Thursday, March 31, 2011

Kuniyasu, Geisha in a Hurry, 1816-18

Utamaro, Lovers in an Upstairs Room, 1788
Issey Miyake
The differences are huge between Durer and Miyake, but they both offer models that begin in the description of experience. They begin with empiricism.

Neo-Baroque even at its most luxurient is the development of an ethic of description. Working with fabric is about accepting and using the limits of gravity. It's the opposite of imposing an ideal, more the attempt to develop a graceful response to existing conditions. It's about time rather than timelessness, an implicitly narrative sense of physical form. Fabric falls, draping involves slowing or manipulating the fall. But an ethic of response is also the model for historians. Historians describe, theoreticians prescribe.

"You can't steer a wave,  dude"
The technocratic hero analogizes himself in his claims to universal knowledge as a God. Experience is narrative, and a craftsman does no more than try to respond gracefully to imposed limits, to physical forces that are predictable to some degree but over which he has no control, and to an imposed end, an inevitable conclusion: death.

The cerebral and overdetermined intellectualism of the technocrat has its parallel and antithesis in the visceral anti-intellectualism of solo extreme sport.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Watch the whole thing.
Clinton said the elements that led to intervention in Libya -- international condemnation, an Arab League call for action, a United Nations Security Council resolution -- are “not going to happen” with Syria, in part because members of the U.S. Congress from both parties say they believe Assad is “a reformer.”...

Each of these situations is unique,” Clinton said, referring to the Middle Eastern countries dealing with change and unrest, a list that now includes Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria and Bahrain.
Every act is unique. The purpose of the "rule of law" is to limit debate to one over formal categories. Does act "X" fit into Category "A"? If so does it fit "A1" or "A2"? etc. Discussion of law is one step removed from discussion of morality, less isolated from it than insulated, insulation denoting remove but also seepage. So there is a sense of higher neutral authority applying to all, even if that authority at that moment is merely formal. Law is the application of rules developed in the past in debates over morality that have been settled not as truth but as practicable. Morality is subjective. Law is not morality, it represents morality as defined in previous debates. The point is not to return to those debates again and again, debates that would threaten the survival of the community itself.

Liberals have less and less understanding of the purpose of the rule of law, supporting it in name only. Their faith in their own capacity for reason means they only support it when it's not applied to limit their own actions. So although liberal legal scholars criticize doctrines of original intent when they are applied to the Constitution or the Bible, liberal philosophers treat their own sense of history as absolute. The doctrine of the "living" Constitution is predicated on a living language, and what does that say about analytic and conceptualist doctrines? Stipulating to a definition of mathematics as "dead" what does that say about the relation of language to formal logic and of formal logic to the linguistic and political world?

I can't think of a purely logical distinction between the situation in Libya and the Ivory Coast and yet liberal defenders of intervention refer to principles as if there were. Other opinions are pushed aside not by reason but by passion and assumption. Reason trumps law in the anglophone and anglocentric bubble, and reason becomes unreason. Precedents are set then reinforced. Power corrupts.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب: Cracks in the Syrian ruling elite

The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب: Cracks in the Syrian ruling elite: "There are serious cracks in the top echelons of the Syrian ruling group buy I can't go into specifics now. The brutality of the regime is ..."

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

SAMO for a better America
Who shot Anthony Shadid in 2002 in Ramallah (II)
A well-known Western correspondent in the Middle East sent me this (he/she permitted me to cite without identifying him/her): "It was the Israelis. Not surprisingly the wording is mealy-mouthed. I had a few drinks with Anthony and his wife in the bar of the American Colony the evening he was shot (it was not a serious wound). He said he clearly saw the shooter was an Israeli soldier, and if I recall correctly he was treated in an Israeli field hospital. There never was any doubt who shot him."
And here is some more intelligence for you: western reporters who covered today's bombing in Jerusalem were attacked (kicked and punched) by Israelis at the scene. Unlike encounters by reporters in Tahrir Square attacked by Mubarak thugs, this has not been mentioned on air, has it?"
On March 9, I received the following invitation:
The Joseph and Alma Gildenhorn Middle East Forum
of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center
present (sic)
A Conversation
with Moshe Yaalon

Vice Premier, Minister of Strategic Affairs and Likud Knesset Member

Moderated by
Aaron David Miller
Public Policy Scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center

In the aftermath of the political change sweeping the Arab world, Minister Yaalon will share his perspective on how those events have shaped Israeli attitudes and policies on security, peacemaking, and relations with its Arab neighbors.

