Wednesday, December 28, 2005

An article in the Times today about an old roommate.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Flipping the dial and drinking a beer, I caught 5 seconds of the Kennedy Center event on CBS, long enough to watch the camera cut to GWB pumping his head back and forth -in and out- at the sight of Beyoncé Knowles strutting onto the stage.
What a pathetic little fuck our boy king is.
I also caught the end of "Boston Legal," which was hilarious.

The morality of otherwise amoral structural integrity vs. the false morality, and true hypocrisy, of moralism.

Captain Kirk and Junior sitting on a balcony smoking cigars, having just freed a sexy client -Heather Locklear in ironic mode- who has been vilified in the press as a golddigger and a 'black widow', accused of killing her husband.

Kirk: Did we get justice today?
Jr: [puff] I don't know.
Kirk: I like the pathological. Let's get another one like her.
Jr: [puff] My eyes, are peeled.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Edmund Wilson vs The Academy.

Pankaj Mishra
In 1955, Wilson would read The Last Puritan (1935) and remark on the resemblance between his friends at Princeton and Santayana’s hero, who struggles to reconcile his genteel idealism with the aggressively commercial culture of post–Civil War America. Wilson, who partly blamed this culture for the mental instability of his father, a distinguished lawyer, knew that Santayana in Europe was an exile from the new America, which he had left after an unsatisfactory academic career at Harvard, where he claimed President Eliot had turned education into preparation for “service in the world of business.”

But now the new America was, unexpectedly, the supreme power in the world; and meeting in a Europe ravaged by war, Wilson and Santayana inevitably discussed the changes within the United States. Sitting on a chaise longue in his bare, dark room, with a blanket over his legs, Santayana spoke of the “great role” in world affairs that America was called upon to play—a role he would regard with skepticism in his last book, Dominations and Powers (1952), the manuscript of which Wilson saw sitting on a table in Santayana’s room.

...Devoted to the life of the mind, Wilson couldn’t see it flourishing in the isolation of Axel’s Castle, the academic ivory tower, or the research laboratory. Instead he saw intellectual life as shaping and being shaped by the political and moral health of society at large. This belief and the related search for what Kazin called “a new spiritual order”—“a reaching not frantic or explicitly political, but based upon a deeply ingrown alienation from the culture and prizes of capitalism”—made Wilson more than a literary critic, although he wrote most often about literature.

...It was his engagement with the world beyond texts that gave Wilson’s criticism such clarity and narrative power—and this is what especially struck me when I first read his books in India in the late 1980s. For someone like myself, who knew little of the world apart from his own lowly position within it, and for whom books were primarily a mode of escape, Wilson’s insistence on relating literature to the urgent questions of life—how it has been lived, how it can or should be lived—came as a revelation and a surprise.
Gary Gutting (Philosophy, Notre Dame) has written a generous and informative review of my Future for Philosophy collection in which, towards the end, he considers the difference between "analytic" and "Continental" philosophy, which we had occasion to discuss a few weeks back (here and here) during the visit of the Stanley brothers.  Gutting writes:
I agree [with Leiter] that there is no fruitful analytic-Continental division in terms of substantive doctrines distinctively characteristic of the two sides. But it seems to me that we can still draw a significant distinction between analytic and Continental philosophy in terms of their conceptions of experience and reason as standards of evaluation. Typically, analytic philosophy reads experience in terms of common-sense intuitions (often along with their developments and transformations in science) and understands reason in terms of formal logic. Continental philosophy, by contrast, typically sees experience as penetrating beyond the veneer of common-sense and science, and regards reason as more a matter of intellectual imagination than deductive rigor. In these terms, Continental philosophy still exists as a significant challenge to the increasing hegemony of analytic thought and, as such, deserved a hearing in this volume.
A few paragraphs I was asked to add to an exhibition catalogue for an old friend. In the end it wasn't used.

Abstraction has always been anomalous in art, and pure abstraction even more so. It makes sense if you're an idealist to imagine ideal forms, but such philosophies are as rare as the cultures that encourage them. And even pure abstraction only represents purity; we only know the ideal through the illusion of its presence.

When I first saw Dan’s paintings they reminded me in a way of the early work of Michael Hurson. Hurson’s modernism is T.S. Eliot's: a formalism of secret meanings in which the forms and ideals, if perhaps morally necessary, are also merely theatrical facades. The beauty is in the desire for beauty artfully described, with the vulgar and the common, the impure source material, kept secreted away or exhibited and simultaneously denied. Eliot's references to popular culture seem intended almost to inoculate his poetry against it. The result is an idealism that isn’t: a paradoxical hybrid which Hurson treats with a wink and a nod, but which Eliot plays straight.

Dan's paintings were closer to Eliot than Hurson: you always felt that the metaphors were not supposed to be there, as if Dan were using a ruler that kept changing shape. You saw the paintings winking at you, but you knew looking at them that the maker didn't want them to. The work manifested a crisis, caught between action and intent.

In 7 Grays Dan found a way to escape this crisis, to make use of modernism, to give himself over to it even while denying it; and he did so in a way I didn’t expect and that I’d never seen before, though I’ve seen it a lot since. Dan didn’t mock or parody or empty modernism of "authority” as thousands of press releases have described works of art over the past 20 years. And he didn’t follow Olivier Mosset’s lead and theatricalize his paintings as the work of a Lone Rider, coming to town on a motorcycle or a jet, making a gesture towards pure visual poetry -empty but somehow acknowledging everything else, even politics, in its absence- and riding off again. Mosset is the only master of this; it’s a hard act to follow. What Dan did in 7 Grays was to write the biography of Modernism, to respond to the weight of history by turning a philosophy (and one that was after all, deeply anti-historical) into a history of that philosophy. Dan made a carnival, and a souk, full of all the stories of all the versions and ideologies of the last century. You could say it was a brilliant strategy but it wasn’t. If you love your parents you can’t simply strategize their defeat, even if it's the result of your actions. Besides, if you did, it wouldn’t be art.

Dan created in 7 Grays a poetic recapitulation of what had now finally become the past, celebrating it and closing the door on it at the same time. Like the story of the great Condottiere and the leaders of the town he had just helped to liberate, and to whom he was now as dangerous as he had been to their enemies. “What do we do?” they asked. To which one wag is thought to have replied: “ Let's kill him and make him our Patron Saint.”

Friday, December 23, 2005

File under miscellaneous:

There's a difference between the way the ad was produced and the way you are perceiving it. For the people who made it, who were involved in it after the idea was thought up, the ad is simply a thing they made, a work of technical- and literary/theatrical- craft. We've come to the point in advertising where pure invention has become the equal of intent (and Giotto made billboards for the Catholic Church.) This is the result in how capitalism is perceived by those who live in it: it is no longer a question of Capitalism as ideal but simply as fact.

Advertising has always been seen as an intellectual act, as certain forms of popular literature are seen by their fans primarily as intellectual or illustrative. 'Speculative' fiction and the like usually are nothing more than advertisements for ideas. As a philosophy of art they're basically Stalinist, though that's become the template for all theoretical activity. The academy has become Intellectual technocracy; it doesn't matter if you're talking about analytic philosophy or deconstruction: ideas take precedence over acts.

