Thursday, December 31, 2015

On Melancholy Hill

I abhor
Those that feel it’s their chore
To toilet paper my creative door
With their opinions that lack color
I’d rather hear a walrus snore
If not for self expression what’s poetry for
- Robb A. Kopp, "Ode to the Grammar Nazis" (2010)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Jouissance for You, Not Me?

Adam Kotsko, a professor of humanities at Shimer College in Chicago, in an email to me, provided the best characterization of the reactions to my latest text on the refugees and Paris attacks:
I notice that the responses always seem to be a referendum on you, almost a Rorschach test for what people think of you. If they think you’re a terrible quasi-fascist, pro-Western ideologue, they find stuff to support that. If they assume you’re in good faith, they can find a more positive reading. But the discussion never gets to the point of actually addressing the issue—it’s almost like “what we should do about the issue” is treated as self-evident to all concerned, and the question is whether and how you measure up to this implicit standard (which of course can’t be explicitly stated by anyone).
As for numerous attacks on what I have written, most of them don’t deserve an answer since they simply repeat the position I criticize. What should I say to the claim that I want to use the military to quarantine and throw out the refugees, apart from the fact that it’s a simple lie? Some of the criticism, however, is worthy of reply.

I often hear the reproach that I speak as a European, part of the European elite with whom I am in solidarity, and as such I am treating refugees as an external threat to be contained. To which I can only say: Of course I speak from an European position. To deny this would be a preposterous lie, an unmistakable sign of patronizing fake solidarity.

But which European position? In the same way that there is no one Islam, that Islam also can harbor emancipatory potentials (and I’ve written about this extensively ), European tradition is also marked by a series of deep antagonisms. The only way to effectively fight “Eurocentrism” is from within, mobilizing Europe’s radical-emancipatory tradition. In short, our solidarity with non-Europeans should be a solidarity of struggles, not a “dialogue of cultures” but a uniting of struggles within each culture.

Merkel’s invitation to accept the refugees—more refugees than any other Euruoean state—was a genuine ethical miracle, one that cannot be reduced to the capitalist strategy of importing cheap labor force. What I find more than a little bit weird is the eagerness to criticize Germany for not showing enough openness toward the refugees instead of focusing on those states that adopt the paraoniac anti-immigrant attitude: Poland, Hungary, etc. It’s the same old superego logic; the more we obey the commandment of the law, the more we are guilty. The more Germany acts in a (relatively) decent way, the more it will be criticized. On the top of that, it is deeply symptomatic of our hypocrisy how rarely the European Left insists that the way to defuse the racist fear of refugees is to include refugees in the public debate. Our TV stations and other public media should have been full of refugees describing their plea, talking about their expectations, etc. One should give them the space to speak in public, not just speak on their behalf.

Another often-repeated reproach targets my mention of Western “values” and “way of life”: How dare I ignore the blatant fact that “Western values” are for the Third World people the very ideology that justifies their colonization and exploitation, the ruthless destruction of their ways of life? My answer is that I am far from ignoring it—I’ve written pages and pages on it. What I insist upon is that, in the same way that Islam does not designate one big homogeneous entity, European tradition also provides the resources for radical emancipation, i.e., for the radical self-critique of “Eurocentrism,” while calls for a return to some pre-colonial indigenous roots mostly fit perfectly global capitalism.

A more refined version of this reproach points out that egalitarianism, feminism, etc., are not simply part of Western core values but the result of a long struggle against the hegemonic ideology and politics of capitalism. It maintains that the freedom of press, of public speech, etc., is not an ingredient of liberal capitalist societies that arose spontaneously: it was hard won through popular struggles throughout 19th century. When the West boasts of its emancipatory values, one should always bear in mind that we are largely dealing with the logic of “if you can’t defeat them, join them.” I cannot but agree with this point, adding that the same struggle goes on today (Wikileaks, etc.).

The last point. In public debates on many campuses from London to Berlin, I am repeatedly told that now is not the time to raise the topic of the incompatibility of ways of life, of the status of women in some immigrant communities, etc.—that now we are dealing with a big humanitarian crisis, hundreds of thousands are fighting for their life, and to bring in cultural issues ultimately just detracts from the key issue. I totally disagree with this logic: It is precisely now, when hundreds of thousands are ariving into Europe, that we should talk about all this and elaborate a formula of how to deal with it.

The reason is not merely that only such a direct approach can help to defuse anti-immigrant paranoia, but a much more ominous fact: Sexuality has emerged as one of the central ingredients of today’s ideologico-political struggles.

Let’s take the Nigerian Boko Haram movement, the name which can be roughly and descriptively translated as “Western education is forbidden”—meaning, in particular, any education of women. How, then, to account for the weird fact of a massive sociopolitical movement whose main programmatic item is the hierarchic regulation of the relationship between the two sexes?

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini made clear decades ago why an attack like the Paris bombings that focuses on the “dissolute” every day amusements can be considered appropriate. In February 1979, on his return to the Islamic Republic of Iran he said, “We’re not afraid of sanctions. We’re not afraid of military invasion. What frightens us is invasion by western immorality.” The fact that Khomeini talks about fear, about what a Muslim should fear most in the West, should be taken literally: Muslim fundamentalists, be they Shiite or Sunni, do not have any problems with the brutality of economic and military struggles, their true enemy is not the Western economic neocolonialism and military aggressiveness but its “immoral” culture.

The same holds for Putin’s Russia, where the conservative nationalists define their conflict with the West as cultural, in the last resort focused on sexual difference: apropos the victory of the Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst (a.k.a. Tom Neuwirth) at the 2014 Eurovision contest, Putin himself said at a dinner in St. Petersburg: “The Bible talks about the two genders, man and woman, and the main purpose of union between them is to produce children.” As usual, the rabid nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a member of parliament, was more outspoken. He called her victory “the end of Europe,” saying: “There is no limit to our outrage. … There are no more men or women in Europe, just it.” Vice prime minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted that the Eurovision result “showed supporters of European integration their European future—a bearded girl.”

There is a certain quasi-poetic uncanny beauty in this image of the bearded lady (for long time the standard feature of circus freakshows) as the symbol of united Europe—no wonder Russia refused to transmit the Eurovision contest to its TV public, with calls for a renewed cultural Cold War. Note the same logic as in Khomeini: not army or economy, the truly feared object is immoral depravity, the threat to sexual difference. Boko Haram just brought brings this logic to the endits endpoint.
What psychoanalysis tells us

One should not underestimate the complexity and persistence of different “ways of life,” and here psychoanalysis can be of some help. Which is the factor that renders different cultures (or, rather, ways of life in the rich texture of their daily practices) incompatible? What is the obstacle that prevents their fusion or, at least, their harmoniously indifferent co-existence?

The psychoanalytic answer is: jouissance. It is not only that different modes of jouissance are incongruous with each other without a common measure; the Other’s jouissance is insupportable for us because (and insofar as) we cannot find a proper way to relate to our own jouissance.

The ultimate incompatibility is not between mine and other’s jouissance, but between myself and my own jouissance, which forever remains an ex-timate intruder. It is to resolve this deadlock that the subject projects the core of its jouissance onto an Other, attributing to this Other full access to a consistent jouissance. Such a constellation cannot but give rise to jealousy: In jealousy, the subject creates/imagines a paradise (a utopia of full jouissance) from which he is excluded.

The same definition applies to what one can call political jealousy, from the anti-Semitic fantasies about the mysterious practices and abilities of the Jews (which sometimes reach the level of madness, like the claim that Jewish men also menstruate) to the Christian fundamentalists’ fantasies about the weird sexual practices of gays and lesbians. As Klaus Theweleit, a scholar of fascist sociology, pointed out, it is all too easy to read such phenomena as mere “projections”: Jealousy can be quite real and well-founded; other people can and do have as much more intense sexual life than the jealous subject—a fact that, as Lacan remarked, doesn’t make jealousy any less pathological. Here is Lacan’s succinct description of the political dimension of this predicament:
With our jouissance going off track, only the Other is able to mark its position, but only in so far as we are separated from this Other. Whence certain fantasies – unheard of before the melting pot. Leaving the Other to his own mode of jouissance, that would only be possible by not imposing our own on him, by not thinking of him as underdeveloped.
To recapitulate the argument: Due to our impasse with our own jouissance, the only way for us to imagine a consistent jouissance is to conceive it as the Other’s jouissance; however, the Other’s jouissance is by definition experienced as a threat to our identity, as something to be rejected, destroyed even.