Thursday, March 24, 2011, 10:00 - 11:30 a.m.
6th Floor Flom Auditorium, Woodrow Wilson Center...
I was never able to go to the event. But today, I learned that it is now being described as "off the record". Why?
Possibly because Moshe Ya'alon has been credibly accused of having committed war crimes in Gaza-- most notably during the 2002 assassination of senior Hamas figure Salah Shehadeh-- an act committed when Mr. Shehadeh was eating dinner in his own home and thus in no sense a valid target under the laws of war? (Eight children and six other family members were killed alongside him during that meal.)

There are many countries in the world that Gen. Ya'alon cannt visit right now, because of the criminal charges that have been filed against him in connection with that killing as well as the shelling of the village of Qana in Lebanon in 1996, in which 120 mainly older people who had taken refuge there were killed. Here in the U.S. no such criminal charges have yet been filed, so he comes and goes as he pleases. But really, is there any need for a federally funded institution like the Wilson Center to grace him with an invitation?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Criticism, like history, as a model of intellectual activity, is retrospective not conceptual, and observational before prescriptive.
Farewell to Bill.

I never watched the show. That's not the point.

And again. The same applies. I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with the critics' specific choices or opinions. My interest is in their relation to their chosen subjects.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A repost from June. It seems an appropriate rejoinder to absurd metaphysical speculations elsewhere; to models of formal integrity, in philosophy, politics, or economics, that in fact model nothing but themselves. The comments below concern the relation of specific formal systems to the world and are speculative, in response to observation. That's the best technique we have. To argue otherwise is to argue that the a priori concept liberal Zionism should be allowed to trump the fact of its illiberal result.

Hans Memling, Tommaso di Folco Portinari,  Maria Portinari
"Probably" from 1470 [as wedding portraits] Oil on Wood, Two panels, each (painted surface) 16 5/8" x 12 1/2". Originally the wings of a triptych.

They hang about 2 feet from one another at the Met. If they are wedding portraits, as people assume, then he's 38 give or take, and she's about 14. They're wonderful paintings but their relation to one another seems slightly comic. He looks blank, or blankly devout, and she looks annoyed. She's a teenager. The curve of her mouth makes me laugh. But that leaves the wrong implication. The richness of the paintings isn't separate from their function as portraits. They're not paintings of poses, stock images beautifully made, but paintings of people posing as stock images recorded as they are, as actors. The Met refers to the two panels as "among the masterpieces of Northern Renaissance art" and that has much to do with the tension they manifest between the political and moral, the exterior and interior, the requirements of ideal form and honest, direct, description of life lived, of experience.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Syrian police seal off city of Daraa

AA: "A reader sent me a desperate plea warning of an impending massacre in Dir`ah in Syria tonight."
Friday Lunch Club: Clinton hails Gulfies for leading the charge: "(Reuters)- ... U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday hailed Gulf Arab nations for leading the charge on Libya, (and their own people!) seeking to bolster ties that are under strain as allies such as Saudi Arabia assess the U.S. stance toward protests shaking the region..."
Frege's logic would be the tool, but it is Schlick that developed the program of the free play in conceptual invention. Carnap debased the coin a bit by insisting we should be more modest conceptual engineers. But a scientific philosophy requires worker-bees and philosophical queens.

