJ was a Modernist. Nakul Krishna may be too close to Naipaul. But he's facing contradictions that Leiter et al. do their best to avoid. And Maybe N+1 has gotten a little better, since their days of publishing art reviews by managing directors in private equity.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Parts joined together with new material. Still working.
The full screen button is on the bottom right.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I wasn't going to do it, but why not.

Rauchway answering Clinton on Reconstruction. He links to Coates.
The simplest response all of them is here.

All of them such fucking idiots.

Serendipity, "The ghost of Panofsky"

James Gray Pope at Balkinization, as part of a symposium on the constitution and economic inequality.
The great critical race scholar Derrick Bell, for example, argued that African Americans can advance on issues of race only when whites also benefit. One way to secure this “interest convergence,” he observed, is to ally with lower-class whites "who, except for the disadvantages imposed on blacks because of color, are in the same economic and political boat." Unfortunately, however, white workers have rarely acted on these shared interests. They stood with white planters against slave revolts, for example, "even though the existence of slavery condemned white workers to a life of economic privation," and they excluded black workers from their unions, thereby "allowing plant owners to break strikes with black scab labor." To Bell, such choices reflect a form of racism so virulent and deeply rooted that it overrides economic rationality and blocks any hope of genuine racial equality or class solidarity. In apparent despair, he warns that black Americans face permanent and irrevocable subordination because of “the unstated understanding by the mass of whites that they will accept large disparities in economic opportunity in respect to other whites as long as they have a priority over blacks and other people of color for access to the few opportunities available.”

...When the situational force of law is considered, we may dissent from Bell’s conclusion that poor whites were "easily detoured into protecting their sense of entitlement vis-a-vis blacks for all things of value."

The story begins with a prequel. In colonial Virginia, black and white bound laborers routinely cooperated in escapes and resistance. During Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676, an army composed mostly of freed servants and slaves captured and burned Jamestown, the capital of Virginia. The planters’ solution to this threat, according to historian Edmund Morgan, "was racism, to separate dangerous free whites from dangerous slave blacks by a screen of racial contempt." The Virginia Assembly, elected not by poor whites but by landed gentry, constructed a legal order in which the poorest white laborer occupied a more exalted position than the most prosperous black planter. Poor whites were rewarded economically and psychologically for assisting in the control of black slaves. In this legal environment, black-white cooperation largely ceased.

By the time that the American working class began to form in the early 1800s, the Constitution and laws of the United States left no doubt that labor freedom, civil rights, and citizenship hinged crucially on being white.

Monday, January 25, 2016

More from Maria Farrell. My italics. The comments are interesting.
Stuck in his tent for two days, too ill to move, Worsley finally called for rescue late last week. He died yesterday of peritonitis that caused multiple organ failure. His wife was at his side at the end.

Every day for the past couple of months, Worsley has been doing a daily update on his progress and talking about what it is like to be alone and pressing on through some of the worst conditions on earth. E, who served under Worsley, had been following the podcasts. (Most nights he would get into bed and put it on, and I would grumpily roll over and tell him to use his headphones.) At the end of each recording, Worsley would answer questions, many of them from the children who listened in each day. There was something sweetly old-fashioned about that. He would satisfy questions like ‘what is it like to celebrate Christmas on Antartica?’ with a condensed but not unrealistic description of life in the white darkness.

I will never understand why people want to climb Everest or walk to the Pole. The human drive to ‘conquer’ landscape and survive in hostile environments is wholly alien to me, and probably to most of us.
The very proper wife to a career military officer. "I  love a man in uniform", "Chicks dig the uniform", etc.
So totally unaware.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Submitted 1/1/16
For the Museum of Capitalism: A Dissent
When I heard about the competition I sent in a proposal immediately with an email, a youtube link and a request for the check. Frankly I was surprised to get a response. The writer wrote to call my bluff: anti-proposals were welcome, but I needed to register first.

The video link was a few minutes from D.A. Pennebaker's short film documenting Jean Tinguely's Homage to New York, a self-destructing machine installed in the garden at MoMA in 1960 and switched on in a show of discreet catastrophe for an audience of money-men, their wives, and cognoscenti. The low-res video images are horrifying, maybe more so than the film, hinting at the destruction of the 20th century, air-raids and ovens, Hamburg, Hiroshima and Auschwitz. The event itself was a comic and nihilistic theater of anti-Fordism for an audience of Fords and Rockefellers.