In describing this ad you're describing the opposite.
Congratulations, you've just discovered art.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Duncan Black:
There's a really weird class resentment going on. White collar workers "know" they deserve more money than blue collar workers. Some blue collar workers, ones in unions and skilled workers, can make decent money. Since a lot of white collar workers actually don't get paid very well, they resent the hell out of the fact that some uneducated lout gets to buy a nicer house than they do. And, thus, we get the out of touch media coverage of the NYC transit strike.
The italics are mine. I never expect to hear things like this from college-boy liberals. Atrios is a combination intellectual know-nothing, knee-jerk, middle-brow mainstream progressive: he used to refer to Clinton as Big Dog. But then he lobs off something casually radically good hearted and decent -and New Yorkers are backing the strikers more than they are the MTA (numbers including those college-boys and girls).

update: old habits die hard:

"The 90s were a delightfully wonky era when serious center-left political types spent lots of time debating lots of things."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

City by city
Fares as a Percent of Operating Expenditures

MTA Metro-North Commuter Railroad 54.8%
MTA New York City Transit 53.1%
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) 9.5%
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) 8.9%

State and Local General or Dedicated Funds as Percent of Operating Expenditures

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) 89.8%
MTA New York City Transit 44.9%
MTA Metro-North Commuter Railroad 41.6%
Working Life
Steve Vladeck @ PrawfsBlawg and Orin Kerr @ Volokh on Padilla. Judge Luttig, writing for the Fourth Circuit:
[A]s the government surely must understand, although the various facts it has asserted are not necessarily inconsistent or without basis, its actions have left not only the impression that Padilla may have been held for these years, even if justifiably, by mistake –- an impression we would have thought the government could ill afford to leave extant. They have left the impression that the government may even have come to the belief that the principle in reliance upon which it has detained Padilla for this time, that the President possesses the authority to detain enemy combatants who enter into this country for the purpose of attacking America and its citizens from within, can, in the end, yield to expediency with little or no cost to its conduct of the war against terror –- an impression we would have thought the government likewise could ill afford to leave extant. And these impressions have been left, we fear, at what may ultimately prove to be substantial cost to the government’s credibility before the courts, to whom it will one day need to argue again in support of a principle of assertedly like importance and necessity to the one that it seems to abandon today. While there could be an objective that could command such a price as all of this, it is difficult to imagine what that objective would be.
Marty Lederman and Kieran Healy on Posner, the man with no imagination. I guess he thinks that as a simple pragmatist he doesn't need one: he was willing to moralize about Clinton's behavior only because it wasn't important; and now he refuses to "moralize" about this because it is.

Posner's mind is terabytes of RAM and a 5 gig hard drive.
In response to a comment in the last post:
I had something up yesterday, just a sentence, or two but I took it down. Too many short posts in a row.

Never, never, accept a two tiered system: different wages and benefits for new employees.
But that was taken off the table and replaced by this.

How is the MTA funded? Compare it to the way such systems are funded in other cities.
Kalikow is scum; Bloomberg is being an ass; and you could never pay me enough to work in a subway tunnel.
Oh yes, and fuck the NY Daily News. This:

is bullshit.

For more, go here or here

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The definition of a pedant is a scientist discussing politics.
Brad DeLong's contempt for his readers: He makes bracketed [ ] but unsigned comments within the text of their replies, as if he were grading student work.

The arrogance of an economist: intelligence that knows no self-awareness.

Jon Carroll on Doug Bandow:
"Lapse? One column is a lapse, maybe; 24 columns is a lifestyle choice."
"semi-communistic ideology". I read it in the Times but I'd rather link to JB's commentary.

And here's another one for the archives of stupidity.
update: Laura Rozen has put up a link after recieving a note from one of those involved:
...Bob P. teaching a senior seminar this semester on, off all things, totalitarianism and fascism. He encouraged his students to try to get primary resources and one of them, a 21 year old senior, used Inter Library Loan to get the official version of Mao's Little Red Book not the abridged one found in our library and on-line (he requested it from Providence RI, Brown Univ. I believe). Of course to get the book you fill out a form which provides your SSN address, phone no. etc.

A couple of weeks later two Homeland Security officers showed up on a Sunday morning (in late November) at his parents house to interrogate him. They informed him that the fact he had lived abroad in South America (he is the son of missionary) and had requested a book that was on a watch list led to their visit. They asked him to explain just what he wanted the book for, where he had lived abroad and for how long, asked him to prove he was a student with several forms of documentation, and when it was over refused to provide him with the book and left things up in the air. He was scared to death needless to say. The student reported the incident to Bob who shared it with me.

As I have had the student myself in class and consider him to be one of our brightest I met with him myself to get the whole story. I have no doubts whatsoever to its veracity by the way. He insisted on remaining anonymous, did not want his name published, and was told by his parents to keep a low profile. His uncle who happens to be an FBI agent subsequently took him to Boston to the local HQ to explore the whole issue and eventually got the case against him dropped. From what I understand he waited in a room for several hours with people such as himself who had been similarly investigated.

I passed on the story to a reporter from the New Bedford Standard Times who called me at home to talk about President Bush's surveillance activities and I directed him to Bob P. Since then it has been picked up by US websites and even some in Europe and ABC, CBS etc. have asked for interviews. I have been inundated with emails from around the world telling me not to give in to pressure and to go ahead and teach my course on terrorism. I
am touched by some of them and would hardly have expected so many people to be interested in this issue (one list also noticed that Mao's Little Red Book shot up in sales on yesterday). ...
The fact that fundamentalism in any form, religious, legal or technocratic exists as a popular movement in a republic, goes to the failure of that republic to educate its citizens in the responsibilities of that form of government. Intellectual snobs have as much contempt for democracy as religious thugs, and they share as much of the blame, if not more.

But at least the monarchists are out of the closet.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Read Max.
More vulgarisms from CT.

I'd be inclined to say I'm on the losing side of these fights -since I get so pissed off so often- but I'm not. 'My' side will win - is winning. History repeats itself in more ways than it does not, and more people are aware of that fact now than 50 or even 20 years ago. It makes no sense to pretend to be outside of history looking in, as a scientist is outside or above an amoeba on a plate.
This is obvious to most of us.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The first sign of corruption is the belief that you can't become corrupted.

These fuckers were always corrupt.
I don't want anyone thinking I'm not a cynic about these things, but the White House has quite obviously crossed a line, and Keller et al. aided and abetted it.
Angry leftists will say the lines are technical: that the moral lines were crossed years ago, but moral lines without techinical ones don't matter. Cultures are boundaries.
But boundaries change.

Friday, December 16, 2005

From The Washington Post courtesy of Josh Marshall:

"The NSA activities were justified by a classified Justice Department legal opinion authored by John C. Yoo, a former deputy in the Office of Legal Counsel who argued that congressional approval of the war on al Qaeda gave broad authority to the president, according to the Times.
That legal argument was similar to another 2002 memo authored primarily by Yoo, which outlined an extremely narrow definition of torture. That opinion, which was signed by another Justice official, was formally disavowed after it was disclosed by the Washington Post."

Is John Yoo Catholic?

Is this where we're getting the new generation of right wing "intellectuals?" I asked that once before in polite company, and politely was refused an answer.
John Yoo, Francis Fukuyama. I followed a link a month or so from Balkin to another defender of Bush's torture policy, a young conservative professor of law at a Catholic university and another asian.
Update Jan 17/06: The link wasn't from J. Balkin but from Michael Froomkin and the lawyer in question is Julian Ku.
Bill Keller:
"We start with the premise that a newspaper's job is to publish information that is a matter of public interest. Clearly a secret policy reversal that gives an American intelligence agency discretion to monitor communications within the country is a matter of public interest. From the outset, the question was not why we would publish it, but why we would not.

"A year ago, when this information first became known to Times reporters, the administration argued strongly that writing about this eavesdropping program would give terrorists clues about the vulnerability of their communications and would deprive the government of an effective tool for the protection of the country's security. Officials also assured senior editors of the Times that a variety of legal checks had been imposed that satisfied everyone involved that the program raised no legal questions. As we have done before in rare instances when faced with a convincing national security argument, we agreed not to publish at that time.
"...and would deprive the government of an effective tool for the protection of the country's security."

The executive branch is not the government; and the executive branch broke the law.

More at the Left Coaster
I just heard Specter make some small squeaking noises in the response the reports about Bush and the NSA. He stumbled over his words, more hesitant than angry. From memory:

"We'll get to this soon... as soon... as we can... uh... when we come back, in January"

Senator Specter Calls for Hearings on U.S. Spy Program

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Parody and Privacy

Over two long years in the mid 80s I wrote and rewrote one article that I submitted, finally, to Arts Magazine (now defunct) in the summer of 1987. This is what gets me into Google Books, and Amazon, listed as a footnote in two books and an article by Thierry de Duve in October. The editor made me a plagiarist by removing quotation marks from one sentence, and in shortening an already short piece for publication rendered a few passages incomprehensible. I've fixed these but the rest is the same: the archness, the moralizing tone. I sweat bullets over every sentence as I wrote it and the result is a perfect example of what I was criticizing. It's almost airless, an argument for something other that itself, but in various ways I've been making the same arguments -concerning modernism and time, and narrative as a medium for communication- ever since. And since it's so easy these days, I'm adding images.


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.

