An Unenviable Situation

Monday, April 15, 2024

Never mind the tits.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

old and new "Behind the chiliasm..." etc.
It is from this ambivalent conception of humanitas that humanism was born. It is not so much a movement as an attitude which can be defined as the conviction of the dignity of man, based on both the insistence on human values (rationality and freedom) and the acceptance of human limitations (fallibility and frailty); from this two postulates result responsibility and tolerance.

Small wonder that this attitude has been attacked frorn two opposite camps whose common aversion to the ideas of responsibility and tolerance has recently aligned them in a united front. Entrenched in one of these camps are those who deny human values: the determinists, whether they believe in divine, physical or social predestination, the authoritarians, and those "insectolatrists" who profess the all-importance of the hive, whether the hive be called group, class, nation or race. In the other camp are those who deny human limitations in favor of some sort of intellectual or political libertinism, such as aestheticists, vitalists, intuitionists and hero-worshipers. From the point of view of determinism, the humanist is either a lost soul or an ideologist. From the point of view of authoritarianism, he is either a heretic or a revolutionary (or a counterrevolutionary). From the point of view of "insectolatry," he is a useless individualist. And from the point of view of libertinism he is a timid bourgeois.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Monday, April 08, 2024

cell phone

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Richard Serra from 201320112007, and 2003

Richard Serra, Untitled, 1972, Charcoal on paper, 29 3/4 x 41 1/2 in.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of John Coplans, 1975

There's something very interesting about this drawing. When it was made, and why.

"Philosophy opposes fiction, and theories of modern art opposed the 'fiction' of pictorialism. The implications of that preference are unexamined."
Look at the shape. How it appears flat and then seems to recede. The beginnings of a return to pictorial art: affirmed/denied/affirmed
Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Watching Israel and Zionism fall apart. The last colonial state and the last modernist utopia but one.
The people who should look themselves in the mirror, won't. 
I'm watching Israel and Zionism fall apart in real time, and all I can think about is the liberal consensus that defended them. That's not a defense of radicalism—Israel and North Korea are the last utopian projects—but the role of adversarialism, pessimism, negativity, denial.

Saturday, March 23, 2024


Thoughts have become concepts.
Concepts are called objects.
Writers of financial contracts are called financial engineers.
Contracts are called instruments.
Banking has become an industry.
Politics and economics are called science.
Rationalism has become empiricism.
Metaphysics has become physics.

All that is solid melts into air, and all that is ephemeral becomes material. 

1— Coming Soon Marion Fourcade and Kieran Healy, The Ordinal Society

The shift from the sale of physical computer hardware, frst to packaged software and then to web services as the basis for success in Silicon Valley, fostered a frm belief that “code” could and should solve most problems facing society. For the region’s “technological solutionists,” disregard for legal rules, hierarchies of knowledge, and existing organizational forms was the price of progress. There were echoes of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who also acknowledged capitalism’s astonishing power to rip up the world and replace it with something new and almost incomprehensibly dynamic. “All that is solid melts into air”: capital discards obsolete technologies and flls up junkyards; it sheds the chrysalides of antiquated social structures, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake; it mocks ideas whose time has passed and incites the laity to pray to new idols. The metamorphosis is painful for everyone, even capitalists. To survive, they too must undermine their own production base. Joseph Schumpeter, himself a fne reader of Marx, termed the process “creative destruction”: the opening of new markets, the creation of new capacities, and product innovations, which “incessantly revolutionize the economic structure from within, forever destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.”27 While the new revolution was made of code rather than coal, scripts rather than steam, its language and im- agery was curiously and inescapably industrial. Code was made, it seemed, in forges, with engines, through pipelines, by foundries—an entire metaphorical world of intensely physical production was conjured up to represent the activities of people who spent their days in front of screens, typing. They were not writing; they were building. Soon they would be mining also.

2—Something almost as annoying: Alberto Tuscano, "Undoing Oslo", NLR

Eid teaches English literature at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University and is a founding member of the BDS movement. He is the author of ‘Worlding’ Postmodernism (2014), a plea for an anti-authoritarian critical theory of totality anchored in readings of Joyce and DeLillo, as well as the editor of Countering the Palestinian Nakba (2017), a collection of writings by American, Israeli and Palestinian intellectuals which makes the case for one secular democratic state. As part of the systematic scholasticide visited upon the Strip – an intensification of Israel’s decades-long war on Palestinian intellectual life – Eid’s university has now been obliterated along with all other higher education institutions in Gaza. Scores of its academics and students have been murdered; all have been displaced and are now facing famine.