With regard to the identity of an ethnic group, this means that “there is always, in any human community, a rejection of an inassimilable jouissance, which forms the mainspring of a possible barbarism.” Here, Lacan underpins Freud, for whom the social bond (group identification) is mediated by the identification of each of its members with the figure of a Leader shared by all: Lacan conceives this symbolic identification with a Master-Signifier as secondary to some preceding rejection of jouissance, which is why, for him, “the founding crime is not the murder of the father, but the will to murder he who embodies the jouissance that I reject.” (And, one might add, even the murder of the primordial father is grounded in the hatred of his excessive jouissance, his possessing of all women.)

The starting point, what I “immediately see,” is that I don’t know who or what I am since my innermost core of jouissance eludes me. I then identify myself with others who are caught in the same deadlock, and we ground our collective identity not directly in some Master-Signifier but, more fundamentally, in our shared rejection of the Other’s jouissance.

The status of Other’s jouissance is thus deeply ambiguous: It is a threat to my identity, but at the same time my reference to it founds my identity—in short, my identity emerges as a defensive reaction to what threatens it, or, as we may say apropos anti-Semitism, what is a Nazi without a Jew?

Hitler allegedly said: “We have to kill the Jew within us.” A.B. Yehoshua’s provided an adequate comment to this statement:
This devastating portrayal of the Jew as a kind of amorphous entity that can invade the identity of a non-Jew without his being able to detect or control it stems from the feeling that Jewish identity is extremely flexible, precisely because it is structured like a sort of atom whose core is surrounded by virtual electrons in a changing orbit.
In this sense, Jews are effectively the objet petit a of the Gentiles: what is “in Gentiles more than Gentiles themselves,” not another subject that I encounter in front of me but an alien, a foreign intruder, within me, what Lacan called lamella, the amorphous intruder of infinite plasticity, an undead “alien” monster who cannot ever be pinned down to a determinate form.

In this sense, Hitler’s statement tells more than it wants to say: Against its intention, it confirms that the Gentiles need the anti-Semitic figure of the “Jew” in order to maintain their identity. It is thus not only that “the Jew is within us”—what Hitler fatefully forgot to add is that he, the anti-Semite, his identity, is also in the Jew. (And the same holds even for a certain kind of anti-racism. The Politically Correct anti-racism depends on what it fights (or pretends to)—on the first-level racism itself, thus parasitizing its opponent: The PC anti-racism is sustained by the surplus-enjoyment which emerges when the PC-subject triumphantly reveals the hidden racist bias on an apparently neutral statement or gesture.)

Another conclusion to be drawn from this intermingling of jouissances is that racism is always a historical phenomenon: Even if anti-Semitism seems to remain the same through millenia, its inner form changes with every historical rupture. French philosopher Étienne Balibar perspicuously noted that in today’s global capitalism, in which we are all neighbors to each other even if we live far away, the structure of anti-Semitism is in a way globalized: Every other ethnic group perceived as posing a threat to our identities functions as a “Jew” did for the anti-Semite. The paradox is that, in our specific historical situation, anti-Semitism is universalized. This universalization reaches its apogee in the unique exceptional fact that even the fervent Zionist themselves construct the figure of the “self-hating Jew” along the lines of anti-Semitism.
Why Sam Kriss is wrong

I read with interest Sam Kriss’s reply to me. First off, it was dishonest of him to write:
As Zizek himself frequently argues, the primary pathology of the racist is to refuse to see the Jew or the Muslim or the Roma as a person …

So what, then, are we to make of his statement that “Muslims find it impossible to bear our blasphemous images and reckless humor, which we consider a part of our freedoms”?
I said no such thing. This is what I wrote:
[F]undamentalist Muslims find it impossible to bear our blasphemous images and reckless humor, which we consider a part of our freedoms.
Do you notice the word that he omitted?

Despite such intellectual sleights of hand, Kriss seemed to engage also with the Lacanian concepts I use, accusing me of misusing them. But then I stumbled upon sentences like the following one: “Fantasy is that which structures reality, and even if it’s a symptom, the symptom is always a sign to be interpreted, rather than a cloud that obfuscates.”

Such sentences are strict nonsense, implying a series of false identifications: objet a as the cause of desire is reduced to its role in fantasy (while Lacan elaborated in detail the status of objet a outside fantasy, as well as modes of desiring which remain after we “traverse” the fantasy), fantasy is equated with symptom (while Lacan spent long chapters on elaborating their opposition), etc.

Since there is no space here to engage in this explanation (every good introduction to Lacan will do the job), I will limit myself to a passage from Kriss’s reply which condenses his double confusion, theoretical as well as political, culminating in his ridiculous notion of fidelity to a fantasy:
In Lacanian terminology, what Zizek identifies as a fundamental disparity between ‘our’ civilized European way of life and the irreducible foreignness of the migrants would be called an asymmetry in the Symbolic order. (It’s not just Lacanianism that he abandons here — what happened to the Hegelian identity of non-identity and identity?) If this asymmetry does exist, then fantasy is precisely the means by which it can be resolved. If we lack the appropriate signifiers for each other, then the interdicting untruth of fantasy opens up a space for some semblance of communication. If migrants are to live peacefully and happily in Europe, the demand should not be that they give up their fantasy of a better life, but that they cling to it for all its worth.
First, the basic premise of Lacan’s theory is that what my critic rather clumsily calls the “asymmetry in the symbolic order” does not primarily occur between different ways of life (cultures) but within each particular culture: each culture is structured around its particular “points of impossibility,” immanent blockades, antagonisms, around its Real.

Second, far from “resolving” it, a fantasy obfuscates it, it covers up the antagonism – a classic case: the fantasmatic figure of the Jew in anti-Semitism obfuscates the class antagonism by way of projecting it onto the “Jew,” the external cause that disturbs an otherwise harmonious social edifice. The statement “If we lack the appropriate signifiers for each other, then the interdicting untruth of fantasy opens up a space for some semblance of communication.” is thus totally misleading: it implies that each culture somehow manages to be in touch with itself, it just lacks appropriate signifiers for other cultures. Lacan’s thesis is, on the contrary, that each culture lacks “appropriate signifiers” for itself, for its own representation, which is why fantasies are needed to fill in this gap.

And it is here that things get really interesting: these fantasies as a rule concern other cultures. Back to the Nazis: the fantasy of the Jew is a key ingredient of the Nazi identity. The Jew as the enemy allows the anti-Semitic subject to avoid the choice between working class and capital: by blaming the Jew whose plotting foments class warfare, he can advocate the vision of a harmonious society in which work and capital collaborate.

This is also why Julia Kristeva is right in linking the phobic object (the Jew whose plots anti-Semites fear) to the avoidance of a choice: “The phobic object is precisely avoidance of choice, it tries as long as possible to maintain the subject far from a decision.”

Does this proposition not hold especially for political phobia? Does the phobic object/abject on the fear of which the rightist-populist ideology mobilizes its partisans (the Jew, the immigrant, today in Europe the refugee) not embody a refusal to choose? Choose what? A position in class struggle. The anti-Semitic fetish-figure of the Jew is the last thing a subject sees just before he confronts social antagonism as constitutive of the social body (I paraphrase here Freud’s definition of fetish as the last thing a subject sees before discovering that a woman doesn’t have a penis).

So the first conclusion is that some fantasies at least are “bad”: we should definitely not advise the Nazis “not to give up their fantasy of a better life (without Jews) but to cling to it for all its worth”… Should we then distinguish between “good” and “bad” fantasies – say, should we replace racist fantasies with humanist all-inclusive fantasies of global brotherhood and collaboration?

This seems to be the direction of my critic when he writes that “the interdicting untruth of fantasy opens up a space for some semblance of communication” - in short, even if a fantasy is not true, this is all we have to maintain at least a semblance of communication.

But is this really the (political) lesson of Lacan’s psychoanalysis? Is fantasy really the last resort of politics? Is Communism ultimately just a fantasy we should cling to whatever the cost? The least on can say is that Lacan’s theory opens up another way, what one may call a politics of traversing the fantasy: a politics which does not obfuscate social antagonisms but confronts them, a politics which aims not just to “realize an impossible dream” but to practice a “discourse (social link) which would not be that of a semblance” (Lacan), a discourse which touches/disturbs the Real. Whatever Lacan is, he is not a post-modernist who claims that all communication is, as Kriss puts it, a “semblance.”
- Slavoj Zizek, "The Need to Traverse the Fantasy: A call to mobilize Europe’s radical-emancipatory tradition and why we need a solidarity of struggle, not a dialogue of cultures"

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Sociability

My peers, lately, have found companionship through means of intoxication - it makes them sociable. I, however, cannot force myself to use drugs to cheat on my loneliness - it is all that I have - and when the drugs and alcohol dissipate, will be all that my peers have as well.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Solstice in B&W

ROYGBIV

ROYGBIV or Roy G. Biv is an acronym for the sequence of hues commonly described as making up a rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet.

