Monday, February 28, 2005

Sunday was my birthday.
Getting old

Friday, February 25, 2005

We learn about the world through an amalgam of objective awareness and conditioned response. This state of struggle, within the sense of unity defines what we call consciousness. Listening to those who speak as if consciousness were unipolar, who use the blank, flat, language of their own pseudo-mechanization, I fall into a state of agitation for which the only release involves taking a baseball bat to everything in sight. Oddly, moments of true joy bring out a similar response. Violence is a function of my greatest frustration and greatest happiness.

addendum: What disgusts me is faith, not as exhibited by people with little else, but as by those with the will and power to act on it in ways that affect the lives of others. Not even faith alone, which is inevitable in most, but faith without doubt. And it doesn't matter that someone is unaware of his doubts, they show up on their own. But to have none, not even in secret from oneself, and to have power:
I cannot begin to describe the hatred I have for such creatures.
---

"Beheadings would be ridiculous, but all options would be on the table."
--

This, linked to on Mon. has gone beyond silly.
Slaves to an idea. Relativism as an absolute good rather than a prod to curiosity and the ability to learn.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

I had an amusing converation a few weeks ago in Phoenix with someone from Caltech, who was complaining that he's always being accused by our mutual friend of not understanding art. After a long and frustrating conversation I was almost convinced she was right and the subject switched to baseball and Jane Leavy's biography of Sandy Koufax. Rich said it was good, and doubly interesting in that it was written by a Jewish woman about a Jewish man in the world of male and mostly gentile athletics. I asked him if he could reproduce all the subtleties of the book's language in his own words. He said no. I told him he understood art.
---

If Dear Leader decides to attack Iran or to make an active defense of an Israeli attack, the damage to American authority will be so massive as to almost make me think it was a good idea.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Here's the Amazon link to Frankfurt's book.
Jane Eisner, The Philadelphia Inquirer
"The trouble with bullshit is that it undermines cultural respect for the truth. And what else does a democracy have? "

Product Description:
One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern. We have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves. And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us. In other words, as Harry Frankfurt writes, "we have no theory."
I'm amazed people are defending this. The quote from The Inquirer ought to be enough to put them off. It reads like Scalia.

The discrete Stalinism of good intentions.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Still in bed. It's a holiday.

One:

M: “One cannot choose to believe in something one already knows to be false - that’s just not a coherent idea -“

S: I don’t suppose you get out of the house much, but for that reason alone, you should try reading a novel or two. You might learn something; people make these sorts of choices all the time. I’m assuming that you are trying to ’best make sense of the world’ but perhaps that’s not the case.

Art duplicates and documents the way decisions are made in the world. Philosophy seems content to describe the reasons people give for their actions. Again: actions define values. People lie to themselves and others. As for the distinction between ontological and epistemological objectivity: if you want to stick to parlour games there can be none. And both are a fantasy.

M: When I read a novel I know that it is a novel, a work of fiction. I do not believe that it is actually a true historical account BECAUSE I know it is a work of fiction. I may find novels and films ’believable’ or ’realistic’ but that is a whole order of difference away from believing it to be literally real or true.

S: You miss the point. Novels are descriptive [of the present] in that they are manifestations of the categories we choose to live by, rather than arguments for categories we would like to pretend we live by.
Stories are merely the invention of their author and as such are not true. But the language is the product of a community and a time, and the author’s use of that language is both a document and a fact.
The stories may not be true but the language is.
That’s probably to complex for you I know. Philosophers are literalists these days. And they read children’s book for fun.
---
Two:

As I responded in my earlier comments, which you've chosen to ignore, it was necessary for homosexuals, as for blacks, women and other minorities to construct public and therefore political personas in order to bring attention to their situation. Would it have been better if this were not the case? Is it possible to depoliticize race gender and sexualty?

But is there a difference among them as their nature as public or private? I'll put it more simply than i did before. Can you count all of the casual public expressions of heterosexuality you witness every day on the street? Do homosexuals think of themselves as being able to take the same gestures for granted? You describe what are in fact 'gradations' of shame in regards clothing and nudity [or 'nakedness'- nudity is something else] How do you reconstruct that subtlety once it's been destroyed?
And it was necessary for them to be destroyed.