It's usually argued that Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol turned art into philosophy. They are acknowledged for the cerebral nature of their work, which acts in a situational way as criticism. It is difficult for modernists to see them in any other way because it is the only way to see them in an idealist context. The German Expressionists have been incorporated in the same manner; the subjective and sometimes apolitical interests of both art and artists could be seen as secondary to their inherently political position, by critics or by the artists themselves, most explicitly in the case of Dada. Neither Duchamp nor Warhol came to terms with their work in this way, denying any obvious political implication. The fact that critics generally ignore this and put their work in a political context only proves how indigestible their works are to an idealist philosophy. Nor would it matter if it weren't for the fact that much recent work patterns itself on this same structure.

Marcel Duchamp's world was based on the illusion of disinterest. To accept involvement Is to give up the silence one surrounds oneself with in isolation, in Duchamp's case an isolation of fear, a parody of monastic humility.[1] As the collector of pubic hairs he was the ultimate miser, the miser of sex. His work revolved around images of mechanized sexuality. On the one hand eschewing involvement, he desired order almost for its own sake and invented a metaphysic of autoeroticism.[2] This has been ignored by American critics while it has been accepted in Europe, due in part to the sense of intellectual connoisseurship and dilettantism that produced Duchamp. Later heirs to Duchamp's form, if not his ideology, include Joseph Beuys, Mario Merz and the artists who make up the Arte Povera movement, and recently painters such as Anselm Kiefer and Enzo Cucchi. On the whole, however, we have learned from Duchamp what Europe has not, for we have accepted him on his own terms.

There's an interesting line between the early work of Robert Morris and Donald Judd. Judd's work is phenomenologically and intellectually abstract (musical) whereas Morris' is anthropomorphic and theatrical. He denied this at the time but as Carter Ratcliff has pointed out, that goes against the work itself. "The statement was taken at face value only by those with an unquenchable desire to believe in mid-'60s art world rhetoric." (Robert Morris: Prisoner of Modernism, Art in America, October 1979)

This change is a turning point in recent sculpture, not because of a transition to figuration but because of what viewers were asked to see as figurative, and why. Morris' purist shapes were transformed into impenetrable bodies, more social in implication than Judd's, yet deeply anti-social. Judd was interested in communication between object, viewer, and artist. Morris was assuming the failure of that attempt. By transforming objects into metaphorical entities that deny or refuse interpretation, he presented us with an other, a foreign body, and dared us to accept it on its own terms, something that his modernist audience could not accept. It is as if Picasso were given an African mask that he would be unable to use without accepting the mythologies it was made to represent. He would, of course, refuse the gift rather than forfeit his mastery over it, a mastery that arose by stripping the work of its history and context. This understanding is what produces the criticality of Morris' art, its cerebral intelligence. But when Morris takes on Modernism he does not outgrow it or leave It behind him. His work is not based on his intellect, but on his emotional response to it. With the assumption that to understand something foreign, to make it native to your own ways, is to dominate and control it, Morris accepts both sides, unable to choose, cleansing and purifying himself through a violent esthetic of unresolvable contradiction. "With full deliberateness, Morris pushes form, concept, and meaning," as Ratcliff says, "toward an ultimate "all-overness"-absolute equivalence, the entropic dead end." Morris has accepted the sadomasochistic 'Realm of the Carceral' (a series of his drawings bear that title) and the fascistic. This is In a very real sense, the same world as Duchamp. It is also the world of Warhol, Halley, Jeff Koons, and a range of so-called 'Neo-Geo'painters and sculptors from Philip Taaffe (Neo Op) to Richard Prince[3] This new work, like Minimalism, is concerned with the relation of object to viewer. Both have a cool, removed quality, one not of expression but of presentation. Yet while Judd's coolness is ascetic by nature (and without the darker subtext) the new work seems trapped by the attitude it maintains. The energy of these works is one of sexual containment, at the most extreme seeming like an order Hitchcock might create-that of character trapped within a descending spiral of isolation verging on if not becoming psychosis.

Various works seem a hybrid of Minimalism and Pop, grafting the imagery of the latter onto the structure of the former, so that the geometric superstructure of the piece becomes equated with its order or hierarchy, its mythological framework: that which contains the subjective experience of the figure within the painting or the object/idea of the sculpture. The geometry acts as a metaphor or as a map, or sign, not as an Independent formalist architecture. This is as true for David Salle's work as it is for Philip Taaffe's or Peter Halley's, the only difference being that in the abstraction the figure of the painting is the viewer, the map is taken on as his or her own. In "The Crisis In Geometry" (Arts Magazine, Summer, 1984), Halley states:
My own Two Cells with Conduit and Underground Chamber
emphasizes the role of the model within the simulacrum. Baudrillard states that "simulation is characterized by a precursion of the model, of all models around merest fact" The simulacrum is a place where "the real is confused with the model." It is a "total universe of the norm," a "digital space," a "luminous field of the code." In my work space is considered as just such a digitalfield in which are situated 'cells' with simulated stucco texture from which flow 'conduits.
Halley compares his spaces with those of video games, office towers, and microchips, all simulated space, models of "cellular space" and places "in which buildings are 'like columns in a statistical graph." His images act metaphorically, not formally in a modernist sense, and although he thus escapes the idealist materialism of Carl Andre's quote; "A brick is a brick" he needs to replace it with an order even more rigid to reaffirm his idealist intentions.

What is interesting about Halley's art is not its critical function but its subjective viewpoint. The paintings are the product of a perverse asceticism, impotent in the face of a physical reality that it can not accept, the perhaps willing prisoner of a world where meaning has atrophied; and where the leveling that has occurred of all forms to one measure. capital, has mirrored itself in the leveling of all forms to information. The work is an allegory of alienation. Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo is an early precedent here as it is to all later artistic use of psychedelic imagery, images of the subconscious, Op-Art patterning or illustrations of drug-induced states. Pynchon uses similar terms, central to the American romance -what it has become- and its relations with the physical world and the psychosis of modern life. These are images of the loss of the self, unable to define its surroundings, to distinguish itself from them, and thus being relegated to passive observation.

In 1982 Jeff Koons first exhibited his New Sheldon Wet-Dry Triple Decker, consisting of a stack of three wet-dry vacuum cleaners of different models, each lit by a row of fluorescent lights, and each in its own Plexiglas case. The piece has been referred to as an implicit or explicit critique of Minimalism, but there is little reason to accept that argument. To say that it is a reference and therefore an answer to the stack pieces of Don Judd is a critical dead end. The observation may be correct but in the long run, it is of little interest. Judd assumes a sense of potency, attempting a successful act of benign communication within the basic form of modernism as defined earlier. Koons, like Duchamp and Warhol, is dealing with desire. While Judd creates order by juxtaposing abstract qualities, avoiding issues of power (for better or worse), Koons creates metaphorical objects of desire. Appropriating Duchamp's mechanized sexuality, the desire therefore is never fulfilled: objects cannot respond. This is how the works act as parody, to parody the type of painting that depicts women as objects of desire, and by taking the forms of advertising that limit art to forms of unsubtle manipulation. What is left is a cycle of attraction and repression. When dealing with an imagined ideal, reality can never be as perfect, and physicality itself withers in the mind, seeming flawed and dirty.

In Koons as in the others there is no attempt to face the physical sexual reality. Relations are sterile, and what is physical manifests itself as the object of an obsession with cleanliness and order. And there is no significant interest in leaving this cycle behind. As Ratcliff says of Morris: "[T]houghts of rehabilitation-or escape- are by internal necessity, unthinkable." As I will explain, this cycle is debased form of narrative.

The basis of Duchamp, Morris, Warhol, and Koons is their inability to adapt successfully to the idealist forms of modernism. Yet they are also unable to progress into the polymorphous narrative forms of postmodernism. In a sense, cinema could be consdered a way out, a visually narrative response. It's the nature of the parodist, however, to be unable to leave behind the object of his or her attacks. Most often, if the admitted order seen as bankrupt, the parodist lives on as an example of that emptiness. The emptiness becomes synonymous with its practitioner. Duchamp played the role of a 19th century man in the age of Freud the only way he could, as parody, and much like Alfred Jarry, he became his own Ubu.