While I work on historical figures, I am an analytic philosopher
Schliesser again. Reactionary, in so many ways. Hypermodernism; a return to a fantasy of a scientific culture, explicitly anti-democratic this time. Modernism as farce. The discussions on that page and and Leiter's are just sad. As with economics, as with "theory", the primacy of the theoretical is the primacy of an analogy of the ideal. Analogy is a literary device. The archetypical rationalist is a cafe revolutionary, or a man who calls himself a feminist and will brook no argument from women.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hillary Mann Leverett states the obvious to the incredulous: "What we’re seeing in the Middle East today is a dramatic shift in the regional balance of power—a shift in the relative distribution of power against America and our regional partners in favor of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its allies."

Newsweek: "Far-right European politicians find love—and common cause—in Israel."

The desire for a Jewish state in the Middle East is the logical equivalent -and of course the direct result- of the desire for a Christian Europe.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Atrios is pathologically anti-intellectual.
Some Days, Internet Pissing Contests Don't Seem To Matter Much

Days like this there's too much of people declaring that Event X Proves Them Fucking Right while lecturing other people not to Draw The Wrong hasty Conclusions From Event X.
Discussion of the benefits and risks of nuclear power or any other policy question is not a pissing contest.

Atrios mocked Obama recently for saying that the leadership of some country or other country "needed" to do something, as if a statement of opinion were the problem, were not in fact part of the politics of government and daily life. The problem is a surfeit of coercive authority, not opinion. Like Eric Schliesser Duncan Black wants to imagine himself above the game.

Atrios and Schliesser both want to be judges more than players; they want the responsibility without the risk. If they're unable to see issue X in binary terms they throw up their hands and walk away. The comment says it all.

Japan has paid more than enough of a price for the nuclear age.
Keith Ellison. Absurd self-pity. Pathetic.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Warnung vor einer heiligen Nutte

Listening to the second in a series of mixes by the house DJ at a boutique hotel in Paris and wondering at the first track. Looking it up and realizing both what should have been obvious and how it makes perfect sense.
There I held a trembling hand
Seeking shelter in strange apartments
Til the day they turned her in
Being Judases of nowadays
Doris Days- To Ulrike M.
I think of Fassbinder

[a repeat from October 08]
Obvious, but nice to see it in the Times.
High Fascism
While fashion has moved far beyond the worst of the Vichy years, the role of the stylized, quasi-mythical celebrity-designer remains in the form of figures like Mr. Galliano and Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld; Mr. Galliano has been known to costume himself as a pirate or a Proustian dandy, while Mr. Lagerfeld sticks to a somewhat Goth interpretation of an 18th-century Prussian officer.

At the root of the whole system is the most elusive myth of all: the impossible promise that fashion can vanquish physical inadequacy and aging, conferring the beauty and youth we see on the runways and on every page of Vogue — a cult of physical perfection very much at home in the history of fascism.

And although we insist on the racial diversity of fashion’s current standards of beauty, the fascists’ body ideal has persisted and expanded far beyond Europe. The hallmarks of the Nazi aesthetic — blue eyes, blond hair, athletic fitness and sharp-angled features — are the very elements that define what we call the all-American look, still visible in the mythic advertising landscapes of designers like (the decidedly non-Aryan) Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.

Which brings us back to Mr. Galliano in the Paris bar. His was not a generic anti-Semitic tirade, but the self-conscious pronouncement of a world-class arbiter of taste (“I am John Galliano!”). Not only did he use ethnic slurs, he accused the woman of being unattractive and unfashionable, associating both with ethnicity, with being Jewish (which she happened not to be).