If I were a designer or an architect or an artist interested in conceptual games I suppose I could draw up a proposal for a self-destructing building. But this isn't a proposal for a building, or an argument against a building made via the proposal of an impossible one. Anti-architecture, like anti-art, and anything predicated on opposition, is by definition an angry child, its anger predicated on the existence of a parent. Parents have responsibilities that children don't, and children on their own are no longer children; they have no choice but to be adults before their time.

Artists want the luxury to remain children; we’re always looking for indulgent parents to adopt us so that we can be angry with them. It's a new phenomenon over the last two hundred years. Entertainers are what artists used to be and architects still are: tradesmen and professionals who work to pay the bills. But architects are required to be optimists while entertainers have broader options.

Entertainment is the art of bourgeois capitalism. Art in the age of mechanical reproduction began with Gutenberg and the printing press, and includes both Shakespeare and the modern novel. Fine art, the art and craft of high-value commodities is a holdover from the ancien régime, and its partisans now play a role no less absurd than defenders of the eternal verities and the gold standard.
All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind. 
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere. 
The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.
Capitalism, in an irony Marx would have enjoyed, returns us to the ancient past, the Bronze Age: the age of stories. The Golden Age is the age of kings, or at the very least aristocrats; capitalism at its grandest is gilded. Architects now are stage designers. The museum of capitalism is the shopping mall, our greatest art made from the conversations of observers of the scene, sitting and talking under the palm trees at Starbucks.

The designer of your webpage understood this, maybe unthinkingly. A 3D font is an illusion of physical and architectural space, but your designer chose a font that's doubly fictional, a contradictory illusion, the only appropriate form for a museum built to house them. It was a brilliant choice. My only quibble with the design was that reading the words “call for ideas”, my first thought was, “Where’s the number?”

After registering, I began to work on a film, a montage of youtube videos recorded in groups as screen captures (the web is the greatest library since Alexandria). I approached Werner Herzog about a voiceover, but I’ve been told now that you’re only reviewing static documents.

In the absence of that I offer the words above. Once you open, the film will be available for exhibition, as will my appropriation of your designer’s image, which I’m having enlarged to 11’x17’, in an edition of 3.
None of this is new, but the arrangement is.

Jason Stanley 2006
Judith Butler is not by any stretch of the imagination a public intellectual.

...There should always be a space for philosophers who simplify and translate philosophical positions and arguments for a broader audience. But a university’s primary mission should be to advance the disciplines it represents. In short, a university should seek to promote work that will give that university prestige in the future and not in the present. So, a university’s mission with regard to its philosophy department should be to support those who are attempting to formulate new positions and arguments, rather than those who seek contemporary relevance.
A few hops from the first link takes you here, an on to here.

In 2011 Laurie Paul defends Stanley's arguments for "progress" in philosophy
I watched the presentation and I thought Jason Stanley did an excellent job. He gave a really engaging, fun presentation that was geared to the academic audience in the room and then handled Romano's insulting and rather ignorant comments extremely well.
After 2013 she says you can't predict the future.

Stanley: "In short, a university should seek to promote work that will give that university prestige in the future and not in the present."

The logic of original intent writ forward. Again, none of this is new but the examples are clear-cut.

Paul is drifting away from philosophy towards literature.
Stanley in becoming politically engaged becomes just sort of moralist that Butler criticizes.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

This is not Occupy Wall St. It's not vanguardist. No anarchists, no tenured radicals, no calls for "full communism", for utopia, no worries about a "beckoning light".  It's Wisconsin. It's the fucking bourgeoisie.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Who is Charlie?
We can now say, with the benefit of hindsight, that in January 2015 France succumbed to an attack of hysteria. The massacre of the editorial board of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, as well as of several police officers and the customers of a Jewish shop, triggered a collective reaction unprecedented in our country's history. It would have been impossible to discuss it in the heat of the moment. The media joined hands to denounce terrorism, to celebrate the admirable character of the French people, and to sacralize liberty and the French Republic. Charlie Hebdo and its caricatures of Muhammad were enshrined. The government announced that it was giving a grant to the weekly so that it could get back on its feet. Crowds of people followed the government's appeal to march in protest throughout the land: they held pencils to symbolize press freedom and applauded the state security police and the marksmen posted on the rooftops. The logo `Je suis Charlie' CI am Charlie'), written in white letters against a black background, could be seen everywhere: on our screens, in the streets, on restaurant menus. Children came home from school with a letter C written on their hands. Kids aged seven and eight were interviewed at the school gates and asked for their thoughts on the horror of the events and the importance of one's freedom to draw caricatures. The government decreed that anyone who failed to toe the line would be punished. Any secondary school pupil who refused to observe the minute's silence imposed by the government was seen as implicitly supporting terrorism and refusing to stand in solidarity with the national community. At the end of January, we learned that some adults had started to behave in the most incredibly repressive ways: children of eight or nine years of age were being questioned by the police. It was a sudden glimpse of totalitarianism. 
Todd is good, but his references to Weber and to science are defensive puffery. Sociology is not a science in the way he wants it to be. He's an intelligent, disinterested observer. Statistics is a tool. Disinterest is not objectivity.
I'm going to repeat this. It's easy but it works. And I'm feeling self-indulgent.