A rainbow spans a continuous spectrum of colours; the distinct bands are an artifact of human color vision. In ROYGBIV, the colours are arranged in the order of decreasing wavelengths, with red being 650 nm and violet being about 400 nm. The acronym is memorable because Roy is a common male given name, so Roy G. Biv sounds like a first name, middle initial, and a last name.
from Wikipedia

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Living Safe in My Cage

Author Unknown. from Essay Judge
I am simply trapped. I have always been trapped inside a cage; an unbreakable, indisputable cage. With the little room I have to breathe, I exhale. That exhale is my freedom. That freedom is my art. Art is the way I escape from my entrapment; but I have carried this burden with me since the age of innocence. What I am afraid to admit is although the cage is my trouble, it is more so my comfort. I feel safe; away from all judgment and away from my reality. The reality is I am not trapped, just lost. As I dwindle down my dark path to nothing, I stop. I remember that feeling, the feeling of freedom. I turn around in search for that freedom. My art releases me from the unbreakable cage. I am free, but only until the brush is worn. Then I enter into my cage and am once again confined. I unconsciously limit myself in every aspect besides art. It’s who I am; it is what I live for.

Degas once said, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”. With all due respect to Edgar, I disagree. I believe art is about what I create it to be. If others grasp my concept then I have succeeded beyond my hopes. Art to me is not about pleasing others, but rather releasing yourself. The message behind my art is to show the process of release, or escape, from our “cages”. I genuinely believe that everyone of is in a theoretical cage of some sort. I want to bring this to life; to visual art. Anyone who looks at my art should have their own personal take on it, but if I achieved my goal, they will relate it themselves as a person. I truly stand by the fact that all art is extremely personal. I naturally create relationships with each work I create. Not only do I put all of my time and effort into my pieces, but I also add my personal life.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Still Breathing?

He breathed her in as if she were his only source of oxygen
- becca marie, "Breathe" (June 2014)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Baltimore ROCKS! - Sun Club

Dig deep.
Trolls are nice people,
But nobody
Likes them.
- Francie Lynch, "Trolls Are Nice People (10W)" (Jul 12)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Up All Night, again...

I hurt

but I don't want to hurt alone.
I want you to hurt too.
I want to hurt somebody

and you'll do

if only to see the look in your eyes
not understanding why
because there is no reason why.

Let's just do it.
- Jim Murdoch, "another darkpoem " (26 July 1996)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Heart Beats

You must realise that Hamm and Clov are Didi and Gogo at a later date, at the end of their lives...
- Samuel Beckett\

Friday, November 27, 2015

Signal 30

from Wikipedia
Signal 30 is a 1959 social guidance film made by the Highway Safety Foundation in the vicinity of Mansfield, Ohio. The film, shown widely to high school students across the country during the 1960s, was produced by Richard Wayman and narrated by Wayne Byers, and takes its name from the radio code used by the Ohio State Highway Patrol for a fatal traffic accident.

Similar to Red Asphalt, Signal 30 features graphic footage of crashed automobiles and their horrifically injured and dismembered occupants. Despite its gruesome nature, the film later won the National Safety Council Award. It was followed by two sequels, entitled Mechanized Death and Wheels of Tragedy, and inspired a whole genre of similarly gory road safety films.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Strict Machine Love

Rules are rules
or are they?
If 12:01 is late for curfew
is there a greater consequence for 12:06?
If I call for 12:10 does that buy me 12:15?
Negotiating strictness
Bargaining freedom
Dealing Discipline
Oh to be 14 again.
- Ellis Reyes, "Shades of Gray"

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Power vs Authority

This is the sense in which one should render democracy problematic: why should the Left always and unconditionally respect the formal democratic 'rules of the game'? Why should it not, in some circumstances at least, call into question the legitimacy of the outcome of the formal democratic procedure? All democratic leftists venerate Rosa Luxemburg's famous dictum, 'Freedom is freedom for those who think differently'. Perhaps, the time has come to shift the accent from 'differently' to 'think': 'Freedom is freedom for those who think differently' - ie, only for those who really think, not for those who blindly (unthinkingly) act out their opinions. What this means is that one should gather the courage to radically question today's predominant attitude of anti-authoritarian tolerance. It was, surprisingly, Bernard Williams who, in his persipacious reading of David Mamet's "Oleanna", outlined the limits of this attitude"
A complaint constantly made be the female character is that she has made sacrifices to come to college, in order to learn something, to be told things that she did not know, but she has been offered only a feeble permissiveness. She complains that her teacher... does not control or direct her enough: he does not tell her what to believe, or even, perhaps, what to ask. He does not exercise authority. At the same time, she complains that he exercises power over her. This might seem to be a muddle on her part, or the playwright's, but it is not. The male character has power over her (he can decide what grade she gets) but just because he lacks authority, this power is mere power, in part, gender power.
Power appears (is experienced) 'as such' at the very point where it is no longer covered by 'authority'. There are, however, further complications to Williams view. First 'authority' is not simply a direct property of the master-figure, but an effect of the social relations between the master and his subjects: even if the master remains the same, it may happen, because of the change in the socio-symbolic field, that his position is no longer perceived as legitimate authority, but merely as illegitimate power. (Is such a shift not the most elementary gesture of feminsim: male authority is all of a sudden unmasked as mere power?) The lesson of every revolution from 1789 to 1989 is that such a disintegration of authority, its transformation into arbitrary power, always precedes the revolutionary irruption. Where Williams is correct is in his emphasis on how the very permissiveness of the power-figure, his restraint from exercising authority by directing, controlling, his subject makes that authority appear as illegitimate power. Therein resides the vicious cycle of today's academia: the more professors renounce, 'authoritarian' active teaching, the imposition of knowledge and values, the more they are experienced as figures of power. And, as every parent knows, the same goes for parental education: a father who exerts true transferential authority will never be experienced as 'oppressive' - it is, on the contrary, a father who tries to be permissive, who does not want to impose his views and values on his children, but allows them to discover their own way, who is denounced as exerting power, as being 'oppressive'...

The paradox to be fully endorsed here is that the only way effectively to abolish power relations is through freely accepting relations of authority: the model of the free collective is not a group of libertines indulging their pleasures, but an extremely disciplined revolutionary collective. The injunction that holds together such a collective is best encapsulated in the logical form of double negation (prohibition), which, precisely, is not the same as direct positive assertion. Towards the end of Breacht's "Die Massnahme", the Four Agitators declare:
It is a terrible thing to kill.
But not only others would we kill, but ourselves too if need be
Since only force can alter this
Murderous world, as
Every living creature knows.
It is still, we said
Not given us not to kill.
Notice, the text does not say, 'we are allowed to kill', but, 'it is still not permitted (an adequate paraphrase of vergonnen) for us not to kill' - or, simply, it is still prohibited for us not to kill. Brecht's precision is here admirable. "It is allowed to kill" would have amounted to simple immoral permissivity; 'it is ordered to kill' would have transformed killing into an obscene-perverse superego injunction, which is the truth of the first version (as Lacan put it, the permitted jouissance inexorably turns into a prescribed one). The only correct way is thus the reversal of the biblical prohibition, the prohibition not to kill, which obtains all the way to the anti-Antigonean prohibition to provide a proper funeral ritual: the young comrade has to 'vanish, and vanish entirely', ie, his disappearance (death) itself should disappear, not leaving any (symbolic) traces.
- Slavoj Zizek, "The Universal Exception"

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Remembering

I held a jewel in my fingers
And went to sleep
The day was warm, and winds were prosy;
I said: " 'T will keep."

