Friday, May 30, 2014

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Flashbang Flashbacks

Batman as Constituent Ideology: The Liberal Communist
... one should distinguish between constituted ideology - empirical manipulations and distortions at the level of content - and constituent ideology - the ideological form which provides the coordinates of the very space within which the content is located... Today, this fundamental level of constituent ideology assumes the guise of its very opposite, of non-ideology. (Zizek 2009b website)
The notion of constituent ideology is encapsulated in the stolen wheelbarrow anecdote. We lose focus upon the ideological effects of form by over-concentrating upon the nominal content, and a vivid illustration of this process is provided by the Batman films. At the level of constituted ideology, the films contain a quite radical critique of advanced capitalism - Gotham City is a dark (literally in terms of cinematography) dystopian place in which private affluence exists cheek-by-jowl with public squalor. However, the form in which the films are structured, and the manner in which their potentially radical messages are processed, produce a different, non-constituted, overall ideological effect: the constituent processing of potential critique by means of various caricatures and symbols. The Dark Knight, for example, not only deals explicitly with the issue of the basic corruption of individual public figures, but it also strongly portrays the deep-rooted cynicism of the whole political and economic ruling class. It thereby clearly demonstrates a working awareness of the form that constituent ideology assumes. However, instead of then exploring a radical solution to this ideological problem, it merely provides a more sophisticated further form of constituent ideology (the film form itself) with which to befog possible solutions. The movie exemplifies 'the contemporary cynical attitude: in it, ideology can lay its cards on the table, reveal the secret of its functioning, and still continue to function' (Indivisible Remainder: 200; 1997b website) - the ideology of the stolen wheelbarrow.

The ideologically constituent aspect of the films is most clearly embodied in the figure of the liberal communist, Bruce Wayne: 'Capitalism needs charity in the same way Batman "justifies" Bruce Wayne's wealth. Capitalism qua Gotham City creates the problems and then provides the repressive mask by which those problems are to be solved' (Reece 2008). The systematic problems with capitalists like Max Shreck and their underworld counterparts such as the Joker and the Penguin who take things to unacceptable extremes. The implicit message of the movies is that of the philanthropic capitalist model enshrined in the Wayne family legacy is the solution to society's problems, and this is what Batman fights to protect - le nom du pere - his father's benign legacy. The films thereby subjectivize objective, systemic problems and provide a sustained example of the conceptual distinction Zizek makes between subjective and objective forms of violence. The films achieve this effect through the constituently conservative form in which they present their constituted ideological content - an only apparently radical portrayal of capitalism's dark soul. Batman's origins may lie within the comic book, but Hollywood movies embody a serious political issue: the specific nature of contemporary mediated belief.
Paul A. Taylor, "Zizek and the Media"

Friday, May 23, 2014

Ontological Progressions in a Rear View Mirror

from Wikipedia
Process philosophy (or ontology of becoming) identifies metaphysical reality with change and development. Since the time of Plato and Aristotle, philosophers have posited true reality as "timeless", based on permanent substances, while processes are denied or subordinated to timeless substances. If Socrates changes, becoming sick, Socrates is still the same (the substance of Socrates being the same), and change (his sickness) only glides over his substance: change is accidental, whereas the substance is essential. Therefore, classic ontology denies any full reality to change, which is conceived as only accidental and not essential. This classical ontology is what made knowledge and a theory of knowledge possible, as it was thought that a science of something in becoming was an impossible feat to achieve.[1]

In opposition to the classical model of change as accidental (as by Aristotle) or illusory, process philosophy regards change as the cornerstone of reality — the cornerstone of the Being thought as Becoming. Modern philosophers who appeal to process rather than substance include Nietzsche, Heidegger, Charles Peirce, Alfred North Whitehead, Alan Watts, Robert M. Pirsig, Charles Hartshorne, Arran Gare and Nicholas Rescher. In physics Ilya Prigogine[2] distinguishes between the "physics of being" and the "physics of becoming". Process philosophy covers not just scientific intuitions and experiences, but can be used as a conceptual bridge to facilitate discussions among religion, philosophy, and science

Thursday, May 22, 2014


SOCRATES: Then courage is not the science which is concerned with the fearful and hopeful, for they are future only; courage, like the other sciences, is concerned not only with good and evil of the future, but of the present and past, and of any time?

NICIAS: That, as I suppose, is true.

SOCRATES: Then the answer which you have given, Nicias, includes only a third part of courage; but our question extended to the whole nature of courage: and according to your view, that is, according to your present view, courage is not only the knowledge of the hopeful and the fearful, but seems to include nearly every good and evil without reference to time. What do you say to that alteration in your statement?

NICIAS: I agree, Socrates.

SOCRATES: But then, my dear friend, if a man knew all good and evil, and how they are, and have been, and will be produced, would he not be perfect, and wanting in no virtue, whether justice, or temperance, or holiness? He would possess them all, and he would know which were dangers and which were not, and guard against them whether they were supernatural or natural; and he would provide the good, as he would know how to deal both with gods or men.

NICIAS: I think, Socrates, that there is a great deal of truth in what you say.