If I want to say that Duchamp had limited interest even a distaste for the esthetics of time, I need to show that his works undermine a consideration of time as a process or form that communicates anything of value. If, as Annette Michelson says: "Working unlike Bunuel and Dali, in the spirit of 'the reconciliation of opposites,' he maintains that characteristic refusal of 'either/or' ..." then I must prove his acts of reconciliation are acts of banality, that the acts of refusal and denial result in this case in an esthetic of nihilism, that in Duchamp's case is produced by conflating, perhaps correctly, the conceits of the Victorian period with those of the modern one, and being unable to posit an alternative.
This seven-minute film consists of an anagrammatic title, followed by ten variant images of rotating spirals intercut with inscriptions. The spirals derive their forms from the vocabulary generated by the Demi-Sphere-Rotatative (Optique de Précision), of 1925, and its preparatory studies. The ten images, rotating about a central axis, present, in their optical impulsion toward and from the spectator, that shuttling oscillating movement which animates Duchamp's work, Iiterally, visually, conceptually, in all its major instances. Alternating with the spirals is a series of texts, alliterative and pun-filled white relief inscriptions, pasted on black cardboard and, like the images, organized in a circular form which rotates in turn, so that one must strain a bit to read them as they proceed in clockwise motion whose staccato quality contrasts with the serene undulation of the drawn spirals. ('Anemic Cinema': Reflections on an Emblematic Work, Artforum, October 1973)
Michelson goes on to describe the relation between the spirals and the "punning intertitles" as sexual as "aggressively sexual intimation[s] of thrust and recession."

The fact that Michelson doesn't offer translations of the texts tells us something of how we should read Duchamp. For it is not the meaning of the words themselves that matters, but the type of language used: cerebral, aware, ironic, perverse.
And language, of course, as Duchamp used it, existed in the context of visual form. I have already referred to effects that parallel those of the spirals of Anemic Cinema: the writings of Baudrillard as they are described in the work of Peter Halley, the idea of the Psychedelic as it appears in Hitchock, and the implications of transcendent psychedelic experience as it appears in the sculptures of Jeff Koons and the paintings of Philip Taaffe, David Salle and others. Given this, it is important to consider what both the spiral and psychedelia imply and how they act on the imagination. To put it simply, they do not act as conveyers of information, but as stimuli. What's fascinating about these forms is their directness. Certain patterns induce very specific emotional responses. Michelson quotes Bruno Bettelheim on the case of an autistic child who lived in a world of his own invention, and who had an intense fascination with an electric fan.
At that time [when the child was older and largely recovered] he told us what he had only guessed up to then, that to him, the very shape of those rotating objects suggested the circle he was helplessly caught in. They represented the vicious cycle of longing and fear, of wanting so much from others and of being mortally afraid to let his longing be known, either to them or to himself. (Bettelheim) finds again the overwhelming illusionist power of circling movement within a deep space, Anemic Cinema is a sort of visual machine made by a man who proclaimed his desire to rid painting of its sensuality and personality. (Michelson)
What Duchamp did was to equate narrative involvement with its most debased and disturbed form, that of mindless, tragic reception of stimuli of pleasure, like the reassurance a disturbed child receives by rocking back and forth. The same relation can be found in the films of Andy Warhol.

It is possible to say that Warhol worked within a modern context; that his simplicity was subtlety and that he was interested in the esthetics of real time cinema; that his films were 'cleansing and rejuvenating' (Jonas Mekas Appendix: The Independent Fllm Awards, Film Culture Reader, P. Adams Sitney, ed.). I do not think this is the case. For Mekas and Stan Brakhage to sit through two complete viewings (in a row) of Warhol's Empire is another example of modernism's ability to take a text out of context and adopt it as its own. For them, the film was about light and time, for Warhol it was also about boredom. The dialogue in his films is between time as form and as the destroyer of form, between time as a medium for art making and its opposite: proof of the vanity of man, of the inevitability of decay. In the same way as it was for Duchamp, time for Warhol is the opposite of art: making all form, in its pretension of permanence, vanity, surface, and ideology. Time stands as witness to entropy, something moderrnism can not and does not recognize.

This Is of course easier to see in Warhol's other work. The multiplication of images, of reality, is one of the most terrifying aspects of photography, specifically to any idealist belief revolving around the idea of an essence or an aura. In the same sense photography is antithetical to any unified truth, antithetical to the Catholicism that produced both Warhol and Duchamp, a Catholicism known as much for the nature of its fallen as for that of its adherents. Ideology reproduces itself even In its opposite.

It is possible to say that Duchamp and Warhol are protonarrative. They do not accept idealist order, nor do they transcend It. The art of high modernism is idealist, monotheistic, and Apollonian. To change this, or to adapt to change, both could have moved toward a more polymorphous form. They chose not to, instead adopting a strange hybrid of idealist structure, an anti-idealism or antitheology (a perversion), and, simultaneously, a warped objectivity toward their chosen form. This is the cerebral mentality that produced Warhol, Duchamp, and Morris, and the esthetic that has produced Halley, Koons, Peter Nagy, Richard Prince, and others. In its purest form, in the work of Koons, it relates itself to an almost fascist purism: that of the absolute denial of the physical world through the physical world, the pureness of de Sade. Of the young artists, only Koons makes his interests explicit His is the most fully rounded because it is the most personal, the most internalized, and that identification with paradox has produced the miraculous. The sensuality of the commodity has transcended itself through itself. That which is most impure has become most pure, that most unclean, most clean. He and his work are one, spiralling deeper and deeper into the privacy of autism.


1. Consider Joseph Buys' statement from the early sixties: "Duchamp's silence is overrated" as a response to the elder artists denial of social involvement that was not miserly.
2. In this and other ways my article parallels Robert Morris' article Quartet published in Art in America.
3. The work of those who use appropriation as a method varies widely. Desire for control vs. desire for memory of/or experience separates the art along gender lines. The men desire a power that once seemed viable, while the women remember a power that they never had. It is a quieter nostalgia from a longer distance.
4. Jill Johnston covers similar ground in a recent article on Robert Wilson. (Family Spectacles, Art in America, Dec. 1986) Although she does not take it quite as far as I have, she nonetheless is aware of the implications. Wilson grew up in a strict world that he has internalized. The obsession in his work with 'wounded' figures and 'great men' (Joseph Stalin, Frederick the Great, the Shah of Iran); his early denial/refusal of the narrative of theater and his interest in autism, is layed out very clearly. All of this relates him closely to Duchamp, Warhol, Morris, and Koons.

For the continuation and extension of this paper, written off and on over the past 25 years, see the link on the right side of this page.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Atrios links to this but misses the most important point.
"As with many conflicts, particularly the manufactured kind, dishonesty, greed and ignorance are the culprits behind Fox News Channel's so-called “War on Christmas.” But their enabler, as Dr. Phil might call it, is that well-intended but wholly misguided scourge of society -- political correctness. Rather than promoting tolerance, inclusion and understanding, as advertised, p/c has had the opposite effect. It has made us not a freer society, but one of timid, tongue-tied slaves to convention who substitute glib code words for the more difficult task of actually treating each other with respect. [italics mine] It’s the kind of shortcut that sooner or later circles back to bite you."
What don't we know already about Fox? But yes, political correctness is liberal guilt as a band-aid to cover liberal inaction.

On that note, Ford will now continue tailoring ads for Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles to the desires of the most reactionary and cynical snobs on the face of the god damned planet. Hooray We won!
Subtlety in argument - and the truth can take care of itself.

Ezra Klein @ Tapped
Watch the dodge. The question isn't whether Froomkin pays secret homage to Karl Marx, but whether an undefined but nevertheless "great many" people think he does. This, of course, is the logical end point for our press corps. Charges of bias require no substantiation whatsoever -- they merely have to be seconded enough times and they become, ipso facto, truth-esque. And once they're truth-esque, they simply must be addressed, lest the credibility of the whole organization be questioned by a "great many" people, none of whom are acting out of bad faith, none of whom can be dismissed as cranks or ideologues.
So now truth is popularity. And real liberals want truth as what, science? As defined by what? Neutrality is as much an illusion- as much of a dodge- as 'Separate but Equal.' Klein is defending something that he wants to exist but never has and never will. Are educated liberals immune to self-interest? Ask an educated liberal woman about the presumptions of her boyfriend or husband, an educated liberal black man... gay man/woman... and on down the list. The presumption of one's own, what: sincerity? Sincerity is as meaningless as intention.
What I and others like me presume are flaws, my own and others. And my response is not to deny them but to live them as my human right, but not as truth. My interest is in honing my craft; the truth can take care of itself.