Friday, January 15, 2016

A very intelligent man.
PLAYBOY: How is your relationship with Elton John these days?

BOWIE: He sent me a very nice telegram the other day.

PLAYBOY: Didn’t you describe him as “the Liberace, the token queen of rock”?

BOWIE: Yes, well, that was before the telegram. I’d much rather listen to him on the radio than talk about him. Let’s do something else. Want to write a song?


BOWIE: All right. We’ll call the song Audience and it’ll be about rock ‘n’ roll. All right? I’m gonna say, “Led Zeppelin is solid. They make you like a wall.” [Writes it down] Quick. Give me the name of an artist, someone in rock.

PLAYBOY: How about Stevie Wonder?

BOWIE: Good. “Stevie Wonder is growing and you love him most of all.” [Writes it down] He’s sort of the golden boy, everybody loves him. Who else? Name a good songwriter.

PLAYBOY: Joni Mitchell.

BOWIE: “Joni Mitchell has our hearts.” [Writes it down] She does, doesn’t she? OK, let me get my guitar. [Looks at what he’s written and begins strumming and humming softly] All right, here we go. [Sings] “Led Zeppelin is growing, erasing our minds / They make us feel stony, they make us go blind / Hey, Stevie Wonder, there like a wall / So good to lean on, the hardest of all. . . .” Isn’t that a nice little tune?

PLAYBOY: Is that how you wrote Changes?

BOWIE: Naw, but that’s basically how I wrote most of the Diamond Dogs album.

PLAYBOY: What happened to Joni Mitchell?

BOWIE: She’s good enough, she doesn’t need me crooning about her. You see, of course, there are no rules to my writing.

PLAYBOY: We see.


PLAYBOY: Last question. Do you believe and stand by everything you’ve said?

BOWIE: Everything but the inflammatory remarks. 

UK 1971:
"I'm the twisted name on Garbo's eyes
Living proof of Churchill's lies, I'm destiny"
and 1977
"What kind of a fool do you think I am?
You think I know nothing of the modern world

...Even at school I felt quite sure
That one day I would be on top
And I'd look down upon the map"

"God save the Queen
She ain't no human being
There is no future
And England's dreaming

...Don't be told what you want
Don't be told what you need

...Oh God save history
God save your mad parade"
I posted a comment elsewhere responding to an academic, anthropological, opinion, repeating what I've said before. You have to see all of this in terms of the breakdown of older class, family and social relations. The comment hasn't appeared and may not make it.

As I said yesterday, this is all repeats. But one of the links in that bunch is this one, which includes a quote taken from a comment on a post by Bertram written a couple of days after Thatcher died.

From a comment by Ajay
Rich and poor existed alike inside a great framework of British institutions. It was the lower-middle-class who went from their schools to keep shops or manage small businesses; who did not participate, for the most part, in the institutions you’re describing; who therefore saw the state not as the guarantor of the framework in which they lived, but as a constant demander of taxes and producer of paperwork; and whose resentment ultimately produced Margaret Thatcher.
It's all right there.

Bowie now has his own tag

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The famous Playboy interview from 1976 with Cameron Crowe. On Crowe's website.
I'm embarrassed I took the fascist references as seriously as I did. He's biting, sardonic, hilarious, a bastard. The conservatism comes through clean and clear.

"The demimonde by definition is anti-humanist and anti-democratic. Modern libertines are libertarians, though some grow out of it. Most rebels as they grow older, if they make it, retire as liberals."
[In Berlin] I was in a situation where I was meeting young people of my age whose fathers had actually been SS men. That was a good way to be woken up out of that particular dilemma... yeah, I came crashing down to earth when I got back to Europe.

His angry post-hippy individualism connects as punk did with Thatcherism. The pop musical avant-garde of the 70's, the only avant-garde that mattered, set the stage for the mainstream in the 80's.