I woke and chid my honest fingers, --
The gem was gone;
And now an amethyst remembrance
Is all I own.
- Emily Dickinson, "I held a jewel in my fingers"

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Suffering Fools

There is an apostolic injunction to suffer fools gladly. We always lay the stress on the word "suffer," and interpret the passage as one urging resignation. It might be better, perhaps, to lay the stress upon the word "gladly," and make our familiarity with fools a delight, and almost a dissipation. Nor is it necessary that our pleasure in fools (or at least in great and godlike fools) should be merely satiric or cruel. The great fool is he in whom we cannot tell which is the conscious and which the unconscious humour; we laugh with him and laugh at him at the same time. An obvious instance is that of ordinary and happy marriage. A man and a woman cannot live together without having against each other a kind of everlasting joke. Each has discovered that the other is a fool, but a great fool. This largeness, this grossness and gorgeousness of folly is the thing which we all find about those with whom we are in intimate contact; and it is the one enduring basis of affection, and even of respect.
G.K. Chesterton, "Charles Dickens (1906)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

...Out of Mind

How would you like to get hypnotized?
Stare deep, deep into my eyes.
Now you’re getting drowsy, falling deep
Deep, deep, deep--asleep,
And I have you in my power.
Mow the lawn for half an hour.
Shine my shoes, trim my hair.
Wash out all my underwear.
Do my homework, scratch my back,
Cook me up a great big stack
Of pancakes, and go wash my plate.
Get some nails and fix the gate.
Now wake up and open your eyes.
Wasn’t it fun to be hypnotized?
Shel Silverstein, "Hypnotized"

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Marking Time

.... to no end?
The Lacanian name for this "regulation of madness" is the symbolization of the real by means of which the formless, "ugly," real is (trans)formed into reality. Contrary to the standard idealist argument which conceives ugliness as the defective mode of beauty, as its distortion, one should assert the ontological primacy of ugliness: it is beauty which is a kind of defense against the Ugly in its repulsive existence or, rather, existence tout court, since, as we shall see, what is ugly is ultimately the brutal fact of existence (of the real) as such [4]. The ugly object is an object which is in the wrong place, which "shouldn't be there." This does not mean simply that the ugly object is no longer ugly the moment that we relocate it to its proper place; the point is rather that an ugly object is "in itself" out of place, on account of the distorted balance between its "representation" (the symbolic features we perceive) and "existence" - ugly, out of place, is the excess of existence over representation. Ugliness is thus a topological category; it designates an object which is in a way "larger than itself," whose existence is larger than its representation. The ontological presupposition of ugliness is therefore a gap between an object and the space it occupies, or - to make the same point in a different way - between the outside (surface) of an object (captured by its representation) and its inside (formless stuff). In the case of beauty, we have a perfect isomorphism in both respects, while in the case of ugliness, the inside of an object somehow is (appears) larger than the outside of its surface-representation (like the uncanny buildings in Kafka's novels which, once we enter them, appear much more voluminous than what they seemed when viewed from the outside).

Another way to put it is to say that what makes an object "out of place" is that it is too close to me, like the Statue of Liberty in Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent: seen from the extreme proximity, it loses its dignity and acquires disgusting, obscene features. In courtly love, the figure of die Frau-Welt obeys the same logic: she appears beautiful from the proper distance, but the moment the poet or the knight serving her approaches her too closely (or when she asks him to come close to her so that she can repay him for his faithful service), she turns her other, reverse side to him, and what was previously the semblance of a fascinating beauty, is suddenly revealed as putrefied flesh, crawling with snakes and worms, the disgusting substance of life, as in the films of David Lynch, where an object turns into the disgusting substance of Life as soon as the camera gets too close to it. The gap that separates beauty from ugliness is thus the very gap that separates reality from the Real: the kernel of reality is horror, horror of the Real, and that which constitutes reality is the minimum of idealization which the subject needs in order to be able to sustain the Real. Another way to make the same point is to define ugliness as the excess of stuff which penetrates through the pores in the surface, from science-fiction aliens whose liquid materiality overwhelms their surfaces (see the evil alien in Terminator 2 or, of course, the alien from Alien itself), to the films of David Lynch (especially Dune), in which the raw flesh beneath the surface constantly threatens to emerge on the surface. In our standard phenomenological attitude towards the body of another person, we conceive the surface (of a face, for example) as directly expressing the "soul" - we suspend the knowledge of what actually exists beneath the skin surface (glands, flesh...). The shock of ugliness occurs when the surface is actually cut, opened up, so that the direct insight into the actual depth of the skinless flesh dispels the spiritual, immaterial, pseudo-depth.

In the case of beauty, the outside of a thing - its surface - encloses and overcoats its interior, whereas in the case of ugliness, this proportionality is perturbed by the excess of the interior stuff which threatens to overwhelm and engulf the subject. This opens up the space for the opposite excess, that of something which is not there and should be, like the missing nose which makes the "phantom of the opera" so ugly. Here, we have the case of a lack which also functions as an excess, the excess of a ghostly, spectral materiality in search of a "proper," "real" body. Ghosts and vampires are shadowy forms in desperate search for the life-substance (blood) in us, actually existing humans. The excess of stuff is thus strictly correlative to the excess of spectral form: Deleuze has already pointed out how the "place without an object" is sustained by an "object lacking its proper place" - it is not possible for the two lacks to cancel each other. What we have here are the two aspects of the real, existence without properties and an object with properties without existence. Suffice it to recall the well-known scene from Terry Gilliam's Brasil, in which the waiter in a high-class restaurant recommends the best offers from the daily menu to his customers ("Today, our tournedos is really special!" etc.), yet, what the customers are given on making their choice is a dazzling color photo of the meal on a stand above the plate, and, on the plate itself, a loathsome excremental paste-like lump: this split between the image of the food and the real of its formless, excremental remainder perfectly exemplifies the two modes of ugliness, the ghost-like substanceless appearance ("representation without existence") and the raw stuff of the real ("existence without appearance").

One should not underestimate the weight of this gap, which separates the "ugly" Real from the fully-formed objects in "reality:" Lacan's fundamental thesis is that a minimum of "idealization," of the interposition of a fantasmatic frame by means of which the subject assumes a distance from the Real, is constitutive of our "sense of reality" - "reality" occurs insofar as it is not (it does not come) "too close." Today, one likes to evoke the manner in which we are - more and more - losing contact with the authentic reality of the external, as well as with our internal nature - say, apropos of milk, we are so accustomed to aseptic, pasteurized milk, that contact with milk directly milked from a cow is unpleasant - this "true milk" necessarily strikes us as too dense, disgusting, undrinkable....

This gap between the bodily depth of the Real and the pseudo-depth of Meaning produced by the Surface, is crucial for any materialist ontology. It is also easy to see the connection with Freud, who defined reality as that which functions as an obstacle to desire: "ugliness" ultimately stands for existence itself, for the resistance of reality on account of which the material reality is never simply an ethereal medium which lends itself effortlessly to our molding. Reality is ugly, it "shouldn't be there" and hinder our desire. However, the situation is more complicated here, since this obstacle to desire is at the same time the site of the unbearable, filthy, excessive pleasure - of jouissance. What shouldn't be there is thus ultimately jouissance itself: the inert stuff is the materialization of jouissance. In short, the key point not to be missed is that in the opposition between desire and the hard reality opposing its realization (bringing pain, unpleasure, preventing us from achieving the balance of pleasure), jouissance is on the side of "hard reality." Jouissance as "real," is that which resists (symbolic integration), it is dense and impenetrable - in this precise sense, jouissance is "beyond the pleasure-principle." Jouissance emerges when the very reality which is the source of unpleasure, of pain, is experienced as a source of traumatic-excessive pleasure. Or, to put it in yet another way: desire is in itself "pure," it endeavors to avoid any "pathological" fixation. The "purity" of desire is guaranteed by the fact that desire resides in the very gap between any positive object of desire and desire itself - the fundamental experience of desire is "ce n'est pas ça," this is not THAT. In clear contrast to it, jouissance (or libido, or drive) is by definition "dirty" and/or ugly, it is always "too close:" desire is absence, while libido-drive is presence.

4

All this is absolutely crucial for the functioning of ideology in the case of our "everyday" sexism or racism: the problem of both is precisely how to "contain" the threatening inside from "spilling out" and overwhelming us. Are women's periods not the exemplary case of such an ugly inside spilling out? Is the presence of African-Americans not felt as threatening precisely insofar as it is experienced as too massive, too close? Suffice it to recall the racist caricatural cliché of black heads and faces: with eyes bulging out, too-large mouths, as if the outside surface is barely able to contain the inside which is threatening to break through. (In this sense, the racist fantasmatic duality of blacks and whites coincides with the duality of formless stuff and shadowy-spectral-impotent form without stuff.) Is the concern with how to dispose of shit (which, according to Lacan, is one of the crucial features differentiating man from animals) not also a case of how to get rid of the inside which emerges out? The ultimate problem in intersubjectivity is precisely the extent to which we are ready to accept the other, our (sexual) partner, in the real of his or her existence - do we still love him when she or he defecates, makes unpleasant sounds? (Think of the incredible extent to which James Joyce was ready to accept his wife Nora in the "ugly" jouissance of her existence.) The problem, of course, is that, in a sense, life itself is "ugly:" if we truly want to get rid of the ugliness, we are sooner or later forced to adopt the attitude of a cathar for whom terrestrial life itself is a hell, and God - who created this world - is Satan himself, the Master of the World. So, in order to survive, we do need a minimum of the real - in a contained, gentrified condition.

