Thursday, February 05, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I can't help but remember

a certain poet from NYC who came to Detroit a while back and during a conversation over dinner claimed that Bush & Co would institute Martial law before they'd give up power. I was disgusted by the cynicism, especially after the election. Now I think it's funny. Not that I don't think they were (and always will be) corrupt power grabbers. It just evoked a kind of jaded disbelief in the power of  *the people*. I really think that kind of left cynicism is out the window with Obama's election. Bush/Cheney weren't more powerful than the institutions and country they attempted to destroy. Those who believed otherwise lost sight of this. Those who worked for the election of Obama did not. Talk about hope over fear!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New?

I'm not going to speak to (or apologize for) the dormancy. Who cares? But since it's the New Year, I thought I'd attempt a revival. Actually, "New Years" mean very little to me; I don't like ritualized celebrations, not sure why, just don't get into them--weddings, birthdays, holidays, etc., leave me feeling extremely ambivalent. Why am I supposed to feel something about these particular days? I never pull it off, am often bored or uncomfortable. Too much of a misanthrope, I guess. 

Anyway, here's my attempt to mark the New Year--some unfinished drafts I never posted, either because I thought they were shitty or because I never got around to finishing them, or both. Most are just quotes I wanted to comment on but never got around to. Maybe I'll develop something with them or I'll come back to this post and be surprised at what I thought I cared about. 
One of the most interesting things about keeping some kind of track of one's life interests, moods,  acts, is noticing what returns again and again as well as what drops away or lies dormant for years--the sediment of (seemingly discarded) memories, half-formed interests, and desires that makes up a self. I'm always a little disturbed by those recurrences and the things I've forgotten or left behind--the uncanny self:

 1. Praxis as liminal site.
Oscillating, struggling between phenomenological and cultural studies approach to textual interpretation. Something too lyrical, abstract, dreamy wrt Phenom, while CS is too concrete, empirical, reductive. Is this as basic as the theory/action divide (tho, granted, both are in fact theory)? Is praxis, in Marxist terms, the solution if we were to conceive of it as not only constitutive politically  (as agential) but as *necessary*? As the ultimate in dialectics, praxis intends to hold together (resolve?) the structural contradictions or qualities of desire and material facts (as quantity). But praxis as solution to all binaries?

2. Time & the City

Chronopolis
"The city is a time mosaic. It is a living archeological aggregate of forgoten civilizations, of periods within decades, eras within centuries. Te city is a simultaneous matrix of cultural empires, of invisible districts and regions. It is an infinitely graduated series of fashions and habits in which the individual is simply another arbitrary designation, a border that dissolves into the nested identities of the metropolitan psyche. Layers of prior styles, architectures, and entertainments fade incrementally, one into the next, superimposed finally in the simultaneous levels of a protean urban vortex.
"The city is spotted with islands, cul-de-sacs of time where a previous decade, a prior century, stands untouched. A 1914 newspaper lying yellow on the floor of an attic cracked open for renovations. The heraldic limestone gates of the waterfront expressway. The tired hands of a middle-aged waitress, her movements a choreographed testament to an identity unchanged over thirty years, her makeup identical in the bathroom mirror each morning, a gestural fossil of forgotten fashion. The impassive stone faces at the summit of old bank towers, stoic trade deities of the early thirties staring into a future that has come and gone. Abandoned transfers from a night-bus lying in the early morning light.
Brazlian children run through the market crowds on a summer evening. Dusty sunlight through an old streetcar window on the first warm sunset in February, the streetlights flickering on, purple against the incandescent gold of the bank towers. The first breath of wind from an approaching subway train not yet audible or visible." --Christopher Dewdney

3. [This might have been a response, in my mind, to the Dewdney quote; I can't recall now. It's a postcard from Oaxaca sent by my friend Chris Bierman to a group of us that were living together in Detroit in the mid-90's. Chris  and his then girlfriend Ofelia were journeying in Mexico and South America, tho she wasn't with him at the time he wrote this. The postcard depicts a black & white photo of Somerset Maugham circa 1960's holding some kind of pug-nosed, long-haired lap dog. I think I was planning on scanning a bunch of old weird letters and postcards from friends but never got around to it. I've always found this one amusing--Chris's formalisms are both sincere and sheer cheek.]