A commenter at CT quotes Nick Kent
“… over in Detroit Bowie’s followers were like something out of Fellini’s Satyricon: full tilt pleasure seekers devoid of anything resemlbing shame, limits, caution and moral scruples. I distinctly remember a local lesbian bike gang riding their bikes into the foyer of the concert hall and revving them loudly just prior to Bowie’s arrival onstage. This had not been pre-arranged.. Meanwhile, the toilets were literally crammed with people either having sex or necking pills. The whole building was like some epic porn film brought to twitching life. Back in London’s West Side, the best loved theatrical presentation of the hour was an asinine farce called No sex please we’re British, a title that pretty much summed up the United Kingdom’s awkward embrace of its libidinous potential even during the so called permissive age. Put that reticence down to a mixture of instilled Catholic guilt, cold showers, single sex schooling and steady on old boy stoicism. Our young american cousins had no such inhibitions to curb their lust… This was not lost on David Bowie, whose new Aladdin Sane songs were clearly part inspired by their composer coing into direct contact with the Babylonian sexual frenzy of young America in the early seventies.
"I distinctly remember a local lesbian bike gang riding their bikes into the foyer of the concert hall"
Compare Cornelius Cardew.
When a pop star declares that he is ‘very interested in fascism’ and that ‘Britain could benefit from a fascist leader’ he is influencing public opinion through the massive audiences of young people that such pop stars have access to. Such behaviour is detrimental to the interests of the Union, since it prepares the ground for a political system in which the Trade Union movement can be smashed, as it was in Nazi Germany. This Central London Branch therefore proposes that any member who uses his professional standing or stage act or records to promote fascism should be expelled from the Union.
Does anyone doubt that biker dykes are fascist?  But that's the whole fucking point. Cardew, following the line of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of England, was just another symptom of decay, but as moralizing wholly dishonest.
Is Art useful? Yes. Why? Because it is art. Is there such a thing as a pernicious form of art? Yes! The form that distorts the underlying conditions of life. Vice is alluring; then show it as alluring; but it brings with its train peculiar moral maladies and suffering; then describe them.
I don't have much interest in Bowie after 1980. His career as a careerist isn't very interesting. The older he got the more he returned to being David Jones with a stage name. "I listen to Station To Station as a piece of work by an entirely different person." His wife is very specific about that. "I married David Jones - I've never met David Bowie".  He lived a longer life for it. And as far as jet-setters go, both come off well.  Amusing that people focusing on Bowie's past to condemn it ignore that his wife of 25 years is a Somali Muslim, and one who has her own history of playing to others' fantasies, and not just as a model.
"He hypes it that I'm six feet tall; I'm barely five feet nine inches," Iman says indignantly. "He claims I didn't speak a word of English; I spoke English, Italian, and Arabic, as well as Somali. He says he found me with goats and sheep—that I was some kind of shepherdess in the jungle!" She shakes her head, still amazed. "I never saw a jungle in my life.... But Peter lives in a fantasy world. He loves the idea of being my Svengali."
Iman, who was promptly hailed by Diana Vreeland as "Nefertiti rediscovered," became enormously successful, but Beard never had an affair with her and never profited in any way from her career; he seems simply to have enjoyed the drama of it all. And Iman eventually resigned herself, with a sort of amused exasperation, to his enthusiasms—even his nostalgia for the bygone culture of the British colonialists he so admires. "Peter loves the myth of Africa more than I do," Iman explains. "He 'loves' Africa, but we always have an argument about what Africa really is. Is it the animals and the landscape, or is it the people? He has no respect for Africans, but it's their continent—not his. For him, there are no people involved; they get in the way of his myth."
Maybe The Thin White Duke married Nefertiti, but they they both laughed about it, and I'm not going to waste my time psychoanalyzing the merely rich.  Neoliberalism is a mode. Bowie turned down a CBE and a knighthood; they seem to have worked at being decent parents. And he will be remembered for the work made when he was young.

But the work that will last isn't fascist any more or less than Eliot's poetry is reactionary. Both describe the interior life of the reactionary mind, the insecurities and fears, phobias and manias, and for Bowie in extremis, in full flower. That's why we value them. Fascist art itself can show no weakness, which is why Cardew's pompous condemnations are more reactionary, as authoritarian form, than Bowie's honest expressions of authoritarian desire.

But art is temptation, and the Whig history of art says that what we like must be liberal, not only that we like art that represents liberalism, but that because we like it it must therefore be what we're supposed to like. The first definition of liberalism is self-definition: "I'm a liberal". The rest is open.

