Saturday, April 30, 2005

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Analysis, or Description?

I know it may sound odd, for me, but I think I'm almost at the end of my defense of 'art': of my defense of the practice rather than the analysis of communication. I'm so sick of purblind idiots who think they say what they mean, who take it or granted that their arguments represent their politics more than their language and actions. I'm sick of liberals who cannot understand the impulse to go against one's own self interest. They ask: "what's the matter with Kansas?" when what's the matter is that "Kansas" knows that "liberals" want to have their cake and eat it too, to have a sense of freedom and moral responsibility. And Kansas is right. Do you think there's no contradiction between John Kerry's politics and his life!? Do you think he's self-aware enough even to lie about it? Bush is such a good liar he believes his own lies, but you know his father doesn't.

Intellectual liberalism want to argue that everyone is responsible and fully aware of the implications of their actions. To admit otherwise would be cynical. But politics is a cynical business. Clinton was a Democrat and a cynic, that's why he won, twice. Why the pretense that it was ever otherwise? Why the pretense that life is simple? An interviewer asked Sean Penn if he was bothered when people called him a limousine liberal.
"I am a limousine liberal."
Kerry would have won by a landslide if he'd had the guts to say that.

I've spent five days a week for the past three months sucking dust in a million dollar renovation on the upper west side. Al Franken lives in the building. I'm working with one man who's killed more than once and another, now devoutly Catholic, who used to make extra cash fighting in illegal 'ultimate' fighting competitions. He demonstrated his training technique last week by punching a concrete wall 4 or 5 times with a force that would send me half way across a room. He's going to church tonight because yesterday for the second time, and after a warning, some idiot tried to show off in a Tae Kwan Do class and went for his knee. Ricky's been banned from class for two weeks, but the idiot will never fuck with him again. Ever.

The clients are idiots. The architect's plans give overdetermined design a bad name; his assistants suck the cum out of his ass. The contractor will try to get away with anything he can, and no one gives a shit about the people who do the work. The Jamaican ex cop is "taking a hard life easy."

Yesterday as I was walking up the block towards my apartment I heard a voice behind me: "where the hell have you been!" I turned around and saw a 12 year old boy with sandy blond hair - for a moment now looking a bit sheepish- and turned back to see 5 other kids of various skin tones walking towards us, the tallest moving awkwardly on roller blades. She was wearing skin tight blue pants and a turtleneck, and a black scarf that trailed behind her like a small cape. It was wrapped tightly around her head and covered everything but her face. " The boy again:
"Where the heck have you been!"

The problem for philosophers is that descriptive as opposed to analytical language places the speaker explicitly within the action, and the goal of philosophy is to be outside of experience looking in. The fact that this removal is impossible beyond the limited sphere of the analysis of chemical and mechanical processes is deemed besides the point. [Derrida was a failed novelist] And of course I'm only admitting my partiality to the philosphical viewpoint by yelling at people for continuing to believe in what is so obviously false.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Wednesday:
Over the last few days...

I'd meant to write about this after Brian Leiter linked to it, and now the article itself is gone 'pay per view.' Here's the Amazon link to the book. It sounds silly: just another example of someone with an opinion about how things should be done who doesn't even bother to understand how they are.
And here Nathan Newman continues his occasional defense of majority rule (and against judicial review.) Not that I'm going to do this now, I'm too tired, but it might be interesting to compare Nathan's opinions to those of the intellectual leftist-aristocrats I linked to in the last post

I think everyone here misses the point. There is always, and always should be, a tension between expertise and common sense, between the will of the people and the knowledge of the few. That tension will always be institutionalized in some way or another. Nathan is a lawyer and a college professor, and he wasn't elected to either position by popular vote.
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There's a good article on John Brown in the NY Review this week (another link behind the $3 curtain.) His death precipitated a change, a hardening, in the attitudes of many white northerners in the months before the civil war. Brown may have understood this and turned his raid on Harpers Ferry, once it was clear that it had failed, into a suicide mission.

Brown was an outlier, a radical statistically as well as politically, and he was arguably a more directly moral man than Lincoln. But the fact that Brown was simply right in his absolute condemnation of slavery and of slaveholders does not make him a 'greater' man than Lincoln. Lincoln's moderation, his political and rhetorical expertise, even considered as partially corrupt make him the more interesting and complex figure precisely because Lincoln could communicate with those for whom Brown would have no patience. Lincoln was more representative of the complexities of the white American imagnation. Brown, may have led the way to a certain degree but he did not 'belong.'

The only reason John Brown's ideas surprise us is that he's white. His is the fanaticism of the slaveholder's brother, not the anger of the slave. Frederick Douglass thought the raid was much too dangerous. The genius of Lincoln stems from his relationship, as belonging, to the dominant moderate party- moderate only in its own terms- of white America, and to the dominant language of Amercan culture.