"Kristine, I have thought of you many times as I strolled through the narrow cobblestoned Indian infested streets of this extraordinary city. I say this because it is your taste and sentiment that I am most acquainted with there within the household that I collectively address. It is here where Lawrence finished the Plumed Serpent and it is also where Bierman was almost stoned unconscious by two frisky rooftop dwelling whelps. It is romantic beyond description and thus I yearn for my eternal love. I yearn in the nocturne through leg-stiffening emissions and this in turn provides moments uneasy when Gregorio comes to change my sheets each morn. ... It is refreshing to know that a woman named Ofelia scrubs my bedding. Vallejo, Neruda, and Paz are the only friends I have made thus far and consequently they have taught me much. There are very few whites here but those that are seem intent on wearing shorts... In a town of 8000,000 there are 34 fools who cling to their shorts, yet I remain steadfast with my trousers , and therefore am not mocked by the locals who wear shorts only by the seashore. Oaxaca is over 5,000 feet above sea-level, it is 325 miles south of Mexico City and over 60% Zapotec Indian. On Monday, June 20 I move to Tehuantepec to celebrate the fiesta of St John the Baptist, which occurs Jue 21-24."


4. From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, on process philosophy page:

The philosophy of mind is another strongpoint of process philosophizing. It feels distinctly uncomfortable to conceptualize people (persons) as things (substances) -- oneself above all -- because we resist flat-out identification with our bodies. However, there is no problem with experiential access to the processes and patterns of process that characterize us personally -- our doings and undergoings, either individually or patterned into talents, skills, capabilities, traits, dispositions, habits, inclinations, and tendencies to action and inaction are, after all, what characteristically define a person as the individual he or she is. Once we conceptualize the core "self" of a person as a unified manifold of actual and potential process -- of action and capacities, tendencies, and dispositions to action (both physical and psychical) -- then we thereby secure a concept of personhood that renders the self or ego experientially accessible, seeing that experiencing itself simply consists of such processes. What makes my experience mine is not some peculiar qualitative character that it exhibits but simply its forming part of the overall ongoing process that defines and constitutes my life. The unity of person is a unity of experience -- the coalescence of all of one's diverse micro-experience as part of one unified macro-process. (It is the same sort of unity of process that links each minute's level into a single overall journey.) On this basis, the Humean complaint -- "One experiences feeling this and doing that, but one never experiences oneself" -- is much like the complaint of the person who says "I see him picking up that brick, and mixing that batch of mortar, and troweling that brick into place, but I never see him building a wall." Even as "building the wall" just exactly is the complex process that is composed of those various activities, so -- from the process point of view -- one's self just is the complex process composed of those various physical and psychic experiences and actions in their systemic interrelationship.

5. Quote for the day

"Acquaintance with the details of fact is always reckoned, along with their reduction to system, as an indispensable mark of mental greatness." --William James

6. Oy to the Word!

Just received my copy of 0 To 9. Funny, great intro explanation by Vito Acconci of why they went with "0 To 9" rather than something like "0 Through 9." I was struck by the fact that Acconci's tone still has that New York poetry scene, conversational, flip feel to it:

"Not '0 To 9', we said to each other, that would subsume us into Jasper Johns; let's call it '0 To 9' instead. And then we got worried: if we call it '0 To 9', were we making a point of coming up to but not including 9, and why would we want to do that?--if our own work tried to expose language, showcase language, why would we let the name of our magazine expose sloppy language. In the end we chose sound over sense.