Bowie's early politics were reactionary, and his ability to communicate the inner life of reaction means that if we understand it we've shared the feelings, including the ecstasy, confusion, and rage. To appreciate Bowie's art is to have a sense of some very illiberal imaginings. Better that than innocence, false or true.

I said I didn't have much interest in Bowie after 1980, but there's an exception. It may have been the road not taken: that of an older more mature artist. He chose pop stardom. The video of the BBC production is here, discussion here. The music for the The Drowned Girl is the original setting by Weill.

Monday, January 11, 2016

See also below. Timing is everything.
repeat from 2003
Fascism is a kitsch simulacrum of monarchy. It is the dream of an ideal its followers can never attain except by falsehoods, and is predicated on the absolute mediocrity of the dreamers themselves. Fascism is the desire of the fat middle aged glutton for the body of the beautiful boy: that wants to be the boy, fuck the boy, and kill him out of jealousy. It says, "I am a superman, not because I am noble, or strong, or just, or wise, or smart, but because I say so. And I have the gun so you'll all agree it's true." Contra Foucault and the rest, not all relations are strictly power relations. Most social orders are structural and linguistic. Monarchism is a rule of law, of a kind of law. Despotism is the rule of power without law, except perhaps the law of the practical: the despot needs to stay alive. Fascism is the rule of illogic and hypocrisy. If I say the trains run on time you will agree; whether they actually do or not doesn't matter. It's the destruction of language, under the pressure of desire. It's the pederast from Opus Dei. Bush could be described as showing signs of a fascist sensibility because he wants to be seen in a certain way regardless of how he performs his duties.

Fascism is the ideology of a certain type of adolescence, and begins with a love that turns sour with failure. If you want to understand something of the poetic of fascist idealism pick up a copy of David Bowie's Hunky Dory, a brilliant memento of fascist desire.

"I'm living in a silent film
Portraying Himmler's sacred realm
Of dream reality"

Thomas Pynchon couldn't say it better.
"I took the children with me, for they are too good for the life that would follow."

Hunky Dory is an encomium to fascism and the purity and innocence of childhood, written by Thomas Mann's Tadzio as a British schoolboy with rotting teeth. Christopher Robin on smack.

As he grew older Bowie understood the fantasy, outgrew it while never denying its pull.

I'm closer to the Golden Dawn
Immersed in Crowley's uniform
Of imagery
I'm living in a silent film
Himmler's sacred realm
Of dream reality
I'm frightened by the total goal
Drawing to the ragged hole
And I ain't got the power anymore
No I ain't got the power anymore

I'm the twisted name
on Garbo's eyes
Living proof of
Churchill's lies
I'm destiny
I'm torn between the light and dark
Where others see their targets
Divine symmetry
Should I kiss the viper's fang
Or herald loud
the death of Man
I'm sinking in the quicksand
of my thought
And I ain't got the power anymore

Don't believe in yourself
Don't deceive with belief
Knowledge comes
with death's release

I'm not a prophet
or a stone age man
Just a mortal
with the potential of a superman
I'm living on
I'm tethered to the logic
of Homo Sapien
Can't take my eyes
from the great salvation
Of bullshit faith
If I don't explain what you ought to know
You can tell me all about it
On, the next Bardo
I'm sinking in the quicksand
of my thought
And I ain't got the power anymore.

Will you stay in our lovers' story
If you stay you won't be sorry
'Cause we believe in you
Soon you'll grow so take a chance
With a couple of Kooks
Hung up on romancing

Will you stay in our lovers' story
If you stay you won't be sorry
'Cause we believe in you
Soon you'll grow so take a chance
With a couple of Kooks
Hung up on romancing

We bought a lot of things
To keep you warm and dry
And a funny old crib on which the paint won't dry
I bought you a pair of shoes
A trumpet you can blow
And a book of rules
On what to say to people
When they pick on you
'Cause if you stay with us you're gonna be pretty Kookie too

Will you stay in our lovers' story
If you stay you won't be sorry
'Cause we believe in you
Soon you'll grow so take a chance
With a couple of Kooks
Hung up on romancing

And if you ever have to go to school
Remember how they messed up
This old fool
Don't pick fights with the bullies or the cads
'Cause I'm not much cop at punching other people's Dads
And if the homework brings you down
Then we'll throw it on the fire
And take the car downtown

Will you stay in our lovers' story
If you stay you won't be sorry
'Cause we believe in you
Soon you'll grow so take a chance
With a couple of Kooks
Hung up on romancing

Will you stay in our lovers' story
If you stay you won't be sorry
'Cause we believe in you
Soon you'll grow so take a chance
With a couple of Kooks
Hung up on romancing