Decolonising the Palestinian Mind was completed amid Israel’s current onslaught, which Eid and his family were eventually able to escape because of his South African citizenship. A prologue, dated 26 October, captures the scale and ubiquity of the destruction: ‘I am standing over the ruins of a house in Gaza City, peering at the horizon. Most probably, the body of a martyr lies under the rubble. The body of someone who could not respond to an Israeli “warning.”’ In a poetic ‘out of body’ meditation, Eid surveys the pulverized landscape as if from the standpoint of a ghost. A further prologue, composed in Rafah five days later, describes his efforts to evade Israeli bombs with his wife and young children, fleeing from the razed Gaza City neighbourhood of Rimal to the north of the Strip and then down to the border with Egypt. It concludes by reiterating the demands for a ceasefire and ‘immediate reparations and compensation’, as well as one democratic state.

"'Worlding’ Postmodernism (2014), a plea for an anti-authoritarian critical theory of totality anchored in readings of Joyce and DeLillo...
Decolonising the Palestinian Mind was completed amid Israel’s current onslaught"

As I said elsewhere, if a rebel has a gun and uses it while also writing poetry I might want to read the poems. If a man with a pen and a foundation grant writes poems and calls them bullets, odds are I won't.

Mashal on Charlie Rose in 2014. Politics is a practical business. 

Sunday, March 17, 2024

from 1996

Saturday, March 16, 2024

This was the most astonishing thing about teaching freshmen at Cornell this fall: students who had never read anything longer than a reading comprehension excerpt for the SAT.

For all the flaws of the balanced literacy method, it was presumably implemented by people who thought it would help. It is hard to see a similar motivation in the growing trend toward assigning students only the kind of short passages that can be included in a standardized test. Due in part to changes driven by the infamous Common Core standards, teachers now have to fight to assign their students longer readings, much less entire books, because those activities won’t feed directly into students getting higher test scores, which leads to schools getting more funding. The emphasis on standardized tests was always a distraction at best, but we have reached the point where it is actively cannibalizing students’ educational experience—an outcome no one intended or planned, and for which there is no possible justification.

A Stanford professor and editor of N+1, linking idiot Adam Kotsko. 
And this, at CT. 

My blogging is about two things: (1) the radical changes wrought by modern communication technology; and (2) the inability of the epistemic technologies of the written word to understand point (1).

I find this dialectical tension to be generative, but I can see how readers looking for answers might find it unsatisfying.

A recent paper in Nature, titled “Online images amplify gender bias,” makes the point in a more familiar format. Consider the first full clause of the first sentence of the abstract:

“Each year, people spend less time reading and more time viewing images”

BOOM. Footnoted: “Time spent reading. American Academy of the Arts and Sciences (2019).”

I’ve frequently claimed that the age of reading and writing are over,...

Maybe Kevin Munger should stop writing. 

The technocrats who rule our world are not going to start communicating only in memes. But the fact of fading literacy is only the problem now of how the class of designers and managers communicate with the managed. The era of "citizenship" is over.

And Farrell is as sleazy as ever
So Noah Smith has a quite negative review of Acemoglu and Johnson’s recent book, Power and Progress, a book that I myself liked very much. Before letting rip, Noah says nice things about Acemoglu and Johnson, and I’ll do the same here for him. There are a lot of people on the left who detest Noah, but I know him to be a genuinely decent person. What he says of Acemoglu and Johnson is what I’ll say about him – his heart is in the right place. Sometimes … he does not go out of his way to make himself lovable to lefties, but as someone who has been known to get involved in stupid and tendentious spats on the Internet myself, I’m in no position to heave rocks at glasshouses.

And Gaza, on actual politics (class and foreign relations, social in every sense), as always, useless: passive, hand wringing, willed ignorance and worse. Anglo-American  left liberals are unreadable. I don't even pay attention anymore. I'm not going to waste my time with CT. If you're not following opinion outside the bubble, including the bubble of the western left, and the west itself, there's not much to say. I try. I follow what I can.

Again, the importance of Palestinian political scientists and Arab academics (writing in english) is that they exist. It's got nothing to do with any inherent value in academia.

Sometimes, in his lofty condescension, a film-maker seeks to bring enlightenment to the great unwashed and force feed this or that trendy political pap to an audience which has not had the opportunity, or perhaps even the wish, to participate in either the experience or the mind of the film-maker. This, which might be called the ‘Carlos’ fantasy, suggests to the filmmaker that he is important to the world. Documentaries like plays, novels, poems – are fictional in form and have no measurable social utility.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Awakening from his dogmatic slumber. 20 years ago he would have called that unoriginal observation anti-Semitic. And it would have referred to him. He's outgrown some of the pathology. 20 years from now he'll feel some secret regret.