The link is clear: like a fascist demagogue of yore, he was declaring that she did not belong to the gilded group who wear the right boots, and from this Mr. Galliano slid effortlessly to a condemnation of her very flesh, and a wish for her death
Couture at its most banal is a kitsch memorial to Monarchism. It offers one fantasy of art as life. The model of art or ideology as life, in any form, is at the root of fascism and all reactionary anti-humanism.
Continuing from here. Eric Schliesser again [the boldface is what I quoted in my comment on the site]
On the Leiter report there is a discussion about Sluga's claim that "Attempts to revive [Cassirer's] fortunes are, I am afraid, doomed to failure." See this interesting review of a book by Peter Gordon. Sluga offers three reasons (they are not arguments) for his claim: i) Cassirer lacks "stature" vis a vis Heidegger; ii) Cassirer lacks "radicalism" (but Wittgenstein, Foucault, or Derrida have it!); c) Cassirer lacks the "incisive scientific acumen of a Russell, Quine, or Rawls." The third is manifestly false (Cassirer was extremely knowledgeable of history of physics and then-contemporary mathematics), and suggests Sluga doesn't know what he is talking about. (I have deep respect for Rawls' knowledge of mathematics and economics, by the way.) The first two reasons are very much in the eye of the beholder, and (if I have learned anything at all in my career as a philosophical historian) it is very hard to foretell how posterity judges... Sluga attempts to legislate what he is incapable of having authority over.
This is really sort of amazing. Schliesser seems to be saying that we shouldn't express opinions because only posterity will decide; as if we were not aspects of others' posterity. As I wrote on the site: "Sluga is playing his role as a historical actor, deciding for himself as we all do for ourselves, in the long process of public decision-making. You seem to be putting yourself in the role of observer, outside of the historical process."

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Duncan Black
Politics Is Unseemly

While I'm certainly not a fan of the Kochs' political agenda, and obviously we can talk about the whole politics/campaign finance/money issue, it's also the case that actual rich philanthropists should consider spending more time on politics than on charitable giving for many issues. Spending more time on politics doesn't necessarily mean spending money to elect people to federal office, it can simply mean recognizing that some issues are best dealt with by the government. There's nothing wrong with private charity, but it isn't always a substitute for the universality that the state can provide.
Linking to this
"Why would [David Koch] donate $200 million for cancer research when he knows he can give $100k to the Republican National Committee and get Republican congresspersons to increase funding by the same amount?"

While I can can see why the Kochs might also want to spend their own money funding cancer research, I can’t see why, if they’re concerned about funding for cancer research, they wouldn’t just call John Boehner from the VOID, on the Snype, and tell him not to cut the federal science budget.
Where to begin?
It's not about charity it's about power; as with Soros, though Soros is more sophisticated.
Sometimes I'm reminded just how much Atrios is incapable of subtle observation. If he can't perceive it as cut and dried he's lost. He refuses to read subtext in others' actions or his own. He's a child.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

A friend's invention.

How to steam wood for bending on a jobsite:
After disconnecting a radiator. 3' length of pipe with a valve at the far end to release a small about of pressure.
We left 1/2" quarter-round in for about an hour. Turned the thermostat to 70F. Tacked the pieces down and let them dry out. Worked perfectly.
Of course it helps if it's 30°F outside
note taking posted elsewhere
My comment was directed of course to Eric Schliesser. I'm aware of your professional interests. But since Antonin Scalia, who is required to be a historian of law, is known for stating that "the Constitution as I interpret it is a dead constitution" thereby collapsing the past into the present [and isn't that the definition of anti-historical argument?] I see no reason why I shouldn't be able to make the same observation about you; though you argue from the standpoint of the scientist rather than of someone raised on the political culture of reactionary Catholicism. And as I've mentioned before here I think, it's Panofsky, one of the last great figures of the German "tradition of art historical and literary historical criticism", who reminds us that the unification of the humanities and sciences was a hallmark of the Middle Ages, that their separation was central to the birth of the Renaissance, and that the contemporary urge for reunification (that you describe approvingly) is fundamentally reactionary: "If the anthropocratic civilization of the Renaissance is headed, as it seems to be, for a 'Middle Ages in reverse'..." Scalia's mistakes are yours, and they are serious. The differences between the two arguments are secondary. The relations your observe or create between people and ideas are a source of great pleasure for you. That pleasure is not a function of the people or ideas but of your relationship to them. You find certain things "meaningful". Meaningfulness is extrinsic to objects. As you collapse the past and present, you collapse objects and desires.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

working for a living

David Murray Quartet

Tuesday, March 01, 2011