SOCRATES: But then, Nicias, courage, according to this new definition of yours, instead of being a part of virtue only, will be all virtue?

NICIAS: It would seem so.

SOCRATES: But we were saying that courage is one of the parts of virtue?

NICIAS: Yes, that was what we were saying.
- Plato, "Laches"

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


It is the hour to be drunken! to escape being the martyred slaves of time, be ceaselessly drunk. On wine, on poetry, or on virtue, as you wish.
- Charles Baudelaire

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Before the Law

You need not do anything.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
You need not even listen, just wait.
You need not even wait, just learn to be quiet, still and solitary.
And the world will freely offer itself to you unmasked.
It has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
- Franz Kafka, "Learn To Be Quiet"

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Speedy GGGG's Lament

My heart leaps up, as toward a rainbow I ride
So it was at the beginning of my ride
So it has been through all the years and miles
So it shall be until the end of my days
or let me die

The child is father to the man.
And I wish my days could be
bound together by the road,
by the wind,
by the ride.
-Bill “uglicoyote” Davis

Saturday, May 10, 2014


‘…[our] gilded horse-cockerel [mastheads], crafted by careful labour, are dripping [like wax?]…’
-Aeschylus, "The Myrmidons" (Fragment 61)
Charon’s Roll

The lads tease me, call me Charon. I row
out to anchored ships at night, take my tax
as ferryman, not of pennies but texts,
as our Law decrees, seizing plays, poems
for transcribing in our new Musaeum,
swearing to return all works I ‘borrow’.

Last week I took some rolls of Aeschylus
to Callimachus, our famed Librarian:
gilded horse-cockerels, we read, perplexed,
crafted mastheads, now melting, drip by drip,
in the corrosive fires of burning ships…
We joked how they must drink, these Athenians.

Callimachus did not laugh. It was fate
he said: here were the Greek prows at Troy, torched
as Achilles sulked. Myrmidons. Lines thought
so prized now that he would not give them back.
We all groaned, aghast. Yet more horse-cocks.

And then I glanced at Callimachus’s face
caught in a shifting taper as he talked -
like a city put to flame, molten wax
about to twist the world into new shapes.
- Alexandria, (c.230 BC)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Saro, Modern Version

Pretty Saro is an English folk ballad originating in the early 1700s. The song died out in England by the mid eighteenth century but was rediscovered in North America in the early twentieth century where it had been preserved in the Appalachian Mountains through oral traditions. The work of Cecil Sharp is credited for keeping songs such as Pretty Saro and others, alive well into modern times.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Traversing Fantasy - Passage a l'acte

In contemporary art, we encounter often brutal attempts to a 'return to the real', to remind the spectator (or reader) that he is perceiving a fiction, to awaken him from the sweet dream. This gesture has two main forms which, although opposed, amount to the same. In literature or cinema, there are (especially in postmodern texts) self-reflexive reminders that what we are watching is a mere fiction, like the actors on screen addressing directly us as spectators, thus ruining the illusion of the autonomous space of the narrative fiction, or the writer directly intervening into the narrative through ironic comments; in theatre, there are occasional brutal events which awaken us to the reality of the stage (like slaughtering a chicken on stage). Instead of conferring on these gestures a kind of Brechtian dignity, perceiving them as versions of extraneation, one should rather denounce them for what they are: the exact opposite of what they claim to be - escapes from the Real, desperate attempts to avoid the real of the illusion itself, the Real that emerges in the guise of an illusory spectacle.

What we confront here is the fundamental ambiguity of the notion of fantasy: while fantasy is the screen which protects us from the encounter with the Real, fantasy itself, at its most fundamental - what Freud called the "fundamental fantasy," which provides the most elementary coordinates of the subject's capacity to desire - cannot ever be subjectivized, and has to remain repressed in order to be operative. Recall Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, the apparently vulgar conclusion of the film, when, after Tom Cruise confesses his nightly adventure to Nicole Kidman and they are both confronted with the excess of their fantasizing, Kidman - upon ascertaining that now they are fully awakened, back into the day, and that, if not forever, at least for a long time, they will stay there, keeping the fantasy at bay - tells him that they must do something as soon as possible. "What?" he asks, and her answer is: "Fuck." End of the film, final credits. The nature of the passage a l'acte ("passage to the act") as the false exit, as the way to avoid confronting the horror of the fantasmatic netherworld, was never so abruptly stated in a film: far from providing them with a real life bodily satisfaction that would render superfluous empty fantasizing, the passage to the act is presented as a stopgap, as a desperate preventive measure aimed at keeping at bay the spectral netherworld of fantasies. It is as if her message is: let's fuck as soon as possible in order to stifle the thriving fantasies, before they overwhelm us again. Lacan's quip about awakening into reality as an escape from the real encountered in the dream holds more than anywhere apropos of the sexual act itself: we do not dream about fucking when we are not able to do it; we rather fuck in order to escape and stifle the excessive nature of the dream that would otherwise overwhelm us. For Lacan, the ultimate ethical task is that of the true awakening: not only from sleep, but from the spell of fantasy which controls us even more when we are awake.
- Slavoj Zizek, "From Che vuoi? to Fantasy: Lacan with Eyes Wide Shut"