The Lacanian proof of the Other's existence lies in the jouissance of the Other (in contrast to Christianity, for example, where Love provides this proof). In order to render this notion palpable, suffice it to imagine an intersubjective encounter: when do I effectively encounter the Other "beyond the wall of language," in the real of his or her being? Not when I am able to describe her, not even when I learn her values, dreams, etc., but, only when I encounter the Other in her moment of jouissance: when I discern in her a tiny detail - a compulsive gesture, an excessive facial expression, a tic - which signals the intensity of the real of jouissance. This encounter of the real is always traumatic, there is something at least minimally obscene about it. I cannot simply integrate it into my universe; there is always a gap separating me from it. This, then, is what "intersubjectivity" is actually about, not the Habermasian "ideal speech situation" of a multitude of academics smoking pipes at a round table and arguing about some point by means of undistorted communication: without the element of the real of jouissance, for here the Other ultimately remains a fiction, a purely symbolic subject of strategic reasoning, as exemplified in the "rational choice theory." For that reason, one is even tempted to replace the term "multiculturalism" with "multiracism:" multiculturalism suspends the traumatic kernel of the Other, reducing it to an asepticized, folklorist entity. What we are dealing with here is - in Lacanese - the distance between S and a, between the symbolic features and the unfathomable surplus, the "indivisible remainder" of the real; at a somewhat different level, Walter Benn Michaels made the same point in claiming that:
"The accounts of cultural identity that do any cultural work require a racial component. For insofar as our culture remains nothing more than what we do and believe, it is impotently descriptive.... It is only if we think that our culture is not whatever beliefs and practices we actually happen to have but is instead the beliefs and practices that should properly go with the sort of people we happen to be, that the fact of something belonging to our culture can count as a reason for doing it. But to think this is to appeal to something that must be beyond culture and that cannot be derived from culture precisely because our sense of which culture is properly ours must be derived from it. This has been the function of race.... Our sense of culture is characteristically meant to displace race, but ... culture has turned out to be a way of continuing rather than repudiating racial thought. It is only the appeal to race that makes culture an object of affect and that gives notions like losing our culture, preserving it, stealing someone else's culture, restoring people's culture to them, and so on, their pathos.... Race transforms people who learn to do what we do into the thieves of our culture and people who teach us to do what they do into the destroyers of our culture; it makes assimilation into a kind of betrayal and the refusal to assimilate into a form of heroism" [5].
The historicist/culturalist account of ethnic identity, insofar as it functions as performatively binding for the group accounted for and not merely as a distanced ethnological description, thus has to involve "something more," some trans-cultural "kernel of the real." (The postmodern multiculturalist only displaces this pathos onto the allegedly more "authentic" Other: Stars and Stripes give him no thrill; what does give him a thrill is listening to some ritual of native Americans, of African-Americans.... What we are dealing with here is clearly the inverted form of racism.) Without this kernel, we remain caught in the vicious cycle of the symbolic performativity which, in an "idealistic" way, retroactively grounds itself. It is Lacan who - in a Hegelian way - enables us to resolve this deadlock: the kernel of the real is the retroactive product, the "fall-out," of the very process of symbolization. The "Real" is the unfathomable remainder of the ethnic substance whose predicates are the different cultural features which constitute our identity; in this precise sense, race relates to culture like real relates to symbolic. The "Real" is the unfathomable X which is at stake in our cultural struggles; it is that on account of which, when somebody learns too much of our culture, he "steals" it from us; it is that on account of which, when somebody shifts allegiance to another culture, he "betrays" us; etc. Such experiences prove that there must be some X which is "expressed" in the cultural set of values, attitudes, rituals... which materialize our way of life. What is stolen, betrayed... is always objet petit a, the little piece of the Real.

Jacques Ranciere [6] gave a poignant expression to the "bad surprise" which awaits today's postmodern ideologues of the "end of politics:" it is as if we are witnessing the ultimate confirmation of Freud's thesis, from Civilization and its Discontents, on how, after every assertion of Eros, Thanatos reasserts itself with a vengeance. At the very moment when, according to the official ideology, we are finally leaving behind "immature" political passions (the regime of the "political:" class struggle and other "outdated" divisive antagonisms) for the post-ideological and "mature" pragmatic universe of rational administration and negotiated consensus, for the universe free of utopian impulses in which the dispassionate administration of social affairs goes hand in hand with aestheticized hedonism (the pluralism of "ways of life"); at this very moment, the foreclosed political is celebrating a triumphant comeback in its most archaic form as a pure, undistilled racist hatred of the Other, which renders the rational tolerant attitude utterly impotent. In this precise sense, the contemporary "postmodern" racism is the symptom of the multiculturalist late capitalism, bringing to light the inherent contradiction of the liberal-democratic ideological project. Liberal "tolerance" condones the folklorist Other which is deprived of its substance (like the multitude of "ethnic cuisine" in a contemporary megalopolis); however, any "real" Other is instantly denounced for its "fundamentalism," since the kernel of Otherness resides in the regulation of its jouissance, i.e. the "real Other" is by definition "patriarchal," "violent," never the Other of ethereal wisdom and charming customs. One is tempted to reactualize the old Marcusean notion of "repressive tolerance" here, reconceiving it as the tolerance of the Other in its asepticized, benign form, which forecloses the dimension of the Real of the Other's jouissance, the excess of this jouissance which, in our everyday racist attitude, appears as the specific feature of the Other which "bothers us." Let me recall a rather personal experience, that of my own mother. Her best friend, as the saying goes, is an old Jewish lady; after some financial transaction with her, my mother said to me: "What a nice lady, but did you notice the strange way she counted the money?" - in my mother's eyes, this feature, the way the Jewish lady handled the money, functioned exactly like the mysterious feature in science-fiction novels and films which enables us to identify aliens who are otherwise indistinguishable from ourselves (a thin layer of transparent skin between the third finger and the little finger, or a strange gleam in the eye...).
- Slavoj Zizek, "From desire to drive: Why Lacan is not Lacaniano"

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Flood Tide

Blood has been harder to dam back than water.
Just when we think we have it impounded safe
Behind new barrier walls (and let it chafe!),
It breaks away in some new kind of slaughter.
We choose to say it is let loose by the devil;
But power of blood itself releases blood.
It goes by might of being such a flood
Held high at so unnatural a level.
It will have outlet, brave and not so brave.
weapons of war and implements of peace
Are but the points at which it finds release.
And now it is once more the tidal wave
That when it has swept by leaves summits stained.
Oh, blood will out. It cannot be contained.
- Robert Frost, "The Flood"

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sourcing Arboreal Structures Within the Rhizome

“Rhizome” rapidly seeks to extinguish every last trace of Hegelianism, particularly from the object of the book: “There is no longer a tripartite division between a field of reality (the world) and a field of representation (the book) and a field of subjectivity (the author). Rather, an assemblage establishes connections between certain multiplicities drawn from each of these orders, so that a book has no sequel nor the world as its object nor one or several authors as its subject.”
- Dan Clinton, "Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. "Rhizome," in A Thousand Plateaus."

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Breath

O Rose! who dares to name thee?
No longer roseate now, nor soft, nor sweet;
But pale, and hard, and dry, as stubble-wheat,---
Kept seven years in a drawer---thy titles shame thee.

The breeze that used to blow thee
Between the hedgerow thorns, and take away
An odour up the lane to last all day,---
If breathing now,---unsweetened would forego thee.

The sun that used to smite thee,
And mix his glory in thy gorgeous urn,
Till beam appeared to bloom, and flower to burn,---
If shining now,---with not a hue would light thee.

The dew that used to wet thee,
And, white first, grow incarnadined, because
It lay upon thee where the crimson was,---
If dropping now,---would darken where it met thee.

The fly that lit upon thee,
To stretch the tendrils of its tiny feet,
Along thy leaf's pure edges, after heat,---
If lighting now,---would coldly overrun thee.

The bee that once did suck thee,
And build thy perfumed ambers up his hive,
And swoon in thee for joy, till scarce alive,---
If passing now,---would blindly overlook thee.

The heart doth recognise thee,
Alone, alone! The heart doth smell thee sweet,
Doth view thee fair, doth judge thee most complete,---
Though seeing now those changes that disguise thee.