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Another section. Something I've wanted to do for 20? years. This made it easy. Looking for a translation I remember, I didn't find it. But I found Philip Roth.
For the profundity that is achieved not by complexity but by clarity and simplicity. For the purity of the sentiment about death and parting and loss. For the long melodic line spinning out and the female voice soaring and soaring. For the repose and composure and gracefulness and the intense beauty of the soaring. For the ways one is drawn into the tremendous arc of heartbreak. The composer drops all masks and, at the age of eighty-two, stands before you naked. And you dissolve.
The perfect Shiksa Goddess is a Nazi. A song by a Nazi, sung by a Nazi. The end of an illusion, of a dream and a nightmare. The end of the Reich. And the last of old Europe.

To be clear: the song is high decadence, a form devolved, a few notches about kitsch. It's not Mozart, or Beethoven; it's nostalgia, high mannerism. [update: See Thomas Mann and David Bowie, above.] Kafka laughed reading his stories out loud to friends. The first time I saw the scene above I couldn't help laughing. I still can't. Self-awareness mixes the tragic with the comic.


A start.
I'd written that it was "a film about..."  That was a mistake.

What's up can still change. This is going to get a lot bigger.

Something about process. All of the footage obviously is off the web. The sound from the screen capture is external, from the computer mic. I downloaded the videos and used the sound files synced up to the captured image, putting individual video files in the editing timeline where necessary to sync image and sound, and then removing them, but leaving the sound. When you put a small format video into a large format timeline the image becomes is centered automatically. I left the second repeated Godard image in because looking at it while I realized it connected specifically to the Kubrick, the animation, and box/grid imagery, and monocular and binocular vision. It's not a new gesture; it's a trope. It I didn't think of it until I saw it. Not knowing what to expect, I saw something and used it. Art and invention is mostly observation. I don't "create".

The question for me at the moment is whether my manipulation of Godard, to make say him what I want him to, is too tricky. It's never a question about whether my work may or may not represent morality, immorality, humanism, anti-humanism, nihilism, etc. That I'm trying to craft something for an audience is the sum total of my requirements. Questions of whether or not that audience is large or small, what I'm aiming for and whether I succeed or not will be answered and re-answered over time.

What is certain is that the model of philosophic art doesn't spread beyond its core audience. The poetry of academics as academics simply does not last. It assumes too much and is not seen in the future to have described what has become the past. The Wire and Breaking Bad were not made by college professors. Whether anything I do is good or not, is too arcane or just bad, is irrelevant. Whiggish art describes intent, and original intent works for art no more than law.

New tag for Kubrick. And one for Baudelaire. I'm surprised I hadn't made one earlier.
Assessing the present situation
The German Research Foundation DFG will fund a new Research Unit whose aim it is to investigate the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN from an integrated philosophical, historical and sociological perspective, in close collaboration with theoretical and experimental particle physicists. The overall funding volume will be 2.5 million euros for an initial three years, with the possibility to extend the project for another three years. Under the common perspective of unification, foundational change, and complexity, the Research Unit’s six projects will investigate (i) the formation and development of the concept of virtual particles, (ii) the hierarchy, fine tuning, and naturalness problems, (iii) the relationship between the LHC and gravity, (iv) the impact of computer simulations on the epistemic status of LHC data, (v) model building and dynamics, and (vi) the strategies of producing novelty and securing credibility at LHC.

The collaboration’s center will be the University of Wuppertal in Germany with philosopher of science Gregor Schiemann as spokesperson; the Principal Investigators of the six interconnected projects are Robert Harlander (Physics, RWTH Aachen), Rafaela Hillerbrand (Philosophy, KIT Karlsruhe), Michael Krämer (Physics, RWTH Aachen), Dennis Lehmkuhl (History and Philosophy of Science, Caltech), Peter Mättig (Physics, Wuppertal), Martina Merz (Science Studies, AAU Klagenfurt), Gregor Schiemann (Philosophy, Wuppertal), Erhard Scholz (Mathematics, Wuppertal), Friedrich Steinle (History of Science, TU Berlin), Michael Stöltzner (Philosophy, University of South Carolina), Adrian Wüthrich (History of Science, TU Berlin) and Christian Zeitnitz (Physics, Wuppertal).
As I said, I rarely get sick, so when I do I don't really know how to cope. I don't mean that my delicate self is overwhelmed by it, just that I don't have a very good sense of what "sick" is. Am I about to die or do I just have a little cold? Mostly kidding. I know I just have a little cold, nothing worse, but I still have a hard time assessing it.
Maybe he should look for funding for a Research Unit.
"The paradox arises from the fact that, until you’ve been sick, you cannot know what it will be like. And moreover, the experience may change you in ways that you cannot predict or even understand before you were sick."
The above is adapted just slightly from Laurie Paul.