Modernism celebrated the radical individual as understanding things others do not. But how can individualism represent an idea of community?
Language is in independent entity of our own creation. It is the result of a collective action, but we can only define ourselves as individuals in terms of our relationship to it. How would we define 'speed' other than in terms of measurements of space and time: miles-per-hour. There is no terminology for describing the individual that is not defined in relationship to a community. When I get annoyed at Brian Leiter or pissed off at Brad DeLong, or mock the next generation of academic leftists, it's precisely because they refuse to accept that their language and their ideas are in conflict, and that the former gives us a much more honest representation of their thought processes than their ideas -as ideas- ever will. I'm tired of people who fantacize their relations to their own statements.

Any communicative act first and foremost describes the performer of the act in the context of the preexisiting social and political community of language. Only after that does it present the meaning -as intention- of the actor. As an old friend of mine says about a mutual aquaintance, whom I find it almost unbearable to be around:
"He doesn't know that he has an unconscious!"
J. understands my response, but doesn't share it. He laughs.


Enough for now.
The right wing punditocracy is a bit sheepish about Bolton because it seems clear his job was to do just what they've been saying the White House never did: politicize intelligence. Laura Rozen and the rest are a bit slow on the uptake.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

There's something strange to me about the speed of a cable modem. It encourages acceleration, for me at least in a way that's almost unpleasant. It's like skimming 8 books at once. The slowness of dial-up, if you're used to it, gives you more time to think. The speed of my new connection succeeds in demonstrating for me, by my own initial overactive response, the banalization of knowedge that many associate with the attachment- as metaphysical desire- to technological progress.
The faster I skimmed the pages, the more bored I got, even as continued to speed up. I used to watch hours of TV as a child, growing more bored by the minute, but while still unwiling, I'm not quite ready to say 'unable', to move or change the channel. I'm still familiar with the lack of affect and the blank espressions- the demi-autism- of a certain type of adolescence.

On that note:
Here are two examples of a sort of leftist intellectual overdrive I'd thought were things of the past: Reason Thunders and Cultural Revolution.
I made fun of one of them on a comment thread on a post a few weeks ago, but I've been back a few times since. That has a lot to do with my ramblings from last week.
Here's a link from one of them



Can this sort of mechanized intellectualism still be associated, even including a partially ironic intent, with the left? I've always considered Stalinism and Fascism as separate entities, only lumped together in the minds of people with ideological axes to grind (that 'murder is murder' means nothing) but these days academic leftism seems to be developing a claustrophobic romance with itself that's almost fascist.
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Things are getting interesting.
Thirty years ago I couldn't imagine reading someone like Laura Rozen, a sincere soft-nationalist. I support this country the same in half-assed way of someone who followed the Mets for two months in 1986. I love it in the way one loves their family. And you choose your friends.

Thirty years ago, unsophisticated and incurious post-adolescents from the burbs would never think of leaving home and coming to the big city, leaving the trip to those who wanted to get the hell out of town; now they're all over the place, making asses of themselves. But 30 years ago you wouldn't find rice noodles in Houston or Lebanese coffee in Denver. People come here because it's not so unlike what their homes have become. Not that I'm fond of the new provincialism, but it means there's less of it out there (and my mother's become quite fond of Portland Maine).

Friday, April 22, 2005

It's been a long week and I'm sure there's something to do tonight other than sit here and type.
After weeks of struggle, I think, I hope, my new computer has decided she likes me, even if I had to get cable make her smile. The G5 modem is mostly software -who uses a modem on a G5?- and the files on my computer seem to get corrupted by a bad phone signal: the clock freezes and I'm unable to get off line, close the program or shut down the computer without hitting the power button. Now I have to get used to hearing the phone ring when I'm on the web.
And the machine itself as amazing.

In the meantime Placement is up and running.
The contributors page is here.



From a job site, on the upper west side of Manhattan

Saturday, April 16, 2005

You're probably familiar with the case: the college art teacher accused of bioterrorism.
CAE Defense Fund.

As it is the work of the CAE doesn't interest me much. They are the Ophelia Benson's of the art world: minor pedants who imagine they represent an alternative to the status quo, but who exist only as grant getting participants in an academic sub-genre so obscure that that even comp. lit professors laugh at them. After all, artists aren't very good with words.
I have a long history with such people.

But the case isn't about their obscurity it's about their right to stay that way.
NOTES;
Analytic philosophy- literary theory (as an independent act)-creative writng courses- DESIGN:
All use the intellect to predict value. All value construction over observation, action over response, control over accident. (The appreciation of accidents that happen to others doesn't count), and a preference for theories of a subject to histories of it. Rawls' forgotten 'History of Justice' etc.