Yes, and the heart doth owe thee
More love, dead rose! than to such roses bold
As Julia wears at dances, smiling cold!---
Lie still upon this heart---which breaks below thee!
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "A Dead Rose"

Friday, October 16, 2015

...Progressive Realities

I have sailed the world, beheld its wondersFrom the Dardanelles to the mountains of Peru
But there's no place like London!
I feel home again

I could hear the city bells ring
Whatever I would do
No, there's no place like London!

Mr. Todd, sir
You are young
Life has been kind to you
You will learn

So Antony, it is here we go our several ways
Farewell, I shall not soon forget the good ship bountiful
Nor the young man who saved my life

Alms, alms for a miserable woman
On a miserable chilly mornin'
Oh, thank you, sir, thank you

How would you like a little squiff, dear
A little jig-jig, a little bounce around the bush
Wouldn't you like to push me crumpet?
It looks to me, dear, like you've got plenty there to push

Alms, alms for a pitiful woman
What's got wandering wits
Hey, don't I know you, mister?

Must you glare at me, woman?
Off with you, off I say
Then how would you like to fish me squiff, Mister?
We'll go jig-jig, a little
Off I said to the devil with you!

Alms, alms for a desperate woman

Pardon me, sir
But there's no need to fear the likes of her
She's only a half-crazed beggar woman
London's full of them

There's a hole in the world like a great black pit
And the vermin of the world inhabit it
And it's morals aren't worth what a pig can spit
And it goes by the name of London

At the top of the hole sit the privileged few
Making mock of the vermin in the lower zoo
Turning beauty into filth and greed
I too have sailed the world and seen its wonders
For the cruelty of men is as wondrous as Peru
But there's no place like London

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Skyline Tommy

He loves all games that good men play-
And plays them clean and straight-
But most the chase of foxes
With all its turns of fate.
When far behind him in the vale
Strings out our beaten hunt
With easy grace he keeps his place,
His rightful place, in front.
He always seems to lead us
Whate'er the pace may be-
‘He's always on the skyline!'
As some one said to me.
‘Tis true his horses are the best,
‘Tis true he steals his start,
But none could hold a line so bold
Without a gallant heart.
So here's to Skyline Tommy,
The bravest of our guides!
In all the scattered counties
No finer horseman rides;
Not soon shall we, the laggards,
The cheering sight forget
Of Tommy high against the sky
In splendid silhouette!
William Henry Ogilvie, "Skyline Tommy"

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Imperial Advisor Yakamochi

WHEN on the Magpies' Bridge I see
The Hoar-frost King has cast
His sparkling mantle, well I know
The night is nearly past,
Daylight approaches fast.
The author of this verse was Governor of the Province of Kōshū, and Viceroy of the more or less uncivilized northern and eastern parts of Japan; he died A.D. 785. There was a bridge or passageway in the Imperial Palace at Kyōto called the Magpies' Bridge, but there is also an allusion here to the old legend about the Weaver and Herdsman. It is said, that the Weaver (the star Vega) was a maiden, who dwelt on one side of the River of the Milky Way, and who was employed in making clothes for the Gods. But one day the Sun took pity upon her, and gave her in marriage to the Herdboy (the star Aquila), who lived on the other side of the river. But as the result of this was that the supply of clothes fell short, she was only permitted to visit her husband once a year, viz. on the seventh night of the seventh month; and on this night, it is said, the magpies in a dense flock form a bridge for her across the river. The hoar frost forms just before day breaks. The illustration shows the Herdboy crossing on the Bridge of Magpies to his bride.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Pink, Pink, Pink, Pink...

What is pink? a rose is pink
By a fountain's brink.
What is red? a poppy's red
In its barley bed.
What is blue? the sky is blue
Where the clouds float thro'.
What is white? a swan is white
Sailing in the light.
What is yellow? pears are yellow,
Rich and ripe and mellow.
What is green? the grass is green,
With small flowers between.
What is violet? clouds are violet
In the summer twilight.
What is orange? Why, an orange,
Just an orange!
- Christina Rossetti, "Color"

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Story of Multiplicity

Let us return to the story of multiplicity, for the creation of this substantive marks a very important moment. It was created precisely in order to escape the abstract opposition between the multiple and the one, to escape dialectics, to succeed in conceiving the multiple in the pure state, to cease treating it as a numerical fragment of a lost Unity or Totality or as the organic element of a Unity or Totality yet to come, and instead distinguish between different types of multiplicity. Thus we find in the work of the mathemetician and physicist Riemann a distinction between discrete multiplicities and continuous multiplicities (the metrical principle of the second kind of multiplicity resides soley in the forces at work within them). Then in Meinong and Russell we find a distinction between multiplicities of magnitude or divisibility, which are extensive, and multiplicities of distance, which are closer to the intensive. And in Bergson there is a distinction between numerical or extended multiplicities and qualitative or durational multiplicities. We are doing approximately the same thing when we distinguish between arborescent multiplicites and rhizomic multiplicities. Between macro- and micromultiplicities. On the one hand, multiplicities are extensive, divisible; conscious or preconscious- and on the other hand, libidinal, unconscious, molecular, intensive multiplicities composed of particles that do not divide without changing in nature, and distances that do not vary without entering another multiplicity and that constantly construct and dismantle themselves in the course of their communication, as they cross over into each other at, beyond, or before a certain threshold. The lements of the second kind of multiplicity are particles; their relations are distances; their movements are Brownian; their qualities are intensities, differences in intensity.
- Deleuze & Guattari, "A Thousand Plateaus"

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Every Song is a Love Song?

This is a poem not about love
A poem not about knowing glances
Or hands held illicitly under the table
A poem not about sweaty hands
Or butterflies in the stomach
A poem not about nervous laughing
Or small gestures
Pardon my frankness, but this is nothing like a summer day.

This poem is not about many-splendored things
Or quicksilver in the hand
A poem not about red roses
Or diamonds commended
A poem not about bright stars
Or beautiful dreamers
Forgive me if I forget to count the ways.
No, this is a poem not about love.
Jenna S

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Moraes

- Francis Bacon, "Three Studies for the Portrait of Henrietta Moraes
Henrietta Moraes
Henrietta Moraes (22 May 1931 – 6 January 1999) was a British artists' model and memoirist. During the 1950s and 1960s, she was the muse and inspiration for many artists of the Soho subculture, including Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, and (much later) Maggi Hambling, and also known for her marriages and love affairs. She left her first husband, Michael Law, and married actor Norman Bowler, with whom she had two children. She later married the Indian writer Dom Moraes.
- Wikipedia
- Francis Bacon, "Portrait of Henrietta Moraes"
- Lucien Freud, "Girl in a Blanket" (1952)

Friday, September 25, 2015

La Bachata!

Strumming my heartstrings
Drawing me in with each note
Playing the most beautiful song
Hearing the words you wrote

Filling in all the gaps
The melody is for me
Beating loud and clear
Setting my heart free

Only distance keeping us at bay
You still have me in your trance
Two hearts apart, beating as one
How I wish we could dance

A soft kiss upon your delicate hand
Holding you close, holding you tight
Slow dancing under the moonlit skies
The perfect girl, the perfect night
- Tim Smith, "If We Could Dance" (2015)

Friday, September 18, 2015

To Paraphrase Zizek...

Europe

Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall
She walks by the railing of a path in Kensington Gardens,
And she is dying piece-meal
of a sort of emotional anemia.

And round about there is a rabble
Of the filthy, sturdy, unkillable infants of the very poor.
They shall inherit the earth.

In her is the end of breeding.
Her boredom is exquisite and excessive.

She would like some one to speak to her,
And is almost afraid that I
will commit that indiscretion.
- Ezra Pound, "The Garden"

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Satisfied?

Salvador Dali, "Unsatisfied" (1928)
As a bathtub lined with white porcelain,
When the hot water gives out or goes tepid,
So is the slow cooling of our chivalrous passion,
O my much praised but-not-altogether-satisfactory lady.
- Ezra Pound, "The Bath Tub"
---
A mock-heroic simile. In a covering note to Harriet Monroe, Pound wrote (Chicago MSS, Dec. 3, 1912):
The "Bath Tub" is intended to diagnose the sensation of two people who never having loved each other save in the Tennysonian manner have come upon a well-meaning satiety... No "spiritual gravity" or "quodlibet." 2 bodies reduced to chemical components...

It is the job of this art of ours to hale a man naked into the presence of his God (or whatever equivalent)...
An earlier title for this poem was "Courtesy" (Chicago MSS).