Saturday, January 02, 2016


A very good film, maybe better, and a great one, at Lincoln Center. Both were digital projections. The restored Mizoguchi was difficult to watch (there are no previews on youtube). I was shocked to find out The Assassin was shot in film, given the extreme difference in texture between the interior and bright exterior shots. The framing and pacing of Hou's film owes a lot to video art. Video art, coming out of fine art, began as a struggle to come to terms with narrative by opposing it, as in Warhol or Wilson, or by trying to see motion as another physical formalism: the equivalent of Balanchine and Cunningham in dance, or Stella, from the 70's on. Warhol and Wilson work out of a fear, of time and death, things the others simply ignore.

Painting even at it's most dynamic in appearance is still static in fact: self-contained. A film is a series of images defined by their incompletion. The perfection is in the whole. Video art began as a kind of non-narrative art within implicitly narrative form, taken by its makers and audience to be more serious than movies as "performance art" was considered more serious than theater. But as time passed video and film have merged as visual arts, as visual poetry, while television has taken on the role of visual prose.

Hou a follower of Ozu; his film is arty in a sense Ozu's films weren't. A few of his shots are so strong on their own that they overwhelm the narrative. They were intended to, but they're in conflict with the ephemeral nature of projected light and time: they linger, like photographs.

Mizoguchi's films are tougher than Ozu's. The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums is comfortably between so many categories -entertainment, melodrama, tragedy- as to be beyond them. It's a movie that's so good, so specific in the placement and timing of actors and camera and edits, and with that specificity feeding the engagement of the audience with the story and the form, that it deserves to be called art. Hou's film was made as art, and it is. It's a subtle difference at the highest level, the difference between being serious and wanting to be.

Hou uses digital technologies; Tarantino opposes them, while being equally academic in his relation to film and history. The only thing that bothers me is that the distinction is being forgotten. I've read nothing but praise for the Mizoguchi restoration; the only negative comment was from the man taking my ticket. He was right. A lot's been lost.
Not done with this.

New tags for old topics: Video Art/Gallery Film, Frank Stella

related: The Pictures Generation, Baldessari
Rewritten a bit from 2012 (I've repeated it before); reposted last week
Arguments could be made that the original intent of the reconstruction amendments was "unconstitutional", inconsistent with previous understandings, or that the framers wrote amendments in race neutral terms but then while they could promoted discrimination based on race. A brilliant decision, to set their own policies on auto-destruct, only after they'd begun to do their work.

Constitutional consistency and Biblical inerrancy are related. Reading is interpretation, and saying with Scalia, "the constitution as I interpret it is a dead constitution" is oxymoronic [also hypocritical, see Jack Balkin]. To quote Karl Rove, "we invent our own reality".

From "A New Birth of Freedom: The Forgotten History of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments". J.J. Gass and Nathan Newman for the Brennan Center:
[I]n 1867 Congress passed a law providing relief for “freedmen or destitute colored people in the District of Columbia,” to be distributed under the auspices of the Freedmen’s Bureau. Of particular importance in the late 1860s was the Bureau’s operation of schools for blacks, to the point that black children in the South were often better educated than their white counterparts. Opponents, including Johnson, raised the same arguments that would be marshaled against affirmative action programs a century later, but well more than the necessary two-thirds of Congress concluded that the 13th and 14th Amendments authorized race-conscious legislation to ameliorate the social condition of blacks.
"to the point that black children in the South were often better educated than their white counterparts." How's that for a brilliant way to sow anger and mistrust among the poor white trash? Divide the poor, and conquer. The policy was blatantly unconstitutional, but it was the only call the white liberal elite were capable of making.

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.

Elite liberalism is the philosophy of people slightly abashed by their own power, but not willing to give it up. It's noblesse oblige as opposed to winner take all; winner take all comes to down to loser offspring of the winner inherits the spoils. Reconstruction and the New Deal, preserved the republic of rulers and ruled. They made the world safe for capitalism. Conservatives left to their own devices would have given us a US as a third rate power made up of a bunch of constantly feuding mini-states.

If you want to understand politics and culture, remember that Derrick Bell, who disagreed with the Brown decision, and Harold Washington were black men in a white man's world. That gave them a perspective all of you lack.