"Democracy is a dualism celebrating both the defense of one's right to his or her own opinion and simultaneously that which is most popular. There is a conflict in this. When every man becomes a politician, democracy is weakened."

If my lawyer ever told me that the search for truth was her primary interest I'd fire her!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Interesting how many 'lefty' American bloggers are squeamish about their opposition to the death penalty. Max speaks, I paraphrase: "Really! We're just plain folk."

Tookie Williams himself was not the issue and he lacked something as a poster-boy, I'm not going to argue the point, but the macho posturing is stupid. Capital punishment is a childish response to crime; and since I'm not a politician I don't care what anyone else thinks. Democracy is a dualism celebrating both the defense of one's right to his or her own opinion and simultaneously that which is most popular. There is a conflict in this. When every man becomes a politician, democracy is weakened.
Dumbing yourself down in the name of democracy is stupid.

We all agree however, that this is worse.

Update: I owe Max an apology. He's made it clear more than once that in many ways he is 'Just plain folk.'
He's more a populist than I am, and snobbery is one of my bad habits. Max has his own.
He's still wrong on this one of course.

Monday, December 12, 2005

MediaGuardian UK
Fox News was ordered to alter its coverage of the riots in France after a Saudi prince with shares in its parent company News Corporation complained to Rupert Murdoch.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul aziz Al-Saud told a conference in Dubai he had telephoned Mr Murdoch after seeing a strapline on the news channel describing the disturbances as "Muslim riots".

"I picked up the phone and called Murdoch and said that I was speaking not as a shareholder, but as a viewer of Fox. I said that these are not Muslim riots, they are riots," Campaign Middle East magazine quoted the prince as saying.

"He investigated the matter and called Fox and within half an hour it was changed from 'Muslim riots' to 'civil riots'."

The prince said his intervention had been an example of how Muslim people can change the portrayal of their religion in the western media - although few Fox viewers will have his contacts.
It is not the first time he has admitted to trying to influence Mr Murdoch's coverage of sensitive issues.
In a recent Financial Times interview he said he did not wish to "intrude" into the management of companies in which he holds shares.
But he said he did talk to Mr Murdoch and Richard Parsons, the chief executive of AOL Time Warner, about where he believed the media had got things wrong.
"My job is to open their eyes to things they may not have seen," he said.
Last month's rioting marked France's worst unrest since the student riots of May 1968. Thousands of cars were set alight following the death of two teenage boys who were allegedly being pursued by police.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Wade, Wilkes and Bad Iraq Intelligence?

And the US press spent so much time on the UN the oil for food scandal...

Saturday, December 10, 2005

"Save me"
From common sense?
More here.
I'm not convinced. Or rather I'm not convinced that the US can have any role at this point in limiting Iranian desire for an active nuc-u-lar program. The motives of Matthew Yglesias and Bruce Jentleson, or those they ascribe to themselves*, are irrelevent to the Iranian people. Our motives are assumed by this point: our president has taken care of that for us.
On the other hand this will do nothing good.

* Why the condescending tone? Europe gets swiped at and then patted on the back -absurd as that sounds- but the rest of the world doesn't warrant even that. Israel is the only country that is treated as our full moral equal.
And Matthew Yglesias and Bruce Jentleson are nationalists pretending -on and off- to be neutral.

I read everything first as if I were reading a passage in a novel: I look first for cadence and tone, and only after that for subject.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Naomi Klein states the obvious, in a foreign newspaper
This is interesting
some context

And Ahmadinejad has a sense of humor

"Edenbaum... That's a German name isn't it?"
"Some of us were holding out for the Rhineland"
The end of wingnut philosemitism as we know it?

(oh... goody)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The science of manipulating people as opposed to educating them. The immoral result of moral passivity (pathetic little fucker).

The snobbery of low expectations.

I'm not opposed to the scientfic study of human behavior. I'm opposed to the scientific study of human behavior by people who can't see themselves in their subjects. Arrogance always gets in the way.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

One from '97. After 3 months editing video, and no studio work for over a year, I want to do something hands on again.
The more I try to come to terms, with shit like this, the more aware I am of the persistent inability of many people to understand and to accept their limitations, not those set by nonexistent deities but by those things which both enable all communication and defeat any perfection in its use.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I’m still struck by the degree to which the humanities have been overtaken by the ghetto sensibility of the hard sciences. If I didn’t know better I’d blame it on Sputnik and leave it at that.

A nominally intelligent but well trained chemist can be a “productive” scientist, engaged in research, if not leading it. That’s not so simple in the humanities, where originality is the point. 50 years ago it would have been enough to have a Ph.D in English Lit and teach. But these days people pretend the rules have changed. I’m in favor of anything that limits the number of publications from mediocre but desperate minds with advanced degrees.

Science knows no qualitative idea of craftmanship. There is no ‘added value,’ to number, none of any moral or philosophical meaning or use. Taste is meaningless pleasure gone nicy-nice

Other people, and I’m one, value the articulate description of things because description is the only way know the world. Perception without description, asocial, is inarticulate emptiness, and what is social, intersubjective, gets sloppy. Art, as opposed to science, is description before prescription: always tentative. Good literature therefore is the literature of specifics, not ideas; just as a lawyer defends her client first, and professional ethics take precedence for her over abstract morality and ‘truth’. Her tradecraft comes first. Craft allows us to concentrate not on what we want to think but how we do so. An appreciation of the result need not devolve into irrationalism any more than logic need devolve into pedantry, but the last century had plenty of both.

It doesn’t bother me that TS Eliot was an anti Semitic reactionary, not because his poetic genius makes such things irrelevant but because he described so well what it was to be in his position: modern and anti-modern; American and European (and anti-American); arrogant and weak; confused and confident; impotent, or fearful of it; a brilliantly articulate closeted twirp. If the ideas are contradictory it doesn’t matter. I don’t read Eliot for the ideas that ‘belong to him’ but for the ideas in the work itself. And they’re not the same thing.

When engineering is no longer the template for intellectual study in the humanities, the academy will become an interesting place again. The upside is that Intellectual life outside the academy is much more interesting than it used to be.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

It's small, about 3 by 5 inches.

Albrecht Dürer, St. Philip 1526 Engraving, 12.2 x 7.7 mm.

but it's lovely (and I own one).

Monday, November 28, 2005

Christmas Bombings II, and "The Salvador Option" (also here).

The public defense of such actions is new; the proximity to ourselves, the people of the US, is new; the incompetence is new; the crimes and the moral justifications of the actors to themselves are not.

Leftists have always been correct in their critiques of foreign policy; liberals have always been "realists" without the honesty to admit it.
Concerned Alumni of Princeton

When I was a prep school boy, before my fall into oblivion, Princeton was known as the only Ivy League school with an official policy regarding legacy admissions. All the Ivies gave the children of Alumni an advantage, but Princeton was the only one them to give legacy a specific numeric value. I think it was about one third of the total number of points towards admission. Princeton in fact was considered second rate for undergraduate education. Even given east coast snobbery, UVA or Michigan ranked higher.
But this is all just gossip. I hope this hangs the bastard -who's also an idiot- but I'm doubtful.
Max cuts to the chase:
"Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito belonged to an organization of scumbags."

More on law, the mutual antipathy of science and skill, and why lawyers are craftsmen.
The argument is not between science and religion, or about whether or not art represents spirituality or spiritual values—whatever the fuck those word mean. What defines the opposition to science is not religion or illogic but craft (that, and introspection). Lawyers are the only craftsmen Anglo-American philosophers take seriously. [I was wrong about that] But even then the idiot philosophists don't get the fucking point. If cops are not "the law" then what are scientists?
I'm only repeating myself here because when I get a spike in hits like this it's usually because I've made a ruckus on some academic blog, and the theme is always the same. In other words: see above.