I am not defending as an ideal the transformation of the private into the public, or of the fact of a thing into its ideological defense. My mother still tells the story of how my brother as a child when pointing out his best friend in a class photo used every descriptive term possible, his friend's height, his clothes, his position in the photograph, without thinking to mention the color of his skin. And I'm still annoyed when the Hispanic reporter for NPR, after giving a report in accentless english signs off giving the spanish pronunciation of her name, therby implying that anyone addressing her should do likewise. I find that demand to be arrogant and rude. Still, I understand the history, and history is something you seem to have no interest in.
---

How students of philosophy as it is now constituted imagine they can speak authoritatively about anything of consequence is beyond me. That and we are probably the only country on the planet with a political culture built on un-self-awareness to the degree that only the con men know the truth. News-hounds are shocked, shocked! that the transformations in Iranian culture - what we call 'entertainment'- could have political implications. And the literalism of the writing of the American political academy is as vulgar and self-indulgent as the mannered opacity of anything from the comp. lit brigades. I hate these people. I hate them with a passion.
---

Looking up something with which to continue, I stumbled on this from March 9th 2003. It fits:
I can barely listen to Politicians in this country. Dean is talking to Russert as I write and his arguments are so middling; its an embarrassment to anyone who has an opinion, about anything at all.

I'm going to the Velazquez-Manet show today, but I'll tie up some loose ends before I go:
First I want to clarify my post on T.S. Eliot. Eliot's politics are repugnant, but I don't defend his poems because they're politically neutral- they aren't. They're as reactionary as he is. But they are an honest description of the mind of a reactionary. They are the poetry of reaction. There is no better antidote to the ideological defense of monarchy than the rambling monologues of an impotent and asexual nihilist desperate to maintain a sense of even the shadow of absolute moral order. It is heartbreaking to watch him cobble his arguments together. But brilliant obfuscation is still brilliant, and he is forced by circumstance and by his respect for order that his form has be so modern to be true. After all, modernity is all he knows. He can't allow himself to fall for cheap nostalgia. I read Eliot and still get a chill up my spine.

Arthur Schlesinger- that asskissing creep- has a piece on Henry Adams' 'Democracy' in the New York Review this week. Schlesinger talks about Adams' conflicted sympathies concerning the various characters as if somehow Adams should have made up his mind. The request is laughable. In the same issue Aileen Kelly has a piece on Dostoevsky documenting the long attempt of a few to make clear -to us in the west- the importance of the relationship between Dostoevsky's intellectual and artistic lives. But why should there even be a question? The intellectual life of this country is still so immature that intellectuals still have no idea what art is.

The words in a piece of writing may describe a blue sky and happiness, and the author may even imagine that that is what the piece is about. But the sentence structure, the phrasing, the music of the sounds of the letters strung together as you speak them may spell out dispair. Do you think Milton wanted the Devil to get all the good lines?
That's why it's called "art". The artist creates a structure that he/she decides is right. If he's lucky he nails it, according to some principle or other. And that principle has as much to do with rhyme or paint as a drawing room comedy has to do with furniture -they are all props- and everything to do with family, god, rationalism, nihilism, democracy athiesm, sex, or any other subject you can name. Those subjects in whatever form they appear to the maker, are then not illustrated -if the thing is good enough- but made manifest in the product itself. Of course the result is contradictory. If it weren't contradictory it wouldn't be very interesting. Even Fra Angelico is contradictory, he's just so gracious it seems too violent a word to use.

It seems to me that since we now look at religious art with athiest eyes we forget that subject matter exists for all art. Add this to our moralizing protestant streak, and it makes sense that we in this country make our art in secret and then deny it. The Blues. Jazz. Hollywood.

It may seem odd to use this as an illustration but it fits. I ran into John Waters on the street last night, and we chatted for a bit. I've know him as a friendly stranger for a few years, through CDL. And he has a show up now at the gallery. John is in the Eliot mold in a sense: innately conservative, but aware of the emtiness of it; he want's to take himself seriously but can't (but does in secret), caught between high, low, and now middle. There's a lot of sadness to him, but it's manic.

What a country.
---

Something I wrote years ago.
The wonder of Velazquez' royal portraits is that they describe a friendship between two men both of whom knew which of them would be remembered and which forgotten, and who knew equally that this would never be acknowledged by either of them nor by anyone that they would ever meet. Velazquez used all his skill to demonstrate to the world the power and just authority of the Spanish monarchy, but a humanist education and honesty could not bring him to show people as other than he saw them. So we see weak and melancholy kings and noble dwarfs, and -- for perhaps the first time in art in 1500 years-- not an image of the nobility of a political or religious order but an image of the nobility of the need to believe.
There's some nice stuff in there, even a little that's original. But it disgusts me that I should have to use it to try to explain things to otherwise educated adults, let alone those interested in politics.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Richard Clarke on the tube this morning. A stupid paranoid schmuck. Defending Negroponte and proclaiming Syrian responisibility, with or without Bashir Assad's approval, for Hariri's assassination. That is far from certain.
Syria wants stability (more apparently than the US or Israel).  Bush's offhand dismissal of Syrian peace offerings and offers of assistance against bin Laden surprised and angered the experts at the CIA.
---
Also, the bobbleheads push Chalabi and Allawi.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Am I the only one who has to fight an urge to throw something at the television the moment Vincent D'Onofrio cocks his head to one side and opens his mouth? The mannerisms of arrogance, not the description of it.
---
still sick in bed.