7. Kant, Adorno, Immaturity, the Enlightenment

I want to explore the significant differences and similarities between Kant's and Adorno's & Horkheimer's conceptions of the Enlightenment, immaturity, and thus the possibility or problematic of autonomy. One way to begin locating these overlappings and differences resides in the historical shift from monarchical to democratic forms of government, a shift found in the addresses and concerns of Kant's essay, "The Question of Enlightenment" and in Adorno & Horkheimer's chapter in _Dialectic of Enlightenment, "The Culture Industry", in which late-capitalist forms of society and culture become significant. In one sense, Kant seems to have hope in the possibility for the exercise and development of autonomous reason because there exists the concomitant possibility for enlightened leadership, which would both allow for this individual and public development, and protect it. In Adorno & Hork's time-period, there is no appeal to a structural power that could promote this endeavour. Autonomous reason's capacity to overcome it's "immaturity," was for Kant predicated on a public use of reason protected by the legitimizing function of power (which was, in its turn, also legitimized by recognizing its role in protecting this public use of reason) . For Adorno and Horkheimer, on the other hand, the public is so saturated by a cultural (and underyling economic) hegemony, the public sphere has lost this capacity for autonomy, and there is no singular leader to appeal to, to see as a site for and as a dependable protector of this space. This might be the reason for the turn to autonomous art a site for rendering criticisms of the unthinking, dependent, and again, immature quality of thought as it exists in late-capitalism.

Yet one must question to what extent Kant and Adorno differ in their sense of what enlightenmnt thinking should and can accomplish. If Adorno & Hork's concept of the dialectic of enlightenment sees the constitutive nature of barbarism and civilization, or myth and enlightenment as inevitable, then what is their relation to Kant's hope for the possibility of progress through the use of reason and legitimate authority? What do they retain? Do they ultimately suggest that thinking independently, using one's autonomous reason, is still indiviudally possible even as they seem to deny the societal efficacy of using it given the structures of power that it all to often collapses back into? Is there something that Adorno & Horkhemier have a certain "faith" in?


8. Digestion and Memory cont.

Serendipitously enough, I just stumbled across Infinite Thought's musings on language acquisition and metaphors of digestion. it seems there are two parts to IT's language/digestion post, but I find it interesting how they overlap (at least in my mind). 1) While s/he is learning or, for my purposes, memorizing, a new language s/he experiences a kind of psychic disturbance or, as s/he nortes, a relation to language as such which is unheimlich or uncanny. S/he next turns to a discussion of the alleged German obsession with digestion, which keeps turning up "like a bad penny." The metaphor of digestion in relation to feeling and language is what intrigues me: "Thus we have learnt the words for diarrhea (Durchfall), stomach ache (Magenschmerz), gastric ulcer (Magengeschwuer) and related stomach (der Bauch) words, including those having to do with emotions such as love, jealousy and fear. When we were asked which bit of the body Angst affected, I pointed to der Kopf (head), only to be chastised (ausschimpfen(!)) by the Lehrerin (female teacher) for not being suitably embodied - it hits you in the guts, she said. At least, I think that's what she said...."

It would seem that while learning a new language--digesting it, absorbing it, ruminating on and over it--one becomes aware that incorporation begins to surface not only as a metaphor for learning but as content as well. Is there a way in which digestion as a metaphor, the corporeality of the body, and feelings of anxiety about language are mixed together here in ways that suggest that language acquisition and its relation to the body are, to some extent at least, traumatic? I'm using the word traumatic very loosely, I realize. But there's something compelling in the idea that we learn a new language by learning how to speak (of) the body's disturbances and discomforts. If this is something particlar to the German culture of language acquisition or their own strange focus on corporeality, so be it, but it's strange to think that the arena in which transcendental idealism was born would be the very place in which....

9. [I have no idea now why I titled this post with what I think is a quote from Robert Creeley nor why I wrote what I did below it.  It certainly looks like a mangle now.]

"My mind to me a mangle is"

We are always trying to get past de-humanization. "We"? And by getting past I mean ignoring. Of course the division of labor is the issue. Social relations produced by, created within, economic antagonism. Relations and antagonisms equally obscure. Private property for the masses equals an XBox on credit.

10. Adorno and freedom? 

Mental backdrop -- TV is droning Olympic victories (I'll admit, I love the Olympics) and, of course, commercials. So while I'm reading Adorno's Aesthetic Theory -- reading being an inadequate word, more like "confronting," "wrestling," *you* know what I mean,  I'm experiencing heightened moments of irony awareness: a Curel lotion commercial starts off invoking ideal of freedom: "Freedom is doing anything you want any way you want. Freedom is freedom from dry skin." No shit. Then there was some new commercial extolling the "miraculous".... the "miracle of the 5 bladed razor." What's this one called? I've blocked it out already. It probably has "Xtreme" somewhere in there.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Monday, June 09, 2008