The vogue for criticism as primary act. Secondary acts/texts structured as such envisioned as primary. The critic as intellectual, logical artist. The myth of praxis. Praxis as implicity fascist. "leadership' defined cynically,only in terms of manipulation. The superiority of the intellectual, who documents the mistakes of others. Contempt for the vulgar and 'popular.' The dream af a prescriptive political grammar. The model of the the new modernity: The aristocratic leftist, James Merrill as a Marxit literary critic. (Anthony Blunt)

I was raised by academics who made their careers out of their contempt for the authors whose works they loved. The hatred of biography -of the named maker- as the hatred of artists: those who are self-indulgent and intellectually sloppy. [But art that is not intellectually sloppy -does not tacitly admit to being sloppy- is dangerous] Only their works are worthy of study. The bible has no author. Homer is merely a figure, a symbol of a tradition, a synecdoche.

If something is worthy of an appreciation, by definition those associated with that thing, not only those asscociated with the act of appreciation, should be deserving not only of respect, whatever that means, but of the same emulation the appreciators expect from their juniors.
Yes?

Monday, April 11, 2005

"We live life slightly drunk. Some say not drunk enough, while others say they’re always sober. Still others defend the notion while constantly striving to prove by their analysis of drunkeness that they are dry as a bone."

I almost apologized to the folks at CT but the fact is I don't trust them for shit. And I think in the past I've made a comment similar to the one above. The inability of 'intellectuals' to act upon their own arguments is old news. I'm just disgusted by the continued lack of any ironic self awareness.
The self awareness that is the basis of any artistic endeavor.

Saturday, April 09, 2005


NYTRome Priests heard confessions Friday in the Circus Maximus in Rome where people had gathered to watch the funeral of Pope John Paul II, broadcast on a giant videoscreen.

Look at the expressions on the faces of the woman and the priest in the foreground: at the informality of their relationship; at his clothing and unshaven face; at the seating arrangement, in the open air; at the figures in the background repeating the action but on the ground, and talking even more as equals. It's so well done I have a hard time thinking it wasn't staged entirely with actors. It's the most beautiful -meaning complex- modern use of Catholic iconography I've seen in a long time, though I haven't seen anything by Almodovar recently. In Hail Mary Godard described the Annunciation as a jet plane flying over a basketball court and managed to have the film condemned by the Pope and win the best Catholic film of the year in Germany.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

My old home. Gone forever.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Me being a pompous ass or something.
And it's the Pope, by a nose!

On CBS they offered a royalist trifecta, with the upcoming marriage of Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

I had originally topped off my links to Sistani's site with a few comments on Karol Wojtyla and the difference between a forward-looking conservatism and one looking only to history; the distinction is important even if Sistani and Wojtyla have the same views for example on homosexuality. It's interesting to note that although he's not a feminist, he is at least a practical paternalist.
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David Brooks nails his contradictions to the door.

Amazing. What he's defending can't be taught and therefore can't be described as the product of individuals as such.  He can't make up his mind what he wants to celebrate, the alienated individuated intellectual or the collective; he defends a person rooted in social awareness as a man alone. I'd ask those Bobos at C.T. to write something -in fact I'm hoping they will- just to watch them fall into the same trap.

Friday, April 01, 2005

General Rules
It is permissible for a woman to use contraceptives (the pill) to prevent pregnancy, provided that it does not damage her health in a serious manner, irrespective of whether or not the husband has agreed to it.
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It is permissible for the husband and wife to look at the body of one another, outside and inside, including the private parts; and also to touch any part of one another with any part of their own body with lust and without it.
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It is not permissible to neglect sexual relations with a young wife for more than four months, unless there is an excuse like unbearable difficulty or harm [in fulfillment of that duty] or unless she agrees to it [that is, forgoes her conjugal rights] or if it was part of their agreement at the time of marriage.
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It is not permissible for a woman to abort the feotus after the soul has entered into it, irrespective of the reason for abortion. It is permissible to abort the feotus before the soul enters it, if there is an unbearable harm to the mother in continuing the pregnancy or it becomes extremely difficult for her.
"Nazis! Jew killers! Go back to Germany!"

Suddenly everything seems chaotic. Five minutes ago a white pick-up came to a halt, and two young men exited. I and another international calmly approached them, remembering our training in de-escalation of possibly violent situations. One of the males was dressed in orthodox manner, complete with light colored loose clothing, head covered with a kippah and curly black locks of hair at the temples. The other was sporting a yellow Purim* mask, depicting a skull, and an Uzi.
Read the whole god damn thing.