The opposite of bias, of the acceptance of bias, its cultivation and strengthening, is passivity.

Think about that for a minute.
---
More stupidity
I continue to be amazed at the ability of people to argue the internal logic of a problem after the Gordian knot has been cut.

Friday, February 18, 2005

I worried a little that my humor in the last post was lost on many of my few readers, so I'll add a little to it- without taking any of it back.
Ross Douthat is bemoaning the fact that philosophy has become technical, and since I've heard it defended as such a thousand times I can't disagree, and neither can Brian Leiter. Tom Wolfe argued famously that art had become cocktail party banter defined only by context. Most conceptualists- if you remove the reference to gin and caviar- would certainly agree. And this despite the fact that cocktail parties are the life blood of their careers. None of this makes Douthat a critic any more than his latest book makes Tom Wolfe much of a novelist. Knee-jerk reactions to simple observations are uninteresting.

And brings us -briefly, since I have a fever and plan to spend to spend most of the weekend in bed hoping to god I'm in better shape on monday- we get to the absurd notion of the existence of the value free. Liberals are having a hard time these days, since they're unable to understand that the pretensions of a value free science and a the ideal of a 'value free' media are linked, as the product of the same utopian stupidity. Many of them are also of course a bit on the fence about the value free market. Talk to DeLong about that. But the argument that one can ever be without bias is absurd. And from this, the notion that we should try...? Read carefully from the pundits who are unable to articulate just what it is that is important about Jon Stewart, even- especially- if they like the result. He makes them nervous. In the back of their minds they repeat to themselves, in confusion: 'But it's not real news?" And is that fuck-head Alterman still in the habit of reminding us not to ignore Frank Rich, just because he's in the Arts and Leisure section?

And so Brad DeLong and all the boys [and girls?] at Crooked Timber read science fiction and J.R.R. Tolkien, and face awkwardly the return of performativity to intellectual life, where observation has a moral weight regardless of its subject and bias is seen not only as inevitable but as a thing to cultivate. When that happens we may even get a real a political culture in this country.
--
On a related note, I'm personally gonna bitchslap -with a two-by-four- the next academic I meet who claims that Plato taught him how to see his way through bullshit.
--
I'm spending my weekdays working on a $150,000 bathroom in a $1.5 million apartment renovation on Central Park. The GC is a fuck-up and we're there to pick up the pieces.

"Ma, I've got some good news, and some bad news"
"What's the good news, Son?"
"I'm a good carpenter."
"And the bad?..."

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

in re: this.
I began to type out a passage from Delacroix' Journals on bad artists as copyists and mediocre minds, but it was too long, and I'm too drunk, so I'll sinply ask again: When did every mediocre mind with a PhD in the study of Philosophy become worthy of the title of Philosopher? Has the bar been dropped so low?

Ross Douthat reminds me of Tom Wolfe. As Elaine Pagels made clear without perhaps meaning to in her book on Augustine and the early Church, brilliance is rarer than truth. Plato and Augustine were wrong but compelling. Ross Douthat like Tom Wolfe or John Chrysostom is right in ways that explain nothing.

And the image and link of/to Montaigne had its beginnings here.
...
On the service elevator on 5th Avenue and 9...

You have a table saw in the basement?
In the boiler room. Below the basement.
Below the basement?
Fiddler's Green.
What's that?
The Place below Hell ...What kind of God would send a man to Hell? I couldn't do it. Not to anyone. Not even Hitler. And he was bad. Not even to de Valera, and he was worse than Hitler. Smaller scale, but worse. And they voted him in again and again. They voted him in. The same people who go to the park to look at the shower curtains. He was worse than Bush. He was much worse than Bush!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Sunday, February 13, 2005

"Bush Loses Election in Iraq"
Juan Cole

and:
in other news...
The most interesting thing about this article to me was Iyer's description of the difference between a journalist and a writer.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Kristof is such a fucking idiot and John Quiggin is not quite able to explain why.
I do my usual bit, if not very well. I'm still tired.