Interestingly the second link on the google search is to the archive of Jan 04, which begins on the 31st with this post:
Humanism and good writing both are in limited supply on the web. It's a thing made by and for conceptualists: ideas matter, not the forms they take. It may be important to eat and have a roof over one's head, but it doesn't matter if the roof is made of tin, the walls are made of sheetrock, and the food comes as a pill. So I wander through discussions of technology, linguistic analysis, and economic theory, references to Star Trek and Tolkien, and 'best of' lists that are predicated on such ignorance I can have no response.
People who are interested in, who take pleasure in, the strength and flexibility of language have other things to do and other ways to keep themselves engaged. The only exceptions I've found, the only others more interested in means than ends, for whom the idea of 'content' is implicitly, and in one case explicitly, vulgar are women:
two observant Muslims and a Jewish whore.
What disgusts me even more these days is that the worst, the most purblind of the lot, spend half their time declaiming the depth of their epicureanism. I wouldn't give a shit if Bainbridge were simply an Ultra but he can't make up his mind.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

More on Nino at ACSBlog. From comments:
Written By: Swan On November 23, 2005 12:41 AM
There's nothing that Scalia could say that would be surprising. A law prof. who used to clerk for another Justice told us how Scalia one day revealed to a bunch of the clerks that he supports enforcement of the anti-fornication laws.

It was certainly one of the more memorable anecdotes I've heard in law school. Funny to think that the vast majority Scalia-admiring conservative law students don't even realize he's the American Taliban. People like that want to turn the U.S. into a Western Saudia Arabia. It's really shocking that someone so wacko can attain to such a high post.

Written By:Mike On November 23, 2005 01:05 AM
Swan, it is pretty scary. However, that anecdote is not a total surprise. His logic in his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas makes it pretty clear that he believes in all kinds of laws for "morality" as he sees it. Being a hard-core (and very extreme) Catholic, his sense of morality dictates that fornication is wrong. He is also on the record for supporting anti-adultery statutes.
I really have no patience for Scalia. His claims to any authority beyond his title- and he wants to think he represents more- are based on nothing but simple assumptions and hypocrisy. He's the Gay Daddy to Brooks and Will.
"The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees," Scanlon wrote in the memo, which was read into the public record at a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. "Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them."
Steve Clemons:
Gaffney: If it has some truth to it, I'm not sure it is outrageous.
Reporter: Seriously?
Gaffney: I believe that Al-Jazeera is an instrument of enemy propaganda in a war we are obliged to fight and win, not just for Americans and not just for Iraqis but for freedom-loving people everywhere, and I think that, to the extent that Al-Jazeera is actively aiding our foes, it is certainly appropriate to talk about what you do to neutralize it to prevent it from doing that sort of harm to the cause and even to the lives of servicemen fighting this war.
...So, an alert to ALL who attend the next public session with Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes. Please ask her whether she agrees -- at any level -- with Frank Gaffney.

Does Stephen Hadley agree with Frank Gaffney? How about Karl Rove? And of course, make sure that we ask Condoleeza Rice, Deputy Secretary of State Bob Zoellick, and Scott McClellan in the next press gaggle. . .
Clemons's ends with this:
To add one other interesting dimension to this debate about Al-Jazeera, one of my friends asked novelist Tom Clancy what he thought about the mid-term future of the arab network at the major September terrorism conference where Clancy spoke. Tom Clancy replied that he thought that in five years, Al-Jazeera would be just another mouthpiece of American interests.
Fascinating, counter-intuitive statement -- in TWN's view -- that I hope is wrong, but which many inside the Al-Jazeera network feel strikes close to home and the realm of likelihood.
All this assumes that the interests of International markets and US market policy are the same thing.
Stupid assumption.
1- NY Post:
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says the high court did not inject itself into the 2000 presidential election.
Speaking at the Time Warner Center last night, Scalia said: "The election was dragged into the courts by the Gore people. We did not go looking for trouble."
But he said the court had to take the case.
"The issue was whether Florida's Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court [would decide the election.] What did you expect us to do? Turn the case down because it wasn't important enough?"

LLoyd Grove continues the quote in the Daily News: "...Or give the Florida Supreme Court another couple of weeks in which the United States could look ridiculous?"
2- (today's update) from The Mirror:
The Daily Mirror was yesterday told not to publish further details from a top secret memo, which revealed that President Bush wanted to bomb an Arab TV station.
The gag by the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith came nearly 24 hours after the Mirror informed Downing Street of its intention to reveal how Tony Blair talked Bush out of attacking satellite station al-Jazeera's HQ in friendly Qatar.
3- Murray Waas in the National Journal:
Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter

Monday, November 21, 2005

Of Course the US Uses Torture:
1, 2
"At this rather late stage in life, I'm realizing that the solid America I thought I knew may never have existed. Running very close, under the surface, was a frightened, somewhat hysterical culture that could lose its civilized moorings all at once. I had naively thought that there were some things that Americans would find unthinkable --- torture was one of them."

It's post like this that make me want to stop whining about Chomsky.
"The Eternal Verities"
How many of the stories coming out now under the very broad heading of botched or manipulated intelligence could have been reported and written at more or less any time over the last two years? I suspect the answer is, the great majority of them.

They're getting written now because the president's poor poll numbers make him a readier target.

I know I'm not saying anything most of you don't know. And better late than never, of course. But all working reporters and editors should consider what that says about the profession.
There has been a rightward shift in American policy over the last 30 years which follows from a shift in the attitudes of wonks and pundits. Whether the country itself has moved to the right, or how much, is a different question. But as the poles in elite opinion have moved, the position of being between them, of being neutral has moved as well. I'm not going to argue the difference between neutrality and objectivity; the latter -like Utopia- is impossible to attain, with the former a cheap stand-in for a nonexistent character. And the only way to remove the stand-in is to remove the need for one.

This refers directly to the previous post. American moderates just call themselves liberal, meaning a little to the left of wherever the right-wing is at the moment. And they're afraid even of that. No self-awareness, no real self-criticism, no sense of irony that is not cheap or passive. No sense in fact, of what they are. Social Democrats in every other country at least have the honesty to call themselves... Bourgeois.
"Policies are important, but too often they're spun into the mediastream by politicans and think tanks assuming everyone is operating off the same set of facts. As this poll shows, that's decidedly not the case. Sometimes you have to convince voters of reality before you can persuade them on how to change it."

No, Ezra. Republicans and conservatives in power never assume "everyone is operating off the same set of facts."

Liberals' presumptions concerning themselves or anyone else never cease to amaze me.
Awareness begins with self-awareness etc.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Busy. Spent a little time here Still arguing w/ Nathan a bit in email. I have to admit I'm understanding his point more than I thought I would. The supposed neutrality of the American courts seems a little like the studied objectivity of the American press; and I complain about that enough. Without judicial review of legislation we'd have a bt more rough and tumble. For all our separation of Church and State, we treat the press, academia, and the judiciary as if they were religious orders. At the very least we allow them to think of themselves in that way.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Hilzoy (Hilary Bok)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The press seems to have forgotten until recently[?] that it does not work for but opposite the government, as another representative of the people.

"(The fact that committee chairman Ted Stevens had refused to swear in these oil executives doesn't much alter the principle -- as the Post points out, it's still a crime to lie to Congress even when not under oath.)"
This administration has been uniquely inclined to treat everything as fair game, to spin a terrible terrorist attack against this country as a kind of marketing campaign for a Hollywood story about a president's leadership abilities and an administration's unparalleled right to evade normal Congressional oversight and to savage critics as traitors, to treat even national defense information as raw fungible material for propaganda purposes, for marketing the war and then spinning the post-war and then SwiftBoating critics. The press to varying degrees has tried to maneuver to get at the story through all the various and imperfect ways journalists know how, the front door and the back door, the podium story and the back story, and the triangulated story. There's a kind of agony play at hand now, and I think it demonstrates among other things how very much this administration was willing to manipulate the truth, the press, and ultimately the American public in some sort of never ending campaign that flickered at its most extreme and excessive into the orbit of something I can only describe somewhat ridiculously as fascism. The threat appears to have receded, but the sense one is left with, of a great democracy that is far more vulnerable than many had realized, is one of shock and tragedy, as well as relief.

Laura Rozen

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran and a potential presidential candidate in 2008, countered in a speech to the Council of Foreign Relations that the Vietnam War "was a national tragedy partly because members of Congress failed their country, remained silent and lacked the courage to challenge the administrations in power until it was too late."