The second one reminded me of something from the past 

Thursday, March 07, 2024

Coetzee likes to trespass on his own fictional territory. In Elizabeth Costello (2003) he was quickly on the scene to pause the action and deliver a little lesson in the nature of fictiveness: ‘The presentation scene itself we skip. It is not a good idea to interrupt the narrative too often, since storytelling works by lulling the reader or listener into a dreamlike state in which the time and space of the real world fade away, superseded by the time and space of the fiction.’ And so on.

The origin of all this "meta-fictional" crap isn't fiction—Shakespeare is "meta-fiction" by default. 

"The line is the thought. This is the point of iambic pentameter."

And then

The 'seriousness' of realist art is based on the absence of any reminder of the fact that it is really is a question of art. 
Tristram Shandy as literature in the Age of Reason.

Various ways to repeat myself. I wish more people got the joke

Friday, February 23, 2024

repeats, and new, with Farrell and Shalizi  All of them, so stupid. Keller's tweet is the definition of fascism. And no one gets the joke. I should write more but I'm not sure I'm in the mood.
Cosma and I wrote the article to push back against one version of the common claim that we can blame everything that is wrong and toxic with social media (and by extension, American democracy – this is a U.S. centric piece) on engagement maximizing algorithms and their cousins. Specifically, we don’t think that we can fully blame these algorithms for the kinds of belief polarization that we see online: people’s willingness, for example, to concoct elaborate justifications for their belief that Trump Really Won in 2020. 

We do this by engaging in a kind of thought experiment. Would we see similar polarization of beliefs if we lived in a world where Facebook, Twitter et al. hadn’t started using these algorithms after 2012 or so? Our rough answer is that plausibly, yes: we would see lots of polarization.
We do this by engaging in a kind of thought experiment. Would we see similar polarization of beliefs if we lived in a world where Facebook, Twitter et al. hadn’t started using these algorithms after 2012 or so? Our rough answer is that plausibly, yes: we would see lots of polarization. Following Mercier and Sperber, we assume that people are motivated reasoners – they more often look for evidence to support what they want to believe than to challenge their assumptions. And all they need to do this is a combination of simple search (Google like it used to be) and social media 2.0.

Toxicity, and hygiene, the language of liberal fascism. [more comedy]

If Farrell were a method actor, he might ask "What's my motivation?", but being one of the "big children in university chairs", he imagines his own disinterest. Weber was honest and gave the answer: the preservation of the academy.

Cultural consensus in the field of education can be justified basically only on the condition of severe self-restraint in the observance of the canons of science and scholarship. If one desires this consensus, one must put aside the idea of any sort of instruction in ultimate values and beliefs; similarly the university teacher, especially in the confidentiality of his lecture hall—nowadays of such solicitude—is under the sternest obligation to avoid proposing his own position in the struggle of ideals. He must make his chair into a forum where the understanding of ultimate standpoints—alien to and divergent from his own—is fostered, rather than into an arena where he propagates his own ideals 
Technocratic neoliberalism: Farrell, and Wendy Brown
and then...
"We imagine that platforms can bring the whole sprawling chaos of human behavior into compliance with the law. Make our lives policeable, and policed, to a degree no govt in history could have imagined."

Yet Eichmann's case is different from that of the ordinary criminal, who can shield himself effectively against the reality of a non-criminal world only within the narrow limits of his gang. Eichmann needed only to recall the past in order to feel assured that he was not lying and that he was not deceiving himself, for he and the world he lived in had once been in perfect harmony. And that German society of eighty million people had been shielded against reality and factuality by exactly the same means, the same self-deception, lies, and stupidity that had now become ingrained in Eichmann's mentality. These lies changed from year to year, and they frequently contradicted each other; moreoever, they were not necessarily the same for the various branches of the Party hierarchy or the people at large. But the practice of self-deception had become so common, almost a moral prerequisite for survival, that even now, eighteen years after the collapse of the Nazi regime, when most of the specific content of its lies has been forgotten, it is sometimes difficult not to believe that mendacity has become an integral part of the German national character. During the war, the lie most effective with the whole of the German people was the slogan of "the battle of destiny for the German people" [der Schicksalskampf des deutschen Volkes], coined either by Hitler or by Goebbels, which made self-deception easier on three counts: it suggested, first, that the war was no war; second, that it was started by destiny and not by Germany; and, third, that it was a matter of life and death for the Germans, who must annihilate their enemies or be annihilated. 

Saturday, February 10, 2024


Democratic candidates 2024, with the backup singers. The GOP is done. Coming to terms with genocide will be take decades.

The last is a repeat
Nimrod Novik
Special Ambassador (ret ).
Past Senior Adviser to PM Peres (RIP).
Fellow, Israel Policy Forum.
BOD, Commanders for Israel's Security (CIS). 
Senior Fellow, ECF

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Fiat iustitia, et pereat mundus. It means just what it says. 

Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."