Friday, February 11, 2005

"In 1948 I tore a large sheet of brown paper to get little rectangular pieces that I piled up, and with which I erected a rather unstable column. In 1954 I straightened out a piece of corrugated cardboard with a surface area of a square meter. Since 1957, without interruption, I have been smoothing out the silver paper from cigarette boxes. In 1962 I began to detach the filters from cigarettes, with which I created long strips; in the case of the Murattis I was startled to note an extremely interesting granular stratification. In 1958, under the guidance of Mr. Sergio Vercellino, a resident of Vagliumina (Biella) and an agriculturalist, I cut, with a scythe, about 3 m(3) of grass. In 1950 about twenty small ice cream glasses, which I collected with some difficulty, were inserted one inside the other so as to form an arch. In the same year I filled a little plastic box with some twelve little matchboxes, and with a great deal of difficulty I bought a packet of Marlboro which I soon took apart, flattened and stretched out. In 1949 I had rolled up a meter of yellow fabric and put my little finger in it to form a kind of tower of Babel. In 1953 I took a red or blue rubber band and stretched it with the four fingers of my right hand to form a square. A pile of sand about 30 cm. high was made in 1949, in Alassio, where I also dug a big hole until I found water. The first pile of matches and the first bundle of pencils date back to 1947. There were also countless works either with salt water or aqueduct water, or with other liquids of various kinds. Using a pencil as a ruler I cut up a poster in 1948, and in the same year, if I remember correctly, I poured an inkpot into a glass full of sawdust. In april 1951 I melted tinfoil and other metals and poured them into some water. The first experiments with a sheepskin that I squashed against some glass, not to mention the experiment of of pouring liquid sugar on a marble kitchen table, took place in 1952-53. Bending a piece of rubber between two fingers, rolling a sphere on a plane inclined by myself to this end, rolling up a soft wire inside a pencil, mixing different colored powders, these are the works carried out between March and April 1949. From 1946 onwards, I have continuously poked fires with the help of various materials. In 1954 it took me three days to glue together a manuscript that I had torn into a thousand little pieces; two hours were enough to put in a vertical position, in a line, 342 matches; it took me a moment to put a weight on a spider's web; I took advantage of the early hours of the afternoon to strip off the bark of a tree to see its smooth, moist surface."

Alighiero e Boetti, born December 16, 1940

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

In 1948 I tore a large sheet of brown paper to get little rectangular pieces that I piled up, and with which I erected a rather unstable column. In 1954 I straightened out a piece of corrugated cardboard with a surface area of a square meter. Since 1957, without interruption, I have been smoothing out the silver paper from cigarette boxes. In 1962 I began to detach the filters from cigarettes, with which I created long strips; in the case of the Murattis I was startled to note an extremely interesting granular stratification. In 1958, under the guidance of Mr. Sergio Vercellino, a resident of Vagliumina (Biella) and an agriculturalist, I cut, with a scythe, about 3 m(3) of grass. In 1950 about twenty small ice cream glasses, which I collected with some difficulty, were inserted one inside the other so as to form an arch. In the same year I filled a little plastic box with some twelve little matchboxes, and with a great deal of difficulty I bought a packet of Marlboro which I soon took apart, flattened and stretched out. In 1949 I had rolled up a meter of yellow fabric and put my little finger in it to form a kind of tower of Babel. In 1953 I took a red or blue rubber band...

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Academic 'freedom' doesn't exist, any more than 'justice' exists; both terms are used as approximations.
Tenure is the result of due process. You don't have to defend the outcome every time to defend the system.
No one seems to understand process these days. Everyone's an idealist.
---

Away on business.
Back soon
I haven't been following the election very closely. I'm waiting. And I'm not interested in the press parroting Bush's attempts to take credit.
Juan Cole

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

You're from the north?
How'd ya know?
I'm learning to recognize the accents
Ah, they all sound the same.
Por-ta-DYNE!
---
Have ya seen Paddy?
I'm Paddy.
The guy your working with
W're both Paddy!
---
Fuck! Where's Paddy?
Runnin 'round like an extra cock at a whore's wedding!
---
He went to meet a taper. He's bring'n her back after lunch
A female taper?
She better be pretty.
She better be good.
He says she's real good.
---
Did you get your wish.
Oh yeah. Jayzuz! She's six foot tall!
[She's Jamaican]
---
[The Mexican laborer walking around singing U2]
Hello! Hello!
---
See you tomorrow.
Nope. I'm gone.
Nice to meet you. See you again.
With the help of God, and a couple policemen.