"To question your government is not unpatriotic -- to not question your government is unpatriotic," Hagel said, arguing that 58,000 troops died in Vietnam because of silence by political leaders. "America owes its men and women in uniform a policy worthy of their sacrifices.
That's probably the most simple and direct comment I've ever heard from an Amercan politician, if not political figure, concerning Vietnam. [American politician post-war maybe.]
Not good enough.
"This is an odd business isn't it? Everything is up for grabs.
One rich fool pays double what he should and there's enough time to find 5 more idiots to follow him before stability returns."
...For the non-lawyers out there, Alito meant he was against the Supreme Court decisions requiring that all state legislative districts be designed to guarantee "one person, one vote", instead of giving some districts with very few voters the same representation as urban districts with far more voters.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

At the Met today, in the Fra Angelico exhibit, what fascinated me, what moved me, more than anything else was to experience the relationships between three small panels from the series that made up the predella of the High Altarpiece at San Marco, telling the story of the brothers Saints Cosmas and Damian. Each panel is a wonder of narrative and pictorial design, but to move among them is to see a different beauty, even in the absence of the whole. The greater beauty is not in one or another wooden panel but in the relations among them, and therefore in the imagination of the viewer as s/he is forced simultaneously to look and to remember.
Beauty inseparable from our awareness of time, and of mortality.

Another reason to hate DeLong. He's a fucking futurist.
What assholes.
David Fucking Gelernter
You fucking assholes. You fucking idiots.
"Once upon a time, sociologists and political theorists used to be able to get away with speaking to literary types on their own terms" link


Once upon a time sociologists and political theorists were able to communicate to a wider audience, because they understood, as "literary types"[?] always have, that they themselves were members of that wider audience.

Political/Intellectual and cultural life in the US is divided in ways no other country would want to match, in ways that nearly everyone here takes for granted, and which practically no one understands. A clash of adolescent teleolgies.

The serious UK press is better than our own for the same reason the vulgar press is lower. There is no pretense of objectivity; logic like justice is not treated as a function of debate yet its approximation is understood to be its result!.
Language and politics must remain adversarial within themselves if they are to have any meaning.
Communication involves not only logic but skill and the latter brings with it it's own prerogatives.
Etc. etc.
[update: And, oh yes, it's "Qfwfq." sorry]

I'm off to see Fra Angelico.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Vice President for Torture
Wednesday, October 26, 2005; A18
The Washington Post
VICE PRESIDENT Cheney is aggressively pursuing an initiative that may be unprecedented for an elected official of the executive branch: He is proposing that Congress legally authorize human rights abuses by Americans. "Cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of prisoners is banned by an international treaty negotiated by the Reagan administration and ratified by the United States. The State Department annually issues a report criticizing other governments for violating it. Now Mr. Cheney is asking Congress to approve legal language that would allow the CIA to commit such abuses against foreign prisoners it is holding abroad. In other words, this vice president has become an open advocate of torture.

His position is not just some abstract defense of presidential power. The CIA is holding an unknown number of prisoners in secret detention centers abroad. In violation of the Geneva Conventions, it has refused to register those detainees with the International Red Cross or to allow visits by its inspectors. Its prisoners have "disappeared," like the victims of some dictatorships. The Justice Department and the White House are known to have approved harsh interrogation techniques for some of these people, including "waterboarding," or simulated drowning; mock execution; and the deliberate withholding of pain medication. CIA personnel have been implicated in the deaths during interrogation of at least four Afghan and Iraqi detainees. Official investigations have indicated that some aberrant practices by Army personnel in Iraq originated with the CIA. Yet no CIA personnel have been held accountable for this record, and there has never been a public report on the agency's performance.

It's not surprising that Mr. Cheney would be at the forefront of an attempt to ratify and legalize this shameful record. The vice president has been a prime mover behind the Bush administration's decision to violate the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture and to break with decades of past practice by the U.S. military. These decisions at the top have led to hundreds of documented cases of abuse, torture and homicide in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Cheney's counsel, David S. Addington, was reportedly one of the principal authors of a legal memo justifying the torture of suspects. This summer Mr. Cheney told several Republican senators that President Bush would veto the annual defense spending bill if it contained language prohibiting the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by any U.S. personnel.

The senators ignored Mr. Cheney's threats, and the amendment, sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), passed this month by a vote of 90 to 9. So now Mr. Cheney is trying to persuade members of a House-Senate conference committee to adopt language that would not just nullify the McCain amendment but would formally adopt cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as a legal instrument of U.S. policy. The Senate's earlier vote suggests that it will not allow such a betrayal of American values. As for Mr. Cheney: He will be remembered as the vice president who campaigned for torture.

Friday, November 11, 2005

"I'm not a moralist, I'm an art critic."

I finally watched the thing (now here)
I'll make one change: The theme of any of these anti-hero melodramas, whether the main character is aristocratic or merely a man alone is not murder but suicide. The death of anyone else is secondary.
The tragic self-awareness of the noble hero in a world where he is irrelevant. etc.
[In writing and rewriting my last comment at CT I removed a sentence that scrambled the rest, turning it into a code. Not that anyone would care. Just note-taking]
Max and co. and Nathan have been good on the free trade bullshit over at Starbucks book klub
No de Kooning. No Struth.
The shallowness of the people at CT never ceases to amaze me.
"...I at first didn't think the Vanguard thing was a big deal. But, it's become a major window into this guy's character. Basically, he's an I'm gonna do what I want and fuck you if you think otherwise kind of guy. Pretty sad if the Senate endorses his particular view of what making under oath promises to them means."


Thursday, November 10, 2005

White Phosphorus

The second link is not easy to look at.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Josh Marshall brings us what he calls "a snippet of this evening's Nelson Report."
Laura Rosen often cuts and pastes from it as well.

Here's Cristopher Nelson's page at Samuels International " ...a diversified international consulting firm specializing in business, trade and investment matters, particularly involving policies of American and foreign governments, economic and political risk assessments, investment strategies, and negotiations on trade and investment liberalization."
Chris Nelson is editor of The Nelson Report, a daily briefing on international economic policy issues, foreign and security policy matters and their relationship to politics in Washington. This daily briefing constitutes the core element of relationships with clients who also have direct access to Mr. Nelson for confidential communications in response to their specific needs and policy interests.
Marshall ends the long quote from tonight's report, detailing the Beltway internationalist's take on the Republican policy of self destruction, with the sentence: "They've brought us very, very low."

This is just silly. Realism is what it sounds like it is, if you're tough and intelligent enough to maintain it under adverse conditions. Kissinger was not a realist by any stretch of the imagination, and neither are the idiots running this country. Some people would argue that power brought us low a long time ago, and that stupidity merely brings us lower. My own views aside, I'm not interested in the moralism of the amoral.
"Since we have the former Clintonites arguing that they are pro-growth progressives, let's put some real pro-growth progressive policies on the table."
Dean Baker and Josh Bivens at MaxSpeak
Juan Cole on the riots.
And: Two cheers for benign monarchy. We're reached or returned to the age when the wealthy are so wealthy and so comfortable with themselves and their authority that the people are grateful for their offers of assistance.
In re: almost everything I've been on about recently—whether politics or art collecting: from my parents' and now my own hardback first edition of Richard Roud's Godard.
JLG -"There's no point in having sharp images if you've got fuzzy ideas. Leacock's lack of subjectivity leads him ultimately to a lack of objectivity. He doesn't even know he's a metteur-en-scene, that pure reportage doesn't exist."
I spent some time yesterday browsing over Goffman's Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, and had the same response. If anything I'm reading or looking at—any work of human hand and mind—doesn't manifest some sort of double awareness, I become lost. The pseudo-autism of intellectual life. It's almost painful.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Struth, Sander

No real response to the riots. Does this count?
Not even here. The limits of neoliberalism indeed.

Atrios had the best short response, on Sunday:
I bounce back and forth between amusement and disgust at the right wing's bizarre and uninformed reaction to the events in Paris. Without getting into the of course important subtleties, think "60s race riots" as your comparison point, not "al Qaeda terrorists."