Monday, September 14, 2015

Focused Distractions

“The erotic state – again, a mixture of concentration and spontaneity – is a hypnoidal state, probably the most powerful kind that we are capable of experiencing, and it is in this condition that unexpected regions of the self are revealed, as the majority of people know from experience.”
― Peter Redgrove, "The Black Goddess and the Unseen Real: Our Uncommon Senses and Their Common Sense"

Friday, September 11, 2015

Melancholic Moods

Naghi Nights

Naghi [1], I swear on your sense of humor
On this exile who thinks he's here to criticize [2]
On the large penis that gives life
That sits behind us and threatens us
I swear on the length and width of [Western-imposed] sanctions
On the rising value of the dollar and the feeling of humiliation [3]
Naghi, I swear on the cardboard Imam [Khomeini] [4]
On the baby [Khamenei] who was saying "Ali!" while stuck in his mother's womb [5]
On the teaching of jurisprudence in the room where nose jobs are given [6]
On Khamenei, the prayer beads and prayer rugs made in China [7]
Naghi, I swear on the finger of Sheys Rezaei [8]
On the religion that has been kicked out and religious soccer [9]
O Naghi, now that the Hidden Imam is asleep, we call upon you, O Naghi [10]
Appear, for we are ready in our burial shrouds, O Naghi [11]
O Naghi, now that the Hidden Imam is asleep, we call upon you, O Naghi
Appear, for we are ready in our burial shrouds, O Naghi
Naghi, I swear on love and Viagra
On raised legs and chakras
On sangak bread [12] and chicken and meat and fish
On silicon chests and striped virginity [13]
Naghi, I swear on Golshifteh's breasts [14]
On lost prestige that we never had [15]
Naghi, I swear on Aryan heritage [16]
On the necklace that you wear around your neck [17]
Naghi, [I give] my life for Farnood's penis [18]
For the 3 billion dollars, soon forgotten like a children's story [19]
And the Persian Gulf and [Lake] Orumiyeh, too [20]
Oh by the way, what was the name of the leader of the Green Movement? [21]
O Naghi, now that the Hidden Imam is asleep, we call upon you, O Naghi
Appear, for we are ready in our burial shrouds, O Naghi
O Naghi, now that the Hidden Imam is asleep, we call upon you, O Naghi
Appear, for we are ready in our burial shrouds, O Naghi
O Naghi, O Naghi, O Naghi
O Naghi, O Naghi, O Naghi
On the anniversary of the death of that old fart, Imam of the [Shi'ah] community [22]
On the fossilized opposition in the diaspora [23]
On the classy widows who frequent discos
On the intellectual discussions in chat rooms
On the dissolute men with a false sense of honor [24]
On the women who defend men's rights [25]
On the color revolution in the television [26]
On the 3% of the [Iranian] population who read books [27]
On the wishy-washy, empty slogans [28]
Naghi, I swear on this crowd of fickle people
Who in the morning say "Long live...!" but at night say "Death to...!" [29]
On the heroes of fictional stories
O Naghi, now that the Hidden Imam is asleep, we call upon you, O Naghi
Appear, for we are ready in our burial shrouds, O Naghi
O Naghi, now that the Hidden Imam is asleep, we call upon you, O Naghi
Appear, for we are ready in our burial shrouds, O Naghi
O Naghi, O Naghi, O Naghi
O Naghi, O Naghi, O Naghi
Ohhhhhhhhhh Naghi

from Wikipedia
Following release of the song "Ay Naghi!" ("Hey, Naghi!"),[14][15] Grand Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpaygani, a 94-year-old Shi’ite cleric based in Qom, issued a fatwa death sentence against Najafi for apostasy.[16] Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem-Shirazi, a "source of emulation" for many Shia Muslims, also issued a fatwa declaring Najafi guilty of apostasy.[17] As of 15 May 2012, more than 800 people in Iran had joined a Facebook campaign calling for Najafi to be executed, saying they were ready to assassinate Najafi if necessary.[18] An Iranian web site, Shia-Online.ir, offered a US$100,000 bounty to anyone who killed Najafi.[19]

In May 2012, the online site HonareNab.ir posted an online "Shoot the Apostates" flash computer game inviting people to shoot and kill Najafi.[20] “Those who love Imam Hadi can practice killing Shahin Najafi by playing this flash game,” said Honar Nab Eslam, who developed the game.[21]

On 25 May 2012, Shiite cleric Ahmad Alamolhoda demanded a plan to execute Najafi.[22]

In June 2012, forty authors of the Rah-e Nikan religious publishing house promised to give royalties from their books to whoever killed Najafi.[23]

The song has drawn sharp anger from protesters who believe it is offensive towards Imam Naghi, the tenth Imam in Shi’ite Islam.[24] In an interview[25] Najafi stated that he was inspired by "The Campaign to Remind Shiites about Imam Naghi" to compose the song. The campaign is a Facebook page that pokes fun at Islamic, and specifically Shi'ite hadiths, with members creating fake, funny hadiths and stories centered around a fictional character named Naghi, who is based on Imam Naghi.[26]

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Big Boy

Big Boy came
Carrying a mermaid
On his shoulders
And the mermaid
Had her tail
Curved
Beneath his arm.

Being a fisher boy,
He’d found a fish
To carry—
Half fish,
Half girl
To marry.
- Langston Hughes, "Catch"

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Excessive Empathy?

"Warriors and weirdos! I have just released a little video to Murder Song (5, 4, 3, 2, 1). It was filmed in the countryside, and we had real butterflies! They were so beautiful and they loved eating rotten fruit. I really wish I was a butterfly. Not because of the rotten fruit but because of the butter. And the fly.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Blinded by Pride

Too proud to die; broken and blind he died
The darkest way, and did not turn away,
A cold kind man brave in his narrow pride

On that darkest day, Oh, forever may
He lie lightly, at last, on the last, crossed
Hill, under the grass, in love, and there grow

Young among the long flocks, and never lie lost
Or still all the numberless days of his death, though
Above all he longed for his mother's breast

Which was rest and dust, and in the kind ground
The darkest justice of death, blind and unblessed.
Let him find no rest but be fathered and found,

I prayed in the crouching room, by his blind bed,
In the muted house, one minute before
Noon, and night, and light. the rivers of the dead

Veined his poor hand I held, and I saw
Through his unseeing eyes to the roots of the sea.
(An old tormented man three-quarters blind,

I am not too proud to cry that He and he
Will never never go out of my mind.
All his bones crying, and poor in all but pain,

Being innocent, he dreaded that he died
Hating his God, but what he was was plain:
An old kind man brave in his burning pride.

The sticks of the house were his; his books he owned.
Even as a baby he had never cried;
Nor did he now, save to his secret wound.

Out of his eyes I saw the last light glide.
Here among the liught of the lording sky
An old man is with me where I go

Walking in the meadows of his son's eye
On whom a world of ills came down like snow.
He cried as he died, fearing at last the spheres'

Last sound, the world going out without a breath:
Too proud to cry, too frail to check the tears,
And caught between two nights, blindness and death.

O deepest wound of all that he should die
On that darkest day. oh, he could hide
The tears out of his eyes, too proud to cry.

Until I die he will not leave my side.
- Dylan Thomas, "Elegy"

Monday, August 24, 2015

Salvador Dali, "Invisible Sleeping Woman, Horse, Lion" (1930)

This analytical work is one of the first painted in the new house in Port Lligat during the summer of 1930. In his numerous written works Dali has given us much information about this picture. "A month after my return from Paris," he writes, "I signed a contract with George Keller and Pierre Colle. Shortly after in the tatter's gallery I exhibited my Invisible Sleeping Woman, Horse, Lion, fruit of my contemplation at Cape Creus." The Viscount of Noailles bought this oil. Invisible Sleeping Woman, Horse, Lion must be considered the most important painting after The Invisible Man among Dali's early experiments with double images. The permanent theme which predominates over all the others is that of the persistence of desires.

Speaking of this picture, Dali has given a definition: "The double image (the example of which may be that of the image of the horse alone which is at the same time the image of a woman) can be prolonged, continuing the paranoiac process, the existence of another obsessive idea being then sufficient to make a third image appear (the image of a lion, for example) and so forth, until the concurrence of a number of images, limited only by the degree of the capacity for paranoiac thought." The violently erotic character of the group of fellateurs metamorphosed into the forelegs and the head of the horse is veiled by the immutable aspect of the ensemble, obtained with the help of an absence of dense shadows and violent colors, as well as by the geological character of the forms. Dali said of these models: "They are always boats which seem to be drawn by exhausted fishermen, by fossil fishermen."

Dali painted three pictures of the same subject with different titles. One of the three was destroyed during the demonstrations which broke out when the film L'Age d'or was being shown at Studio 28 in Paris on December 3,1930.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Something Good?