And by the way, for all of you "liberal Zionists" who write for and read this blog. a headline from Haaretz "Israel Bans Novel Depicting Arab-Jewish Love Story From Schools Over Miscegenation Fears"

Palestinians know the Israel was founded on Jim Crow. They have a perspective that you lack.
"40 acres and a mule for all" was never an option. Reconstruction was just that: re-construction. It was preservationist, not radical.
You can't have a republic based on equality under law with millions of people opposed to equality in society. You can't resolve a conflict by denying contradiction. Reconstruction was like the affair that saves the marriage. 
Pedantry is for schoolmen; disastrous for politics
The New Deal and Reconstruction. The "new birth of freedom" and Wickard v Filburn. "Conservatives left to their own devices would have given us a US as a third rate power made up of a bunch of constantly feuding mini-states."

Monday, December 28, 2015

Lemmy 1945-2015

Lemmy (embedding is disabled)
"You came from a fairly sort of middle class background, didn't you? How come you've turned out like this?"
"This is middle class"
and again
and again

On Hawkwind: "A bit more violent than Brahms but that's what it is."

"She was a bookbinder by profession, and then she had an uncontrollable urge one night to take all her clothes off and paint herself blue. Which was probably a throwback to the Roman invasion of Britain -- you think 'woad,' y'know?..."

Something I didn't mention the first time around. In the first interview, from the early 80's he complains that critics don't say much about the music.
You get reviews of your bullet belt. You get reviews of how loud it was. You get reviews of what the crowd looked like. You get reviews of how ugly you were when you didn't have a shave that day; but you very rarely got anybody taking the music apart and looking at it.
Recently when anyone asks about what the next show or the next album will be like he gives a one word answer: "Louder!"

Somewhere in the last 20 years I remember Godard saying that one must love old fools and wise young men. These days the smart angry pop stars of the past, JLG included, often find it easier to play Falstaff. There's tragedy in that.

16 years old when I went to the war,
To fight for a land fit for heroes,
God on my side, and a gun in my hand,
Chasing my days down to zero,
And I marched and I fought and I bled
And I died & I never did get any older,
But I knew at the time, That a year in the line,
Was a long enough life for a soldier,
We all volunteered,
And we wrote down our names,
And we added two years to our ages,
Eager for life and ahead of the game,
Ready for history's pages,
And we brawled and we fought
And we whored 'til we stood,
Ten thousand shoulder to shoulder,
A thirst for the Hun,
We were food for the gun, and that's
What you are when you're soldiers,
I heard my friend cry,
And he sank to his knees, coughing blood
As he screamed for his mother
And I fell by his side,
And that's how we died,
Clinging like kids to each other,
And I lay in the mud
And the guts and the blood,
And I wept as his body grew colder,
And I called for my mother
And she never came,
Though it wasn't my fault
And I wasn't to blame,
The day not half over
And ten thousand slain, and now
There's nobody remembers our names
And that's how it is for a soldier.

A screaming comes across the sky

Museum of Capitalism, redux.

I sent my proposal without registering, including a request for payment. They asked me to resubmit, following the rules.
You might be surprised how positively our planning committee and jury might respond to proposals that are entirely speculative, conceptual, "jokes", or critical of our Museum or the competition itself.
It helps that my email signature includes this


"I like the idea, and your cute bunny image."
Americans always see a rabbit not a cat.
A friend found it it. I've always assumed it was designed by a Japanese teenager.

I'm going to resubmit my proposal in the form of a dissent.
There's one more damned than all. He never gambols,
Nor crawls, nor roars, but, from the rest withdrawn,
Gladly of this whole earth would make a shambles
And swallow up existence with a yawn

The form of wood is altered if a table is made out of it. Nevertheless the table continues to be wood, an ordinary sensuous thing. But as soon as it emerges as a commodity, it changes into a thing which transcends sensuousness.

Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation. Everything science has taught me, and continues to teach me, strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death.
-Werner von Braun
I didn't send the proposal unawares. The lead juror is Chip Lord, but I wasn't sure anyone still had a sense of humor. And the idea of a museum kind of disgusts me. All museums are museums of capitalism: filing cabinets full of objects and people. Capital dissolves meanings. All that is solid melts into air, and all that is not becomes manifest in form. "Philosophers' concepts are called objects. Writers of financial contracts are called financial engineers."

An amusing thing about the pitch for the competition is that the designer used a 3D font based on optical illusions: the image of solidity is not only illusion of three dimensions but a self-defeating one. My anti-proposal made the same argument.