France treats its immigrant populations (which include, of course, 2nd and 3rd generation "immigrants") like shit. This isn't a "clash of cultures" it's rebellion by a repressed and marginalized underclass."
And I did it once, but I'll link to Direland again

UPDATE: More from the assholes at Crooked Fucking Timber And I still haven't quite gotten over the Doorman bullshit. The moral superiority of schoolteachers and pedants.
The Independent: "Powerful new evidence emerged yesterday that the United States dropped massive quantities of white phosphorus on the Iraqi city of Fallujah during the attack on the city in November 2004, killing insurgents and civilians with the appalling burns that are the signature of this weapon."

Monday, November 07, 2005

Laura Rozen reads from tonight's Nelson Report
Continuing the last post
Educated liberals are obliged as intellectuals to be internationalists while siding often, as a matter of course, with economically conservative arguments for cheap labor. Social conservatives are allied with economic conservatives in the same way, and the weaker parties on both sides—conservative and liberal—without any spokesmen of their own, end up represented by those with the agendas of their own moneyed class.
"Big deal," you say. "What else is new?"

Americans have no patience for psychology. Out of an unwillingness to become involved and a desire for quick fixes liberals as much as conservatives allow themselves to conflate human care with pity, though liberals are far more willing to indulge. But there's a huge difference between importing labor, whether by force or by recruitment, and the simple opening of doors. It makes perfect sense that new arrivals if given the chance would beat out a native-born underclass, as it makes sense that a country that allows such competition would defend economic globalization. Such a state already has shown an indifference to its native population as forceful as any defense other countries have ever made of theirs. After all, the comparison made most often over the past week has not between the immigrant populations in France and the US but between immigrants in one and a large segment of the native born population in the other.

Went to Christie's today. Saw a portrait of Colin by Elizabeth Peyton. (details are here)

It makes some sort of sense that the best description I've read of the man is in a fucking auction catalogue.
Renowned in the New York art scene, Colin De Land and the activities at his galleries, first in the heyday of the 1980's East Village at Vox Populi on East 6th Street, and then from 1988 until 2003 at the American Fine Arts on Wooster Street in SoHo, branded him as a conceptual artist as much as a gallerist. He became an art dealer by accident, when he offered to sell a Warhol painting for a neighbor who needed money for drugs. The milieu at American Fine Arts was characterized by a relaxed work atmosphere. Exhibitions did not always open on time and they often defied convention in installation. They were often critiques--of painting, of video, of institutional authority, of art itself. He permitted an artist to close the gallery for his month long slot in protest of commercialization in the art world. At times he exhibited fictional artists, such as the famous John Dogg, whose work was suspected, though never confirmed, to be a collaboration between Colin and Richard Prince. In addition, he showed many artists early in their careers, including Cady Noland, Jessica Stockholder, Mariko Mori and Alex Bag. On one occasion, when the art market was at its worst in the middle 1990s, Colin held a benefit at and for the gallery, and more than 200 artists donated works, even though most were represented by other dealers. It was precisely this kind of fabulous eccentricity that Peyton found alluring about Colin.

WHY IS FRANCE BURNING? The rebellion of a lost generation.
Doug Ireland.

I want to put something up in the near future about why I like Ireland so much more than almost every other american I read on the web.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The neoliberal imagination and a few points on religion and inquiry.

I'll begin with the latter. The understanding of debate itself as foundational marks the beginning of the secularization of culture. Once one sees one's own beliefs as existing alongside those of others, religious histories of myths and miracles become stories. Once you choose your faith, it ceases to function as a basis of language, becoming merely one of its functions. I left a comment on Russell Fox's page making this point. "Theology as such is irrelevant to intellectual debate in a democracy." Since republican forms of government are those wherein a Christian judge may hear a case argued by a Muslim lawyer concerning a dispute between a Hindu and a Jew, any forms of argument that can not be directed to every party make no sense. What to do with minorities in otherwise homogeneous communities? There's no one answer, but there is a difference between arguing from what one considers Christian principle, using one's own words or memory, and simply reading aloud from a bible.

The neoliberal imagination, the cup calls the saucer white. It's absurd for Henry Farrell to think he represents anything else. I made an only slightly annoyed observation here. Whether or not my first-hand knowledge as a construction worker in Manhattan for 25 years outweighs sociological number crunching my first point still holds, and not one person responded:

"The best way to remain on good terms with a doorman would be to actually spend some of your off hours in the basement."

Perhaps I should separate neoliberalism from post-humanist or anti-humanist post modernism, but what else can I say about those who study others as objects without reference to themselves as observers? What's the origin of this false remove?

We begin with sense; physical awareness of space, light, and motion. We are raised into and by others and by experience. We communicate by means of the collective library of imprecise notation we call language, and live our lives first and foremost as manifestations of predilection and sensibility. Whatever logical structures we build upon that foundation, however internally consistent and formally abstract, our tastes and logics, as we manifest them are inseparable. As policemen are mistaken when the assume they ARE the law, mathematicians are merely indulging in the imaginary synecdoches of autism when they identify themselves with their subject.

Corruption is inevitable in every system. A group of people become friends because they share interests and from that interest, respect. They support and protect one another. This, strictly speaking results in a form of corruption, though one that's inevitable, and which doesn't bother me. But what happens when all such people have in common is their interest in one another, when the friendship is no longer based in a third party, a subject or language? And how can we tell the difference one and the other, between the useful, functional corruption and the stifling fearful emptiness that results in the scenario of for the emperor's new clothes?

A repost from 03:
People create and maintain relationships with each other based on the things they have in common; what those interests are doesn't matter. If they share an interest in money, in politics, or in art, the same rules apply. In New York at this point of time, in the cultural milieu of which I am, in one way or another, a part, the one thing most people have in common, though they don't talk about it openly, is fear.

If the overarching logic of the past 30 years of American politics and culture has been to "give the people what they want," the art world has always prided itself on doing the opposite. "Give the people what they should have," is probably a better definition of the logic that defined the scene, or at least defined what the intellectual pitchmen declared the scene was about. Whatever the limitations the logic behind this however old fashioned, was not without a certain nobility. What purpose could there be for the idle rich, who were otherwise removed from the daily life of the people, but to help support those who like themselves felt a distance from the crowd, but who did not have the money to stay that way for long on their own? And did not these people have something to offer in the way of commentary on the run and the rush of capitalism at full throttle? And this after all was the basis of a friendship.

The culture of popular capitalism was always capable of more profundity than the art world allowed. If Roy Lichtenstein said his paintings were among other things an attempt to rescue his influences from banality - he correctly described the romance and military comics he cribbed from as 'fascist'- there were we all admit now more interesting things to look at on the newsstand and at the matinee. The New York Times "Fall Preview" is bigger than ever this year: nearly 70 pages in 3 sections, with only 10 devoted to art, including photography, and most of those dedicated to a list of the season's upcoming exhibits. The other 60 pages are made up of articles on theater, movies and music. Most of the space is taken up with puff pieces of one sort or another, but one still gets a sense of things being at stake, even in popular entertainment: of it being both a craft and a business, and a risky one. You sense effort. It's amazing what you can do under the nose of the aristocracy if no one takes you seriously.

If anti-capitalist criticality and reactionary snobbery, always the strange bedfellows of the art world, are now so obviously in conflict as to be beyond mention in polite society. If they are the couple no one wants to talk to at the party, what it there left for art? The international market is a conservative place. While all cultural activity is conservative by nature –it seeks to conserve, to remember, to memorialize– one of a kind or small batch commodities are at the far end of the spectrum. There is no need to oversimplify. There will always be something called 'Fine' art and it will continue to be a worthy subject of conversation; there will always be a market for the self consciously refined, in art as in literature. But in New York at the moment people are simply lying to themselves while waiting for the ax to fall. From the sense of superiority that once reigned, what we're offered now is a set of lazy references to popular culture, a pale imitation of Hollywood and MTV, without the effort or the intelligence. There's a pretense that by referring to 'popularity' without actually trying to be popular, one can maintain one's social standing.

"After all, I'm only slumming"
"Because I have nowhere else to go"

In this context any rearguard movement by a now reactionary modernism is irrelevant.

Of course there are good shows coming up in the next 9 months. And the largest sums of money will be, mostly, well spent. There will be a few works by younger artists that will shock, because they're bright and good and strange. Those who make them will mostly be foreign born, if not still there. But for the rest who call this place their home, there are friendships based on lies and cowardice. It doesn't matter if one is looking at artists, dealers or critics; it's painful to be around people with so little self respect, scrounging as they are for bread crumbs.