Here, where my fresh-turned furrows run,
And the deep soil glistens red,
I will repair the wrong that was done
To the living and the dead.

Here, where the senseless bullet fell,
And the barren shrapnel burst,
I will plant a tree, I will dig a well,
Against the heat and the thirst.



Here, in a large and a sunlit land,
Where no wrong bites to the bone,
I will lay my hand in my neighbour's hand,
And together we will atone
For the set folly and the red breach
And the black waste of it all;
Giving and taking counsel each
Over the cattle-kraal.



Here will we join against our foes--
The hailstroke and the storm,
And the red and rustling cloud that blows
The locust's mile-deep swarm.

Frost and murrain and floods let loose
Shall launch us side by side
In the holy wars that have no truce
'Twixt seed and harvest-tide.



Earth, where we rode to slay or be slain,
Our love shall redeem unto life.

We will gather and lead to her lips again
The waters of ancient strife,
From the far and fiercely guarded streams
And the pools where we lay in wait,
Till the corn cover our evil dreams
And the young corn our hate.



And when we bring old fights to mind,
We will not remember the sin--
If there be blood on his head of my kind,
Or blood on my head of his kin--
For the ungrazed upland, the untilled lea
Cry, and the fields forlorn:
" The dead must bury their dead, but ye-
Ye serve an host unborn."


Bless then, Our God, the new-yoked plough
And the good beasts that draw,
And the bread we eat in the sweat of our brow
According to Thy Law.

After us cometh a multitude--
Prosper the work of our hands,
That we may feed with our land's food
The folk of all our lands!


Here, in the waves and the troughs of the plains,
Where the healing stillness lies,
And the vast, benignant sky restrains
And the long days make wise--
Bless to our use the rain and the sun
And the blind seed in its bed,
That we may repair the wrong that was done
To the living and the dead!
- Rudyard Kipling, "The Settler" (1903 - South African War ended, May, 1902)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sea Changes

Whoaa, What came of the things we once believed?
Whoaa, All lost to the depths of a hungry sea
Whoaa, What came of the things we once believe?
Whoa, All lost to the depths of a hungry sea

And now our parents are long departed
Who could finish the songs they started
Bodies are broken, but it's just a token
Of what is surely to come

Unstitch the suture
Please pause the future
So I collect my things
The fire is coming, but we'll outrun it
We'll never be undone.

Whooa, What came of the things we once believed?
Whoaa, All lost to the depths of a hungry sea
Whoaa, What came of the things we once believed?
Whoa, All lost to the depths of a hungry sea

When I go to walk the line
The fire it comes but we'll be just fine

(Instrumental)

Whooa, What came of the things we once believed?
Whoaa, All lost to the depths of a hungry sea
All lost, All lost to the depths of a hungry sea
Whoa, All lost to the depths of a hungry sea

All that's left, oh, All that's left is the echo of a roaring sea
Long gone, Long gone to the trace of a memory
Whoaa, What came of the things I once believed?
All that's left, All that's left is the trace of a memory

Friday, August 14, 2015

Brave New Worlds

“Isn't there something in living dangerously?'

There's a great deal in it,' the Controller replied. 'Men and women must have their adrenals stimulated from time to time.'

What?' questioned the Savage, uncomprehending.

It's one of the conditions of perfect health. That's why we've made the V.P.S. treatments compulsory.'

V.P.S.?'

Violent Passion Surrogate. Regularly once a month. We flood the whole system with adrenin. It's the complete physiological equivalent of fear and rage. All the tonic effects of murdering Desdemona and being murdered by Othello, without any of the inconvenience.'

But I like the inconveniences.'

We don't,' said the Controller. 'We prefer to do things comfortably.'

But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.'

In fact,' said Mustapha Mond, 'you're claiming the right to be unhappy. Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer, the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.' There was a long silence.

I claim them all,' said the Savage at last.

Mustapha Mond shrugged his shoulders. 'You're welcome,' he said.”
― Aldous Huxley, "Brave New World"

Friday, July 31, 2015

Le Poison

Wine can conceal a sordid room
In rich, miraculous disguise,
And make such porticoes arise
Out of its flushed and crimson fume
As makes the sunset in the skies.

Opium the infinite enlarges,
And lengthens all that is past measure.
It deepens time, and digs its treasure,
With sad, black raptures it o'ercharges
The soul, and surfeits it with pleasure.

Neither are worth the drug so strong
That you distil from your green eyes,
Lakes where I see my soul capsize
Head downwards: and where, in one throng,
I slake my dreams, and quench my sighs.

But to your spittle these seem naught —
It stings and burns. It steeps my thought
And spirit in oblivious gloom,
And, in its dizzy onrush caught,
Dashes it on the shores of doom
— Charles Baudelaire, "Poisons"

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Locked In

The tree has entered my hands,
The sap has ascended my arms,
The tree has grown in my breast-
Downward,
The branches grow out of me, like arms.

Tree you are,
Moss you are,
You are violets with wind above them.
A child - so high - you are,
And all this is folly to the world.
-Ezra Pound, "A Girl"

Friday, July 24, 2015

Che Vuoi?

...and if ever truthfully answered, wouldn't the phantasmatic coordinates of fantasy be destroyed?
If "individuation is a relation conceived as a pure or absolute between, a between understood as fully independent of or external to its terms - and thus a between that can just as well be described as 'between' nothing at all" (Hallward 154), its status is then that of a pure antagonism. Its structure was deployed by Lacan apropos sexual difference which, as a difference, precedes the two terms between which it is the difference: the point of Lacan's "formulas of sexuation" is that both masculine and feminine position are two ways to avoid the deadlock of the difference as such. This is why Lacan's claim that sexual difference is "real-impossible" is strictly synonymous with his claim that "there is no sexual relationship." Sexual difference is for Lacan not a firm set of "static" symbolic oppositions and inclusions/exclusions (heterosexual normativity that relegates homosexuality and other "perversions" to some secondary role), but the name of a deadlock, of a trauma, of an open question, of something that RESISTS every attempt at its symbolization. Every translation of sexual difference into a set of symbolic opposition(s) is doomed to fail, and it is this very "impossibility" that opens up the terrain of the hegemonic struggle for what "sexual difference" will mean. And the same goes for the political difference (class struggle): the difference between Left and Right is not only the difference between the two terms within a shared field, it is "real" since it is not possible to provide its neutral description - the difference between the Left and the Right appears differently if perceived from the Left and from the Right: for the first, it signals the antagonism which cuts across the entire social field (the antagonism concealed by thje Right), while the Right perceives itself as the force of moderation and social stability and organic unity, with the Left reduced to the position of an intruder that disturbs this organic stability of the social body - for the Right, the Left is as such "extreme."
- Slavoj Zizek, "Deleauze and the Lacanian Real"

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Evolutions

“On the philosophico-ontological level, this is what Lacan is aiming at when he emphasizes the difference between the Freudian death drive and the so-called “nirvana principle” according to which every life system tends toward the lowest level of tension, ultimately toward death: “nothingness” (the void, being deprived of all substance) and the lowest level of energy paradoxically no longer coincide, that is, it is “cheaper” (it costs the system less energy) to persist in “something” than to dwell in “nothing,” at the lowest level of tension, or in the void, the dissolution of all order. It is this distance that sustains the death drive: far from being the same as the nirvana principle (the striving toward the dissolution of all life tension, the longing for the return to original nothingness), the death drive is the tension which persists and insists beyond and against the nirvana principle. In other words, far from being opposed to the pleasure principle, the nirvana principle is its highest and most radical expression. In this precise sense, the death drive stands for its exact opposite, for the dimension of the “undead,” of a spectral life which insists beyond (biological) death.”
- Salvoj Zizek, "The Puppet and the Dwarf"

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Coloured Red

The street
filled with tomatoes,
midday,
summer,
light is
halved
like
a
tomato,
its juice
runs
through the streets.

In December,
unabated,
the tomato
invades
the kitchen,
it enters at lunchtime,
takes
its ease
on countertops,
among glasses,
butter dishes,
blue saltcellars.

It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.

Unfortunately, we must
murder it:
the knife
sinks
into living flesh,
red
viscera
a cool
sun,
profound,
inexhaustible,
populates the salads
of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
we
pour
oil,
essential
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
pepper
adds
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
parsley
hoists
its flag,
potatoes
bubble vigorously,
the aroma
of the roast
knocks
at the door,
it's time!
come on!
and, on
the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth, recurrent
and fertile
star,
displays
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.
Pablo Neruda, "Ode to Tomatoes"
Coming to Buñol, Valencia, Spain, on August 26, 2015